SCENE IV.—An old Gin-house Garret. -- UNCLE TOM lying on the floor.
O, good Lord, do look down! Give me the vict'ry! give me the vict'ry!
Who 's there? O, for mercy's sake, give me some water!
Drink all you want. I knew how 't would be! 'T an't the first time I been out o' night carrying water to such as you.
Thank ye, missis!
Don't call me missis! I 'm a miserable slave like you. A lower one that you can ever be! But let me see if I can't make you more comfortable. [Places a pillow under his head.] There, my poor fellow, there! that 's the best I can do for you!
Thank you, missis!
It 's no use, my poor fellow; it 's of no use, this you 've been trying to do. You were a brave fellow; you had the right on your side; but it 's all in vain, and out of the question, for you to struggle. You are in the devil's hands; he is the strongest, and you must give up.
O, Lord! O, Lord! how can I give up?
There 's no use calling on the Lord; he never hears! There is n't any God, I believe; or, if there is, he 's taken sides against us. All goes against us, heaven and earth. Everything is pushing us into hell. Why shouldn't we go? You see, you don't know anything about it; I do. I 've been on this place five years, body and soul, under this man's foot, and I hate him as I do the devil! Here you are, on a lone plantation, ten miles from any other, in the swamps; not a white person here who could testify if you were burned alive; if you were scalded, cut into inch-pieces, set up for the dogs to tear, or hung up and whipped to death. There's no law here, of God or man, that can do you, or any one of us, the least good; and this man! there 's no earthly thing that he 's too good to do. I could make any one's hair rise, and their teeth chatter, if I should only tell what I 've seen and been knowing to here; and it 's no use resisting! Did I want to live with him? Was n't I a woman delicately bred? And he! God in heaven! what was he, and is he? And yet I 've lived with him these five years, and cursed every moment of my life, night and day! And now he 's got a new one; a young thing, only fifteen; and she brought up, she says, piously! Her good mistress taught her to read the Bible, and she's brought her Bible here, to hell, with her!
O, Jesus! Lord Jesus! have you quite forgot us poor critturs? Help, Lord, I perish!
And what are these miserable low dogs you work with, that you should suffer on their account? Every one of them would turn against you the first time they got a chance. They are all of 'em as low and cruel to each other as they can be; and there 's no use in your suffering to keep from hurting them.
Poor critturs! what made 'em cruel? And if I give out, I shall get used to 't, and grow, little by little, just like 'em! No, no, missis! I've lost everything; wife, and children, and home, and a kind mas'r; and he would have set me free, if he 'd only lived a week longer. I 've lost everything in this world, and it 's clean gone forever; and now I can't lose heaven, too; no, I can't get to be wicked, besides all!
But it can't be that the Lord will lay sin to our account; he won't charge it to us, when we 're forced to it; he 'll charge it to tham that drove us to it.
Yes; but that won't keep us from growing wicked. If I get to be as hard-hearted as that ar' Sambo, and as wicked, it won't make much odds to me how I came so; it 's the bein' so; that ar 's what I'm a dreadin'.
O, God a' mercy! you speak the truth! O! O! O!
Please missis, I saw 'em throw my coat in that ar' corner. In the pocket is my Bible; if missis would please get it for me. [CASSY brings it.] There 's a place marked here, if missis 'll please to read it. I want to hear it.
"And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!"
Uncle T. [Sobbing.]
If we could only keep up to that ar'! it seemed to come so natural to him, and we have to fight so hard for 't! O, Lord, help us! O, blessed Lord Jesus, do help us! Missis, I can see that somehow you 're quite 'bove me in everything; but there 's one thing missis might learn, even from poor Tom. Ye said the Lord took sides against us, because he lets us be 'bused and knocked round; but ye see what come on his own Son—the blessed Lord of Glory! Wa'n't he al'ays poor? and have we, any on us, yet come so low as he come? The Lord ha'n't forgot us; I 'm sartin o' that ar'! If we suffer with him, we shall also reign, Scripture says; but if we deny him, he also will deny us. Didn't they all suffer; the Lord and all his? It tells how they were stoned and sawn asunder, and wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, and was destitute, afflicted, tormented. Sufferin' an't no reason to make us think the Lord's turned agin us, but jest the contrary, if we only hold on to him, and does n't give up to sin.
But why does he put us where we can't help but sin?
I think we can help it.
You 'll see! What 'll you do? To-morrow they 'll be at you again! I know 'em, I have seen all their doings; I can't bear to think of all they 'll bring you to; and they 'll make you give out at last!
Lord Jesus! you will take care of my soul! O, Lord, do! don't let me give out!
O, dear, I 've heard all this crying and praying before; and yet they 've been broken down and brought under. There 's Emmeline, she 's trying to hold on, and you 're trying; but what use? You must give up, or be killed by inches!
Well, then, I will die! Spin it out as long as they can, they can't help my dying some time! and, after that, they can't do no more. I 'm clar! I 'm set! I know the Lord 'll help me, and bring me through.
Maybe it 's the way, but those that have given up, there 's no hope for them—none! We live in filth and grow loathsome, till we loathe ourselves! And we long to die, and we don't dare to kill ourselves. No hope! no hope! no hope! This girl now, just as old as I was.
You see me now; see what I am! Well, I was brought up in luxury: the first I remember is, the playing about, when I was a child, in splendid parlors; kept dressed up like a doll; company and visitors praising me. There was a garden opening from the saloon windows; and there I used to play hide-and-go-seek, under the orange-trees, with my brothers and sisters.
I went to a convent, and there I learned music, French, and embroidery, and what not. When I was fourteen, I came out to my father's funeral. He died very suddenly, and when the property came to be settled, they found that there was scarcely enough to cover the debts; and when the creditors took an inventory of the property, I was set down in it. My mother was a slave-woman, and my father had always meant to set me free; but he had not done it, and so I was set down in the list. I 'd always known who I was, but never thought much about it. Nobody ever expects that a strong, healthy man is a going to die. My father was a well man only four hours before he died; it was one of the first cholera cases in New Orleans.
The day after the funeral, my father's wife took her children and went up to her father's plantation.
I thought they treated me strangely, but did n't know why. There was a young lawyer whom they left to settle the business; and he came every day, and was about the house and spoke very politely to me. He brought with him, one day, a young man, the handsomest I had ever seen. I shall never forget that evening. I walked with him in the garden. I was lonesome and full of sorrow, and he was so kind and gentle to me; and he told me that he had seen me before I went to the convent; and that he had loved me a great while, and that he would be my friend and protector; in short, though he did n't tell me, he had paid two thousand dollars for me, and I was his property. I became his willingly, for I loved him.
Loved!—O, how I did love that man! How I love him now, and always shall, while I breathe! He was so beautiful, so high, so noble! Everything that money could buy, he gave me; but I did n't set any value on all that; I only cared for him. I loved him better than my God and my own soul; and, if I tried, I could n't do any other way from what he wanted me to do.
I wanted only one thing—I did want him to marry
me. I thought if he loved me, as he said he did, and if I was what he seemed
to think I was, he would be willing to marry me and set me free. But he
convinced me that it would be impossible; and he told me that, if we were
only faithful to each other, it was marriage before God. If that is true,
was n't I that man's wife? Was n't I faithful? For seven years, did n't
I study every look and motion, and only life and breathe to please him?
He had the yellow fever, and for twenty days and
nights I watched with him, I alone; and gave him all his medicine, and did everything for him; and then he called me his good angel, and said I 'd saved his life.
We have two beautiful children. The first was a boy, and we called him Henry. He was the image of his father. He had such beautiful eyes, such a forehead, and his hair hung all in curls around it! And he had all his father's spirit, and his talent too. Little Elise, he said, looked like me. He used to tell me that I was the most beautiful woman in Louisiana, he was so proud of me and the children. O, those were happy days! I thought I was as happy as any one could be; but then there came evil times. He had a cousin come to New Orleans who was his particular friend; he thought all the world of him; but from the first time I saw him, I could n't tell why, I dreaded him, for I felt sure he was going to bring misery on us. He got Henry to going out with him, and often would not come home nights till two or three o'clock. I did not dare to say a word; for Henry was so high-spirited I was afraid to. He got him to the gaming houses; and he was one of the sort that, when he once got a going there, there was no holding back. And then he introduced him to another lady, and I saw soon that his heart was gone from me. He never told me, but I saw it; I knew it day after day. I felt my heart breaking, but I could not say a word. Would you believe it? at last the wretch offered to buy me and the children of Henry, to clear off his gambling debts, which stood in the way of his marrying as he wished!—and he sold us! He told me one day that he had business in the country, and should be gone two or three weeks. He spoke kinder than usual, and said he should come back; but it did n't deceive me; I knew that the time had come; I was just like one turned into stone; I could n't speak nor shed a tear. He kissed me and kissed the children a good many times, and went out. He saw him get on his horse, and I watched him till he was quite out of sight; and then I fell down and fainted.
Then he came, the cursed wretch! he came to take possession. He told me that he had bought me and my children, and showed me the papers. I cursed him before God, and told him I'd die sooner than live with him.
"Just as you please," said he; "but if you don't behave reasonably I 'll sell both the children, where you shall never see them again." He told me that he always had meant to have me, from the first time he saw me; and that he had drawn Henry on, and got him in debt, on purpose to make him willing to sell me. That he got him in love with another woman; and that I might know, after all that, that he should not give up for a few airs and tears, and things of that sort.
I gave up, for my hands were tied. He had my children; whenever I resisted
his will anywhere, he would talk about selling them, and he made me as submissive
as he desired. O, what a life it was! To live with my heart breaking every
day,—to keep on, on, on, loving, when it was only misery; and to be bound,
body and soul, to one I hated! Yet I was afraid to refuse him anything.
He was very hard to the children. Elise was a timid little thing; but Henry
was bold and high-spirited like his father,—he had always been so indulged.
He was always scolding him, and I used to live in daily
fear. I tried to make the child respectful. I tried to keep them apart. No use—none! He sold both those children. One day, when I came home from riding, I looked all over the house, and called,—and they were gone! He told me he had sold them; he showed me the money,—the price of their blood! Then it seemed as if all good had forsaken me. I raved and cursed,—cursed God and man; and, for a while, I believe he really was afraid of me. But he did n't give up so. He told me that my children were sold, but whether I ever saw their faces again depended on him; and that, if I was n't quiet, they should smart for it. Well, you can do anything with a woman when you 've got her children! He made me submit; he made me peaceable; he flattered me with hopes that, perhaps, he would buy them back; and so things went on a week or two. One day, I was out walking, and passed by the calaboose; I saw a crowd about the gate, and I heard a child's voice; and, suddenly, my Henry broke away from two or three men, who were holding him, and ran, screaming, and caught my dress. They came up to him, swearing dreadfully. O, there was one man!—I shall never forget that man's face! He told him that he would n't get away so; that he had got to go in with him and get a lesson he 'd never forget. The poor child screamed, and looked in my face, and held on to me so that, when they tore him off, they tore the skirt of my dress half away; and they carried him in screaming "Mother! mother! mother!" I turned and ran; every step I heard him scream. I got to the house, all out of breath, into the parlor, and found Butler. I told him, and begged him to go and interfere. He only laughed, and told me the boy had got his deserts. He 'd got to be broken in; the sooner the better. What did I expect? he asked.——Look here! Do you know something in my head snapped then?—snapped, you know! It 's never come right since. I saw a great knife—I caught it—and then all grew dark—and I did n't know any more not for days and days.
When I came to myself I was in a nice room, but not mine. An old black woman tended me, and a doctor came to see me; and there was a great deal of care taken of me. After a while I found that he had gone away, and left me at this house to be sold; and that 's why they took such pains with me.
I did n't mean to get well, and hoped I should n't; but, in spite of me,
the fever went off, and I grew healthy, and finally got up. Then they made
me dress up, every day; and gentlemen used to come in and stand and smoke
their cigars, and look at me, and ask questions, and debate my price. I
was so gloomy and silent, that none of them wanted me. They threatened to
whip me if I was n't gayer, and did n't take some pains to make myself agreeable.
At length, one day, came a gentleman named Stuart. He seemed to have some
feeling for me; he saw that something dreadful was on my heart, and he came
to see me alone a great many times, and finally persuaded me to tell him.
He bought me, at last, and promised to do all he could to find and buy back
my children. He went to the hotel where my Henry was; they told him he had
been sold to a planter up on Pearl river; that was the last that I ever heard
of him. Then he found where my daughter was; an old woman was keeping her.
He offered an immense sum for her,
but they would not sell her. Butler found out that it was for me he wanted her, and he sent me word that I should never have her.
Captain Stuart was very kind to me; he had a splendid plantation, and took me to it. In the course of a year I had a son born. O, that child! how I loved it! How just like my poor Henry the little thing looked! But I had made up my mind—yes, I had—I would never again let a child live to grow up! So, when he was two weeks old, I took the little fellow in my arms, and I gave him laudanum. It did n't hurt him; it made him so quiet, and I held him close—close to my bosom, and he slept to death! And I 'm not sorry now! That 's one of the few things I 'm glad of. Yes, yes; he 's safe! They 'll never sell him—they 'll never whip him! No, no; nothing can hurt him! Ah! death is the best thing we can give our children. After a while the cholera came, and Captain Stuart died; everybody died that wanted to live, and I—I, though I went down to death's door—I lived! Then I was sold, and passed from hand to hand, till I grew faded and wrinkled, and I had a fever; and then this wretch bought me, and brought me here—and here I am! [Cassy rises and walks about—stops suddenly.] You tell me there 's a God,—a God that looks down and sees all these things. May be it 's so. The sisters used to tell me of a day of judgment when everything is coming to light. Won't there be vengeance then!
They think it 's nothing what we suffer—nothing what our children suffer! It 's all a small matter; yet I 've walked the streets when it seemed as if I had misery enough in my one heart to sink the city! I 've wished the houses would fall on me, or the stones sink under me. Yes! and in the judgment-day I will stand up before God, a witness against those that have ruined me and my children, body and soul!
When I was a girl I thought I was religious; I used to love God and prayer. Now I 'm a lost soul, pursued by devils that torment me day and night. They keep pushing me on and on—and I 'll do it, too, some of these days! I 'll send him where he belongs—a short way, too—one of these nights, if they burn me alive for it! [Sobs and struggles.] Can I do anything more for you, my poor fellow? Shall I give you some more water?
O, missis, I wish you would go to Him that can give living waters.
Go to Him! Where is he? Who is he?
Him you read of, the Lord Jesus!
I used to see the picture of him over the altar; but he is n't here. No; he is n't here! There 's nothing here but sin—and long—long—long despair! Don't talk, poor fellow! it 's no use. Try to make yourself comfortable, and sleep if you can.[Exit Cassy.]