I told him it was one of my friends. "Can you read
them?" he asked. When I told him I could, he
swore, and raved, and tore the paper into bits.
"Bring me all your letters!" said he, in a
commanding tone. I told him I had none. "Don't be
afraid," he continued, in an insinuating way. "Bring
them all to me. Nobody shall do you any harm."
Seeing I did not move to obey him, his pleasant tone
changed to oaths and threats. "Who writes to you?
half free niggers?" inquired he. I replied, "O, no;
most of my letters are from white people. Some
request me to burn them after they are read, and
some I destroy without reading."
An exclamation of surprise from some of the
company put a stop to our conversation. Some silver
spoons which ornamented an old-fashioned buffet had
just been discovered. My grandmother was in the
habit of preserving fruit for many ladies in the town,
and of preparing suppers for parties; consequently
she had many jars of preserves. The closet that contained
these was next invaded, and the contents tasted.
One of them, who was helping himself freely, tapped
his neighbor on the shoulder, and said, "Wal done!
Don't wonder de niggers want to kill all de white
folks, when dey live on 'sarves" [meaning preserves].
I stretched out my hand to take the jar, saying, "You
were not sent here to search for sweetmeats."
"And what were we sent for?" said the captain,
bristling up to me. I evaded the question.
The search of the house was completed, and nothing
found to condemn us. They next proceeded to
the garden, and knocked about every bush and vine.
with no better success. The captain called his men
together, and, after a short consultation, the order to
march was given. As they passed out of the gate, the
captain turned back, and pronounced a malediction on
the house. He said it ought to be burned to the ground,
and each of its inmates receive thirty-nine lashes. We
came out of this affair very fortunately; not losing any
thing except some wearing apparel.
Towards evening the turbulence increased. The
soldiers, stimulated by drink, committed still greater
cruelties. Shrieks and shouts continually rent the air.
Not daring to go to the door, I peeped under the
window curtain. I saw a mob dragging along a number
of colored people, each white man, with his musket
upraised, threatening instant death if they did not stop
their shrieks. Among the prisoners was a respectable
old colored minister. They had found a few parcels of
shot in his house, which his wife had for years used to
balance her scales. For this they were going to shoot
him on Court House Green. What a spectacle was
that for a civilized country! A rabble, staggering under
intoxication, assuming to be the administrators of
The better class of the community exerted their
influence to save the innocent, persecuted people; and
in several instances they succeeded, by keeping them
shut up in jail till the excitement abated. At last the
white citizens found that their own property was not
safe from the lawless rabble they had summoned to
protect them. They rallied the drunken swarm, drove
them back into the country, and set a guard over the
The next day, the town patrols were commissioned
to search colored people that lived out of the city; and
the most shocking outrages were committed with
perfect impunity. Every day for a fortnight, if I looked
out, I saw horsemen with some poor panting negro
tied to their saddles, and compelled by the lash to keep
up with their speed, till they arrived at the jail yard.
Those who had been whipped too unmercifully to
walk were washed with brine, tossed into a cart, and
carried to jail. One black man, who had not fortitude
to endure scourging, promised to give information
about the conspiracy. But it turned out that he knew
nothing at all. He had not even heard the name of Nat
Turner. The poor fellow had, however, made up a
story, which augmented his own sufferings and those
of the colored people.
The day patrol continued for some weeks, and at
sundown a night guard was substituted. Nothing at all
was proved against the colored people, bond or free.
The wrath of the slaveholders was somewhat
appeased by the capture of Nat Turner. The
imprisoned were released. The slaves were sent to
their masters, and the free were permitted to return to
their ravaged homes. Visiting was strictly forbidden
on the plantations. The slaves begged the privilege of
again meeting at their little church in the woods, with
their burying ground around it. It was built by the
colored people, and they had no higher happiness than
to meet there and sing hymns together, and pour out
their hearts in spontaneous prayer. Their request was
denied, and the church was demolished. They were
permitted to attend the white churches, a certain portion
of the galleries being appropriated to their use.
There, when every body else had partaken of the
communion, and the benediction had been pronounced,
the minister said, "Come down, now, my colored
friends." They obeyed the summons, and partook of
the bread and wine, in commemoration of the meek
and lowly Jesus, who said, "God is your Father, and
all ye are brethren."
THE CHURCH AND SLAVERY.
AFTER the alarm caused by Nat Turner's insurrection
had subsided, the slaveholders came to the conclusion
that it would be well to give the slaves enough of
religious instruction to keep them from murdering their
masters. The Episcopal clergyman offered to hold a
separate service on Sundays for their benefit. His
colored members were very few, and also very respectable -
a fact which I presume had some weight with
him. The difficulty was to decide on a suitable place
for them to worship. The Methodist and Baptist
churches admitted them in the afternoon, but their
carpets and cushions were not so costly as those at the
Episcopal church. It was at last decided that they
should meet at the house of a free colored man, who
was a member.
I was invited to attend, because I could read. Sunday
evening came, and, trusting to the cover of night,
I ventured out. I rarely ventured out by daylight,
for I always went with fear, expecting at every turn to
encounter Dr. Flint, who was sure to turn me back, or
order me to his office to inquire where I got my bonnet,
or some other article of dress. When the Rev. Mr. Pike
came, there were some twenty persons present.
The reverend gentleman knelt in prayer, then
seated himself, and requested all present, who could
read, to open their books, while he gave out the
portions he wished them to repeat or respond to.
His text was, "Servants, be obedient to them that
are your masters according to the flesh, with fear
and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto
Pious Mr. Pike brushed up his hair till it stood upright,
and, in deep, solemn tones, began: "Hearken,
ye servants! Give strict heed unto my words. You
are rebellious sinners. Your hearts are filled with all
manner of evil. 'Tis the devil who tempts you. God
is angry with you, and will surely punish you, if you
don't forsake your wicked ways. You that live in
town are eye-servants behind your master's back.
Instead of serving your masters faithfully, which is
pleasing in the sight of your heavenly Master, you are
idle, and shirk your work. God sees you. You tell
lies. God hears you. Instead of being engaged in
worshipping him, you are hidden away somewhere,
feasting on your master's substance; tossing
coffee-grounds with some wicked fortuneteller, or
cutting cards with another old hag. Your masters may not
find you out, but God sees you, and will punish you.
O, the depravity of your hearts! When your master's
work is done, are you quietly together, thinking of the
goodness of God to such sinful creatures? No; you
are quarrelling, and tying up little bags of roots to
bury under the door-steps to poison each other with.
God sees you. You men steal away to every grog
shop to sell your master's corn, that you may buy
rum to drink. God sees you. You sneak into the
back streets, or among the bushes, to pitch coppers.
Although your masters may not find you out, God
sees you; and he will punish you. You must forsake
your sinful ways, and be faithful servants. Obey your
old master and your young master - your old mistress
and your young mistress. If you disobey your earthly
master, you offend your heavenly Master. You must
obey God's commandments. When you go from here,
don't stop at the corners of the streets to talk, but go
directly home, and let your master and mistress see
that you have come."
The benediction was pronounced. We went home,
highly amused at brother Pike's gospel teaching, and
we determined to hear him again. I went the next
Sabbath evening, and heard pretty much a repetition
of the last discourse. At the close of the meeting,
Mr. Pike informed us that he found it very inconvenient
to meet at the friend's house, and he should be
glad to see us, every Sunday evening, at his own
I went home with the feeling that I had heard the
Reverend Mr. Pike for the last time. Some of his
members repaired to his house, and found that the
kitchen sported two tallow candles; the first time, I
am sure, since its present occupant owned it, for the
servants never had any thing but pine knots. It was
so long before the reverend gentleman descended from
his comfortable parlor that the slaves left, and went to
enjoy a Methodist shout. They never seem so happy
as when shouting and singing at religious meetings.
Many of them are sincere, and nearer to the gate of
heaven than sanctimonious Mr. Pike, and other long-faced
Christians, who see wounded Samaritans, and
pass by on the other side.
The slaves generally compose their own songs and
hymns, and they do not trouble their heads much about
the measure. They often sing the following verses:
Satan is one busy ole man;
rolls dem blocks all in my way;
Jesus is my bosom friend;
rolls dem brooks away.
I had died when I was young,
how my stam'ring tongue would have sung;
I am ole, and now I stand
narrow chance for to tread dat heavenly land."
I well remember one
occasion when I attended a
Methodist class meeting. I went with a burdened
spirit, and happened to sit next a poor, bereaved
mother, whose heart was still heavier than mine.
The class leader was the town constable - a man who
bought and sold slaves, who whipped his brethren and
sisters of the church at the public whipping post, in
jail or out of jail. He was ready to perform that
Christian office any where for fifty cents. This white-faced,
black-hearted brother came near us, and said to
the stricken woman, "Sister, can't you tell us how the
Lord deals with your soul? Do you love him as you
She rose to her feet, and said, in piteous tones,
"My Lord and Master, help me! My load is more
than I can bear. God has hid himself from me, and
I am left in darkness and misery." Then, striking
her breast, she continued, "I can't tell you what is in
here! They've got all my children. Last week they
took the last one. God only knows where they've
sold her. They let me have her sixteen years, and
then - O! O! Pray for her brothers and sisters!
I've got nothing to live for now. God make my time
She sat flown, quivering in every limb. I saw that
constable class leader become crimson in the face with
suppressed laughter, while he held up his handkerchief,
that those who were weeping for the poor woman's
calamity might not see his merriment. Then,
with assumed gravity, he said to the bereaved mother,
"Sister, pray to the Lord that every dispensation of
his divine will may be sanctified to the good of your
poor needy soul!"
The congregation struck up a hymn, and sung as
though they were as free as the birds that warbled
round us, -
Satan thought he had a mighty aim;
missed my soul, and caught my sins.
Amen, cry Amen, cry Amen to God!
took my sins upon his back;
muttering and grumbling down to hell.
Amen, cry Amen, cry Amen to God!
Satan's church is here below.
to God's free church I hope to go.
Amen, cry Amen, cry Amen to God!"
Precious are such
moments to the poor slaves. If
you were to hear them at such times, you might think
they were happy. But can that hour of singing and
shouting sustain them through the dreary week, toiling
without wages, under constant dread of the lash?
The Episcopal clergyman, who, ever since my earliest
recollection, had been a sort of god among the
slaveholders, concluded, as his family was large, that
he must go where money was more abundant. A
very different clergyman took his place. The change
was very agreeable to the colored people, who said,
"God has sent us a good man this time." They loved
him, and their children followed him for a smile or a
kind word. Even the slaveholders felt his influence.
He brought to the rectory five slaves. His wife taught
them to read and write, and to be useful to her and
themselves. As soon as he was settled, he turned his
attention to the needy slaves around him. He urged
upon his parishioners the duty of having a meeting
expressly for them every Sunday, with a sermon
adapted to their comprehension. After much argument
and importunity, it was finally agreed that they
might occupy the gallery of the church on Sunday
evenings. Many colored people, hitherto unaccustomed
to attend church, now gladly went to hear the
gospel preached. The sermons were simple, and they
understood them. Moreover, it was the first time they
had ever been addressed as human beings. It was not
long before his white parishioners began to be dissatisfied.
He was accused of preaching better sermons to
the negroes than he did to them. He honestly confessed
that he bestowed more pains upon those sermons
than upon any others; for the slaves were reared in
such ignorance that it was a difficult task to adapt himself
to their comprehension. Dissensions arose in the
parish. Some wanted he should preach to them in
the evening, and to the slaves in the afternoon. In the
midst of these disputings his wife died, after a very
short illness. Her slaves gathered round her dying
bed in great sorrow. She said, "I have tried to do
you good and promote your happiness; and if I have
failed, it has not been for want of interest in your
welfare. Do not weep for me; but prepare for the
new duties that lie before you. I leave you all free.
May we meet in a better world." Her liberated slaves
were sent away, with funds to establish them comfortably.
The colored people will long bless the memory
of that truly Christian woman. Soon after her death
her husband preached his farewell sermon, and many
tears were shed at his departure.
Several years after, he passed through our town and
preached to his former congregation. In his afternoon
sermon he addressed the colored people. "My
friends," said he, "it affords me great happiness to
have an opportunity of speaking to you again. For
two years I have been striving to do something for the
colored people of my own parish; but nothing is yet
accomplished. I have not even preached a sermon to
them. Try to live according to the word of God, my
friends. Your skin is darker than mine; but God
judges men by their hearts, not by the color of their
skims." This was strange doctrine from a southern
pulpit. It was very offensive to slaveholders. They
said he and his wife had made fools of their slaves,
and that he preached like a fool to the negroes.
I knew an old black man, whose piety and childlike
trust in God were beautiful to witness. At fifty-three
years old he joined the Baptist church. He had
a most earnest desire to learn to read. He thought he
should know how to serve God better if he could only
read the Bible. He came to me, and bogged me to
teach him. He said he could not pay me, for he had
no money, but he would bring me nice fruit when the
season for it came. I asked him if he didn't know it
was contrary to law; and that slaves were whipped
and imprisoned for teaching each other to read. This
brought the tears into his eyes. "Don't be troubled
uncle Fred," said I. "I have no thoughts of refusing to
teach you. I only told you of the law, that you might
know the danger, and be on your guard." He thought
he could plan to come three times a week without its
being suspected. I selected a quiet nook, where no
intruder was likely to penetrate, and there I taught him
his A, B, and C. Considering his age, his progress was
astonishing. As soon as he could spell in two syllables
he wanted to spell out words in the Bible. The happy
smile that illuminated his face put joy into my heart.
After spelling out a few words, he paused, and said,
"Honey, it 'pears when I can read dis good book I shall
be nearer to God. White man is got all de sense. He
can larn easy. It ain't easy for ole black man like me. I
only wants to read dis book, dat I may know how to
live, den I hab no fear 'bout dying."
I tried to encourage him by speaking of the rapid
progress he had made. "Hab patience, child," he
replied. "I larns slow."
I had no need of patience. His gratitude, and the
happiness I imparted, were more than a recompense
for all my trouble.
At the end of six months he had read through the
New Testament, and could find any text in it. One
day, when he had recited unusually well, I said,
"Uncle Fred, how do you manage to get your
lessons so well?"
"Lord bress you, chile," he replied. "You nebber
gibs me a lesson dat I don't pray to God to help me to
understan' what I spells and what I reads. And he
does help me, chile. Bress his holy name!"
There are thousands, who, like good uncle Fred, are
thirsting for the water of life; but the law forbids it,
and the churches withhold it. They send the Bible to
heathen abroad, and neglect the heathen at home. I am
glad that missionaries go out to the dark corners of the
earth; but I ask them not to overlook the dark corners
at home. Talk to American slaveholders as you talk
to savages in Africa. Tell them it is wrong to traffic in
men. Tell them it is sinful to sell their own children,
and atrocious to violate their own daughters. Tell them
that all men are brethren, and that man has no right to
shut out the light of knowledge from his brother. Tell
them they are answerable to God for sealing up the
Fountain of Life from souls that are thirsting for it.
There are men who would gladly undertake such
missionary work as this; but, alas! their number is
small. They are hated by the south, and would be
driven from its soil, or dragged to prison to die, as
others have been before them. The field is ripe for the
harvest, and awaits the reapers. Perhaps the great
grandchildren of uncle Fred may have freely imparted
to them the divine treasures, which he sought by
stealth, at the risk of the prison and the scourge.
Are doctors of divinity blind, or are they
hypocrites? I suppose some are the one, and some the
other; but I think if they felt the interest in the poor
and the lowly, that they ought to feel, they would not
be so easily blinded. A clergyman who goes to the
south, for the first time, has usually some feeling,
however vague, that slavery is wrong. The slaveholder
suspects this, and plays his game accordingly.
He makes himself as agreeable as possible; talks on
theology, and other kindred topics. The reverend
gentleman is asked to invoke a blessing on a table
loaded with luxuries. After dinner he walks round
the premises, and sees the beautiful groves and flowering
vines, and the comfortable huts of favored household
slaves. The southerner invites him to talk with
these slaves. He asks them if they want to be free,
and they say, "O, no, massa." This is sufficient to
satisfy him. He comes home to publish a "South-Side
View of Slavery," and to complain of the exaggerations
of abolitionists. He assures people that he
has been to the south, and seen slavery for himself;
that it is a beautiful "patriarchal institution;" that
the slaves don't want their freedom; that they have
hallelujah meetings, and other religious privileges.
What does he know of the half-starved wretches toiling
from dawn till dark on the plantations? of mothers
shrieking for their children, torn from their arms
by slave traders? of young girls dragged down into
moral filth? of pools of blood around the whipping
post? of hounds trained to tear human flesh? of men
screwed into cotton gins to die? The slaveholder
showed him none of these things, and the slaves dared
not tell of them if he had asked them.
There is a great difference between Christianity and
religion at the south. If a man goes to the communion
table, and pays money into the treasury of the
church, no matter if it be the price of blood, he is
called religious. If a pastor has offspring by a woman
not his wife, the church dismiss him, if she is a white
woman; but if she is colored, it does not hinder his
continuing to be their good shepherd.
When I was told that Dr. Flint had joined the
Episcopal church, I was much surprised. I supposed
that religion had a purifying effect on the character
of men; but the worst persecutions I endured from
him were after he was a communicant. The conversation
of the doctor, the day after he had been confirmed,
certainly gave me no indication that he had
"renounced the devil and all his works." In answer
to some of his usual talk, I reminded him that he had
just joined the church. "Yes, Linda," said he. "It
was proper for me to do so. I am getting in years,
and my position in society requires it, and it puts an
end to all the damned slang. You would do well to
join the church, too, Linda."
"There are sinners enough in it already," rejoined I.
"If I could be allowed to live like a Christian, I should be glad."
"You can do what I require; and if you are
faithful to me, you will be as virtuous as my wife," he
I answered that the Bible didn't say so.
His voice became hoarse with rage. "How dare
you preach to me about your infernal Bible!" he
exclaimed. "What right have you, who are my
negro, to talk to me about what you would like, and
what you wouldn't like? I am your master, and you
shall obey me."
No wonder the slaves
Satan's church is here below;
to God's free church I hope to go."
ANOTHER LINK TO LIFE.
I HAD not returned to my master's house since the
birth of my child. The old man raved to have me
thus removed from his immediate power; but his wife
vowed, by all that was good and great, she would kill
me if I came back; and he did not doubt her word.
Sometimes he would stay away for a season. Then
he would come and renew the old threadbare discourse
about his forbearance and my ingratitude. He labored,
most unnecessarily, to convince me that I had
lowered myself. The venomous old reprobate had no
need of descanting on that theme. I felt humiliated
enough. My unconscious babe was the ever-present
witness of my shame. I listened with silent contempt
when he talked about my having forfeited his good
opinion; but I shed bitter tears that I was no longer
worthy of being respected by the good and pure.
Alas! slavery still held me in its poisonous grasp.
There was no chance for me to be respectable. There
was no prospect of being able to lead a better life.
Sometimes, when my master found that I still
refused to accept what he called his kind offers, he
would threaten to sell my child. "Perhaps that will
humble you," said he.
Humble me! Was I not already in the dust? But
his threat lacerated my heart. I knew the law gave
him power to fulfil it; for slaveholders have been
cunning enough to enact that "the child shall follow
the condition of the mother," not of the father; thus
taking care that licentiousness shall not interfere with
avarice. This reflection made me clasp my innocent
babe all the more firmly to my heart. Horrid visions
passed through my mind when I thought of his liability
to fall into the slave trader's hands. I wept
over him, and said, "O my child! perhaps they will
leave you in some cold cabin to die, and then throw
you into a hole, as if you were a dog."
When Dr. Flint learned that I was again to be a
mother, he was exasperated beyond measure. He
rushed from the house, and returned with a pair of
shears. I had a fine head of hair; and he often
railed about my pride of arranging it nicely. He cut
every hair close to my head, storming and swearing
all the time. I replied to some of his abuse, and he
struck me. Some months before, he had pitched me
down stairs in a fit of passion; and the injury I received
was so serious that I was unable to turn myself
in bed for many days. He then said, "Linda, I swear
by God I will never raise my hand against you again;"
but I knew that he would forget his promise.
After he discovered my situation, he was like a
restless spirit from the pit. He came every day; and
I was subjected to such insults as no pen can describe.
I would not describe them if I could; they were too
low, too revolting. I tried to keep them from my
grandmother's knowledge as much as I could. I
knew she had enough to sadden her life, without
having my troubles to bear. When she saw the
doctor treat me with violence, and heard him utter
oaths terrible enough to palsy a man's tongue, she
could not always hold her peace. It was natural and
motherlike that she should try to defend me; but it
only made matters worse.
When they told me my new-born babe was a girl,
my heart was heavier than it had ever been before.
Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible
for women. Superadded to the burden common to
all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications
peculiarly their own.
Dr. Flint had sworn that he would make me suffer,
to my last day, for this new crime against him, as he
called it; and as long as he had me in his power he
kept his word. On the fourth day after the birth of my
babe, he entered my room suddenly, and commanded
me to rise and bring my baby to him. The nurse who
took care of me had gone out of the room to prepare
some nourishment, and I was alone. There was no
alternative. I rose, took up my babe, and crossed the
room to where he sat. "Now stand there," said he,
"till I tell you to go back!" My child bore a strong
resemblance to her father, and to the deceased Mrs.
Sands, her grandmother. He noticed this; and while
I stood before him, trembling with weakness, he heaped
upon me and my little one every vile epithet he could
think of. Even the grandmother in her grave did not
escape his curse s. In the midst of his vituperations
I fainted at his feet. This recalled him to his senses.
He took the baby from my arms, laid it on the bed,
dashed cold water on my face, took me up, and shook
me violently, to restore my consciousness before any
one entered the room. Just then my grandmother
came in, and he hurried out of the house. I suffered
in consequence of this treatment; but I begged my
friends to let me die, rather than send for the doctor.
There was nothing I dreaded so much as his presence.
My life was spared; and I was glad for the sake of my
little ones. Had it not been for these ties to life, I
should have been glad to be released by death, though
I had lived only nineteen years.
Always it gave me a pang that my children had no
lawful claim to a name. Their father offered his; but,
if I had wished to accept the offer, I dared not while
my master lived. Moreover, I knew it would not be
accepted at their baptism. A Christian name they
were at least entitled to; and we resolved to call my
boy for our dear good Benjamin, who had gone far
away from us.
My grandmother belonged to the church; and she
was very desirous of having the children christened.
I knew Dr. Flint would forbid it, and I did not
venture to attempt it. But chance favored me. He
was called to visit a patient out of town, and was
obliged to be absent during Sunday. "Now is the
time," said my grandmother; "we will take the children
to church, and have them christened."
When I entered the church, recollections of my
mother came over me, and I felt subdued in spirit.
There she had presented me for baptism, without any
reason to feel ashamed. She had been married, and
had such legal rights as slavery allows to a slave.
The vows had at least been sacred to her, and she had
never violated them. I was glad she was not alive, to
know under what different circumstances her
grandchildren were presented for baptism. Why had my
lot been so different from my mother's? Her master
had died when she was a child; and she remained
with her mistress till she married. She was never
in the power of any master; and thus she escaped
one class of the evils that generally fall upon slaves.
When my baby was about to be christened, the
former mistress of my father stepped up to me, and
proposed to give it her Christian name. To this I
added the surname of my father, who had himself no
legal right to it; for my grandfather on the paternal
side was a white gentleman. What tangled skeins
are the genealogies of slavery! I loved my father;
but it mortified me to be obliged to bestow his name
on my children.
When we left the church, my father's old mistress
invited me to go home with her. She clasped a gold
chain round my baby's neck. I thanked her for this
kindness; but I did not like the emblem. I wanted
no chain to be fastened on my daughter, not even if
its links were of gold. How earnestly I prayed that
she might never feel the weight of slavery's chain,
whose iron entereth into the soul!
MY children grew finely; and Dr. Flint would often
say to me, with an exulting smile, "These brats
will bring me a handsome sum of money one of these
I thought to myself that, God being my helper, they
should never pass into his hands. It seemed to me
I would rather see them killed than have them given
up to his power. The money for the freedom of myself
and my children could be obtained; but I derived
no advantage from that circumstance. Dr. Flint
loved money, but he loved power more. After much
discussion, my friends resolved on making another trial.
There was a slaveholder about to leave for Texas, and
he was commissioned to buy me. He was to begin with
nine hundred dollars, and go up to twelve. My master
refused his offers. "Sir," said he, "she don't belong
to me. She is my daughter's property, and I have no
right to sell her. I mistrust that you come from her
paramour. If so, you may tell him that he cannot
buy her for any money; neither can he buy her
The doctor came to see me the next day, and my
heart beat quicker as he entered. I never had seen the
old man tread with so majestic a step. He seated himself
and looked at me with withering scorn. My children
had learned to be afraid of him. The little one
would shut her eyes and hide her face on my shoulder
whenever she saw him; and Benny, who was now
nearly five years old, often inquired, "What makes that
bad man come here so many times? Does he want to
hurt us?" I would clasp the dear boy in my arms,
trusting that he would be free before he was old
enough to solve the problem. And now, as the doctor
sat there so grim and silent, the child left his play and
came and nestled up by me. At last my tormentor
spoke. "So you are left in disgust, are you?" said he.
"It is no more than I expected. You remember I told
you years ago that you would be treated so. So he is
tired of you? Ha! ha! ha! The virtuous madam
don't like to hear about it, does she? Ha! ha! ha!"
There was a sting in his calling me virtuous madam.
I no longer had the power of answering him as I had
formerly done. He continued: "So it seems you are
trying to get up another intrigue. Your new paramour
came to me, and offered to buy you; but you may be
assured you will not succeed. You are mine; and you
shall be mine for life. There lives no human being that
can take you out of slavery. I would have done it; but
you rejected my kind offer."
I told him I did not wish to get up any intrigue;
that I had never seen the man who offered to buy me.
"Do you tell me I lie?" exclaimed he, dragging me
from my chair. "Will you say again that you never
saw that man?"
I answered, "I do say so."
He clinched my arm with a volley of oaths. Ben
began to scream, I told him to go to his grandmother.
"Don't you stir a step, you wretch!" said he.
The child drew nearer to me, and put his arms round
me, as if he wanted to protect me. This was too much
for my enraged master. He caught him up and hurled
him across the room. I thought he was dead, and
rushed towards him to take him up.
"Not yet!" exclaimed the doctor. "Let him lie
there till he comes to."
"Let me go! Let me go!" I screamed, "or I will
raise the whole house." I struggled and got away;
but he clinched me again. Somebody opened the door,
and he released me. I picked up my insensible child,
and when I turned my tormentor was gone. Anxiously
I bent over the little form, so pale and still; and when
the brown eyes at last opened, I don't know whether I
was very happy.
All the doctor's former persecutions were renewed.
He came morning, noon, and night. No jealous lover
ever watched a rival more closely than he watched me
and the unknown slaveholder, with whom he accused
me of wishing to get up an intrigue. When my grandmother
was out of the way he searched every room to
In one of his visits, he happened to find a young girl,
whom he had sold to a trader a few days previous.
His statement was, that he sold her because she had
been too familiar with the overseer. She had had a
bitter life with him, and was glad to be sold. She had
no mother, and no near ties. She had been torn from
all her family years before. A few friends had entered
into bonds for her safety, if the trader would allow her
to spend with them the time that intervened between
her sale and the gathering up of his human stock.
Such a favor was rarely granted. It saved the trader
the expense of board and jail fees, and though the
amount was small, it was a weighty consideration in a
Dr. Flint always had an aversion to meeting slaves
after he had sold them. He ordered Rose out of the
house; but he was no longer her master, and she took
no notice of him. For once the crushed Rose was the
conqueror. His gray eyes flashed angrily upon her;
but that was the extent of his power. "How came
this girl here?" he exclaimed." What right had you
to allow it, when you knew I had sold her?"
I answered "This is my grandmother's house, and
Rose came to see her. I have no right to turn any
body out of doors, that comes here for honest purposes."
He gave me the blow that would have fallen upon
Rose if she had still been his slave. My grandmother's
attention had been attracted by loud voices, and
she arrived in time to see a second blow dealt. She
was not a woman to let such an outrage, in her own
house, go unrebuked. The doctor undertook to explain
that I had been insolent. Her indignant feelings
rose higher and higher, and finally boiled over in words.
"Get out of my house!" she exclaimed. "Go home,
and take care of your wife and children, and you will
have enough to do, without watching my family."
He threw the birth of my children in her face, and
accused her of sanctioning the life I was leading. She
told him I was living with her by compulsion of his wife;
that he needn't accuse her, for he was the one
to blame; he was the one who had caused all the
trouble. She grew more and more excited as she
went on. "I tell you what, Dr. Flint," said she, "you
ain't got many more years to live, and you'd better be
saying your prayers. It will take 'em all, and more
too, to wash the dirt off your soul."
"Do you know whom you are talking to?" he exclaimed.
She replied, "Yes, I know very well who I am talking
He left the house in a great rage. I looked at my
grandmother. Our eyes met. Their angry expression
had passed away, but she looked sorrowful and
weary - weary of incessant strife. I wondered that it
did not lessen her love for me; but if it did she never
showed it. She was always kind, always ready to
sympathize with my troubles. There might have been
peace and contentment in that lovable home if it had
not been for the demon Slavery.
The winter passed undisturbed by the doctor. The
beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her
loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also. My
drooping hopes came to life again with the flowers. I
was dreaming of freedom again; more for my children's
sake than my own. I planned and I planned. Obstacles
hit against plans. There seemed no way of
overcoming them; and yet I hoped.
Back came the wily doctor. I was not at home when
he called. A friend had invited me to a small party,
and to gratify her I went. To my great consternation,
a messenger came in haste to say that Dr. Flint was at
my grandmother's, and insisted on seeing me. They
did not tell him where I was, or he would have come
and raised a disturbance in my friend's house. They
sent me a dark wrapper; I threw it on and hurried
home. My speed did not save me; the doctor had gone
away in anger. I dreaded the morning, but I could
not delay it; it came, warm and bright. At an early
hour the doctor came and asked me where I had been
last night. I told him. He did not believe me, and
sent to my friend's house to ascertain the facts. He
came in the afternoon to assure me he was satisfied
that I had spoken the truth. He seemed to be in a
facetious mood, and I expected some jeers were coming.
"I suppose you need some recreation," said he, "but
I am surprised at your being there, among those negroes.
It was not the place for you. Are you allowed to visit
I understood this covert fling at the white gentleman
who was my friend; but I merely replied, "I went to
visit my friends, and any company they keep is good
enough for me."
He went on to say, "I have seen very little of you
of late, but my interest in you is unchanged. When
I said I would have no more mercy on you I was rash.
I recall my words. Linda, you desire freedom for yourself
and your children, and you can obtain it only
through me. If you agree to what I am about to propose,
you and they shall be free. There must be no
communication of any kind between you and their
father. I will procure a cottage, where you and the
children can live together. Your labor shall be light,
such as sewing for my family. Think what is offered
you, Linda - a home and freedom! Let the past be
forgotten. If I have been harsh with you at times,
your wilfulness drove me to it. You know I exact
obedience from my own children, and I consider you
as yet a child."
He paused for an answer, but I remained silent.
"Why don't you speak?" said he. "What more
do you wait for?"
"Then you accept my offer?"
His anger was ready to break loose; but he succeeded
in curbing it, and replied, "You have answered without
thought. But I must let you know there are two
sides to my proposition; if you reject the bright side,
you will be obliged to take the dark one. You must
either accept my offer, or you and your children shall
be sent to your young master's plantation, there to
remain till your young mistress is married; and your
children shall fare like the rest of the negro children.
I give you a week to consider of it."
He was shrewd; but I knew he was not to be trusted.
I told him I was ready to give my answer now.
"I will not receive it now," he replied. "You act
too much from impulse. Remember that you and your
children can be free a week from to-day if you choose."
On what a monstrous chance hung the destiny of
my children! I knew that my master's offer was a
snare, and that if I entered it escape would be impossible.
As for his promise, I knew him so well that I
was sure if he gave me free papers, they would be so
managed as to have no legal value. The alternative
was inevitable. I resolved to go to the plantation.
But then I thought how completely I should be in his
power, and the prospect was apalling. Even if I should
kneel before him, and implore him to spare me, for the
sake of my children, I knew he would spurn me with
his foot, and my weakness would be his triumph.
Before the week expired, I heard that young Mr.
Flint was about to be married to a lady of his own
stamp. I foresaw the position I should occupy in his
establishment. I had once been sent to the plantation
for punishment, and fear of the son had induced the
father to recall me very soon. My mind was made up;
I was resolved that I would foil my master and save
my children, or I would perish in the attempt. I kept
my plans to myself; I knew that friends would try to
dissuade me from them, and I would not wound their
feelings by rejecting their advice.
On the decisive day the doctor came, and said he
hoped I had made a wise choice.
"I am ready to go to the plantation, sir," I replied.
"Have you thought how important your decision is
to your children?" said he.
I told him I had.
"Very well. Go to the plantation, and my curse go
with you," he replied. "Your boy shall be put to
work, and he shall soon be sold; and your girl shall be
raised for the purpose of selling well. Go your own
ways!" He left the room with curses, not to be repeated.
As I stood rooted to the spot, my grandmother came
and said, "Linda, child, what did you tell him?"
I answered that I was going to the plantation.
"Must you go?" said she. "Can't something be
done to stop it?"
I told her it was useless to try; but she begged me not
to give up. She said she would go to the doctor, and
remind him how long and how faithfully she had served
in the family, and how she had taken her own baby
from her breast to nourish his wife. She would tell
him I had been out of the family so long they would
not miss me; that she would pay them for my time,
and the money would procure a woman who had more
strength for the situation than I had. I begged her
not to go; but she persisted in saying, "He will listen
to me, Linda." She went, and was treated as I expected.
He coolly listened to what she said, but denied
her request. He told her that what he did was for my
good, that my feelings were entirely above my situation,
and that on the plantation I would receive treatment
that was suitable to my behavior.
My grandmother was much cast down. I had my
secret hopes; but I must fight my battle alone. I had
a woman's pride, and a mother's love for my children;
and I resolved that out of the darkness of this hour a
brighter dawn should rise for them. My master had
power and law on his side; I had a determined will.
There is might in each.
SCENES AT THE PLANTATION.
EARLY the next morning I left my grandmother's
with my youngest child. My boy was ill, and I left
him behind. I had many sad thoughts as the old
wagon jolted on. Hitherto, I had suffered alone; now,
my little one was to be treated as a slave. As we
drew near the great house, I thought of the time when
I was formerly sent there out of revenge. I wondered
for what purpose I was now sent. I could not tell. I
resolved to obey orders so far as duty required; but
within myself, I determined to make my stay as short
as possible. Mr. Flint was waiting to receive us, and
told me to follow him up stairs to receive orders for
the day. My little Ellen was left below in the kitchen.
It was a change for her, who had always been so carefully
tended. My young master said she might amuse
herself in the yard. This was kind of him, since the
child was hateful to his sight. My task was to fit up
the house for the reception of the bride. In the midst
of sheets, tablecloths, towels, drapery, and carpeting,
my head was as busy planning, as were my fingers
with the needle. At noon I was allowed to go to
Ellen. She had sobbed herself to sleep. I heard
Mr. Flint say to a neighbor, "I've got her down here,
And I'll soon take the town notions out of her head.
My father is partly to blame for her nonsense. He
ought to have broke her in long ago." The remark
was made within my hearing, and it would have been
quite as manly to have made it to my face. He had
said things to my face which might, or might not, have
surprised his neighbor if he had known of them. He
was "a chip of the old block."
I resolved to give him no cause to accuse me of
being too much of a lady, so far as work was
concerned. I worked day and night, with
wretchedness before me. When I lay down beside my
child, I felt how much easier it would be to see her die
than to see her master beat her about, as I daily saw
him beat other little ones. The spirit of the mothers
was so crushed by the lash, that they stood by, without
courage to remonstrate. How much more must I
suffer, before I should be "broke in" to that degree?
I wished to appear as contented as possible.
Sometimes I had an opportunity to send a few lines
home; and this brought up recollections that made it
difficult, for a time, to seem calm and indifferent to
my lot. Notwithstanding my efforts, I saw that Mr.
Flint regarded me with a suspicious eye. Ellen broke
down under the trials of her new life. Separated from
me, with no one to look after her, she wandered about,
and in a few days cried herself sick. One day, she
sat under the window where I was at work, crying
that weary cry which makes a mother's heart bleed. I
was obliged to steel myself to bear it. After a while it
ceased. I looked out, and she was gone. As it was
near noon, I ventured to go down in search of her. The
great house was raised two feet above the ground.
I looked under it, and saw her about midway, fast
I crept under and drew her out. As I held her in my
arms, I thought how well it would be for her if she
never waked up; and I uttered my thought aloud. I
was startled to hear some one say, "Did you speak to
me?" I looked up, and saw Mr. Flint standing beside
me. He said nothing further, but turned, frowning, away.
That night he sent Ellen a biscuit and a cup of sweetened milk.
This generosity surprised me. I learned afterwards, that in the
afternoon he had killed a large snake, which crept from under the
house; and I supposed that incident had prompted his
The next morning the old cart was loaded with
shingles for town. I put Ellen into it, and sent her to
her grandmother. Mr. Flint said I ought to have asked
his permission. I told him the child was sick, and
required attention which I had no time to give. He let
it pass; for he was aware that I had accomplished
much work in a little time.
I had been three weeks on the plantation, when I
planned a visit home. It must be at night, after every
body was in bed. I was six miles from town, and the
road was very dreary. I was to go with a young man,
who, I knew, often stole to town to see his mother.
One night, when all was quiet, we started. Fear gave
speed to our steps, and we were not long in
performing the journey. I arrived at my
grandmother's. Her bed room was on the first floor,
and the window was open, the weather being warm. I
spoke to her and she awoke. She let me in and closed
the window, lest some late passer-by should see me. A
light was brought, and the whole household
gathered round me, some smiling
and some crying. I went to look at my children, and
thanked God for their happy sleep. The tears fell as
I leaned over them. As I moved to leave, Benny
stirred. I turned back, and whispered, "Mother is
here." After digging at his eyes with his little fist,
they opened, and he sat up in bed, looking at me
curiously. Having satisfied himself that it was I, he
exclaimed, "O mother! you ain't dead, are you?
They didn't cut off your head at the plantation, did
My time was up too soon, and my guide was waiting
for me. I laid Benny back in his bed, and dried his
tears by a promise to come again soon. Rapidly we
retraced our steps back to the plantation. About half
way we were met by a company of four patrols. Luckily
we heard their horse's hoofs before they came in sight,
and we had time to hide behind a large tree. They
passed, hallooing and shouting in a manner that indicated
a recent carousel. How thankful we were
that they had not their dogs with them! We hastened
our footsteps, and when we arrived on the plantation
we heard the sound of the hand-mill. The slaves were
grinding their corn. We were safely in the house before
the horn summoned them to their labor. I divided
my little parcel of food with my guide, knowing that
he had lost the chance of grinding his corn, and must
toil all day in the field.
Mr. Flint often took an inspection of the house, to
see that no one was idle. The entire management of
the work was trusted to me, because he knew nothing
about it; and rather than hire a superintendent he
contented himself with my arrangements. He had
often urged upon his father the necessity of having me
at the plantation to take charge of his affairs, and
make clothes for the slaves; but the old man knew
him too well to consent to that arrangement.
When I had been working a month at the plantation,
the great aunt of Mr. Flint came to make him a visit.
This was the good old lady who paid fifty dollars for
my grandmother, for the purpose of making her free,
when she stood on the auction block. My grandmother
loved this old lady, whom we all called Miss
Fanny. She often came to take tea with us. On such
occasions the table was spread with a snow-white cloth,
and the china cups and silver spoons were taken from
the old-fashioned buffet. There were hot muffins, tea
rusks, and delicious sweetmeats. My grandmother
kept two cows, and the fresh cream was Miss Fanny's
delight. She invariably declared that it was the best
in town. The old ladies had cosey times together. They
would work and chat, and sometimes, while talking
over old times, their spectacles would get dim with
tears, and would have to be taken off and wiped.
When Miss Fanny bade us good by, her bag was filled
with grandmother's best cakes, and she was urged to
come again soon.
There had been a time when Dr. Flint's wife came
to take tea with us, and when her children were also
sent to have a feast of "Aunt Marthy's" nice cooking.
But after I became an object of her jealousy and spite,
she was angry with grandmother for giving a shelter
to me and my children. She would not even speak to
her in the street. This wounded my grandmother's
feelings, for she could not retain ill will against the
woman whom she had nourished with her milk when a
babe. The doctor's wife would gladly have prevented
our intercourse with Miss Fanny if she could have
done it, but fortunately she was not dependent on the
bounty of the Flints. She had enough to be
independent; and that is more than can ever be gained
from charity, however lavish it may be.
Miss Fanny was endeared to me by many recollections,
and I was rejoiced to see her at the plantation.
The warmth of her large, loyal heart made the house
seem pleasanter while she was in it. She staid a week,
and I had many talks with her. She said her principal
object in coming was to see how I was treated,
and whether any thing could be done for me. She inquired
whether she could help me in any way. I told
her I believed not. She condoled with me in her own
peculiar way; saying she wished that I and all my
grandmother's family were at rest in our graves, for
not until then should she feel any peace about us. The
good old soul did not dream that I was planning to
bestow peace upon her, with regard to myself and
my children; not by death, but by securing our
Again and again I had traversed those dreary twelve
miles, to and from the town; and all the way, I was
meditating upon some means of escape for myself and
my children. My friends had made every effort that
ingenuity could devise to effect our purchase, but all
their plans had proved abortive. Dr. Flint was suspicious,
and determined not to loosen his grasp upon us.
I could have made my escape alone; but it was more
for my helpless children than for myself that I longed
for freedom. Though the boon would have been
precious to me, above all price, I would not have taken
it at the expense of leaving them in slavery. Every
trial I endured, every sacrifice I made for their
sakes, drew them closer to my heart, and gave me
fresh courage to beat back the dark waves that rolled
and rolled over me in a seemingly endless night of
The six weeks were nearly completed, when Mr.
Flint's bride was expected to take possession of her
own home. The arrangements were all completed,
and Mr. Flint said I had done well. He expected to
leave home on Saturday, and return with his bride the
following Wednesday. After receiving various orders
from him, I ventured to ask permission to spend Sunday
in town. It was granted; for which favor I was
thankful. It was the first I had ever asked of him,
and I intended it should be the last. It needed more
than one night to accomplish the project I had in view;
but the whole of Sunday would give me an opportunity.
I spent the Sabbath with my grandmother. A calmer,
more beautiful day never came down out of heaven.
To me it was a day of conflicting emotions. Perhaps
it was the last day I should ever spend under that dear,
old sheltered roof! Perhaps these were the last talks
I should ever have with the faithful old friend of my
whole life! Perhaps it was the last time I and my
children should be together! Well, better so, I
thought, than that they should be slaves. I
knew the doom that awaited my fair baby in slavery, and I
determined to save her from it, or perish in the attempt.
I went to make this vow at the graves of my poor
parents, in the burying-ground of the slaves. "There
the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary
be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they
hear not the voice of the oppressor; the servant is
free from his master." I knelt by the graves of my
parents, and thanked God, as I had often done before,
that they had not lived to witness my trials, or to
mourn over my sins. I had received my mother's
blessing when she died; and in many an hour of tribulation
I had seemed to hear her voice, sometimes
chiding me, sometimes whispering loving words into
my wounded heart. I have shed many and bitter
tears, to think that when I am gone from my children
they cannot remember me with such entire satisfaction
as I remembered my mother.
The graveyard was in the woods, and twilight was
coming on. Nothing broke the death-like stillness except
the occasional twitter of a bird. My spirit was
overawed by the solemnity of the scene. For more
than ten years I had frequented this spot, but never
had it seemed to me so sacred as now. A black stump,
at the head of my mother's grave, was all that remained
of a tree my father had planted. His grave
was marked by a small wooden board, bearing his
name, the letters of which were nearly obliterated.
I knelt down and kissed them, and poured forth a
prayer to God for guidance and support in the perilous
step I was about to take. As I passed the wreck of
the old meeting house, where, before Nat Turner's
time, the slaves had been allowed to meet for worship,
I seemed to hear my father's voice come from it, bidding
me not to tarry till I reached freedom or the
grave. I rushed on with renovated hopes. My trust
in God had been strengthened by that prayer among
My plan was to conceal myself at the house of a
friend, and remain there a few weeks till the search
was over. My hope was that the doctor would get discouraged,
and, for fear of losing my value, and also of
subsequently finding my children among the missing,
he would consent to sell us; and I knew somebody
would buy us. I had done all in my power to make
my children comfortable during the time I expected to
be separated from them. I was packing my things,
when grandmother came into the room, and asked
what I was doing. "I am putting my things in order," I
replied. I tried to look and speak cheerfully;
but her watchful eye detected something beneath the
surface. She drew me towards her, and asked me to
sit down. She looked earnestly at me, and said,
"Linda, do you want to kill your old grandmother?
Do you mean to leave your little, helpless children?
I am old now, and cannot do for your babies as I once
did for you."
I replied, that if I went away, perhaps their father
would be able to secure their freedom.
"Ah, my child," said she, "don't trust too much to
him. Stand by your own children, and suffer with
them till death. Nobody respects a mother who forsakes her
children; and if you leave them, you will
never have a happy moment. If you go, you will
make me miserable the short time I have to live. You
would be taken and brought back, and your sufferings
would be dreadful. Remember poor Benjamin. Do
give it up, Linda. Try to bear a little longer. Things
may turn out better than we expect."
My courage failed me, in view of the sorrow I should
bring on that faithful, loving old heart. I promised
that I would try longer, and that I would take nothing
out of her house without her knowledge.
Whenever the children climbed on my knee, or laid
their heads on my lap, she would say, "Poor little
souls! what would you do without a mother? She
don't love you as I do." And she would hug them to
her own bosom, as if to reproach me for my want of
affection; but she knew all the while that I loved them
better than my life. I slept with her that night, and
it was the last time. The memory of it haunted me
for many a year.
On Monday I returned to the plantation, and busied
myself with preparations for the important day. Wednesday
came. It was a beautiful day, and the faces
of the slaves were as bright as the sunshine. The poor
creatures were merry. They were expecting little
presents from the bride, and hoping for better times
under her administration. I had no such hopes for
them. I knew that the young wives of slaveholders
often thought their authority and importance would be
best established and maintained by cruelty; and what
I had heard of young Mrs. Flint gave me no reason to
expect that her rule over them would be less severe
than that of the master and overseer. Truly, the
colored race are the most cheerful and forgiving people
on the face of the earth. That their masters sleep
in safety is owing to their superabundance of heart;
and yet they look upon their sufferings with less
pity than they would bestow on those of a horse or
I stood at the door with others to receive the bridegroom
and bride. She was a handsome, delicate-looking girl,
and her face flushed with emotion at sight of
her new home. I thought it likely that visions of a
happy future were rising before her. It made me sad;
for I knew how soon clouds would come over her sunshine.
She examined every part of the house, and
told me she was delighted with the arrangements I
had made. I was afraid old Mrs. Flint had tried to
prejudice her against me and I did my best to please
All passed off smoothly for me until dinner time
arrived. I did not mind the embarrassment of waiting
on a dinner party, for the first time in my life,
half so much as I did the meeting with Dr. Flint and
his wife, who would be among the guests. It was a
mystery to me why Mrs. Flint had not made her
appearance at the plantation during all the time I was
putting the house in order. I had not met her, face to
face, for five years, and I had no wish to see her now.
She was a praying woman, and, doubtless, considered
my present position a special answer to her prayers.
Nothing could please her better than to see me humbled
and trampled upon. I was just where she would
have me - in the power of a hard, unprincipled master.
She did not speak to me when she took her seat
at the table; but her satisfied, triumphant smile, when I
handed her plate, was more eloquent than words.
The old doctor was not so quiet in his demonstrations.
He ordered me here and there, and spoke with peculiar
emphasis when he said "your mistress." I was
drilled like a disgraced soldier. When all was over,
and the last key turned, I sought my pillow thankful
that God had appointed a season of rest for the
The next day my new mistress began her housekeeping.
I was not exactly appointed maid of all work;
but I was to do whatever I was told. Monday evening
came. It was always a busy time. On that night the
slaves received their weekly allowance of food. Three
pounds of meat, a peck of corn, and perhaps a dozen
herring were allowed to each man. Women received
a pound and a half of meat, a peck of corn, and the
same number of herring. Children over twelve years
old had half the allowance of the women. The meat
was cut and weighed by the foreman of the field hands,
and piled on planks before the meat house. Then the
second foreman went behind the building, and when
the first foreman called out, "Who takes this piece of
meat?" he answered by calling somebody's name.
This method was resorted to as a means of preventing
partiality in distributing the meat. The young mistress
came out to see how things were done on her
plantation, and she soon gave a specimen of her character.
Among those in waiting for their allowance
was a very old slave, who had faithfully served the
Flint family through three generations. When he
hobbled up to get his bit of meat, the mistress said he
was too old to have any allowance; that when niggers
were too old to work, they ought to be fed on grass.
Poor old man! He suffered much before he found
rest in the grave.
My mistress and I got along very well together. At
the end of a week, old Mrs. Flint made us another
visit, and was closeted a long time with her daughter-in-law.
I had my suspicions what was the subject of
the conference. The old doctor's wife had been informed
that I could leave the plantation on one condition: and
she was very desirous to keep me there. If
she had trusted me, as I deserved to be trusted by
her, she would have had no fears of my accepting
that condition. When she entered her carriage to return
home, she said to young Mrs. Flint, "Don't neglect
to send for them as quick as possible." My heart
was on the watch all the time, and I at once concluded
that she spoke of my children. The doctor came the
next day, and as I entered the room to spread the tea
table, I heard him say, "Don't wait any longer. Send
for them to-morrow." I saw through the plan. They
thought my children's being there would fetter me to
the spot, and that it was a good place to break us all
in to abject submission to our lot as slaves. After the
doctor left, a gentleman called, who had always manifested
friendly feelings towards my grandmother and
her family. Mr. Flint carried him over the plantation
to show him the results of labor performed by men and
women who were unpaid, miserably clothed, and half
famished. The cotton crop was all they thought of.
It was duly admired, and the gentleman returned with
specimens to show his friends. I was ordered to carry
water to wash his hands. As I did so, he said, "Linda
how do you like your new home?" I told him I liked
it as well as I expected. He replied, "They don't
think you are contented, and to-morrow they are going
to bring your children to be with you. I am sorry for
you, Linda. I hope they will treat you kindly." I
hurried from the room, unable to thank him. My
suspicions were correct. My children were to be
brought to the plantation to be "broke in."
To this day I feel grateful to the gentleman who
gave me this timely information. It nerved me to
MR. FLINT was hard pushed for house servants, and
rather than lose me he had restrained his malice. I
did my work faithfully, though not, of course, with a
willing mind. They were evidently afraid I should
leave them. Mr. Flint wished that I should sleep
in the great house instead of the servants' quarters.
His wife agreed to the proposition, but said I mustn't
bring my bed into the house, because it would scatter
feathers on her carpet. I knew when I went there
that they would never think of such a thing as furnishing
a bed of any kind for me and my little one. I
therefore carried my own bed, and now I was forbidden
to use it. I did as I was ordered. But now that I
was certain my children were to be put in their
power, in order to give them a stronger hold on me, I
resolved to leave them that night. I remembered the
grief this step would bring upon my dear old grandmother;
and nothing less than the freedom of my children
would have induced me to disregard her advice.
I went about my evening work with trembling steps.
Mr. Flint twice called from his chamber door to inquire
why the house was not locked up. I replied that
I had not done my work. "You have had time enough
to do it," said he. "Take care how you answer me!"
I shut all the windows, locked all the doors, and
went up to the third story, to wait till midnight. How
long those hours seemed, and how fervently I prayed
that God would not forsake me in this hour of utmost
need! I was about to risk every thing on the throw
of a die; and if I failed, O what would become of me
and my poor children? They would be made to suffer
for my fault.
At half past twelve I stole softly down stairs. I
stopped on the second floor, thinking I heard a noise.
I felt my way down into the parlor, and looked out of
the window. The night was so intensely dark that I
could see nothing. I raised the window very softly
and jumped out. Large drops of rain were falling,
and the darkness bewildered me. I dropped on my
knees, and breathed a short prayer to God for guidance
and protection. I groped my way to the road, and
rushed towards the town with almost lightning speed.
I arrived at my grandmother's house, but dared not
see her. She would say, "Linda, you are killing me;"
and I knew that would unnerve me. I tapped softly
at the window of a room, occupied by a woman, who
had lived in the house several years. I knew she was
a faithful friend, and could be trusted with my secret.
I tapped several times before she heard me. At last
she raised the window, and I whispered, "Sally, I have
run away. Let me in, quick." She opened the door
softly, and said in low tones, "For God's sake, don't.
Your grandmother is trying to buy you and de chillern.
Mr. Sands was here last week. He tole her he was
going away on business, but he wanted her to go ahead
about buying you and de chillern, and he would help
her all he could. Don't run away, Linda. Your
grandmother is all bowed down wid trouble now."
I replied, "Sally, they are going to carry my children
to the plantation to-morrow; and they will never
sell them to any body so long as they have me in their
power. Now, would you advise me to go back?"
"No, chile, no," answered she. "When dey finds
you is gone, dey won't want de plague ob de chillern;
but where is you going to hide? Dey knows ebery
inch ob dis house."
I told her I had a hiding-place, and that was all it
was best for her to know. I asked her to go into my
room as soon as it was light, and take all my clothes
out of my trunk, and pack them in hers; for I knew
Mr. Flint and the constable would be there early to
search my room. I feared the sight of my children
would be too much for my full heart; but I could not
go out into the uncertain future without one last look.
I bent over the bed where lay my little Benny and baby
Ellen. Poor little ones! fatherless and motherless!
Memories of their father came over me. He wanted
to be kind to them; but they were not all to him, as
they were to my womanly heart. I knelt and prayed
for the innocent little sleepers. I kissed them lightly,
and turned away.
As I was about to open the street door, Sally laid
her hand on my shoulder, and said, "Linda, is you
gwine all alone? Let me call your uncle."
"No Sally," I replied, "I want no one to be brought
into trouble on my account."
I went forth into the darkness and rain. I ran
on till I came to the house of the friend who was
to conceal me.
Early the next morning Mr. Flint was at my grandmother's
inquiring for me. She told him she had not
seen me, and supposed I was at the plantation. He
watched her face narrowly, and said, "Don't you
know any thing about her running off?" She assured
him that she did not. He went on to say, "Last night
she ran off without the least provocation. We had
treated her very kindly. My wife liked her. She will
soon be found and brought back. Are her children with
you?" When told that they were, he said, "I am
very glad to hear that. If they are here, she cannot
be far off. If I find out that any of my niggers have
had any thing to do with this damned business, I'll give
'em five hundred lashes." As he started to go to his
father's, he turned round and added, persuasively, "Let
her be brought back, and she shall have her children
to live with her."
The tidings made the old doctor rave and storm at
a furious rate. It was a busy day for them. My
grandmother's house was searched from top to bottom.
As my trunk was empty, they concluded I had taken
my clothes with me. Before ten o'clock every vessel
northward bound was thoroughly examined, and the
law against harboring fugitives was read to all on
board. At night a watch was set over the town.
Knowing how distressed my grandmother would be, I
wanted to send her a message; but it could not be
done. Every one who went in or out of her house
was closely watched. The doctor said he would take
my children, unless she became responsible for them;
which of course she willingly did. The next day was
spent in searching. Before night, the following
advertisement was posted at every corner, and in every
public place for miles round: -
"$300 REWARD! Ran away from the subscriber,
an intelligent, bright, mulatto girl, named Linda, 21
years age. Five feet four inches high. Dark
eyes, and black hair inclined to curl; but it can
be made straight. Has a decayed spot on a front
tooth. She can read and write, and in all probability
will try to get to the Free States. All persons are forbidden,
under penalty of the law, to harbor or employ
said slave. $150 will be given to whoever takes her
in the state, and $300 if taken out of the state and
delivered to me, or lodged in jail.
MONTHS OF PERIL.
THE search for me was kept up with more perseverence
than I had anticipated. I began to think that
escape was impossible. I was in great anxiety lest I
should implicate the friend who harbored me. I knew
the consequences would be frightful; and much as I
dreaded being caught, even that seemed better than
causing an innocent person to suffer for kindness to me.
A week had passed in terrible suspense, when my pursuers
came into such close vicinity that I concluded
they had tracked me to my hiding-place. I flew out
of the house, and concealed myself in a thicket of
bushes. There I remained in an agony of fear for two
hours. Suddenly, a reptile of some kind seized my
leg. In my fright, I struck a blow which loosened its
hold, but I could not tell whether I had killed it; it
was so dark, I could not see what it was; I only knew
it was something cold and slimy. The pain I felt soon
indicated that the bite was poisonous. I was compelled
to leave my place of concealment, and I groped my way
back into the house. The pain had become intense,
and my friend was startled by my look of anguish. I
asked her to prepare a poultice of warm ashes and
vinegar, and I applied it to my leg, which was already
much swollen. The application gave me some relief,
but the swelling did not abate. The dread of being
disabled was greater than the physical pain I endured.
My friend asked an old woman, who doctored among
the slaves, what was good for the bite of a snake or a
lizard. She told her to steep a dozen coppers in vinegar,
over night, and apply the cankered vinegar to the
I had succeeded in cautiously conveying some messages
to my relatives. They were harshly threatened,
and despairing of my having a chance to escape, they
advised me to return to my master, ask his forgiveness,
and let him make an example of me. But such counsel
had no influence on me. When I started upon
this hazardous undertaking, I had resolved that, come
what would, there should be no turning back. " Give
me liberty, or give me death," was my motto. When
my friend contrived to make known to my relatives the
painful situation I had been in for twenty-four hours,
they said no more about my going back to my master.
Something must be done, and that speedily; but where
to turn for help, they knew not. God in his mercy
raised up "a friend in need."
Among the ladies who were acquainted with my
grandmother, was one who had known her from childhood,
and always been very friendly to her. She had
also known my mother and her children, and felt interested
for them. At this crisis of affairs she called to
see my grandmother, as she not unfrequently did. She
observed the sad and troubled expression of her face,
and asked if she knew where Linda was, and whether
The poison of a snake is a powerful acid, and is counteracted by
powerful alkalies, such as potash, ammonia, &c. The Indians are accustomed
to apply wet ashes, or plunge the limb into strong lie. White men, employed
to lay out railroads in snaky places, often carry ammonia with
them as an antidote. - EDITOR.