CHAPTER. XXXII. DARK PLACES.
TRAILING wearily behind a rude wagon, and over a ruder road, Tom and his associates faced onward. In the wagon was seated Simon Legree; Em and a mulatto woman, fettered together, were stowed away with some baggage in the back part of it, and the whole company were seeking Legree's plantation, which lay a good distance off.
Simon rode on, however, apparently well pleased, occasionally pulling away at a flask of spirit, which he kept in his pocket.
The wagon rolled up a weedy gravel walk, under a noble avenue of China trees, and stopped in front of a house which had been large and handsome, but now looked desolate and uncomfortable.
Bits of board, straw, old decayed barrels and boxes, garnished
the ground in all directions; and three or four ferocious-looking
dogs, roused by the sound of the wagon-wheels, came tearing out, and
were with difficulty restrained from laying hold of Tom and his
companions, by the effort of the ragged servants who came after them.
"Ye see what ye'd get!" said Legree, caressing the dogs with grim
satisfaction. "Ye see what ye'd get, if ye try
to run off. These yer dogs has been raised to track niggers; and they'd jest as soon chaw one on ye up as eat their supper. So, mind yerself! How now, Sambo!" he said, to a ragged fellow, without any brim to his hat; who was officious in his attentions. "How have things been going?"
"Fuse rate, Mas'r."
"Quimbo," said Legree to another, who was making
zealous demonstrations to attract his attention, "ye minded what I telled ye?"
"Guess I did, didn't I?"
These two colored men were the two principal hands on the plantation. Legree had trained them in savageness and brutality as systematically as he had his bull-dogs; and, by long practice in hardness and cruelty, brought their whole nature to about the same range of capacities. Sambo and Quimbo cordially hated each other; the plantation hands, one and all, cordially hated them, and, by playing off one against another, he was pretty sure, through one or the other of the three parties, to get informed of whatever was on foot in the place.
"Here, you Sambo," said Legree, "take these yer boys down to the quarters; and here's a gal I've got for you," said he, as he separated the mulatto woman from Emmeline, and pushed her towards him; "I promised to bring you one, you know."
The woman gave a sudden start, and, drawing back, said suddenly.
"O, Mas'r! I left my old man in New Orleans."
"What of that? None o' your words,—go long!" said Legree, raising his whip.
"Come, mistress," he said to Emmeline, "you go in here with me."
A dark, wild face was seen, for a moment, to glance at the window
of the house; and, as Legree opened the door, a female voice said
something, in a quick, imperative tone. Tom, who was looking, with
anxious interest, after Emmeline, as she went in, noticed this, and
heard Legree answer,
Tom heard no more; for he was soon following Sambo to the quarters. The quarters was a little sort of street of rude shanties, in a row, in a part of the plantation, far off from the house. They had a forlorn, brutal, forsaken air.
"Which of these will be mine?" said he, to Sambo, submissively.
"Dunno; ken turn in here, I spose," said Sambo; "spects thar's room for another thar; thar's a pretty smart heap o' niggers to each on 'em, now; sure, I dunno what I's to do with more."
It was late in the evening when the weary occupants of the shanties came flocking home, and began to contend for the hand-mills where their morsel of hard corn was yet to be ground into meal, to fit it for the cake that was to constitute their only supper. Tom looked in vain among the gang, as they poured along, for companionable faces. He saw only sullen, scowling, imbruted men, and feeble, discouraged women.
Tom was hungry with his day's journey, and almost faint for want of food.
"Thar, yo!" said Quimbo, throwing down a coarse bag, which contained a peck of corn; "thar, nigger, grab, take car on 't,—yo won't get no more, dis yer week."
Tom waited till a late hour, to get a place at the mills; and
then, moved by the utter weariness of two women, whom he saw trying
to grind their corn there, he ground for them, put together the
decaying brands of the fire, where many had baked cakes before them,
and then went
about getting his own supper. It was a new kind of work there,—a deed of charity, small is it was; but it woke all answering touch in their hearts,—an expression of womanly kindness came over their hard faces; they mixed his cake for him, and tended its baking; and Tom sat down by the light of the fire, and drew out his Bible,—for he had need of comfort.
"What's that?" said one of the women.
"Why, the Bible."
"Laws a me! what's dat?" said another woman.
"Do tell! you never hearn on 't?" said the other woman.
"I used to har Missis a readin' on 't, sometimes, in Kentuck; but, laws o' me! we don't har nothin' here but crackin' and swarin'."
"Read a piece, anyways!" said the first woman, curiously, seeing Tom attentively poring over it.
Tom read,—"Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
"I jest wish I know'd whir to find Him," said the woman. "I would go; 'pears like I never should get rested agin. My flesh is fairly sore, and I tremble all over, every day, and Sambo 's allers a jawin' at me, 'cause I doesn't pick faster. If I knew whar de Lor' was, I'd tell Him."
"He's here, he's everywhere," said Tom.
"Lor, you an't gwine to make me believe dat ar! I know de Lord an't here," said the woman; "'tan't no use talking, though. I's jest gwine to camp down, and sleep while I ken."
The women went off to their cabins, and Tom sat alone, by the smouldering fire, that flickered up redly in his face.