Clotelle, or The Colored Heroine
by William Wells Brown
CHAPTER I. THE SOUTHERN SOCIAL CIRCLE
FOR many years the South has been noted for its beautiful Quadroon women.
Bottles of ink, and reams of paper, have been used to portray the
"finely-cut and well-moulded features," the "silken curls," the "dark
and brilliant eyes," the "splendid forms," the "fascinating smiles,"
and "accomplished manners" of these impassioned and voluptuous daughters
of the two races,--the unlawful product of the crime of human bondage.
When we take into consideration the fact that no safeguard was ever
thrown around virtue, and no inducement held out to slave-women to be
pure and chaste, we will not be surprised when told that immorality
pervades the domestic circle in the cities and towns of the South
to an extent unknown in the Northern States. Many a planter's wife
has dragged out a miserable existence, with an aching heart, at seeing
her place in the husband's affections usurped by the unadorned beauty
and captivating smiles of her waiting-maid. Indeed, the greater portion
of the colored women, in the days of slavery, had no greater aspiration
than that of becoming the finely-dressed mistress of some white man.
At the negro balls and parties, that used to be so frequently given,
this class of women generally made the most splendid appearance.
A few years ago, among the many slave-women of Richmond,
Va., who hired their time of their masters, was Agnes,
a mulatto owned by John Graves, Esq., and who might be heard
boasting that she was the daughter of an American Senator.
Although nearly forty years of age at the time of
which we write, Agnes was still exceedingly handsome.
More than half white, with long black hair and deep blue eyes,
no one felt like disputing with her when she urged her claim
to her relationship with the Anglo-Saxon. In her younger days,
Agnes had been a housekeeper for a young slave-holder, and in
sustaining this relation had become the mother of two daughters.
After being cast aside by this young man, the slave-woman betook
herself to the business of a laundress, and was considered
to be the most tasteful woman in Richmond at her vocation.
Isabella and Marion, the two daughters of Agnes, resided with
their mother, and gave her what aid they could in her business.
The mother, however, was very choice of her daughters,
and would allow them to perform no labor that would militate
against their lady-like appearance. Agnes early resolved
to bring up her daughters as ladies, as she termed it.
As the girls grew older, the mother had to pay a stipulated price for them
per month. Her notoriety as a laundress of the first class enabled her to put
an extra charge upon the linen that passed through her hands; and although
she imposed little or no work upon her daughters, she was enabled to live
in comparative luxury and have her daughters dressed to attract attention,
especially at the negro balls and parties.
Although the term "negro ball" is applied to these gatherings,
yet a large portion of the men who attend them are whites.
Negro balls and parties in the Southern States, especially in
the cities and towns, are usually made up of quadroon women,
a few negro men, and any number of white gentlemen.
These are gatherings of the most democratic character.
Bankers, merchants, lawyers, doctors, and their clerks
and students, all take part in these social assemblies upon
terms of perfect equality. The father and son not unfrequently
meet and dance *vis a vis* at a negro ball.
It was at one of these parties that Henry Linwood, the son of a wealthy
and retired gentleman of Richmond, was first introduced to Isabella,
the oldest daughter of Agnes. The young man had just returned
from Harvard College, where he had spent the previous five years.
Isabella was in her eighteenth year, and was admitted by all who knew
her to be the handsomest girl, colored or white, in the city.
On this occasion, she was attired in a sky-blue silk dress,
with deep black lace flounces, and bertha of the same.
On her well-moulded arms she wore massive gold bracelets, while her
rich black hair was arranged at the back in broad basket plaits,
ornamented with pearls, and the front in the French style
(*a la Imperatrice*), which suited her classic face to perfection.
Marion was scarcely less richly dressed than her sister.
Henry Linwood paid great attention to Isabella, which was
looked upon with gratification by her mother, and became
a matter of general conversation with all present. Of course,
the young man escorted the beautiful quadroon home that evening,
and became the favorite visitor at the house of Agnes.
It was on a beautiful moonlight night in the month of August,
when all who reside in tropical climates are eagerly gasping
for a breath of fresh air, that Henry Linwood was in the garden
which surrounded Agnes' cottage, with the young quadroon at his side.
He drew from his pocket a newspaper wet from the press, and read
the following advertisement:--
NOTICE.--Seventy-nine negroes will be offered for sale
on Monday, September 10, at 12 o'clock, being the entire
stock of the late John Graves. The negroes are in excellent
condition, and all warranted against the common vices.
Among them are several mechanics, able-bodied field-hands,
plough-boys, and women with children, some of them very prolific,
affording a rare opportunity for any one who wishes to raise
a strong and healthy lot of servants for their own use.
Also several mulatto girls of rare personal qualities,--
two of these very superior.
Among the above slaves advertised for sale were Agnes and her two daughters.
Ere young Linwood left the quadroon that evening, he promised her that
he would become her purchaser, and make her free and her own mistress.
Mr. Graves had long been considered not only an excellent
and upright citizen of the first standing among the whites,
but even the slaves regarded him as one of the kindest of masters.
Having inherited his slaves with the rest of his property,
he became possessed of them without any consultation
or wish of his own. He would neither buy nor sell slaves,
and was exceedingly careful, in letting them out,
that they did not find oppressive and tyrannical masters.
No slave speculator ever dared to cross the threshold of this
planter of the Old Dominion. He was a constant attendant upon
religious worship, and was noted for his general benevolence.
The American Bible Society, the American Tract Society, and the
cause of the Foreign Missions, found in him a liberal friend.
He was always anxious that his slaves should appear well on
the Sabbath, and have an opportunity of hearing the word of God.
CHAPTER II. THE NEGRO SALE
AS might have been expected, the day of sale brought an unusually
large number together to compete for the property to be sold.
Farmers, who make a business of raising slaves for the market,
were there, and slave-traders, who make a business of buying human
beings in the slave-raising States and taking them to the far South,
were also in attendance. Men and women, too, who wished to purchase
for their own use, had found their way to the slave sale.
In the midst of the throng was one who felt a deeper interest
in the result of the sale than any other of the bystanders.
This was young Linwood. True to his promise, he was there
with a blank bank-check in his pocket, awaiting with impatience
to enter the list as a bidder for the beautiful slave.
It was indeed a heart-rending scene to witness the lamentations
of these slaves, all of whom had grown up together on
the old homestead of Mr. Graves, and who had been treated
with great kindness by that gentleman, during his life.
Now they were to be separated, and form new relations
and companions. Such is the precarious condition of the slave.
Even when with a good master, there is not certainty of his
happiness in the future.
The less valuable slaves were first placed upon the auction-block,
one after another, and sold to the highest bidder.
Husbands and wives were separated with a degree of
indifference that is unknown in any other relation in life.
Brothers and sisters were torn from each other, and mothers
saw their children for the last time on earth.
It was late in the day, and when the greatest number of persons
were thought to be present, when Agnes and her daughters were
brought out to the place of sale. The mother was first put upon
the auction-block, and sold to a noted negro trader named Jennings.
Marion was next ordered to ascend the stand, which she did with a
trembling step, and was sold for $1200.
All eyes were now turned on Isabella, as she was led forward
by the auctioneer. The appearance of the handsome quadroon
caused a deep sensation among the crowd. There she stood,
with a skin as fair as most white women, her features as
beautifully regular as any of her sex of pure Anglo-Saxon blood,
her long black hair done up in the neatest manner, her form
tall and graceful, and her whole appearance indicating one
superior to her condition.
The auctioneer commenced by saying that Miss Isabella was fit to deck
the drawing-room of the finest mansion in Virginia.
"How much, gentlemen, for this real Albino!--fit fancy-girl for any one!
She enjoys good health, and has a sweet temper. How much do you say?"
"Five hundred dollars."
"Only five hundred for such a girl as this? Gentlemen, she is worth a deal
more than that sum. You certainly do not know the value of the article
you are bidding on. Here, gentlemen, I hold in my hand a paper certifying
that she has a good moral character."
"Ah, gentlemen, that is something life. This paper also states
that she is very intelligent."
"She was first sprinkled, then immersed, and is now warranted
to be a devoted Christian, and perfectly trustworthy."
"Nine hundred dollars."
"Nine hundred and fifty."
Here the bidding came to a dead stand. The auctioneer stopped, looked around,
and began in a rough manner to relate some anecdote connected with the sale
of slaves, which he said had come under his own observation.
At this juncture the scene was indeed a most striking one.
The laughing, joking, swearing, smoking, spitting, and talking,
kept up a continual hum and confusion among the crowd,
while the slave-girl stood with tearful eyes, looking alternately
at her mother and sister and toward the young man whom she
hoped would become her purchaser.
"The chastity of this girl," now continued the auctioneer,
"is pure. She has never been from under her mother's care.
She is virtuous, and as gentle as a dove."
The bids here took a fresh start, and went on until $1800 was reached.
The auctioneer once more resorted to his jokes, and concluded by assuring
the company that Isabella was not only pious, but that she could make
an excellent prayer.
"Nineteen hundred dollars."
This was the last bid, and the quadroon girl was struck off,
and became the property of Henry Linwood.
This was a Virginia slave-auction, at which the bones, sinews, blood,
and nerves of a young girl of eighteen were sold for $500; her moral
character for $200; her superior intellect for $100; the benefits
supposed to accrue from her having been sprinkled and immersed,
together with a warranty of her devoted Christianity, for $300;
her ability to make a good prayer for $200; and her chastity
for $700 more. This, too, in a city thronged with churches,
whose tall spires look like so many signals pointing to heaven,
but whose ministers preach that slavery is a God-ordained institution!
The slaves were speedily separated, and taken along by their
respective masters. Jennings, the slave-speculator, who
had purchased Agnes and her daughter Marion, with several
of the other slaves, took them to the county prison,
where he usually kept his human cattle after purchasing them,
previous to starting for the New Orleans market.
Linwood had already provided a place for Isabella, to which she was taken.
The most trying moment for her was when she took leave of her mother
and sister. The "Good-by" of the slave is unlike that of any
other class in the community. It is indeed a farewell forever.
With tears streaming down their cheeks, they embraced and commended
each other to God, who is no respecter of persons, and before whom
master and slave must one day appear.
CHAPTER III. THE SLAVE-SPECULATOR
DICK JENNINGS the slave-speculator, was one of the few Northern men,
who go to the South and throw aside their honest mode of
obtaining a living and resort to trading in human beings.
A more repulsive-looking person could scarcely be found
in any community of bad looking men. Tall, lean and lank,
with high cheek-bones, face much pitted with the small-pox,
gray eyes with red eyebrows, and sandy whiskers, he indeed
stood alone without mate or fellow in looks. Jennings prided
himself upon what he called his goodness of heat, and was always
speaking of his humanity. As many of the slaves whom he intended
taking to the New Orleans market had been raised in Richmond,
and had relations there, he determined to leave the city
early in the morning, so as not to witness any of the scenes
so common on the departure of a slave-gang to the far South.
In this, he was most successful; for not even Isabella,
who had called at the prison several times to see her mother
and sister, was aware of the time that they were to leave.
The slave-trader started at early dawn, and was beyond the confines
of the city long before the citizens were out of their beds.
As a slave regards a life on the sugar, cotton, or rice plantation as even
worse than death, they are ever on the watch for an opportunity to escape.
The trader, aware of this, secures his victims in chains before he sets out
on his journey. On this occasion, Jennings had the men chained in pairs,
while the women were allowed to go unfastened, but were closely watched.
After a march of eight days, the company arrived on the banks of the
Ohio River, where they took a steamer for the place of their destination.
Jennings had already advertised in the New Orleans papers,
that he would be there with a prime lot of able-bodied slaves,
men and women, fit for field-service, with a few extra ones calculated
for house-servants,--all between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five years;
but like most men who make a business of speculating in human beings,
he often bought many who were far advanced in years, and would try
to pass them off for five or six years younger than they were.
Few persons can arrive at anything approaching the real age of the negro,
by mere observation, unless they are well acquainted with the race.
Therefore, the slave-trader frequently carried out the deception
with perfect impunity.
After the steamer had left the wharf and was fairly out on the bosom
of the broad Mississippi, the speculator called his servant Pompey to him;
and instructed him as to getting the negroes ready for market.
Among the forty slaves that the trader had on this occasion, were some whose
appearance indicated that they had seen some years and had gone through
considerable service. Their gray hair and whiskers at once pronounced
them to be above the ages set down in the trader's advertisement.
Pompey had long been with Jennings, and understood his business well,
and if he did not take delight in the discharge of his duty, he did it at
least with a degree of alacrity, so that he might receive the approbation
of his master.
Pomp, as he was usually called by the trader, was of real
negro blood, and would often say, when alluding to himself,
"Dis nigger am no counterfeit, he is de ginuine artikle.
Dis chile is none of your haf-and-haf, dere is no bogus about him."
Pompey was of low stature, round face, and, like most of his race,
had a set of teeth, which, for whiteness and beauty, could not be surpassed;
his eyes were large, lips thick, and hair short and woolly.
Pompey had been with Jennings so long, and had seen so much of buying
and selling of his fellow-creatures, that he appeared perfectly indifferent
to the heart-rending scenes which daily occurred in his presence.
Such is the force of habit:--
"Vice is a monster of such frightful mien,
That to be hated, needs but to be seen;
But seen too oft, familiar with its face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace."
It was on the second day of the steamer's voyage, that Pompey selected
five of the oldest slaves, took them into a room by themselves,
and commenced preparing them for the market.
"Now," said he, addressing himself to the company, "I is de chap dat is to get
you ready for de Orleans market, so dat you will bring marser a good price.
How old is you?" addressing himself to a man not less than forty.
"If I live to see next sweet-potato-digging time, I shall be either
forty or forty-five, I don't know which."
"Dat may be," replied Pompey; "but now you is only thirty years old,--
dat's what marser says you is to be."
"I know I is more den dat," responded the man.
"I can't help nuffin' about dat," returned Pompey; "but when you get
into de market and any one ax you how old you is, and you tell um you
is forty or forty-five, marser will tie you up and cut you all to pieces.
But if you tell um dat you is only thirty, den he won't. Now remember
dat you is thirty years old and no more."
"Well den, I guess I will only be thirty when dey ax me."
"What's your name?" said Pompey, addressing himself to another.
"Oh! Uncle Jim, is it?" "Yes."
"Den you must have all them gray whiskers shaved off,
and all dem gray hairs plucked out of your head."
This was all said by Pompey in a manner which showed that he knew
what he was about.
"How old is you?" asked Pompey of a tall, strong-looking man.
"What's your name?"
"I am twenty-nine years old, and my name is Tobias, but they
calls me Toby."
"Well, Toby, or Mr. Tobias, if dat will suit you better, you are
now twenty-three years old; dat's all,--do you understand dat?"
"Yes," replied Toby.
Pompey now gave them all to understand how old they were
to be when asked by persons who were likely to purchase,
and then went and reported to his master that the old boys
were all right.
"Be sure," said Jennings, "that the niggers don't forget what you have taught
them, for our luck this time in the market depends upon their appearance.
If any of them have so many gray hairs that you cannot pluck them out,
take the blacking and brush, and go at them."
CHAPTER IV. THE BOAT-RACE
AT eight o'clock, on the evening of the third day of the passage,
the lights of another steamer were seen in the distance, and apparently
coming up very fast. This was the signal for a general commotion on board
the Patriot, and everything indicated that a steamboat-race was at hand.
Nothing can exceed the excitement attendant upon the racing of steamers
on the Mississippi.
By the time the boats had reached Memphis they were side by side,
and each exerting itself to get in advance of the other.
The night was clear, the moon shining brightly, and the boats so near
to each other that the passengers were within speaking distance.
On board the Patriot the firemen were using oil, lard, butter, and even bacon,
with wood, for the purpose of raising the steam to its highest pitch.
The blaze mingled with the black smoke that issued from the pipes
of the other boat, which showed that she also was burning something
more combustible than wood.
The firemen of both boats, who were slaves, were singing
songs such as can only be heard on board a Southern steamer.
The boats now came abreast of each other, and nearer and nearer,
until they were locked so that men could pass from one to the other.
The wildest excitement prevailed among the men employed on the steamers,
in which the passengers freely participated.
The Patriot now stopped to take in passengers, but still
no steam was permitted to escape. On the starting
of the boat again, cold water was forced into the boilers
by the feed-pumps, and, as might have been expected,
one of the boilers exploded with terrific force, carrying away
the boiler-deck and tearing to pieces much of the machinery.
One dense fog of steam filled every part of the vessel,
while shrieks, groans, and cries were heard on every side.
Men were running hither and thither looking for their wives,
and women were flying about in the wildest confusion seeking
for their husbands. Dismay appeared on every countenance.
The saloons and cabins soon looked more like hospitals than anything else;
but by this time the Patriot had drifted to the shore, and the other
steamer had come alongside to render assistance to the disabled boat.
The killed and wounded (nineteen in number) were put on shore,
and the Patriot, taken in tow by the Washington, was once more
on her journey.
It was half-past twelve, and the passengers, instead of retiring
to their berths, once more assembled at the gambling-tables. The
practice of gambling on the western waters has long been a source
of annoyance to the more moral persons who travel on our great rivers.
Thousands of dollars often change owners during a passage from
St. Louis or Louisville to New Orleans, on a Mississippi steamer.
Many men are completely ruined on such occasions, and duels are
often the consequence.
"Go call my boy, steward," said Mr. Jones, as he took his cards
one by one from the table.
In a few minutes a fine-looking, bright-eyed mulatto boy,
apparently about sixteen years of age, was standing by his
master's side at the table.
"I am broke, all but my boy," said Jones, as he ran his fingers
through his cards; "but he is worth a thousand dollars,
and I will bet the half of him."
"I will call you," said Thompson, as he laid five hundred dollars at the feet
of the boy, who was standing on the table, and at the same time throwing
down his cards before his adversary.
"You have beaten me," said Jones; and a roar of laughter followed
from the other gentleman as poor Joe stepped down from the table.
"Well, I suppose I owe you half the nigger," said Thompson,
as he took hold of Joe and began examining his limbs.
"Yes," replied Jones, "he is half yours. Let me have five hundred dollars,
and I will give you a bill of sale of the boy."
"Go back to your bed," said Thompson to his chattel, "and remember that you
now belong to me."
The poor slave wiped the tears from his eyes, as, in obedience,
he turned to leave the table.
"My father gave me that boy," said Jones, as he took the money, "and I hope,
Mr. Thompson, that you will allow me to redeem him."
"Most certainly, sir," replied Thompson. "Whenever you hand
over the cool thousand the negro is yours."
Next morning, as the passengers were assembling in the cabin and on deck,
and while the slaves were running about waiting on or looking for
their masters, poor Joe was seen entering his new master's stateroom,
boots in hand.
"Who do you belong to?" inquired a gentleman of an old negro, who passed
along leading a fine Newfoundland dog which he had been feeding.
"When I went to sleep las' night," replied the slave, "I 'longed
to Massa Carr; but he bin gamblin' all night, an' I don't know
who I 'longs to dis mornin'."
Such is the uncertainty of a slave's life. He goes to bed
at night the pampered servant of his young master, with whom
he has played in childhood, and who would not see his slave
abused under any consideration, and gets up in the morning
the property of a man whom he has never before seen.
To behold five or six tables in the saloon of a steamer,
with half a dozen men playing cards at each, with money, pistols,
and bowie-knives spread in splendid confusion before them,
is an ordinary thing on the Mississippi River.
CHAPTER V. THE YOUNG MOTHER
ON the fourth morning, the Patriot landed at Grand Gulf,
a beautiful town on the left bank of the Mississippi.
Among the numerous passengers who came on board
at Rodney was another slave-trader, with nine human
chattels which he was conveying to the Southern market.
The passengers, both ladies and gentlemen, were startled
at seeing among the new lot of slaves a woman so white as not
to be distinguishable from the other white women on board.
She had in her arms a child so white that no one would suppose
a drop of African blood flowed through its blue veins.
No one could behold that mother with her helpless babe,
without feeling that God would punish the oppressor.
There she sat, with an expressive and intellectual forehead,
and a countenance full of dignity and heroism, her dark
golden locks rolled back from her almost snow-white forehead
and floating over her swelling bosom. The tears that stood
in her mild blue eyes showed that she was brooding over sorrows
and wrongs that filled her bleeding heart.
The hearts of the passers-by grew softer, while gazing upon
that young mother as she pressed sweet kisses on the sad,
smiling lips of the infant that lay in her lap.
The small, dimpled hands of the innocent creature were slyly
hid in the warm bosom on which the little one nestled.
The blood of some proud Southerner, no doubt, flowed through
the veins of that child.
When the boat arrived at Natches, a rather good-looking,
genteel-appearing man came on board to purchase a servant.
This individual introduced himself to Jennings as the Rev. James Wilson.
The slave-trader conducted the preacher to the deck-cabin, where he kept
his slaves, and the man of God, after having some questions answered,
selected Agnes as the one best suited to his service.
It seemed as if poor Marion's heart would break when she
found that she was to be separated from her mother.
The preacher, however, appeared to be but little moved by
their sorrow, and took his newly-purchased victim on shore.
Agnes begged him to buy her daughter, but he refused,
on the ground that he had no use for her.
During the remainder of the passage, Marion wept bitterly.
After a run of a few hours, the boat stopped at Baton Rouge, where an
additional number of passengers were taken on board, among whom were
a number of persons who had been attending the races at that place.
Gambling and drinking were now the order of the day.
The next morning, at ten o'clock, the boat arrived at new Orleans,
where the passengers went to their hotels and homes, and the negroes
to the slave-pens.
Lizzie, the white slave-mother, of whom we have already spoken, created as
much of a sensation by the fairness of her complexion and the alabaster
whiteness of her child, when being conveyed on shore at New Orleans,
as she had done when brought on board at Grand Gulf. Every one that saw
her felt that slavery in the Southern States was not confined to the negro.
Many had been taught to think that slavery was a benefit rather than
an injury, and those who were not opposed to the institution before,
now felt that if whites were to become its victims, it was time at least
that some security should be thrown around the Anglo-Saxon to save him
from this servile and degraded position.
CHAPTER VI. THE SLAVE-MARKET.
NOT far from Canal Street, in the city of New Orleans,
stands a large two-story, flat building, surrounded by a stone
wall some twelve feet high, the top of which is covered with bits
of glass, and so constructed as to prevent even the possibility
of any one's passing over it without sustaining great injury.
Many of the rooms in this building resemble the cells of a prison,
and in a small apartment near the "office" are to be seen
any number of iron collars, hobbles, handcuffs, thumbscrews,
cowhides, chains, gags, and yokes.
A back-yard, enclosed by a high wall, looks something like
the playground attached to one of our large New England schools,
in which are rows of benches and swings. Attached to the back premises
is a good-sized kitchen, where, at the time of which we write,
two old negresses were at work, stewing, boiling, and baking,
and occasionally wiping the perspiration from their furrowed
and swarthy brows.
The slave-trader, Jennings, on his arrival at New Orleans,
took up his quarters here with his gang of human cattle,
and the morning after, at 10 o'clock, they were exhibited for sale.
First of all came the beautiful Marion, whose pale countenance
and dejected look told how many sad hours she had passed
since parting with her mother at Natchez. There, too,
was a poor woman who had been separated from her husband;
and another woman, whose looks and manners were expressive
of deep anguish, sat by her side. There was "Uncle Jeems,"
with his whiskers off, his face shaven clean, and the gray hairs
plucked out, ready to be sold for ten years younger than he was.
Toby was also there, with his face shaven and greased,
ready for inspection.
The examination commenced, and was carried on in such a manner as to shock
the feelings of any one not entirely devoid of the milk of human kindness.
"What are you wiping your eyes for?" inquired a far, red-faced man,
with a white hat set on one side of his head and a cigar in his mouth,
of a woman who sat on one of the benches.
"Because I left my man behind."
"Oh, if I buy you, I will furnish you with a better man than you left.
I've got lots of young bucks on my farm."
"I don't want and never will have another man," replied the woman.
"What's you name?" asked a man in a straw hat of a tall negro who stood
with his arms folded across his breast, leaning against the wall.
"My name is Aaron, sar."
"How old are you?"
"Where were you raised?"
"In old Virginny, sar."
"How many men have owned you?"
"Do you enjoy good health?"
"How long did you live with your first owner?"
"Did you ever run away?"
"Did you ever strike your master?"
"Were you ever whipped much?"
"No, sar; I s'pose I didn't desarve it, sar."
"How long did you live with your second master?"
"Ten years, sar."
"Have you a good appetite?"
"Can you eat your allowance?"
"Yes, sar,--when I can get it."
"Where were you employed in Virginia?"
"I worked de tobacker fiel'."
"In the tobacco field, eh?"
"How old did you say you was?"
"Twenty-five, sar, nex' sweet-'tater-diggin' time."
"I am a cotton-planter, and if I buy you, you will have to
work in the cotton-field. My men pick one hundred and fifty
pounds a day, and the women one hundred and forty pounds;
and those who fail to perform their task receive five stripes
for each pound that is wanting. Now, do you think you could
keep up with the rest of the hands?"
"I don't know, sar, but I 'specs I'd have to."
"How long did you live with your third master?"
"Three years, sar."
"Why, that makes you thirty-three. I thought you told me you
were only twenty-five?"
Aaron now looked first at the planter, then at the trader,
and seemed perfectly bewildered. He had forgotten the lesson
given him by Pompey relative to his age; and the planter's
circuitous questions--doubtless to find out the slave's real age--
had thrown the negro off his guard.
"I must see you back, so as to know how much you have been whipped,
before I think of buying."
Pompey, who had been standing by during the examination,
thought that his services were now required, and, stepping forth
with a degree of officiousness, said to Aaron,--
"Don't you hear de gemman tell you he wants to 'zamin you.
Cum, unharness yo'seff, ole boy, and don't be standin' dar."
Aaron was soon examined, and pronounced "sound;" yet the conflicting
statement about his age was not satisfactory.
Fortunately for Marion, she was spared the pain of undergoing
such an examination. Mr. Cardney, a teller in one of the banks,
had just been married, and wanted a maid-servant for his wife,
and, passing through the market in the early part of the day,
was pleased with the young slave's appearance, and his dwelling
the quadroon found a much better home than often falls to the lot
of a slave sold in the New Orleans market.
CHAPTER VII. THE SLAVE-HOLDING PARSON
THE Rev. James Wilson was a native of the State of Connecticut,
where he was educated for the ministry in the Methodist persuasion.
His father was a strict follower of John Wesley, and spared
no pains in his son's education, with the hope that he would
one day be as renowned as the leader of his sect.
James had scarcely finished his education at New Haven,
when he was invited by an uncle, then on a visit to his father,
to spend a few months at Natchez in Mississippi. Young Wilson
accepted his uncle's invitation, and accompanied him to the South.
Few young men, and especially clergymen, going fresh from college
to the South, but are looked upon as geniuses in a small way,
and who are not invited to all the parties in the neighborhood.
Mr. Wilson was not an exception to this rule.
The society into which he was thrown, on his arrival at Natchez,
was too brilliant for him not to be captivated by it, and,
as might have been expected, he succeeded in captivating
a plantation with seventy slaves if not the heart of the lady
to whom it belonged.
Added to this, he became a popular preacher, and had a large
congregation with a snug salary. Like other planters,
Mr. Wilson confided the care of his farm to Ned Huckelby,
an overseer of high reputation in his way.
The Poplar Farm, as it was called, was situated in a beautiful valley,
nine miles from Natchez, and near the Mississippi River.
The once unshorn face of nature had given way, and the farm now
blossomed with a splendid harvest. The neat cottage stood in a grove,
where Lombardy poplars lift their tops almost to prop the skies,
where the willow, locust, and horse-chestnut trees spread forth
their branches, and flowers never ceased to blossom.
This was the parson's country residence, where the family spent only
two months during the year. His town residence was a fine villa,
seated on the brow of a hill, at the edge of the city.
It was in the kitchen of this house that Agnes found her new home.
Mr. Wilson was every inch a democrat, and early resolved that "his people,"
as he called his slaves, should be well-fed and not over-worked, and therefore
laid down the law and gospel to the overseer as well as to the slaves.
"It is my wish," said he to Mr. Carlingham, an old school-fellow
who was spending a few days with him,--"It is my wish that a new system
be adopted on the plantations in this State. I believe that the sons
of Ham should have the gospel, and I intend that mine shall have it.
The gospel is calculated to make mankind better and none should
be without it."
"What say you," said Carlingham, "about the right of man to his liberty?"
"Now, Carlingham, you have begun to harp again about men's rights.
I really wish that you could see this matter as I do."
"I regret that I cannot see eye to eye with you," said Carlingham.
"I am a disciple of Rousseau, and have for years made the rights
of man my study, and I must confess to you that I see no difference
between white and black, as it regards liberty."
"Now, my dear Carlingham, would you really have the negroes enjoy
the same rights as ourselves?"
"I would most certainly. Look at our great Declaration
of Independence! look even at the Constitution of our
own Connecticut, and see what is said in these about liberty."
"I regard all this talk about rights as mere humbug.
The Bible is older than the Declaration of Independence,
and there I take my stand."
A long discussion followed, in which both gentlemen put forth
their peculiar ideas with much warmth of feeling.
During this conversation, there was another person in the room,
seated by the window, who, although at work, embroidering a
fine collar, paid minute attention to what was said.
This was Georgiana, the only daughter of the parson, who had but just
returned from Connecticut, where she had finished her education.
She had had the opportunity of contrasting the spirit of Christianity
and liberty in New England with that of slavery in her native State,
and had learned to feel deeply for the injured negro.
Georgiana was in her nineteenth year, and had been much
benefited by her residence of five years at the North.
Her form was tall and graceful, her features regular and
well-defined, and her complexion was illuminated by the freshness
of youth, beauty, and health.
The daughter differed from both the father and visitor upon
the subject which they had been discussing; and as soon
as an opportunity offered, she gave it as her opinion that
the Bible was both the bulwark of Christianity and of liberty.
With a smile she said,--
"Of course, papa will overlook my difference with him,
for although I am a native of the South, I am by education
and sympathy a Northerner."
Mr. Wilson laughed, appearing rather pleased than otherwise
at the manner in which his daughter had expressed herself.
From this Georgiana took courage and continued,--
"'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' This single passage of
Scripture should cause us to have respect for the rights of the slave.
True Christian love is of an enlarged and disinterested nature.
It loves all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, without regard
to color or condition."
"Georgiana, my dear, you are an abolitionist,--your talk is fanaticism!"
said Mr. Wilson, in rather a sharp tone; but the subdued look of the girl
and the presence of Carlingham caused him to soften his language.
Mr. Wilson having lost his wife by consumption, and Georgiana
being his only child, he loved her too dearly to say more,
even if he felt disposed. A silence followed this exhortation
from the young Christian, but her remarks had done a noble work.
The father's heart was touched, and the sceptic, for the first time,
was viewing Christianity in its true light.
CHAPTER VIII. A NIGHT IN THE PARSON'S KITCHEN
BESIDES Agnes, whom Mr. Wilson had purchased from the slave-trader,
Jennings, he kept a number of house-servants. The chief one of these
was Sam, who must be regarded as second only to the parson himself.
If a dinner-party was in contemplation, or any company was to be invited,
after all the arrangements had been talked over by the minister
and his daughter, Sam was sure to be consulted on the subject
by "Miss Georgy," as Miss Wilson was called by all the servants.
If furniture, crockery, or anything was to be purchased,
Sam felt that he had been slighted if his opinion was not asked.
As to the marketing, he did it all. He sat at the head of the servants'
table in the kitchen, and was master of the ceremonies.
A single look from him was enough to silence any conversation
or noise among the servants in the kitchen or in any other part
of the premises.
There is in the Southern States a great amount of prejudice
in regard to color, even among the negroes themselves.
The nearer the negro or mulatto approaches to the white, the more
he seems to feel his superiority over those of a darker hue.
This is no doubt the result of the prejudice that exists on
the part of the whites against both the mulattoes and the blacks.
Sam was originally from Kentucky, and through the instrumentality
of one of his young masters, whom he had to take to school,
he had learned to read so as to be well understood, and, owing to
that fact, was considered a prodigy, not only among his own
master's slaves, but also among those of the town who knew him.
Sam had a great wish to follow in the footsteps of his master
and be a poet, and was therefore often heard singing doggerels
of his own composition.
But there was one drawback to Sam, and that was his color.
He was one of the blackest of his race. This he evidently regarded
as a great misfortune; but he endeavored to make up for it in dress.
Mr. Wilson kept his house-servants well dressed, and as for Sam,
he was seldom seen except in a ruffled shirt. Indeed, the washerwoman
feared him more than any one else in the house.
Agnes had been inaugurated chief of the kitchen department,
and had a general supervision of the household affairs.
Alfred, the coachman, Peter, and Hetty made up the remainder
of the house-servants. Besides these, Mr. Wilson owned
eight slaves who were masons. These worked in the city.
Being mechanics, they were let out to greater advantage than
to keep them on the farm.
Every Sunday evening, Mr. Wilson's servants, including the brick-layers,
assembled in the kitchen, where the events of the week were fully discussed
and commented upon. It was on a Sunday evening, in the month of June,
that there was a party at Mr. Wilson's house, and, according to custom
in the Southern States, the ladies had their maid-servants with them.
Tea had been served in "the house," and the servants, including the strangers,
had taken their seats at the table in the kitchen. Sam, being a
"single gentleman," was unusually attentive to the "ladies" on this occasion.
He seldom let a day pass without spending an hour or two in combing
and brushing his "har." He had an idea that fresh butter was better
for his hair than any other kind of grease, and therefore on churning days
half a pound of butter had always to be taken out before it was salted.
When he wished to appear to great advantage, he would grease his
face to make it "shiny." Therefore, on the evening of the party,
when all the servants were at the table, Sam cut a big figure.
There he sat, with his wool well combed and buttered, face nicely greased,
and his ruffles extending five or six inches from his bosom.
The parson in his drawing-room did not make a more imposing appearance
than did his servant on this occasion.
"I jis bin had my fortune tole last Sunday night," said Sam,
while helping one of the girls.
"Indeed!" cried half a dozen voices.
"Yes," continued he; "Aunt Winny tole me I's to hab de prettiest yallah gal
in de town, and dat I's to be free!"
All eyes were immediately turned toward Sally Johnson,
who was seated near Sam.
"I 'specs I see somebody blush at dat remark," said Alfred.
"Pass dem pancakes an' 'lasses up dis way, Mr. Alf., and none ob
your 'sinuwashuns here," rejoined Sam.
"Dat reminds me," said Agnes, "dat Dorcas Simpson is gwine to git married."
"Who to, I want to know?" inquired Peter.
"To one of Mr. Darby's field-hands," answered Agnes.
"I should tink dat gal wouldn't frow herseff away in dat ar way," said Sally.
"She's good lookin' 'nough to git a house-servant, and not hab to put up
wid a field-nigger.
"Yes," said Sam, "dat's a werry unsensible remark ob yourn,
Miss Sally. I admires your judgment werry much, I 'sures you.
Dar's plenty ob susceptible an' well-dressed house-serbants dat a gal
ob her looks can git widout takin' up wid dem common darkies."
The evening's entertainment concluded by Sam's relating a little
of his own experience while with his first master, in old Kentucky.
This master was a doctor, and had a large practice among his neighbors,
doctoring both masters and slaves. When Sam was about fifteen years old,
his master set him to grinding up ointment and making pills.
As the young student grew older and became more practised in his profession,
his services were of more importance to the doctor. The physician having
a good business, and a large number of his patients being slaves,--
the most of whom had to call on the doctor when ill,--he put Sam
to bleeding, pulling teeth, and administering medicine to the slaves.
Sam soon acquired the name among the slaves of the "Black Doctor."
With this appellation he was delighted; and no regular physician could have
put on more airs than did the black doctor when his services were required.
In bleeding, he must have more bandages, and would rub and smack the arm
more than the doctor would have thought of.
Sam was once seen taking out a tooth for one of his patients,
and nothing appeared more amusing. He got the poor fellow down
on his back, and then getting astride of his chest, he applied
the turnkeys and pulled away for dear life. Unfortunately, he had
got hold of the wrong tooth, and the poor man screamed as loud
as he could; but it was to no purpose, for Sam had him fast,
and after a pretty severe tussle out came the sound grinder.
The young doctor now saw his mistake, but consoled himself
with the thought that as the wrong tooth was out of the way,
there was more room to get at the right one.
Bleeding and a dose of calomel were always considered
indispensable by the "old boss," and as a matter of course,
Sam followed in his footsteps.
On one occasion the old doctor was ill himself, so as to be unable to attend
to his patients. A slave, with pass in hand, called to receive medical
advice, and the master told Sam to examine him and see what he wanted.
This delighted him beyond measure, for although he had been acting
his part in the way of giving out medicine as the master ordered it,
he had never been called upon by the latter to examine a patient,
and this seemed to convince him after all that he was no sham doctor.
As might have been expected, he cut a rare figure in his first examination.
Placing himself directly opposite his patient, and folding his arms
across his breast, looking very knowingly, he began,--
"What's de matter wid you?"
"I is sick."
"Where is you sick?"
"Here," replied the man, putting his hand upon his stomach.
"Put out your tongue," continued the doctor.
The man ran out his tongue at full length.
"Let me feel your pulse;" at the same time taking his patient's hand in his,
and placing his fingers upon his pulse, he said,--
"Ah! your case is a bad one; ef I don't do something for you,
and dat pretty quick, you'll be a gone coon, and dat's sartin."
At this the man appeared frightened, and inquired what was the matter
with him, in answer to which Sam said,--
"I done told dat your case is a bad one, and dat's enuff."
On Sam's returning to his master's bedside, the latter said,--
"Well, Sam, what do you think is the matter with him?"
"His stomach is out ob order, sar," he replied.
"What do you think had better be done for him?"
"I tink I'd better bleed him and gib him a dose ob calomel," returned Sam.
So, to the latter's gratification, the master let him have his own way.
On one occasion, when making pills and ointment, Sam made
a great mistake. He got the preparations for both mixed together,
so that he could not legitimately make either. But fearing
that if he threw the stuff away, his master would flog him,
and being afraid to inform his superior of the mistake, he resolved
to make the whole batch of pill and ointment stuff into pills.
He well knew that the powder over the pills would hide the inside,
and the fact that most persons shut their eyes when taking such medicine
led the young doctor to feel that all would be right in the end.
Therefore Sam made his pills, boxed them up, put on the labels,
and placed them in a conspicuous position on one of the shelves.
Sam felt a degree of anxiety about his pills, however.
It was a strange mixture, and he was not certain whether it
would kill or cure; but he was willing that it should be tried.
At last the young doctor had his vanity gratified.
Col. Tallen, one of Dr. Saxondale's patients, drove up one morning,
and Sam as usual ran out to the gate to hold the colonel's horse.
"Call your master," said the colonel; "I will not get out."
The doctor was soon beside the carriage, and inquired about
the health of his patient. After a little consultation,
the doctor returned to his office, took down a box of Sam's
new pills, and returned to the carriage.
"Take two of these every morning and night," said the doctor,
"and if you don't feel relieved, double the dose."
"Good gracious," exclaimed Sam in an undertone, when he heard
his master tell the colonel how to take the pills.
It was several days before Sam could learn the result of his new medicine.
One afternoon, about a fortnight after the colonel's visit,
Sam saw his master's patient riding up to the gate on horseback.
The doctor happened to be in the yard, and met the colonel and said,--
"How are you now?"
"I am entirely recovered," replied the patient.
"Those pills of yours put me on my feet the next day."
"I knew they would," rejoined the doctor.
Sam was near enough to hear the conversation, and was delighted
beyond description. The negro immediately ran into the kitchen,
amongst his companions, and commenced dancing.
"What de matter wid you?" inquired the cook.
"I is de greatest doctor in his country," replied Sam.
"Ef you ever get sick, call on me. No matter what ails you,
I is de man dat can cure you in no time. If you do hab de backache,
de rheumatics, de headache, de coller morbus, fits, er any ting else,
Sam is de gentleman dat can put you on your feet wid his pills."
For a long time after, Sam did little else than boast of his skill
as a doctor.
We have said that the "black doctor" was full of wit and good sense.
Indeed, in that respect, he had scarcely an equal in the neighborhood.
Although his master resided some little distance out of the city,
Sam was always the first man in all the negro balls and parties in town.
When his master could give him a pass, he went, and when he did
not give him one, he would steal away after his master had retired,
and run the risk of being taken up by the night-watch. Of course,
the master never knew anything of the absence of the servant at night
without permission. As the negroes at these parties tried to excel each
other in the way of dress, Sam was often at a loss to make that appearance
that his heart desired, but his ready wit ever helped him in this.
When his master had retired to bed at night, it was the duty of Sam to put
out the lights, and take out with him his master's clothes and boots,
and leave them in the office until morning, and then black the boots,
brush the clothes, and return them to his master's room.
Having resolved to attend a dress-ball one night, without his master's
permission, and being perplexed for suitable garments, Sam determined
to take his master's. So, dressing himself in the doctor's clothes,
even to his boots and hat, off the negro started for the city.
Being well acquainted with the usual walk of the patrols he found no
difficulty in keeping out of their way. As might have been expected,
Sam was the great gun with the ladies that night.
The next morning, Sam was back home long before his master's time
for rising, and the clothes were put in their accustomed place.
For a long time Sam had no difficulty in attiring himself
for parties; but the old proverb that "It is a long lane
that has no turning," was verified in the negro's case.
One stormy night, when the rain was descending in torrents,
the doctor heard a rap at his door. It was customary with him,
when called up at night to visit a patient, to ring for Sam.
But this time, the servant was nowhere to be found.
The doctor struck a light and looked for clothes; they, too,
were gone. It was twelve o'clock, and the doctor's clothes,
hat, boots, and even his watch, were nowhere to be found.
Here was a pretty dilemma for a doctor to be in. It was some time
before the physician could fit himself out so as to make the visit.
At last, however, he started with one of the farm-horses, for Sam
had taken the doctor's best saddle-horse. The doctor felt sure
that the negro had robbed him, and was on his way to Canada;
but in this he was mistaken. Sam had gone to the city to attend
a ball, and had decked himself out in his master's best suit.
The physician returned before morning, and again retired
to bed but with little hope of sleep, for his thoughts were
with his servant and horse. At six o'clock, in walked Sam
with his master's clothes, and the boots neatly blacked.
The watch was placed on the shelf, and the hat in its place.
Sam had not met any of the servants, and was therefore entirely
ignorant of what had occurred during his absence.
"What have you been about, sir, and where was you last night
when I was called?" asked the doctor.
"I don't know, sir. I 'spose I was asleep," replied Sam.
But the doctor was not to be so easily satisfied, after having
been put to so much trouble in hunting up another suit without
the aid of Sam. After breakfast, Sam was taken into the barn,
tied up, and severely flogged with the cat, which brought
from him the truth concerning his absence the previous night.
This forever put an end to his fine appearance at the negro parties.
Had not the doctor been one of the most indulgent of masters,
he would not have escaped with merely a severe whipping.
As a matter of course, Sam had to relate to his companions
that evening in Mr. Wilson's kitchen all his adventures
as a physician while with his old master.
CHAPTER IX. THE MAN OF HONOR
AUGUSTINE CARDINAY, the purchaser of Marion, was from the Green Mountains
of Vermont, and his feelings were opposed to the holding of slaves;
but his young wife persuaded him into the idea that it was no worse
to own a slave than to hire one and pay the money to another.
Hence it was that he had been induced to purchase Marion.
Adolphus Morton, a young physician from the same State,
and who had just commenced the practice of his profession
in New Orleans, was boarding with Cardinay when Marion was
brought home. The young physician had been in New Orleans
but a very few weeks, and had seen but little of slavery.
In his own mountain-home, he had been taught that the slaves
of the Southern States were negroes, and if not from the coast
of Africa, the descendants of those who had been imported.
He was unprepared to behold with composure a beautiful white
girl of sixteen in the degraded position of a chattel slave.
The blood chilled in his young heart as he heard Cardinay tell how,
by bantering with the trader, he had bought her two hundred dollars less
than he first asked. His very looks showed that she had the deepest
sympathies of his heart.
Marion had been brought up by her mother to look
after the domestic concerns of her cottage in Virginia,
and well knew how to perform the duties imposed upon her.
Mrs. Cardinay was much pleased with her new servant, and often
mentioned her good qualities in the presence of Mr. Morton.
After eight months acquaintance with Marion, Morton's sympathies
ripened into love, which was most cordially reciprocated
by the friendless and injured child of sorrow. There was
but one course which the young man could honorably pursue,
and that was to purchase Marion and make her his lawful wife;
and this he did immediately, for he found Mr. and Mrs. Cardinay
willing to second his liberal intentions.
The young man, after purchasing Marion from Cardinay,
and marrying her, took lodgings in another part of the city.
A private teacher was called in, and the young wife was taught
some of those accomplishments so necessary for one taking
a high position in good society.
Dr. Morton soon obtained a large and influential practice in his profession,
and with it increased in wealth; but with all his wealth he never
owned a slave. Probably the fact that he had raised his wife from
that condition kept the hydra-headed system continually before him.
To the credit of Marion be it said, she used every means to obtain
the freedom of her mother, who had been sold to Parson Wilson, at Natchez.
Her efforts, however, had come too late; for Agnes had died of a fever
before the arrival of Dr. Morton's agent.
Marion found in Adolphus Morton a kind and affectionate husband;
and his wish to purchase her mother, although unsuccessful,
had doubly endeared him to her. Ere a year had elapsed from the time
of their marriage, Mrs. Morton presented her husband with a lovely
daughter, who seemed to knit their hearts still closer together.
This child they named Jane; and before the expiration of the second year,
they were blessed with another daughter, whom they named Adrika.
These children grew up to the ages of ten and eleven,
and were then sent to the North to finish their education,
and receive that refinement which young ladies cannot obtain
in the Slave States.
CHAPTER X. THE QUADROON'S HOME
A FEW miles out of Richmond is a pleasant place, with here and there
a beautiful cottage surrounded by trees so as scarcely to be seen.
Among these was one far retired from the public roads,
and almost hidden among the trees. This was the spot that Henry
Linwood had selected for Isabella, the eldest daughter of Agnes.
The young man hired the house, furnished it, and placed his
mistress there, and for many months no one in his father's family
knew where he spent his leisure hours.
When Henry was not with her, Isabella employed herself in looking after
her little garden and the flowers that grew in front of her cottage.
The passion-flower, peony, dahlia, laburnum, and other plants,
so abundant in warm climates, under the tasteful hand of Isabella,
lavished their beauty upon this retired spot, and miniature paradise.
Although Isabella had been assured by Henry that she should be free
and that he would always consider her as his wife, she nevertheless
felt that she ought to be married and acknowledged by him.
But this was an impossibility under the State laws, even had
the young man been disposed to do what was right in the matter.
Related as he was, however, to one of the first families in Virginia,
he would not have dared to marry a woman of so low an origin,
even had the laws been favorable.
Here, in this secluded grove, unvisited by any other except
her lover, Isabella lived for years. She had become the mother
of a lovely daughter, which its father named Clotelle.
The complexion of the child was still fairer than that of
its mother. Indeed, she was not darker than other white children,
and as she grew older she more and more resembled her father.
As time passed away, Henry became negligent of Isabella and his child,
so much so, that days and even weeks passed without their seeing him,
or knowing where he was. Becoming more acquainted with the world,
and moving continually in the society of young women of his
own station, the young man felt that Isabella was a burden to him,
and having as some would say, "outgrown his love," he longed to free
himself of the responsibility; yet every time he saw the child,
he felt that he owed it his fatherly care.
Henry had now entered into political life, and been elected to a seat
in the legislature of his native State; and in his intercourse
with his friends had become acquainted with Gertrude Miller,
the daughter of a wealthy gentleman living near Richmond.
Both Henry and Gertrude were very good-looking, and a mutual
attachment sprang up between them.
Instead of finding fault with the unfrequent visits of Henry,
Isabella always met him with a smile, and tried to make both him
and herself believe that business was the cause of his negligence.
When he was with her, she devoted every moment of her time
to him, and never failed to speak of the growth and increasing
intelligence of Clotelle.
The child had grown so large as to be able to follow its father
on his departure out to the road. But the impression made on
Henry's feelings by the devoted woman and her child was momentary.
His heart had grown hard, and his acts were guided by no fixed principle.
Henry and Gertrude had been married nearly two years before Isabella
knew anything of the event, and it was merely by accident that she
became acquainted with the facts.
One beautiful afternoon, when Isabella and Clotelle were picking
wild strawberries some two miles from their home, and near
the road-side, they observed a one-horse chaise driving past.
The mother turned her face from the carriage not wishing to be
seen by strangers, little dreaming that the chaise contained
Henry and his wife. The child, however, watched the chaise,
and startled her mother by screaming out at the top of her voice,
"Papa! papa!" and clapped her little hands for joy.
The mother turned in haste to look at the strangers, and her eyes
encountered those of Henry's pale and dejected countenance.
Gertrude's eyes were on the child. The swiftness with which Henry
drove by could not hide from his wife the striking resemblance
of the child to himself. The young wife had heard the child
exclaim "Papa! papa!" and she immediately saw by the quivering
of his lips and the agitation depicted in his countenance,
that all was not right.
"Who is that woman? and why did that child call you papa?"
she inquired, with a trembling voice.
Henry was silent; he knew not what to say, and without another word passing
between them, they drove home.
On reaching her room, Gertrude buried her face in her handkerchief and wept.
She loved Henry, and when she had heard from the lips of her companions
how their husbands had proved false, she felt that he was an exception,
and fervently thanked God that she had been so blessed.
When Gertrude retired to her bed that night, the sad scene of the day
followed her. The beauty of Isabella, with her flowing curls, and the look
of the child, so much resembling the man whom she so dearly loved,
could not be forgotten; and little Clotelle's exclamation of "Papa! papa!"
rang in her ears during the whole night.
The return of Henry at twelve o'clock did not increase her happiness.
Feeling his guilt, he had absented himself from the house since his return
from the ride.
CHAPTER XI. TO-DAY A MISTRESS, TO-MORROW A SLAVE
THE night was dark, the rain descended in torrents from the black
and overhanging clouds, and the thunder, accompanied with vivid
flashes of lightning, resounded fearfully, as Henry Linwood stepped
from his chaise and entered Isabella's cottage.
More than a fortnight had elapsed since the accidental meeting,
and Isabella was in doubt as to who the lady was that Henry was with in
the carriage. Little, however, did she think that it was his wife.
With a smile, Isabella met the young man as he entered her little dwelling.
Clotelle had already gone to bed, but her father's voice aroused her
from her sleep, and she was soon sitting on his knee.
The pale and agitated countenance of Henry betrayed his uneasiness,
but Isabella's mild and laughing allusion to the incident of their
meeting him on the day of his pleasure-drive, and her saying,
"I presume, dear Henry, that the lady was one of your relatives,"
led him to believe that she was still in ignorance of his marriage.
She was, in fact, ignorant who the lady was who accompanied
the man she loved on that eventful day. He, aware of this,
now acted more like himself, and passed the thing off as a joke.
At heart, however, Isabella felt uneasy, and this uneasiness
would at times show itself to the young man. At last, and with a
great effort, she said,--
"Now, hear Henry, if I am in the way of your future happiness, say so, and I
will release you from any promises that you have made me. I know there is
no law by which I can hold you, and if there was, I would not resort to it.
You are as dear to me as ever, and my thoughts shall always be devoted
to you. It would be a great sacrifice for me to give you up to another,
but if it be your desire, as great as the sacrifice is, I will make it.
Send me and your child into a Free State if we are in your way."
Again and again Linwood assured her that no woman possessed his love but her.
Oh, what falsehood and deceit man can put on when dealing with woman's love!
The unabated storm kept Henry from returning home until
after the clock had struck two, and as he drew near
his residence he saw his wife standing at the window.
Giving his horse in charge of the servant who was waiting,
he entered the house, and found his wife in tears.
Although he had never satisfied Gertrude as to who the quadroon
woman and child were, he had kept her comparatively easy
by his close attention to her, and by telling her that she
was mistaken in regard to the child's calling him "papa."
His absence that night, however, without any apparent cause,
had again aroused the jealousy of Gertrude; but Henry told her
that he had been caught in the rain while out, which prevented
his sooner returning, and she, anxious to believe him,
received the story as satisfactory.
Somewhat heated with brandy, and wearied with much loss of sleep,
Linwood fell into a sound slumber as soon as he retired.
Not so with Gertrude. That faithfulness which has ever
distinguished her sex, and the anxiety with which she watched
all his movements, kept the wife awake while the husband slept.
His sleep, though apparently sound, was nevertheless uneasy.
Again and again she heard him pronounce the name of Isabella,
and more than once she heard him say, "I am not married;
I will never marry while you live." Then he would speak
the name of Clotelle and say, "My dear child, how I love you!"
After a sleepless night, Gertrude arose from her couch,
resolved that she would reveal the whole matter to her mother.
Mrs. Miller was a woman of little or no feeling, proud, peevish,
and passionate, thus making everybody miserable that came near her;
and when she disliked any one, her hatred knew no bounds.
This Gertrude knew; and had she not considered it her duty,
she would have kept the secret locked in her own heart.
During the day, Mrs. Linwood visited her mother and told her all
that had happened. The mother scolded the daughter for not having
informed her sooner, and immediately determined to find out who the
woman and child were that Gertrude had met on the day of her ride.
Three days were spent by Mrs. Miller in this endeavor,
but without success.
Four weeks had elapsed, and the storm of the old lady's
temper had somewhat subsided, when, one evening, as she was
approaching her daughter's residence, she saw Henry walking
in the direction of where the quadroon was supposed to reside.
Being satisfied that the young man had not seen her, the old
woman at once resolved to follow him. Linwood's boots squeaked
so loudly that Mrs. Miller had no difficulty in following him
without being herself observed.
After a walk of about two miles, the young man turned into a narrow
and unfrequented road, and soon entered the cottage occupied by Isabella.
It was a fine starlight night, and the moon was just rising when they
got to their journey's end. As usual, Isabella met Henry with a smile,
and expressed her fears regarding his health.
Hours passed, and still old Mrs. Miller remained near the house,
determined to know who lived there. When she undertook
to ferret out anything, she bent her whole energies to it.
As Michael Angelo, who subjected all things to his pursuit
and the idea he had formed of it, painted the crucifixion
by the side of a writhing slave and would have broken up
the true cross for pencils, so Mrs. Miller would have entered
the sepulchre, if she could have done it, in search of an object
she wished to find.
The full moon had risen, and was pouring its beams upon
surrounding objects as Henry stepped from Isabella's door,
and looking at his watch, said,--
"I must go, dear; it is now half-past ten."
Had little Clotelle been awake, she too would have been at the door.
As Henry walked to the gate, Isabella followed with her left hand locked
in his. Again he looked at his watch, and said,--
"I must go."
"It is more than a year since you staid all night,"
murmured Isabella, as he folded her convulsively in his arms,
and pressed upon her beautiful lips a parting kiss.
He was nearly out of sight when, with bitter sobs,
the quadroon retraced her steps to the door of the cottage.
Clotelle had in the mean time awoke, and now inquired
of her mother how long her father had been gone.
At that instant, a knock was heard at the door, and supposing
that it was Henry returning for something he had forgotten,
as he frequently did, Isabella flew to let him in.
To her amazement, however, a strange woman stood in the door.
"Who are you that comes here at this late hour?"
demanded the half-frightened Isabella.
Without making any reply, Mrs. Miller pushed the quadroon aside,
and entered the house.
"What do you want here?" again demanded Isabella.
"I am in search of you," thundered the maddened Mrs. Miller;
but thinking that her object would be better served by seeming
to be kind, she assumed a different tone of voice, and began
talking in a pleasing manner.
In this way, she succeeded in finding out that connection existing
between Linwood and Isabella, and after getting all she could
out of the unsuspecting woman, she informed her that the man
she so fondly loved had been married for more than two years.
Seized with dizziness, the poor, heart-broken woman fainted
and fell upon the floor. How long she remained there she could
not tell; but when she returned to consciousness, the strange
woman was gone, and her child was standing by her side.
When she was so far recovered as to regain her feet,
Isabella went to the door, and even into the yard, to see
if the old woman was no somewhere about.
As she stood there, the full moon cast its bright rays
over her whole person, giving her an angelic appearance
and imparting to her flowing hair a still more golden hue.
Suddenly another change came over her features, and her
full red kips trembled as with suppressed emotion.
The muscles around her faultless mouth became convulsed,
she gasped for breath, and exclaiming, "Is it possible that man
can be so false!" again fainted.
Clotelle stood and bathed her mother's temples with cold water until
she once more revived.
Although the laws of Virginia forbid the education of slaves,
Agnes had nevertheless employed an old free negro to teach
her two daughters to read and write. After being separated
from her mother and sister, Isabella turned her attention
to the subject of Christianity, and received that consolation
from the Bible which is never denied to the children of God.
This was now her last hope, for her heart was torn with grief
and filled with all the bitterness of disappointment.
The night passed away, but without sleep to poor Isabella.
At the dawn of day, she tried to make herself believe
that the whole of the past night was a dream, and determined
to be satisfied with the explanation which Henry should give
on his next visit.
CHAPTER XII. THE MOTHER-IN-LAW
WHEN Harry returned home, he found his wife seated at the window,
awaiting his approach. Secret grief was gnawing at her heart.
Her sad, pale cheeks and swollen eyes showed too well that agony,
far deeper than her speech portrayed, filled her heart.
A dull and death-like silence prevailed on his entrance.
His pale face and brow, dishevelled hair, and the feeling
that he manifested on finding Gertrude still up, told Henry
in plainer words than she could have used that his wife
was aware that her love had never been held sacred by him.
The window-blinds were still unclosed, and the full-orbed moon
shed her soft refulgence over the unrivalled scene, and gave
it a silvery lustre which sweetly harmonized with the silence
of the night. The clock's iron tongue, in a neighboring belfry,
proclaimed the hour of twelve, as the truant and unfaithful
husband seated himself by the side of his devoted and loving wife,
and inquired if she was not well.
"I am, dear Henry," replied Gertrude; "but I feat *you* are not.
If well in body, I fear you are not at peace in mind."
"Why?" inquired he.
"Because," she replied, "you are so pale and have such a wild look
in your eyes."
Again he protested his innocence, and vowed she was the only woman
who had any claim upon his heart. To behold one thus playing upon
the feelings of two lovely women is enough to make us feel that evil
must at last bring its own punishment.
Henry and Gertrude had scarcely risen from the breakfast-table next
morning ere old Mrs. Miller made her appearance. She immediately took
her daughter aside, and informed her of her previous night's experience,
telling her how she had followed Henry to Isabella's cottage,
detailing the interview with the quadroon, and her late return home alone.
The old woman urged her daughter to demand that the quadroon and her child
be at once sold to the negro speculators and taken out of the State,
or that Gertrude herself should separate from Henry.
"Assert your rights, my dear. Let no one share a heart that justly
belongs to you," said Mrs. Miller, with her eyes flashing fire.
"Don't sleep this night, my child, until that wench has been removed
from that cottage; and as for the child, hand that over to me,--
I saw at once that it was Henry's."
During these remarks, the old lady was walking up and down the room
like a caged lioness. She had learned from Isabella that she had
been purchased by Henry, and the innocence of the injured quadroon
caused her to acknowledge that he was the father of her child.
Few women could have taken such a matter in hand and carried it
through with more determination and success than old Mrs. Miller.
Completely inured in all the crimes and atrocities connected
with the institution of slavery, she was also aware that,
to a greater or less extent, the slave women shared with their
mistress the affections of their master. This caused her to look
with a suspicious eye on every good-looking negro woman that she saw.
While the old woman was thus lecturing her daughter upon her
rights and duties, Henry, unaware of what was transpiring,
had left the house and gone to his office. As soon as the old
woman found that he was gone, she said,--
"I will venture anything that he is on his way to see that wench again.
I'll lay my life on it."
The entrance, however, of little Marcus, or Mark, as he was
familiarly called, asking for Massa Linwood's blue bag,
satisfied her that her son-in-law was at his office.
Before the old lady returned home, it was agreed that
Gertrude should come to her mother's to tea that evening,
and Henry with her, and that Mrs. Miller should there charge
the young husband with inconstancy to her daughter, and demand
the removal of Isabella.
With this understanding, the old woman retraced her steps
to her own dwelling.
Had Mrs. Miller been of a different character and not surrounded
by slavery, she could scarcely have been unhappy in such a home
as hers. Just at the edge of the city, and sheltered by large
poplar-trees was the old homestead in which she resided.
There was a splendid orchard in the rear of the house,
and the old weather-beaten sweep, with "the moss-covered bucket"
at its end, swung majestically over the deep well.
The garden was scarcely to be equalled. Its grounds were laid
out in excellent taste, and rare exotics in the greenhouse
made it still more lovely.
It was a sweet autumn evening, when the air breathed through
the fragrant sheaves of grain, and the setting sun, with his
golden kisses, burnished the rich clusters of purple grapes,
that Henry and Gertrude were seen approaching the house on foot;
it was nothing more than a pleasant walk. Oh, how Gertrude's
heart beat as she seated herself, on their arrival!
The beautiful parlor, surrounded on all sides with luxury
and taste, with the sun creeping through the damask curtains,
added a charm to the scene. It was in this room that Gertrude
had been introduced to Henry, and the pleasant hours that she
had spent there with him rushed unbidden on her memory.
It was here that, in former days, her beautiful countenance
had made her appearance as fascinating and as lovely as that
of Cleopatra's. Her sweet, musical voice might have been
heard in every part of the house, occasionally thrilling
you with an unexpected touch. How changed the scene!
Her pale and wasted features could not be lighted up by any
thoughts of the past, and she was sorrowful at heart.
As usual, the servants in the kitchen were in ecstasies at the announcement
that "Miss Gerty," as they called their young mistress, was in the house,
for they loved her sincerely. Gertrude had saved them from many
a flogging, by interceding for them, when her mother was in one of her
uncontrollable passions. Dinah, the cook, always expected Miss Gerty
to visit the kitchen as soon as she came, and was not a little displeased,
on this occasion, at what she considered her young mistress's neglect.
Uncle Tony, too, looked regularly for Miss Gerty to visit the green house,
and congratulate him on his superiority as a gardener.
When tea was over, Mrs. Miller dismissed the servants from the room,
then told her son-in-law what she had witnessed the previous night,
and demanded for her daughter that Isabella should be immediately
sent out of the State, and to be sure that the thing would be done,
she wanted him to give her the power to make such disposition
of the woman and child as she should think best. Gertrude was
Mrs. Miller's only child, and Henry felt little like displeasing
a family upon whose friendship he so much depended, and, no doubt,
long wishing to free himself from Isabella, he at once yielded
to the demands of his mother-in-law. Mr. Miller was a mere cipher
about his premises. If any one came on business connected with
the farm, he would invariably say, "Wait till I see my wife,"
and the wife's opinion was sure to be law in every case.
Bankrupt in character, and debauched in body and mind,
with seven mulatto children who claimed him as their father,
he was badly prepared to find fault with his son-in-law. It was
settled that Mrs. Miller should use her own discretion in removing
Isabella from her little cottage, and her future disposition.
With this understanding Henry and Gertrude returned home.
In the deep recesses of his heart the young man felt that he would
like to see his child and its mother once more; but fearing the wrath
of his mother-in-law, he did not dare to gratify his inclination.
He had not the slightest idea of what would become of them;
but he well knew that the old woman would have no mercy on them.
CHAPTER XIII. A HARD-HEARTED WOMAN
WITH no one but her dear little Clotelle, Isabella passed
her weary hours without partaking of either food or drink,
hoping that Henry would soon return, and that the strange
meeting with the old woman would be cleared up.
While seated in her neat little bedroom with her fevered
face buried in her handkerchief, the child ran in and told
its mother that a carriage had stopped in front of the house.
With a palpitating heart she arose from her seat and went to the door,
hoping that it was Henry; but, to her great consternation,
the old lady who had paid her such an unceremonious visit
on the evening that she had last seen Henry, stepped out
of the carriage, accompanied by the slave-trader, Jennings.
Isabella had seen the trader when he purchased her mother and sister,
and immediately recognized him. What could these persons want there?
thought she. Without any parleying or word of explanation, the two
entered the house, leaving the carriage in charge of a servant.
Clotelle ran to her mother, and clung to her dress as if frightened
by the strangers.
"She's a fine-looking wench," said the speculator,
as he seated himself, unasked, in the rocking-chair;
"yet I don't think she is worth the money you ask for her."
"What do you want here?" inquired Isabella, with a quivering voice.
"None of your insolence to me," bawled out the old woman,
at the top of her voice; "if you do, I will give you what you
deserve so much, my lady,--a good whipping."
In an agony of grief, pale, trembling, and ready to sink
to the floor, Isabella was only sustained by the hope that she
would be able to save her child. At last, regaining her
self-possession, she ordered them both to leave the house.
Feeling herself insulted, the old woman seized the tongs
that stood by the fire-place, and raised them to strike
the quadroon down; but the slave-trader immediately jumped
between the women, exclaiming,--
"I won't buy her, Mrs. Miller, if you injure her."
Poor little Clotelle screamed as she saw the strange woman raise
the tongs at her mother. With the exception of old Aunt Nancy,
a free colored woman, whom Isabella sometimes employed to work for her,
the child had never before seen a strange face in her mother's dwelling.
Fearing that Isabella would offer some resistance, Mrs. Miller had
ordered the overseer of her own farm to follow her; and, just as
Jennings had stepped between the two women, Mull, the negro-driver,
walked into the room.
"Seize that impudent hussy," said Mrs. Miller to the overseer,
"and tie her up this minute, that I may teach her a lesson
she won't forget in a hurry."
As she spoke, the old woman's eyes rolled, her lips quivered,
and she looked like a very fury.
"I will have nothing to do with her, if you whip her, Mrs. Miller,"
said the slave-trader. "Niggers ain't worth half so much in the market
with their backs newly scarred," continued he, as the overseer commenced
his preparations for executing Mrs. Miller's orders.
Clotelle here took her father's walking-stick, which was lying on the back
of the sofa where he had left it, and, raising it, said,--
"If you bad people touch my mother, I will strike you."
They looked at the child with astonishment; and her extreme you,
wonderful beauty, and uncommon courage, seemed for a moment to shake
their purpose. The manner and language of this child were alike
beyond her years, and under other circumstances would have gained
for her the approbation of those present.
"Oh, Henry, Henry!" exclaimed Isabella, wringing her hands.
"You need not call on him, hussy; you will never see him again,"
said Mrs. Miller.
"What! is he dead?" inquired the heart-stricken woman.
It was then that she forgot her own situation, thinking only
of the man she loved. Never having been called to endure any
kind of abusive treatment, Isabella was not fitted to sustain
herself against the brutality of Mrs. Miller, much less
the combined ferociousness of the old woman and the overseer too.
Suffice it to say, that instead of whipping Isabella, Mrs. Miller
transferred her to the negro-speculator, who took her immediately
to his slave-pen. The unfeeling old woman would not permit
Isabella to take more than a single change of her clothing,
remarking to Jennings,--
"I sold you the wench, you know,--not her clothes."
The injured, friendless, and unprotected Isabella fainted as she saw
her child struggling to release herself from the arms of old Mrs. Miller,
and as the wretch boxed the poor child's ears.
After leaving directions as to how Isabella's furniture and
other effects should be disposed of, Mrs. Miller took Clotelle
into her carriage and drove home. There was not even color
enough about the child to make it appear that a single drop
of African blood flowed through its blue veins.
Considerable sensation was created in the kitchen among the servants
when the carriage drove up, and Clotelle entered the house.
"Jes' like Massa Henry fur all de worl'," said Dinah, as she
caught a glimpse of the child through the window.
"Wondah whose brat dat ar' dat missis bringin' home wid her?"
said Jane, as she put the ice in the pitchers for dinner.
"I warrant it's some poor white nigger somebody bin givin' her."
The child was white. What should be done to make it look like
other negroes, was the question which Mrs. Miller asked herself.
The callous-hearted old woman bit her nether lip, as she viewed
that child, standing before her, with her long, dark ringlets
clustering over her alabaster brow and neck.
"Take this little nigger and cut her hair close to her head,"
said the mistress to Jane, as the latter answered the bell.
Clotelle screamed, as she felt the scissors grating over her head,
and saw those curls that her mother thought so much of falling
upon the floor.
A roar of laughter burst from the servants, as Jane led the child
through the kitchen, with the hair cut so short that the naked
scalp could be plainly seen.
"'Gins to look like nigger, now," said Dinah, with her mouth
upon a grin.
The mistress smiled, as the shorn child reentered the room;
but there was something more needed. The child was white,
and that was a great objection. However, she hit upon a plan to
remedy this which seemed feasible. The day was excessively warm.
Not a single cloud floated over the blue vault of heaven; not a breath
of wind seemed moving, and the earth was parched by the broiling sun.
Even the bees had stopped humming, and the butterflies
had hid themselves under the broad leaves of the burdock.
Without a morsel of dinner, the poor child was put in the garden,
and set to weeding it, her arms, neck, and head completely bare.
Unaccustomed to toil, Clotelle wept as she exerted herself in pulling
up the weeds. Old Dinah, the cook, was a unfeeling as her mistress,
and she was pleased to see the child made to work in the hot sun.
"Dat white nigger'll soon be brack enuff if missis keeps her workin'
out dar," she said, as she wiped the perspiration from her sooty brow.
Dinah was the mother of thirteen children, all of whom bad been taken
from her when young; and this, no doubt, did much to harden her feelings,
and make her hate all white persons.
The burning sun poured its rays on the face of the friendless
child until she sank down in the corner of the garden,
and was actually broiled to sleep.
"Dat little nigger ain't workin' a bit, missus," said Dinah to Mrs. Miller,
as the latter entered the kitchen.
"She's lying in the sun seasoning; she will work the better by and by,"
replied the mistress.
"Dese white niggers always tink dey seff good as white folks,"
said the cook.
"Yes; but we will teach them better, won't we, Dinah?" rejoined Mrs. Miller.
"Yes, missus," replied Dinah; "I don't like dese merlatter niggers,
no how. Dey always want to set dey seff up for sumfin' big."
With this remark the old cook gave one of her coarse laughs,
and continued: "Missis understands human nature, don't she?
Ah! if she ain't a whole team and de ole gray mare to boot,
den Dinah don't know nuffin'."
Of course, the mistress was out of the kitchen before these last
remarks were made.
It was with the deepest humiliation that Henry learned from one of his
own slaves the treatment which his child was receiving at the hands
of his relentless mother-in-law.
The scorching sun had the desired effect; for in less than a fortnight,
Clotelle could scarcely have been recognized as the same child.
Often was she seen to weep, and heard to call on her mother.
Mrs. Miller, when at church on Sabbath, usually,
on warm days, took Nancy, one of her servants, in her pew,
and this girl had to fan her mistress during service.
Unaccustomed to such a soft and pleasant seat, the servant
would very soon become sleepy and begin to nod. Sometimes she
would go fast asleep, which annoyed the mistress exceedingly.
But Mrs. Miller had nimble fingers, and on them sharp nails, and,
with an energetic pinch upon the bare arms of the poor girl,
she would arouse the daughter of Africa from her pleasant dreams.
But there was no one of Mrs. Miller's servants who received
so much punishment as old Uncle Tony.
Fond of her greenhouse, and often in the garden, she was ever at the old
gardener's heels. Uncle Tony was very religious, and, whenever his
mistress flogged him, he invariably gave her a religious exhortation.
Although unable to read, he, nevertheless, had on his tongue's
end portions of Scripture which he could use at any moment.
In one end of the greenhouse was Uncle Tony's sleeping room,
and those who happened in that vicinity, between nine and ten at night,
could hear the old man offering up his thanksgiving to God for his
protection during the day. Uncle Tony, however, took great pride,
when he thought that any of the whites were within hearing, to dwell,
in his prayer, on his own goodness and the unfitness of others to die.
Often was he heard to say, "O Lord, thou knowest that the white folks
are not Christians, but the black people are God's own children."
But if Tony thought that his old mistress was within the sound
of his voice, he launched out into deeper water.
It was, therefore, on a sweet night, when the bright stars were looking
out with a joyous sheen, that Mark and two of the other boys passed
the greenhouse, and heard Uncle Tony in his devotions.
"Let's have a little fun," said the mischievous Marcus to his
young companions. "I will make Uncle Tony believe that I am
old mistress, and he'll give us an extra touch in his prayer."
Mark immediately commenced talking in a strain of voice resembling,
as well as he could, Mrs. Miller, and at once Tony was heard to say
in a loud voice, "O Lord, thou knowest that the white people are not fit
to die; but, as for old Tony, whenever the angel of the Lord comes,
he's ready." At that moment, Mark tapped lightly on the door.
"Who's dar?" thundered old Tony. Mark made no reply.
The old man commenced and went through with the same remarks
addressed to the Lord, when Mark again knocked at the door.
"Who dat dar?" asked Uncle Tony, with a somewhat agitated
countenance and trembling voice. Still Mark would not reply.
Again Tony took up the thread of his discourse, and said, "O Lord,
thou knowest as well as I do that dese white folks are not prepared
to die, but here is old Tony, when de angel of de Lord comes,
he's ready to go to heaven." Mark once more knocked on the door.
"Who dat dar?" thundered Tony at the top of his voice.
"De angel of de Lord," replied Mark, in a somewhat suppressed
and sepulchral voice.
"What de angel of de Lord want here?" inquired Tony, as if much frightened.
"He's come for poor old Tony, to take him out of the world,"
replied Mark, in the same strange voice.
"Dat nigger ain't here; he die tree weeks ago," responded Tony,
in a still more agitated and frightened tone. Mark and his companions
made the welkin ring with their shouts at the old man's answer.
Uncle Tony hearing them, and finding that he had been imposed upon,
opened his door, came out with stick in hand, and said, "Is dat you,
Mr. Mark? you imp, if I can get to you I'll larn you how to come
here wid your nonsense."
Mark and his companions left the garden, feeling satisfied
that Uncle Tony was not as ready to go with "de angel of de Lord"
as he would have others believe.
CHAPTER XIV. THE PRISON
WHILE poor little Clotelle was being kicked about by Mrs. Miller,
on account of her relationship to her son-in-law, Isabella was passing
lonely hours in the county jail, the place to which Jennings had
removed her for safe-keeping, after purchasing her from Mrs. Miller.
Incarcerated in one of the iron-barred rooms of that dismal place,
those dark, glowing eyes, lofty brow, and graceful form wilted down
like a plucked rose under a noonday sun, while deep in her heart's
ambrosial cells was the most anguishing distress.
Vulgar curiosity is always in search of its victims, and Jennings'
boast that he had such a ladylike and beautiful woman
in his possession brought numbers to the prison who begged
of the jailer the privilege of seeing the slave-trader's prize.
Many who saw her were melted to tears at the pitiful sight,
and were struck with admiration at her intelligence; and, when she
spoke of her child, they must have been convinced that a
mother's sorrow can be conceived by none but a mother's heart.
The warbling of birds in the green bowers of bliss, which she
occasionally heard, brought no tidings of gladness to her.
Their joy fell cold upon her heart, and seemed like bitter mockery.
They reminded her of her own cottage, where, with her beloved child,
she had spent so many happy days.
The speculator had kept close watch over his valuable piece of property,
for fear that it might damage itself. This, however, there was no danger of,
for Isabella still hoped and believed that Henry would come to her rescue.
She could not bring herself to believe that he would allow her to be sent
away without at least seeing her, and the trader did all he could to keep
this idea alive in her.
While Isabella, with a weary heart, was passing sleepless nights
thinking only of her daughter and Henry, the latter was seeking relief
in that insidious enemy of the human race, the intoxicating cup.
His wife did all in her power to make his life a pleasant and a happy one,
for Gertrude was devotedly attached to him; but a weary heart gets
no gladness out of sunshine. The secret remorse that rankled in his
bosom caused him to see all the world blood-shot. He had not visited
his mother-in-law since the evening he had given her liberty to use her
own discretion as to how Isabella and her child should be disposed of.
He feared even to go near the house, for he did not wish to see his child.
Gertrude felt this every time he declined accompanying her to her mother's.
Possessed of a tender and confiding heart, entirely unlike her mother,
she sympathized deeply with her husband. She well knew that all young
men in the South, to a greater or less extent, became enamored of
the slave-women, and she fancied that his case was only one of the many,
and if he had now forsaken all others for her she did not wish to be punished;
but she dared not let her mother know that such were her feelings.
Again and again had she noticed the great resemblance between Clotelle
and Henry, and she wished the child in better hands than those of
her cruel mother.
At last Gertrude determined to mention the matter to her husband.
Consequently, the next morning, when they were seated on the back piazza,
and the sun was pouring its splendid rays upon everything around,
changing the red tints on the lofty hills in the distance into
streaks of purest gold, and nature seeming by her smiles to favor
the object, she said,--
"What, dear Henry, do you intend to do with Clotelle?" A paleness
that overspread his countenance, the tears that trickled down his cheeks,
the deep emotion that was visible in his face, and the trembling
of his voice, showed at once that she had touched a tender chord.
Without a single word, he buried his face in his handkerchief,
and burst into tears.
This made Gertrude still more unhappy, for she feared that he had
misunderstood her; and she immediately expressed her regret
that she had mentioned the subject. Becoming satisfied from this
that his wife sympathized with him in his unhappy situation,
Henry told her of the agony that filled his soul, and Gertrude
agreed to intercede for him with her mother for the removal
of the child to a boarding-school in one of the Free States.
In the afternoon, when Henry returned from his office, his wife met him
with tearful eyes, and informed him that her mother was filled with rage
at the mention of the removal of Clotelle from her premises.
In the mean time, the slave-trader, Jennings, had started for
the South with his gang of human cattle, of whom Isabella was one.
Most quadroon women who are taken to the South are either sold to gentlemen
for their own use or disposed of as house-servants or waiting-maids.
Fortunately for Isabella, she was sold for the latter purpose.
Jennings found a purchaser for her in the person of Mr. James French.
Mrs. French was a severe mistress. All who lived with her,
though well-dressed, were scantily fed and over-worked. Isabella
found her new situation far different from her Virginia
cottage-life. She had frequently heard Vicksburg spoken
of as a cruel place for slaves, and now she was in a position
to test the truthfulness of the assertion.
A few weeks after her arrival, Mrs. French began to show to Isabella that she
was anything but a pleasant and agreeable mistress. What social virtues
are possible in a society of which injustice is a primary characteristic,--
in a society which is divided into two classes, masters and slaves?
Every married woman at the South looks upon her husband as unfaithful,
and regards every negro woman as a rival.
Isabella had been with her new mistress but a short time
when she was ordered to cut off her long and beautiful hair.
The negro is naturally fond of dress and outward display.
He who has short woolly hair combs and oils it to death;
he who has long hair would sooner have his teeth drawn than
to part with it. But, however painful it was to Isabella,
she was soon seen with her hair cut short, and the sleeves of her
dress altered to fit tight to her arms. Even with her hair short
and with her ill-looking dress, Isabella was still handsome.
Her life had been a secluded one, and though now twenty-eight
years of age, her beauty had only assumed a quieter tone.
The other servants only laughed at Isabella's misfortune
in losing her beautiful hair.
"Miss 'Bell needn't strut so big; she got short nappy har's well's I,"
said Nell, with a broad grin that showed her teeth.
"She tink she white when she cum here, wid dat long har
ob hers," replied Mill.
"Yes," continued Nell, "missus make her take down her wool,
so she no put it up to-day."
The fairness of Isabella's complexion was regarded with envy
by the servants as well as by the mistress herself.
This is one of the hard features of slavery. To-day a woman
is mistress of her own cottage; tomorrow she is sold to one
who aims to make her life as intolerable as possible.
And let it be remembered that the house-servant has the best
situation a slave can occupy.
But the degradation and harsh treatment Isabella experienced in her new
home was nothing compared to the grief she underwent at being separated
from her dear child. Taken from her with scarcely a moment's warning,
she knew not what had become of her.
This deep and heartfelt grief of Isabella was soon perceived
by her owners, and fearing that her refusal to take proper food
would cause her death, they resolved to sell her. Mr. French found
no difficulty in securing a purchaser for the quadroon woman,
for such are usually the most marketable kind of property.
Isabella was sold at private sale to a young man for a housekeeper;
but even he had missed his aim.
Mr. Gordon, the new master, was a man of pleasure. He was the owner of a
large sugar plantation, which he had left under the charge of an overseer,
and was now giving himself up to the pleasures of a city life.
At first Mr. Gordon sought to win Isabella's favor by flattery and presents,
knowing that whatever he gave her he could take from her again.
The poor innocent creature dreaded every moment lest the scene should change.
At every interview with Gordon she stoutly maintained that she had
left a husband in Virginia, and could never think of taking another.
In this she considered that she was truthful, for she had ever regarded
Henry as her husband. The gold watch and chain and other glittering
presents which Gordon gave to her were all kept unused.
In the same house with Isabella was a man-servant who had from time
to time hired himself from his master. His name was William.
He could feel for Isabella, for he, like her, had been separated from
near and dear relatives, and he often tried to console the poor woman.
One day Isabella observed to him that her hair was growing out again.
"Yes," replied William; "you look a good deal like a man
with your short hair."
"Oh," rejoined she, "I have often been told that I would make a better
looking man than woman, and if I had the money I might avail myself
of it to big farewell to this place."
In a moment afterwards, Isabella feared that she had said too much,
and laughingly observed, "I am always talking some nonsense;
you must not heed me."
William was a tall, full-blooded African, whose countenance beamed
with intelligence. Being a mechanic, he had by industry earned more money
than he had paid to his owner for his time, and this he had laid aside,
with the hope that he might some day get enough to purchase his freedom.
He had in his chest about a hundred and fifty dollars. His was a heart
that felt for others, and he had again and again wiped the tears from
his eyes while listening to Isabella's story.
"If she can get free with a little money, why not give her what I have?"
thought he, and then resolved to do it.
An hour after, he entered the quadroon's room, and, laying the money
in her lap, said,--
"There, Miss Isabella, you said just now that if you
had the means you would leave this place. There is money
enough to take you to England, where you will be free.
You are much fairer than many of the white women of the South,
and can easily pass for a free white woman."
At first Isabella thought it was a plan by which the negro wished
to try her fidelity to her owner; but she was soon convinced,
by his earnest manner and the deep feeling he manifested,
that he was entirely sincere.
"I will take the money," said she, "only on one condition,
and that is that I effect your escape, as well as my own."
"How can that be done?" he inquired, eagerly.
"I will assume the disguise of a gentleman, and you that of a servant,
and we will thus take passage in a steamer to Cincinnati, and from
thence to Canada."
With full confidence in Isabella's judgment, William consented
at once to the proposition. The clothes were purchased;
everything was arranged, and the next night, while Mr. Gordon
was on one of his sprees, Isabella, under the assumed name
of Mr. Smith, with William in attendance as a servant,
took passage for Cincinnati in the steamer Heroine.
With a pair of green glasses over her eyes, in addition to her
other disguise, Isabella made quite a gentlemanly appearance.
To avoid conversation, however, she kept closely to her state-room,
under the plea of illness.
Meanwhile, William was playing his part well with the servants.
He was loudly talking of his master's wealth, and nothing on the boat
appeared so good as in his master's fine mansion.
"I don't like dese steamboats, no how," said he; "I hope when massa
goes on anoder journey, he take de carriage and de hosses."
After a nine-days' passage, the Heroine landed at Cincinnati,
and Mr. Smith and his servant walked on shore.
"William, you are now a free man, and can go on to Canada," said Isabella;
"I shall go to Virginia, in search of my daughter."
This sudden announcement fell heavily upon William's ears,
and with tears he besought her not to jeopardize her liberty
in such a manner; but Isabella had made up her mind to rescue
her child if possible.
Taking a boat for Wheeling, Isabella was soon on her way to her
native State. Several months had elapsed since she left Richmond,
and all her thoughts were centred on the fate of her dear Clotelle.
It was with a palpitating heart that this injured woman entered
the stage-coach at Wheeling and set out for Richmond.
CHAPTER XV. THE ARREST
IT was late in the evening when the coach arrived at Richmond, and Isabella
once more alighted in her native city. She had intended to seek lodgings
somewhere in the outskirts of the town, but the lateness of the hour
compelled her to stop at one of the principal hotels for the night.
She had scarcely entered the inn before she recognized among
the numerous black servants one to whom she was well known, and her
only hope was that her disguise would keep her from being discovered.
The imperturbable calm and entire forgetfulness of self which induced
Isabella to visit a place from which she could scarcely hope to escape,
to attempt the rescue of a beloved child, demonstrate that over-willingness
of woman to carry out the promptings of the finer feelings of the heart.
True to woman's nature, she had risked her own liberty for another's.
She remained in the hotel during the night, and the next morning,
under the plea of illness, took her breakfast alone.
That day the fugitive slave paid a visit to the suburbs of the town, and
once more beheld the cottage in which she had spent so many happy hours.
It was winter, and the clematis and passion-flower were not there;
but there were the same walks her feet had so often pressed,
and the same trees which had so often shaded her as she passed
through the garden at the back of the house. Old remembrances
rushed upon her memory and caused her to shed tears freely.
Isabella was now in her native town, and near her daughter;
but how could she communicate with her? how could she see her?
To have made herself known would have been a suicidal act;
betrayal would have followed, and she arrested. Three days passed away,
and still she remained in the hotel at which she had first put up,
and yet she got no tidings of her child.
Unfortunately for Isabella, a disturbance had just broken
out among the slave population in the State of Virginia,
and all strangers were treated with suspicion.
The insurrection to which we now refer was headed by a full-blooded negro,
who had been born and brought up a slave. He had heard the crack of the
driver's whip, and seen the warm blood streaming from the negro's body.
He had witnessed the separation of parents from children, and was
made aware, by too many proofs, that the slave could expect no justice
from the hands of the slave-owner. The name of this man was Nat Turner.
He was a preacher amongst the negroes, distinguished for his eloquence,
respected by the whites, loved and venerated by the negroes.
On the discovery of the plan for the outbreak, Turner fled to the swamps,
followed by those who had joined in the insurrection.
Here the revolted negroes numbered some hundreds, and for a
time bade defiance to their oppressors. The Dismal Swamps
cover many thousand acres of wild land, and a dense forest,
with wild animals and insects such as are unknown in any
other part of Virginia. Here runaway negroes usually seek
a hiding-place, and some have been known to reside here for years.
The revolters were joined by one of these. He was a large,
tall, full-blooded negro, with a stern and savage countenance;
the marks on his face showed that he was from one of the barbarous
tribes in Africa, and claimed that country as his native land.
His only covering was a girdle around his loins, made of
skins of wild beasts which he had killed. His only token
of authority among those that he led was a pair of epaulettes,
made of the tail of a fox, and tied to his shoulder by a cord.
Brought from the coast of Africa, when only fifteen years of age,
to the island of Cuba, he was smuggled from thence into Virginia.
He had been two years in the swamps, and considered it
his future home. He had met a negro woman, who was also
a runaway, and, after the fashion of his native land, had gone
through the process of oiling her, as the marriage ceremony.
They had built a cave on a rising mound in the swamp,
and this was their home. This man's name was Picquilo.
His only weapon was a sword made from a scythe which he had
stolen from a neighboring plantation. His dress, his character,
his manners, and his mode of fighting were all in keeping with
the early training he had received in the land of his birth.
He moved about with the activity of a cat, and neither the thickness
of the trees nor the depth of the water could stop him.
He was a bold, turbulent spirit; and, from motives of revenge,
he imbrued his hands in the blood of all the whites he could meet.
Hunger, thirst, and loss of sleep, he seemed made to endure,
as if by peculiarity of constitution. His air was fierce,
his step oblique, his look sanguinary.
Such was the character of one of the negroes in the Southampton Insurrection.
All negroes were arrested who were found beyond their master's threshold,
and all white strangers were looked upon with suspicion.
Such was the position in which Isabella found affairs
when she returned to Virginia in search of her child.
Had not the slave-owners been watchful of strangers,
owing to the outbreak, the fugitive could not have escaped
the vigilance of the police; for advertisements announcing
her escape, and offering a large reward for her arrest,
had been received in the city previous to her arrival,
and officers were therefore on the lookout for her.
It was on the third day after her arrival in Richmond, as the quadroon
was seated in her room at the hotel, still in the disguise of a gentleman,
that two of the city officers entered the apartment and informed her that they
were authorized to examine all strangers, to assure the authorities that they
were not in league with the revolted negroes.
With trembling heart the fugitive handed the key of her trunk
to the officers. To their surprise they found nothing but female
apparel in the trunk, which raised their curiosity, and caused
a further investigation that resulted in the arrest of Isabella
as a fugitive slave. She was immediately conveyed to prison,
there to await the orders of her master.
For many days, uncheered by the voice of kindness, alone, hopeless, desolate,
she waited for the time to arrive when the chains should be placed on
her limbs, and she returned to her inhuman and unfeeling owner.
The arrest of the fugitive was announced in all the newspapers,
but created little or no sensation. The inhabitants were too much
engaged in putting down the revolt among the slaves; and, although all
the odds were against the insurgents, the whites found it no easy matter,
with all their caution. Every day brought news of fresh outbreaks.
Without scruple and without pity, the whites massacred all blacks found beyond
the limits of their owners' plantations. The negroes, in return, set fire
to houses, and put to death those who attempted to escape from the flames.
Thus carnage was added to carnage, and the blood of the whites flowed
to avenge the blood of the blacks.
These were the ravages of slavery. No graves were dug for
the negroes, but their bodies became food for dogs and vultures;
and their bones, partly calcined by the sun, remained scattered about,
as if to mark the mournful fury of servitude and lust of power.
When the slaves were subdued, except a few in the swamps,
bloodhounds were employed to hunt out the remaining revolters.
CHAPTER XVI. DEATH IS FREEDOM
ON receiving intelligence of the arrest of Isabella, Mr. Gordon
authorized the sheriff to sell her to the highest bidder.
She was, therefore, sold; the purchaser being the noted
negro-trader, Hope H. Slater, who at once placed her in prison.
Here the fugitive saw none but slaves like herself, brought in
and taken out to be placed in ships, and sent away to some part
of the country to which she herself would soon be compelled to go.
She had seen or heard nothing of her daughter while in Richmond,
and all hopes of seeing her had now fled.
At the dusk of the evening previous to the day when she was to
be sent off, as the old prison was being closed for the night,
Isabella suddenly dated past the keeper, and ran for her life.
It was not a great distance from the prison to the long bridge
which passes from the lower part of the city across the Potomac
to the extensive forests and woodlands of the celebrated
Arlington Heights, then occupied by that distinguished
relative and descendant of the immortal Washington, Mr. Geo.
W. Custis. Thither the poor fugitive directed her flight.
So unexpected was her escape that she had gained several rods
the start before the keeper had secured the other prisoners,
and rallied his assistants to aid in the pursuit.
It was at an hour, and in a part of the city where horses
could not easily be obtained for the chase; no bloodhounds
were at hand to run down the flying woman, and for once it
seemed as if there was to be a fair trial of speed and endurance
between the slave and the slave-catchers.
The keeper and his force raised the hue-and-cry on her path
as they followed close behind; but so rapid was the flight
along the wide avenue that the astonished citizens, as they
poured forth from their dwellings to learn the cause of alarm,
were only able to comprehend the nature of the case in time
to fall in with the motley throng in pursuit, or raise an anxious
prayer to heaven as they refused to join in the chase (as many
a one did that night) that the panting fugitive might escape,
and the merciless soul-dealer for once be disappointed of his prey.
And now, with the speed of an arrow, having passed the avenue,
with the distance between her and her pursuers constantly
increasing, this poor, hunted female gained the "Long Bridge,"
as it is called, where interruption seemed improbably.
Already her heart began to beat high with the hope of success.
She had only to pass three-quarters of a mile across the bridge,
when she could bury herself in a vast forest, just as the time
when the curtain of night would close around her, and protect
her from the pursuit of her enemies.
But God, by his providence, had otherwise determined.
He had ordained that an appalling tragedy should be enacted
that night within plain sight of the President's house,
and the Capitol of the Union, which would be an evidence
wherever it should be known of the unconquerable love of liberty
which the human heart may inherit, as well as a fresh admonition
to the slave-dealer of the cruelty and enormity of his crimes.
Just as the pursuers passed the high draw, soon after entering upon
the bridge, they beheld three men slowly approaching from the Virginia side.
They immediately called to them to arrest the fugitive, proclaiming her
a runaway slave. True to their Virginia instincts, as she came near,
they formed a line across the narrow bridge to intercept her.
Seeing the escape was impossible in that quarter, she stopped suddenly,
and turned upon her pursuers.
On came the profane and ribald crew faster than ever, already exulting
in her capture, and threatening punishment for her flight.
For a moment she looked wildly and anxiously around to see
if there was no hope of escape. On either hand, far down below,
rolled the deep, foaming waters of the Potomac, and before and behind
were the rapidly approaching steps and noisy voices of her pursuers.
Seeing how vain would be any further effort to escape, her resolution
was instantly taken. She clasped her hands convulsively together,
raised her tearful and imploring eyes toward heaven, and begged
for the mercy and compassion there which was unjustly denied her
on earth; then, exclaiming, "Henry, Clotelle, I die for thee!"
with a single bound, vaulted over the railing of the bridge,
and sank forever beneath the angry and foaming waters of the river!
Such was the life, and such the death, of a woman whose virtues
and goodness of heart would have done honor to one in a higher
station of life, and who, had she been born in any other land
but that of slavery, would have been respected and beloved.
What would have been her feelings if she could have known
that the child for whose rescue she had sacrificed herself
would one day be free, honored, and loved in another land?
CHAPTER XVII. CLOTELLE
THE curtain rises seven years after the death of Isabella.
During that interval, Henry, finding that nothing could induce
his mother-in-law to relinquish her hold on poor little Clotelle,
and not liking to contend with one on whom a future fortune depended,
gradually lost all interest in the child, and left her to her fate.
Although Mrs. Miller treated Clotelle with a degree of harshness
scarcely equalled, when applied to one so tender in years,
still the child grew every day more beautiful, and her hair,
though kept closely cut, seemed to have improved in its soft,
silk-like appearance. Now twelve years of age, and more than
usually well-developed, her harsh old mistress began to view
her with a jealous eye.
Henry and Gertrude had just returned from Washington,
where the husband had been on his duties as a member of Congress,
and where he had remained during the preceding three years
without returning home. It was on a beautiful evening,
just at twilight, while seated at his parlor window,
that Henry saw a young woman pass by and go into the kitchen.
Not aware of ever having seen the person before, he made
an errand into the cook's department to see who the girl was.
He, however, met her in the hall, as she was about going out.
"Whom did you wish to see?" he inquired.
"Miss Gertrude," was the reply.
"What did you want to see her for?" he again asked.
"My mistress told me to give her and Master Henry her compliments,
and ask them to come over and spend the evening."
"Who is your mistress?" he eagerly inquired.
"Mrs. Miller, sir," responded the girl.
"And what's your name?" asked Henry, with a trembling voice.
"Clotelle, sir," was the reply.
The astonished father stood completely amazed, looking at
the now womanly form of her who, in his happier days,
he had taken on his knee with so much fondness and alacrity.
It was then that he saw his own and Isabella's features
combined in the beautiful face that he was then beholding.
It was then that he was carried back to the days when with
a woman's devotion, poor Isabella hung about his neck
and told him how lonely were the hours in his absence.
He could stand it no longer. Tears rushed to his eyes,
and turning upon his heel, he went back to his own room.
It was then that Isabella was revenged; and she no doubt
looked smilingly down from her home in the spirit-land on
the scene below.
On Gertrude's return from her shopping tour, she found
Henry in a melancholy mood, and soon learned its cause.
As Gertrude had borne him no children, it was but natural,
that he should now feel his love centering in Clotelle,
and he now intimated to his wife his determination to remove
his daughter from the hands of his mother-in-law.
When this news reached Mrs. Miller, through her daughter, she became furious
with rage, and calling Clotelle into her room, stripped her shoulders bare
and flogged her in the presence of Gertrude.
It was nearly a week after the poor girl had been so severely whipped
and for no cause whatever, that her father learned on the circumstance
through one of the servants. With a degree of boldness unusual for him,
he immediately went to his mother-in-law and demanded his child.
But it was too late,--she was gone. To what place she had been sent
no one could tell, and Mrs. Miller refused to give any information
whatever relative to the girl.
It was then that Linwood felt deepest the evil of the institution
under which he was living; for he knew that his daughter would
be exposed to all the vices prevalent in that part of the country
where marriage is not recognized in connection with that class.
CHAPTER XVIII. A SLAVE-HUNTING PARSON
IT was a delightful evening after a cloudless day, with the setting sun
reflecting his golden rays on the surrounding hills which were covered
with a beautiful greensward, and the luxuriant verdure that forms
the constant garb of the tropics, that the steamer Columbia ran
into the dock at Natchez, and began unloading the cargo, taking in
passengers and making ready to proceed on her voyage to New Orleans.
The plank connecting the boat with the shore had scarcely been secured
in its place, when a good-looking man about fifty years of age,
with a white neck-tie, and a pair of gold-rimmed glasses on,
was seen hurrying on board the vessel. Just at that moment could
be seen a stout man with his face fitted with the small-pox, making
his way up to the above-mentioned gentleman.
"How do you do, my dear sir? this is Mr. Wilson, I believe,"
said the short man, at the same time taking from his mouth a large
chew of tobacco, and throwing it down on the ship's deck.
"You have the advantage of me, sir," replied the tall man.
"Why, don't you know me? My name is Jennings; I sold you a splendid negro
woman some years ago."
"Yes, yes," answered the Natchez man. "I remember you now,
for the woman died in a few months, and I never got the worth
of my money out of her."
"I could not help that," returned the slave-trader; "she was as sound
as a roach when I sold her to you."
"Oh, yes," replied the parson, "I know she was; but now I want a young girl,
fit for house use,--one that will do to wait on a lady."
"I am your man," said Jennings, "just follow me," continued he,
"and I will show you the fairest little critter you ever saw."
And the two passed to the stern of the boat to where the trader had
between fifty and sixty slaves, the greater portion being women.
"There," said Jennings, as a beautiful young woman shrunk back with modesty.
"There, sir, is the very gal that was made for you. If she had been made
to your order, she could not have suited you better."
"Indeed, sir, is not that young woman white?" inquired the parson.
"Oh, no, sir; she is no whiter than you see!"
"But is she a slave?" asked the preacher.
"Yes," said the trader, "I bought her in Richmond, and she comes
from an excellent family. She was raised by Squire Miller, and her
mistress was one of the most pious ladies in that city, I may say;
she was the salt of the earth, as the ministers say."
"But she resembles in some respect Agnes, the woman I bought from you,"
said Mr. Wilson. As he said the name of Agnes, the young woman started
as if she had been struck. Her pulse seemed to quicken, but her face
alternately flushed and turned pale, and tears trembled upon her eyelids.
It was a name she had heard her mother mention, and it brought to her
memory those days,--those happy days, when she was so loved and caressed.
This young woman was Clotelle, the granddaughter of Agnes.
The preacher, on learning the fact, purchased her, and took her home,
feeling that his daughter Georgiana would prize her very highly.
Clotelle found in Georgiana more a sister than a mistress, who,
unknown to her father, taught the slave-girl how to read, and did much
toward improving and refining Clotelle's manners, for her own sake.
Like her mother fond of flowers, the "Virginia Maid," as she was
sometimes called, spent many of her leisure hours in the garden.
Beside the flowers which sprang up from the fertility of soil unplanted
and unattended, there was the heliotrope, sweet-pea, and cup-rose,
transplanted from the island of Cuba. In her new home Clotelle found
herself saluted on all sides by the fragrance of the magnolia.
When she went with her young mistress to the Poplar Farm, as she
sometimes did, nature's wild luxuriance greeted her, wherever she
cast her eyes.
The rustling citron, lime, and orange, shady mango with its fruits
of gold, and the palmetto's umbrageous beauty, all welcomed the child
of sorrow. When at the farm, Huckelby, the overseer, kept his eye
on Clotelle if within sight of her, for he knew she was a slave,
and no doubt hoped that she might some day fall into his hands.
But she shrank from his looks as she would have done from the charm
of the rattlesnake. The negro-driver always tried to insinuate himself
into the good opinion of Georgiana and the company that she brought.
Knowing that Miss Wilson at heart hated slavery, he was ever trying
to show that the slaves under his charge were happy and contented.
One day, when Georgiana and some of her Connecticut friends were there,
the overseer called all the slaves up to the "great house," and set
some of the young ones to dancing. After awhile whiskey was brought
in and a dram given to each slave, in return for which they were
expected to give a toast, or sing a short piece of his own composition;
when it came to Jack's turn he said,--
"The big bee flies high, the little bee makes the honey:
the black folks make the cotton, and the white folks
gets the money."
Of course, the overseer was not at all elated with the sentiment
contained in Jack's toast. Mr. Wilson had lately purchased a young
man to assist about the house and to act as coachman. This slave,
whose name was Jerome, was of pure African origin, was perfectly black,
very fine-looking, tall, slim, and erect as any one could possibly be.
His features were not bad, lips thin, nose prominent, hands and feet small.
His brilliant black eyes lighted up his whole countenance.
His hair, which was nearly straight, hung in curls upon his lofty brow.
George Combe or Fowler would have selected his head for a model.
He was brave and daring, strong in person, fiery in spirit,
yet kind and true in his affections, earnest in his doctrines.
Clotelle had been at the parson's but a few weeks when it was
observed that a mutual feeling had grown up between her and Jerome.
As time rolled on, they became more and more attached to each other.
After satisfying herself that these two really loved, Georgiana advised
their marriage. But Jerome contemplated his escape at some future day,
and therefore feared that if married it might militate against it.
He hoped, also, to be able to get Clotelle away too, and it was this hope
that kept him from trying to escape by himself. Dante did not more love
his Beatrice, Swift his Stella, Waller his Saccharissa, Goldsmith his
Jessamy bride, or Burns his Mary, than did Jerome his Clotelle.
Unknown to her father, Miss Wilson could permit these two slaves to enjoy
more privileges than any of the other servants. The young mistress
taught Clotelle, and the latter imparted her instructions to her lover,
until both could read so as to be well understood. Jerome felt
his superiority, and always declared that no master should ever flog him.
Aware of his high spirit and determination, Clotelle was in constant
fear lest some difficulty might arise between her lover and his master.
One day Mr. Wilson, being somewhat out of temper and
irritated at what he was pleased to call Jerome's insolence,
ordered him to follow him to the barn to be flogged.
The young slave obeyed his master, but those who saw him
at the moment felt that he would not submit to be whipped.
"No, sir," replied Jerome, as his master told him to take off his coat:
"I will serve you, Master Wilson, I will labor for you day and night,
if you demand it, but I will not be whipped."
This was too much for a white man to stand from a negro, and the
preacher seized his slave by the throat, intending to choke him.
But for once he found his match. Jerome knocked him down,
and then escaped through the back-yard to the street,
and from thence to the woods.
Recovering somewhat from the effect of his fall, the parson
regained his feet and started in pursuit of the fugitive.
Finding, however, that the slave was beyond his reach, he at once
resolved to put the dogs on his track. Tabor, the negro-catcher,
was sent for, and in less than an hour, eight or ten men, including
the parson, were in the woods with hounds, trying the trails.
These dogs will attack a negro at their master's bidding;
and cling to him as the bull-dog will cling to a beast.
Many are the speculations as to whether the negro will be
secured alive or dead, when these dogs once get on his track.
Whenever there is to be a negro hunt, there is no lack
of participants. Many go to enjoy the fun which it is said
they derive from these scenes.
The company had been in the woods but a short time ere they
go on the track of two fugitives, once of whom was Jerome.
The slaves immediately bent their steps toward the swamp,
with the hope that the dogs, when put upon their scent would
be unable to follow them through the water.
The slaves then took a straight course for the Baton Rouge
and Bayou Sara road, about four miles distant. Nearer and nearer
the whimpering pack pressed; their delusion begins to dispel.
All at once the truth flashes upon the minds of the fugitives
like a glare of light,--'tis Tabor with his dogs!
The scent becomes warmer and warmer, and what was at first an irregular
cry now deepens into one ceaseless roar, as the relentless pack presses
on after its human prey.
They at last reach the river, and in the negroes plunge, followed by
the catch-dog. Jerome is caught and is once more in the hands
of his master, while the other poor fellow finds a watery grave.
They return, and the preacher sends his slave to jail.
CHAPTER XIX. THE TRUE HEROINE
IN vain did Georgiana try to console Clotelle, when the latter heard,
through one of the other slaves, that Mr. Wilson had started
with the dogs in pursuit of Jerome. The poor girl well knew
that he would be caught, and that severe punishment, if not death,
would be the result of his capture. It was therefore with a
heart filled with the deepest grief that the slave-girl heard
the footsteps of her master on his return from the chase.
The dogged and stern manner of the preacher forbade even
his daughter inquiring as to the success of his pursuit.
Georgiana secretly hoped that the fugitive had not bee caught;
she wished it for the sake of the slave, and more especially
for her maid-servant, whom she regarded more as a companion
than a menial. But the news of the capture of Jerome soon
spread through the parson's household, and found its way
to the ears of the weeping and heart-stricken Clotelle.
The reverend gentleman had not been home more than an hour ere
some of his parishioners called to know if they should not take
the negro from the prison and execute *Lynch law* upon him.
"No negro should be permitted to live after striking a white man;
let us take him and hang him at once," remarked an elderly-looking man,
whose gray hairs thinly covered the crown of his head.
"I think the deacon is right," said another of the company;
"if our slaves are allowed to set the will of their masters
at defiance, there will be no getting along with them,--
an insurrection will be the next thing we hear of."
"No, no," said the preacher; "I am willing to let the law take its course,
as it provides for the punishment of a slave with death if he strikes
his master. We had better let the court decide the question.
Moreover, as a Christian and God-fearing people, we ought to submit
to the dictates of justice. Should we take this man's life by force,
an Allwise Providence would hold us responsible for the act."
The company then quietly withdrew, showing that the preacher
had some influence with his people.
"This," said Mr. Wilson, when left alone with his daughter,--
"this, my dear Georgiana, is the result of your kindness
to the negroes. You have spoiled every one about the house.
I can't whip one of them, without being in danger of having
my life taken."
"I am sure, papa," replied the young lady,--"I am sure I never did any thing
intentionally to induce any of the servants to disobey your orders."
"No, my dear," said Mr. Wilson, "but you are too kind to them.
Now, there is Clotelle,--that girl is completely spoiled.
She walks about the house with as dignified an air as if she
was mistress of the premises. By and by you will be sorry
for this foolishness of yours."
"But," answered Georgiana, "Clotelle has a superior mind,
and God intended her to hold a higher position in life than
that of a servant."
"Yes, my dear, and it was your letting her know that she was
intended for a better station in society that is spoiling her.
Always keep a negro in ignorance of what you conceive to be
his abilities," returned the parson.
It was late on the Saturday afternoon, following the capture
of Jerome that, while Mr. Wilson was seated in his study preparing
his sermon for the next day, Georgiana entered the room and asked
in an excited tone if it were true that Jerome was to hanged on
the following Thursday.
The minister informed her that such was the decision of the court.
"Then," said she, "Clotelle will die of grief."
"What business has she to die of grief?" returned the father,
his eyes at the moment flashing fire.
"She has neither eaten nor slept since he was captured," replied Georgiana;
"and I am certain that she will not live through this."
"I cannot be disturbed now," said the parson; "I must get my sermon
ready for to-morrow. I expect to have some strangers to preach to,
and must, therefore, prepare a sermon that will do me credit."
While the man of God spoke, he seemed to say to himself,--
"With devotion's visage, and pious actions,
We do sugar over the devil himself."
Georgiana did all in her power to soothe the feelings
of Clotelle, and to induce her to put her trust in God.
Unknown to her father, she allowed the poor girl to go every
evening to the jail to see Jerome, and during these visits,
despite her own grief, Clotelle would try to comfort her
lover with the hope that justice would be meted out to him
in the spirit-land.
Thus the time passed on, and the day was fast approaching
when the slave was to die. Having heard that some secret
meeting had been held by the negroes, previous to the attempt
of Mr. Wilson to flog his slave, it occurred to a magistrate
that Jerome might know something of the intended revolt.
He accordingly visited the prison to see if he could learn
anything from him, but all to no purpose. Having given up all
hopes of escape, Jerome had resolved to die like a brave man.
When questioned as to whether he knew anything of a conspiracy
among the slaves against their masters, he replied,--
"Do you suppose that I would tell you if I did?"
"But if you know anything," remarked the magistrate, "and will tell us,
you may possibly have your life spared."
"Life," answered the doomed man, "is worth nought to a slave.
What right has a slave to himself, his wife, or his children?
We are kept in heathenish darkness, by laws especially enacted
to make our instruction a criminal offence; and our bones,
sinews, blood, and nerves are exposed in the market for sale.
"My liberty is of as much consequence to me as Mr. Wilson's is
to him. I am as sensitive to feeling as he. If I mistake not,
the day will come when the negro will learn that he can get
his freedom by fighting for it; and should that time arrive,
the whites will be sorry that they have hated us so shamefully.
I am free to say that, could I live my life over again,
I would use all the energies which God has given me to get
up an insurrection."
Every one present seemed startled and amazed at the intelligence
with which this descendant of Africa spoke.
"He's a very dangerous man," remarked one.
"Yes," said another, "he got some book-learning somewhere,
and that has spoiled him."
An effort was then made to learn from Jerome where he had learned to read,
but the black refused to give any information on the subject.
The sun was just going down behind the trees as Clotelle
entered the prison to see Jerome for the last time.
He was to die on the next day. Her face was bent upon her hands,
and the gushing tears were forcing their way through her fingers.
With beating heart and trembling hands, evincing the deepest emotion,
she threw her arms around her lover's neck and embraced him.
But, prompted by her heart's unchanging love, she had in her
own mind a plan by which she hoped to effect the escape
of him to whom she had pledged her heart and hand.
While the overcharged clouds which had hung over the city during
the day broke, and the rain fell in torrents, amid the most
terrific thunder and lightning, Clotelle revealed to Jerome
her plan for his escape.
"Dress yourself in my clothes," said she, "and you can easily
pass the jailer."
This Jerome at first declined doing. He did not wish to place
a confiding girl in a position where, in all probability,
she would have to suffer; but being assured by the young girl that
her life would not be in danger, he resolved to make the attempt.
Clotelle being very tall, it was not probably that the jailer would
discover any difference in them.
At this moment, she took from her pocket a bunch of keys and unfastened
the padlock, and freed him from the floor.
"Come, girl, it is time for you to go," said the jailer,
as Jerome was holding the almost fainting girl by the hand.
Being already attired in Clotelle's clothes, the disguised man
embraced the weeping girl, put his handkerchief to his face,
and passed out of the jail, without the keeper's knowing
that his prisoner was escaping in a disguise and under cover
of the night.
CHAPTER XX. THE HERO OF MANY ADVENTURES
JEROME had scarcely passed the prison-gates, ere he reproached
himself for having taken such a step. There seemed to him no hope
of escape out of the State, and what was a few hours or days at most,
of life to him, when, by obtaining it, another had been sacrificed.
He was on the eve of returning, when he thought of the last words uttered
by Clotelle. "Be brave and determined, and you will still be free."
The words sounded like a charm in his ears and he went boldly forward.
Clotelle had provided a suit of men's clothes and had placed
them where her lover could get them, if he should succeed
in getting out.
Returning to Mr. Wilson's barn, the fugitive changed his apparel,
and again retraced his steps into the street. To reach the Free States
by travelling by night and lying by during the day, from a State so far south
as Mississippi, no one would think for a moment of attempting to escape.
To remain in the city would be a suicidal step. The deep sound of the escape
of steam from a boat, which was at that moment ascending the river,
broke upon the ears of the slave. "If that boat is going up the river,"
said he, "why not I conceal myself on board, and try to escape?"
He went at once to the steamboat landing, where the boat was just coming in.
"Bound for Louisville," said the captain, to one who was making inquiries.
As the passengers were rushing on board, Jerome followed them,
and proceeding to where some of the hands were stowing away bales of goods,
he took hold and aided them.
"Jump down into the hold, there, and help the men," said the mate
to the fugitive, supposing that, like many persons, he was
working his way up the river. Once in the hull among the boxes,
the slave concealed himself. Weary hours, and at last days,
passed without either water or food with the hidden slave.
More than once did he resolve to let his case be known; but the knowledge
that he would be sent back to Natchez kept him from doing so.
At last, with lips parched and fevered to a crisp, the poor man
crawled out into the freight-room, and began wandering about.
The hatches were on, and the room dark. There happened to be
on board a wedding party, and a box, containing some ofthe
bridal cake, with several bottles of port wine, was near Jerome.
He found the box, opened it, and helped himself. In eight days,
the boat tied up at the wharf at the place of her destination.
It was late at night; the boat's crew, with the single exception
of the man on watch, were on shore. The hatches were off,
and the fugitive quietly made his way on deck and jumped on shore.
The man saw the fugitive, but too late to seize him.
Still in a Slave State, Jerome was at a loss to know
how he should proceed. He had with him a few dollars,
enough to pay his way to Canada, if he could find a conveyance.
The fugitive procured such food as he wanted from one of the many
eating-houses, and then, following the direction of the North Star,
he passed out of the city, and took the road leading to Covington.
Keeping near the Ohio River, Jerome soon found an opportunity to
cross over into the State of Indiana. But liberty was a mere name
in the latter State, and the fugitive learned, from some colored
persons that he met, that it was not safe to travel by daylight.
While making his way one night, with nothing to cheer him
but the prospect of freedom in the future, he was pounced upon
by three men who were lying in wait for another fugitive,
an advertisement of whom they had received through the mail.
In vain did Jerome tell them that he was not a slave.
True, they had not caught the man they expected; but, if they could
make this slave tell from what place he had escaped, they knew
that a good price would be paid them for the negro's arrest.
Tortured by the slave-catchers, to make him reveal the name
of his master and the place from whence he had escaped,
Jerome gave them a fictitious name in Virginia, and said that his
master would give a large reward, and manifested a willingness
to return to his "old boss." By this misrepresentation,
the fugitive hoped to have another chance of getting away.
Allured with the prospect of a large sum of the needful,
the slave-catchers started back with their victim.
Stopping on the second night at an inn, on the banks of
the Ohio River, the kidnappers, in lieu of a suitable place
in which to confine their prize during the night, chained him
to the bed-post of their sleeping-chamber. The white men were
late in retiring to rest, after an evening spent in drinking.
At dead of night, when all was still, the slave arose
from the floor, upon which he had been lying, looked around
and saw that Morpheus had possession of his captors.
For once, thought he, the brandy bottle has done a noble work.
With palpitating heart and trembling limbs, he viewed his position.
The door was fast, but the warm weather had compelled them
to leave the window open. If he could but get his chains off,
he might escape through the window to the piazza.
The sleepers' clothes hung upon chairs by the bedside.
The slave thought of the padlock-key, examined the pockets,
and found it. The chains were soon off, and the negro stealthily
making his way to the window. He stopped, and said to himself,
"These men are villains; they are enemies to all who, like me,
are trying to be free. Then why not I teach them a lesson?"
He then dressed himself in the best suit, hung his own worn-out
and tattered garments on the same chair, and silently passed
through the window to the piazza, and let himself down by one
of the pillars, and started once more for the North.
Daylight came upon the fugitive before he had selected
a hiding-place for the day, and he was walking at a rapid rate,
in hopes of soon reaching some woodland or forest. The sun
had just begun to show itself, when the fugitive was astounded
at seeing behind him, in the distance, two men upon horseback.
Taking a road to the right, the slave saw before him a farmhouse,
and so near was he to it that he observed two men in front
of it looking at him. It was too late to turn back.
The kidnappers were behind him--strange men before him.
Those in the rear he knew to be enemies, while he had no idea
of what principles were the farmers. The latter also saw the white
men coming, and called to the fugitive to come that way.
The broad-brimmed hats that the farmers wore told the slave
that they were Quakers.
Jerome had seen some of these people passing up and down the river,
when employed on a steamer between Natchez and New Orleans,
and had heard that they disliked slavery. He, therefore,
hastened toward the drab-coated men, who, on his approach,
opened the barn-door, and told him to "run in."
When Jerome entered the barn, the two farmers closed the door,
remaining outside themselves, to confront the slave-catchers,
who now came up and demanded admission, feeling that they
had their prey secure.
"The can't enter my premises," said one of the Friends,
in rather a musical voice.
The negro-catchers urged their claim to the slave, and intimated that,
unless they were allowed to secure him, they would force their way in.
By this time, several other Quakers had gathered around the barn-door.
Unfortunately for the kidnappers, and most fortunately for the fugitive,
the Friends had just been holding a quarterly meeting in the neighborhood,
and a number of them had not yet returned to their homes.
After some talk, the men in drab promised to admit the hunters, provided they
procured an officer and a search-warrant from a justice of the peace.
One of the slave-catchers was left to see that the fugitive did
not get away, while the others went in pursuit of an officer.
In the mean time, the owner of the barn sent for a hammer and nails,
and began nailing up the barn-door.
After an hour in search of the man of the law, they returned with an officer
and a warrant. The Quaker demanded to see the paper, and, after looking
at it for some time, called to his son to go into the house for his glasses.
It was a long time before Aunt Ruth found the leather case, and when she did,
the glasses wanted wiping before they could be used. After comfortably
adjusting them on his nose, he read the warrant over leisurely.
"Come, Mr. Dugdale, we can't wait all day," said the officer.
"Well, will thee read it for me?" returned the Quaker.
The officer complied, and the man in drab said,--
"Yes, thee may go in, now. I am inclined to throw no obstacles in the way
of the execution of the law of the land."
On approaching the door, the men found some forty or fifty nails in it,
in the way of their progress.
"Lend me your hammer and a chisel, if you please, Mr. Dugdale,"
said the officer.
"Please read that paper over again, will thee?" asked the Quaker.
The officer once more read the warrant.
"I see nothing there which says I must furnish thee with tools to open
my door. If thee wants a hammer, thee must go elsewhere for it;
I tell thee plainly, thee can't have mine."
The implements for opening the door are at length obtained, and,
after another half-hour, the slave-catchers are in the barn.
Three hours is a long time for a slave to be in the hands of Quakers.
The hay is turned over, and the barn is visited in every part;
but still the runaway is not found. Uncle Joseph has a glow
upon his countenance; Ephraim shakes his head knowingly;
little Elijah is a perfect know-nothing, and, if you look
toward the house, you will see Aunt Ruth's smiling face,
ready to announce that breakfast is ready.
"The nigger is not in this barn," said the officer.
"I know he is not," quietly answered the Quaker.
"What were you nailing up your door for, then, as if you were afraid we
would enter?" inquired one of the kidnappers.
"I can do what I please with my own door, can't I," said the Quaker.
The secret was out; the fugitive had gone in at the front
door and out at the back; and the reading of the warrant,
nailing up of the door, and other preliminaries of the Quaker,
was to give the fugitive time and opportunity to escape.
It was now late in the morning, and the slave-catchers were a long way
from home, and the horses were jaded by the rapid manner in which they
had travelled. The Friends, in high glee, returned to the house
for breakfast; the man of the law, after taking his fee, went home,
and the kidnappers turned back, muttering, "Better luck next time."
CHAPTER XXI. SELF-SACRIFICE
NOW in her seventeenth year, Clotelle's personal appearance presented
a great contrast to the time when she lived with old Mrs. Miller.
Her tall and well-developed figure; her long, silky black hair,
falling in curls down her swan-like neck; her bright, black eyes
lighting up her olive-tinted face, and a set of teeth that a Tuscarora
might envy, she was a picture of tropical-ripened beauty. At times,
there was a heavenly smile upon her countenance, which would have warmed
the heart of an anchorite. Such was the personal appearance of the girl
who was now in prison by her own act to save the life of another.
Would she be hanged in his stead, or would she receive a different
kind of punishment? These questions Clotelle did not ask herself.
Open, frank, free, and generous to a fault, she always thought of others,
never of her own welfare.
The long stay of Clotelle caused some uneasiness to Miss Wilson;
yet she dared not tell her father, for he had forbidden
the slave-girl's going to the prison to see her lover.
While the clock on the church near by was striking eleven,
Georgiana called Sam, and sent him to the prison in
search of Clotelle.
"The girl went away from here at eight o'clock," was the jailer's
answer to the servant's inquiries.
The return of Sam without having found the girl saddened
the heart of the young mistress. "Sure, then," said she,
"the poor, heartbroken thing has made way with herself."
Still, she waited till morning before breaking the news of Clotelle's
absence to her father.
The jailer discovered, the next morning, to his utter astonishment,
that his prisoner was white instead of black, and his first impression
was that the change of complexion had taken place during the night,
through fear of death. But this conjecture was soon dissipated;
for the dark, glowing eyes, the sable curls upon the lofty brow,
and the mild, sweet voice that answered his questions, informed him
that the prisoner before him was another being.
On learning, in the morning, that Clotelle was in jail dressed in male attire,
Miss Wilson immediately sent clothes to her to make a change in her attire.
News of the heroic and daring act of the slave-girl spread through the city
with electric speed.
"I will sell every nigger on the place," said the parson,
at the breakfast-table,--"I will sell them all, and get a new lot,
and whip them every day."
Poor Georgiana wept for the safety of Clotelle, while she felt
glad that Jerome had escaped. In vain did they try to extort
from the girl the whereabouts of the man whose escape she
had effected. She was not aware that he had fled on a steamer,
and when questioned, she replied,--
"I don't know; and if I did I would not tell you.
I care not what you do with me, if Jerome but escapes."
The smile with which she uttered these words finely illustrated
the poet's meaning, when he says,--
"A fearful gift upon they heart is laid,
Woman--the power to suffer and to love."
Her sweet simplicity seemed to dare them to lay their rough hands
amid her trembling curls.
Three days did the heroic young woman remain in prison, to be
gazed at by an unfeeling crowd, drawn there out of curiosity.
The intelligence came to her at last that the court had decided
to spare her life, on condition that she should be whipped,
sold, and sent out of the State within twenty-four hours.
This order of the court she would have cared but little for,
had she not been sincerely attached to her young mistress.
"Do try and sell her to some one who will use her well,"
said Georgiana to her father, as he was about taking his hat
to leave the house.
"I shall not trouble myself to do any such thing,"
replied the hard-hearted parson. "I leave the finding of a
master for her with the slave-dealer."
Bathed in tears, Miss Wilson paced her room in the absence
of her father. For many months Georgiana had been in a decline,
and any little trouble would lay her on a sick bed for days.
She was, therefore, poorly able to bear the loss of this companion,
whom she so dearly loved.
Mr. Wilson had informed his daughter that Clotelle was to be flogged;
and when Felice came in and informed her mistress that the poor
girl had just received fifty lashes on her bare person,
the young lady fainted and fell on the floor. The servants placed
their mistress on the sofa, and went in pursuit of their master.
Little did the preacher think, on returning to his daughter,
that he should soon be bereft of her; yet such was to be his lot.
A blood-vessel had been ruptured, and the three physicians who were
called in told the father that he must prepare to lose his child.
That moral courage and calmness, which was her great characteristic,
did not forsake Georgiana in her hour of death. She had ever been kind
to the slaves under her charge, and they loved and respected her.
At her request, the servants were all brought into her room,
and took a last farewell of their mistress. Seldom, if ever,
was there witnessed a more touching scene than this.
There lay the young woman, pale and feeble, with death stamped upon
her countenance, surrounded by the sons and daughters of Africa,
some of whom had been separated from every earthly tie, and the most
of whose persons had been torn and gashed by the negro-whip. Some
were upon their knees at the bedside, others standing around,
and all weeping.
Death is a leveler; and neither age, sex, wealth, nor condition,
can avert when he is permitted to strike. The most beautiful
flowers must soon fade and droop and die. So, also, with man;
his days are as uncertain as the passing breeze. This hour
he glows in the blush of health and vigor, but the next, he may
be counted with the number no more known on earth. Oh, what a
silence pervaded the house when this young flower was gone!
In the midst of the buoyancy of youth, this cherished one had
dropped and died. Deep were the sounds of grief and mourning
heard in that stately dwelling when the stricken friends,
whose office it had been to nurse and soothe the weary sufferer,
beheld her pale and motionless in the sleep of death.
Who can imagine the feeling with which poor Clotelle received
the intelligence of her kind friend's death? The deep gashes
of the cruel whip had prostrated the lovely form of the quadroon,
and she lay upon her bed of straw in the dark cell. The speculator
had brought her, but had postponed her removal till she should recover.
Her benefactress was dead, and--
"Hope withering fled, and mercy sighed farewell."
"Is Jerome safe?" she would ask herself continually.
If her lover could have but known of the sufferings of that sweet
flower,- -that polyanthus over which he had so often been
in his dreams,--he would then have learned that she was worthy
of his love.
It was more than a fortnight before the slave-trader could take his prize
to more comfortable quarters. Like Alcibiades, who defaced the images
of the gods and expected to be pardoned on the ground of eccentricity,
so men who abuse God's image hope to escape the vengeance of his wrath
under the plea that the law sanctions their atrocious deeds.
CHAPTER XXII. LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT AND WHAT FOLLOWED
IT was a beautiful Sunday in September, with a cloudless sky,
and the rays of the sun parching the already thirsty earth,
that Clotelle stood at an upper window in Slater's slave-pen
in New Orleans, gasping for a breath of fresh air.
The bells of thirty churches were calling the people to
the different places of worship. Crowds were seen wending
their way to the houses of God; one followed by a negro boy
carrying his master's Bible; another followed by her maid-servant
holding the mistress' fan; a third supporting an umbrella
over his master's head to shield him from the burning sun.
Baptists immersed, Presbyterians sprinkled, Methodists shouted,
and Episcopalians read their prayers, while ministers
of the various sects preached that Christ died for all.
The chiming of the bells seemed to mock the sighs and deep groans
of the forty human beings then incarcerated in the slave-pen.
These imprisoned children of God were many of them Methodists,
some Baptists, and others claiming to believe in the faith
of the Presbyterians and Episcopalians.
Oh, with what anxiety did these creatures await the close of that Sabbath,
and the dawn of another day, that should deliver them from those dismal
and close cells. Slowly the day passed away, and once more the evening
breeze found its way through the barred windows of the prison that contained
these injured sons and daughters of America.
The clock on the calaboose had just struck nine on Monday morning,
when hundreds of persons were seen threading the gates and doors
of the negro-pen. It was the same gang that had the day previous been
stepping to the tune and keeping time with the musical church bells.
Their Bibles were not with them, their prayer-books were left at home,
and even their long and solemn faces had been laid aside for the week.
They had come to the man-market to make their purchases.
Methodists were in search of their brethren. Baptists were
looking for those that had been immersed, while Presbyterians
were willing to buy fellow-Christians, whether sprinkled or not.
The crowd was soon gazing at and feasting their eyes upon the lovely
features of Clotelle.
"She is handsomer," muttered one to himself, "than the lady
that sat in the pew next to me yesterday."
"I would that my daughter was half so pretty," thinks a second.
Groups are seen talking in every part of the vast building,
and the topic on 'Change, is the "beautiful quadroon."
By and by, a tall young man with a foreign face, the curling
mustache protruding from under a finely-chiseled nose,
and having the air of a gentleman, passes by.
His dark hazel eye is fastened on the maid, and he stops
for a moment; the stranger walks away, but soon returns--
he looks, he sees the young woman wipe away the silent tear
that steals down her alabaster cheek; he feels ashamed that
he should gaze so unmanly on the blushing face of the woman.
As he turns upon his heel he takes out his white handkerchief
and wipes his eyes. It may be that he has lost a sister,
a mother, or some dear one to whom he was betrothed.
Again he comes, and the quadroon hides her face.
She has heard that foreigners make bad masters, and she shuns
his piercing gaze. Again he goes away and then returns.
He takes a last look and then walks hurriedly off.
The day wears away, but long before the time of closing the sale the tall
young man once more enters the slave-pen. He looks in every direction
for the beautiful slave, but she is not there--she has been sold!
He goes to the trader and inquires, but he is too late, and he therefore
returns to his hotel.
Having entered a military school in Paris when quite young,
and soon after been sent with the French army to India,
Antoine Devenant had never dabbled in matters of love.
He viewed all women from the same stand-point--respected them
for their virtues, and often spoke of the goodness of heart
of the sex, but never dreamed of taking to himself a wife.
The unequalled beauty of Clotelle had dazzled his eyes,
and every look that she gave was a dagger that went to his heart.
He felt a shortness of breath, his heart palpitated, his head
grew dizzy, and his limbs trembled; but he knew not its cause.
This was the first stage of "love at first sight."
He who bows to the shrine of beauty when beckoned by this
mysterious agent seldom regrets it. Devenant reproached
himself for not having made inquiries concerning the girl
before he left the market in the morning. His stay in
the city was to be short, and the yellow fever was raging,
which caused him to feel like making a still earlier departure.
The disease appeared in a form unusually severe and repulsive.
It seized its victims from amongst the most healthy of the citizens.
The disorder began in the brain by oppressive pain accompanied
or followed by fever. Fiery veins streaked the eye,
the face was inflamed and dyed of a dark dull red color;
the ears from time to time rang painfully. Now mucous secretions
surcharged the tongue and took away the power of speech;
now the sick one spoke, but in speaking had foresight of death.
When the violence of the disease approached the heart, the gums
were blackened. The sleep broken, troubled by convulsions,
or by frightful visions, was worse than the waking hours;
and when the reason sank under a delirium which had its seat
in the brain, repose utterly forsook the patient's couch.
The progress of the fever within was marked by yellowish spots,
which spread over the surface of the body. If then,
a happy crisis came not, all hope was gone. Soon the breath
infected the air with a fetid odor, the lips were glazed,
despair painted itself in the eyes, and sobs, with long
intervals of silence, formed the only language. From each side
of the mouth, spread foam tinged with black and burnt blood.
Blue streaks mingled with the yellow all over the frame.
All remedies were useless. This was the yellow fever.
The disorder spread alarm and confusion throughout the city.
On an average more than four hundred died daily.
In the midst of disorder and confusion, death heaped victims
on victims. Friend followed friend in quick succession.
The sick were avoided from the fear of contagion,
and for the same reason the dead were left unburied.
Nearly two thousand dead bodies lay uncovered in the burial-ground,
with only here and there a little lime thrown over them,
to prevent the air becoming infected. The negro, whose home
is in a hot climate, was not proof against the disease.
Many plantations had to suspend their work for want of slaves
to take the places of those who had been taken off by the fever.
CHAPTER XXIII. MEETING OF THE COUSINS
THE clock in the hall had scarcely finished striking three when
Mr. Taylor entered his own dwelling, a fine residence in Camp Street,
New Orleans, followed by the slave-girl whom he had just purchased
at the negro-pen. Clotelle looked around wildly as she passed
through the hall into the presence of her new mistress.
Mrs. Taylor was much pleased with her servant's appearance,
and congratulated her husband on his judicious choice.
"But," said Mrs. Taylor, after Clotelle had gone into the kitchen,
"how much she looks like Miss Jane Morton."
"Indeed," replied the husband, "I thought, the moment I saw
her that she looked like the Mortons."
"I am sure I never saw two faces more alike in my life,
than that girl's and Jane Morton's," continued Mrs. Taylor.
Dr. Morton, the purchaser of Marion, the youngest daughter
of Agnes, and sister to Isabella, had resided in Camp Street,
near the Taylors, for more than eight years, and the families
were on very intimate terms, and visited each other frequently.
Every one spoke of Clotelle's close resemblance to the Mortons,
and especially to the eldest daughter. Indeed, two sisters
could hardly have been more alike. The large, dark eyes, black,
silk-like hair, tall, graceful figure, and mould of the face,
were the same.
The morning following Clotelle's arrival in her new home,
Mrs. Taylor was conversing in a low tone with her husband,
and both with their eyes following Clotelle as she passed
through the room.
"She is far above the station of a slave," remarked the lady.
"I saw her, last night, when removing some books, open on and stand
over it a moment as if she was reading; and she is as white as I am.
I am almost sorry you bought her."
At this juncture the front door-bell rang, and Clotelle hurried
through the room to answer it.
"Miss Morton," said the servant as she returned to the mistress' room.
"Ask her to walk in," responded the mistress.
"Now, my dear," said Mrs. Taylor to her husband, "just look and see
if you do not notice a marked resemblance between the countenances
of Jane and Clotelle."
Miss Morton entered the room just as Mrs. Taylor ceased speaking.
"Have you heard that the Jamisons are down with the fever?"
inquired the young lady, after asking about the health
of the Taylors.
"No, I had not; I was in hopes it would not get into our street,"
replied Mrs. Taylor.
All this while Mr. and Mrs. Taylor were keenly scrutinizing
their visitor and Clotelle and even the two young women seemed to be conscious
that they were in some way the objects of more than usual attention.
Miss Morton had scarcely departed before Mrs. Taylor began
questioning Clotelle concerning her early childhood, and became
more than ever satisfied that the slave-girl was in some way
connected with the Mortons.
Every hour brought fresh news of the ravages of the fever,
and the Taylors commenced preparing to leave town.
As Mr. Taylor could not go at once, it was determined that his wife
should leave without him, accompanied by her new maid-servant.
Just as Mrs. Taylor and Clotelle were stepping into the carriage,
they were informed that Dr. Morton was down with the epidemic.
It was a beautiful day, with a fine breeze for the time of year,
that Mrs. Taylor and her servant found themselves in the cabin of the splendid
new steamer "Walk-in-the-Water," bound from New Orleans to Mobile.
Every berth in the boat was occupied by persons fleeing from the fearful
contagion that was carrying off its hundreds daily.
Late in the day, as Clotelle was standing at one of the windows
of the ladies' saloon, she was astonished to see near her,
and with eyes fixed intently upon her, the tall young stranger
whom she had observed in the slave-market a few days before.
She turned hastily away, but the heated cabin and the want
of fresh air soon drove her again to the window.
The young gentleman again appeared, and coming to the end
of the saloon, spoke to the slave-girl in broken English.
This confirmed her in her previous opinion that he was a foreigner,
and she rejoiced that she had not fallen into his hands.
"I want to talk with you," said the stranger.
"What do you want with me?" she inquired. "I am your friend," he answered.
"I saw you in the slave-market last week, and regretted that I did not speak
to you then. I returned in the evening, but you was gone."
Clotelle looked indignantly at the stranger, and was about leaving
the window again when the quivering of his lips and the trembling
of his voice struck her attention and caused her to remain.
"I intended to buy you and make you free and happy, but I
was too late," continued he.
"Why do you wish to make me free?" inquired the girl.
"Because I once had an only and lovely sister, who died three years
ago in France, and you are so much like her that had I not known
of her death I should certainly have taken you for her."
"However much I may resemble your sister, you are aware that I
am not she; why, then, take so much interest in one whom you
have never seen before and may never see again?"
"The love," said he, "which I had for my sister is transferred to you."
Clotelle had all along suspected that the man was a knave,
and this profession of love at once confirmed her in that belief.
She therefore immediately turned away and left him.
Hours elapsed. Twilight was just "letting down her curtain and pinning it
with a star," as the slave-girl seated herself on a sofa by the window,
and began meditating upon her eventful history, meanwhile watching the white
waves as they seemed to sport with each other in the wake of the noble vessel,
with the rising moon reflecting its silver rays upon the splendid scene,
when the foreigner once more appeared near the window. Although agitated
for fear her mistress would see her talking to a stranger, and be angry,
Clotelle still thought she saw something in the countenance of the young man
that told her he was sincere, and she did not wish to hurt his feelings.
"Why persist in your wish to talk with me?" she said, as he again
advanced and spoke to her.
"I wish to purchase you and make you happy," returned he.
"But I am not for sale now," she replied. "My present mistress
will not sell me, and if you wished to do so ever so much
you could not."
"Then," said he, "if I cannot buy you, when the steamer reaches Mobile,
fly with me, and you shall be free."
"I cannot do it," said Clotelle; and she was just leaving
the stranger when he took from his pocket a piece of paper
and thrust it into her hand.
After returning to her room, she unfolded the paper, and found,
to her utter astonishment that it contained a one hundred dollar note
on the Bank of the United States. The first impulse of the girl
was to return the paper and its contents immediately to the giver,
but examining the paper more closely, she saw in faint pencil-marks,
"Remember this is from one who loves you." Another thought was to give
it to her mistress, and she returned to the saloon for that purpose;
but on finding Mrs. Taylor engaged in conversation with some ladies,
she did not deem it proper to interrupt her.
Again, therefore, Clotelle seated herself by the window,
and again the stranger presented himself. She immediately
took the paper from her pocket, and handed it to him;
but he declined taking it, saying,--
"No, keep it; it may be of some service to you when I am far away."
"Would that I could understand you," said the slave.
"Believe that I am sincere, and then you will understand me,"
returned the young man. "Would you rather be a slave than be free?"
inquired he, with tears that glistened in the rays of the moon.
"No," said she, "I want my freedom, but I must live a virtuous life."
"Then, if you would be free and happy, go with me. We shall be in Mobile
in two hours, and when the passengers are going on shore, you take my arm.
Have your face covered with a veil, and you will not be observed.
We will take passage immediately for France; you can pass as my sister,
and I pledge you my honor that I will marry you as soon as we
arrive in France."
This solemn promise, coupled with what had previously been said,
gave Clotelle confidence in the man, and she instantly determined to go
with him. "But then," thought she, "what if I should be detected?
I would be forever ruined, for I would be sold, and in all probability
have to end my days on a cotton, rice, or sugar plantation."
However, the thought of freedom in the future outweighed this danger,
and her resolve was taken.
Dressing herself in some of her best clothes, and placing her veiled
bonnet where she could get it without the knowledge of her mistress,
Clotelle awaited with a heart filled with the deepest emotions and
anxiety the moment when she was to take a step which seemed so rash,
and which would either make or ruin her forever.
The ships which Mobile for Europe lie about thirty miles down the bay,
and passengers are taken down from the city in small vessels.
The "Walk-in-the-Water" had just made her lines fast, and the
passengers were hurrying on shore, when a tall gentleman with a lady
at his side descended the stage-plank, and stepped on the wharf.
This was Antoine Devenant and Clotelle.
CHAPTER XXIV. THE LAW AND ITS VICTIM
THE death of Dr. Morton, on the third day of his illness,
came like a shock upon his wife and daughters.
The corpse had scarcely been committed to its mother earth
before new and unforeseen difficulties appeared to them.
By the laws of the Slave States, the children follow
the condition of their mother. If the mother is free,
the children are free; if a slave, the children are slaves.
Being unacquainted with the Southern code, and no one
presuming that Marion had any negro blood in her veins,
Dr. Morton had not given the subject a single thought.
The woman whom he loved and regarded as his wife was,
after all, nothing more than a slave by the laws of the State.
What would have been his feelings had he known that at his death
his wife and children would be considered as his property?
Yet such was the case. Like most men of means at that time,
Dr. Morton was deeply engaged in speculation, and though
generally considered wealthy, was very much involved in
his business affairs.
After the disease with which Dr. Morton had so suddenly died
had to some extent subsided, Mr. James Morton, a brother
of the deceased, went to New Orleans to settle up the estate.
On his arrival there, he was pleased with and felt proud
of his nieces, and invited them to return with him to Vermont,
little dreaming that his brother had married a slave,
and that his widow and daughters would be claimed as such.
The girls themselves had never heard that their mother had been
a slave, and therefore knew nothing of the danger hanging
over their heads.
An inventory of the property of the deceased was made out by Mr. Morton,
and placed in the hands of the creditors. These preliminaries
being arranged, the ladies, with their relative, concluded to leave
the city and reside for a few days on the banks of Lake Ponchartrain,
where they could enjoy a fresh air that the city did not afford.
As they were about taking the cars, however, an officer arrested
the whole party--the ladies as slaves, and the gentleman upon the charge
of attempting to conceal the property of his deceased brother.
Mr. Morton was overwhelmed with horror at the idea of his nieces being
claimed as slaves, and asked for time, that he might save them from
such a fate. He even offered to mortgage his little farm in Vermont
for the amount which young slave-women of their ages would fetch.
But the creditors pleaded that they were an "extra article,"
and would sell for more than common slaves, and must therefore
be sold at auction.
The uncle was therefore compelled to give them up to the officers of the law,
and they were separated from him. Jane, the oldest of the girls, as we
have before mentioned, was very handsome, bearing a close resemblance
to her cousin Clotelle. Alreka, though not as handsome as her sister,
was nevertheless a beautiful girl, and both had all the accomplishments
that wealth and station could procure.
Though only in her fifteen year, Alreka had become strongly attached
to Volney Lapie, a young Frenchman, a student in her father's office.
This attachment was reciprocated, although the poverty of the young man
and the extreme youth of the girl had caused their feelings to be kept
from the young lady's parents.
The day of sale came, and Mr. Morton attended, with the hope
that either the magnanimity of the creditors or his own little farm
in Vermont might save his nieces from the fate that awaited them.
His hope, however, was in vain. The feelings of all present
seemed to be lost in the general wish to become the possessor
of the young ladies, who stood trembling, blushing, and weeping
as the numerous throng gazed at them, or as the intended purchaser
examined the graceful proportions of their fair and beautiful frames.
Neither the presence of the uncle nor young Lapie could at all
lessen the gross language of the officers, or stay the rude hands
of those who wishes to examine the property thus offered for sale.
After a fierce contest between the bidders, the girls were sold,
one for two thousand three hundred, and the other for two thousand
three hundred and fifty dollars. Had these girls been bought
for servants only, they would in all probability have brought
not more than nine hundred or a thousand dollars each. Here were
two beautiful young girls, accustomed to the fondest indulgence,
surrounded by all the refinements of life, and with the timidity
and gentleness which such a life would naturally produce,
bartered away like cattle in the markets of Smithfield or New York.
The mother, who was also to have been sold, happily followed her husband
to the grave, and was spared the pangs of a broken heart.
The purchaser of the young ladies left the market in triumph,
and the uncle, with a heavy heart, started for his New England home,
with no earthly prospect of ever beholding his nieces again.
The seizure of the young ladies as slaves was the result
of the administrator's having found among Dr. Morton's papers
the bill-of-sale of Marion which he had taken when he purchased her.
He had doubtless intended to liberate her when he married her,
but had neglected from time to time to have the proper papers made out.
Sad was the result of this negligence.
CHAPTER XXV. THE FLIGHT
ON once gaining the wharf, Devenant and Clotelle found
no difficulty in securing an immediate passage to France.
The fine packet-ship Utica lay down the bay, and only
awaited the return of the lighter that night to complete
her cargo and list of passengers, ere she departed.
The young Frenchman therefore took his prize on board,
and started for the ship.
Daylight was just making its appearance the next morning when
the Utica weighed anchor and turned her prow toward the sea.
In the course of three hours, the vessel, with outspread sails,
was rapidly flying from land. Everything appeared to be auspicious.
The skies were beautifully clear, and the sea calm, with a sun
that dazzled the whole scene. But clouds soon began to chase
each other through the heavens, and the sea became rough.
It was then that Clotelle felt that there was hoped of escaping.
She had hitherto kept in the cabin, but now she expressed a wish
to come on deck. The hanging clouds were narrowing the horizon
to a span, and gloomily mingling with the rising surges.
The old and grave-looking seamen shook their weather-wise
heads as if foretelling a storm.
As Clotelle came on deck, she strained her eyes in vain to catch
a farewell view of her native land. With a smile on her countenance,
but with her eyes filled with tears, she said,--
"Farewell, farewell to the land of my birth, and welcome, welcome, ye dark
blue waves. I care not where I go, so it is
'Where a tyrant never trod,
Where a slave was never known,
But where nature worships God,
If in the wilderness alone.'"
Devenant stood by her side, seeming proud of his future wife,
with his face in a glow at his success, while over his noble brow
clustering locks of glossy black hair were hanging in careless ringlets.
His finely-cut, classic features wore the aspect of one possessed
with a large and noble heart.
Once more the beautiful Clotelle whispered in the ear of her lover,--
"Away, away, o'er land and sea,
America is now no home for me."
The winds increased with nightfall, and impenetrable gloom surrounded
the ship. The prospect was too uncheering, even to persons in love.
The attention which Devenant paid to Clotelle, although she had been
registered on the ship's passenger list as his sister, caused more
than one to look upon his as an agreeable travelling companion.
His tall, slender figure and fine countenance bespoke for him
at first sight one's confidence. That he was sincerely and deeply
enamored of Clotelle all could see.
The weather became still more squally. The wind rushed through the white,
foaming waves, and the ship groaned with its own wild and ungovernable
labors, while nothing could be seen but the wild waste of waters.
The scene was indeed one of fearful sublimity.
Day came and went without any abatement of the storm.
Despair was now on every countenance. Occasionally a vivid
flash of lightning would break forth and illuminate the black
and boiling surges that surrounded the vessel, which was now
scudding before the blast under bare poles.
After five days of most intensely stormy weather, the sea settled
down into a dead calm, and the passengers flocked on deck.
During the last three days of the storm, Clotelle had been
so unwell as to be unable to raise her head. Her pale face and
quivering lips and languid appearance made her look as if every
pulsation had ceased. Her magnificent large and soft eyes,
fringed with lashes as dark as night, gave her an angelic appearance.
The unreserved attention of Devenant, even when sea-sick himself,
did much to increase the little love that the at first distrustful
girl had placed in him. The heart must always have some object
on which to centre its affections, and Clotelle having lost all hope
of ever again seeing Jerome, it was but natural that she should
now transfer her love to one who was so greatly befriending her.
At first she respected Devenant for the love he manifested for her,
and for his apparent willingness to make any sacrifice for her welfare.
True, this was an adventure upon which she had risked her all,
and should her heart be foiled in this search for hidden treasures,
her affections would be shipwrecked forever. She felt under
great obligations to the man who had thus effected her escape,
and that noble act alone would entitle him to her love.
Each day became more pleasant as the noble ship sped onward amid the
rippled spray. The whistling of the breeze through the rigging was music
to the ear, and brought gladness to the heart of every one on board.
At last, the long suspense was broken by the appearance of land,
at which all hearts leaped for joy. It was a beautiful morning in October.
The sun had just risen, and sky and earth were still bathed in his soft,
rosy glow, when the Utica hauled into the dock at Bordeaux.
The splendid streets, beautiful bridges, glittering equipages,
and smiling countenances of the people, gave everything a happy appearance,
after a voyage of twenty-nine days on the deep, deep sea.
After getting their baggage cleared from the custom-house and going
to a hotel, Devenant made immediate arrangements for the marriage.
Clotelle, on arriving at the church where the ceremony was
to take place, was completely overwhelmed at the spectacle.
She had never beheld a scene so gorgeous as this. The magnificent
dresses of the priests and choristers, the deep and solemn voices,
the elevated crucifix, the burning tapers, the splendidly decorated altar,
the sweet-smelling incense, made the occasion truly an imposing one.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the loud and solemn peals of
the organ's swelling anthem were lost to all in the contemplation
of the interesting scene.
The happy couple set out at once for Dunkirk, the residence
of the bridegroom's parents. But their stay there was short,
for they had scarcely commenced visiting the numerous friends
of the husband ere orders came for him to proceed to India
to join that portion of the French army then stationed there.
In due course of time they left for India, passing through Paris and Lyons,
taking ship at Marseilles. In the metropolis of France, they spent a week,
where the husband took delight in introducing his wife to his brother officers
in the French army, and where the newly-married couple were introduced
to Louis Philippe, then King of France. In all of these positions,
Clotelle sustained herself in a most ladylike manner.
At Lyons, they visited the vast factories and other public works,
and all was pleasure with them. The voyage from Marseilles to
Calcutta was very pleasant, as the weather was exceedingly fine.
On arriving in India, Captain Devenant and lady were received
with honors--the former for his heroic bravery in more than
one battle, and the latter for her fascinating beauty and
pleasing manners, and the fact that she was connected with one
who was a general favorite with all who had his acquaintance.
This was indeed a great change for Clotelle. Six months had not
elapsed since her exposure in the slave-market of New Orleans.
This life is a stage, and we are indeed all actors.
CHAPTER XXVI. THE HERO OF A NIGHT
MOUNTED on a fast horse, with the Quaker's son for a guide,
Jerome pressed forward while Uncle Joseph was detaining
the slave-catchers at the barn-door, through which the fugitive
had just escaped. When out of present danger, fearing that
suspicion might be aroused if he continued on the road in open day,
Jerome buried himself in a thick, dark forest until nightfall.
With a yearning heart, he saw the splendor of the setting sun
lingering on the hills, as if loath to fade away and be lost
in the more sombre hues of twilight, which, rising from the east,
was slowly stealing over the expanse of heaven, bearing silence
and repose, which should cover his flight from a neighborhood
to him so full of dangers.
Wearily and alone, with nothing but the hope of safety
before him to cheer him on his way, the poor fugitive urged
his tired and trembling limbs forward for several nights.
The new suit of clothes with which he had provided himself
when he made his escape from his captors, and the twenty
dollars which the young Quaker had slipped into his hand,
when bidding him "Fare thee well," would enable him to appear
genteelly as soon as he dared to travel by daylight, and would
thus facilitate his progress toward freedom.
It was late in the evening when the fugitive slave arrived at a small
town on the banks of Lake Erie, where he was to remain over night.
How strange were his feelings! While his heart throbbed for that freedom
and safety which Canada alone could furnish to the whip-scarred slave,
on the American continent, his thoughts were with Clotelle.
Was she still in prison, and if so, what would be her punishment
for aiding him to escape from prison? Would he ever behold her again?
These were the thoughts that followed him to his pillow, haunted him
in his dreams, and awakened him from his slumbers.
The alarm of fire aroused the inmates of the hotel in which Jerome had sought
shelter for the night from the deep sleep into which they had fallen.
The whole village was buried in slumber, and the building was half consumed
before the frightened inhabitants had reached the scene of the conflagration.
The wind was high, and the burning embers were wafted like so many
rockets through the sky. The whole town was lighted up, and the cries
of women and children in the streets made the scene a terrific one.
Jerome heard the alarm, and hastily dressing himself, he went forth
and hastened toward the burning building.
"There,--there in that room in the second story, is my child!"
exclaimed a woman, wringing her hands, and imploring some one to go
to the rescue of her little one.
The broad sheets of fire were flying in the direction of the chamber in
which the child was sleeping, and all hope of its being saved seemed gone.
Occasionally the wind would life the pall of smoke, and show that the work
of destruction was not yet complete. At last a long ladder was brought,
and one end placed under the window of the room. A moment more and
a bystander mounted the ladder and ascended in haste to the window.
The smoke met him as he raised the sash, and he cried out, "All is lost!"
and returned to the ground without entering the room.
Another sweep of the wind showed that the destroying element had
not yet made its final visit to that part of the doomed building.
The mother, seeing that all hope of again meeting her child in this
world was gone, wrung her hands and seemed inconsolable with grief.
At this juncture, a man was seen to mount the ladder,
and ascend with great rapidity. All eyes were instantly
turned to the figure of this unknown individual as it
disappeared in the cloud of smoke escaping from the window.
Those who a moment before had been removing furniture, as well
as the idlers who had congregated at the ringing of the bells,
assembled at the foot of the ladder, and awaited with breathless
silence the reappearance of the stranger, who, regardless of his
own safety, had thus risked his life to save another's. Three
cheers broke the stillness that had fallen on the company,
as the brave man was seen coming through the window and slowly
descending to the ground holding under one arm the inanimate
form of the child. Another cheer and then another,
made the welkin ring, as the stranger, with hair burned and
eyebrows closely singed, fainted at the foot of the ladder.
But the child was saved.
The stranger was Jerome. As soon as he revived, he shrunk from every eye,
as if he feared they would take from him the freedom which he had gone
through so much to obtain.
The next day, the fugitive took a vessel, and the following
morning found himself standing on the free soil of Canada.
As his foot pressed the shore, he threw himself upon his face,
kissed the earth, and exclaimed, "O God! I thank thee that I
am a free man."
CHAPTER XXVII. TRUE FREEDOM
THE history of the African race is God's illuminated clock,
set in the dark steeple of time. The negro has been made the hewer
of wood and the drawer of water for nearly all other nations.
The people of the United States, however, will have an account
to settle with God, owing to their treatment of the negro,
which will far surpass the rest of mankind.
Jerome, on reaching Canada, felt for the first time that
personal freedom which God intended that all who bore his image
should enjoy. That same forgetfulness of self which had
always characterized him now caused him to think of others.
The thoughts of dear ones in slavery were continually in his mind,
and above all others, Clotelle occupied his thoughts.
Now that he was free, he could better appreciate her condition
as a slave. Although Jerome met, on his arrival in Canada,
numbers who had escaped from the Southern States, he nevertheless
shrank from all society, particularly that of females.
The soft, silver-gray tints on the leaves of the trees,
with their snow-spotted trunks, and a biting air,
warned the new-born freeman that he was in another climate.
Jerome sought work, and soon found it; and arranged with his employer
that the latter should go to Natchez in search of Clotelle.
The good Scotchman, for whom the fugitive was laboring,
freely offered to go down and purchase the girl,
if she could be bought, and let Jerome pay him in work.
With such a prospect of future happiness in view,
this injured descendent of outraged and bleeding Africa went
daily to his toil with an energy hitherto unknown to him.
But oh, how vain are the hopes of man!
CHAPTER XXVIII. FAREWELL TO AMERICA
THREE months had elapsed, from the time the fugitive commenced work
for Mr. Streeter, when that gentleman returned from his Southern research,
and informed Jerome that Parson Wilson had sold Clotelle, and that she
had been sent to the New Orleans slave-market.
This intelligence fell with crushing weight upon the heart of Jerome,
and he now felt that the last chain which bound him to his native
land was severed. He therefore determined to leave America forever.
His nearest and dearest friends had often been flogged in his very presence,
and he had seen his mother sold to the negro-trader. An only sister had been
torn from him by the soul-driver; he had himself been sold and resold,
and been compelled to submit to the most degrading and humiliating insults;
and now that the woman upon whom his heart doted, and without whom
life was a burden, had been taken away forever, he felt it a duty
to hate all mankind.
If there is one thing more than another calculated to make one hate and
detest American slavery, it is to witness the meetings between fugitives
and their friends in Canada. Jerome had beheld some of these scenes.
The wife who, after years of separation, had escaped from her
prison-house and followed her husband had told her story to him.
He had seen the newly-arrived wife rush into the arms of the husband,
whose dark face she had not looked upon for long, weary years.
Some told of how a sister had been ill-used by the overseer; others of a
husband's being whipped to death for having attempted to protect his wife.
He had sat in the little log-hut, by the fireside, and heard tales that
caused his heart to bleed; and his bosom swelled with just indignation
when he though that there was no remedy for such atrocious acts.
It was with such feelings that he informed his employer that he should
leave him at the expiration of a month.
In vain did Mr. Streeter try to persuade Jerome to remain with him; and late
in the month of February, the latter found himself on board a small vessel
loaded with pine-lumber, descending the St. Lawrence, bound for Liverpool.
The bark, though an old one, was, nevertheless, considered seaworthy,
and the fugitive was working his way out. As the vessel left the river
and gained the open sea, the black man appeared to rejoice at the prospect
of leaving a country in which his right to manhood had been denied him,
and his happiness destroyed.
The wind was proudly swelling the white sails, and the little
craft plunging into the foaming waves, with the land fast
receding in the distance, when Jerome mounted a pile
of lumber to take a last farewell of his native land.
With tears glistening in his eyes, and with quivering lips,
he turned his gaze toward the shores that were fast fading
in the dim distance, and said,--
"Though forced from my native land by the tyrants of the South,
I hope I shall some day be able to return. With all her faults,
I love my country still."
CHAPTER XXIX. A STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND
THE rain was falling on the dirty pavements of Liverpool as Jerome left
the vessel after her arrival. Passing the custom-house, he took a cab,
and proceeded to Brown's Hotel, Clayton Square.
Finding no employment in Liverpool, Jerome determined to go into
the interior and seek for work. He, therefore, called for his bill,
and made ready for his departure. Although but four days at
the Albion, he found the hotel charges larger than he expected;
but a stranger generally counts on being "fleeced" in travelling
through the Old World, and especially in Great Britain.
After paying his bill, he was about leaving the room, when one
of the servants presented himself with a low bow, and said,--
"Something for the waiter, sir?"
"I thought I had paid my bill," replied the man, somewhat surprised
at this polite dun.
"I am the waiter, sir, and gets only what strangers see fit to give me."
Taking from his pocket his nearly empty purse, Jerome handed
the man a half-crown; but he had hardly restored it to his pocket,
before his eye fell on another man in the waiting costume.
"What do you want?" he asked.
"Whatever your honor sees fit to give me, sir. I am the tother waiter."
The purse was again taken from the pocket, and another half-crown handed out.
Stepping out into the hall, he saw standing there a good-looking woman,
in a white apron, who made a very pretty courtesy.
"What's your business?" he inquired.
"I am the chambermaid, sir, and looks after the gentlemen's beds."
Out came the purse again, and was relieved of another half-crown;
whereupon another girl, with a fascinating smile, took the place
of the one who had just received her fee.
"What do you want?" demanded the now half-angry Jerome.
"Please, sir, I am the tother chambermaid."
Finding it easier to give shillings than half-crowns, Jerome handed
the woman a shilling, and again restored his purse to his pocket,
glad that another woman was not to be seen.
Scarcely had he commenced congratulating himself, however, before three men
made their appearance, one after another.
"What have *you* done for me?" he asked of the first.
"I am the boots, sir."
The purse came out once more, and a shilling was deposited
in the servant's hand.
"What do I owe you?" he inquired of the second.
"I took your honor's letter to the post, yesterday, sir."
Another shilling left the purse.
"In the name of the Lord, what am I indebted to you for?" demanded Jerome,
now entirely out of patience, turning to the last of the trio.
"I told yer vership vot time it vas, this morning."
"Well!" exclaimed the indignant man, "ask here who o'clock it is,
and you have got to pay for it."
He paid this last demand with a sixpence, regretting that he had not commenced
with sixpences instead of half-crowns.
Having cleared off all demands in the house, he started
for the railway station; but had scarcely reached the street,
before he was accosted by an old man with a broom in his hand,
who, with an exceedingly low bow, said,--
"I is here, yer lordship."
"I did not send for you; what is your business?" demanded Jerome.
"I is the man what opened your lordship's cab-door, when your lordship
came to the house on Monday last, and I know your honor won't allow
a poor man to starve."
Putting a sixpence in the old man's hand, Jerome once more started
for the depot. Having obtained letters of introduction to persons
in Manchester, he found no difficulty in getting a situation in a
large manufacturing house there. Although the salary was small,
yet the situation was a much better one than he had hoped to obtain.
His compensation as out-door clerk enabled him to employ a man to teach
him at night, and, by continued study and attention to business,
he was soon promoted.
After three years in his new home, Jerome was placed in a still higher
position, where his salary amounted to fifteen hundred dollars a year.
The drinking, smoking, and other expensive habits, which the clerks
usually indulged in, he carefully avoided.
Being fond of poetry, he turned his attention to literature.
Johnson's "Lives of the Poets," the writings of Dryden, Addison, Pope,
Clarendon, and other authors of celebrity, he read with attention.
The knowledge which he thus picked up during his leisure hours gave
him a great advantage over the other clerks, and caused his employers
to respect him far more than any other in their establishment.
So eager was he to improve the time that he determined to see how much
he could read during the unemployed time of night and morning,
and his success was beyond his expectations.
CHAPTER XXX. NEW FRIENDS
BROKEN down in health, after ten years of close confinement in his situation,
Jerome resolved to give it up, and thereby release himself from an employment
which seemed calculated to send him to a premature grave.
It was on a beautiful morning in summer that he started
for Scotland, having made up his mind to travel for his health.
After visiting Edinburgh and Glasgow, he concluded to spend
a few days in the old town of Perth, with a friend whose
acquaintance he had made in Manchester. During the second
day of his stay in Perth, while crossing the main street,
Jerome saw a pony-chaise coming toward him with great speed.
A lady, who appeared to be the only occupant of the vehicle,
was using her utmost strength to stop the frightened horses.
The footman, in his fright, had leaped from behind the carriage,
and was following with the crowd. With that self-forgetfulness
which was one of his chief characteristics, Jerome threw himself
before the horses to stop them; and, seizing the high-spirited
animals by the bit, as they dashed by him, he was dragged
several rods before their speed was checked, which was not
accomplished until one of the horses had fallen to the ground,
with the heroic man struggling beneath him.
All present were satisfied that this daring act alone had saved the
lady's life, for the chaise must inevitably have been dashed in pieces,
had the horses not been thus suddenly checked in their mad career.
On the morning following this perilous adventure, Col. G--
called at Jerome's temporary residence, and, after expressing
his admiration for his noble daring, and thanking him for having
saved his daughter's life, invited him to visit him at his
country residence. This invitation was promptly accepted
in the spirit in which it was given; and three days after,
Jerome found himself at the princely residence of the father
of the lady for whose safety he had risked his own life.
The house was surrounded by fine trees, and a sweet little
stream ran murmuring at the foot, while beds of flowers
on every hand shed their odors on the summer air.
It was, indeed, a pleasant place to spend the warm weather,
and the colonel and his family gave Jerome a most cordial welcome.
Miss G. showed especial attention to the stranger.
He had not intended remaining longer than the following day:
but the family insisted on his taking part in a fox-hunt
that was to come off on the morning of the third day.
Wishing to witness a scene as interesting as the chase usually
proves to be, he decided to remain.
Fifteen persons, five of whom were ladies, were on the ground
at the appointed hour. Miss G. was, of course, one of the party.
In vain Jerome endeavored to excuse himself from joining in the chase.
His plea of ill-health was only met by smiles from the young ladies,
and the reply that a ride would effect a cure.
Dressed in a scarlet coat and high boots, with the low,
round cap worn in the chase, Jerome mounted a high-spirited
horse, whip in hand, and made himself one of the party.
In America, riding is a necessity; in England, it is a pleasure.
Young men and women attend riding-school in our fatherland,
and consider that they are studying a science. Jerome was no rider.
He had not been on horseback for more than ten years,
and as soon as he mounted, every one saw that he was a novice,
and a smile was on the countenance of each member of the company.
The blowing of the horn, and assembling of the hounds, and finally the release
of the fox from his close prison, were the signals for the chase to commence.
The first half-mile the little animal took his course over a beautiful field
where there was neither hedge nor ditch. Thus far the chase was enjoyed
by all, even by the American rider, who was better fitted to witness the scene
than to take part in it.
We left Jerome in our last reluctantly engaged in the chase;
and though the first mile or so of the pursuit, which was over
smooth meadow-land, had had an exhilarating effect upon his mind,
and tended somewhat to relieve him of the embarrassment consequent upon
his position, he nevertheless still felt that he was far from being
in his proper element. Besides, the fox had now made for a dense
forest which lay before, and he saw difficulties in that direction
which to him appeared insurmountable.
Away went the huntsmen, over stone walls, high fences, and deep ditches.
Jerome saw the ladies even leading the gentlemen, but this could
not inspire him. They cleared the fences, four and five feet high
with perfect ease, showing they were quite at home in the saddle.
But alas for the poor American! As his fine steed came up to
the first fence, and was about to make the leap, Jerome pulled at
the bridle, and cried at the top of his voice, "Whoa! whoa! whoa!"
the horse at the same time capering about, and appearing determined
to keep up with the other animals.
Away dashed the huntsmen, following the hounds, and all
were soon lost to the view of their colored companion.
Jerome rode up and down the field looking for a gate or bars,
that he might get through without risking his neck.
Finding, however, that all hope of again catching up with the party
was out of the question, he determined to return to the house,
under a plea of sudden illness, and back he accordingly went.
"I hope no accident has happened to your honor," said the groom,
as he met our hero at the gate.
"A slight dizziness," was the answer.
One of the servants, without being ordered, went at once for
the family physician. Ashamed to own that his return was owing
to his inability to ride, Jerome resolved to feign sickness.
The doctor came, felt his pulse, examined his tongue,
and pronounced him a sick man. He immediately ordered a tepid bath,
and sent for a couple of leeches.
Seeing things taking such a serious turn, the American began
to regret the part he was playing; for there was no fun
in being rubbed and leeched when one was in perfect health.
He had gone too far to recede, however, and so submitted
quietly to the directions of the doctor; and, after following
the injunctions given by that learned Esculapius, was put to bed.
Shortly after, the sound of the horns and the yelp of the hounds announced
that the poor fox had taken the back track, and was repassing near the house.
Even the pleasure of witnessing the beautiful sight from the window was denied
our hero; for the physician had ordered that he must be kept in perfect quiet.
The chase was at last over, and the huntsmen all in, sympathizing with their
lost companion. After nine days of sweating, blistering, and leeching,
Jerome left his bed convalescent, but much reduced in flesh and strength.
This was his first and last attempt to follow the fox and hounds.
During his fortnight's stay at Colonel G.', Jerome spent most of his time
in the magnificent library. Claude did not watch with more interest every
color of the skies, the trees, the grass, and the water, to learn from nature,
than did this son of a despised race search books to obtain that knowledge
which his early life as a slave had denied him.
CHAPTER XXXI. THE MYSTERIOUS MEETING
AFTER more than a fortnight spent in the highlands of Scotland,
Jerome passed hastily through London on his way to the continent.
It was toward sunset, on a warm day in October, shortly after
his arrival in France, that, after strolling some distance from
the Hotel de Leon, in the old and picturesque town of Dunkirk,
he entered a burial-ground--such places being always favorite
walks with him--and wandered around among the silent dead.
All nature around was hushed in silence, and seemed to partake
of the general melancholy that hung over the quiet resting-place
of the departed. Even the birds seemed imbued with the spirit
of the place, for they were silent, either flying noiselessly
over the graves, or jumping about in the tall grass.
After tracing the various inscriptions that told the characters
and conditions of the deceased, and viewing the mounds
beneath which the dust of mortality slumbered, he arrived
at a secluded spot near where an aged weeping willow bowed
its thick foliage to the ground, as though anxious to hide
from the scrutinizing gaze of curiosity the grave beneath it.
Jerome seated himself on a marble tombstone, and commenced
reading from a book which he had carried under his arm.
It was now twilight, and he had read but a few minutes when
he observed a lady, attired in deep black, and leading a boy,
apparently some five or six years old, coming up one of the beautiful,
winding paths. As the lady's veil was drawn closely over
her face, he felt somewhat at liberty to eye her more closely.
While thus engaged, the lady gave a slight scream,
and seemed suddenly to have fallen into a fainting condition.
Jerome sprang from his seat, and caught her in time to save
her from falling to the ground.
At this moment an elderly gentleman, also dressed in black,
was seen approaching with a hurried step, which seemed
to indicate that he was in some way connected with the lady.
The old man came up, and in rather a confused manner inquired
what had happened, and Jerome explained matters as well
as he was able to do so. After taking up the vinaigrette,
which had fallen from her hand, and holding the bottle
a short time to her face, the lady began to revive.
During all this time, the veil had still partly covered
the face of the fair one, so that Jerome had scarcely seen it.
When she had so far recovered as to be able to look around her,
she raised herself slightly, and again screamed and swooned.
The old man now feeling satisfied that Jerome's dark
complexion was the immediate cause of the catastrophe,
said in a somewhat petulant tone,--
"I will be glad, sir, if you will leave us alone."
The little boy at this juncture set up a loud cry, and amid
the general confusion, Jerome left the ground and returned
to his hotel.
While seated at the window of his room looking out upon the crowded street,
with every now and then the strange scene in the graveyard vividly before him,
Jerome suddenly thought of the book he had been reading, and, remembering that
he had left it on the tombstone, where he dropped it when called to the
lady's assistance, he determined to return for it at once.
After a walk of some twenty minutes, he found himself again in
the burial-ground and on the spot where he had been an hour before.
The pensive moon was already up, and its soft light was sleeping
on the little pond at the back of the grounds, while the stars seemed
smiling at their own sparkling rays gleaming up from the beautiful
sheet of water.
Jerome searched in vain for his book; it was nowhere to be found.
Nothing, save the bouquet that the lady had dropped, and which
lay half-buried in the grass, from having been trodden upon,
indicated that any one had been there that evening.
The stillness of death reigned over the place; even the little birds,
that had before been twittering and flying about, had retired
for the night.
Taking up the bunch of flowers, Jerome returned to his hotel. "What can
this mean?" he would ask himself; "and why should they take my book?"
These questions he put to himself again and again during his walk.
His sleep was broken more than once that night, and he welcomed the early
dawn as it made its appearance.
CHAPTER XXXII. THE HAPPY MEETING
AFTER passing a sleepless night, and hearing the clock strike six, Jerome took
from his table a book, and thus endeavored to pass away the hours before
breakfast-time. While thus engaged, a servant entered and handed him a note.
Hastily tearing it open, Jerome read as follows:--
"SIR,--I owe you an apology for the abrupt manner in which I addressed
you last evening, and the inconvenience to which you were subjected
by some of my household. If you will honor us with your presence to-day
at four o'clock, I will be most happy to give you due satisfaction.
My servant will be waiting with the carriage at half-past three.
I am, sir, yours, &c., J. DEVENANT
JEROME FLETCHER, Esq.
Who this gentleman was, and how he had found out his name
and the hotel at which he was stopping, were alike mysteries
to Jerome. And this note seemed to his puzzled brain like
a challenge. "Satisfaction?" He had not asked for satisfaction.
However, he resolved to accept the invitation, and, if need be,
meet the worst. At any rate, this most mysterious and complicated
affair would be explained.
The clock on a neighboring church had scarcely finished striking three
when a servant announced to Jerome that a carriage had called for him.
In a few minutes, he was seated in a sumptuous barouche, drawn by a pair
of beautiful iron-grays, and rolling over a splendid gravel road
entirely shaded by trees, which appeared to have been the accumulated
growth of many centuries. The carriage soon stopped at a low villa,
which was completely embowered in trees.
Jerome alighted, and was shown into a superb room, with the walls
finely decorated with splendid tapestry, and the ceilings
exquisitely frescoed. The walls were hung with fine specimens
from the hands of the great Italian masters, and one by a
German artist, representing a beautiful monkish legend connected
with the "Holy Catharine," an illustrious lady of Alexandria.
High-backed chairs stood around the room, rich curtains
of crimson damask hung in folds on either side of the window,
and a beautiful, rick, Turkey carpet covered the floor.
In the centre of the room stood a table covered with books,
in the midst of which was a vase of fresh flowers, loading the
atmosphere with their odors. A faint light, together with the quiet
of the hour, gave beauty beyond description to the whole scene.
A half-open door showed a fine marble floor to an adjoining room,
with pictures, statues, and antiquated sofas, and flower-pots
filled with rare plants of every kind and description.
Jerome had scarcely run his eyes over the beauties of the room when the
elderly gentleman whom he had met on the previous evening made his appearance,
followed by the little boy, and introduced himself as Mr. Devenant.
A moment more and a lady, a beautiful brunette, dressed in black,
with long black curls hanging over her shoulders, entered the room.
Her dark, bright eyes flashed as she caught the first sight of Jerome.
The gentleman immediately arose on the entrance of the lady, and Mr. Devenant
was in the act of introducing the stranger when he observed that Jerome
had sunk back upon the sofa, in a faint voice exclaiming,--
"It is she!"
After this, all was dark and dreary. How long he remained in this condition,
it was for others to tell. The lady knelt by his side and wept;
and when he came to, he found himself stretched upon the sofa with
his boots off and his head resting upon a pillow. By his side sat
the old man, with the smelling-bottle in one hand and a glass of water
in the other, while the little boy stood at the foot of the sofa.
As soon as Jerome had so far recovered as to be able to speak, he said,--
"Where am I, and what does all this mean?"
"Wait awhile," replied the old man, "and I will tell you all."
After the lapse of some ten minutes, Jerome arose from the sofa,
adjusted his apparel, and said,--
"I am now ready to hear anything you have to say."
"You were born in America?" said the old man.
"I was," he replied.
"And you knew a girl named Clotelle," continued the old man.
"Yes, and I loved her as I can love none other."
"The lady whom you met so mysteriously last evening was she,"
said Mr. Devenant.
Jerome was silent, but the fountain of mingled grief and joy
stole out from beneath his eyelashes, and glistened like pearls
upon his ebony cheeks.
At this juncture, the lady again entered the room.
With an enthusiasm that can be better imagined than described,
Jerome sprang from the sofa, and they rushed into each other's arms,
to the great surprise of the old gentleman and little Antoine,
and to the amusement of the servants who had crept up, one by
one and were hid behind the doors or loitering in the hall.
When they had given vent to their feelings and sufficiently
recovered their presence of mind, they resumed their seats.
"How did you find out my name and address?" inquired Jerome.
"After you had left the grave-yard," replied Clotelle,
"our little boy said, 'Oh, mamma! if there ain't a book!'
I opened the book, and saw your name written in it, and also found
a card of the Hotel de Leon. Papa wished to leave the book,
and said it was only a fancy of mine that I had ever seen
you before; but I was perfectly convinced that you were my
own dear Jerome."
As she uttered the last words, tears--the sweet bright tears that love
alone can bring forth--bedewed her cheeks.
"Are you married?" now inquired Clotelle, with a palpitating
heart and trembling voice.
"No, I am not, and never have been," was Jerome's reply.
"Then, thank God!" she exclaimed, in broken accents.
It was then that hope gleamed up amid the crushed and broken flowers
of her heart, and a bright flash darted forth like a sunbeam.
"Are you single now?" asked Jerome.
"Yes, I am," was the answer.
"Then you will be mine after all?" said he with a smile.
Her dark, rich hair had partly come down, and hung still
more loosely over her shoulders than when she first appeared;
and her eyes, now full of animation and vivacity,
and her sweet, harmonious, and well-modulated voice,
together with her modesty, self-possession, and engaging
manners, made Clotelle appear lovely beyond description.
Although past the age when men ought to think of matrimony,
yet the scene before Mr. Devenant brought vividly to his mind
the time when he was young and had a loving bosom companion living,
and tears were wiped from the old man's eyes. A new world
seemed to unfold itself before the eyes of the happy lovers,
and they were completely absorbed in contemplating the future.
Furnished by nature with a disposition to study, and a memory
so retentive that all who knew her were surprised at the ease
with which she acquired her education and general information,
Clotelle might now be termed a most accomplished lady.
After her marriage with young Devenant, they proceeded to India,
where the husband's regiment was stationed. Soomn after
their arrival, however, a battle was fought with the natives,
in which several officers fell, among whom was Captain Devenant.
The father of the young captain being there at the time,
took his daughter-in-law and brought her back to France,
where they took up their abode at the old homestead.
Old Mr. Devenant was possessed of a large fortune, all of which
he intended for his daughter-in-law and her only child.
Although Clotelle had married young Devenant, she had not
forgotten her first love, and her father-in-law now willingly
gave his consent to her marriage with Jerome. Jerome felt
that to possess the woman of his love, even at that late hour,
was compensation enough for the years that he had been separated
from her, and Clotelle wanted no better evidence of his love
for her than the fact of his having remained so long unmarried.
It was indeed a rare instance of devotion and constancy in a man,
and the young widow gratefully appreciated it.
It was late in the evening when Jerome led his intended bride
to the window, and the magnificent moonlight illuminated
the countenance of the lovely Clotelle, while inward sunshine,
emanating from a mind at ease, and her own virtuous thoughts,
gave brightness to her eyes and made her appear a very angel.
This was the first evening that Jerome had been in her company
since the night when, to effect his escape from prison,
she disguised herself in male attire. How different the scene now.
Free instead of slaves, wealthy instead of poor, and on
the eve of an event that seemed likely to result in a life
of happiness to both.
CHAPTER XXXIII. THE HAPPY DAY
IT was a bright day in the latter part of October that Jerome and Clotelle
set out for the church, where the marriage ceremony was to be performed.
The clear, bracing air added buoyancy to every movement, and the sun
poured its brilliant rays through the deeply-stained windows, as the happy
couple entered the sanctuary, followed by old Mr. Devenant, whose form,
bowed down with age, attracted almost as much attention from the assembly
as did the couple more particularly interested.
As the ceremonies were finished and the priest pronounced the benediction
on the newly-married pair, Clotelle whispered in the ear of Jerome,--
"'No power in death shall tear our names apart,
As none in life could rend thee from my heart.'"
A smile beamed on every face as the wedding-party left the church
and entered their carriage. What a happy day, after ten years'
separation, when, both hearts having been blighted for a time,
they are brought together by the hand of a beneficent and kind Providence,
and united in holy wedlock.
Everything being arranged for a wedding tour extending up
the Rhine, the party set out the same day for Antwerp.
There are many rivers of greater length and width than the Rhine.
Our Mississippi would swallow up half a dozen Rhines.
The Hudson is grander, the Tiber, the Po, and the Mincio
more classic; the Thames and Seine bear upon their waters
greater amounts of wealth and commerce; the Nile and the
Euphrates have a greater antiquity; but for a combination
of interesting historical incidents and natural scenery,
the Rhine surpasses them all. Nature has so ordained it
that those who travel in the valley of the Rhine shall see
the river, for there never will be a railroad upon its banks.
So mountainous is the land that it would have to be one series
of tunnels. Every three or four miles from the time you enter
this glorious river, hills, dales, castles, and crags present
themselves as the steamer glides onward.
Their first resting-place for any length of time was at Coblentz, at the mouth
of the "Blue Moselle," the most interesting place on the river. From Coblentz
they went to Brussels, where they had the greatest attention paid them.
Besides being provided with letters of introduction, Jerome's complexion
secured for him more deference than is usually awarded to travellers.
Having letters of introduction to M. Deceptiax, the great lace manufacturer,
that gentleman received them with distinguished honors, and gave them
a splendid at which the of the city were assembled.
The sumptuously-furnished mansion was lavishly decorated for the occasion,
and every preparation made that could add to the novelty or interest
of the event.
Jerome, with his beautiful bride, next visited Cologne,
the largest and wealthiest city on the banks of the Rhine.
The Cathedral of Cologne is the most splendid structure
of the kind in Europe, and Jerome and Clotelle viewed
with interest the beautiful arches and columns of this
stupendous building, which strikes with awe the beholder,
as he gazes at its unequalled splendor, surrounded, as it is,
by villas, cottages, and palace-like mansions, with the enchanting
Rhine winding through the vine-covered hills.
After strolling over miles and miles of classic ground,
and visiting castles, whose legends and traditions have given them
an enduring fame, our delighted travellers started for Geneva,
bidding the picturesque banks of the Rhine a regretful farewell.
Being much interested in literature, and aware that Geneva was noted
for having been the city of refuge to the victims of religious and
political persecution, Jerome arranged to stay here for some days.
He was provided with a letter of introduction to M. de Stee,
who had been a fellow-soldier of Mr. Devenant in the East India wars,
and they were invited to make his house their home during their sojourn.
On the side of a noble mountain, whose base is kissed by the waves
of Lake Geneva, and whose slopes are decked with verdure to
the utmost peak of its rocky crown, is situated the delightful
country-residence of this wealthy, retired French officer.
A winding road, with frequent climbs and brakes, leads from the valley
to this enchanting spot, the air and scenery of which cannot be
surpassed in the world.
CHAPTER XXXIV. CLOTELLE MEETS HER FATHER.
THE clouds that had skirted the sky during the day broke at last,
and the rain fell in torrents, as Jerome and Clotelle retired for
the night, in the little town of Ferney, on the borders of Lake Leman.
The peals of thunder, and flashes of vivid lightening, which seemed
to leap from mountain to mountain and from crag to crag,
reverberating among the surrounding hills, foretold a heavy storm.
"I would we were back at Geneva," said Clotelle, as she heard groans issuing
from an adjoining room. The sounds, at first faint, grew louder and louder,
plainly indicating that some person was suffering extreme pain.
"I did not like this hotel, much, when we came in," said Jerome,
relighting the lamp, which had been accidentally extinguished.
"Nor I," returned Clotelle.
The shrieks increased, and an occasional "she's dead!"
"I killed her!" "No, she is not dead!" and such-like expressions,
would be heard from the person, who seemed to be deranged.
The thunder grew louder, and the flashes of lightening more vivid,
while the noise from the sick-room seemed to increase.
As Jerome opened the door, to learn, if possible, the cause
of the cries and groans, he could distinguish the words,
"She's dead! yes, she's dead! but I did not kill her.
She was my child! my own daughter. I loved her, and yet I
did not protect her."
"Whoever he is," said Jerome, "he's crack-brained;
some robber, probably, from the mountains."
The storm continued to rage, and the loud peals of thunder and
sharp flashes of lightening, together with the shrieks and moans
of the maniac in the adjoining room, made the night a fearful one.
The long hours wore slowly away, but neither Jerome nor his wife
could sleep, and they arose at an early hour in the morning,
ordered breakfast, and resolved to return to Geneva.
"I am sorry, sir, that you were so much disturbed by the sick man
last night," said the landlord, as he handed Jerome his bill.
"I should be glad if he would get able to go away, or die,
for he's a deal of trouble to me. Several persons have left
my house on his account."
"Where is he from?" inquired Jerome. "He's from the United States,
and has been here a week to-day, and has been crazy ever since."
"Has he no friends with him?" asked the guest.
"No, he is alone," was the reply.
Jerome related to his wife what he had learned from the landlord,
respecting the sick man, and the intelligence impressed her so strongly,
that she requested him to make further inquiries concerning the stranger.
He therefore consulted the book in which guests usually register
their names, and, to his great surprise, found that the American's
name was Henry Linwood, and that he was from Richmond, Va.
It was with feelings of trepidation that Clotelle heard these particulars
from the lips of her husband.
"We must see this poor man, whoever he is," said she, as Jerome
finished the sentence.
The landlord was glad to hear that his guests felt some interest
in the sick man, and promised that the invalid's room should be got
ready for their reception.
The clock in the hall was just striking ten, as Jerome passed
through and entered the sick man's chamber. Stretched upon
a mattress, with both hands tightly bound to the bedstead,
the friendless stranger was indeed a pitiful sight.
His dark, dishevelled hair prematurely gray, his long,
unshaven beard, and the wildness of the eyes which glanced upon
them as they opened the door and entered, caused the faint
hope which had so suddenly risen in Clotelle's heart, to sink,
and she felt that this man could claim no kindred with her.
Certainly, he bore no resemblance to the man whom she had
called her father, and who had fondly dandled her on his knee
in those happy days of childhood.
"Help!" cried the poor man, as Jerome and his wife walked into the room.
His eyes glared, and shriek after shriek broke forth from his parched
and fevered lips.
"No, I did not kill my daughter!--I did not! she is not dead!
Yes, she is dead! but I did not kill her--poor girl!
Look! that is she! No, it cannot be! she cannot come here!
it cannot be my poor Clotelle."
At the sound of her own name, coming from the maniac's lips,
Clotelle gasped for breath, and her husband saw that she had
grown deadly pale. It seemed evident to him that the man was
either guilty of some terrible act, or imagined himself to be.
His eyeballs rolled in their sockets, and his features showed
that he was undergoing "the tortures of that inward hell,"
which seemed to set his whole brain on fire. After recovering
her self-possession and strength, Clotelle approached the bedside,
and laid her soft hand upon the stranger's hot and fevered brow.
One long, loud shriek rang out on the air, and a piercing cry,
"It is she!--Yes, it is she! I see, I see! Ah! no, it is not my daughter!
She would not come to me if she could!" broke forth from him.
"I am your daughter," said Clotelle, as she pressed her handkerchief
to her face, and sobbed aloud.
Like balls of fire, the poor man's eyes rolled and glared upon the company,
while large drops of perspiration ran down his pale and emaciated face.
Strange as the scene appeared, all present saw that it was
indeed a meeting between a father and his long-lost daughter.
Jerome now ordered all present to leave the room, except the nurse,
and every effort was at once made to quiet the sufferer.
When calm, a joyous smile would illuminate the sick man's face,
and a strange light beam in his eyes, as he seemed to realize
that she who stood before him was indeed his child.
For two long days and nights did Clotelle watch at the bedside
of her father before he could speak to her intelligently.
Sometimes, in his insane fits, he would rave in the most frightful manner,
and then, in a few moments, would be as easily governed as a child.
At last, however, after a long and apparently refreshing sleep,
he awoke suddenly to a full consciousness that it was indeed his
daughter who was watching so patiently by his side.
The presence of his long absent child had a soothing effect
upon Mr. Linwood, and he now recovered rapidly from the sad
and almost hopeless condition in which she had found him.
When able to converse, without danger of a relapse, he told Clotelle
of his fruitless efforts to obtain a clew to her whereabouts
after old Mrs. Miller had sold her to the slave-trader. In
answer to his daughter's inquiries about his family affairs
up to the time that he left America, he said,--
"I blamed my wife for your being sold and sent away,
for I thought she and her mother were acting in collusion;
But I afterwards found that I had blamed her wrongfully.
Poor woman! she knew that I loved your mother, and feeling
herself forsaken, she grew melancholy and died in a decline
three years ago."
Here both father and daughter wept at the thought of other days.
When they had recovered their composure, Mr. Linwood went on again:
"Old Mrs. Miller," said he, "after the death of Gertrude, aware that she
had contributed much toward her unhappiness, took to the free use of
intoxicating drinks, and became the most brutal creature that ever lived.
She whipped her slaves without the slightest provocation, and seemed
to take delight in inventing new tortures with which to punish them.
One night last winter, after having flogged one of her slaves nearly
to death, she returned to her room, and by some means the bedding
took fire, and the house was in flames before any one was awakened.
There was no one in the building at the time but the old woman and
the slaves, and although the latter might have saved their mistress,
they made no attempt to do so. Thus, after a frightful career
of many years, this hard-hearted woman died a most miserable death,
unlamented by a single person."
Clotelle wiped the tears from her eyes, as her father finished
this story, for, although Mrs. Miller had been her greatest enemy,
she regretted to learn that her end had been such a sad one.
"My peace of mind destroyed," resumed the father, "and broken down in health,
my physician advised me to travel, with the hope of recruiting myself,
and I sailed from New York two months ago."
Being brought up in America, and having all the prejudice against color
which characterizes his white fellow-countrymen, Mr. Linwood very much
regretted that his daughter, although herself tinctured with African blood,
should have married a black man, and he did not fail to express to her
his dislike of her husband's complexion.
"I married him," said Clotelle, "because I loved him.
Why should the white man be esteemed as better than the black?
I find no difference in men on account of their complexion.
One of the cardinal principles of Christianity and freedom
is the equality and brotherhood of man."
Every day Mr. Linwood became more and more familiar with Jerome,
and eventually they were on the most intimate terms.
Fifteen days from the time that Clotelle was introduced
into her father's room, they left Ferney for Geneva.
Many were the excursions Clotelle made under the shadows
of Mont Blanc, and with her husband and father for companions;
she was now in the enjoyment of pleasures hitherto unknown.
CHAPTER XXXV. THE FATHER'S RESOLVE
AWARE that her father was still a slave-owner, Clotelle determined
to use all her persuasive power to induce him to set them free,
and in this effort she found a substantial supporter in her husband.
"I have always treated my slaves well," said Mr. Linwood to Jerome,
as the latter expressed his abhorrence of the system; "and my neighbors,
too, are generally good men; for slavery in Virginia is not like slavery
in the other States," continued the proud son of the Old Dominion.
"Their right to be free, Mr. Linwood," said Jerome, "is taken from them,
and they have no security for their comfort, but the humanity and
generosity of men, who have been trained to regard them not as brethren,
but as mere property. Humanity and generosity are, at best, but poor
guaranties for the protection of those who cannot assert their rights,
and over whom law throws no protection."
It was with pleasure that Clotelle obtained from her father a promise
that he would liberate all his slaves on his return to Richmond.
In a beautiful little villa, situated in a pleasant spot,
fringed with hoary rocks and thick dark woods, within sight
of the deep blue waters of Lake Leman, Mr. Linwood, his daughter,
and her husband, took up their residence for a short time.
For more than three weeks, this little party spent their time in
visiting the birth-place of Rousseau, and the former abodes of Byron,
Gibbon, Voltaire, De Stael, Shelley, and other literary characters.
We can scarcely contemplate a visit to a more historic and interesting
place than Geneva and its vicinity. Here, Calvin, that great luminary
in the Church, lived and ruled for years; here, Voltaire, the mighty genius,
who laid the foundation of the French Revolution, and who boasted,
"When I shake my wig, I powder the whole republic," governed in the higher
walks of life.
Fame is generally the recompense, not of the living, but of the dead,--
not always do they reap and gather in the harvest who sow the seed;
the flame of its altar is too often kindled from the ashes of the great.
A distinguished critic has beautifully said, "The sound which the stream
of high thought, carried down to future ages, makes, as it flows--
deep, distant, murmuring ever more, like the waters of the mighty ocean."
No reputation can be called great that will no endure this test.
The distinguished men who had lived in Geneva transfused their spirit,
by their writings, into the spirit of other lovers of literature and
everything that treated of great authors. Jerome and Clotelle lingered
long in and about the haunts of Geneva and Lake Leman.
An autumn sun sent down her bright rays, and bathed every object
in her glorious light, as Clotelle, accompanied by her husband
and father set out one fine morning on her return home to France.
Throughout the whole route, Mr. Linwood saw by the deference paid to Jerome,
whose black complexion excited astonishment in those who met him,
that there was no hatred to the man in Europe, on account of his color;
that what is called prejudice against color is the offspring of
the institution of slavery; and he felt ashamed of his own countrymen,
when he thought of the complexion as distinctions, made in the United States,
and resolved to dedicate the remainder of his life to the eradication
of this unrepublican and unchristian feeling from the land of his birth,
on his return home.
After a stay of four weeks at Dunkirk, the home of the Fletchers, Mr. Linwood
set out for America, with the full determination of freeing his slaves,
and settling them in one of the Northern States, and then to return to France
to end his days in the society of his beloved daughter.
CHAPTER XXXVI. THE RETURN HOME
THE first gun fired at the American Flag, on the 12th
of April, 1861, at Fort Sumter, reverberated all over Europe,
and was hailed with joy by the crowned heads of the Old World,
who hated republican institutions, and who thought they saw, in this
act of treason, the downfall of the great American experiment.
Most citizens, however, of the United States, who were then
sojourning abroad, hastened home to take part in the struggle,--
some to side with the rebels, others to take their stand
with the friends of liberty. Among the latter, none came with
swifter steps or more zeal than Jerome and Clotelle Fletcher.
They arrived in New Orleans a week after the capture of that city
by the expedition under the command of Major-Gen. B. F. Butler.
But how changed was society since Clotelle had last set
feet in the Crescent City! Twenty-two years had passed;
her own chequered life had been through many shifting scenes;
her old acquaintances in New Orleans had all disappeared;
and with the exception of the black faces which she
beheld at every turn, and which in her younger days were
her associates, she felt herself in the midst of strangers;
and these were arrayed against each other in mortal combat.
Possessed with ample means, Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher set about
the work of assisting those whom the rebellion had placed
in a state of starvation and sickness.
With a heart overflowing with the milk of human kindness,
and a tear for every sufferer, no matter of what color or sect,
Clotelle was soon known as the "Angel of Mercy."
The "General Order No. 63," issued on the 22nd of August, 1862,
by Gen. Butler, recognizing, and calling into the service of the Federal
Government, the battalion of colored men known as the "Native Guard,"
at once gave full scope to Jerome's military enthusiasm; and he made
haste to enlist in the organization.
The "Native Guard" did good service in New Orleans and vicinity,
till ordered to take part in the siege of Port Hudson,
where they appeared under the name of the "First Louisiana,"
and under the immediate command of Lieut.-Col. Bassett.
The heroic attack of this regiment, made on the 27th
of May, 1863, its unsurpassed "charge," its great loss,
and its severe endurance on the field of battle, are incidents
which have passed into history. The noble daring of the First
Louisiana gained for the black soldiers in our army the praise
of all Americans who value Republican institutions.
There was, however, one scene, the closing one in the first
day's attack on Port Hudson, which, while it reflects undying
credit upon the bravery of the negro, pays but a sorry tribute
to the humanity of the white general who brought the scene
into existence. The field was strewn with the dead, the dying,
and the wounded; and as the jaded regiments were leaving
the ground, after their unsuccessful attack, it was found
that Capt. Payne, of the Third Louisiana, had been killed;
and his body, which was easily distinguished by the uniform,
was still on the battle-field. The colonel of the regiment,
pointing to where the body lay, asked, "Are there four men
here who will fetch the body of Capt. Payne from the field?"
Four men stepped out, and at once started. But, as the body lay
directly under the range of the rebel batteries, they were all
swept down by the grape, canister, and shell which were let loose
by the enemy. The question was again repeated, "Are there four
men who will go for the body?" The required number came forth,
and started upon a run; but, ere they could reach the spot,
they were cut down. "Are there four more who will try?"
The third call was answered in the affirmative, and the men started
upon the double-quick. They, however, fell before getting as far
as the preceding four. Twelve men had been killed in the effort
to obtain the body of the brave Payne, but to no purpose.
Humanity forbade another trial, and yet it was made.
"Are there four more men in the regiment who will volunteer
to go for Capt. Payne's body?" shouted the officer.
Four men sprang forward, as if fearful that they would miss
the opportunity of these last: one was Jerome Fletcher, the hero
of our story. They started upon the run; and, strange to tell,
all of them reached the body, and had nearly borne it from
the field, when two of the number were cut down. Of these,
one was Jerome. His head was entirely torn off by a shell.
The body of the deceased officer having been rescued, an end
was put t the human sacrifice.
CHAPTER XXXVII. THE ANGEL OF MERCY
The sad intelligence of Jerome's death was brought to Clotelle
while she was giving her personal attention to the sick and
wounded that filled the hospitals of New Orleans. For a time she
withdrew from the gaze of mankind, and gave herself up to grief.
Few unions had been productive of more harmonious feelings than hers.
And this blow, so unexpected and at a time when she was experiencing
such a degree of excitement caused by the rebellion, made her,
indeed, feel the affliction severely.
But the newspaper accounts of the intense suffering of the Union prisoners
in the rebel States aroused her, and caused her to leave her retirement.
In the month of October, 1863, Clotelle resolved to visit Andersonville,
Ga., for the purpose of alleviating the hardships of our sick and
imprisoned soldiers, and at once put her resolution into effect by going
immediately to that place. After crossing the lines, she passed as a
rebel lady, to enable her the more successfully to carry out her object.
On her arrival at Andersonville, Clotelle took up her abode with a
private family, of Union proclivities, and commenced her work of mercy.
She first visited the hospitals, the buildings of which were merest
excuses for hospitals.
It was the beginning of November; and, even in that southern latitude,
the cold made these miserable abodes uncomfortable nights and mornings.
The dirty, unventilated rooms, with nothing but straw upon the cold,
damp floor, for beds, upon which lay the ragged, emaciated Union prisoners,
worn down to skin and bone with disease and starvation, with their
sunken eyes and wild looks, made them appear hideous in the extreme.
The repulsive scenes, that showed the suffering, neglect, and cruelty
which these poor creatures had experienced, made her heart sink within her.
Having paid considerable attention to hospital life in Europe,
and so recently from amongst the sick at New Orleans,
Clotelle's experience, suggestions, and liberal expenditure
of money, would have added greatly to the comfort of these
helpless men, if the rebel authorities had been so disposed.
But their hatred to Union prisoners was so apparent, that the
interest which this angel of humanity took in the condition
of the rebel sick could not shield her from the indignation of
the secession officials for her good feeling for the Union men.
However, with a determination to do all in her power for the needy,
she labored in season and out.
The brutal treatment and daily murders committed upon our soldiers
in the Andersonville prisons caused Clotelle to secretly aid
prisoners in their escape. In the latter work, she brought
to her assistance the services of a negro man named Pete.
This individual was employed about the prison, and, having the entire
confidence of the commandant, was in a position to do much
good without being suspected. Pete was an original character,
of a jovial nature, and, when intending some serious adventure,
would appear very solemn, and usually singing a doleful ditty,
often the following, which was a favorite with him:--
"Come listen, all you darkies, come listen to my song:
It am about old Massa, who use me bery wrong.
In de cole, frosty mornin', it an't so bery nice,
Wid de water to de middle, to hoe among de rice;
When I neber hab forgotten
How I used to hoe de cotton,
How I used to hoe de cotton,
On de old Virginny shore;
But I'll neber hoe de cotton,
Oh! neber hoe de cotton
"If I feel de drefful hunger, he tink it am a vice,
And he gib me for my dinner a little broken rice,--
A little broken rice and a bery little fat,
And he grumble like de debbil if I eat too much of dat;
When I neber hab forgotten, etc.
"He tore me from my Dinah; I tought my heart would burst:
He made me lub anoder when my lub was wid de first;
He sole my picanninnies becase he got dar price,
And shut me in de marsh-field to hoe among de rice;
When I neber hab forgotten, etc.
"And all de day I hoe dar, in all de heat and rain;
And, as I hoe away dar, my heart go back again,--
Back to de little cabin dat stood among de corn,
And to de ole plantation where she and I war born!
Oh! I wish I had forgotten, etc.
"Den Dinah am beside me, de chil'ren on my knee,
And dough I am a slave dar, it 'pears to me I'm free,
Till I wake up from my dreaming, and wife and chil'ren gone,
I hoe away and weep dar, and weep dar all alone!
Oh! I wish I had forgotten, etc.
"But soon a day am comin', a day I long to see,
When dis darky in de cole ground, foreber will be free,
When wife and chil'ren wid me, I'll sing in Paradise,
How He, de blessed Jesus, hab bought me wid a price;
How de Lord hab not forgotten
How well I hoed de cotton,
How well I hoed de cotton
On de old Virginny shore;
Dar I'll neber hoe de cotton,
Oh! I'll neber hoe de cotton
When away from the whites, and among his own class, Pete could often
be heard in the following strains:--
"A storm am brewin' in de Souf,
A storm am brewin' now.
Oh! hearken den, and shut your mouf,
And I will tell you how:
And I will tell you how, ole boy,
De storm of fire will pour,
And make de darkies dance for joy,
As dey neber danced afore;
So shut your mouf as close as deafh,
And all you niggas hole your breafh,
And I will tell you how.
"De darkies at de Norf am ris,
And dey am comin' down--
Am comin' down, I know dey is,
To do de white folks brown!
Dey'll turn ole Massa out to grass,
And set de niggas free,
And when dat day am come to pass
We'll all be dar to see!
So shut your mouf as close as deafh,
And all you niggas hole your breafh,
And do de white folks brown!
"Den all de week will be as gay
As am de Chris'mas time;
We'll dance all night and all de day,
And make de banjo chime--
And make de banjo chime, I tink,
And pass de time away,
Wid 'nuf to eat and nuf to drink,
And not a bit to pay!
So shut your mouf as close as deafh,
And all you niggas hole your breafh,
And make de banjo chime."
How to escape from prison was ever the thoughts by day and
dreams by night of the incarcerated. Plans were concocted,
partly put into execution, and then proved failures.
Some of these caused increased suffering to the prisoners after
their discovery; for, where the real parties could not be found,
the whole were ill-treated as a punishment to the guilty.
Tunnelling was generally the mode for escape; and tunnelling
became the order of the day, or, rather, the work for the night.
In the latter part of November, 1863, the unusual gaiety
of the prisoners showed that some plan of exit from the prison
was soon to be exhibited.
CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE GREAT TUNNEL AND THE MISTAKE
FOR several weeks, some ten or fifteen of the most
able-bodied of the prisoners had been nightly at work;
and the great tunnel, the ever projected by men
for their escape from prison, was thought to be finished,
with the exception of the tapping outside of the prison wall.
The digging of a tunnel is not an easy job, and, consequently,
is of slow progress. The Andersonville prisoners had to dig
ten feet down into the earth, after cutting through the floor,
and then went a distance of fifty feet to get beyond the wall.
The digging was done in the following way: As soon as the
operator was below the surface, and had a place large enough
to admit the body, he laid down upon his face, at full length,
and with his knife, spoon, piece of earthenware, or old iron,
dug away with all his energies, throwing the dirt behind him,
which was gathered up by a confederate, carried off, and hi.
This mode of operating was carried on night after night,
and the flooring replaced during the day, to prevent suspicion.
The want of fresh air in the tunnel, as it progressed to completion,
often drove the men from their work, and caused a delay,
which proved fatal to their successful escape.
The long-looked for day arrived. More than three hundred
had prepared to leave this hated abode, by the tunnel.
All they waited for was the tapping and the signal. The time came,
the place of egress was tapped, and the leader had scarcely put
his head out of the hole, ere he was fired upon by the sentinels,
which soon alarmed and drew the entire guard to the spot.
Great was the commotion throughout the prison, and all who were
caught in the tunnel were severely punished.
This failure seemed to depress the spirits of the men more than any
previous attempt. Heavy irons were placed upon the limbs of many of
the prisoners, and their lot was made otherwise harder by the keepers.
Clotelle, though often permitted to see the prisoners and contribute
to their wants, and, though knowing much of their designs, knew nothing
of the intended escape, and therefore was more bold in her intercessions
in their behalf when failure came upon them.
The cruelty which followed this mishap, induced Clotelle to interest herself
in another mode of escape for the men thus so heavily ironed.
Pete, the man of all work, whose sympathies were with the Union prisoners,
was easily gained over to a promise of securing the keys of the prison
and letting the men escape, especially when Clotelle offered him money
to enable him to make good his own way to the North.
The night of the exodus came. It was favored with darkness;
and it so happened that the officials were on a spree,
owing to the arrival of Confederate officers with news
of a rebel victory.
Before getting the keys, Pete supplied the sentinels
on duty with enough whiskey, which he had stolen
from the keepers' store-room, to make them all drunk.
At the chosen moment, the keys were obtained by Pete,
the doors and gates were opened, and ninety-three prisoners,
including the tunnel workers, whose irons were taken off,
made their escape, allowing the faithful negro to accompany them.
Nothing was known of the exit of the men till breakfast hour
on the next morning. On examination of the store-room, it
was found, that, in addition to the whiskey Pete had taken
a large supply of stores for the accommodation of the party.
Added to this, a good number of arms with ammunition had been
furnished the men by the African.
The rebels were not prepared to successfully pursue the fleeing
prisoners, although armed men were sent in different directions.
Nothing, however, was heard of them till they reached the Union lines.
Long suspected of too freely aiding Union prisoners, Clotelle was
now openly charged with a knowledge of the escape of these men,
and was compelled to leave Andersonville.
CHAPTER XXXIX. CONCLUSION
THE fiendish and heartless conduct of a large number of the people
of the South towards Union men during the war, and especially
the unlady-like demeanor of rebel women at New Orleans
and other points, is a matter that has passed into history.
In few places were the women more abusive to those of Union
proclivities than the female portion of the inhabitants
of Greenville, Alabama. While passing through this town,
on her return from Andersonville to New Orleans, Clotelle had
to encounter the fierce ill-treatment of these chivalrous
daughters of the South. There were, during the rebellion,
many brave and generous women, who, in the mountains and lowlands
of Alabama, gave aid to Federals,--soldiers and civilians,--
in their wanderings and escape from the cruelties of the traitors.
One of these patriotic women was arrested while on a visit
to Greenville for the purpose of procuring medicine and other
necessaries for sick Union men then hid away in the woods.
This large-hearted woman--Eunice Hastings--had her horse
taken from her, robbed of the goods she had purchased, and,
after experiencing almost death at the hands of the rebel women,
was released and turned out penniless, and without the means
of reaching her home in the country; when Clotelle,
who had just arrived at the dilapidated and poorly kept hotel,
met her, and, learning the particulars of her case,
offered assistance to the injured woman, which brought down
upon her own head the condemnation of the secesh population
of the place. However, Clotelle purchased a fine horse from
the landlord, gave it to Miss Hastings, who, after securing
some articles for which she had come to Greenville, left town
under cover of night, and escaped further molestation.
This act of kindness to a helpless sister at once stirred up
the vilest feelings of the people.
"The worst of slaves is he whom passion rules."
As has already been said, there was nothing in the appearance
of Clotelle to indicate that a drop of African blood coursed
through her veins, except, perhaps, the slight wave in the hair,
and the scarcely perceptible brunettish tinge upon the countenance.
She passed as a rebel lady; yet the inhabitants of Greenville could
not permit sympathy with, and aid to, a Union woman to pass unnoticed,
and therefore resolved on revenge.
"Revenge, at first though sweet, Bitter ere long, back on itself recoils."
Clotelle's person, trunks, and letters were all searched
with the hope and expectation of finding evidences of a spy.
Nothing of the kind being found, she was then rigorously
interrogated as to her sympathies with the two contending armies.
With no wish whatever to conceal her opinions, she openly avowed
that she was a Union woman. This was enough. After being persecuted
during the day, she was put in charge of a committee of rebel women
for the night, with a promise of more violent treatment on the morrow.
The loyalty of the negroes of the South, during the severest
hours of the rebellion, reflects the greatest possible credit
on the race. Through their assistance, hundreds of Union men
were enabled to make their escape from prisons, and thousands
kept from starvation when on their way to the Federal lines,
or while keeping out of the way of rebel recruiting gangs.
They seldom, if ever, hesitated to do the white Unionists a service,
at the risk even of life, and, under the most trying circumstances,
revealed a devotion and a spirit of self-sacrifice that were heroic.
No one ever made an appeal to them they did not answer.
They were degraded and ignorant, which was attributable to the cruel
laws and equally unchristian practices of the people of the South;
but their hearts were always open, and the slightest demand upon
their sympathies brought forth their tears. They never shunned
a man or woman who sought food or shelter on their way to freedom.
The goodness of heart and the guileless spirit of the blacks was not
better understood by any one than Clotelle; and she felt a secret
joy at seeing all the servants in the Greenville hotel negroes.
She saw from their very looks that she had their undivided sympathies.
One of the servants overheard the rebels in a conversation,
in which it was determined to send Clotelle to the county town,
for safe keeping in the jail, the following day; and this fact was
communicated to the unfortunate woman. The slave woman who gave
the information told her that she could escape if she desired.
Having already been robbed of every thing except the apparel upon her
person and some money she had concealed about her, she at once signified
to the black woman her wish to get out of the reach of her persecutors.
The old worn-out clock in the narrow dining hall had struck one;
a cold rain was patting upon the roof, and the women watchers,
one after another, had fallen asleep; and even the snuff-dippers, whose
dirty practice creates a nervousness that keeps them awake longer than
any other class, had yielded to the demands of Morpheus, when Aggy,
the colored servant, stealthily entered the room, beckoned to Clotelle,
and both left in silence.
Cautiously and softly the black woman led the way, followed by the "Angel
of Mercy," till, after passing down through the cellar with the water covering
the floor, they emerged into the back yard. Two horses had been provided.
Clotelle mounted one, and a black man the other; the latter leading
the way. Both dashed off at a rapid pace, through a drenching storm,
with such a pall-like darkness that they could not see each other.
After an hour's ride the negro halted, and informed Clotelle that he must
leave her, and return with the horses, but that she was with friends.
He then gave a whistle, and for a moment held his breath.
Just as the faithful black was about to repeat the signal, he heard
the response; and in a moment the lady alighted, and with dripping garments,
limbs chilled to numbness, followed her new guide to a place of concealment,
near the village of Taitsville.
"You is jes as wet as a drownded rat," said the mulatto woman,
who met Clotelle as she entered the negro's cabin.
"Yes," replied the latter, "this is a stormy night for one to be out."
"Yes mam, dese is hard times for eberybody dat 'bleves in de Union.
I 'spose deys cotched your husband, an' put him in de army, ain't dey?"
"No: my husband died at Port Hudson, fighting for the Union," said Clotelle.
"Oh, mam, dats de place whar de black people fight de rebels so, wasn't it?"
remarked Dinah, for such was her name.
"Yes, that was the place," replied the former.
"I see that your husband has lost one of his hands:
did he lose it in the war?"
"Oh no, missus," said Dinah. "When dey was taken all de men, black an white,
to put in de army, dey cotched my ole man too, and took him long wid 'em.
So you see, he said he'd die afore he'd shoot at de Yanks.
So you see, missus, Jimmy jes took and lay his left han' on a log, and chop
it off wid de hatchet. Den, you see, dey let him go, an' he come home.
You see, missus, my Jimmy is a free man: he was born free, an'
he bought me, an' pay fifteen hundred dollars for me."
It was true that Jim had purchased his wife; nor had he forgotten the fact,
as was shown a day or two after, while in conversation with her.
The woman, like many of her sex, was an inveterate scold, and Jim had but one
way to govern her tongue. "Shet your mouf, madam, an' hole your tongue,"
said Jim, after his wife had scolded and sputtered away for some minutes.
"Shet your mouf dis minit, I say: you shan't stan' dar, an' talk ter
me in dat way. I bought you, an' paid my money fer you, an" I ain't
a gwine ter let you sase me in dat way. Shet your mouf dis minit:
ef you don't I'll sell you; 'fore God I will. Shet up, I say, or I'll
sell you." This had the desired effect, and settled Dinah for the day.
After a week spent in this place of concealment, Jim conveyed
Clotelle to Leaksville, Mississippi, through the Federal lines,
and from thence she proceeded to New Orleans.
The Rebellion was now drawing to a close. The valley of the
Mississippi was in full possession of the Federal government.
Sherman was on his raid, and Grant was hemming in Lee.
Everywhere the condition of the freedmen attracted the attention
of the friends of humanity, and no one felt more keenly their
wants than Clotelle; and to their education and welfare she
resolved to devote the remainder of her life, and for this
purpose went to the State of Mississippi, and opened a school
for the freedmen; hired teachers, paying them out of her own purse.
In the summer of 1866, the Poplar Farm, on which she had once
lived as a slave, was confiscated and sold by Government
authority, and was purchased by Clotelle, upon which she
established a Freedmen's School, and where at this writing,--
now June, 1867,--resides the "Angel of Mercy."