she was safe. My grandmother shook her head, without
answering. "Come, Aunt Martha," said the kind lady, "tell
me all about it. Perhaps I can do something to help you."
The husband of this lady held many slaves, and bought and
sold slaves. She also held a number in her own name; but
she treated them kindly, and would never allow any of them
to be sold. She was unlike the majority of slaveholders'
wives. My grandmother looked earnestly at her. Something in
the expression of her face said "Trust me!" and she did
trust her. She listened attentively to the details of my story,
and sat thinking for a while. At last she said, "Aunt Martha,
I pity you both. If you think there is any chance of Linda's
getting to the Free States, I will conceal her for a time. But
first you must solemnly promise that my name shall never be
mentioned. If such a thing should become known, it would
ruin me and my family. No one in my house must know of it,
except the cook. She is so faithful that I would trust my own
life with her; and I know she likes Linda. It is a great risk; but
I trust no harm will come of it. Get word to Linda to be ready
as soon as it is dark, before the patrols are out. I will send the
housemaids on errands, and Betty shall go to meet Linda."
The place where we were to meet was designated and agreed
upon. My grandmother was unable to thank the lady for this
noble deed; overcome by her emotions, she sank on her
knees and sobbed like a child.
I received a message to leave my friend's house at such
an hour, and go to a certain place where a friend would be
waiting for me. As a matter of prudence no names were
mentioned. I had no means of conjecturing
who I was to meet, or where I was going. I did
not like to move thus blindfolded, but I had no choice.
It would not do for me to remain where I was. I disguised
myself, summoned up courage to meet the worst,
and went to the appointed place. My friend Betty was
there; she was the last person I expected to see. We
hurried along in silence. The pain in my leg was so
intense that it seemed as if I should drop; but fear
gave me strength. We reached the house and entered
unobserved. Her first words were: "Honey, now you is safe.
Dem devils ain't coming to search dis house.
When I get you into missis' safe place, I will bring
some nice hot supper. I specs you need it after all dis
skeering." Betty's vocation led her to think eating
the most important thing in life. She did not realize
that my heart was too full for me to care much about
The mistress came to meet us, and led me up stairs
to a small room over her own sleeping apartment.
"You will be safe here, Linda," said she; "I keep this
room to store away things that are out of use. The
girls are not accustomed to be sent to it, and they will
not suspect anything unless they hear some noise. I
always keep it locked, and Betty shall take care of the
key. But you must be very careful, for my sake as
well as your own; and you must never tell my secret;
for it would ruin me and my family. I will keep the
girls busy in the morning, that Betty may have a chance
to bring your breakfast; but it will not do for her to
come to you again till night. I will come to see you
sometimes. Keep up your courage. I hope this state
of things will not last long." Betty came with the
"nice hot supper," and the mistress hastened down
stairs to keep things straight till she returned. How
my heart overflowed with gratitude! Words choked
in my throat; but I could have kissed the feet of my
benefactress. For that deed of Christian womanhood
may God forever bless her!
I went to sleep that night with the feeling that I was
for the present the most fortunate slave in town.
Morning came and filled my little cell with light. I
thanked the heavenly Father for this safe retreat.
Opposite my window was a pile of feather beds. On
the top of these I could lie perfectly concealed, and
command a view of the street through which Dr. Flint
passed to his office. Anxious as I was, I felt a gleam
of satisfaction when I saw him. Thus far I had outwitted him,
and I triumphed over it. Who can blame slaves for being
cunning? They are constantly compelled to resort to it.
It is the only weapon of the weak and oppressed against the
strength of their tyrants.
I was daily hoping to hear that my master had sold
my children; for I knew who was on the watch to buy
them. But Dr. Flint cared even more for revenge
than he did for money. My brother William, and the
good aunt who had served in his family twenty years,
and my little Benny, and Ellen, who was a little over
two years old, were thrust into jail, as a means of compelling
my relatives to give some information about me.
He swore my grandmother should never see one of
them again till I was brought back. They kept these
facts from me for several days. When I heard that my
little ones were in a loathsome jail, my first impulse
was to go to them. I was encountering dangers for
the sake of freeing them, and must I be the cause of
their death? The thought was agonizing. My benefactress
tried to soothe me by telling me that my aunt would
take good care of the children while they remained in
jail. But it added to my pain to think that the good
old aunt, who had always been so kind to her sister's
orphan children, should be shut up in prison for no
other crime than loving them. I suppose my friends
feared a reckless movement on my part, knowing, as
they did, that my life was bound up in my children.
I received a note from my brother William. It was
scarcely legible, and ran thus: "Wherever you are,
dear sister, I beg of you not to come here. We are
all much better off than you are. If you come, you
will ruin us all. They would force you to tell where
you had been, or they would kill you. Take the advice
of your friends; if not for the sake of me and
your children, at least for the sake of those you would
Poor William! He also must suffer for being my
brother. I took his advice and kept quiet. My aunt
was taken out of jail at the end of a month, because
Mrs. Flint could not spare her any longer. She was
tired of being her own housekeeper. It was quite too
fatiguing to order her dinner and eat it too. My
children remained in jail, where brother William did
all he could for their comfort. Betty went to see them
sometimes, and brought me tidings. She was not permitted
to enter the jail; but William would hold them
up to the grated window while she chatted with them.
When she repeated their prattle, and told me how they
wanted to see their ma, my tears would flow. Old
Betty would exclaim, "Lors, chile! what's you crying
'bout? Dem young uns vil kill you dead. Don't be
so chick'n hearted! If you does, you vil nebber git
thro' dis world."
Good old soul! She had gone through the world
childless. She had never had little ones to clasp their
arms round her neck; she had never seen their soft
eyes looking into hers; no sweet little voices had called
her mother; she had never pressed her own infants to
her heart, with the feeling that even in fetters there
was something to live for. How could she realize my
feelings? Betty's husband loved children dearly, and
wondered why God had denied them to him. He
expressed great sorrow when he came to Betty with the
tidings that Ellen had been taken out of jail and
carried to Dr. Flint's. She had the measles a short
time before they carried her to jail, and the disease
had left her eyes affected. The doctor had taken her
home to attend to them. My children had always been
afraid of the doctor and his wife. They had never
been inside of their house. Poor little Ellen cried all
day to be carried back to prison. The instincts of
childhood are true. She knew she was loved in the
jail. Her screams and sobs annoyed Mrs. Flint. Before
night she called one of the slaves, and said, "Here,
Bill, carry this brat back to the jail. I can't stand
her noise. If she would be quiet I should like to
keep the little minx. She would make a handy waiting
maid for my daughter by and by. But if she
staid here, with her white face, I suppose I should either
kill her or spoil her. I hope the doctor will
sell them as far as wind and water can carry them.
As for their mother, her ladyship will find out yet
what she gets by running away. She hasn't so much
feeling for her children as a cow has for its calf. If
she had, she would have come back long ago, to get
them out of jail, and save all this expense and trouble.
The good-for-nothing hussy! When she is caught, she
shall stay in jail, in irons, for one six months, and then
be sold to a sugar plantation. I shall see her broke in
yet. What do you stand there for, Bill? Why don't
you go off with the brat? Mind, now, that you don't
let any of the niggers speak to her in the street!"
When these remarks were reported to me, I smiled
at Mrs. Flint's saying that she should either kill my
child or spoil her. I thought to myself there was very
little danger of the latter. I have always considered
it as one of God's special providences that Ellen
screamed till was carried back to jail.
That same night, Dr. Flint was called to a patient,
and did not return till near morning. Passing my
grandmother's, he saw a light in the house, and thought
to himself, "Perhaps this has something to do with
Linda." He knocked and the door was opened.
"What calls you up so early?" said he. "I saw your
light, and I thought I would just stop and tell you that
I have found out where Linda is. I know where to
put my hands on her, and I shall have her before
twelve o'clock." When he had turned away, my
grandmother and my uncle looked anxiously at each
other. They did not know whether or not it was
merely one of the doctor's tricks to frighten them. In
their uncertainty, they thought it was best to have a
message conveyed to my friend Betty. Unwilling to
alarm her mistress, Betty resolved to dispose of me
herself. She came to me, and told me to rise and
dress quickly. We hurried down stairs, and across
the yard, into the kitchen. She locked the door, and
lifted up a plank in the floor. A buffalo skin and a
bit of carpet were spread for me to lie on, and a quilt
thrown over me. "Stay dar," said she, "till I sees if
dey know 'bout you. Dey say dey vil put thar hans
on you afore twelve o'clock. If day did know whar
you are, dey won't know now. Dey'll be disapinted
dis time. Dat's all I got to say. If dey comes rummagin
'mong my tings, dey'll get one bressed sarssin
from dis 'ere nigger." In my shallow bed I had but
just room enough to bring my hands to my face to
keep the dust out of my eyes; for Betty walked over
me twenty times in an hour, passing from the dresser
to the fireplace. When she was alone, I could hear
her pronouncing anathemas over Dr. Flint and all his
tribe, every now and then saying, with a chuckling
laugh, "Dis nigger's too cute for 'em dis time."
When the housemaids were about, she had sly ways
of drawing them out, that I might hear what they
would say. She would repeat stories she had heard
about my being in this, or that, or the other place. To
which they would answer, that I was not fool enough
to be staying round there; that I was in Philadelphia
or New York before this time. When all were abed
and asleep, Betty raised the plank, and said, "Come
out, chile; come out. Dey don't know nottin 'bout
you. 'Twas only white folks' lies, to skeer de niggers."
Some days after this adventure I had a much worse
fright. As I sat very still in my retreat above stairs,
cheerful visions floated through my mind. I thought
Dr. Flint would soon get discouraged, and would be
willing to sell my children, when he lost all hopes of
making them the means of my discovery. I knew
who was ready to buy them. Suddenly I heard a voice
that chilled my blood. The sound was too familiar to
me, it had been too dreadful, for me not to recognize
at once my old master. He was in the house, and I
at once concluded that he had come to seize me. I looked
round in terror. There was no way of escape. The
voice receded. I supposed the constable was with him,
and they were searching the house. In my alarm I did not
forget the trouble I was bringing on my generous
benefactress. It seemed as if I were born to bring
sorrow on all who befriended me, and that was the
bitterest drop in the bitter cup of my life. After a
while I heard approaching footsteps; the key was
turned in my door. I braced myself against the wall
to keep from falling. I ventured to look up, and there
stood my kind benefactress. I was too much
overcome to speak, and sunk down upon the floor.
"I thought you would hear your master's voice,"
she said; "and knowing you would be terrified, I
came to tell you there is nothing to fear.
You may even indulge in a laugh at the old gentleman's
expense. He is so sure you are in New York, that he
came to borrow five hundred dollars to go in pursuit
of you. My sister had some money to loan on interest.
He has obtained it, and proposes to start for New York
to-night. So, for the present, you see you are safe.
The doctor will merely lighten his pocket hunting after
the bird he has left behind."
THE CHILDREN SOLD.
THE doctor came back from New York, of course
without accomplishing his purpose. He had expended
considerable money, and was rather disheartened. My
brother and the children had now been in jail two
months, and that also was some expense. My friends
thought it was a favorable time to work on his discouraged
feelings. Mr. Sands sent a speculator to
offer him nine hundred dollars for my brother William,
and eight hundred for the two children. These
were high prices, as slaves were then selling; but the
offer was rejected. If it had been merely a question
of money, the doctor would have sold any boy of
Benny's age for two hundred dollars; but he could
not bear to give up the power of revenge. But he
was hard pressed for money, and he revolved the matter
in his mind. He knew that if he could keep Ellen till
she was fifteen, he could sell her for a high price; but
I presume he reflected that she might die, or might be
stolen away. At all events, he came to the conclusion
that he had better accept the slave-trader's offer.
Meeting him in the street, he inquired when he would
leave town. "To-day, at ten o clock," he replied.
"Ah, do you go so soon?" said the doctor; "I have
been reflecting upon your proposition, and I have concluded
to let you have the three negroes if you will
say nineteen hundred dollars." After some parley,
the trader agreed to his terms. He wanted the bill of
sale drawn up and signed immediately, as he had a
great deal to attend to during the short time he remained
in town. The doctor went to the jail and told
William he would take him back into his service if he
would promise to behave himself; but he replied that he
would rather be sold. "And you shall be sold, you ungrateful
rascal!" exclaimed the doctor. In less than
an hour the money was paid, the papers were signed,
sealed, and delivered, and my brother and children
were in the hands of the trader.
It was a hurried transaction; and after it was over,
the doctor's characteristic caution returned. He went
back to the speculator, and said, "Sir, I have come to
lay you under obligations of a thousands dollars not to
sell any of those negroes in this state." "You come
too late," replied the trader; "our bargain is closed."
He had, in fact, already sold them to Mr. Sands, but
he did not mention it. The doctor required him to
put irons on "that rascal, Bill," and to pass through
the back streets when he took his gang out of town.
The trader was privately instructed to concede to his
wishes. My good old aunt went to jail to bid the children
good by, supposing them to be the speculator's
property, and that she should never see them
again. As she held Benny in her lap, he said, "Aunt
Nancy, I want to show you something." He led her
to the door and showed her a long row of marks, saying
"Uncle Will taught me to count. I have made a
mark for every day I have been here, and it is sixty
days. It is a long time; and the speculator is going
to take me and Ellen away. He's a bad man. It's
wrong for him to take grandmother's children. I want
to go to my mother."
My grandmother was told that the children would
be restored to her, but she was requested to act as if
they were really to be sent away. Accordingly, she
made up a bundle of clothes and went to the jail.
When she arrived, she found William handcuffed
among the gang, and the children in the trader's cart.
The scene seemed too much like a reality. She was
afraid there might have been some deception or mistake.
She fainted, and was carried home.
When the wagon stopped at the hotel, several gentlemen
came out and proposed to purchase William, but
the trader refused their offers, without stating that he
was already sold. And now came the trying hour for
that drove of human beings, driven away like cattle, to
be sold they knew not where. Husbands were torn from
wives, parents from children, never to look upon each
other again this side the grave. There was wringing
of hands and cries of despair.
Dr. Flint had the supreme satisfaction of seeing the
wagon leave town, and Mrs. Flint had the gratification
of supposing that my children were going "as far as
wind and water would carry them." According to the
agreement, my uncle followed the wagon some miles,
until they came to an old farm house. There the
trader took the irons from William, and as he did so,
he said, "You are a damned clever fellow. I should
like to own you myself. Them gentlemen that wanted
to buy you said you was a bright, honest chap, and I
must git you a good home. I guess your old master
will swear to-morrow, and call himself an old fool for
selling the children. I reckon he'll never git their
mammy back agin. I expect she's made tracks for
the north. Good by, old boy. Remember, I have
done you a good turn. You must thank me by coaxing
all the pretty gals to go with me next fall. That's
going to be my last trip. The trading in niggers is a
bad business for a fellow that's got any heart. Move
on you fellows!" And the gang went on, God alone
Much as I despise and detest the class of slave-traders,
whom I regard as the vilest wretches on earth, I must do
this man the justice to say that he seemed to have some
feeling. He took a fancy to William in the jail,
and wanted to buy him. When he heard the story of
my children, he was willing to aid them in getting out
of Dr. Flint's power, even without charging the
My uncle procured a wagon and carried William
and the children back to town. Great was the joy
in my grandmother's house! The curtains were
closed, and the candles lighted. The happy grandmother
cuddled the little ones to her bosom. They
hugged her, and kissed her, and clapped their hands,
and shouted. She knelt down and poured forth one
of her heartfelt prayers of thanksgiving to God. The
father was present for awhile; and though such a
"parental relation" as existed between him and my
children takes slight hold of the heart or consciences
of slaveholders, it must be that he experienced some
moments of pure joy in witnessing the happiness he
I had no share in the rejoicings of that evening.
The events of that day had not come to my knowledge.
And now I will tell you something that happened to
me; though you will, perhaps, think it illustrates the
superstition of slaves. I sat in my usual place on the
floor near the window, where I could hear much that
was said in the street without being seen. The family
had retired for the night, and all was still. I sat there
thinking of my children, when I heard a low strain of
music. A band of serenaders were under the window,
playing "home sweet home." I listened till the
sounds did not seem like music, but like the moaning
of children. It seemed as if my heart would burst.
I rose from my sitting posture, and knelt. A streak
of moonlight was on the floor before me, and in the
midst of it appeared the forms of my two children.
They vanished; but I had seen them distinctly. Some
will call it a dream, others a vision. I know not how
to account for it, but it made a strong impression on
my mind, and I felt certain something had happened
to my little ones.
I had not seen Betty since morning. Now I heard her
softly turning the key. A soon as she entered, I
clung to her, and begged her to let me know whether
my children were dead. Or whether they were sold; for
I had seen their spirits in my room, and I was sure
something had happened to them,"Lor, chile," said
she, putting her arms round me, "you's got de highsterics.
I'll sleep wid you to-night, 'cause you'll make
a noise, and ruin missis. Something has stirred you
up mightily. When you is done cryin, I'll talk wid you.
De chillern is well, and mighty happy. I seed 'em
myself. Does dat satisfy you? Dar, chile, be still! Somebody
vill hear you." I tried to obey her. She lay
down and was soon sound asleep; but no sleep would
come to my eyelids.
At dawn, Betty was up and off to the kitchen. The
hours passed on, and the vision of the night kept constantly
recurring to my thought. After a while I
heard the voices of two women in the entry. In one
of them I recognized the housemaid. The other said
to her, "Did you know Linda Brent's children was sold
to the speculator yesterday. They say ole massa Flint
was mighty glad to see 'em drove out of town; but
they say they've come back agin. I 'spect it's all their
daddy's doings. They say he's bought William too.
Lor! how it will take hold of ole massa Flint! I'm
going roun' to aunt Marthy's to see 'bout it."
I bit my lips till the blood came to keep from crying
out. Were my children with their grandmother,
or had the speculator carried them off? The suspense
was dreadful. Would Betty never come, and tell me
the truth about it? At last she came, and I eagerly
repeated what I had overheard. Her face was one
broad bright smile. "Lor, you foolish ting!" said
she. "I'se gwine to tell you all bout it. De gals is
eating thar breakfast, and missus tole me to let her tell
you; but, poor creeter! t'aint right to keep you waitin',
and I'se gwine to tell you. Brudder, chillern, all is
bought by de daddy! I'se laugh more dan nuff, tinking
'bout ole massa Flint. Lor, how he vill swar!
He's got ketched dis time, and how; but I must be getting
out o' dis, or dem gals vill come and ketch me."
Betty went off laughing; and I said to myself, "Can
it be true that my children are free? I have not suffered
for them in vain. Thank God!"
Great surprise was expressed when it was known
that my children had returned to their grandmother's.
The news spread through town, and many a kind
word was bestowed on the little ones.
Dr. Flint went to my grandmother's to ascertain who
was the owner of my children, and she informed him.
"I expected as much," said he. "I am glad to hear
it. I have had news from Linda lately, and I shall
soon have her. You need never expect to see her free.
She shall be my slave as long as I live, and when I am
dead she shall be the slave of my children. If I ever
find out that you or Phillip had any thing to do with
her running off I'll kill him. And if I meet William
in the street, and he presumes to look at me, I'll flog
him within an inch of his life. Keep those brats out
of my sight!"
As he turned to leave, my grandmother said
something to remind him of his own doings. He looked
back upon her, as if he would have been glad to strike
her to the ground.
I had my season of joy and thanksgiving. It was
the first time since my childhood that I had experienced
any real happiness. I heard of the old
doctor's threats, but they no longer had the same
power to trouble me. The darkest cloud that hung
over my life had rolled away. Whatever slavery might
do to me, it could not shackle my children. If I fell a
sacrifice, my little ones were saved. It was well for
me that my simple heart believed all that had been
promised for their welfare. It is always better to trust
than to doubt.
THE doctor, more exasperated than ever, again tried
to revenge himself on my relatives. He arrested uncle
Phillip on the charge of having aided my flight. He
was carried before a court, and swore truly that he
knew nothing of my intention to escape, and that he
had not seen me since I left my master's plantation.
The doctor then demanded that he should give bail for
five hundred dollars that he would have nothing to do
with me. Several gentlemen offered to be security for
him; but Mr. Sands told him he had better go back to
jail, and he would see that he came out without giving
The news of his arrest was carried to my grandmother,
who conveyed it to Betty. In the kindness of her heart,
she again stowed me away under the
floor; and as she walked back and forth, in the performance
of her culinary duties, she talked apparently
to herself, but with the intention that I should hear
what was going on. I hoped that my uncle's imprisonment
would last but few days; still I was anxious. I
thought it likely that Dr. Flint would do his utmost
to taunt and insult him, and I was afraid my uncle might
lose control of himself, and retort in some way that
would be construed into a punishable offence; and I
was well aware that in court his word would not be taken
against any white man's. The search for me
was renewed. Something had excited suspicions that
I was in the vicinity. They searched the house I was
in. I heard their steps and their voices. At night,
when all were asleep, Betty came to release me from
my place of confinement. The fright I had undergone,
the constrained posture, and the dampness of
the ground, made me ill for several days. My uncle
was soon after taken out of prison; but the movements
of all my relatives, and of all our friends, were very
We all saw that I could not remain where I was
much longer. I had already staid longer than was
intended, and I knew my presence must be a source
of perpetual anxiety to my kind benefactress. During
this time, my friends had laid many plans for my
escape, but the extreme vigilance of my persecutors
made it impossible to carry them into effect.
One morning I was much startled by hearing somebody
trying to get into my room. Several keys were
tried, but none fitted. I instantly conjectured it was
one of the housemaids; and I concluded she must either
have heard some noise in the room, or have noticed
the entrance of Betty. When my friend came, at her
usual time, I told her what had happened. "I knows
who it was," said she. "'Pend upon it, 'twas dat
Jenny. Dat nigger allers got de debble in her." I
suggested that she might have seen or heard something
that excited her curiosity.
"Tut! tut! chile!" exclaimed Betty, "she ain't
seen notin', nor hearn notin'. She only 'spects something.
Dat's all. She wants to fine out who hab cut
and make my gownd. But she won't nebber know.
Dat's sartin. I'll git missis to fix her."
I reflected a moment, and said, "Betty, I must leave
"Do as you tink best, poor chile," she replied.
"I'se might 'fraid dat 'ere nigger vill pop on you
She reported the incident to her mistress, and received
orders to keep Jenny busy in the kitchen till
she could see my uncle Phillip. He told her he would
send a friend for me that very evening. She told him
she hoped I was going to the north, for it was very
dangerous for me to remain any where in the vicinity.
Alas, it was not an easy thing, for one in my situation,
to go to the north. In order to leave the coast quite
clear for me, she went into the country to spend the
day with her brother, and took Jenny with her. She
was afraid to come and bid me good by, but she left
a kind message with Betty. I heard her carriage roll
from the door, and I never again saw her who had so
generously befriended the poor, trembling fugitive!
Though she was a slaveholder, to this day my heart
I had not the slightest idea where I was going.
Betty brought me a suit of sailor's clothes, - jacket,
trousers, and tarpaulin hat. She gave me a small
bundle, saying I might need it where I was going. In
cheery tones, she exclaimed, "I'se so glad you is gwine
to free parts! Don't forget ole Betty. P'raps I'll come
'long by and by.
I tried to tell her how grateful I felt for all her kindness,
But she interrupted me. "I don't want no tanks,
honey. I'se glad I could help you, and I hope de
good Lord vill open de path for you. I'se gwine wid
you to de lower gate. Put your hands in your pockets,
and walk ricketty, like de sailors."
I performed to her satisfaction. At the gate I found
Peter, a young colored man, waiting for me. I had
known him for years. He had been an apprentice to
my father, and had always borne a good character. I
was not afraid to trust to him. Betty bade me a hurried
good by, and we walked off. "Take courage,
Linda," said my friend Peter. "I've got a dagger,
and no man shall take you from me, unless he passes
over my dead body."
It was a long time since I had taken a walk out of
doors, and the fresh air revived me. It was also pleasant
to hear a human voice speaking to me above a whisper.
I passed several people whom I knew, but they
did not recognize me in my disguise. I prayed internally that,
for Peter's sake, as well as my own, nothing
might occur to bring out his dagger. We walked on
till we came to the wharf. My aunt Nancy's husband
was a seafaring man, and it had been deemed necessary
to let him into our secret. He took me into his
boat, rowed out to a vessel not far distant, and hoisted
me on board. We three were the only occupants of
the vessel. I now ventured to ask what they proposed
to do with me. They said I was to remain on board
till near dawn, and then they would hide me in Snaky
Swamp, till my uncle Phillip had prepared a place of
concealment for me. If the vessel had been bound
north, it would have been of no avail to me, for it
would certainly have been searched. About four
o'clock, we were again seated in the boat, and rowed
three miles to the swamp. My fear of snakes had been
increased by the venomous bite I had received, and I
dreaded to enter this hiding-place. But I was in no
situation to choose, and I gratefully accepted the best
that my poor, persecuted friends could do for me.
Peter landed first, and with a large knife cut a path
through bamboos and briers of all descriptions. He
came back, took me in his arms, and carried me to a
seat made among the bamboos. Before we reached it,
we were covered with hundreds of mosquitos. In an
hour's time they had so poisoned my flesh that I was
a pitiful sight to behold. As the light increased, I saw
snake after snake crawling round us. I had been
accustomed to the sight of snakes all my life, but these
were larger than any I had ever seen. To this day I
shudder when I remember that morning. As evening
approached, the number of snakes increased so much
that we were continually obliged to thrash them with
sticks to keep there from crawling over us. The bamboos
were so high and so thick that it was impossible
to see beyond a very short distance. Just before it
became dark we procured a seat nearer to the entrance
of the swamp, being fearful of losing our way back to
the boat. It was not long before we heard the paddle
of oars, and the low whistle, which had been agreed
upon as a signal. We made haste to enter the boat,
and were rowed back to the vessel. I passed a wretched
night; for the heat of the swamp, the mosquitos, and
the constant terror of snakes, had brought on a burning
fever. I had just dropped asleep, when they came
and told me it was time to go back to that horrid
swamp. I could scarcely summon courage to rise.
But even those large, venomous snakes were less dreadful
to my imagination than the white men in that
community called civilized. This time Peter took a
quantity of tobacco to burn, to keep off the mosquitos.
It produced the desired effect on them, but gave
me nausea and severe headache. At dark we returned
to the vessel. I had been so sick during the day, that
Peter declared I should go home that night, if the
devil himself was on patrol. They told me a place of
concealment had been provided for me at my grandmother's.
I could not imagine how it was possible to
hide me in her house, every nook and corner of which
was known to the Flint family. They told me to wait
and see. We were rowed ashore, and went boldly
through the streets, to my grandmother's. I wore my
sailor's clothes, and had blackened my face with charcoal.
I passed several people whom I knew. The
father of my children came so near that I brushed
against his arm; but he had no idea who it was.
"You must make the most of this walk," said my
friend Peter, "for you may not have another very
I thought his voice sounded sad. It was kind of
him to conceal from me what a dismal hole was to be
my home for a long, long time.
THE LOOPHOLE OF RETREAT.
A SMALL shed had been added to my grandmother's
house years ago. Some boards were laid across the
joists at the top, and between these boards and the roof
was a very small garret, never occupied by any thing
but rats and mice. It was a pent roof, covered with
nothing but shingles, according to the southern custom
for such buildings. The garret was only nine feet
long, and seven wide. The highest part was three
feet high, and sloped down abruptly to the loose board
floor. There was no admission for either light or air.
My uncle Philip, who was a carpenter, had very skillfully
made a concealed trap door, which communicated
with the storeroom. He had been doing this while I
was waiting in the swamp. The storeroom opened
upon a piazza. To this hole I was conveyed as soon as
I entered the house. The air was stifling; the darkness total.
A bed had been spread on the floor. I could sleep quite comfortably
on one side; but the slope was so sudden that I could not turn on the other
without hitting the roof. The rats and mice ran over my
bed; but I was weary, and I slept such sleep as the
wretched may, when a tempest has passed over them.
Morning came. I knew it only by the noises I heard;
for in my small den day and night were all the same.
I suffered for air even more than for light. But I was
not comfortless. I heard the voices of my children.
There was joy and there was sadness in the sound. It
made my tears flow. How I longed to speak to them!
I was eager to look on their faces; but there was no
hole, no crack, through which I could peep. This continued
darkness was oppressive. It seemed horrible to
sit or lie in a cramped position day after day, without one
gleam of light. Yet I would have chosen this, rather
than my lot as a slave, though white people considered
it an easy one; and it was so compared with the fate
of others. I was never cruelly over-worked; I was
never lacerated with the whip from head to foot; I was
never so beaten and bruised that I could not turn from
one side to the other; I never had my heel-strings cut
to prevent my running away; I was never chained to
a log and forced to drag it about, while I toiled in the
fields from morning till night; I was never branded
with hot iron, or torn by bloodhounds. On the contrary,
I had always been kindly treated, and tenderly
cared for, until I came into the hands of Dr. Flint.
I had never wished for freedom till then. But though
my life in slavery was comparatively devoid of hardships,
God pity the woman who is compelled to lead
such a life!
My food was passed up to me through the trap-door
my uncle had contrived; and my grandmother, my
uncle Phillip, and aunt Nancy would seize such opportunities
as they could, to mount up there and chat with
me at the opening. But of course this was not safe in
the daytime. It must all be done in darkness. It was
impossible for me to move in an erect position, but I
crawled about my den for exercise. One day I hit my
head against something, and found it was a gimlet.
My uncle had left it sticking there when he made the
trap-door. I was as rejoiced as Robinson Crusoe could
have been in finding such a treasure. It put a lucky
thought into my head. I said to myself, "Now I will
have some light. Now I will see my children." I did
not dare to begin my work during the daytime, for fear
of attracting attention. But I groped round; and having
found the side next the street, where I could frequently see
my children, I stuck the gimlet in and waited for evening.
I bored three rows of holes, one above another; then I
bored out the interstices between.
I thus succeeded in making one hole about an inch long
and an inch broad. I sat by it till late into the night,
to enjoy the little whiff of air that floated in. In the morning
I watched for my children. The first person
I saw in the street was Dr. Flint. I had a shuddering,
superstitious feeling that it was a bad omen. Several
familiar faces passed by. At last I heard the merry
laughing of children, and presently two sweet little faces
were looking up at me, as though they knew I was
there, and were conscious of the joy they imparted.
How I longed to tel l them I was there!
My condition was now a little improved. But for weeks
I was tormented by hundreds of little red insects, fine as a
needle's point, that pierced through my skin, and produced
an intolerable burning. The good grandmother
gave me herb teas and cooling medicines, and finally I
got rid of them. The heat of my den was intense,
for nothing but thin shingles protected me from the
scorching summer's sun. But I had my consolations.
Through my peeping-hole I could watch the children, and
When they were near enough, I could hear their talk.
Aunt Nancy brought me all the news she could hear at Dr.
Flint's. From her I learned that the doctor had written to New
York to a colored woman, who had been born and raised in
our neighborhood, and had breathed his contaminating
atmosphere. He offered her a reward if she could find out
any thing about me. I know not what was the nature of her
reply; but he soon after started for New York in haste, saying
to his family that he had business of importance to transact.
I peeped at him as he passed on his way to the steamboat. It
was a satisfaction to have miles of land and water between
us, even for a little while; and it was a still greater
satisfaction to know that he believed me to be in the Free
States. My little den seemed less dreary than it had done. He
returned, as he did from his former journey to New York,
without obtaining any satisfactory information. When he
passed our house next morning, Benny was standing at the
gate. He had heard them say that he had gone to find me,
and he called out, "Dr. Flint, did you bring my mother home?
I want to see her." The doctor stamped his foot at him in a
rage, and exclaimed, "Get out of the way, you little damned
rascal! If you don't, I'll cut off your head."
Benny ran terrified into the house, saying, "You can't put
me in jail again. I don't belong to you now." It was well that
the wind carried the words away from the doctor's ear. I told
my grandmother of it, when we had our next conference at
the trap-door; and begged of her not to allow the children
to be impertinent to the irascible old man.
Autumn came, with a pleasant abatement of heat.
My eyes had become accustomed to the dim light,
and by holding my book or work in a certain position near the
aperture I contrived to read and sew. That was a great relief
to the tedious monotony of my life. But when winter
came, the cold penetrated through the thin shingle roof,
and I was dreadfully chilled. The winters there are not so
long, or so severe, as in northern latitudes; but the houses
are not built to shelter from cold, and my little den was
peculiarly comfortless. The kind grandmother brought me
bed-clothes and warm drinks. Often I was obliged to lie in
bed all day to keep comfortable; but with all my
precautions, my shoulders and feet were frostbitten. O,
those long, gloomy days, with no object for my eye to rest
upon, and no thoughts to occupy my mind, except the
dreary past and the uncertain future! I was thankful when
there came a day sufficiently mild for me to wrap myself up
and sit at the loophole to watch the passers by.
Southerners have the habit of stopping and talking in the
streets, and I heard many conversations not intended to
meet my ears. I heard slave-hunters planning how to catch
some poor fugitive. Several times I heard allusions to Dr.
Flint, myself, and the history of my children, who, perhaps,
were playing near the gate. One would say, "I wouldn't
move my little finger to catch her, as old Flint's property."
Another would say, "I'll catch any nigger for the reward.
A man ought to have what belongs to him, if he is
a damned brute." The opinion was often expressed that I
was in the Free States. Very rarely did any one suggest
that I might be in the vicinity. Had the least suspicion
rested on my grandmother's house, it would have been
burned to the ground.
But it was the last place they thought of. Yet there
was no place, where slavery existed, that could have
afforded me so good a place of concealment.
Dr. Flint and his family repeatedly tried to coax and
bribe my children to tell something they had heard said
about me. One day the doctor took them into a shop,
and offered them some bright little silver pieces and
gay handkerchiefs if they would tell where their
mother was. Ellen shrank away from him, and would
not speak; but Benny spoke up, and said, "Dr. Flint,
I don't know where my mother is. I guess she's in
New York; and when you go there again, I wish you'd
ask her to come home, for I want to see her; but if
you put her in jail, or tell her you'll cut her head off,
I'll tell her to go right back."
CHRISTMAS was approaching. Grandmother brought
me materials, and I busied myself making some new
garments and little playthings for my children. Were
it not that hiring day is near at hand, and many families
are fearfully looking forward to the probability of
separation in a few days, Christmas might be a happy
season for the poor slaves. Even slave mothers try to
gladden the hearts of their little ones on that occasion.
Benny and Ellen had their Christmas stockings filled.
Their imprisoned mother could not have the privilege
of witnessing, their surprise and joy. But I had the
pleasure of peeping at them as they went into the
street with their new suits on. I heard Benny ask a
little playmate whether Santa Claus brought him any
thing. "Yes," replied the boy; "but Santa Claus
ain't a real man. It's the children's mothers that put
things into the stockings." "No, that can't be," replied
Benny, "for Santa Claus brought Ellen and me
these new clothes, and my mother has been gone this
How I longed to tell him that his mother made
those garments, and that many a tear fell on them
while she worked!
Every child rises early on Christmas morning to see
the Johnkannaus. Without them, Christmas would
be shorn of its greatest attraction. They consist of
companies of slaves from the plantations, generally of
the lower class. Two athletic men, in calico wrappers,
have a net thrown over them, covered with all manner
of bright-colored stripes. Cows' tails are fastened
to their backs, and their heads are decorated with
horns. A box, covered with sheepskin, is called the
gumbo box. A dozen beat on this, while others strike
triangles and jawbones, to which bands of dancers
keep time. For a month previous they are composing
songs, which are sung on this occasion. These companies,
of a hundred each, turn out early in the morning,
and are allowed to go round till twelve o'clock,
begging for contributions. Not a door is left unvisited
where there is the least chance of obtaining a penny
or a glass of rum. They do not drink while they are
out, but carry the rum home in jugs, to have a carousel.
These Christmas donations frequently amount to twenty
or thirty dollars. It is seldom that any white man or
child refuses to give them a trifle. If he does, they
regale his ears with the following song: -
massa, so dey say;
in de heel, so dey say;
no money, so dey say;
one shillin, so dey say;
A'mighty bress you, so dey say."
Christmas is a day of
feasting, both with white and
colored people. Slaves, who are lucky enough to have
a few shillings, are sure to spend them for good eating;
and many a turkey and pig is captured, without saying
"By your leave, sir." Those who cannot obtain
these, cook a 'possum, or a raccoon, from which savory
dishes can be made. My grandmother raised poultry
and pigs for sale; and it was her established custom
to have both a turkey and a pig roasted for Christmas
On this occasion, I was warned to keep extremely
quiet, because two guests had been invited. One was
the town constable, and the other was a free colored
man, who tried to pass himself off for white, and who
was always ready to do any mean work for the sake
of currying favor with white people. My grandmother
had a motive for inviting them. She managed to take
them all over the house. All the rooms on the lower
floor were thrown open for them to pass in and out;
and after dinner, they were invited up stairs to look at
a fine mocking bird my uncle had just brought home.
There, too, the rooms were all thrown open, that they
might look in. When I heard them talking on the
piazza, my heart almost stood still. I knew this colored
man had spent many nights hunting for me. Every
body knew he had the blood of a slave father in his
veins; but for the sake of passing himself off for white,
he was ready to kiss the slaveholders' feet. How I
despised him! As for the constable, he wore no false
colors. The duties of his office were despicable, but he
was superior to his companion, inasmuch as he did not
pretend to be what he was not. Any white man, who
could raise money enough to buy a slave, would have
considered himself degraded my being a constable; but
the office enabled its possessor to exercise authority.
If he found any slave out after nine o'clock, he could
whip him as much as he liked; and that was a privilege
to be coveted. When the guests were ready to
depart, my grandmother gave each of them some of
her nice pudding, as a present for their wives. Through
my peep-hole I saw them go out of the gate, and I
was glad when it closed after them. So passed the
first Christmas in my den.
STILL IN PRISON.
WHEN spring returned, and I took in the little patch
of green the aperture commanded, I asked myself how
many more summers and winters I must be condemned
to spend thus. I longed to draw in a plentiful draught
of fresh air, to stretch my cramped limbs, to have room
to stand erect, to feel the earth under my feet again.
My relatives were constantly on the lookout for a
Chance of escape; but none offered that seemed practicable,
and even tolerably safe. The hot summer came
again, and made the turpentine drop from the thin
roof over my head.
During the long nights, I was restless for want of
air, and I had no room to toss and turn. There was
but one compensation; the atmosphere was so stifled
that even mosquitos would not condescend to buzz in
it. With all my detestation of Dr. Flint, I could hardly
wish him a worse punishment, either in this world or
that which is to come, than to suffer what I suffered in
one single summer. Yet the laws allowed him to be
out in the free air, while I, guiltless of crime, was pent
up in here, as the only means of avoiding the cruelties
the laws allowed him to inflict upon me! I don't
know what kept life within me. Again and again, I
thought I should die before long; but I saw the leaves
of another autumn whirl through the air, and felt the
touch of another winter. In summer the most terrible
thunder storms were acceptable, for the rain came
through the roof, and I rolled up my bed that it might
cool the hot boards under it. Later in the season,
storms sometimes wet my clothes through and through,
and that was not comfortable when the air grew chilly.
Moderate storms I could keep out by filling the chinks
But uncomfortable as my situation was, I had
glimpses of things out of doors, which made me thankful
for my wretched hiding-place. One day I saw a
slave pass our gate, muttering, "It's his own, and he
can kill it if he will." My grandmother told me that
woman's history. Her mistress had that day seen her
baby for the first time, and in the lineaments of its fair
face she saw a likeness to her husband. She turned
the bondwoman and her child out of doors, and forbade
her ever to return. The slave went to her master,
and told him what had happened. He promised
to talk with her mistress, and make it all right. The
next day she and her baby were sold to a Georgia
Another time I saw a woman rush wildly by, pursued
by two men. She was a slave, the wet nurse of
her mistress's children. For some trifling offence her
mistress ordered her to be stripped and whipped. To
escape the degradation and the torture, she rushed to
the river, jumped in, and ended her wrongs in death.
Senator Brown, of Mississippi, could not be ignorant
of many such facts as these, for they are of frequent
occurrence in every Southern State. Yet he stood up
in the Congress of the United States, and declared that
slavery was "a great moral, social, and political blessing;
a blessing to the master, and a blessing to the
I suffered much more during the second winter than
I did during the first. My limbs were benumbed by
inaction, and the cold filled them with cramp. I had
a very painful sensation of coldness in my head; even
my face and tongue stiffened, and I lost the power of
speech. Of course it was impossible, under the
circumstances, to summon any physician. My brother
William came and did all he could for me. Uncle
Phillip also watched tenderly over me; and poor grandmother
crept up and down to inquire whether there
were any signs of returning life. I was restored to
conscientiousness by the dashing of cold water in my face,
and found myself leaning against my brother's arm,
while he bent over me with streaming eyes. He afterwards
told me he thought I was dying, for I had been
in an unconscious state sixteen hours. I next became
delirious, and was in great danger of betraying myself
and my friends. To prevent this, they stupefied me
with drugs. I remained in bed six weeks, weary in
body and sick at heart. How to get medical advice
was the question. William finally went to a Thompsonian
doctor, and described himself as having all my
pains and aches. He returned with herbs, roots, and
ointment. He was especially charged to rub on the
ointment by a fire; but how could a fire be made in my
little den? Charcoal in a furnace was tried, but there
was no outlet for the gas, and it nearly cost me my life.
Afterwards coals, already kindled, were brought up in
and iron pan, and placed on bricks. I was so weak, and
it was so long since I had enjoyed the warmth of a fire,
that those few coals actually made me weep. I think
the medicines did me some good; but my recovery was
very slow. Dark thoughts passed through my mind
as I lay there day after day. I tried to be thankful for
my little cell, dismal as it was, and even to love it, as
part of the price I had paid for the redemption of my
children. Sometimes I thought God was a compassionate
Father, who would forgive my sins for the sake of
my sufferings. At other times, it seemed to me there
was no justice or mercy in the divine government. I
asked why the curse of slavery was permitted to exist,
and why I had been so persecuted and wronged from
youth upward. These things took the shape of mystery,
which is to this day not so clear to my soul as I
trust it will be hereafter.
In the midst of my illness, grandmother broke down
under the weight of anxiety and toil. The idea of
losing her, who had always been my best friend and a
mother to my children, was the sorest trial I had yet
had. O, how earnestly I prayed that she might recover!
How hard it seemed, that I could not tend
upon her, who had so long and so tenderly watched
One day the screams of a child nerved me with
strength to crawl to my peeping-hole, and I saw my
son covered with blood. A fierce dog, usually kept
chained, had seized and bitten him. A doctor was
sent for, and I heard the groans and screams of my child
while the wounds were being sewed up. O, what
torture to a mother' heart, to listen to this and be
unable to go to him!
But childhood is like a day in spring, alternately
shower and sunshine. Before night Benny was bright
and lively, threatening the destruction of the dog; and
great was his delight when the doctor told him the
next day that the dog had bitten another boy and been
shot. Benny recovered from his wounds; but it was
long before he could walk.
When my grandmother's illness became known,
many ladies, who were her customers, called to bring
her some little comforts, and to inquire whether she
had every thing she wanted. Aunt Nancy one night
asked permission to watch with her sick mother, and
Mrs. Flint replied, "I don't see any need of your going.
I can't spare you." But when she found other
ladies in the neighborhood were so attentive, not wishing
to be outdone in Christian charity, she also sallied
forth, in magnificent condescension, and stood by the
bedside of her who had loved her in her infancy, and
who had been repaid by such grievous wrongs. She
seemed surprised to find her so ill, and scolded uncle
Phillip for not sending for Dr. Flint. She herself sent
for him immediately, and he came. Secure as I was in
my retreat, I should have been terrified if I had known
he was so near me. He pronounced my grandmother
in a very critical situation, and said if her attending
physician wished it, he would visit her. Nobody wished
to have him coming to the house at all hours, and we
were not disposed to give him a chance to make out a
As Mrs. Flint went out, Sally told her the reason Benny
was lame was, that a dog had bitten him. "I'm glad
of it," she replied. "I wish he had killed him. It would
be good news to send to his mother. Her day will come.
The dogs will grab her yet." With these Christian
words she and her husband departed, and, to my great
satisfaction, returned no more.
I heard from uncle Phillip, with feelings of unspeakable
joy and gratitude, that the crisis was passed and
grandmother would live. I could now say from my
heart, "God is merciful. He has spared me the anguish
of feeling that I caused her death."
THE CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS.
THE summer had nearly ended, when Dr. Flint
made a third visit to New York, in search of me.
Two candidates were running for Congress, and he
returned in season to vote. The father of my children
was the Whig candidate. The doctor had hitherto been
a stanch Whig; but now he exerted all his energies
for the defeat of Mr. Sands. He invited large parties
of men to dine in the shade of his trees, and supplied
them with plenty of rum and brandy. If any poor
fellow drowned his wits in the bowl, and, in the openness
of his convivial heart, proclaimed that he did not
mean to vote the Democratic ticket, he was shoved into
the street without ceremony.
The doctor expended his liquor in vain. Mr. Sands
was elected; an event which occasioned me some
anxious thoughts. He had not emancipated my children
and if he should die, they would be at the mercy
of his heirs. Two little voices, that frequently met
my ear, pleaded with me not to let their father
depart without striving to make their freedom secure.
Years had passed since I had spoken to him. I had
not even seen him since the night I passed him,
unrecognized in my disguise of a sailor. I supposed he
would call before he left, to say something to my grandmother
concerning the children, and I resolved what
course to take.
The day before his departure for Washington I
made arrangements, towards evening, to get from my
hiding-place into the storeroom below. I found myself
so stiff and clumsy that it was with great difficulty
I could hitch from one resting place to another.
When I reached the storeroom my ankles gave way
under me, and I sank exhausted on the floor. It
seemed as if I could never use my limbs again. But
the purpose I had in view roused all the strength I
had. I crawled on my hands and knees to the window,
and, screened behind a barrel, I waited for his coming.
The clock struck nine, and I knew the steamboat would
leave between ten and eleven. My hopes were failing.
But presently I heard his voice, saying to some one,
"Wait for me a moment. I wish to see aunt Martha."
When he came out, as he passed the window, I said,
"Stop one moment, and let me speak for my children."
He started, hesitated, and then passed on, and went
out of the gate. I closed the shutter I had partially
opened, and sank down behind the barrel. I had suffered
much; but seldom had I experienced a leaner
pang than I then felt. Had my children, then, become
of so little consequence to him? And had he
so little feeling for their wretched mother that he
would not listen a moment while she pleaded for
them? Painful memories were so busy within me,
that I forgot I had not hooked the shutter, till I heard
some one opening it. I looked up. He had come
back. "Who called me?" said he, in a low tone.
"I did," I replied. "Oh, Linda," said he, "I knew
your voice; but I was afraid to answer, lest my friend
should hear me. Why do you come here? Is it possible
you risk yourself in this house? They are mad
to allow it. I shall expect to hear that you are all
ruined." I did not wish to implicate him, by letting
him know my place of concealment; so I merely said,
"I thought you would come to bid grandmother good
by, and so I came here to speak a few words to you
about emancipating my children. Many changes may
take place during the six months you are gone to
Washington and it does not seem right for you to
expose them to the risk of such changes. I want nothing
for myself; all I ask is, that you will free my
children, or authorize some friend to do it, before you go."
He promised he would do it, and also expressed a
readiness to make any arrangements whereby I could
I heard footsteps approaching, and closed the shutter
hastily. I wanted to crawl back to my den, without
letting the family know what I had done; for I knew
they would deem it very imprudent. But he stepped
back into the house to tell my grandmother that he
had spoken with me at the storeroom window, and to
beg of her not to allow me to remain in the house over
night. He said it was the height of madness for me
to be there; that we should certainly all be ruined.
Luckily, he was in too much of a hurry to wait for a
reply, or the dear old woman would surely have told
I tried to go back to my den, but found it more
difficult to go up than I had to come down. Now that
my mission was fulfilled, the little strength that had
supported me through it was gone, and I sank helpless
on the floor. My grandmother, alarmed at the
risk I had run, came into the storeroom in the dark,
and locked the door behind her. "Linda," she whispered,
"where are you?"
"I am here by the window," I replied. "I couldn't
have him go away without emancipating the children.
Who knows what may happen?"
"Come, come, child," said she, "it won't do for
you to stay here another minute. You've done wrong;
but I can't blame you, poor thing!"
I told her I could not return without assistance, and
she must call my uncle. Uncle Phillip came, and pity
prevented him from scolding me. He carried me back
to my dungeon, laid me tenderly on the bed, gave me
some medicine, and asked me if there was any thing
more he could do. Then he went away, and I was left
with my own thoughts - starless as the midnight darkness
My friends feared I should become a cripple for life;
and I was so weary of my long imprisonment that,
had it not been for the hope of serving my children, I
should have been thankful to die; but, for their sakes,
I was willing to bear on.
COMPETITION IN CUNNING.
DR. FLINT had not given me up. Every now and then
he would say to my grandmother that I would
yet come back, and voluntarily surrender myself; and
that when I did, I could be purchased by my relatives,
or any one who wished to buy me. I knew his cunning
nature too well not to believe that this was a trap
laid for me; and so all my friends understood it. I
resolved to match my cunning against his cunning.
In order to make him believe that I was in New York,
I resolved to write him a letter dated from that place.
I sent for my friend Peter, and asked him if he knew
any trustworthy seafaring person, who would carry
such a letter to New York, and put it in the post office
there. He said he knew one that he would trust with
his own life to the ends of the world. I reminded
him that it was a hazardous thing for him to undertake.
He said he knew it, but he was willing to do
any thing to help me. I expressed a wish for a New
York paper, to ascertain the names of some of the
streets. He run his hand into his pocket, and said,
"Here is half a one, that was round a cap I bought of
a pedler yesterday." I told him the letter would be
ready the next evening. He bade me good by, adding,
"Keep up your spirits, Linda; brighter days will
come by and by."
My uncle Phillip kept watch over the gate until
our brief interview was over. Early the next morning,
I seated myself near the little aperture to examine
the newspaper. It was a piece of the New York Herald;
and, for once, the paper that systematically abuses
the colored people, was made to render them a service.
Having obtained what information I wanted concerning
streets and numbers, I wrote two letters, one to
my grandmother, the other to Dr. Flint. I reminded
him how he, a gray-headed man, had treated a helpless
child, who had been placed in his power, and what
years of misery he had brought upon her. To my
grandmother, I expressed a wish to have my children
sent to me at the north, where I could teach them to
respect themselves, and set them a virtuous example;
which a slave mother was not allowed to do at the
south. I asked her to direct her answer to a certain
street in Boston, as I did not live in New York, though
I went there sometimes. I dated these letters ahead,
to allow for the time it would take to carry them, and
sent a memorandum of the date to the messenger.
When my friend came for the letters, I said, "God
bless and reward you, Peter, for this disinterested kindness.
Pray be careful. If you are detected, both you
and I will have to suffer dreadfully. I have not a
relative who would dare to do it for me." He replied,
"You may trust to me, Linda. I don't forget that
your father was my best friend, and I will be a friend
to his children so long as God lets me live."
It was necessary to tell my grandmother what I
had done, in order that she might be ready for the
letter, and prepared to hear what Dr. Flint might say
about my being at the north. She was sadly troubled.
She felt sure mischief would come of it. I also told
my plan to aunt Nancy, in order that she might report
to us what was said at Dr. Flint's house. I
whispered it to her through a crack, and she whispered
back, "I hope it will succeed. I shan't mind being a
slave all my life, if I can only see you and the children
I had directed that my letters should be put into the
New York post office on the 20th of the month. On
that evening of the 24th my aunt came to say that Dr.
Flint and his wife had been talking in a low voice
about a letter he had received, and that when he went
to his office he promised to bring it when he came to
tea. So I concluded I should hear my letter read the
next morning. I told my grandmother Dr. Flint
would be sure to come, and asked her to have him sit
near a certain door, and leave it open, that I might
hear what he said. The next morning I took my
station within sound of that door, and remained
motionless as a statue. It was not long before I heard
the gate slam, and the well-known footsteps enter the
house. He seated himself in the chair that was
placed for him, and said, "Well, Martha, I've brought
you a letter from Linda. She has sent me a letter
also. I know exactly where to find her; but I don't
choose to go to Boston for her. I had rather she
would come back of her own accord, in a respectable
manner. Her uncle Phillip is the best person to go
for her. With him, she would feel perfectly free to
act. I am willing to pay his expenses going and
returning. She shall be sold to her friends. Her
children are free; at least I suppose they are; and
when you obtain her freedom, you'll make a happy
family. I suppose, Martha, you have no objection to
my reading to you the letter Linda has written to
He broke the seal, and I heard him read it. The old
villian! He had suppressed the letter I wrote to
grandmother, and prepared a substitute of his own,
the purport of which was as follows: -
"Dear Grandmother: I have long wanted to write to
you; but the disgraceful manner in which I left you
and my children made me ashamed to do it. If you
knew how much I have suffered since I ran away,
you would pity and forgive me. I have purchased
freedom at a dear rate. If any arrangement could be
made for me to return to the south without being a
slave, I would gladly come. If not, I beg of you to
send my children to the north. I cannot live any longer
without them. Let me know in time, and I will meet
them in New York or Philadelphia, whichever place
best suits my uncle's convenience. Write as soon as
possible to your unhappy daughter,
"It is very much as I expected it would be," said
the old hypocrite, rising to go. "You see the foolish girl
has repented of her rashness, and wants to return.
We must help her to do it, Martha. Talk with Phillip
about it. If he will go for her, she will trust to him, and
come back. I should like an answer tomorrow. Good
As he stepped out on the piazza, he stumbled over
my little girl. "Ah, Ellen, is that you?" he said, in his most
gracious manner. "I didn't see you. How do you do?"
"Pretty well, sir," she replied. "I heard you tell
grandmother that my mother is coming home. I want
to see her."
"Yes, Ellen, I am going to bring her home very
soon," rejoiced he; "and you shall see her as much
as you like, you little curly-headed nigger."
This was as good as a comedy to me, who had
heard it all; but grandmother was frightened and
distressed, because the doctor wanted my uncle to go
The next evening Dr. Flint called to talk the matter
over. My uncle told him that from what he had heard
of Massachusetts, he judged he should be mobbed if
he went there after a runaway slave. "All stuff and nonsense,
Phillip!" replied the doctor. "Do you suppose I
want you to kick up a row in Boston? The business
can all be done quietly. Linda writes that she wants to
come back. You are her relative, and she would trust
you. The case would be different if I went. She might
object to coming with me; and the damned
abolitionists, if they knew I was her master, would
not believe me, if I told them she had begged to go
back. They would get up a row; and I should not like to
see Linda dragged through the streets like a common
negro. She has been very ungrateful to me for all my
kindness; but I forgive her, and want to act the part of a
friend towards her. I have no wish to hold her as
my slave. Her friends can buy her as soon as she
Finding that his arguments failed to convince my
uncle, the doctor "let the cat out of the bag," by saying
that he had written to the mayor of Boston, to ascertain
whether there was a person of my description
at the street and number from which my letter was
dated. He had omitted this date in the letter he had
made up to read to my grandmother. If I had dated
from New York, the old man would probably have
made another journey to that city. But even in that
dark region, where knowledge is so carefully excluded
from the slave, I had heard enough about Massachusetts
to come to the conclusion that slaveholders did
not consider it a comfortable place to go to in search
of a runaway. That was before the Fugitive Slave
Law was passed; before Massachusetts had consented
to become a "nigger hunter" for the south.
My grandmother, who had become skittish by seeing
her family always in danger, came to me with a very
distressed countenance, and said, "What will you do
if the mayor of Boston sends him word that you
haven't been there? Then he will suspect the letter
was a trick; and maybe he'll find out something about
it, and we shall all get into trouble. O Linda, I wish
you had never sent the letters."
"Don't worry yourself, grandmother," said I.
"The mayor of Boston won't trouble himself to hunt
niggers for Dr. Flint. The letters will do good in the
end. I shall get out of this dark hole some time or
"I hope you will, child," replied the good, patient
old friend. "You have been here a long time; almost
five years; but whenever you do go, it will break your
old grandmother's heart. I should be expecting every
day to hear that you were brought back in irons
and put in jail. God help you, poor child! Let
us be thankful that some time or other we shall
go "where the wicked cease from troubling, and
the weary are at rest." My heart responded, Amen.
The fact that Dr. Flint had written to the mayor
of Boston convinced me that he believed my letter
to be genuine, and of course that he had no suspicion
of my being any where in the vicinity. It
was a great object to keep up this delusion, for
it made me and my friends feel less anxious, and
it would be very convenient whenever there was a
chance to escape. I resolved, therefore, to continue
to write letters from the north from time to time.
Two or three weeks passed, and as no news came
from the mayor of Boston, grandmother began to
listen to my entreaty to be allowed to leave my
cell, sometimes, and exercise my limbs to prevent
my becoming a cripple. I was allowed to slip down
into the small storeroom, early in the morning,
and remain there a little while. The room was all
filled up with barrels, except a small open space
under my trap-door. This faced the door, the upper
part of which was of glass, and purposely left
uncurtained that the curious might look in. The
air of this place was close; but it has so much
better than the atmosphere of my cell, that I dreaded
to return. I came down as soon as it was light,
and remained till eight o'clock, when people began
to be about, and there was danger that some one
might come on the piazza. I had tried various
applications to bring warmth and feeling into my
limbs, but without avail. They were so numb and
stiff that it was a painful effort to move; and had
my enemies come upon me during the first mornings
I tried to exercise them a little in the small unoccupied
space of the storeroom, it would have been
impossible for me to have escaped.
IMPORTANT ERA IN MY BROTHER'S LIFE
I MISSED the company and kind attentions of my
brother William, who had gone to Washington with his
master, Mr. Sands. We received several letters from
him, written without any allusion to me, but expressed
in such a manner that I knew he did not forget me.
I disguised my hand, and wrote to him in the same
manner. It was a long session; and when it closed,
William wrote to inform us that Mr. Sands was going
to the north, to be gone some time, and that he was
to accompany him. I knew that his master had promised to
give him his freedom, but no time had been
specified. Would William trust to a slave's chances?
I remembered how we used to talk together, in our
young days, about obtaining our freedom, and I thought
it very doubtful whether he would come back to us.
Grandmother received a letter from Mr. Sands saying
that William had proved a most faithful servant,
and he would also say a valued friend; that no mother
had ever trained a better boy. He said he had travelled
through the Northern States and Canada; and though
the abolitionists had tried to decoy him away, they had
never succeeded. He ended by saying they should be
at home shortly.
We expected letters from William, describing the
novelties of his journey, but none came. In time, it
was reported that Mr. Sands would return late in the
autumn, accompanied by a bride. Still no letters from
William. I felt almost sure I should never see him
again on southern soil; but had he no word of comfort
to send to his friends at home? to the poor captive in
her dungeon? My thoughts wandered through the
dark past, and over the uncertain future. Alone in my
cell, where no eye but God's could see me, I wept bitter
tears. How earnestly I prayed to him to restore
me to my children, and enable me to be a useful
woman and a good mother!
At last the day arrived for the return of the travellers.
Grandmother had made loving preparations to welcome
her absent boy back to the old hearthstone. When the
dinner table was laid, William's plate occupied its old
place. The stage coach went by empty. My grandmother
waited dinner. She thought perhaps he was
necessarily detained by his master. In my prison I
listened anxiously, expecting every moment to hear my
dear brother's voice and step. In the course of the afternoon
a lad was sent by Mr. Sands to tell grandmother
that William did not return with him; that the abolitionists
had decoyed him away. But he begged her
not to feel troubled about it, for he felt confident she
would see William in a few days. As soon as he had
time to reflect he would come back, for he could never
expect to be so well off at the north as he had been
If you had seen the tears, and heard the sobs, you
would have thought the messenger had brought tidings
of death instead of freedom. Poor old grandmother
felt that she should never see her daring boy again.
And I was selfish. I thought more of what I had lost,
than of what my brother had gained. A new anxiety
began to trouble me. Mr. Sands had expended a
good deal of money, and would naturally feel irritated
by the loss he had incurred. I greatly feared this
might injure the prospects of my children, who were
now becoming valuable property. I longed to have
their emancipation made certain. The more so, because their
master and father was now married. I was
too familiar with slavery not to know that promises
made to slaves, though with kind intentions, and sincere
at the time, depend upon many contingencies for
Much as I wished William to be free, the step he had
taken made me sad and anxious. The following Sabbath
was calm and clear; so beautiful that it seemed
like a Sabbath in the eternal world. My grandmother
brought the children out on the piazza, that I might
hear their voices. She thought it would comfort me
in my despondency; and it did. They chatted merrily,
as only children can. Benny said, "Grandmother,
do you think uncle Will has gone for good? Won't
he ever come back again? May be he'll find mother.
If he does, won't she be glad to see him! Why
don't you and uncle Phillip, and all of us, go and live
where mother is? I should like it; wouldn't you,
"Yes, I should like it," replied Ellen; "but how
could we find her? Do you know the place, grandmother?
I don't remember how mother looked - do
Benny was just beginning to describe me when they
were interrupted by an old slave woman, a near neighbor,