"In Ramah there was a voice heard,--weeping, and
lamentation, and great mourning; Rachel weeping for her children, and would not
 Jer. 31:15.
Haley and Tom jogged onward in their wagon, each, for a time, absorbed in his
own reflections. Now, the
reflections of two men sitting side by side are a curious thing,--seated on the
same seat, having the same eyes, ears, hands and organs of all sorts, and having
pass before their eyes the same objects,--it is wonderful what a variety we
shall find in these same reflections!
As, for example, Mr. Haley: he thought
first of Tom's length, and breadth, and height, and what he would sell for, if
he was kept fat and in good case till he got him into market.
He thought of how he should make out his gang; he thought of the
respective market value of certain supposititious men and women and children who
were to compose it, and other kindred topics of the business; then he thought of
himself, and how humane he was, that whereas other men chained their
"niggers" hand and foot both, he only put fetters on the feet, and
left Tom the use of his hands, as long as he behaved well; and he sighed to
think how ungrateful human nature was, so that there was even room to doubt
whether Tom appreciated his mercies. He
had been taken in so by "niggers" whom he had favored; but still he
was astonished to consider how good-natured he yet remained!
As to Tom, he was thinking over some
words of an unfashionable old book, which kept running through his head, again
and again, as follows: "We
have here no continuing city, but we seek one to come; wherefore God himself is
not ashamed to be called our God; for he hath prepared for us a city."
These words of an ancient volume, got up principally by "ignorant
and unlearned men," have, through all time, kept up, somehow, a strange
sort of power over the minds of poor, simple fellows, like Tom.
They stir up the soul from its depths, and rouse, as with trumpet call,
courage, energy, and enthusiasm, where before was only the blackness of despair.
Mr. Haley pulled out of his pocket
sundry newspapers, and began looking over their advertisements, with absorbed
interest. He was not a remarkably
fluent reader, and was in the habit of reading in a sort of recitative
half-aloud, by way of calling in his ears to verify the deductions of his eyes.
In this tone he slowly recited the following paragraph:
"EXECUTOR'S SALE,--NEGROES!--Agreeably to order of court, will be
sold, on Tuesday, February 20, before the Court-house door, in the town of
Washington, Kentucky, the following negroes:
Hagar, aged 60; John, aged 30; Ben, aged 21; Saul, aged 25; Albert, aged
14. Sold for the benefit of the
creditors and heirs of the estate of Jesse Blutchford,
"This yer I must look at," said he to Tom, for want
of somebody else to talk to.
"Ye see, I'm going to get up a
prime gang to take down with ye, Tom; it'll make it sociable and pleasant
like,--good company will, ye know. We
must drive right to Washington first and foremost, and then I'll clap you into
jail, while I does the business."
Tom received this agreeable intelligence
quite meekly; simply wondering, in his own heart, how many of these doomed men
had wives and children, and whether they would feel as he did about leaving
them. It is to be confessed, too,
that the naive, off-hand information that he was to be thrown into jail by no
means produced an agreeable impression on a poor fellow who had always prided
himself on a strictly honest and upright course of life. Yes, Tom, we must confess it, was rather proud of his
honesty, poor fellow,--not having very much else to be proud of;--if he had
belonged to some of the higher walks of society, he, perhaps, would never have
been reduced to such straits. However,
the day wore on, and the evening saw Haley and Tom comfortably accommodated in
Washington,--the one in a tavern, and the other in a jail.
About eleven o'clock the next day, a
mixed throng was gathered around the court-house steps,--smoking, chewing,
spitting, swearing, and conversing, according to their respective tastes and
turns,--waiting for the auction to commence.
The men and women to be sold sat in a group apart, talking in a low tone
to each other. The woman who had
been advertised by the name of Hagar was a regular African in feature and
figure. She might have been sixty,
but was older than that by hard work and disease, was partially blind, and
somewhat crippled with rheumatism. By
her side stood her only remaining son, Albert, a bright-looking little fellow of
fourteen years. The boy was the
only survivor of a large family, who had been successively sold away from her to
a southern market. The mother held
on to him with both her shaking hands, and eyed with intense trepidation every
one who walked up to examine him.
"Don't be feard, Aunt Hagar,"
said the oldest of the men, "I spoke to Mas'r Thomas 'bout it, and he
thought he might manage to sell you in a lot both together."
"Dey needn't call me worn out
yet," said she, lifting her shaking hands. "I can cook yet, and scrub, and scour,--I'm wuth a
buying, if I do come cheap;--tell em dat ar,--you _tell_ em," she added,
Haley here forced his way into the
group, walked up to the old man, pulled his mouth open and looked in, felt of
his teeth, made him stand and straighten himself, bend his back, and perform
various evolutions to show his muscles; and then passed on to the next, and put
him through the same trial. Walking
up last to the boy, he felt of his arms, straightened his hands, and looked at
his fingers, and made him jump, to show his agility.
"He an't gwine to be sold widout
me!" said the old woman, with passionate eagerness; "he and I goes in
a lot together; I 's rail strong yet, Mas'r and can do heaps o' work,--heaps on
"On plantation?" said Haley,
with a contemptuous glance. "Likely
story!" and, as if satisfied with his examination, he walked out and
looked, and stood with his hands in his pocket, his cigar in his mouth, and his
hat cocked on one side, ready for action.
"What think of 'em?" said a
man who had been following Haley's examination, as if to make up his own mind
"Wal," said Haley, spitting,
"I shall put in, I think, for the youngerly ones and the boy."
"They want to sell the boy and the
old woman together," said the man.
"Find it a tight pull;--why, she's
an old rack o' bones,--not worth her salt."
"You wouldn't then?" said the
"Anybody 'd be a fool 't would.
She's half blind, crooked with rheumatis, and foolish to boot."
"Some buys up these yer old
critturs, and ses there's a sight more wear in 'em than a body 'd think,"
said the man, reflectively.
"No go, 't all," said Haley;
"wouldn't take her for a present,--fact,--I've _seen_, now."
"Wal, 't is kinder pity, now, not
to buy her with her son,--her heart seems so sot on him,--s'pose they fling her
"Them that's got money to spend
that ar way, it's all well enough. I
shall bid off on that ar boy for a plantation-hand;--wouldn't be bothered with
her, no way, notif they'd give her to me," said Haley.
"She'll take on desp't," said
"Nat'lly, she will," said the
The conversation was here interrupted by
a busy hum in the audience; and the auctioneer, a short, bustling, important
fellow, elbowed his way into the crowd. The
old woman drew in her breath, and caught instinctively at her son.
"Keep close to yer mammy,
Albert,--close,--dey'll put us up togedder," she said.
"O, mammy, I'm feard they
won't," said the boy.
"Dey must, child; I can't live, no
ways, if they don't" said the old creature, vehemently.
The stentorian tones of the auctioneer,
calling out to clear the way, now announced that the sale was about to commence.
A place was cleared, and the bidding began.
The different men on the list were soon knocked off at prices which
showed a pretty brisk demand in the market; two of them fell to Haley.
"Come, now, young un," said
the auctioneer, giving the boy a touch with his hammer, "be up and show
your springs, now."
"Put us two up togedder,
togedder,--do please, Mas'r," said the old woman, holding fast to her boy.
"Be off," said the man,
gruffly, pushing her hands away; "you come last.
Now, darkey, spring;" and, with the word, he pushed the boy toward
the block, while a deep, heavy groan rose behind him. The boy paused, and looked back; but there was no time to
stay, and, dashing the tears from his large, bright eyes, he was up in a moment.
His fine figure, alert limbs, and bright
face, raised an instant competition, and half a dozen bids simultaneously met
the ear of the auctioneer. Anxious,
half-frightened, he looked from side to side, as he heard the clatter of
contending bids,--now here, now there,--till the hammer fell.
Haley had got him. He was pushed from the block toward his new master, but
stopped one moment, and looked back, when his poor old mother, trembling in
every limb, held out her shaking hands toward him.
"Buy me too, Mas'r, for de dear
Lord's sake!--buy me,--I shall die if you don't!"
"You'll die if I do, that's the
kink of it," said Haley,--"no!" And he turned on his heel.
The bidding for the poor old creature
was summary. The man who had
addressed Haley, and who seemed not destitute of compassion, bought her for a
trifle, and the spectators began to disperse.
The poor victims of the sale, who had
been brought up in one place together for years, gathered round the despairing
old mother, whose agony was pitiful to see.
"Couldn't dey leave me one?
Mas'r allers said I should have one,--he did," she repeated over and
over, in heart-broken tones.
"Trust in the Lord, Aunt
Hagar," said the oldest of the men, sorrowfully.
"What good will it do?" said
she, sobbing passionately.
don't!" said the boy. "They
say you 's got a good master."
"I don't care,--I don't care. O,
Albert! oh, my boy! you 's my last baby. Lord,
how ken I?"
"Come, take her off, can't some of
ye?" said Haley, dryly; "don't do no good for her to go on that ar
The old men of the company, partly by
persuasion and partly by force, loosed the poor creature's last despairing hold,
and, as they led her off to her new master's wagon, strove to comfort her.
"Now!" said Haley, pushing his
three purchases together, and producing a bundle of handcuffs, which he
proceeded to put on their wrists; and fastening each handcuff to a long chain,
he drove them before him to the jail.
A few days saw Haley, with his
possessions, safely deposited on one of the Ohio boats.
It was the commencement of his gang, to be augmented, as the boat moved
on, by various other merchandise of the same kind, which he, or his agent, had
stored for him in various points along shore.
The La Belle Riviere, as brave and
beautiful a boat as ever walked the waters of her namesake river, was floating
gayly down the stream, under a brilliant sky, the stripes and stars of free
America waving and fluttering over head; the guards crowded with well-dressed
ladies and gentlemen walking and enjoying the delightful day.
All was full of life, buoyant and rejoicing;--all but Haley's gang, who
were stored, with other freight, on the lower deck, and who, somehow, did not
seem to appreciate their various privileges, as they sat in a knot, talking to
each other in low tones.
"Boys," said Haley, coming up,
briskly, "I hope you keep up good heart, and are cheerful.
Now, no sulks, ye see; keep stiff upper lip, boys; do well by me, and
I'll do well by you."
The boys addressed responded the
invariable "Yes, Mas'r," for ages the watchword of poor Africa; but
it's to be owned they did not look particularly cheerful; they had their various
little prejudices in favor of wives, mothers, sisters, and children, seen for
the last time,--and though "they that wasted them required of them
mirth," it was not instantly forthcoming.
"I've got a wife," spoke out
the article enumerated as "John, aged thirty," and he laid his chained
hand on Tom's knee,--"and she don't know a word about this, poor
"Where does she live?" said
"In a tavern a piece down
here," said John; "I wish, now, I _could_ see her once more in this
world," he added.
Poor John! It _was_ rather natural; and
the tears that fell, as he spoke, came as naturally as if he had been a white
man. Tom drew a long breath from a
sore heart, and tried, in his poor way, to comfort him.
And over head, in the cabin, sat fathers
and mothers, husbands and wives; and merry, dancing children moved round among
them, like so many little butterflies, and everything was going on quite easy
"O, mamma," said a boy, who
had just come up from below, "there's a negro trader on board, and he's
brought four or five slaves down there."
"Poor creatures!" said the
mother, in a tone between grief and indignation.
"What's that?" said another
"Some poor slaves below," said
"And they've got chains on,"
said the boy.
"What a shame to our country that
such sights are to be seen!" said another lady.
"O, there's a great deal to be said
on both sides of the subject," said a genteel woman, who sat at her
state-room door sewing, while her little girl and boy were playing round her.
"I've been south, and I must say I think the negroes are better off
than they would be to be free."
"In some respects, some of them are
well off, I grant," said the lady to whose remark she had answered.
"The most dreadful part of slavery, to my mind, is its outrages on
the feelings and affections,--the separating of families, for example."
"That _is_ a bad thing,
certainly," said the other lady, holding up a baby's dress she had just
completed, and looking intently on its trimmings; "but then, I fancy, it
don't occur often."
"O, it does," said the first
lady, eagerly; "I've lived many years in Kentucky and Virginia both, and
I've seen enough to make any one's heart sick.
Suppose, ma'am, your two children, there, should be taken from you, and
"We can't reason from our feelings
to those of this class of persons," said the other lady, sorting out some
worsteds on her lap.
"Indeed, ma'am, you can know
nothing of them, if you say so," answered the first lady, warmly.
"I was born and brought up among them.
I know they _do_ feel, just as keenly,--even more so, perhaps,--as we
The lady said "Indeed!"
yawned, and looked out the cabin window, and finally repeated, for a finale, the
remark with which she had begun,--"After all, I think they are better off
than they would be to be free."
"It's undoubtedly the intention of
Providence that the African race should be servants,--kept in a low
condition," said a grave-looking gentleman in black, a clergyman, seated by
the cabin door. "`Cursed be
Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be,' the scripture says."
 Gen. 9:25.
This is what Noah says when he wakes out of drunkenness and realizes that
his youngest son, Ham, father of Canaan, has seen him naked.
"I say, stranger, is that ar what that text means?"
said a tall man, standing by.
pleased Providence, for some inscrutable reason, to doom the race to bondage,
ages ago; and we must not set up our opinion against that."
"Well, then, we'll all go ahead and
buy up niggers," said the man, "if that's the way of
Providence,--won't we, Squire?" said he, turning to Haley, who had been
standing, with his hands in his pockets, by the stove and intently listening to
"Yes," continued the tall man,
"we must all be resigned to the decrees of Providence.
Niggers must be sold, and trucked round, and kept under; it's what they's
made for. 'Pears like this yer view
's quite refreshing, an't it, stranger?" said he to Haley.
"I never thought on 't,"
said Haley, "I couldn't have said as much, myself; I ha'nt no
larning. I took up the trade just
to make a living; if 'tan't right, I calculated to 'pent on 't in time, ye
"And now you'll save yerself the
trouble, won't ye?" said the tall man.
"See what 't is, now, to know scripture. If ye'd only studied yer Bible, like this yer good man, ye
might have know'd it before, and saved ye a heap o' trouble.
Ye could jist have said, `Cussed be'--what's his name?--`and 't would all
have come right.'" And the stranger, who was no other than the honest drover
whom we introduced to our readers in the Kentucky tavern, sat down, and began
smoking, with a curious smile on his long, dry face.
A tall, slender young man, with a face
expressive of great feeling and intelligence, here broke in, and repeated the
words, "`All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye
even so unto them.' I
suppose," he added, "_that_ is scripture, as much as `Cursed be
"Wal, it seems quite _as_ plain a
text, stranger," said John the drover, "to poor fellows like us,
now;" and John smoked on like a volcano.
The young man paused, looked as if he
was going to say more, when suddenly the boat stopped, and the company made the
usual steamboat rush, to see where they were landing.
"Both them ar chaps parsons?"
said John to one of the men, as they were going out.
The man nodded.
As the boat stopped, a black woman came
running wildly up the plank, darted into the crowd, flew up to where the slave
gang sat, and threw her arms round that unfortunate piece of merchandise before
enumerate--"John, aged thirty," and with sobs and tears bemoaned him
as her husband.
But what needs tell the story, told too
oft,--every day told,--of heart-strings rent and broken,--the weak broken and
torn for the profit and convenience of the strong! It needs not to be told;--every day is telling it,--telling
it, too, in the ear of One who is not deaf, though he be long silent.
The young man who had spoken for the
cause of humanity and God before stood with folded arms, looking on this scene.
He turned, and Haley was standing at his side.
"My friend," he said, speaking with thick utterance, "how
can you, how dare you, carry on a trade like this?
Look at those poor creatures! Here
I am, rejoicing in my heart that I am going home to my wife and child; and the
same bell which is a signal to carry me onward towards them will part this poor
man and his wife forever. Depend
upon it, God will bring you into judgment for this."
The trader turned away in silence.
"I say, now," said the drover,
touching his elbow, "there's differences in parsons, an't there?
`Cussed be Canaan' don't seem to go down with this 'un, does it?"
Haley gave an uneasy growl.
"And that ar an't the worst on
't," said John; "mabbee it won't go down with the Lord, neither, when
ye come to settle with Him, one o' these days, as all on us must, I
Haley walked reflectively to the other
end of the boat.
"If I make pretty handsomely on one
or two next gangs," he thought, "I reckon I'll stop off this yer; it's
really getting dangerous." And
he took out his pocket-book, and began adding over his accounts,--a process
which many gentlemen besides Mr. Haley have found a specific for an uneasy
The boat swept proudly away from the
shore, and all went on merrily, as before.
Men talked, and loafed, and read, and smoked.
Women sewed, and children played, and the boat passed on her way.
One day, when she lay to for a while at
a small town in Kentucky, Haley went up into the place on a little matter of
Tom, whose fetters did not prevent his
taking a moderate circuit, had drawn near the side of the boat, and stood
listlessly gazing over the railing. After
a time, he saw the trader returning, with an alert step, in company with a
colored woman, bearing in her arms a young child.
She was dressed quite respectably, and a colored man followed her,
bringing along a small trunk. The
woman came cheerfully onward, talking, as she came, with the man who bore her
trunk, and so passed up the plank into the boat.
The bell rung, the steamer whizzed, the engine groaned and coughed, and
away swept the boat down the river.
The woman walked forward among the boxes
and bales of the lower deck, and, sitting down, busied herself with chirruping
to her baby.
Haley made a turn or two about the boat,
and then, coming up, seated himself near her, and began saying something to her
in an indifferent undertone.
Tom soon noticed a heavy cloud passing
over the woman's brow; and that she answered rapidly, and with great vehemence.
"I don't believe it,--I won't
believe it!" he heard her say. "You're
jist a foolin with me."
"If you won't believe it, look
here!" said the man, drawing out a paper; "this yer's the bill of
sale, and there's your master's name to it; and I paid down good solid cash for
it, too, I can tell you,--so, now!"
"I don't believe Mas'r would cheat
me so; it can't be true!" said the woman, with increasing agitation.
"You can ask any of these men here,
that can read writing. Here!"
he said, to a man that was passing by, "jist read this yer, won't you!
This yer gal won't believe me, when I tell her what 't is."
"Why, it's a bill of sale, signed
by John Fosdick," said the man, "making over to you the girl Lucy and
her child. It's all straight
enough, for aught I see."
The woman's passionate exclamations
collected a crowd around her, and the trader briefly explained to them the cause
of the agitation.
"He told me that I was going down
to Louisville, to hire out as cook to the same tavern where my husband
works,--that's what Mas'r told me, his own self; and I can't believe he'd lie to
me," said the woman.
"But he has sold you, my poor
woman, there's no doubt about it," said a good-natured looking man, who had
been examining the papers; "he has done it, and no mistake."
"Then it's no account
talking," said the woman, suddenly growing quite calm; and, clasping her
child tighter in her arms, she sat down on her box, turned her back round, and
gazed listlessly into the river.
"Going to take it easy, after
all!" said the trader. "Gal's
got grit, I see."
The woman looked calm, as the boat went
on; and a beautiful soft summer breeze passed like a compassionate spirit over
her head,--the gentle breeze, that never inquires whether the brow is dusky or
fair that it fans. And she saw
sunshine sparkling on the water, in golden ripples, and heard gay voices, full
of ease and pleasure, talking around her everywhere; but her heart lay as if a
great stone had fallen on it. Her
baby raised himself up against her, and stroked her cheeks with his little
hands; and, springing up and down, crowing and chatting, seemed determined to
arouse her. She strained him
suddenly and tightly in her arms, and slowly one tear after another fell on his
wondering, unconscious face; and gradually she seemed, and little by little, to
grow calmer, and busied herself with tending and nursing him.
The child, a boy of ten months, was
uncommonly large and strong of his age, and very vigorous in his limbs.
Never, for a moment, still, he kept his mother constantly busy in holding
him, and guarding his springing activity.
"That's a fine chap!" said a
man, suddenly stopping opposite to him, with his hands in his pockets.
"How old is he?"
"Ten months and a half," said
The man whistled to the boy, and offered
him part of a stick of candy, which he eagerly grabbed at, and very soon had it
in a baby's general depository, to wit, his mouth.
"Rum fellow!" said the man
"Knows what's what!" and he whistled, and walked on.
When he had got to the other side of the boat, he came across Haley, who
was smoking on top of a pile of boxes.
The stranger produced a match, and
lighted a cigar, saying, as he did so,
"Decentish kind o' wench you've got
round there, stranger."
"Why, I reckon she _is_ tol'able
fair," said Haley, blowing the smoke out of his mouth.
"Taking her down south?" said
Haley nodded, and smoked on.
"Plantation hand?" said the
"Wal," said Haley, "I'm
fillin' out an order for a plantation, and I think I shall put her in.
They telled me she was a good cook; and they can use her for that, or set
her at the cotton-picking. She's
got the right fingers for that; I looked at 'em.
Sell well, either way;" and Haley resumed his cigar.
"They won't want the young 'un on
the plantation," said the man.
"I shall sell him, first chance I
find," said Haley, lighting another cigar.
"S'pose you'd be selling him
tol'able cheap," said the stranger, mounting the pile of boxes, and sitting
"Don't know 'bout that," said
Haley; "he's a pretty smart young 'un, straight, fat, strong; flesh as hard
as a brick!"
"Very true, but then there's the
bother and expense of raisin'."
"Nonsense!" said Haley;
"they is raised as easy as any kind of critter there is going; they an't a
bit more trouble than pups. This
yer chap will be running all around, in a month."
"I've got a good place for raisin',
and I thought of takin' in a little more stock," said the man.
"One cook lost a young 'un last week,--got drownded in a washtub,
while she was a hangin' out the clothes,--and I reckon it would be well enough
to set her to raisin' this yer."
Haley and the stranger smoked a while in
silence, neither seeming willing to broach the test question of the interview.
At last the man resumed:
"You wouldn't think of wantin' more
than ten dollars for that ar chap, seeing you _must_ get him off yer hand, any
Haley shook his head, and spit
"That won't do, no ways," he
said, and began his smoking again.
"Well, stranger, what will you
"Well, now," said Haley,
"I _could_ raise that ar chap myself, or get him raised; he's oncommon
likely and healthy, and he'd fetch a hundred dollars, six months hence; and, in
a year or two, he'd bring two hundred, if I had him in the right spot; I shan't
take a cent less nor fifty for him now."
"O, stranger! that's rediculous,
altogether," said the man.
"Fact!" said Haley, with a
decisive nod of his head.
"I'll give thirty for him,"
said the stranger, "but not a cent more."
"Now, I'll tell ye what I will
do," said Haley, spitting again, with renewed decision.
"I'll split the difference, and say forty-five; and that's the most
I will do."
"Well, agreed!" said the man,
after an interval.
"Done!" said Haley.
"Where do you land?"
"At Louisville," said the man.
"Louisville," said Haley.
"Very fair, we get there about dusk.
Chap will be asleep,--all fair,--get him off quietly, and no
screaming,--happens beautiful,--I like to do everything quietly,--I hates all
kind of agitation and fluster." And
so, after a transfer of certain bills had passed from the man's pocket-book to
the trader's, he resumed his cigar.
It was a bright, tranquil evening when
the boat stopped at the wharf at Louisville.
The woman had been sitting with her baby in her arms, now wrapped in a
heavy sleep. When she heard the
name of the place called out, she hastily laid the child down in a little cradle
formed by the hollow among the boxes, first carefully spreading under it her
cloak; and then she sprung to the side of the boat, in hopes that, among the
various hotel-waiters who thronged the wharf, she might see her husband.
In this hope, she pressed forward to the front rails, and, stretching far
over them, strained her eyes intently on the moving heads on the shore, and the
crowd pressed in between her and the child.
"Now's your time," said Haley,
taking the sleeping child up, and handing him to the stranger.
"Don't wake him up, and set him to crying, now; it would make a
devil of a fuss with the gal." The man took the bundle carefully, and was
soon lost in the crowd that went up the wharf.
When the boat, creaking, and groaning,
and puffing, had loosed from the wharf, and was beginning slowly to strain
herself along, the woman returned to her old seat.
The trader was sitting there,--the child was gone!
"Why, why,--where?" she began,
in bewildered surprise.
"Lucy," said the trader,
"your child's gone; you may as well know it first as last.
You see, I know'd you couldn't take him down south; and I got a chance to
sell him to a first-rate family, that'll raise him better than you can."
The trader had arrived at that stage of
Christian and political perfection which has been recommended by some preachers
and politicians of the north, lately, in which he had completely overcome every
humane weakness and prejudice. His
heart was exactly where yours, sir, and mine could be brought, with proper
effort and cultivation. The wild
look of anguish and utter despair that the woman cast on him might have
disturbed one less practised; but he was used to it.
He had seen that same look hundreds of times. You can get used to such things, too, my friend; and it is
the great object of recent efforts to make our whole northern community used to
them, for the glory of the Union. So
the trader only regarded the mortal anguish which he saw working in those dark
features, those clenched hands, and suffocating breathings, as necessary
incidents of the trade, and merely calculated whether she was going to scream,
and get up a commotion on the boat; for, like other supporters of our peculiar
institution, he decidedly disliked agitation.
But the woman did not scream.
The shot had passed too straight and direct through the heart, for cry or
Dizzily she sat down.
Her slack hands fell lifeless by her side. Her
eyes looked straight forward, but she saw nothing.
All the noise and hum of the boat, the groaning of the machinery, mingled
dreamily to her bewildered ear; and the poor, dumb-stricken heart had neither
cry not tear to show for its utter misery.
She was quite calm.
The trader, who, considering his
advantages, was almost as humane as some of our politicians, seemed to feel
called on to administer such consolation as the case admitted of.
"I know this yer comes kinder hard,
at first, Lucy," said he; "but such a smart, sensible gal as you are,
won't give way to it. You see it's
_necessary_, and can't be helped!"
"O! don't, Mas'r, don't!" said
the woman, with a voice like one that is smothering.
"You're a smart wench, Lucy,"
he persisted; "I mean to do well by ye, and get ye a nice place down river;
and you'll soon get another husband,--such a likely gal as you--"
"O! Mas'r, if you _only_ won't talk
to me now," said the woman, in a voice of such quick and living anguish
that the trader felt that there was something at present in the case beyond his
style of operation. He got up, and
the woman turned away, and buried her head in her cloak.
The trader walked up and down for a
time, and occasionally stopped and looked at her.
"Takes it hard, rather," he
soliloquized, "but quiet, tho';--let her sweat a while; she'll come right,
by and by!"
Tom had watched the whole transaction
from first to last, and had a perfect understanding of its results.
To him, it looked like something unutterably horrible and cruel, because,
poor, ignorant black soul! he had not learned to generalize, and to take
enlarged views. If he had only been
instructed by certain ministers of Christianity, he might have thought better of
it, and seen in it an every-day incident of a lawful trade; a trade which is the
vital suport of an institution which an American divine tells us has
_"no evils but such as are inseparable from any other relations in social
and domestic life_." But Tom, as we see, being a poor, ignorant fellow, whose
reading had been confined entirely to the New Testament, could not comfort and
solace himself with views like these. His
very soul bled within him for what seemed to him the _wrongs_ of the poor
suffering thing that lay like a crushed reed on the boxes; the feeling, living,
bleeding, yet immortal _thing_, which American state law coolly classes with the
bundles, and bales, and boxes, among which she is lying.
 Dr. Joel
Parker of Philadelphia. [Mrs. Stowe's note.] Presbyterian clergyman (1799-1873),
a friend of the Beecher family. Mrs.
Stowe attempted unsuccessfully to have this identifying note removed from the
stereotype-plate of the first edition.
drew near, and tried to say something; but she only groaned.
Honestly, and with tears running down his own cheeks, he spoke of a heart
of love in the skies, of a pitying Jesus, and an eternal home; but the ear was
deaf with anguish, and the palsied heart could not feel.
Night came on,--night calm, unmoved, and
glorious, shining down with her innumerable and solemn angel eyes, twinkling,
beautiful, but silent. There was no
speech nor language, no pitying voice or helping hand, from that distant sky.
One after another, the voices of business or pleasure died away; all on
the boat were sleeping, and the ripples at the prow were plainly heard.
Tom stretched himself out on a box, and there, as he lay, he heard, ever
and anon, a smothered sob or cry from the prostrate creature,--"O! what
shall I do? O Lord!
O good Lord, do help me!" and so, ever and anon, until the murmur
died away in silence.
At midnight, Tom waked, with a sudden
start. Something black passed
quickly by him to the side of the boat, and he heard a splash in the water.
No one else saw or heard anything. He
raised his head,--the woman's place was vacant!
He got up, and sought about him in vain.
The poor bleeding heart was still, at last, and the river rippled and
dimpled just as brightly as if it had not closed above it.
Patience! patience! ye whose hearts
swell indignant at wrongs like these. Not
one throb of anguish, not one tear of the oppressed, is forgotten by the Man of
Sorrows, the Lord of Glory. In his
patient, generous bosom he bears the anguish of a world.
Bear thou, like him, in patience, and labor in love; for sure as he is
God, "the year of his redeemed _shall_ come."
The trader waked up bright and early,
and came out to see to his live stock. It
was now his turn to look about in perplexity.
"Where alive is that gal?" he
said to Tom.
Tom, who had learned the wisdom of
keeping counsel, did not feel called upon to state his observations and
suspicions, but said he did not know.
"She surely couldn't have got off
in the night at any of the landings, for I was awake, and on the lookout,
whenever the boat stopped. I never
trust these yer things to other folks."
This speech was addressed to Tom quite
confidentially, as if it was something that would be specially interesting to
him. Tom made no answer.
The trader searched the boat from stem
to stern, among boxes, bales and barrels, around the machinery, by the chimneys,
"Now, I say, Tom, be fair about
this yer," he said, when, after a fruitless search, he came where Tom was
standing. "You know something
about it, now. Don't tell me,--I
know you do. I saw the gal
stretched out here about ten o'clock, and ag'in at twelve, and ag'in between one
and two; and then at four she was gone, and you was a sleeping right there all
the time. Now, you know
something,--you can't help it."
"Well, Mas'r," said Tom,
"towards morning something brushed by me, and I kinder half woke; and then
I hearn a great splash, and then I clare woke up, and the gal was gone.
That's all I know on 't."
The trader was not shocked nor amazed;
because, as we said before, he was used to a great many things that you are not
used to. Even the awful presence of
Death struck no solemn chill upon him. He
had seen Death many times,--met him in the way of trade, and got acquainted with
him,--and he only thought of him as a hard customer, that embarrassed his
property operations very unfairly; and so he only swore that the gal was a
baggage, and that he was devilish unlucky, and that, if things went on in this
way, he should not make a cent on the trip.
In short, he seemed to consider himself an ill-used man, decidedly; but
there was no help for it, as the woman had escaped into a state which _never
will_ give up a fugitive,--not even at the demand of the whole glorious Union.
The trader, therefore, sat discontentedly down, with his little
account-book, and put down the missing body and soul under the head of _losses!_
"He's a shocking creature, isn't
he,--this trader? so unfeeling! It's
"O, but nobody thinks anything of
these traders! They are universally
despised,--never received into any decent society."
But who, sir, makes the trader?
Who is most to blame? The
enlightened, cultivated, intelligent man, who supports the system of which the
trader is the inevitable result, or the poor trader himself?
You make the public statement that calls for his trade, that debauches
and depraves him, till he feels no shame in it; and in what are you better than
Are you educated and he ignorant, you
high and he low, you refined and he coarse, you talented and he simple?
In the day of a future judgment, these
very considerations may make it more tolerable for him than for you.
In concluding these little incidents of
lawful trade, we must beg the world not to think that American legislators are
entirely destitute of humanity, as might, perhaps, be unfairly inferred from the
great efforts made in our national body to protect and perpetuate this species
Who does not know how our great men are
outdoing themselves, in declaiming against the _foreign_ slave-trade.
There are a perfect host of Clarksons and Wilberforces risen up among
us on that subject, most edifying to hear and behold.
Trading negroes from Africa, dear reader, is so horrid!
It is not to be thought of! But
trading them from Kentucky,--that's quite another thing!
Clarkson (1760-1846) and William Wilberforce (1759-1833), English
philanthropists and anti-slavery agitators who helped to secure passage of the
Emancipation Bill by Parliament in 1833.