Wife, you talk like a fool! Really, it will be something pretty awkward for me, if she is. Haley saw that I hesitated about selling this child, and he ll think I connived at it, to get him out of the way. It touches my honor! And Mr. Shelby left the room hastily.
There was great running and ejaculating, and opening and shutting of doors, and appearance of faces in all shades of color in different places, for about a quarter of an hour. One person only, who might have shed some light on the matter, was entirely silent, and that was the head cook, Aunt Chloe. Silently, and with a heavy cloud settled down over her once joyous face, she proceeded making out her breakfast biscuits, as if she heard and saw nothing of the excitement around her.
Yes, for he does swar, said woolly-headed Mandy. I hearn him yesterday, at dinner. I hearn all about it then, cause I got into the closet where Missis keeps the great jugs, and I hearn every word. And Mandy, who had never in her life thought of the meaning of a word she had heard, more than a black cat, now took airs of superior wisdom, and strutted about, forgetting to state that, though actually coiled up among the jugs at the time specified, she had been fast asleep all the time.
When, at last, Haley appeared, booted and spurred, he was saluted with the bad tidings on every hand. The young imps on the verandah were not disappointed in their hope of hearing him swar, which he did with a fluency and fervency which delighted them all amazingly, as they ducked and dodged hither and thither, to be out of the reach of his riding-whip; and, all whooping off together, they tumbled, in a pile of immeasurable giggle, on the withered turf under the verandah, where they kicked up their heels and shouted to their full satisfaction.
Sir, said Mr. Shelby, if you wish to communicate with me, you must observe something of the decorum of a gentleman. Andy, take Mr. Haleys hat and riding-whip. Take a seat, sir. Yes, sir; I regret to say that the young woman, excited by overhearing, or having reported to her, something of this business, has taken her child in the night, and made off.
Mr. Haley, said Mr. Shelby, if I did not think you had some cause for disappointment, I should not have borne from you the rude and unceremonious style of your entrance into my parlor this morning. I say thus much, however, since appearances call for it, that I shall allow of no insinuations cast upon me, as if I were at all partner to any unfairness in this matter. Moreover, I shall feel bound to give you every assistance, in the use of horses, servants, &c., in the recovery of your property. So, in short, Haley, said he, suddenly dropping from the tone of dignified coolness to his ordinary one of easy frankness, the best way for you is to keep good-natured and eat some breakfast, and we will then see what is to be done.
Mrs. Shelby now rose, and said her engagements would prevent her being at the breakfast-table that morning; and, deputing a very respectable mulatto woman to attend to the gentlemens coffee at the side-board, she left the room.
Never did fall of any prime minister at court occasion wider surges of sensation than the report of Toms fate among his compeers on the place. It was the topic in every mouth, everywhere; and nothing was done in the house or in the field, but to discuss its probable results. Elizas flightan unprecedented event on the placewas also a great accessory in stimulating the general excitement.
Black Sam, as he was commonly called, from his being about three shades blacker than any other son of ebony on the place, was revolving the matter profoundly in all its phases and bearings, with a comprehensiveness of vision and a strict look-out to his own personal well-being, that would have done credit to any white patriot in Washington.
It s an ill wind dat blows nowhar,dat ar a fact, said Sam, sententiously, giving an additional hoist to his pantaloons, and adroitly substituting a long nail in place of a missing suspender-button, with which effort of mechanical genius he seemed highly delighted.
Yes, it s an ill wind blows nowhar, he repeated. Now, dar, Tom s downwal, course der s room for some nigger to be upand why not dis nigger?dat s de idee. Tom, a ridin round de countryboots blackedpass in his pocketall grand as Cuffeebut who he? Now, why should nt Sam?dat s what I want to know.
Heard her say so, my own self, dis blessed mornin, when I bring in Masrs shaving-water. She sent me to see why Lizy did nt come to dress her; and when I telled her she was off, she jest ris up, and ses she, The Lord be praised; and Masr, he seemed rael mad, and ses he, Wife, you talk like a fool. But Lor! she ll bring him to! I knows well enough how that ll be,it s allers best to stand Missis side the fence, now I tell yer.
Black Sam, upon this, scratched his woolly pate, which, if it did not contain very profound wisdom, still contained a great deal of a particular species much in demand among politicians of all complexions and countries, and vulgarly denominated knowing which side the bread is buttered; so, stopping with grave consideration, he again gave a hitch to his pantaloons, which was his regularly organized method of assisting his mental perplexities.
Sam, upon this, began to bestir himself in real earnest, and after a while appeared, bearing down gloriously towards the house, with Bill and Jerry in a full canter, and adroitly throwing himself off before they had any idea of stopping, he brought them up alongside of the horse-post like a tornado. Haleys horse, which was a skittish young colt, winced, and bounced, and pulled hard at his halter.
There was a large beech-tree overshadowing the place, and the small, sharp, triangular beech-nuts lay scattered thickly on the ground. With one of these in his fingers, Sam approached the colt, stroked and patted, and seemed apparently busy in soothing his agitation. On pretence of adjusting the saddle, he adroitly slipped under it the sharp little nut, in such a manner that the least weight brought upon the saddle would annoy the nervous sensibilities of the animal, without leaving any perceptible graze or wound.
Let dis child alone for dat! said Sam, rolling up his eyes with a volume of meaning. Lord knows! High! Did nt say dat! said he, suddenly catching his breath, with a ludicrous flourish of apprehension, which made his mistress laugh, spite of herself. Yes, Missis, I ll look out for de hosses!
Now, Andy, said Sam, returning to his stand under the beech-trees, you see I would nt be t all surprised if dat ar genlmans crittur should gib a fling, by and by, when he comes to be a gettin up. You know, Andy, critturs will do such things; and therewith Sam poked Andy in the side, in a highly suggestive manner.
Yes, you see, Andy, Missis wants to make time,dat ar s clar to der most ornary bserver. I jis make a little for her. Now, you see, get all dese yer hosses loose, caperin permiscus round dis yer lot and down to de wood dar, and I spec Masr wont be off in a hurry.
Yer see, said Sam, yer see, Andy, if any such thing should happen as that Masr Haleys horse should begin to act contrary, and cut up, you and I jist lets go of ourn to help him, and we ll help himoh yes! And Sam and Andy laid their heads back on their shoulders, and broke into a low, immoderate laugh, snapping their fingers and flourishing their heels with exquisite delight.
At this instant, Haley appeared on the verandah. Somewhat mollified by certain cups of very good coffee, he came out smiling and talking, in tolerably restored humor. Sam and Andy, clawing for certain fragmentary palm-leaves, which they were in the habit of considering as hats, flew to the horse-posts, to be ready to help Masr.
Sams palm-leaf had been ingeniously disentangled from all pretensions to braid, as respects its brim; and the slivers starting apart, and standing upright, gave it a blazing air of freedom and defiance, quite equal to that of any Fejee chief; while the whole brim of Andys being departed bodily, he rapped the crown on his head with a dexterous thump, and looked about well pleased, as if to say, Who says I have nt got a hat?
The instant Haley touched the saddle, the mettlesome creature bounded from the earth with a sudden spring, that threw his master sprawling, some feet off, on the soft, dry turf. Sam, with frantic ejaculations, made a dive at the reins, but only succeeded in brushing the blazing palm-leaf afore-named into the horses eyes, which by no means tended to allay the confusion of his nerves. So, with great vehemence, he overturned Sam, and, giving two or three contemptuous snorts, flourished his heels vigorously in the air, and was soon prancing away towards the lower end of the lawn, followed by Bill and Jerry, whom Andy had not failed to let loose, according to contract, speeding them off with various direful ejaculations. And now ensued a miscellaneous scene of confusion. Sam and Andy ran and shouted,dogs barked here and there,and Mike, Mose, Mandy, Fanny, and all the smaller specimens on the place, both male and female, raced, clapped hands, whooped, and shouted, with outrageous officiousness and untiring zeal.
Haleys horse, which was a white one, and very fleet and spirited, appeared to enter into the spirit of the scene with great gusto; and having for his coursing ground a lawn of nearly half a mile in extent, gently sloping down on every side into indefinite woodland, he appeared to take infinite delight in seeing how near he could allow his pursuers to approach him, and then, when within a hands breadth, whisk off with a start and a snort, like a mischievous beast as he was, and career far down into some alley of the wood-lot. Nothing was further from Sams mind than to have any one of the troop taken until such season as should seem to him most befitting,and the exertions that he made were certainly most heroic. Like the sword of Cur De Lion, which always blazed in the front and thickest of the battle, Sams palm-leaf was to be seen everywhere when there was the least danger that a horse could be caught;there he would bear down full tilt, shouting, Now for it! cotch him! cotch him! in a way that would set everything to indiscriminate rout in a moment.
Haley ran up and down, and cursed and swore and stamped miscellaneously. Mr. Shelby in vain tried to shout directions from the balcony, and Mrs. Shelby from her chamber window alternately laughed and wondered,not without some inkling of what lay at the bottom of all this confusion.
At last, about twelve oclock, Sam appeared triumphant, mounted on Jerry, with Haleys horse by his side, reeking with sweat, but with flashing eyes and dilated nostrils, showing that the spirit of freedom had not yet entirely subsided.
Why, Masr, said Sam, in a deprecating tone, I believe you mean to kill us all clar, horses and all. Here we are all just ready to drop down, and the critters all in a reek of sweat. Why, Masr wont think of startin on now till arter dinner. Masrs hoss wants rubben down; see how he splashed hisself; and Jerry limps too; dont think Missis would be willin to have us start dis yer way, no how. Lord bless you, Masr, we can ketch up, if we do stop. Lizy never was no great of a walker.
Mrs. Shelby, who, greatly to her amusement, had overheard this conversation from the verandah, now resolved to do her part. She came forward, and, courteously expressing her concern for Haleys accident, pressed him to stay to dinner, saying that the cook should bring it on the table immediately.
Thus, all things considered, Haley, with rather an equivocal grace, proceeded to the parlor, while Sam, rolling his eyes after him with unutterable meaning, proceeded gravely with the horses to the stable-yard.
Did yer see him, Andy? did yer see him? said Sam, when he had got fairly beyond the shelter of the barn, and fastened the horse to a post. O, Lor, if it warnt as good as a meetin, now, to see him a dancin and kickin and swarin at us. Did nt I hear him? Swar away, ole fellow (says I to myself); will yer have yer hoss now, or wait till you cotch him? (says I). Lor, Andy, I think I can see him now. And Sam and Andy leaned up against the barn, and laughed to their hearts content.
Well, yer see, said Sam, proceeding gravely to wash down Haleys pony, Ise quired what yer may call a habit o bobservation, Andy. It s a very portant habit, Andy; and I commend yer to be cultivatin it, now yer young. Hist up that hind foot, Andy. Yer see, Andy, it s bobservation makes all de difference in niggers. Did nt I see which way the wind blew dis yer mornin? Did nt I see what Missis wanted, though she never let on? Dat ar s bobservation, Andy. I spects it s what you may call a faculty. Faculties is different in different peoples, but cultivation of em goes a great way.
Andy, said Sam, you s a promisin child, der ant no manner o doubt. I thinks lots of yer, Andy; and I dont feel no ways ashamed to take idees from you. We oughtenter overlook nobody, Andy, cause the smartest on us gets tripped up sometimes. And so, Andy, let s go up to the house now. I ll be boun Missis ll give us an uncommon good bite, dis yer time.