CASSY entered the room, and found Emmeline sitting, pale with fear, in the furthest corner of it. As she came in, the girl started up nervously; but, on seeing who it was, rushed forward, and catching her arm, said, O, Cassy, is it you? I m so glad you ve come! I was afraid it was. O, you dont know what a horrid noise there has been, down stairs, all this evening!
What would nt he do, you d better ask, said Cassy. He s learned his trade well, among the pirates in the West Indies. You would nt sleep much, if I should tell you things I ve seen,things that he tells of, sometimes, for good jokes. I ve heard screams here that I have nt been able to get out of my head for weeks and weeks. There s a place way out down by the quarters, where you can see a black, blasted tree, and the ground all covered with black ashes. Ask any one what was done there, and see if they will dare to tell you.
Mother told you! said Cassy, with a thrilling and bitter emphasis on the word mother. What use is it for mothers to say anything? You are all to be bought and paid for, and your souls belong to whoever gets you. That s the way it goes. I say, drink brandy; drink all you can, and it ll make things come easier.
Pity you!dont I? Have nt I a daughter,Lord knows where she is, and whose she is, now,going the way her mother went, before her, I suppose, and that her children must go, after her! There s no end to the curseforever!
That s an old wish with me, said Cassy. I ve got used to wishing that. I d die, if I dared to, she said, looking out into the darkness, with that still, fixed despair which was the habitual expression of her face when at rest.
I dont know why,no wickeder than things we live and do, day after day. But the sisters told me things, when I was in the convent, that make me afraid to die. If it would only be the end of us, why, then
While this conversation was passing in the chamber, Legree, overcome with his carouse, had sunk to sleep in the room below. Legree was not an habitual drunkard. His coarse, strong nature craved, and could endure, a continual stimulation, that would have utterly wrecked and crazed a finer one. But a deep, underlying spirit of cautiousness prevented his often yielding to appetite in such measure as to lose control of himself.
This night, however, in his feverish efforts to banish from his mind those fearful elements of woe and remorse which woke within him, he had indulged more than common; so that, when he had discharged his sable attendants, he fell heavily on a settle in the room, and was sound asleep.
O! how dares the bad soul to enter the shadowy world of sleep?that land whose dim outlines lie so fearfully near to the mystic scene of retribution! Legree dreamed. In his heavy and feverish sleep, a veiled form stood beside him, and laid a cold, soft hand upon him. He thought he knew who it was; and shuddered, with creeping horror, though the face was veiled. Then he thought he felt that hair twining round his fingers; and then, that it slid smoothly round his neck, and tightened and tightened, and he could not draw his breath; and then he thought voices whispered to him,whispers that chilled him with horror. Then it seemed to him he was on the edge of a frightful abyss, holding on and struggling in mortal fear, while dark hands stretched up, and were pulling him over; and Cassy came behind him laughing, and pushed him. And then rose up that solemn veiled figure, and drew aside the veil. It was his mother; and she turned away from him, and he fell down, down, down, amid a confused noise of shrieks, and groans, and shouts of demon laughter,and Legree awoke.
Calmly the rosy hue of dawn was stealing into the room. The morning star stood, with its solemn, holy eye of light, looking down on the man of sin, from out the brightening sky. O, with what freshness, what solemnity and beauty, is each new day born; as if to say to insensate man, Behold! thou hast one more chance! Strive for immortal glory! There is no speech nor language where this voice is not heard; but the bold, bad man heard it not. He woke with an oath and a curse. What to him was the gold and purple, the daily miracle of morning! What to him the sanctity of the star which the Son of God has hallowed as his own emblem? Brute-like, he saw without perceiving; and, stumbling forward, poured out a tumbler of brandy, and drank half of it.
What? To be sure, I dont know what it should be. If you want to pay twelve hundred for a fellow, and use him right up in the press of the season, just to serve your own spite, it s no business of mine. I ve done what I could for him.
None, to be sure. I ve saved you some thousands of dollars, at different times, by taking care of your hands,that s all the thanks I get. If your crop comes shorter into market than any of theirs, you wont lose your bet, I suppose? Tompkins wont lord it over you, I suppose,and you ll pay down your money like a lady, wont you? I think I see you doing it!
Legree, like many other planters, had but one form of ambition,to have in the heaviest crop of the season,and he had several bets on this very present season pending in the next town. Cassy, therefore, with womans tact, touched the only string that could be made to vibrate.
Legree, though he talked so stoutly to Cassy, still sallied forth from the house with a degree of misgiving which was not common with him. His dreams of the past night, mingled with Cassys prudential suggestions, considerably affected his mind. He resolved that nobody should be witness of his encounter with Tom; and determined, if he could not subdue him by bullying, to defer his vengeance, to be wreaked in a more convenient season.
The solemn light of dawnthe angelic glory of the morning-starhad looked in through the rude window of the shed where Tom was lying; and, as if descending on that star-beam, came the solemn words, I am the root and offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. The mysterious warnings and intimations of Cassy, so far from discouraging his soul, in the end had roused it as with a heavenly call. He did not know but that the day of his death was dawning in the sky; and his heart throbbed with solemn throes of joy and desire, as he thought that the wondrous all, of which he had often pondered,the great white throne, with its ever radiant rainbow; the white-robed multitude, with voices as many waters; the crowns, the palms, the harps,might all break upon his vision before that sun should set again. And, therefore, without shuddering or trembling, he heard the voice of his persecutor, as he drew near.
Well, my boy, said Legree, with a contemptuous kick, how do you find yourself? Did nt I tell yer I could larn yer a thing or two? How do yer like it,eh? How did yer whaling agree with yer, Tom? Ant quite so crank as ye was last night. Ye could nt treat a poor sinner, now, to a bit of a sermon, could ye,eh?
Yes, but ye dont know what may come, Master Tom. Ye think what you ve got is something. I tell you t ant anything,nothing t all. How would ye like to be tied to a tree, and have a slow fire lit up around ye;would nt that be pleasant,eh, Tom?
Masr, said Tom, I know ye can do dreadful things; but,he stretched himself upward and clasped his hands,but, after ye ve killed the body, there ant no more ye can do. And O, there s all ETERNITY to come, after that!
ETERNITY,the word thrilled through the black mans soul with light and power, as he spoke; it thrilled through the sinners soul, too, like the bite of a scorpion. Legree gnashed on him with his teeth, but rage kept him silent; and Tom, like a man disenthralled, spoke, in a clear and cheerful voice,
Masr Legree, as ye bought me, I ll be a true and faithful servant to ye. I ll give ye all the work of my hands, all my time, all my strength; but my soul I wont give up to mortal man. I will hold on to the Lord, and put his commands before all,die or live; you may be sure on t. Masr Legree, I ant a grain afeard to die. I d as soon die as not. Ye may whip me, starve me, burn me,it ll only send me sooner where I want to go.
A cold soft hand fell on Legrees, at this moment. He turned,it was Cassys; but the cold soft touch recalled his dream of the night before, and, flashing through the chambers of his brain, came all the fearful images of the night-watches, with a portion of the horror that accompanied them.
They say the alligator, the rhinoceros, though enclosed in bullet-proof mail, have each a spot where they are vulnerable; and fierce, reckless, unbelieving reprobates, have commonly this point in superstitious dread.
Hark, ye! he said to Tom; I wont deal with ye now, because the business is pressing, and I want all my hands; but I never forget. I ll score it against ye, and sometime I ll have my pay out o yer old black hide,mind ye!
For this time, to be sure, said Cassy; but now you ve got his ill will upon you, to follow you day in, day out, hanging like a dog on your throat,sucking your blood, bleeding away your life, drop by drop. I know the man.