Eliza made her desperate retreat across the river just in the
dusk of twilight. The gray mist of
evening, rising slowly from the river, enveloped her as she disappeared up the
bank, and the swollen current and floundering masses of ice presented a hopeless
barrier between her and her pursuer. Haley
therefore slowly and discontentedly returned to the little tavern, to ponder
further what was to be done. The
woman opened to him the door of a little parlor, covered with a rag carpet,
where stood a table with a very shining black oil-cloth, sundry lank,
high-backed wood chairs, with some plaster images in resplendent colors on the
mantel-shelf, above a very dimly-smoking grate; a long hard-wood settle extended
its uneasy length by the chimney, and here Haley sat him down to meditate on the
instability of human hopes and happiness in general.
"What did I want with the little
cuss, now," he said to himself, "that I should have got myself treed
like a coon, as I am, this yer way?" and Haley relieved himself by
repeating over a not very select litany of imprecations on himself, which,
though there was the best possible reason to consider them as true, we shall, as
a matter of taste, omit.
He was startled by the loud and
dissonant voice of a man who was apparently dismounting at the door.
He hurried to the window.
"By the land! if this yer an't the
nearest, now, to what I've heard folks call Providence," said Haley.
"I do b'lieve that ar's Tom Loker."
Haley hastened out.
Standing by the bar, in the corner of the room, was a brawny, muscular
man, full six feet in height, and broad in proportion.
He was dressed in a coat of buffalo-skin, made with the hair outward,
which gave him a shaggy and fierce appearance, perfectly in keeping with the
whole air of his physiognomy. In
the head and face every organ and lineament expressive of brutal and
unhesitating violence was in a state of the highest possible development.
Indeed, could our readers fancy a bull-dog come unto man's estate, and
walking about in a hat and coat, they would have no unapt idea of the general
style and effect of his physique. He
was accompanied by a travelling companion, in many respects an exact contrast to
himself. He was short and slender,
lithe and catlike in his motions, and had a peering, mousing expression about
his keen black eyes, with which every feature of his face seemed sharpened into
sympathy; his thin, long nose, ran out as if it was eager to bore into the
nature of things in general; his sleek, thin, black hair was stuck eagerly
forward, and all his motions and evolutions expressed a dry, cautious acuteness.
The great man poured out a big tumbler half full of raw spirits, and
gulped it down without a word. The
little man stood tiptoe, and putting his head first to one side and then the
other, and snuffing considerately in the directions of the various bottles,
ordered at last a mint julep, in a thin and quivering voice, and with an air of
great circumspection. When poured out, he took it and looked at it with a sharp,
complacent air, like,a man who thinks he has done about the right thing, and hit
the nail on the head, and proceeded to dispose of it in short and well-advised
"Wal, now, who'd a thought this yer
luck 'ad come to me? Why, Loker,
how are ye?" said Haley, coming forward, and extending his hand to the big
"The devil!" was the civil
reply. "What brought you here,
The mousing man, who bore the name of
Marks, instantly stopped his sipping, and, poking his head forward, looked
shrewdly on the new acquaintance, as a cat sometimes looks at a moving dry leaf,
or some other possible object of pursuit.
"I say, Tom, this yer's the
luckiest thing in the world. I'm in
a devil of a hobble, and you must help me out."
"Ugh? aw! like enough!"
grunted his complacent acquaintance. "A
body may be pretty sure of that, when _you're_ glad to see 'em; something to be
made off of 'em. What's the blow
"You've got a friend here?"
said Haley, looking doubtfully at Marks; "partner, perhaps?"
"Yes, I have.
Here, Marks! here's that ar feller that I was in with in Natchez."
"Shall be pleased with his
acquaintance," said Marks, thrusting out a long, thin hand, like a raven's
claw. "Mr. Haley, I
"The same, sir," said Haley.
"And now, gentlemen, seein' as we've met so happily, I think I'll
stand up to a small matter of a treat in this here parlor.
So, now, old coon," said he to the man at the bar, "get us hot
water, and sugar, and cigars, and plenty of the _real stuff_ and
we'll have a blow-out."
Behold, then, the candles lighted, the
fire stimulated to the burning point in the grate, and our three worthies seated
round a table, well spread with all the accessories to good fellowship
Haley began a pathetic recital of his
peculiar troubles. Loker shut up
his mouth, and listened to him with gruff and surly attention.
Marks, who was anxiously and with much fidgeting compounding a tumbler of
punch to his own peculiar taste, occasionally looked up from his employment,
and, poking his sharp nose and chin almost into Haley's face, gave the most
earnest heed to the whole narrative. The
conclusion of it appeared to amuse him extremely, for he shook his shoulders and
sides in silence, and perked up his thin lips with an air of great internal
"So, then, ye'r fairly sewed up,
an't ye?" he said; "he! he! he! It's
neatly done, too."
"This yer young-un business makes
lots of trouble in the trade," said Haley, dolefully.
"If we could get a breed of gals
that didn't care, now, for their young uns," said Marks; "tell ye, I
think 't would be 'bout the greatest mod'rn improvement I knows on,"--and
Marks patronized his joke by a quiet introductory sniggle.
"Jes so," said Haley; "I
never couldn't see into it; young uns is heaps of trouble to 'em; one would
think, now, they'd be glad to get clar on 'em; but they arn't.
And the more trouble a young un is, and the more good for nothing, as a
gen'l thing, the tighter they sticks to 'em."
"Wal, Mr. Haley," said Marks,
"'est pass the hot water. Yes,
sir, you say 'est what I feel and all'us have.
Now, I bought a gal once, when I was in the trade,--a tight, likely wench
she was, too, and quite considerable smart,--and she had a young un that was
mis'able sickly; it had a crooked back, or something or other; and I jest gin 't
away to a man that thought he'd take his chance raising on 't, being it didn't
cost nothin';--never thought, yer know, of the gal's taking' on about it,--but,
Lord, yer oughter seen how she went on. Why, re'lly, she did seem to me to valley the child more
'cause _'t was_ sickly and cross, and plagued her; and she warn't making
b'lieve, neither,--cried about it, she did, and lopped round, as if she'd lost
every friend she had. It re'lly was
droll to think on 't. Lord, there
ain't no end to women's notions."
"Wal, jest so with me," said
Haley. "Last summer, down on
Red river, I got a gal traded off on me, with a likely lookin' child enough, and
his eyes looked as bright as yourn; but, come to look, I found him stone blind.
Fact--he was stone blind. Wal,
ye see, I thought there warn't no harm in my jest passing him along, and not
sayin' nothin'; and I'd got him nicely swapped off for a keg o' whiskey; but
come to get him away from the gal, she was jest like a tiger.
So 't was before we started, and I hadn't got my gang chained up; so what
should she do but ups on a cotton-bale, like a cat, ketches a knife from one of
the deck hands, and, I tell ye, she made all fly for a minit, till she saw 't
wan't no use; and she jest turns round, and pitches head first, young un and
all, into the river,--went down plump, and never ris."
"Bah!" said Tom Loker, who had
listened to these stories with ill-repressed disgust,--"shif'less, both on
ye! _my_ gals don't cut up no such shines, I tell ye!"
"Indeed! how do you help it?"
said Marks, briskly.
"Help it? why, I buys a gal, and if
she's got a young un to be sold, I jest walks up and puts my fist to her face,
and says, `Look here, now, if you give me one word out of your head, I'll smash
yer face in. I won't hear one
word--not the beginning of a word.' I
says to 'em, `This yer young un's mine, and not yourn, and you've no kind o'
business with it. I'm going to sell
it, first chance; mind, you don't cut up none o' yer shines about it, or I'll
make ye wish ye'd never been born.' I
tell ye, they sees it an't no play, when I gets hold.
I makes 'em as whist as fishes; and if one on 'em begins and gives a
yelp, why,--" and Mr. Loker brought down his fist with a thump that fully
explained the hiatus.
"That ar's what ye may call
_emphasis_," said Marks, poking Haley in the side, and going into another
small giggle. "An't Tom
peculiar? he! he! I say, Tom, I s'pect you make 'em _understand_, for all
niggers' heads is woolly. They
don't never have no doubt o' your meaning, Tom.
If you an't the devil, Tom, you 's his twin brother, I'll say that for
Tom received the compliment with
becoming modesty, and began to look as affable as was consistent, as John Bunyan
says, "with his doggish nature."
Haley, who had been imbibing very freely
of the staple of the evening, began to feel a sensible elevation and enlargement
of his moral faculties,--a phenomenon not unusual with gentlemen of a serious
and reflective turn, under similar circumstances.
"Wal, now, Tom," he said,
"ye re'lly is too bad, as I al'ays have told ye; ye know, Tom, you and I
used to talk over these yer matters down in Natchez, and I used to prove to ye
that we made full as much, and was as well off for this yer world, by treatin'
on 'em well, besides keepin' a better chance for comin' in the kingdom at last,
when wust comes to wust, and thar an't nothing else left to get, ye know."
"Boh!" said Tom, "_don't_
I know?--don't make me too sick with any yer stuff,--my stomach is a leetle
riled now;" and Tom drank half a glass of raw brandy.
"I say," said Haley, and
leaning back in his chair and gesturing impressively, "I'll say this now, I
al'ays meant to drive my trade so as to make money on 't _fust and foremost_, as
much as any man; but, then, trade an't everything, and money an't everything,
'cause we 's all got souls. I don't
care, now, who hears me say it,--and I think a cussed sight on it,--so I may as
well come out with it. I b'lieve in
religion, and one of these days, when I've got matters tight and snug, I
calculates to tend to my soul and them ar matters; and so what's the use of
doin' any more wickedness than 's re'lly necessary?--it don't seem to me it's 't
"Tend to yer soul!" repeated
Tom, contemptuously; "take a bright lookout to find a soul in you,--save
yourself any care on that score. If
the devil sifts you through a hair sieve, he won't find one."
"Why, Tom, you're cross," said
Haley; "why can't ye take it pleasant, now, when a feller's talking for
"Stop that ar jaw o' yourn,
there," said Tom, gruffly. "I
can stand most any talk o' yourn but your pious talk,--that kills me right up.
After all, what's the odds between me and you?
'Tan't that you care one bit more, or have a bit more feelin'--it's
clean, sheer, dog meanness, wanting to cheat the devil and save your own skin;
don't I see through it? And your
`gettin' religion,' as you call it, arter all, is too p'isin mean for any
crittur;--run up a bill with the devil all your life, and then sneak out when
pay time comes! Bob!"
"Come, come, gentlemen, I say; this
isn't business," said Marks. "There's
different ways, you know, of looking at all subjects.
Mr. Haley is a very nice man, no doubt, and has his own conscience; and,
Tom, you have your ways, and very good ones, too, Tom; but quarrelling, you
know, won't answer no kind of purpose. Let's
go to business. Now, Mr. Haley,
what is it?--you want us to undertake to catch this yer gal?"
"The gal's no matter of
mine,--she's Shelby's; it's only the boy. I
was a fool for buying the monkey!"
"You're generally a fool!"
said Tom, gruffly.
"Come, now, Loker, none of your
huffs," said Marks, licking his lips; "you see, Mr. Haley 's a puttin'
us in a way of a good job, I reckon; just hold still--these yer arrangements is
my forte. This yer gal, Mr. Haley,
how is she? what is she?"
"Wal! white and handsome--well
brought up. I'd a gin Shelby eight
hundred or a thousand, and then made well on her."
"White and handsome--well brought
up!" said Marks, his sharp eyes, nose and mouth, all alive with enterprise.
"Look here, now, Loker, a beautiful opening.
We'll do a business here on our own account;--we does the catchin'; the
boy, of course, goes to Mr. Haley,--we takes the gal to Orleans to speculate on.
An't it beautiful?"
Tom, whose great heavy mouth had stood
ajar during this communication, now suddenly snapped it together, as a big dog
closes on a piece of meat, and seemed to be digesting the idea at his leisure.
"Ye see," said Marks to Haley,
stirring his punch as he did so, "ye see, we has justices convenient at all
p'ints along shore, that does up any little jobs in our line quite reasonable.
Tom, he does the knockin' down and that ar; and I come in all dressed
up--shining boots--everything first chop, when the swearin' 's to be done.
You oughter see, now," said Marks, in a glow of professional pride,
"how I can tone it off. One
day, I'm Mr. Twickem, from New
Orleans; 'nother day, I'm just come from my plantation on Pearl river, where I
works seven hundred niggers; then, again, I come out a distant relation of Henry
Clay, or some old cock in Kentuck. Talents
is different, you know. Now, Tom's
roarer when there's any thumping or fighting to be done; but at lying he an't
good, Tom an't,--ye see it don't come natural to him; but, Lord, if thar's a
feller in the country that can swear to anything and everything, and put in all
the circumstances and flourishes with a long face, and carry 't through better
'n I can, why, I'd like to see him, that's all! I b'lieve my heart, I could get
along and snake through, even if justices were more particular than they is.
Sometimes I rather wish they was more particular; 't would be a heap more
relishin' if they was,--more fun, yer know."
Tom Loker, who, as we have made it
appear, was a man of slow thoughts and movements, here interrupted Marks by
bringing his heavy fist down on the table, so as to make all ring again,
_"It'll do!"_ he said.
"Lord bless ye, Tom, ye needn't
break all the glasses!" said Marks; "save your fist for time o'
"But, gentlemen, an't I to come in
for a share of the profits?" said Haley.
"An't it enough we catch the boy
for ye?" said Loker. "What
do ye want?"
"Wal," said Haley, "if I
gives you the job, it's worth something,--say ten per cent. on the profits,
"Now," said Loker, with a
tremendous oath, and striking the table with his heavy fist, "don't I know
_you_, Dan Haley? Don't you think
to come it over me! Suppose Marks
and I have taken up the catchin' trade, jest to 'commodate gentlemen like you,
and get nothin' for ourselves?--Not by a long chalk! we'll have the gal out and
out, and you keep quiet, or, ye see, we'll have both,--what's to hinder?
Han't you show'd us the game? It's
as free to us as you, I hope. If
you or Shelby wants to chase us, look where the partridges was last year; if you
find them or us, you're quite welcome."
"O, wal, certainly, jest let it go
at that," said Haley, alarmed; "you catch the boy for the job;--you
allers did trade _far_ with me, Tom, and was up to yer word."
"Ye know that," said Tom;
"I don't pretend none of your snivelling ways, but I won't lie in my
'counts with the devil himself. What
I ses I'll do, I will do,--you know _that_, Dan Haley."
"Jes so, jes so,--I said so,
Tom," said Haley; "and if you'd only promise to have the boy for me in
a week, at any point you'll name, that's all I want."
"But it an't all I want, by a long
jump," said Tom. "Ye
don't think I did business with you, down in Natchez, for nothing, Haley; I've
learned to hold an eel, when I catch him. You've
got to fork over fifty dollars, flat down, or this child don't start a peg.
I know yer."
"Why, when you have a job in hand
that may bring a clean profit of somewhere about a thousand or sixteen hundred,
why, Tom, you're onreasonable," said Haley.
"Yes, and hasn't we business booked
for five weeks to come,--all we can do? And
suppose we leaves all, and goes to bush-whacking round arter yer young uns, and
finally doesn't catch the gal,--and gals allers is the devil _to_ catch,--what's
then? would you pay us a cent--would you? I
think I see you a doin' it--ugh! No,
no; flap down your fifty. If we get
the job, and it pays, I'll hand it back; if we don't, it's for our
trouble,--that's _far_, an't it, Marks?"
"Certainly, certainly," said
Marks, with a conciliatory tone; "it's only a retaining fee, you see,--he!
he! he!--we lawyers, you know. Wal,
we must all keep good-natured,--keep easy, yer know. Tom'll have the boy for yer, anywhere ye'll name; won't ye,
"If I find the young un, I'll bring
him on to Cincinnati, and leave him at Granny Belcher's, on the landing,"
Marks had got from his pocket a greasy
pocket-book, and taking a long paper from thence, he sat down, and fixing his
keen black eyes on it, began mumbling over its contents:
"Barnes--Shelby County--boy Jim, three hundred dollars for him, dead
"Edwards--Dick and Lucy--man and
wife, six hundred dollars; wench Polly and two children--six hundred for her or
"I'm jest a runnin' over our
business, to see if we can take up this yer handily.
Loker," he said, after a pause, "we must set Adams and Springer
on the track of these yer; they've been booked some time."
"They'll charge too much,"
"I'll manage that ar; they 's young
in the business, and must spect to work cheap," said Marks, as he continued
to read. "Ther's three on 'em
easy cases, 'cause all you've got to do is to shoot 'em, or swear they is shot;
they couldn't, of course, charge much for that.
Them other cases," he said, folding the paper, "will bear
puttin' off a spell. So now let's
come to the particulars. Now, Mr.
Haley, you saw this yer gal when she landed?"
"To be sure,--plain as I see
"And a man helpin' on her up the
bank?" said Loker.
"To be sure, I did."
"Most likely," said Marks,
"she's took in somewhere; but where, 's a question.
Tom, what do you say?"
"We must cross the river tonight,
no mistake," said Tom.
"But there's no boat about,"
said Marks. "The ice is
running awfully, Tom; an't it dangerous?"
"Don'no nothing 'bout that,--only
it's got to be done," said Tom, decidedly.
"Dear me," said Marks,
fidgeting, "it'll be--I say," he said, walking to the window,
"it's dark as a wolf's mouth, and, Tom--"
"The long and short is, you're
scared, Marks; but I can't help that,--you've got to go. Suppose you want to lie by a day or two, till the gal 's been
carried on the underground line up to Sandusky or so, before you start."
"O, no; I an't a grain
afraid," said Marks, "only--"
"Only what?" said Tom.
"Well, about the boat.
Yer see there an't any boat."
"I heard the woman say there was
one coming along this evening, and that a man was going to cross over in it.
Neck or nothing, we must go with him," said Tom.
"I s'pose you've got good
dogs," said Haley.
"First rate," said Marks.
"But what's the use? you han't got nothin' o' hers to smell
"Yes, I have," said Haley,
triumphantly. "Here's her
shawl she left on the bed in her hurry; she left her bonnet, too."
"That ar's lucky," said Loker;
"Though the dogs might damage the
gal, if they come on her unawars," said Haley.
"That ar's a consideration,"
said Marks. "Our dogs tore a
feller half to pieces, once, down in Mobile, 'fore we could get 'em off."
"Well, ye see, for this sort that's
to be sold for their looks, that ar won't answer, ye see," said Haley.
"I do see," said Marks.
"Besides, if she's got took in, 'tan't no go, neither.
Dogs is no 'count in these yer up states where these critters gets
carried; of course, ye can't get on their track.
They only does down in plantations, where niggers, when they runs, has to
do their own running, and don't get no help."
"Well," said Loker, who had
just stepped out to the bar to make some inquiries, "they say the man's
come with the boat; so, Marks--"
That worthy cast a rueful look at the
comfortable quarters he was leaving, but slowly rose to obey.
After exchanging a few words of further arrangement, Haley, with visible
reluctance, handed over the fifty dollars to Tom, and the worthy trio separated
for the night.
If any of our refined and Christian
readers object to the society into which this scene introduces them, let us beg
them to begin and conquer their prejudices in time.
The catching business, we beg to remind them, is rising to the dignity of
a lawful and patriotic profession. If
all the broad land between the Mississippi and the Pacific becomes one great
market for bodies and souls, and human property retains the locomotive
tendencies of this nineteenth century, the trader and catcher may yet be among
While this scene was going on at the tavern, Sam and Andy, in
a state of high felicitation, pursued their way home.
Sam was in the highest possible feather,
and expressed his exultation by all sorts of supernatural howls and
ejaculations, by divers odd motions and contortions of his whole system.
Sometimes he would sit backward, with his face to the horse's tail and
sides, and then, with a whoop and a somerset, come right side up in his place
again, and, drawing on a grave face, begin to lecture Andy in high-sounding
tones for laughing and playing the fool. Anon,
slapping his sides with his arms, he would burst forth in peals of laughter,
that made the old woods ring as they passed.
With all these evolutions, he contrived to keep the horses up to the top
of their speed, until, between ten and eleven, their heels resounded on the
gravel at the end of the balcony. Mrs.
Shelby flew to the railings.
"Is that you, Sam?
Where are they?"
"Mas'r Haley 's a-restin' at the
tavern; he's drefful fatigued, Missis."
"And Eliza, Sam?"
"Wal, she's clar 'cross Jordan.
As a body may say, in the land o' Canaan."
"Why, Sam, what _do_ you
mean?" said Mrs. Shelby, breathless, and almost faint, as the possible
meaning of these words came over her.
"Wal, Missis, de Lord he persarves
his own. Lizy's done gone over the
river into 'Hio, as 'markably as if de Lord took her over in a charrit of fire
and two hosses."
Sam's vein of piety was always
uncommonly fervent in his mistress' presence; and he made great capital of
scriptural figures and images.
"Come up here, Sam," said Mr.
Shelby, who had followed on to the verandah, "and tell your mistress what
she wants. Come, come, Emily,"
said he, passing his arm round her, "you are cold and all in a shiver; you
allow yourself to feel too much."
"Feel too much!
Am not I a woman,--a mother? Are
we not both responsible to God for this poor girl?
My God! lay not this sin to our charge."
"What sin, Emily?
You see yourself that we have only done what we were obliged to."
"There's an awful feeling of guilt
about it, though," said Mrs. Shelby. "I
can't reason it away."
"Here, Andy, you nigger, be
alive!" called Sam, under the verandah; "take these yer hosses to der
barn; don't ye hear Mas'r a callin'?" and Sam soon appeared, palm-leaf in
hand, at the parlor door.
"Now, Sam, tell us distinctly how
the matter was," said Mr. Shelby. "Where
is Eliza, if you know?"
"Wal, Mas'r, I saw her, with my own
eyes, a crossin' on the floatin' ice. She
crossed most 'markably; it wasn't no less nor a miracle; and I saw a man help
her up the 'Hio side, and then she was lost in the dusk."
"Sam, I think this rather
apocryphal,--this miracle. Crossing
on floating ice isn't so easily done," said Mr. Shelby.
"Easy! couldn't nobody a done it,
without de Lord. Why, now,"
said Sam, "'t was jist dis yer way. Mas'r
Haley, and me, and Andy, we comes up to de little tavern by the river, and I
rides a leetle ahead,--(I's so zealous to be a cotchin' Lizy, that I couldn't
hold in, no way),--and when I comes by the tavern winder, sure enough there she
was, right in plain sight, and dey diggin' on behind.
Wal, I loses off my hat, and sings out nuff to raise the dead.
Course Lizy she hars, and she dodges back, when Mas'r Haley he goes past
the door; and then, I tell ye, she clared out de side door; she went down de
river bank;--Mas'r Haley he seed her, and yelled out, and him, and me, and Andy,
we took arter. Down she come to the
river, and thar was the current running ten feet wide by the shore, and over t'
other side ice a sawin' and a jiggling up and down, kinder as 't were a great
island. We come right behind her,
and I thought my soul he'd got her sure enough,--when she gin sich a screech as
I never hearn, and thar she was, clar over t' other side of the current, on the
ice, and then on she went, a screeching and a jumpin',--the ice went crack!
c'wallop! cracking! chunk! and she a boundin' like a buck! Lord, the spring that ar gal's got in her an't common, I'm o'
Mrs. Shelby sat perfectly silent, pale
with excitement, while Sam told his story.
"God be praised, she isn't
dead!" she said; "but where is the poor child now?"
"De Lord will pervide," said
Sam, rolling up his eyes piously. "As
I've been a sayin', dis yer 's a providence and no mistake, as Missis has allers
been a instructin' on us. Thar's
allers instruments ris up to do de Lord's will. Now, if 't hadn't been for me today, she'd a been took a
dozen times. Warn't it I started
off de hosses, dis yer morning' and kept 'em chasin' till nigh dinner time?
And didn't I car Mas'r Haley night five miles out of de road, dis
evening, or else he'd a come up with Lizy as easy as a dog arter a coon.
These yer 's all providences."
"They are a kind of providences
that you'll have to be pretty sparing of, Master Sam. I allow no such practices with gentlemen on my place,"
said Mr. Shelby, with as much sternness as he could command, under the
Now, there is no more use in making
believe be angry with a negro than with a child; both instinctively see the true
state of the case, through all attempts to affect the contrary; and Sam was in
no wise disheartened by this rebuke, though he assumed an air of doleful
gravity, and stood with the corners of his mouth lowered in most penitential
"Mas'r quite right,--quite; it was
ugly on me,--there's no disputin' that ar; and of course Mas'r and Missis
wouldn't encourage no such works. I'm
sensible of dat ar; but a poor nigger like me 's 'mazin' tempted to act ugly
sometimes, when fellers will cut up such shines as dat ar Mas'r Haley; he an't
no gen'l'man no way; anybody's been raised as I've been can't help a seein' dat
"Well, Sam," said Mrs. Shelby,
"as you appear to have a proper sense of your errors, you may go now and
tell Aunt Chloe she may get you some of that cold ham that was left of dinner
today. You and Andy must be
"Missis is a heap too good for
us," said Sam, making his bow with alacrity, and departing.
It will be perceived, as has been before
intimated, that Master Sam had a native talent that might, undoubtedly, have
raised him to eminence in political life,--a talent of making capital out of
everything that turned up, to be invested for his own especial praise and glory;
and having done up his piety and humility, as he trusted, to the satisfaction of
the parlor, he clapped his palm-leaf on his head, with a sort of rakish,
free-and-easy air, and proceeded to the dominions of Aunt Chloe, with the
intention of flourishing largely in the kitchen.
"I'll speechify these yer
niggers," said Sam to himself, "now I've got a chance.
Lord, I'll reel it off to make 'em stare!"
It must be observed that one of Sam's
especial delights had been to ride in attendance on his master to all kinds of
political gatherings, where, roosted on some rail fence, or perched aloft in
some tree, he would sit watching the orators, with the greatest apparent gusto,
and then, descending among the various brethren of his own color, assembled on
the same errand, he would edify and delight them with the most ludicrous
burlesques and imitations, all delivered with the most imperturbable earnestness
and solemnity; and though the auditors immediately about him were generally of
his own color, it not unfrequently happened that they were fringed pretty deeply
with those of a fairer complexion, who listened, laughing and winking, to Sam's
great self-congratulation. In fact,
Sam considered oratory as his vocation, and never let slip an opportunity of
magnifying his office.
Now, between Sam and Aunt Chloe there
had existed, from ancient times, a sort of chronic feud, or rather a decided
coolness; but, as Sam was meditating something in the provision department, as
the necessary and obvious foundation of his operations, he determined, on the
present occasion, to be eminently conciliatory; for he well knew that although
"Missis' orders" would undoubtedly be followed to the letter, yet he
should gain a considerable deal by enlisting the spirit also.
He therefore appeared before Aunt Chloe with a touchingly subdued,
resigned expression, like one who has suffered immeasurable hardships in behalf
of a persecuted fellow-creature,--enlarged upon the fact that Missis had
directed him to come to Aunt Chloe for whatever might be wanting to make up the
balance in his solids and fluids,--and thus unequivocally acknowledged her right
and supremacy in the cooking department, and all thereto pertaining.
The thing took accordingly.
No poor, simple, virtuous body was ever cajoled by the attentions of an
electioneering politician with more ease than Aunt Chloe was won over by Master
Sam's suavities; and if he had been the prodigal son himself, he could not have
been overwhelmed with more maternal bountifulness; and he soon found himself
seated, happy and glorious, over a large tin pan, containing a sort of _olla
podrida_ of all that had appeared on the table for two or three days past.
Savory morsels of ham, golden blocks of corn-cake, fragments of pie of
every conceivable mathematical figure, chicken wings, gizzards, and drumsticks,
all appeared in picturesque confusion; and Sam, as monarch of all he surveyed,
sat with his palm-leaf cocked rejoicingly to one side, and patronizing Andy at
his right hand.
The kitchen was full of all his
compeers, who had hurried and crowded in, from the various cabins, to hear the
termination of the day's exploits. Now
was Sam's hour of glory. The story
of the day was rehearsed, with all kinds of ornament and varnishing which might
be necessary to heighten its effect; for Sam, like some of our fashionable
dilettanti, never allowed a story to lose any of its gilding by passing through
his hands. Roars of laughter
attended the narration, and were taken up and prolonged by all the smaller fry,
who were lying, in any quantity, about on the floor, or perched in every corner.
In the height of the uproar and laughter, Sam, however, preserved an
immovable gravity, only from time to time rolling his eyes up, and giving his
auditors divers inexpressibly droll glances, without departing from the
sententious elevation of his oratory.
"Yer see, fellow-countrymen,"
said Sam, elevating a turkey's leg, with energy, "yer see, now what dis yer
chile 's up ter, for fendin' yer all,--yes, all on yer.
For him as tries to get one o' our people is as good as tryin' to get
all; yer see the principle 's de same,--dat ar's clar.
And any one o' these yer drivers that comes smelling round arter any our
people, why, he's got _me_ in his way; _I'm_ the feller he's got to set in
with,--I'm the feller for yer all to come to, bredren,--I'll stand up for yer
rights,--I'll fend 'em to the last breath!"
"Why, but Sam, yer telled me, only
this mornin', that you'd help this yer Mas'r to cotch Lizy; seems to me yer talk
don't hang together," said Andy.
"I tell you now, Andy," said
Sam, with awful superiority, "don't yer be a talkin' 'bout what yer don't
know nothin' on; boys like you, Andy, means well, but they can't be spected to
collusitate the great principles of action."
Andy looked rebuked, particularly by the
hard word collusitate, which most of the youngerly members of the company seemed
to consider as a settler in the case, while Sam proceeded.
"Dat ar was _conscience_, Andy;
when I thought of gwine arter Lizy, I railly spected Mas'r was sot dat way.
When I found Missis was sot the contrar, dat ar was conscience _more
yet_,--cause fellers allers gets more by stickin' to Missis' side,--so yer see I
's persistent either way, and sticks up to conscience, and holds on to
_principles_," said Sam, giving an enthusiastic toss to a chicken's
neck,--"what's principles good for, if we isn't persistent, I wanter know?
Thar, Andy, you may have dat ar bone,--tan't picked quite clean."
Sam's audience hanging on his words with
open mouth, he could not but proceed.
"Dis yer matter 'bout persistence,
feller-niggers," said Sam, with the air of one entering into an abstruse
subject, "dis yer 'sistency 's a thing what an't seed into very clar, by
most anybody. Now, yer see, when a
feller stands up for a thing one day and night, de contrar de next, folks ses
(and nat'rally enough dey ses), why he an't persistent,--hand me dat ar bit o'
corn-cake, Andy. But let's look
inter it. I hope the gen'lmen and
der fair sex will scuse my usin' an or'nary sort o' 'parison. Here! I'm a
trying to get top o' der hay. Wal,
I puts up my larder dis yer side; 'tan't no go;--den, cause I don't try dere no
more, but puts my larder right de contrar side, an't I persistent?
I'm persistent in wantin' to get up which ary side my larder is; don't
you see, all on yer?"
"It's the only thing ye ever was
persistent in, Lord knows!" muttered Aunt Chloe, who was getting rather
restive; the merriment of the evening being to her somewhat after the Scripture
comparison,--like "vinegar upon nitre."
"Yes, indeed!" said Sam,
rising, full of supper and glory, for a closing effort. "Yes, my feller-citizens and ladies of de other sex in
general, I has principles,--I'm proud to 'oon 'em,--they 's perquisite to dese
yer times, and ter _all_ times. I
has principles, and I sticks to 'em like forty,--jest anything that I thinks is
principle, I goes in to 't;--I wouldn't mind if dey burnt me 'live,--I'd walk
right up to de stake, I would, and say, here I comes to shed my last blood fur
my principles, fur my country, fur de gen'l interests of society."
"Well," said Aunt Chloe,
"one o' yer principles will have to be to get to bed some time tonight, and
not be a keepin' everybody up till mornin'; now, every one of you young uns that
don't want to be cracked, had better be scase, mighty sudden."
"Niggers! all on yer," said
Sam, waving his palm-leaf with benignity, "I give yer my blessin'; go to
bed now, and be good boys."
And, with this pathetic benediction, the