CHAPTER XLII. AN AUTHENTIC GHOST STORY.
THE night after Tom's body had been carried away, Legree rode to the next town for a carouse, and had a high one. Got home late and tired; locked his door, took out the key, and went to bed. He slept soundly, but finally, there came over his sleep a shadow, a horror, an apprehension of something dreadful hanging over him. It was his mother's shroud, he thought; but Cassy had it, holding it up, and showing it to him. He heard a confused noise of screams and groanings; and, with it all, he knew he was asleep, and he struggled to wake himself. He was half awake. He was sure something was coming into his room. He knew the door was opening, but he could not stir hand or foot. At last he turned, with a start; the door was open, and he saw a hand putting out his light.
It was a cloudy, misty moonlight, and there he saw it!—something
white gliding in! He heard the still rustle of its ghostly garments.
It stood still by his bed;—a cold hand touched his; a voice said,
three times, in a low, fearful whisper, "Come! come! come!" And,
while he lay sweating with terror, he knew not when or how the thing
was gone. He sprang out of bed, and pulled at the door.
It was shut and locked, and the man fell down in a swoon.
After this, Legree became a harder drinker than ever before. He no longer drank cautiously, prudently, but imprudently and recklessly.
By a singular coincidence, on the very night that this vision appeared to Legree, the house-door was found open in the morning, and some of the negroes had seen two white figures gliding down the avenue towards the high-road.
It was near sunrise when Cassy and Emmeline paused, for a moment, in a little knot of trees near the town.
Cassy was dressed after the manner of the Creole Spanish ladies, wholly in black. A small black bonnet on her head, covered by a veil thick with embroidery, concealed her face. It had been agreed that, in their escape, she was to personate the character of a Creole lady, and Emmeline that of her servant.
Brought up, from early life, in connection with the highest society, the language, movements and air of Cassy, were all in agreement with this idea; and she had still enough remaining with her, of a once splendid wardrobe, and sets of jewels, to enable her to personate the thing to advantage.
She stopped in the outskirts of the town, where she had noticed trunks for sale, and purchased a handsome one. This she requested the man to send along with her. And, accordingly, thus escorted by a boy wheeling her trunk, and Emmeline behind her, carrying her carpet-bag and sundry bundles, she made her appearance at the small tavern, like a lady of consideration.
The first person that struck her, after her arrival, was George Shelby, who was staying there, awaiting the next boat.
Towards evening, a boat arrived, and George handed Cassy aboard, with the politeness of a Kentuckian, and exerted himself to provide her with a good state-room.
Cassy kept her room and bed, on pretext of illness, during the whole time they were on Red River; and was waited on, with obsequious devotion, by her attendant.
When they arrived at the Mississippi river, George,
having learned that the course of the strange lady was upward, like his own, proposed to take a state-room for her on the same boat with himself, and the whole party was transferred to the good steamer Cincinnati.
From the moment that George got the first glimpse of her face, he was troubled with one of those fleeting and indefinite likenesses, which almost everybody can remember, and has been, at times perplexed with. He could not keep himself from looking at her, and watching her perpetually.
Cassy became uneasy, and finally resolved to throw herself entirely on his generosity, and intrusted him with her whole history.
George was heartily disposed to sympathize with her, and assured her that he would do all in his power to protect her.
The next state-room to Cassy's was occupied by a French lady, named De Thoux, who was accompanied by a fine little daughter, a child of some twelve summers.
One day, hearing that George was from Kentucky, she asked him if he knew a man by the name of Harris. "There is an old fellow, of that name, lives not far from my father's place," said George.
"Did you ever know of his having a mulatto boy, named George?"
"O, certainly,—George Harris,—I know him well; he married a servant of my mother's, but has escaped, now, to Canada."
"He has?" said Madame de Thoux, quickly. "Thank God!"
George looked a surprised inquiry, but said nothing.
Madame de Thoux leaned her head on her hand, and burst into tears.
"He is my brother," she said.
"Madame!" said George, with a strong accent of surprise.
"Yes," said Madame de Thoux, lifting her head, proudly; and wiping her tears; "Mr. Shelby, George Harris is my brother!"
"I am perfectly astonished," said George.
"I was sold to the South when he was a boy," said she. "I was bought by a good and generous man. He took me with him to the West Indies, set me free, and married me. It is but lately that he died; and I was coming up to Kentucky, to see if I could find and redeem my brother."
"I have heard him speak of a sister Emily, that was sold South," said George.
"Yes, indeed! I am the one," said Madame de Thoux "tell me what sort of a——"
"A very fine young man," said George, "notwithstanding the curse of slavery that lay on him. He sustained a first rate character, both for intelligence and principle. I know, you see," he said; "because he married in our family."
"What sort of a girl:" said Madame de Thoux, eagerly. "A treasure," said George; "a beautiful, intelligent. amiable girl. Very pious. My mother had brought her up, and trained her as carefully, almost, as a daughter. She could read and write, embroider and sew, beautifully; and was a beautiful singer."
"Was she born in your house?" said Madame de Thoux.
"No. Father bought her once, in one of his trips to
New Orleans, and brought her up as a present to mother. She was about eight or nine years old, then. Father would never tell mother what he gave for her; but, the other day, in looking over his old papers, we came across the bill of sale. He paid an extravagant sum for her, to be sure. I suppose, on account of her extraordinary beauty."
George sat with his back to Cassy, and did not see the absorbed expression of her countenance, as he was giving these details.
At this point in the story, she touched his arm, and, with a face perfectly white with interest, said, "Do you know the names of the people he bought her of?"
"A man of the name of Simmons, I think, was the principal in the transaction. At least, I think that was the name on the bill of sale."
"O, my God!" said Cassy, and fell insensible on the floor of the cabin.