"The way of the wicked is as
darkness; he knoweth not at what he stumbleth."
 Prov. 4:19.
garret of the house that Legree occupied, like most other garrets, was a great,
desolate space, dusty, hung with cobwebs, and littered with cast-off lumber.
The opulent family that had inhabited the house in the days of its
splendor had imported a great deal of splendid furniture, some of which they had
taken away with them, while some remained standing desolate in mouldering,
unoccupied rooms, or stored away in this place.
One or two immense packing-boxes, in which this furniture was brought,
stood against the sides of the garret. There
was a small window there, which let in, through its dingy, dusty panes, a
scanty, uncertain light on the tall, high-backed chairs and dusty tables, that
had once seen better days. Altogether,
it was a weird and ghostly place; but, ghostly as it was, it wanted not in
legends among the superstitious negroes, to increase it terrors.
Some few years before, a negro woman, who had incurred Legree's
displeasure, was confined there for several weeks. What passed there, we do not say; the negroes used to whisper
darkly to each other; but it was known that the body of the unfortunate creature
was one day taken down from there, and buried; and, after that, it was said that
oaths and cursings, and the sound of violent blows, used to ring through that
old garret, and mingled with wailings and groans of despair.
Once, when Legree chanced to overhear something of this kind, he flew
into a violent passion, and swore that the next one that told stories about that
garret should have an opportunity of knowing what was there, for he would chain
them up there for a week. This hint was enough to repress talking, though, of course,
it did not disturb the credit of the story in the least.
Gradually, the staircase that led to the
garret, and even the passage-way to the staircase, were avoided by every one in
the house, from every one fearing to speak of it, and the legend was gradually
falling into desuetude. It had
suddenly occurred to Cassy to make use of the superstitious excitability, which
was so great in Legree, for the purpose of her liberation, and that of her
The sleeping-room of Cassy was directly
under the garret. One day, without
consulting Legree, she suddenly took it upon her, with some considerable
ostentation, to change all the furniture and appurtenances of the room to one at
some considerable distance. The
under-servants, who were called on to effect this movement, were running and
bustling about with great zeal and confusion, when Legree returned from a ride.
"Hallo! you Cass!" said
Legree, "what's in the wind now?"
"Nothing; only I choose to have
another room," said Cassy, doggedly.
"And what for, pray?" said
"I choose to," said Cassy.
"The devil you do! and what
"I'd like to get some sleep, now
"Sleep! well, what hinders your
"I could tell, I suppose, if you
want to hear," said Cassy, dryly.
"Speak out, you minx!" said
"O! nothing. I suppose it wouldn't disturb _you!_ Only groans, and people scuffing, and rolling round on the
garre, floor, half the night, from twelve to morning!"
"People up garret!" said
Legree, uneasily, but forcing a laugh; "who are they, Cassy?"
Cassy raised her sharp, black eyes, and
looked in the face of Legree, with an expression that went through his bones, as
she said, "To be sure, Simon, who are they? I'd like to have _you_ tell me.
You don't know, I suppose!"
With an oath, Legree struck at her with
his riding-whip; but she glided to one side, and passed through the door, and
looking back, said, "If you'll sleep in that room, you'll know all about
it. Perhaps you'd better try
it!" and then immediately she shut and locked the door.
Legree blustered and swore, and
threatened to break down the door; but apparently thought better of it, and
walked uneasily into the sitting-room. Cassy
perceived that her shaft had struck home; and, from that hour, with the most
exquisite address, she never ceased to continue the train of influences she had
In a knot-hole of the garret, that had
opened, she had inserted the neck of an old bottle, in such a manner that when
there was the least wind, most doleful and lugubrious wailing sounds proceeded
from it, which, in a high wind, increased to a perfect shriek, such as to
credulous and superstitious ears might easily seem to be that of horror and
These sounds were, from time to time,
heard by the servants, and revived in full force the memory of the old ghost
legend. A superstitious creeping
horror seemed to fill the house; and though no one dared to breathe it to
Legree, he found himself encompassed by it, as by an atmosphere.
No one is so thoroughly superstitious as
the godless man. The Christian is
composed by the belief of a wise, all-ruling Father, whose presence fills the
void unknown with light and order; but to the man who has dethroned God, the
spirit-land is, indeed, in the words of the Hebrew poet, "a land of
darkness and the shadow of death," without any order, where the light is as
darkness. Life and death to him are
haunted grounds, filled with goblin forms of vague and shadowy dread.
Legree had had the slumbering moral
elements in him roused by his encounters with Tom,--roused, only to be resisted
by the determinate force of evil; but still there was a thrill and commotion of
the dark, inner world, produced by every word, or prayer, or hymn, that reacted
in superstitious dread.
The influence of Cassy over him was of a
strange and singular kind. He was
her owner, her tyrant and tormentor. She
was, as he knew, wholly, and without any possibility of help or redress, in his
hands; and yet so it is, that the most brutal man cannot live in constant
association with a strong female influence, and not be greatly controlled by it.
When he first bought her, she was, as she said, a woman delicately bred;
and then he crushed her, without scruple, beneath the foot of his brutality.
But, as time, and debasing influences, and despair, hardened womanhood
within her, and waked the fires of fiercer passions, she had become in a measure
his mistress, and he alternately tyrannized over and dreaded her.
This influence had become more harassing
and decided, since partial insanity had given a strange, weird, unsettled cast
to all her words and language.
A night or two after this, Legree was
sitting in the old sitting-room, by the side of a flickering wood fire, that
threw uncertain glances round the room. It
was a stormy, windy night, such as raises whole squadrons of nondescript noises
in rickety old houses. Windows were
rattling, shutters flapping, and wind carousing, rumbling, and tumbling down the
chimney, and, every once in a while, puffing out smoke and ashes, as if a legion
of spirits were coming after them. Legree
had been casting up accounts and reading newspapers for some hours, while Cassy
sat in the corner; sullenly looking into the fire.
Legree laid down his paper, and seeing an old book lying on the table,
which he had noticed Cassy reading, the first part of the evening, took it up,
and began to turn it over. It was
one of those collections of stories of bloody murders, ghostly legends, and
supernatural visitations, which, coarsely got up and illustrated, have a strange
fascination for one who once begins to read them.
Legree poohed and pished, but read,
turning page after page, till, finally, after reading some way, he threw down
the book, with an oath.
"You don't believe in ghosts, do
you, Cass?" said he, taking the tongs and settling the fire.
"I thought you'd more sense than to let noises scare _you_."
"No matter what I believe,"
said Cassy, sullenly.
"Fellows used to try to frighten me
with their yarns at sea," said Legree.
"Never come it round me that way.
I'm too tough for any such trash, tell ye."
Cassy sat looking intensely at him in
the shadow of the corner. There was
that strange light in her eyes that always impressed Legree with uneasiness.
"Them noises was nothing but rats
and the wind," said Legree. "Rats
will make a devil of a noise. I
used to hear 'em sometimes down in the hold of the ship; and wind,--Lord's sake!
ye can make anything out o' wind."
Cassy knew Legree was uneasy under her
eyes, and, therefore, she made no answer, but sat fixing them on him, with that
strange, unearthly expression, as before.
"Come, speak out, woman,--don't you
think so?" said Legree.
"Can rats walk down stairs, and
come walking through the entry, and open a door when you've locked it and set a
chair against it?" said Cassy; "and come walk, walk, walking right up
to your bed, and put out their hand, so?"
Cassy kept her glittering eyes fixed on
Legree, as she spoke, and he stared at her like a man in the nightmare, till,
when she finished by laying her hand, icy cold, on his, he sprung back, with an
"Woman! what do you mean?
"O, no,--of course not,--did I say
they did?" said Cassy, with a smile of chilling derision.
"But--did--have you really
seen?--Come, Cass, what is it, now,--speak out!"
"You may sleep there,
yourself," said Cassy, "if you want to know."
"Did it come from the garret,
"_It_,--what?" said Cassy.
"Why, what you told of--"
"I didn't tell you anything,"
said Cassy, with dogged sullenness.
Legree walked up and down the room,
"I'll have this yer thing examined.
I'll look into it, this very night.
I'll take my pistols--"
"Do," said Cassy; "sleep
in that room. I'd like to see you
doing it. Fire your
Legree stamped his foot, and swore
"Don't swear," said Cassy;
"nobody knows who may be hearing you.
Hark! What was that?"
"What?" said Legree, starting.
A heavy old Dutch clock, that stood in
the corner of the room, began, and slowly struck twelve.
For some reason or other, Legree neither
spoke nor moved; a vague horror fell on him; while Cassy, with a keen, sneering
glitter in her eyes, stood looking at him, counting the strokes.
"Twelve o'clock; well _now_ we'll
see," said she, turning, and opening the door into the passage-way, and
standing as if listening.
"Hark! What's that?" said she, raising her finger.
"It's only the wind," said
Legree. "Don't you hear how
cursedly it blows?"
"Simon, come here," said
Cassy, in a whisper, laying her hand on his, and leading him to the foot of the
stairs: "do you know what _that_ is? Hark!"
A wild shriek came pealing down the
stairway. It came from the garret.
Legree's knees knocked together; his face grew white with fear.
"Hadn't you better get your
pistols?" said Cassy, with a sneer that froze Legree's blood.
"It's time this thing was looked into, you know.
I'd like to have you go up now; _they're at it_."
"I won't go!" said Legree,
with an oath.
"Why not? There an't any such thing as ghosts, you know!
Come!" and Cassy flitted up the winding stairway, laughing, and
looking back after him. "Come on."
"I believe you _are_ the
devil!" said Legree. "Come
back you hag,--come back, Cass! You
But Cassy laughed wildly, and fled on.
He heard her open the entry doors that led to the garret.
A wild gust of wind swept down, extinguishing the candle he held in his
hand, and with it the fearful, unearthly screams; they seemed to be shrieked in
his very ear.
Legree fled frantically into the parlor,
whither, in a few moments, he was followed by Cassy, pale, calm, cold as an
avenging spirit, and with that same fearful light in her eye.
"I hope you are satisfied,"
"Blast you, Cass!" said
"What for?" said Cassy.
"I only went up and shut the doors.
_What's the matter with that garret_, Simon, do you suppose?" said
"None of your business!" said
"O, it an't? Well," said Cassy, "at any rate, I'm glad _I_ don't
sleep under it."
Anticipating the rising of the wind,
that very evening, Cassy had been up and opened the garret window.
Of course, the moment the doors were opened, the wind had drafted down,
and extinguished the light.
This may serve as a specimen of the game
that Cassy played with Legree, until he would sooner have put his head into a
lion's mouth than to have explored that garret. Meanwhile, in the night, when everybody else was asleep,
Cassy slowly and carefully accumulated there a stock of provisions sufficient to
afford subsistence for some time; she transferred, article by article, a greater
part of her own and Emmeline's wardrobe. All things being arranged, they only waited a fitting
opportunity to put their plan in execution.
By cajoling Legree, and taking advantage
of a good-natured interval, Cassy had got him to take her with him to the
neighboring town, which was situated directly on the Red river.
With a memory sharpened to almost preternatural clearness, she remarked
every turn in the road, and formed a mental estimate of the time to be occupied
in traversing it.
At the time when all was matured for
action, our readers may, perhaps, like to look behind the scenes, and see the
final _coup d'etat_.
It was now near evening, Legree had been
absent, on a ride to a neighboring farm. For
many days Cassy had been unusually gracious and accommodating in her humors; and
Legree and she had been, apparently, on the best of terms.
At present, we may behold her and Emmeline in the room of the latter,
busy in sorting and arranging two small bundles.
"There, these will be large
enough," said Cassy. Now put
on your bonnet, and let's start; it's just about the right time."
"Why, they can see us yet,"
"I mean they shall," said
Cassy, coolly. "Don't you know
that they must have their chase after us, at any rate?
The way of the thing is to be just this:--We will steal out of the back
door, and run down by the quarters. Sambo
or Quimbo will be sure to see us. They
will give chase, and we will get into the swamp; then, they can't follow us any
further till they go up and give the alarm, and turn out the dogs, and so on;
and, while they are blundering round, and tumbling over each other, as they
always do, you and I will slip along to the creek, that runs back of the house,
and wade along in it, till we get opposite the back door.
That will put the dogs all at fault; for scent won't lie in the water.
Every one will run out of the house to look after us, and then we'll whip
in at the back door, and up into the garret, where I've got a nice bed made up
in one of the great boxes. We must
stay in that garret a good while, for, I tell you, he will raise heaven and
earth after us. He'll muster some
of those old overseers on the other plantations, and have a great hunt; and
they'll go over every inch of ground in that swamp. He makes it his boast that nobody ever got away from him.
So let him hunt at his leisure."
"Cassy, how well you have planned
it!" said Emmeline. "Who
ever would have thought of it, but you?"
There was neither pleasure nor
exultation in Cassy's eyes,--only a despairing firmness.
"Come," she said, reaching her
hand to Emmeline.
The two fugitives glided noiselessly
from the house, and flitted, through the gathering shadows of evening, along by
the quarters. The crescent moon,
set like a silver signet in the western sky, delayed a little the approach of
night. As Cassy expected, when
quite near the verge of the swamps that encircled the plantation, they heard a
voice calling to them to stop. It
was not Sambo, however, but Legree, who was pursuing them with violent
execrations. At the sound, the
feebler spirit of Emmeline gave way; and, laying hold of Cassy's arm, she said,
"O, Cassy, I'm going to faint!"
"If you do, I'll kill you!"
said Cassy, drawing a small, glittering stiletto, and flashing it before the
eyes of the girl.
The diversion accomplished the purpose.
Emmeline did not faint, and succeeded in plunging, with Cassy, into a
part of the labyrinth of swamp, so deep and dark that it was perfectly hopeless
for Legree to think of following them, without assistance.
"Well," said he, chuckling
brutally; "at any rate, they've got themselves into a trap now--the
baggage! They're safe enough.
They shall sweat for it!"
"Hulloa, there! Sambo! Quimbo!
All hands!" called Legree, coming to the quarters, when the men and
women were just returning from work. "There's
two runaways in the swamps. I'll
give five dollars to any nigger as catches 'em.
Turn out the dogs! Turn out
Tiger, and Fury, and the rest!"
The sensation produced by this news was
immediate. Many of the men sprang
forward, officiously, to offer their services, either from the hope of the
reward, or from that cringing subserviency which is one of the most baleful
effects of slavery. Some ran one
way, and some another. Some were
for getting flambeaux of pine-knots. Some
were uncoupling the dogs, whose hoarse, savage bay added not a little to the
animation of the scene.
"Mas'r, shall we shoot 'em, if
can't cotch 'em?" said Sambo, to whom his master brought out a rifle.
"You may fire on Cass, if you like;
it's time she was gone to the devil, where she belongs; but the gal, not,"
said Legree. "And now, boys,
be spry and smart. Five dollars for
him that gets 'em; and a glass of spirits to every one of you, anyhow."
The whole band, with the glare of
blazing torches, and whoop, and shout, and savage yell, of man and beast,
proceeded down to the swamp, followed, at some distance, by every servant in the
house. The establishment
was, of a consequence, wholly deserted, when Cassy and Emmeline glided into it
the back way. The whooping and
shouts of their pursuers were still filling the air; and, looking from the
sitting-room windows, Cassy and Emmeline could see the troop, with their
flambeaux, just dispersing themselves along the edge of the swamp.
"See there!" said Emmeline,
pointing to Cassy; "the hunt is begun!
Look how those lights dance about! Hark!
the dogs! Don't you hear?
If we were only _there_, our chances wouldn't be worth a picayune.
O, for pity's sake, do let's hide ourselves. Quick!"
"There's no occasion for
hurry," said Cassy, coolly; "they are all out after the hunt,--that's
the amusement of the evening! We'll
go up stairs, by and by. Meanwhile,"
said she, deliberately taking a key from the pocket of a coat that Legree had
thrown down in his hurry, "meanwhile I shall take something to pay our
She unlocked the desk, took from it a
roll of bills, which she counted over rapidly.
"O, don't let's do that!" said
"Don't!" said Cassy; "why
not? Would you have us starve in
the swamps, or have that that will pay our way to the free states.
Money will do anything, girl." And, as she spoke, she put the money
in her bosom.
"It would be stealing," said
Emmeline, in a distressed whisper.
"Stealing!" said Cassy, with a
scornful laugh. "They who
steal body and soul needn't talk to us. Every
one of these bills is stolen,--stolen from poor, starving, sweating creatures,
who must go to the devil at last, for his profit. Let _him_ talk about stealing!
But come, we may as well go up garret; I've got a stock of candles there,
and some books to pass away the time. You
may be pretty sure they won't come _there_ to inquire after us.
If they do, I'll play ghost for them."
When Emmeline reached the garret, she
found an immense box, in which some heavy pieces of furniture had once been
brought, turned on its side, so that the opening faced the wall, or rather the
eaves. Cassy lit a small lamp, and
creeping round under the eaves, they established themselves in it.
It was spread with a couple of small mattresses and some pillows; a box
near by was plentifully stored with candles, provisions, and all the clothing
necessary to their journey, which Cassy had arranged into bundles of an
astonishingly small compass.
"There," said Cassy, as she
fixed the lamp into a small hook, which she had driven into the side of the box
for that purpose; "this is to be our home for the present.
How do you like it?"
"Are you sure they won't come and
search the garret?"
"I'd like to see Simon Legree doing
that," said Cassy. "No,
indeed; he will be too glad to keep away. As
to the servants, they would any of them stand and be shot, sooner than show
their faces here."
Somewhat reassured, Emmeline settled
herself back on her pillow.
"What did you mean, Cassy, by
saying you would kill me?" she said, simply.
"I meant to stop your
fainting," said Cassy, "and I did do it.
And now I tell you, Emmeline, you must make up your mind _not_ to faint,
let what will come; there's no sort of need of it.
If I had not stopped you, that wretch might have had his hands on you
The two remained some time in silence.
Cassy busied herself with a French book; Emmeline, overcome with the
exhaustion, fell into a doze, and slept some time.
She was awakened by loud shouts and outcries, the tramp of horses' feet,
and the baying of dogs. She started
up, with a faint shriek.
"Only the hunt coming back,"
said Cassy, coolly; "never fear. Look
out of this knot-hole. Don't you
see 'em all down there? Simon has
to give up, for this night. Look,
how muddy his horse is, flouncing about in the swamp; the dogs, too, look rather
crestfallen. Ah, my good sir,
you'll have to try the race again and again,--the game isn't there."
"O, don't speak a word!" said
Emmeline; "what if they should hear you?"
"If they do hear anything, it will
make them very particular to keep away," said Cassy.
"No danger; we may make any noise we please, and it will only add to
At length the stillness of midnight
settled down over the house. Legree,
cursing his ill luck, and vowing dire vengeance on the morrow, went to bed.