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Frank Freeman's Barber Shop
Rev. Baynard R. Hall, D.D.
New York: Charles Scribner, 1852

CHAPTER II.

SEVERAL SCENES

  MR. WARDLOW, as was frequently the case, stayed all night at Evergreen. He was a gentleman of large property, and yet, like many such, was often in want of ready money; but which, when in hand, was soon used in generous entertainments and benevolent bestowments. Passionate and easily offended, he still rarely executed a threat, and readily retracted his own errors, and forgave where others showed the least sign of regret and sorrow. He admitted all the actual, and many possible abuses of slavery; and yet, living where slaves were comfortable and happy, he believed abuses were generally less than were represented, and that all such might, and perhaps would, in time, be corrected; hence his indignation against northern editors and authors, who portrayed slavery as an unmitigated evil, and not to be mitigated, and slave-holders all as dealers in souls


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and bodies for gain, ever flourishing the lash and clanking the chain, was absolutely fierce. Prior to the great insurrection fomented by bad white men, he had advocated the most lenient measures; but having barely escaped massacre with his neighbors, he had, for awhile, sought to prevent the recurrence of such a danger by greater strictness, if not severity.

  His negroes had ever been not only well treated, but much indulged, and he felt their conduct as an ingratitude; yet soon his good sense and own instinctive love and desire of liberty, made him see that the blacks had conspired not from want of gratitude but love of freedom. He never could forgive the diabolical villainy of hired agents; yet before long, he treated his negroes with his former kindness, preferring as he often said, to trust to love rather than fear, and to die a victim to principle and not an object of hate and vengeance.

  He loved Edward Leamington as a son, spite of the behavior of Rev. Mr. Tibbets, and his dislike of Northern ministers generally; not being aware that Edward was slowly, yet surely, although not designedly, forming the uncle as a prominent advocate for a great scheme of good to the negroes—a scheme regarded now with suspicion and ill-will in the South.

  "Edward," remarked Mr. W., at the breakfast


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table, next morning, "you stayed so long this time, I feared the Philanthropists had kidnapped you."

  "Oh! no! on the contrary, they were willing to send me back as an agent, since I had converted Mary."

  "Converted! the good Lord deliver us from their sort of converts:—sniveling hypocrites! However, if passed through your hands, Edward, I might possibly trust a negro to their care."

  "My converts, dear uncle, might still want a higher power to keep them on the true path on this perplexing subject. But, uncle, when shall we visit my most excellent Mrs. Freeman?"

  "Did you not receive my last letter?" interrupted the uncle.

  "Why, what did it contain?" asked the Parson anxiously.

  "She is dead!—I wrote you word."

  "Dead!—the letter never reached us."

  "Yes, she is dead, and a sad loss to us all," continued Mr. W. "But what will add to your distress, Edward, the executors, according to the will, must, in settling the estate, sell the negroes; and poor Sarah, Frank's mother, is in great distress."

  "In distress!—why?"

  "Frank must go south-west. He deserves this; although for poor Sarah's sake, I am truly sorry."


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  "But, why, uncle, must Frank go? Cannot the planters buy him as well as the rest?"

  "They can; but they will not."

  "Will not!" exclaimed Mr. L., surprised.

  "No; they will not, and they ought not; at least not for Frank's sake."

  "Why Frank is pre-eminently intelligent, active, trustworthy."

  "All true enough, Edward. But the planters are afraid of him."

  "Afraid of Frank Freeman! Why, they might as well be afraid of me."

  "They would, Edward, if you were a negro, and had been concerned in the insurrection, and that while a mere boy—"

  "Frank was never concerned in that, uncle."

  "Mr. Leamington, we have better means of information than you."

  "Forgive me, dear uncle. I have no information here. I only express my conviction that Frank Freeman could not be engaged in such a nefarious scheme."

  "At all events, Edward, we do know that Frank gave at least a hint to the infernal Tibbets to be off."

  "Admitting that, dear uncle, and that Frank might have wished, may yet wish for freedom, because such wish in an all invincible, natural—"


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  "Yes, yes, natural! Mr. Edward Leamington; but we do not like being murdered in our beds from Frank Freeman's 'natural and invicible love of liberty.'"

  "Dear uncle," said Mr. L., soothingly, "I know that anything is possible; but it is, to me, so wholly improbably that Frank could stain his hands with the blood of murder, that I will never believe it till it is proved; and I never will believe any proof could exist. And all this makes me ever watching and with prayer to find ways and means for fixing a time when the prospect of an honorable freedom may be before our slaves' eyes."

  "Edward—I am too hasty; but yet you are too enthusiastic. Why should slavery be an evil if all negroes could be as happy as all are in this parish? I am not convinced that slavery is wrong per se; it is the abuses we should reform."

  "I fear the system, dear uncle, creates the abuses and is inseparable from them. Innate desires are not planted in vain; the desire meets its correspondent here, as the senses themselves."

  "Well! well! it may be so in metaphysics; but all that is mere trickery. At all events this sort of argument will never induce us to buy off Frank."

  "Uncle, I do not ask you to go logically here; only follow your heart."

  "Pshaw! Edward, you know my weak point."


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  "Rather your noblest."

  "No! I won't be flattered now, Edward. Frank must go. I have promised, and they made me give it in writing, that I will not buy him—do not urge me, Edward." Saying which, Mr. Wardloe fearing lest after all Mr. L. would would now out-general him, arose, and making some excuse left the room.

  Mr. L. after a few moments withdrew to his study to make preparation for the approaching Sabbath. All attempt at writing was, however, vain. His mind was in too great tumult. The sudden death of Mrs. Freeman, a widow lady most exemplary, in the prime of life, and in the midst of usefulness, almost confounded him! She had no children; but the heirs could not come into possession of their inheritance till the property and estate were sold; and this rendered necessary a sale of all the negroes, including Frank and his mother. And this was sad indeed! for into what slavery would he go, who had only been a slave in name—trusted almost as Abraham had trusted his steward! and what would that poor mother do—sick and helpless—when her son, her only son, her only child, her comfort, her glory, should be torn away and delivered over, where all report proclaimed that tender mercies were cruelty!

  Mrs. Freeman had, just before Mr. L.'s departure the last summer, intimated a wish to have a confer-


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ence with him on his return, saying, it referred to her will, and that she would communicate an important secret! She had gone, and that secret was buried with her—although Mr. L. had no doubt it referred to Frank, and that it had been her intention possibly to give him his freedom!

  And now came rushing like a tempest all the perplexing questions and doubts clustering around the southern institutions—the natural rights of man—and his own duty. His mind was logical, his reasonings acute, his distinctions nice, and, above all, his conscience tender! The more he thought and reasoned, the darker was the night of doubt and scruple, till his very brain seemed verging to madness! He trembled at the horrors that seemed inevitable if the negroes were enlightened; and yet he trembled more at the thought of shutting from them the Light of Life!

  Christian negroes he was well assured, while hope and prospect of national and successful revolution were wanting, would abhor all conspiracies and massacres, and "serve as unto God;" but should the mass be enlightened and not Christianized, he saw, from the past, how these might be wrought upon and mis-directed by the selfish politician—the scheming agrarian—the fanatical—the pseudo-philanthropic—not to struggle as a nation simply for Right, but to murder at every opportunity, for Revenge!


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  And now came fresh to memory that adventure in the boat, and that awful answer of the negro chief! and his night alarm from the watchers!

  But, perhaps, the reader would know more particularly to what we allude.

  Not very long after Mr. L. assumed his pastoral charge in the South, he was compelled to leave Maroon Island one Sabbath morning. A small boat was manned for his use, with four negro oarsmen and a driver—an African. This was the year after the great insurrection, when more than sixty black men perished at the gallows. Gloom and discontent were visible enough in the party, at being deprived of the rest and holiday; and our Parson, then a comparative stranger, with no very agreeable feelings took his seat among his dark looking associates. Little was spoken; and the negroes lazily and sullenly worked their oars, till the tide at its ebb came rushing through the reeds and tall grass along the narrow inlets to the ocean, when, on coming to a stake in the mud, crowned with a death-head in the shape of a horse-skull, the boat was turned inward to land. Alas! this proved to be a cut neither short nor easy, and above all, wrong! And suddenly the boat grounded, while the water went wholly to the great mass-meeting outside—the Parson and his congregation left in their Bethel reposing on the mud!


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  "I must preach to these poor fellows," thought Mr. L. Accordingly, seated with his "beloved" four in front, and one behind, he delivered in substance the following:—the first and the last sermon by him held forth on blue-black mud, full twenty cubits from bottom!

  "I am sorry, my kind boys, accident made it necessary for you to row me to Salt Marsh today; for I know how you all value Sunday, and I am told you love to go to meeting. But, my kind friends—yes, friends—(because the blacks and I are always friends when we get well acquainted,) we can talk a little here about religion as well as in church. (Ears erect and eyes right.) I'm a minister, as maybe you know? (Affirmative looks.) Well, my friends, we differ in some things; but blessed be God, we can all be one—can't we? Yes; we can all be Christians and have one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the black men as well as of the white: he died for you as well as for me: he loves your immortal souls just as he does mine.

  "In Jesus Christ we can all be Free! Oh! blessed thought, my friends!—Yes, Free! Free from Hell! free from fear of Death! free from the power and the love of our sins! And then we all shall have one Home! Ah! that Home is so happy, so glorious, so enduring! My friends! there is no hard


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labor, no toil, no weariness in Heaven! There are no Slaves there! We shall live there with new hearts, and all be Brothers—all loving, kind—just like God's holy angels! Then it would be a sad thing to lose our souls—would it not? (Yes! kind Massa!) I beseech you, then, repent of all your sins, and take Jesus Christ for your Saviour—shall we not all go to heaven together?"

  "Yes! kind massa! God bless you, kind massa!" responded the congregation. But the driver, a grand-looking negro, added with emotion:

  "Massa! we didn't want to tote you to-day. 'Tis our holiday, and we wanted to go to meetin'—we belong to the Baptist meeting—but now, bless God, we are glad we come!"

  Established thus in that strong citadel, the Black Man's Heart, our parson thought it a fine oppportunity to say something that might prevent his congregation from any participation in what he deemed criminal conspiracies; and so with tearful eyes and unsteady voice, he resumed:

  "Thank you, my kind boys. Now let me say, don't let bad white people from the North deceive you. (Faces clouding.) Oh! do not let them excite you to rebellion! (Faces black.) Do not let these persuade you that the people up there will help you. No! no! the people there will help the whites here and not the blacks; and if they come


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down to help, they are enough to help you all, and not leave a mouthful apiece!"

  During this, the congregation hung their heads and with averted faces; but now up rose that grand-looking driver, and folding his arms across his breast, oh! with what lofty manner and sublime look he emphatically uttered the deep heart of all:

  "Master! Liberty's Liberty!"

  Leamington was awed and silenced; and that look and that answer were riveted on his soul! But he secretly execrated the accursed villainy that had, taking advantage of such sentiment and such hearts, goaded the blacks to murder many a true friend sleeping; and secure because sleeping among negroes treated well, and more like children than slaves! And from that hour, Leamington's ears ever rung with that negro war-cry, while he dreaded the damnable intrigues of some northern agitators; and all the more, because they affected to have the sanction of Christ!

  On reaching his destination he was, for the first time, carried to land on the ebony sedan lately described. That night he was to pass with a gentleman and lady, whose house, two miles from any other, was in the midst of one hundred negroes, several of whom had been implicated in the plot. On retiring for the night our hero occupied a room on the ground-floor, its doors and windows opening


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into a verandah; yet, peaceman as he was, he noticed with some satisfaction two guns, and both with double barrels, so that with the aid of a good conscience also, he went to bed, and was quickly in a sound sleep.

  But hark! at the noon of night a rustle at the door!—then a suppressed whispering—and then stealthy steps! Up sits the parson! What does he see, though? Nothing—the room is pitchy darkness. But softly leaving the bed, and creeping to the corner, he seizes a double-barrel, and magnamimously resolves to sell life, and not die like a chicken; waiting the bursting open of the door to deliver his fire. All, however, is now quiet, and soon is heard a sleep-betraying kind of breathing, which before many minutes wakes into a very decided snore! Well—if others can sleep outside, why should not our hero sleep within? He went to bed and sunk at last into a second slumber.

  He dreamed, however, of noises and whisperings and light steppings, and at last was sitting up in bed again; and sure enough there all were as before! But, before he could interpret the signs, came again the sleep-denoting breath, followed immediately by the most audible snore! "Oh!" reasoned Mr. L., "they don't intend to murder me, or why so long about it? It is nothing wrong," and down he lay, when, strange enough, off he went into a comfortable


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snore, from which he awoke not till long after day-break.

  "Friends," remarked he at breakfast that morning, "I was greatly frightened last night."

  "Frightened! indeed! why now?"

  He narrated the incidents of the night; on which both gentleman and lady simultaneously answered,

  "Ha! ha! ha! he! he! he!"

  Mr. L. looked surprised and confused; nor could he join in the laugh, when his host exclaimed,

  "It was only the night guard! ha! ha! They change every hour, he! he!"

  "Night guard! do you have a guard? Why, who are they?"

  "The drivers, and the most trusty negroes!"

  Good nature and politeness helped our Parson to laugh with his friends; and there was also something so intrinsically and mournfully funny in sleeping with one's throat bare, surrounded by "most trusty negroes," a few months after sixty of their race hung on the gallows for planning a massacre over all the islands!

  These, and many other matters, were now recurring to Mr. L., when his wife hastily entering his study, said—

  "Oh! Edward! poor Frank is here; and he begs most earnestly to see you."


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  "Mary, what shall I do? what can I do? I will come down—no—let Frank come up."

  Accordingly, in a moment or two, Frank Freeman stood in the Parson's study. And never, saving the Parson himself, had stood there a human form superior or equal; its symmetry faultless, and the figure commanding and uniting strength, agility and grace. The countenance, spite of its complexion, a jet black, was noble in expression, yet pleasing and inspired confidence. Nor was the inner man any contrast to the outer; the soul was a jewel and in a fit casket. Frank was ardent and impulsive; and being of a confiding and unsuspicious temper he could be led into error by those he trusted. His talents were of a high order; hence, and because of his very favorable opportunities, Frank, and not merely in contrast with negroes around, was a good English scholar; that is, he could read well, pronounce well, write a very legible hand, and cypher well in the ordinary and simple rules. Besides, being always employed as a steward and overseer, and meeting and doing business with gentlemen of fine education, his style of conversation was good: in fact, saving his color, he was on a par with the whites generally, and spite of certain philosophers and ethnologists Frank—Negro Frank—was better in all respects than some white men.


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  The Parson taking Frank by the hand said,

  "Well, Frank, what's the matter?"

  "Ah! Master Leamington what shall I do? Must I leave my dear old mistress' home?—must I leave my mother?—must I go where slavery has its horrors?"

  "I can hardly realize such a supposition, Frank; surely some way of deliverance must be found," replied Mr. L., rather expressing his wishes, however, than his belief.

  "There is but one hope, master."

  "God be praised, Frank! is there one hope?"

  "But one, Master Leamington—and that in you."

  "In me! Frank!"

  "In you, dear master; but I fear to name it. Oh! pity me! Our despair makes me bold. But if you cannot save me—there is no other hope."

  "How can I save you, Frank!"

  "Buy me! oh! buy me, Master Leamington!"

  "Frank, I cannot!—I dare not!—I have solemnly vowed to God never to buy or sell a human being!"

  "Then, indeed, there is no hope! no hope!—She will die! Oh! master, for God's sake redeem me! Here on my knees I ask this, even more earnestly than I could ask for life—Oh! save us."

  "Frank! Frank! a vow registered in Heaven cannot be broken."


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  "Then, master, let me die here! In mercy kill me."

  "Frank, this is God's will! we must submit."

  "I cannot! I cannot! Oh! master I cannot listen now. My soul is crushed! Oh! redeem me; the God of Mercies cannot be angry with you. Buy me! oh! buy me! voluntariously and joyously will I be your slave for ever. I cannot be denied. Deny me, and I must die!"

  Leamington could not answer; and he dared not turn away. But there knelt the negro! the anguish of a despairing soul in his looks, and his powerful frame quivering with emotion, and near him stood the white man holding in his own the clasped hands of the supplicant, while from his downward bent face tears were falling on the black's, who went on—

  "May the God of the oppressed bless you for your pity, dear Master Leamington. And that God never can wish you not to redeem a man to save his mother's life! No! master! you could not have vowed had you seen all. Oh! for Christ's sake, master, save me."

  "Frank, I will see you again. Let me have time to think—to pray. Give me time, my poor boy."

  "Only save me, kind master, and I will serve you for ever." And with that the negro left the room.