July 17, 1851 Transcription

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Chapter VIII.

Eliza made her desperate retreat across the river just in the dusk of twilight. The gray mist of evening rising slowly from the river enveloped her as she disappeared up the bank, and the swoln current and floundering masses of ice presented a hopeless barrier between her and her pursuer. Haley therefore slowly and discontentedly returned to the little tavern, to ponder further what was to be done. The woman opened to him the door of a little parlor, covered with a rag carpet, where stood a table with a very shining black oil-cloth, some lank, high-backed wood chairs, with some plaster images in resplendent colors on the mantel shelf, above a very dimly smoking grate; a long hard-wood settle extended its uneasy length by the chimney, and here Haley sat him down to meditate on the instability of human hopes and happiness in general.

“What did I want with the little cuss, now!” he said to himself, “that I should have got myself treed like a coon, as I am this yer way;” and Haley relieved himself by repeating over a not very select litany of imprecations on himself, which, though there was the best possible reason to consider them as true, we shall, as a matter of taste, omit.

He was started[1] by the loud and dissonant voice of a man who was apparently dismounting at the door. He hurried to the window—

“By the land—if this yer aint the nearest now to what I’ve heard folks call a[2] Providence,” said Haley, “I do b’lieve that ar’s Tom Loker.”

Haley hastened out. Standing by the bar, in the corner of the room, was a brawny, muscular man, full six feet in height, and broad in proportion. He was dressed in a coat of buffalo skin, made with the hair outward, which gave him a shaggy and fierce appearance, perfectly in keeping with the whole air of his physiognomy. In the head and face every organ and lineament expressive of brutal and unhesitating violence was in a state of the highest possible development. Indeed, could our readers fancy a bull-dog come under man’s estate, and walking about in a hat and coat, they would have no unapt idea of the general style and effect of his physique. He was accompanied by a travelling companion, in many respects an exact contrast to himself. He was short and slender, lithe and cat-like in his motions, and had a peering, mousing expression about his keen black eyes, with which every feature of his face seemed sharpened into sympathy—his thin, long nose ran out as if it was eager to bore into the nature of things in general—his sleek, thin, black hair was stuck eagerly forward, and all his motions and evolutions expressed a dry, cautious acuteness. The great big man poured out a big tumbler half full of raw spirits, and gulped it down without a word. The little man stood tiptoe, and putting his head first to one side and then to the other, and snuffing considerately in the directions of the various bottles, ordered at last a mint julep, in a thin and quivering voice, and with an air of great circumspection. When poured out, he took it and looked at it with a sharp, complacent air, like a man who thinks he has done about the right thing, and hit the nail on the head, and proceeded to dispose of it in short and well-advised sips.

“Wal now, who’d a-thought this yer luck ’ad come to me! Why, Loker, how ar ye?” said Haley, coming forward, and extending his hand to the big man.

“The devil!” was the civil reply; “what brought you here, Haley?”

The mousing man, who bore the name of Marks, instantly stopped his sipping, and poking his head forward, looked shrewdly on the new acquaintance, as a cat sometimes looks at a moving dry leaf, or some other possible object of pursuit.

“I say, Tom, this yer’s the luckiest thing in the world. I’m in a devil of a hobble, and you must help me out.”

“Ugh? aw! like enough!” grunted his complacent acquaintance. “A body may be pretty sure of that when you’re glad to see em; something to be made off of em. What’s the blow now?”

“You’ve got a friend here!” said Haley, looking doubtfully at Marks; “partner, perhaps.”

“Yes, I have. Here, Marks! here’s that ar feller that I was in with in Natchez.”

“Shall be pleased with his acquaintance,” said Marks, thrusting out a long, thin hand, like a raven’s claw. “Mr. Haley, I believe.”

“The same, sir,” said Haley; “and now, gentlemen, seein as we’ve met so happily, I think I’ll stand up to a small matter of a treat in this here parlor. So now, old coon, said he to the man at the bar, get us hot water, and sugar, and cigars, and plenty of the real stuff, and we’ll have a blow out.”

Behold, then, the candles lighted, the fire stimulated to the burning point in the grate, and our three worthies seated round a table, well spread with all the accessions to good fellowship enumerated before.

Haley began a pathetic recital of his peculiar troubles. Loker shut up his mouth, and listened to him with gruff and surly attention. Marks, who was anxiously and with much fidgeting compounding a tumbler of punch to his own peculiar taste, occasionally looked up from his employment, and poking his sharp nose and chin almost into Haley’s face, gave the most earnest heed to the whole narrative. The conclusion of it appeared to amuse him extremely, for he shook his shoulders and sides in silence, and perked up his thin lips with an air of great internal enjoyment.

“So, then, ye’r fairly sewed up, aint ye?” he aaid, “he! he! he! It’s neatly done, too.”

“This yer young-un business makes lots of trouble in the trade,” said Haley, dolefully.

“If we could get a breed of gals that didn’t care, now, for their young uns,” said Marks; “tell ye, I think ’twould be ’bout the greatest mod’rn improvement I knows on”—and Marks patronized his joke by a quiet introductory sniggle.

“Jes so,” said Haley; “I never couldn’t see into it; young uns is heaps of trouble to em; one would think, now, they’d be glad to get clar on em; but they arnt. And the more trouble a young un is, and the more good for nothing, as a gen’l thing, the tighter they sticks to em.”

“Wal, Mr. Haley,” said Marks, jest pass the hot water. Yes, sir; you say jest what I feel and all’ys have. Now I bought a gal once, when I was in the trade—a light, likely wench she was, too—and quite considerable smart, and she had a young un that was mis’able sickly; it had a crooked back, or somethin or other; and I jest gin’t away to a man that thought he’d take his chance raising on’t, being it didn’t cost nothin—never thought, yer know, of the gal’s takin on about it—but, Lord,[commma tail faint] yer oughter seen how she went on. Why reely she did seem to me to valley the child more cause ’twas sickly snd cross, and plagued her—and she warnt making b’lieve, neither—cried about it, she did, and lopped round, as if she’d lost every friend she had. It reely was drole to think on’t. Lord, there aint no end to women’s notions.”

“Wal, jes so with me,” said Haley. “Last summer, down on Red river, I got a gal traded off on me, with a likely lookin child enough, and his eyes looked as bright as yourn—but come to look, I found him stone blind. Fact—he was stone blind; wal, yer see, I thought there warnt no harm in my jest passin him along, and not sayin nothin; and I’d got him nicely swapped off for a keg o’ whiskey; but come to get him away from the gal, she was jes like a tiger. So ’twas before we started, and I hadn’t got my gang chained up—so what she do but ups on a cotton bale, like a cat, ketches a knife from one of the deck hands, and I tell ye she made all fly for a minit—till she saw twant no use, and she jest turns round, and pitches head first, young un and all, into the river—went down plump, and never ris.”

“Bah!” said Tom Loker, who had listened to these stories with ill-repressed disgust—“shif’less! both on ye! my gals don’t cut up no such shines, I tell yer.”

“Indeed! how do you help it?” said Marks, briskly.

“Help it! why, I buys a gal, and if she’s got a young un to be sold, I jest walks up, and puts my fist to her face, and says, ‘Look here, now, if you give me one word out of your head, I’ll smash yer face in. I won’t hear one word—not the beginning of a word,’ I says to em, ‘this yer young un’s mine, and not yourn, and you’ve no kind o’ business with it. I’m going to sell it, first chance; mind, you don’t cut up none o’ yer shines about it, or I’ll make ye wish ye’d never been born.’ I tell ye, they sees it aint no play when I gets hold. I makes em as whist as fishes; and if one on em begins and gives a yelp, why”—and Mr. Loker brought down his fist with a thump that fully explained the hiatus.

“That ar’s what yer may call emphasis,” said Marks, poking Haley in the side, and going into another small giggle; “aint Tom peculiar? he! he! he! I say, Tom, I spect you make em understand, for all niggers heads is woolly. They don’t never have no doubt o’ your meaning, Tom. If you aint the devil, Tom, you’s his twin brother, I’ll say that for ye!”

Tom received the compliment with becoming modesty, and began to look as affable as was consistent, as John Bunyan says, “with his doggish nature.”

Haley, who had been imbibing very freely of the staple of the evening, began to feel a sensible elevation and enlargement of his moral faculties—a phenomenon not unusual with gentlemen of a serious and reflective turn, under similar circumstances.

“Wal now, Tom,” he said, “yer reely is too bad, as I allers have telled you; yer know, Tom, you and I used to talk over these yer matters down in Natchez, and I used to prove to yer that we made full as much, and was as well off for this yer world, by treatin on em well, besides keepin a better chance for comin in kingdom at last, when wost comes to wost, and thar aint nothin else left to get, yer know.”

“Boh,” said Tom, “don’t I know—don’t make me too sick with any yer stuff—my stomach is a leetle riled now;” and Tom drank half a glass of raw brandy.

“I say,” said Haley, and leaning back in his chair and gesturing impressively, “I’ll say this, now—I allers meant to drive my trade so’s to make money on’t, fust and foremost, as much as any man—but, then, trade aint everything, and money aint everything, cause we’s all got souls; I don’t care, now, who hears me say it—and I think a cussed sight on it—so I may as well come out with it. I b’lieve in religion, and one of these days, when I’ve got matters tight and snug, I calculates to tend to my soul and them ar matters, and so what’s the use of doin any more wickedness than’s reely necessary—it don’t seem to me it’s ’tall prudent.”

“Tend to yer soul,” repeated Tom, contemptuously; “take a bright lookout to find a soul in you—save yourself any care on that score—if the devil sifts you through a hair sieve, he won’t find one.”

“Why, Tom, you’r cross,” said Haley; “why can’t ye take it pleasant, now, when a feller’s talking for your good?”

“Stop that ar jaw ’o yourn, there,” said Tom, gruffly. “I can stand most any talk o’ yourn but your pious talk—that kills me right up. After all, what’s the odds between me and you; taint that you care one bit more, or have a bit more feelin—its clean, sheer, dog meanness, wanting to cheat the devil and save your own skin—don’t I see through it. And you’r ‘gettin religion,’ as you call it, arter all, is too pisin mean for any crittur—run up a bill with the devil all your life, and then sneak out when pay-time comes. Boh!”

“Come, come, gentlemen, I say; this isn’t business,” said Marks. “There’s different ways, you know, of looking at all subjects. Mr. Haley is a very nice man, no doubt, and has his own conscience; and Tom, you have your ways, and very good ones too, Tom; but quarrelling, you know, won’t answer no kind of purposes—let’s go to business. Now, Mr. Haley, what is it? you want us to undertake to catch this yer gal.”

“The gal’s no matter of mine—she’s Shelby’s—it’s only the boy; I was a fool for buying the monkey.”

“You gen’lly are a fool,” said Tom, gruffly.

“Come, now, Loker, none of your huffs,” said Marks, licking his lips, “you see Mr. Haley’s a puttin us in a way of a good job, I reckon; just hold still—these yer arrangements is my forte; this yer gal, Mr. Haley, how is she? what is she?”

“Wal! white and handsome—well brought up. I’d a gin Shelby eight hundred or a thousand, and then made well on her.”

“White and handsome, well brought up!” said Marks, his sharp eyes, nose, and mouth, all alive with enterprise. “Look here, now, Loker, a beautiful opening—we’ll do a better[3] business here on our own account; we does the catchin—the boy of course goes to Mr. Haley, we takes the gal to Orleans to speculate on—aint it beautiful?”

Tom, whose great heavy mouth had stood ajar during this communication, now suddenly snapped it together, as a big dog closes his on a piece of meat, and seemed to be digesting the idea at his leisure.

“Ye see,” said Marks to Haley, stirring his punch as he did so, “ye see, we has justices convenient at all pints along shore, that does up any little jobs in our line quite reasonable. Tom, he does the knockin down and that ar; and I come in all dressed up—shining boots—everything first chop, when the swearin’s to be done. You oughter see, now,” said Marks, in a glow of professional pride, “how I can tone it off: one day I’m Mr. Twickem, from New Orleans; ’nother day I’m just come from my plantation on Pearl river, where I works seven hundred niggers; then, again, I come out a distant relation of Henry Clay, or some old cock in Kentuck. Talents is different, you know; now Tom’s a roarer when there’s any thumping or fighting to be done; but at lying he aint good, Tom aint—ye see it don’t come natural to him; but, Lord, if thar’s a feller in the country that can swear to anything and everything, and put in all the circumstances and flourishes with a longer face, and carry’t through better’n I can, why, I’d like to see him—that’s all! I b’lieve my heart I could get along and snake through, even if justices were more particular than they is. Sometimes I ruther wish they wus more particular, ’twould be a heap more relishin if they was—more fun, yer know.”

Tom Loker, who, as we have made it appear, was a man of slow thoughts and movements, here interrupted Marks by bringing his heavy fist down on the table, so as to make all ring again. “It’ll do!” he said.

“Lord bless ye, Tom, yer needn’t break all the glasses,” said Marks; “save your fist for time o’ need.”

“But, gentlemen, aint I to come in for a share of the profits?” said Haley.

“Aint it enough we catch the boy for ye?” said Loker—“what do ye want?”

“Wal,” said Haley, “if I gives you the job, it’s wurth something—say ten per cent. on the profits, expenses paid.”

“Now,” said Loker, with a tremendous oath, and striking the table with his heavy fist, don’t I know you, Dan Haley? Don’t you think to come it over me? Suppose Marks and I have taken up the catchin trade jest to ’commodate gentlemen like you, and get nothing for ourselves—not by a long chalk; we’ll have the gal out and out, and you keep quiet, or, ye see, we’ll have both—what’s to hinder? Han’t you show’d us the game—it’s free to us as you, I hope—if you or Shelby wants to chase us, look where the partridges wus last year—if you find them or us, you’r quite welcome.”

“Oh, wal, certainly, jest let it go at that,” said Haley, alarmed; “you catch the boy for the job—you allers did trade far with me, Tom, and was up to yer word.”

“Ye know that,” said Tom; “I don’t pretend none of your snivelling ways, but I won’t lie in my counts with the devil himself. What I ses I’ll do I will do—you know that, Dan Haley.”

“Jes so, jes so—I said so, Tom,” said Haley, “and if you’d only promise to have the boy for me in a week, at any point you’ll name, that’s all I want.”

“But it aint all I want, by a long jump,” said Tom. “Ye don’t think I did business with you, down in Natchez, for nothing, Haley. I’ve learned to hold an eel when I catch him; you’ve got to fork over fifty dollars, flat down, or this child don’t start a peg. I know yer.”

“Why, when you have a job in hand that may bring a clean profit of somewhere about a thousand or sixteen hundred, why, Tom, you’r onreasonable,” said Haley.

“Yes, and hasn’t we business booked for five weeks to come—all we can do—and suppose we leaves all, and goes to bushwhacking round arter yer young un, and finally doesn’t catch the gal—and gals allers is the devil to catch; what’s then—would you pay us a cent—would you? I think I see you a doin it—ugh! No, no—flap down your fifty—if we get the job, and it pays, I’ll hand it back—if we don’t, it’s for our trouble—that’s far, aint it, Marks?”

“Certainly, certainly,” said Marks, with a conciliatory tone; “it’s only a retaining fee, you see, he! he! he! we lawyers, ye know. Wal, we must all keep good-natured—keep easy, yer know. Tom’ll have the boy for yer, anywhere ye’ll name—won’t ye, Tom?”

“If I find the young un, I’ll bring him on to Cincinnati, and leave him at Granny Belcher’s, on the landing,” said Loker.

Marks had got from his pocket a greasy pocket-book, and taking a long paper from thence, he sat down, and fixing his keen, black eyes on it, began mumbling over its contents: “Barnes—Shelby county—boy Jim, 300 dollars for him—dead or alive.

“Edwards—Dick and Lucy—man and wife, 600 dollars—wench Polly and two children, 600 for her or her head.”

“I’m jest a runnin over our business to see if we can take up this yer handily. Loker,” he said, after a pause, “we must set Adams and Springer on the track of these yer—they’ve been booked some time.”

“They’ll charge too much,” said Tom.

“I’ll manage that ar; they’s young in the business, and must spect to work cheap,” said Marks, as he continued to read. “Ther’s three on em easy cases, cause all you’ve got to do is to shoot em, or swear they is shot; they couldn’t of course charge much for that. Them other cases,” he said, folding the paper, “will bear puttin off a spell. So now let’s come to the particulars. Now, Mr. Haley, you saw this yer gal when she landed.”

“To be sure—plain as I see you.”

“And a man helpin on her up the bank?” said Loker.

“To be sure I did.”

“Most likely,” said Marks, “she’s took in somewhere, but where, ’s a question. Tom, what do you say?”

“We must cross the river to-night, no mistake,” said Tom.

“But there’s no boat about,” said Marks. “The ice is running awfully, Tom—aint it dangerous?”

“Do’nno nothing bout that, only it’s got to be done,” said Tom, decidedly.

“Dear me,” said Marks, fidgeting, “it’ll be——I say,” he said, walking to the window, “it’s dark as a wolf’s mouth, and Tom”——

“The long and short is, you’re scared, Marks, but I can’t help that—you’ve got to go. Suppose you want to lie by a day or two, till the gal’s been carried on the underground line up to Sandusky or so, before you start.”

“Oh, no; I aint a grain afraid,” said Marks, “only”—— [4]

“Only what?” said Tom.

“Well, about the boat. Yer see there aint any boat. I heard the woman say there was one coming along this evening, and that a man was going to cross over in it; neck or nothing, we must go with him,” said Tom.

“I spose you’ve got good dogs,” said Haley.

“First rate,” said Marks. But what’s the use—you haint got nothin o’ her’s to smell on?”

“Yes, I have,” said Haley, triumphantly. “Here’s her shawl she left on the bed in her hurry; she left her bonnet, too.”

“That ar’s lucky,” said Loker; “fork over.”

“Though the dogs might damage the gal, if they come on her unawars,” said Haley.

“That ar’s a consideration,” said Marks; “our dogs tore a feller half to pieces once down in Mobile, ’fore we could get em off.”

“Well, ye see, for this sort that’s to be sold for their looks that ar won’t answer, ye see,” said Haley.

“I do see,” said Marks. “Besides, if she’s got took in, taint no go, neither. Dogs is no count in these yer up States, where these critturs gets carried; of course, ye can’t get on their track. They only does down in plantations where niggers, when they runs, has to do their own running, and don’t get no help.”

“Well,” said Loker, who had just stepped out to the bar to make some inquiries, “they say the man’s come with the boat; so, Marks”——

That worthy cast a rueful look at the comfortable quarters he was leaving, but slowly rose to obey. After exchanging a few words of further arrangement, Haley, with visible reluctance, handed over the fifty dollars to Tom, and the worthy trio separated for the night.

If any of our refined and Christian readers object to the society into which this scene introduces them, let us beg them to begin and conquer their prejudices in time. The catching business, we beg to remind them, is rising to the dignity of a lawful and patriotic profession. If all the broad land between the Mississippi and the Pacific becomes one great market for bodies and souls, and human property retains the locomotive tendencies of this nineteenth century, the trader and catcher may yet be among our aristocracy.

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While this scene was going on at the tavern, Sam and Andy, in a state of high felicitation, pursued their way home.

Sam was in the highest possible feather, and expressed his exultation by all sorts of supernatural howls and ejaculations, by divers odd motions and contortions of his whole system. Sometimes he would sit backward, with his face to the horse’s tail and sides, and then with a whoop and a somerset come right side up in his place again, and, drawing on a grave face, begin to lecture Andy in high-sounding tones for laughing and playing the fool. Anon, slapping his sides with his arms, he would burst forth in peals of laughter that made the old woods ring as they passed. With all these evolutions he contrived to keep the horses up to the top of their speed, until between ten and eleven their heels resounded on the gravel at the end of the balcony. Mrs. Shelby flew to the railings.

“Is that you, Sam? Where are they?”

“Mass’r Haley’s a restin at the tavern; he’s drefful fatigued, missis.”

“And Eliza, Sam?”

“Wal, she’s clar cross Jordan. As a body may say, in the land o’ Canaan.”

“Why, Sam, what do you mean?” said Mrs. Shelby, breathless, and almost faint, as the possible meaning of these words came over her.

“Wal, missis, de Lord he persarves his own. Elizy’s[5] done gone over the river into Hio, as markably as if the Lord took her over in a charrit o’ fire and two hosses.”

Sam’s vein of piety was always uncommonly fervent in his mistress’s presence, and he made great capital of Scriptural figures and images.

“Come up here, Sam!” said Mr. Shelby, who had followed on to the verandah, “and tell your mistress what she wants. Come, come, Emily,” said he, passing his arm round her, “you are cold and all in a shiver; you allow yourself to feel too much.”

“Feel too much! Am not I a woman? a mother! Are we not both responsible to God for this poor girl? My God! lay not this sin to our charge.”

“What sin, Emily! you see yourself that we have only done what we were obliged to.”

“There’s an awful feeling of guilt about it, though,” said Mrs. Shelby. “I can’t reason it away.”

“Here, Andy, you nigger, be alive,” called Sam, under the verandah; “take these yer hosses to der barn; don’t ye hear mass’r a callin?” and Sam soon appeared, palm-leaf in hand, at the parlor door.

“Now, Sam, tell us distinctly how the matter was,” said Mr. Shelby. “Where is Eliza, if you know?”

“Wal, mass’r, I saw her with my own eyes a crossin on the floatin ice. She crossed most markably; it wasn’t no less nor a miracle, and I saw a man help her up the Hio side, and then she was lost in the dusk.”

“Sam, I think this rather apocryphal—this miracle. Crossing on floating ice isn’t so easily done,” said Mr. Shelby.

“Easy! couldn’t nobody a done it widout de Lord. Why, now,” said Sam, “ ’twas jist dis yer way. Mass’r Haley and me and Andy, we comes up to de little tavern by the river, and I rides a leetle ahead, (I’s so zealous to be a cotchin Lizy that I couldn’t hold in no way;) and when I comes by the tavern winder, sure enough there she was, right in plain sight, and dey diggin on behind. Wal, I loses off my hat, and sings out nuff to raise the dead. Course Lizy she hars, and she dodges back, when mass’r Haley he goes past the door; and then, I tell ye, she clared, out de side door she went, down de river bank, mass’r Haley he seed her, and yelled out, and him and me and Andy we took arter, down she come to the river, and thar was the current running ten feet wide by the shore, and over tother side ice a sawin and a giggling[6] up and down, kinder as ’twere a great island. We come right behind her, and I thought my soul he’d got her sure enough; when she gin sich a screech as I never hearn, and thar she was, clar over tother side the current on the ice, and then on she went, a screeching and a jumpin—the ice went crack! g’wallop![7] cracking! chunk! and she a boundin like a buck! Lord, the spring that ar gal’s got in her aint common, I’m o’ pinion.”

Mrs. Shelby sat perfectly silent, pale with excitement, while Sam told his story.

“God be praised, she isn’t dead!” she said; “but where is the poor child now!”

“De Lord will pervide,” said Sam, rolling up his eyes piously. “As I’ve been a sayin, dis yer’s a providence, and no mistake, as missis has allers been a instructin on us. Thar’s allers instruments ris up to do de Lord’s will. Now, if’d hadn’t been for me to-day, she’d a been took a dozen times. Warnt it I started off de hosses dis yer mornin, and kept em chasin till nigh dinner time? And didn’t I car mass’r Haley nigh five miles out of de road dis evening, or else he’d a come up with Lizy as easy as a dog arter a coon. These yer’s all providences.”

“They are a kind of providences that you’ll have to be pretty sparing of, master[8] Sam. I allow no such practices with gentlemen on my place,” said Mr. Shelby, with as much sternness as he could command under the circumstances.

Now, there is no more use in making believe be angry with a negro than with a child; both instinctively see the true state of the case through all attempts to affect the contrary; and Sam was in no wise disheartened by this rebuke, though he assumed an air of doleful gravity, and stood with the corners of his mouth lowered in most penitential style.

“Mass’r’s quite right—quite; it was ugly on me—there’s no disputin that ar; and of course mass’r and missis wouldn’t encourage no such works. I’m sensible of dat ar; but a poor nigger like me’s mazin tempted to act ugly sometimes, when fellers will cut up such shines as dat ar mass’r Haley; he aint no gen’l’man, no way; anybody’s been raised as I’ve been can’t help a seein dat ar.”

“Well, Sam,” said Mrs. Shelby, “as you appear to have a proper sense of your errors, you may go now and tell Aunt Chloe she may get you some of that cold ham that was left of dinner to-day. You and Andie must be hungry.”

“Missis is a heap too good for us,” said Sam, making his bow with alacrity, and departing.

It will be perceived, as has been before intimated, that master Sam had a native talent that might undoubtedly have raised him to eminence in political life—a talent of making capital out of everything that turned up, to be invested for his own especial praise and glory; and having done up his piety and humility, as he trusted, to the satisfaction of the parlor, he clapped his palm-leaf on his head with a sort of rakish, free-and-easy air, and proceeded to the dominions of Aunt Chloe, with the intention of flourishing largely in the kitchen.

“I’ll speechify these yer niggers,” said Sam to himself, “now I’ve got a chance. Lord, I’ll reel it off to make em stare.”

It must be observed that one of Sam’s especial delights had been to ride in attendance on his master to all kinds of political gatherings, where, roosted on some rail fence, or perched aloft in some tree, he would sit watching the orators with the greatest apparent gusto, and then, descending among the various brethren of his own color assembled on the same errand, he would edify and delight them with the most ludicrous burlesques and imitations, all delivered with the most imperturbable earnestness and solemnity; and though the auditors immediately about him were generally of his own color, it not unfrequently happened that they were fringed pretty deeply with those of a fairer complexion, who listened, laughing and winking, to Sam’s great self-congratulation. In fact, Sam considered oratory as his vocation, and never let slip an opportunity of magnifying his office.

Now, between Sam and Aunt Chloe there had existed, from ancient times, a sort of chronic feud, or rather a decided coolness; but, as Sam was meditating something in the provision department as the necessary and obvious foundation of his operations, he determined on the present occasion to be eminently conciliatory; for he well knew, that although “missis’ orders” would undoubtedly be followed to the letter, yet he should gain a considerable deal by enlisting the spirit also. He therefore appeared before Aunt Chloe with a touchingly subdued, resigned expression, like one who has suffered immeasurable hardships in behalf of a persecuted fellow creature—enlarged upon the fact that missis had directed him to come to Aunt Chloe for whatever might be wanting to make up the balance in his solids and fluids—and thus unequivocally acknowledged her right and supremacy in the cooking department, and all thereto pertaining.

The thing took accordingly. No poor, simple, virtuous body was ever cajoled by the attentions of an electioneering politician with more ease than Aunt Chloe was won over by master Sam’s suavities; and if he had been the prodigal son himself, he could not have been overwhelmed with more maternal bountifulness; and he soon found himself seated, happy and glorious, over a large tin pan containing a sort of olla podrida of all that had appeared on the table for two or three days past. Savory morsels of ham, golden blocks of corn cake, fragments of pie of every conceivable mathematical figure, chicken wings, gizzards, and drumsticks, all appeared in picturesque confusion, and Sam, as monarch of all he surveyed, sat with his palm-leaf cocked rejoicingly to one side, and patronizing Andy at his right hand.

The kitchen was full of all his compeers, who had hurried and crowded in from the various cabins to hear the termination of the day’s exploits. Now was Sam’s hour of glory. The story of the day was rehearsed, with all kinds of ornament and varnishing which might be necessary to heighten its effect—for Sam, like some of our fashionable dilletanti, never allowed a story to lose any of its gilding by passing through his hands. Roars of laughter attended the narration, and were taken up and prolonged by all the smaller fry, who were lying in any quantity about on the floor, or perched in every corner. In the height of the uproar and laughter, Sam, however, preserved an immovable gravity—only from time to time rolling his eyes up, and giving his auditors divers inexpressible droll glances, without departing from the sententious elevation of his oratory.

“Yer see, fellow-countrymen,” said Sam, elevating a turkey’s leg with energy; “yer see, now, what dis yer chile ’s up ter, for fendin yer all—yes, all on yer. For him as tries to get one o’ our people, is as good as tryin to get all; yer see the principle’s de same—dat ar’s clar. And any one o’ these yer drivers that comes smelling round arter any our people, why, he’s got me in his way; I’m the feller he’s got to set in with—I’m the feller for yer all to come to, bred’ren—I’ll stand up for yer rights—I’ll fend em to the last breath.”

“Why, but Sam, yer telled me only this mornin that you’d help this yer mass’r to cotch Lizy—seems to me yer talk don’t hang together,” said Andy.

“I tell you, now, Andy,” said Sam, with awful superiority, “don’t yer be a talkin bout what yer don’t know nothin on; boys like you, Andy, means well, but they can’t be spected to collusitate the great principles of action.”

Andie looked rebuked, particularly by the hard word collusitate, which most of the youngerly members of the company seemed to consider as a settler in the case, while Sam proceeded—

“Dat ar was conscience, Andy; when I thought of gwine arter Lizy, I railly spected mass’r was sot dat way. When I found missi’s was sot the contrar, dat ar was conscience more yet—cause fellers allers gets more by stickin to missis side—so yer see I’s persistent either way, and sticks up to conscience, and holds on to principles. Yes, principles,” said Sam, giving an enthusiastic toss to a chicken’s neck—“what’s principles good fur, if we isn’t persistent, I wanter know? Thar, Andy, you may have dat ar bone—taint picked quite clean.”

Sam’s audience hanging on his words with open mouth, he could not but proceed—

“Dis yer matter bout persistence, feller-niggers,” said Sam, with the air of one entering into an abstruse subject, “dis yer ’sistency ’s a thing what aint seed into very clar, by most anybody. Now, yer see, when a feller stands up for a thing one day and night, de contrar de next, folks ses, (and nat’rally enough dey ses,) why he aint persistent—hand me dat ar bit o’ corn cake, Andy. But let’s look inter it: I hope the gen’lmen and der fair sex will scuse my usin an ornary sort o’ parison. Here! I’m a tryin to get top o’ der hay. Wal, I puts up my larder dis yer side; taint no go; den cause I don’t try dere no more, but puts my larder right de contrar side, aint I persistent? I’m persistent in wantin to get up which ary side my larder is, don’t you see, all on yer?”

“It’s the only thing ye ever was persistent in, Lord knows,” muttered Aunt Chloe, who was getting rather restive; the merriment of the evening being to her somewhat after the Scripture comparison—like “vinegar upon nitre.”

“Yes, indeed!” said Sam, rising, full of supper and glory, for a closing effort. “Yes, my feller-citizens and ladies of de other sex in general, I has principles—I’m proud to ’oon em—they ’s perquisite to dese yer times, and ter all times. I has principles, and I sticks to em like forty—jest any thing that I thinks is principle, I goes in to’t—I wouldn’t mind if dey burnt me live like dat ar old coon dar missus was a showin us in der catechise. I’d[9] walk right up to de stake, I would, and say, here I comes to shed my last blood fur my principles, fur my country, fur der gen’l interests of sciety.”

“Well,” said Aunt Chloe, “one o’ yer principles will have to be to get ter bed some time ter night, and not be a keepin everybody up till mornin; now, every one of you young uns that don’t want to be cracked, had better be scase mighty sudden.”

“Niggers! all on yer,” said Sam, waving his palm-leaf with benignity, “I give yer my blessin; go to bed now, and be good boys.”

And, with this pathetic benediction, the assembly dispersed.

[to be continued.]

Notes

This Stowe Center edition reproduces the National Era serial text of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The wording of the newspaper in many cases differs from publisher John P. Jewett’s first edition. At the conclusion of each installment, notes are provided on a small selection of textual variants, those which have the greatest interpretive significance. The model for these notes is editor John Bryant’s concept of fluid-text editing, which foregrounds the interpretation of textual variants as an act of critical reading. Readers who hold alternate interpretations are encouraged to submit comments to the blog. For general comments on the text and the bibliography, see the Note on the Text.

Note 1
He was started by the | Era pg. 113
He was startled by the | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 97

The intransitive verb “start” or “started” characterizes a movement as sudden or violent. Stowe use “start” or “started” in this sense ten times in the serial, and this instance is the only one in which “startled” is a variant: “start” or “started” appears in this sense only nine times in the Jewett edition.

Though the meaning of startled is nearly identical—the OED in the sense closest to this one offers “to start” as a definition of “startle”—Stowe in 2 of 3 instances uses “startled” with a direct object, this being the only exception to that tendency. Therefore, it seems most likely that Stowe describes Haley’s movement in manuscript as “started.” The alternate word in the Jewett edition is probably an inadvertent compositorial alteration, which is almost undetectable during proofreading because the meanings are so similar. [Back]

Note 2

folks call a Providence,” said | Era pg. 113
folks call [omit] Providence,” said | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 98

Edward Augustus Kendall in Travels Through the Northern Parts of the United States (1809) remarks on an unusual New England dialect form: “The phrase a providence … in New England … appears to be more frequently used for that which is disastrous but which is at the same time to be regarded and submitted to as the act of God.” The OED cites Kendall as a usage example for this regional dialect form. In the Era, Tom and Loker’s appearance, which for Haley is “a Providence,” an opportunity to moderate his financial loss, represents, in New England dialect, a disaster for Eliza and her child. Haley, as Stowe will emphasize in this chapter, will postpone repenting for the slave trade’s evil until after he has profited sufficiently.

If the phrase “a Providence” was recognized as a peculiar New England form, which Stowe as a New Englander who had moved to the Old Northwest could well be aware, Stowe or a Jewett editor may have sought in the book edition to alter Haley’s speech as less marked by the New England region. The phrase “a Providence” is richer if the reader is aware of the New England dialect form, and Stowe for the Era audience may have been more confident of her readers’ regional backgrounds. One caution against this explanation is that Sam also uses the phrase “a Providence” in both versions of the text. If dialect peculiarity caused Stowe to alter Haley’s phrase, she either chose not to, or neglected to, alter Sam’s similar usage. However, one cannot eliminate the possibility in such a small change that neither form represents elaborate discrimination among dialect forms. [Back]

Note 3

do a better business here on | Era pg. 113
do a business here on | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 104

In the Era, Marks compares the business of capturing Eliza to some other business still to be mentioned. As Marks and Loker’s other business is not yet enumerated, the removal of “better” is probably an authorial revision for the Jewett edition. [Back]

Note 4

said Marks, “only”—— ¶ “Only what?” | Era pg. 113

said Marks, “only—” ¶ “Only what?” | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 108

In the Era, a 2-em or 3-em width dash is printed 44 times to mark speech that is either broken off by the speaker’s excess of emotional response or is interrupted by another speaker. Stowe’s manuscript punctuation relies heavily on em dashes, and the newspaper compositor chose to replicate some of the manuscript’s longer dashes as rhetorically meaningful. In the first Jewett edition, almost all of these em dashes are regularized to one-em width. Many of the serial’s 2-em dashes, including this one, are restored in the Jewett illustrated edition (1853), which Stowe proofread.

The 2-em dash in the serial highlights the depth of Marks’s fear. The shortened 1-em dash in the Jewett edition does not eliminate that reading, but the degree of Marks’s fear is marked more emphatically in the serial punctuation. [Back]

Note 5

his own. Elizy’s done gone | Era pg. 113
his own. Lizy ’s done gone | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 110

In the Era, Eliza’s name has three dialect forms that are used by black speakers: “Lizzy” by Uncle Tom and Aunt Chloe, “Lizzy,” “Lizy,” and “Elizy” by Sam and Andy (sometimes “Andie” in serial). The Jewett edition echoes this pattern, except that “Elizy” does not appear in the book. This serial form is unlikely to be an oversight, because Stowe’s name for Eliza later in the work differs in serial and book form.

Cassy, a slave on the Simon Legree plantation, tells in the 12 February 1852 installment of her lost daughter: “Elisé” in the serial but “Elise” in the Jewett edition (2:206, 207). The Era’s spelling of Cassy’s daughter’s name, with the acute accent, reminds the reader that Cassy speaks French fluently. Sam’s form “Elizy” is the most literal English rendering of serial’s French form “Elisé,” and Sam thereby reveals slightly Stowe’s disguised link between the Tom and the Eliza plot.

Stowe when she changed Cassy’s daughter’s name to “Elise” for the Jewett edition made it more difficult (but not impossible) for a reader familiar with sentimental plots to detect the foreshadowing, and she therefore probably altered Sam’s form here because “Elizy” is more probable as a dialect rendering of “Elisé” than of “Elise.” Readers who do not read Sam’s words closely would easily miss the significance of his dialect form of her name. As the delay between installments controlled the reading pace, Stowe could be more daring with her instances of foreshadowing in the serial than she could in the book. Sam at the chapter’s conclusion in the serial offers another possibly prophetic clue about the work’s plotting, one that Stowe also deleted from the Jewett edition. See note 9. [Back]

Note 6

and a giggling up and | Era pg. 113

and a jiggling up and | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 111

The Era form “giggling” is altered to “jiggling” in the Jewett edition. This alteration is similar to the 5 June installment: Haley’s “gingling” coins in serial are “jingling” in the Jewett edition. While the spelling “jiggling” is far more common in sense of moving up and down, there is little risk of confusing it with “giggling” in the sense of laughter. Therefore, the Era form quite probably reproduces Stowe’s manuscript spelling. [Back]

Note 7

went crack! g’wallop! cracking! chunk! | Era pg. 113

went crack! c’wallop! cracking! chunk! | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 112

Either onomatopoetic form “g’wallop” (serial) or “c’wallop” (Jewett) is equally reasonable as a nonce word. The Era form may have slightly greater claim to authorial authority as the c’s in “crack” and “cracking” may have contributed to inadvertent alteration in the Jewett spelling. [Back]

Note 8

sparing of, master Sam. I | Era pg. 113

sparing of, Master Sam. I | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 112

The Era’s lower-case “mass’r” or “master” is the preferred form in Stowe’s manuscript and the serial. The form “Mas’r” or “Master” (capitalized) is the preferred form in the Jewett edition. Here, Mr. Shelby, who in the logic of slavery merits the term of respect, applies it to his slave. Both forms in this instance reverse the pattern of their respective texts. The word in its usual sense appears appears uncapitalized in serial and capitalized in book over 200 times in each text. As each text is consistent with itself, it is reasonable that this instance of ironic reversal is consistent with the text in which it appears. [Back]

Note 9

burnt me live like dat ar old coon dar missus was a showin us in der catechise. I’d walk right | Era pg. 113

burnt me ’live,—I ’d walk right | Jewett (1852) vol. 1, pg. 117

The willing martyr or “old coon” to whom Sam refers is probably John Rogers (c. 1500–1555), the first Protestant martyr under Mary I of England (1516–1518). The example of Rogers, who went willingly to be burned at the stake, is from the New England Primer (first edition, c. 1690). As Mrs. Shelby’s catechism is the source for Sam’s knowledge, why he would introduce a specific martyr as parallel to himself in the serial—but not in the Jewett edition—is quizzical. It may be related to Stowe’s changing conception of the slaves’ knowledge of the Old Testament, which differs in the Era and the Jewett edition.

The deletion of the Era’s line in the Jewett edition and all subsequent editions must almost certainly be attributed to Stowe, but any explanation must consider additional textual complexities. As Sam did when he called Eliza by the form Elizy, this extended remark in the Era version may loosely foreshadow the biblical typology of Cassy’s and Emmeline’s escape into Simon Legree’s garret much later in the story. Legree’s plantation also has a blasted tree at which a slave was presumably burned to death. In spite of the tree as a reminder of possible martyrdom, Tom encourages Cassy’s faith in “Him that saved Daniel in the den of lions, that saved the children in the fiery furnace,” a remark that prompts Cassy to devise her escape plan (Era 4 March 1852, 35, and see Daniel 3: 1-30).

If Sam’s exemplary martyr John Rogers foreshadows the slave that died at Legree’s blasted tree (and the form of Cassy’s escape), it may also be inflected by the Shelby slaves’ knowledge of scriptural antecedents. In the Era, Stowe is insistent that Tom has only a New Testament. Presumably, slaves under Mrs. Shelby’s tutelage learned lessons about willing martyrdom and New Testament forgiveness rather than Old Testament retribution. The Shelby slaves’ knowledge of the Old Testament (in Era) appears to be limited to camp-meeting hymns. Stowe in the following chapters will emphasize the importance of New Testament verses against slavery. In the serial, Tom’s “New Testament” becomes a Bible in the St. Clare household, but Stowe does not explain how Tom acquires a Bible. In the Jewett edition Tom’s Bible contains both Old Testament and New Testament. Tom as a reader of his own Bible in the Jewett edition is a self-motivated individual: his Christianity is shaped less by Mrs. Shelby’s guidance.

Sam’s line may have become dispensable when Stowe decided to replace Tom’s New Testament with a Bible, a decision that Stowe made after this installment had been sent to Gamaliel Bailey. Stowe at this point in the Era composition may have still intended to emphasize that Tom and the other Shelby slaves had minimal familiarity with Old Testament stories, aside from the well-known metaphor of crossing the river Jordan into an afterlife or into freedom from slavery. As the reader’s ability to recognize the agency and thus humanity of individual slaves is a significant aspect of Stowe’s dramatic art, and as Sam is her most complex exemplar of disguised agency, whether Sam chooses for himself or responds to his mistress’s guidance is a significant thematic matter. If Sam credits his mistress during his oratory to other slaves, as he does in the serial, his agency is diminished. By removing this line Stowe in the Jewett edition elevates Sam’s level of agency. Also see note 4. [Back]

Copyright 2011. For introduction and annotation, all rights reserved. The text is distributed under a Creative Commons License. Creative Commons License Uncle Tom’s Cabin: National Era by Harriet Beecher Stowe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Copyright Commons License.

Chapter and Commentary Table of Contents


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