SCENE II.—TAVERN AS BEFORE.
Enter George Harris after speaking without. Placard on the wall.
GEO. Bring in my valise, boy; I shall only remain five minutes, but I need a few trifles.
LAND. Yes, sir?
GEO. Have you a private room?
LAND. Wal, yes; in thar, as private as we ken fix it.
GEO. Have you any good claret?
LAND. How's that?
GEO. I mean any excellent red wine?
LAND. No. (with contempt.) We don't drink such darned stuff as that round hyar, but, we kin give ye whiskey—real knock me down at twenty yards—if you want to liquor up.
GEO. Then set some in that room and let me try the effect of it. (Pays money.)
LAND. Nuf said. (Exit.) Thar's the Southern (horn heard) coach a cumin in. This way, gents, for the ho-tel, that way for the bar. (Exit.)
GEO. A placard offering four hundred dollars for my capture alive, and the same sum for proof of my death. Coolness, courage and the assumption of a Southern exquisite must be my best safeguard against discovery. Eliza safe, I dare not ask, I dare not think, lest the thought unman me. Strangers —
(George takes out cigar and smokes.)
(Enter Bird and Phineas.)
BIRD. Phineas, you've bought the buggy from home?
PHI. Yes, Senator, verily I have, and the old mare.
BIRD. Talking of home, how was my wife when you left, Phineas? It is four weeks since I saw her.
PHI. The lady Rachel? She was serene, as per usual, Senator.
BIRD. And her little handmaid, Ruth?
PHI. A streak of beauty, as per ditto, too, Senator.
BIRD. You've a weak eye on that damsel, I fear, Phineas.
PHI. Yea, verily, Senator, but Ruth says I'm too closely affiliated to the wicked world.
BIRD. Then cast away its vanities and turn Quaker in earnest, Phineas.
PHI. I guess I must, Senator, or I shall never win the prettiest piece of flesh that ever sported a poke bonnet.
BIRD. Ha, ha, ha! Phineas, thou knowest I am not too strict of I should not tolerate thy jests. Go and put the horse in the buggy and let us trot homeward.
PHI. It shall be done, Senator; yea, verily.
BIRD. Graceless slip of iniquity. Ha, ha, ha.
GEO. Good morning, Senator. (Bowing.)
BIRD. Thou hast the advantage of me, friend.
GEO. Don't you remember George Harris, of Shelby County, who once worked in your factory, Senator Bird?
BIRD. My gracious! George Harris, the mulatto, in this disguise! What does this mean?
GEO. Look at that placard, and guess.
BIRD. "Four hundred dollars reward for my slave, George Harris, alive or dead!" You are running away, then?
GEO. What else can I do? They have sold my boy, my only son, to a trader—my wife has flown with him, God knows where. What else should a man do but escape, and find them if he can?
BIRD. George, George, think of the laws.
GEO. The laws! Who made them? The men who arrogate the right to keep their fellow men in bondage. If the Indians captured you and yours, and kept you hoeing corn, would you think it just or right to obey their Indian laws?
BIRD. But guess not. But—your country—
GEO. I have no country, no more than I have a parent. The man who called me son was one of your Kentucky gentlemen, who didn't think enough of me to keep me from being sold with his other live stock when he died. I saw my mother put up at Sheriff's sale with her seven children. They were each sold to separate masters, and I the youngest. My mother knelt before the purchaser, and prayed him, for God's love, to buy me with her, but he kicked her away with his heavy boot. Well, I lived in bondage and grew up. I worked, studied in secret, and in time I met the woman, a slave like myself, and loved her. We were blessed with a boy, and three weeks since, my wife's master sold him. God in heaven, Mr. Bird! is this the land you call my country? and where such deeds are done, sir, can you ask me to obey the laws?
BIRD. No, no, George, no. Damn 'em both. Did I swear? I hope not. I'm a senator myself. I help to make the laws, but I'm in the minority; so I say, damn the majority that passes such rascally statutes. (Blows his nose.)
GEO. And you are not ashamed to take my hand, sir?
BIRD. Ashamed? No, George, no! I care nothing for the world's prejudice. With me, it is not a man's color but his character that shall ever cause me to refuse him mine.
(Voices heard. Barking of dogs.)
LEG. (Heard without) Is there a crooked cuss by the name of Marks anywhere around here?
(They exeunt the door in flat.)
(Music. Enter Legree and Landlord.)
LEG. Say, Landlord, is there a man by the name o' Marks here?
LAND. A lawyer from down South?
LEG. That's him! A thin, spider-legged looking thief.
LAND. That's him.
LEG. With no more taller round him than you could burn in a night.
LAND. That's him.
LEG. As mean as bad whiskey.
LAND. That's him, and he's in thar!
LEG. Is he, then I'll soon have him out! (Comes to R.)
MARKS. (Advancing C.) Thank you, Mr. Legree, I am out listening to your compliments.
LEG. Ha, ha, ha! What, Marks, you thief of the world, give us your paw.
(He seizes Marks' hand, who writhes in his grasp.)
MARKS.. That'll do, that'll do, I know a little of your first goes a long way.
LEG. Ha, ha, ha! Look at it, Marks! I reckon a nigger's head's the thickest thing in creation, but I've split them afore now, split 'em with this in two, clean, like a pumpkin!
MARKS.. Ha, ha, ha! An open verdict! Ha, ha, ha! But what's the news?
LEG. Bad! Just came from Cincinnati, a man thar, owns a patch o' land next to my plantation on the Red River, and he won't trade off. I am going down South empty handed.
MARKS.. Always make a mess of it, when you're left to yourself, don't you, Simon? He, he, he.
LEG. Shut them teeth o' yourn, or I'll knock 'em down your throat.
MARKS.. No you won't, SImon, for there's something stronger inside o' me than even your fist.
LEG. What's that, whiskey?
MARKS.. No, the law, Simon.
LEG. The law be ——
MARKS.. Don't abuse the law, Simon; because the law always steps in to help them that can't help themselves.
MARKS.. D'ye see that?
(George appears listening and retires.)
LEG. "Ran away from the subscriber—mulatto boy George—four hundred for him, alive or dead." I'm done nigger catching now.
MARKS. So have I, but when there's money to be picked up easy I ain't partickler. Sam Haley was here a few days ago.
LEG. What was he up to?
MARKS. Nigger hunting, too.
MARKS. Yes, he bought a handsome boy in the next county, paid eight hundred dollars, but the mother bolted with hyim.
MARKS. Now this. (pointing to placard) nigger is the father, and he and the lot can't be far off. If we catch 'em there's two thousand in the job.
LEG. That's 'nuff, you've riz the old grit in me. But first of all, gi' me some food.
MARKS. But my dear Simon, think of the delay.
LEG. Dern you, Marks, gi' me some rum anyhow.
MARKS. (Dragging away off L.) No, no, there's no time to be lost.
LEG. Well, dern me, but this is the first time I ever saw the law in a hurry.