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解密文本:     《汤姆叔叔的小屋》   [美] 斯托夫人  著         
 

Uncle Tom's Cabin
by   Mark Twain


     第一部(Volume 1)  第1-10章(Chapter1-10) |   第11-18章(Chapter11-18)   ||    第二部(Volume 2)

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VOLUME I

CHAPTER I
In Which the Reader Is Introduced to a Man of Humanity

 

Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two gentlemen were sitting alone over their wine, in a well-furnished dining parlor, in the town of P——, in Kentucky. There were no servants present, and the gentlemen, with chairs closely approaching, seemed to be discussing some subject with great earnestness.

For convenience sake, we have said, hitherto, two gentlemen. One of the parties, however, when critically examined, did not seem, strictly speaking, to come under the species. He was a short, thick-set man, with coarse, commonplace features, and that swaggering air of pretension which marks a low man who is trying to elbow his way upward in the world. He was much over-dressed, in a gaudy vest of many colors, a blue neckerchief, bedropped gayly with yellow spots, and arranged with a flaunting tie, quite in keeping with the general air of the man. His hands, large and coarse, were plentifully bedecked with rings; and he wore a heavy gold watch-chain, with a bundle of seals of portentous size, and a great variety of colors, attached to it,—which, in the ardor of conversation, he was in the habit of flourishing and jingling with evident satisfaction. His conversation was in free and easy defiance of Murray's Grammar,* and was garnished at convenient intervals with various profane expressions, which not even the desire to be graphic in our account shall induce us to transcribe.

     * English Grammar (1795), by Lindley Murray (1745-1826), the
     most authoritative American grammarian of his day.

His companion, Mr. Shelby, had the appearance of a gentleman; and the arrangements of the house, and the general air of the housekeeping, indicated easy, and even opulent circumstances. As we before stated, the two were in the midst of an earnest conversation.

"That is the way I should arrange the matter," said Mr. Shelby.

"I can't make trade that way—I positively can't, Mr. Shelby," said the other, holding up a glass of wine between his eye and the light.

"Why, the fact is, Haley, Tom is an uncommon fellow; he is certainly worth that sum anywhere,—steady, honest, capable, manages my whole farm like a clock."

"You mean honest, as niggers go," said Haley, helping himself to a glass of brandy.

"No; I mean, really, Tom is a good, steady, sensible, pious fellow. He got religion at a camp-meeting, four years ago; and I believe he really did get it. I've trusted him, since then, with everything I have,—money, house, horses,—and let him come and go round the country; and I always found him true and square in everything."

"Some folks don't believe there is pious niggers Shelby," said Haley, with a candid flourish of his hand, "but I do. I had a fellow, now, in this yer last lot I took to Orleans—'t was as good as a meetin, now, really, to hear that critter pray; and he was quite gentle and quiet like. He fetched me a good sum, too, for I bought him cheap of a man that was 'bliged to sell out; so I realized six hundred on him. Yes, I consider religion a valeyable thing in a nigger, when it's the genuine article, and no mistake."

"Well, Tom's got the real article, if ever a fellow had," rejoined the other. "Why, last fall, I let him go to Cincinnati alone, to do business for me, and bring home five hundred dollars. 'Tom,' says I to him, 'I trust you, because I think you're a Christian—I know you wouldn't cheat.' Tom comes back, sure enough; I knew he would. Some low fellows, they say, said to him—Tom, why don't you make tracks for Canada?' 'Ah, master trusted me, and I couldn't,'—they told me about it. I am sorry to part with Tom, I must say. You ought to let him cover the whole balance of the debt; and you would, Haley, if you had any conscience."

"Well, I've got just as much conscience as any man in business can afford to keep,—just a little, you know, to swear by, as 't were," said the trader, jocularly; "and, then, I'm ready to do anything in reason to 'blige friends; but this yer, you see, is a leetle too hard on a fellow—a leetle too hard." The trader sighed contemplatively, and poured out some more brandy.

"Well, then, Haley, how will you trade?" said Mr. Shelby, after an uneasy interval of silence.

"Well, haven't you a boy or gal that you could throw in with Tom?"

"Hum!—none that I could well spare; to tell the truth, it's only hard necessity makes me willing to sell at all. I don't like parting with any of my hands, that's a fact."

Here the door opened, and a small quadroon boy, between four and five years of age, entered the room. There was something in his appearance remarkably beautiful and engaging. His black hair, fine as floss silk, hung in glossy curls about his round, dimpled face, while a pair of large dark eyes, full of fire and softness, looked out from beneath the rich, long lashes, as he peered curiously into the apartment. A gay robe of scarlet and yellow plaid, carefully made and neatly fitted, set off to advantage the dark and rich style of his beauty; and a certain comic air of assurance, blended with bashfulness, showed that he had been not unused to being petted and noticed by his master.

"Hulloa, Jim Crow!" said Mr. Shelby, whistling, and snapping a bunch of raisins towards him, "pick that up, now!"

The child scampered, with all his little strength, after the prize, while his master laughed.

"Come here, Jim Crow," said he. The child came up, and the master patted the curly head, and chucked him under the chin.

"Now, Jim, show this gentleman how you can dance and sing." The boy commenced one of those wild, grotesque songs common among the negroes, in a rich, clear voice, accompanying his singing with many comic evolutions of the hands, feet, and whole body, all in perfect time to the music.

"Bravo!" said Haley, throwing him a quarter of an orange.

"Now, Jim, walk like old Uncle Cudjoe, when he has the rheumatism," said his master.

Instantly the flexible limbs of the child assumed the appearance of deformity and distortion, as, with his back humped up, and his master's stick in his hand, he hobbled about the room, his childish face drawn into a doleful pucker, and spitting from right to left, in imitation of an old man.

Both gentlemen laughed uproariously.

"Now, Jim," said his master, "show us how old Elder Robbins leads the psalm." The boy drew his chubby face down to a formidable length, and commenced toning a psalm tune through his nose, with imperturbable gravity.

"Hurrah! bravo! what a young 'un!" said Haley; "that chap's a case, I'll promise. Tell you what," said he, suddenly clapping his hand on Mr. Shelby's shoulder, "fling in that chap, and I'll settle the business—I will. Come, now, if that ain't doing the thing up about the rightest!"

At this moment, the door was pushed gently open, and a young quadroon woman, apparently about twenty-five, entered the room.

There needed only a glance from the child to her, to identify her as its mother. There was the same rich, full, dark eye, with its long lashes; the same ripples of silky black hair. The brown of her complexion gave way on the cheek to a perceptible flush, which deepened as she saw the gaze of the strange man fixed upon her in bold and undisguised admiration. Her dress was of the neatest possible fit, and set off to advantage her finely moulded shape;—a delicately formed hand and a trim foot and ankle were items of appearance that did not escape the quick eye of the trader, well used to run up at a glance the points of a fine female article.

"Well, Eliza?" said her master, as she stopped and looked hesitatingly at him.

"I was looking for Harry, please, sir;" and the boy bounded toward her, showing his spoils, which he had gathered in the skirt of his robe.

"Well, take him away then," said Mr. Shelby; and hastily she withdrew, carrying the child on her arm.

"By Jupiter," said the trader, turning to him in admiration, "there's an article, now! You might make your fortune on that ar gal in Orleans, any day. I've seen over a thousand, in my day, paid down for gals not a bit handsomer."

"I don't want to make my fortune on her," said Mr. Shelby, dryly; and, seeking to turn the conversation, he uncorked a bottle of fresh wine, and asked his companion's opinion of it.

"Capital, sir,—first chop!" said the trader; then turning, and slapping his hand familiarly on Shelby's shoulder, he added—

"Come, how will you trade about the gal?—what shall I say for her—what'll you take?"

"Mr. Haley, she is not to be sold," said Shelby. "My wife would not part with her for her weight in gold."

"Ay, ay! women always say such things, cause they ha'nt no sort of calculation. Just show 'em how many watches, feathers, and trinkets, one's weight in gold would buy, and that alters the case, I reckon."

"I tell you, Haley, this must not be spoken of; I say no, and I mean no," said Shelby, decidedly.

"Well, you'll let me have the boy, though," said the trader; "you must own I've come down pretty handsomely for him."

"What on earth can you want with the child?" said Shelby.

"Why, I've got a friend that's going into this yer branch of the business—wants to buy up handsome boys to raise for the market. Fancy articles entirely—sell for waiters, and so on, to rich 'uns, that can pay for handsome 'uns. It sets off one of yer great places—a real handsome boy to open door, wait, and tend. They fetch a good sum; and this little devil is such a comical, musical concern, he's just the article!'

"I would rather not sell him," said Mr. Shelby, thoughtfully; "the fact is, sir, I'm a humane man, and I hate to take the boy from his mother, sir."

"O, you do?—La! yes—something of that ar natur. I understand, perfectly. It is mighty onpleasant getting on with women, sometimes, I al'ays hates these yer screechin,' screamin' times. They are mighty onpleasant; but, as I manages business, I generally avoids 'em, sir. Now, what if you get the girl off for a day, or a week, or so; then the thing's done quietly,—all over before she comes home. Your wife might get her some ear-rings, or a new gown, or some such truck, to make up with her."

"I'm afraid not."

"Lor bless ye, yes! These critters ain't like white folks, you know; they gets over things, only manage right. Now, they say," said Haley, assuming a candid and confidential air, "that this kind o' trade is hardening to the feelings; but I never found it so. Fact is, I never could do things up the way some fellers manage the business. I've seen 'em as would pull a woman's child out of her arms, and set him up to sell, and she screechin' like mad all the time;—very bad policy—damages the article—makes 'em quite unfit for service sometimes. I knew a real handsome gal once, in Orleans, as was entirely ruined by this sort o' handling. The fellow that was trading for her didn't want her baby; and she was one of your real high sort, when her blood was up. I tell you, she squeezed up her child in her arms, and talked, and went on real awful. It kinder makes my blood run cold to think of 't; and when they carried off the child, and locked her up, she jest went ravin' mad, and died in a week. Clear waste, sir, of a thousand dollars, just for want of management,—there's where 't is. It's always best to do the humane thing, sir; that's been my experience." And the trader leaned back in his chair, and folded his arm, with an air of virtuous decision, apparently considering himself a second Wilberforce.

The subject appeared to interest the gentleman deeply; for while Mr. Shelby was thoughtfully peeling an orange, Haley broke out afresh, with becoming diffidence, but as if actually driven by the force of truth to say a few words more.

"It don't look well, now, for a feller to be praisin' himself; but I say it jest because it's the truth. I believe I'm reckoned to bring in about the finest droves of niggers that is brought in,—at least, I've been told so; if I have once, I reckon I have a hundred times,—all in good case,—fat and likely, and I lose as few as any man in the business. And I lays it all to my management, sir; and humanity, sir, I may say, is the great pillar of my management."

Mr. Shelby did not know what to say, and so he said, "Indeed!"

"Now, I've been laughed at for my notions, sir, and I've been talked to. They an't pop'lar, and they an't common; but I stuck to 'em, sir; I've stuck to 'em, and realized well on 'em; yes, sir, they have paid their passage, I may say," and the trader laughed at his joke.

There was something so piquant and original in these elucidations of humanity, that Mr. Shelby could not help laughing in company. Perhaps you laugh too, dear reader; but you know humanity comes out in a variety of strange forms now-a-days, and there is no end to the odd things that humane people will say and do.

Mr. Shelby's laugh encouraged the trader to proceed.

"It's strange, now, but I never could beat this into people's heads. Now, there was Tom Loker, my old partner, down in Natchez; he was a clever fellow, Tom was, only the very devil with niggers,—on principle 't was, you see, for a better hearted feller never broke bread; 't was his system, sir. I used to talk to Tom. 'Why, Tom,' I used to say, 'when your gals takes on and cry, what's the use o' crackin on' em over the head, and knockin' on 'em round? It's ridiculous,' says I, 'and don't do no sort o' good. Why, I don't see no harm in their cryin',' says I; 'it's natur,' says I, 'and if natur can't blow off one way, it will another. Besides, Tom,' says I, 'it jest spiles your gals; they get sickly, and down in the mouth; and sometimes they gets ugly,—particular yallow gals do,—and it's the devil and all gettin' on 'em broke in. Now,' says I, 'why can't you kinder coax 'em up, and speak 'em fair? Depend on it, Tom, a little humanity, thrown in along, goes a heap further than all your jawin' and crackin'; and it pays better,' says I, 'depend on 't.' But Tom couldn't get the hang on 't; and he spiled so many for me, that I had to break off with him, though he was a good-hearted fellow, and as fair a business hand as is goin'."

"And do you find your ways of managing do the business better than Tom's?" said Mr. Shelby.

"Why, yes, sir, I may say so. You see, when I any ways can, I takes a leetle care about the onpleasant parts, like selling young uns and that,—get the gals out of the way—out of sight, out of mind, you know,—and when it's clean done, and can't be helped, they naturally gets used to it. 'Tan't, you know, as if it was white folks, that's brought up in the way of 'spectin' to keep their children and wives, and all that. Niggers, you know, that's fetched up properly, ha'n't no kind of 'spectations of no kind; so all these things comes easier."

"I'm afraid mine are not properly brought up, then," said Mr. Shelby.

"S'pose not; you Kentucky folks spile your niggers. You mean well by 'em, but 'tan't no real kindness, arter all. Now, a nigger, you see, what's got to be hacked and tumbled round the world, and sold to Tom, and Dick, and the Lord knows who, 'tan't no kindness to be givin' on him notions and expectations, and bringin' on him up too well, for the rough and tumble comes all the harder on him arter. Now, I venture to say, your niggers would be quite chop-fallen in a place where some of your plantation niggers would be singing and whooping like all possessed. Every man, you know, Mr. Shelby, naturally thinks well of his own ways; and I think I treat niggers just about as well as it's ever worth while to treat 'em."

"It's a happy thing to be satisfied," said Mr. Shelby, with a slight shrug, and some perceptible feelings of a disagreeable nature.

"Well," said Haley, after they had both silently picked their nuts for a season, "what do you say?"

"I'll think the matter over, and talk with my wife," said Mr. Shelby. "Meantime, Haley, if you want the matter carried on in the quiet way you speak of, you'd best not let your business in this neighborhood be known. It will get out among my boys, and it will not be a particularly quiet business getting away any of my fellows, if they know it, I'll promise you."

"O! certainly, by all means, mum! of course. But I'll tell you. I'm in a devil of a hurry, and shall want to know, as soon as possible, what I may depend on," said he, rising and putting on his overcoat.

"Well, call up this evening, between six and seven, and you shall have my answer," said Mr. Shelby, and the trader bowed himself out of the apartment.

"I'd like to have been able to kick the fellow down the steps," said he to himself, as he saw the door fairly closed, "with his impudent assurance; but he knows how much he has me at advantage. If anybody had ever said to me that I should sell Tom down south to one of those rascally traders, I should have said, 'Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?' And now it must come, for aught I see. And Eliza's child, too! I know that I shall have some fuss with wife about that; and, for that matter, about Tom, too. So much for being in debt,—heigho! The fellow sees his advantage, and means to push it."

Perhaps the mildest form of the system of slavery is to be seen in the State of Kentucky. The general prevalence of agricultural pursuits of a quiet and gradual nature, not requiring those periodic seasons of hurry and pressure that are called for in the business of more southern districts, makes the task of the negro a more healthful and reasonable one; while the master, content with a more gradual style of acquisition, has not those temptations to hardheartedness which always overcome frail human nature when the prospect of sudden and rapid gain is weighed in the balance, with no heavier counterpoise than the interests of the helpless and unprotected.

Whoever visits some estates there, and witnesses the good-humored indulgence of some masters and mistresses, and the affectionate loyalty of some slaves, might be tempted to dream the oft-fabled poetic legend of a patriarchal institution, and all that; but over and above the scene there broods a portentous shadow—the shadow of law. So long as the law considers all these human beings, with beating hearts and living affections, only as so many things belonging to a master,—so long as the failure, or misfortune, or imprudence, or death of the kindest owner, may cause them any day to exchange a life of kind protection and indulgence for one of hopeless misery and toil,—so long it is impossible to make anything beautiful or desirable in the best regulated administration of slavery.

Mr. Shelby was a fair average kind of man, good-natured and kindly, and disposed to easy indulgence of those around him, and there had never been a lack of anything which might contribute to the physical comfort of the negroes on his estate. He had, however, speculated largely and quite loosely; had involved himself deeply, and his notes to a large amount had come into the hands of Haley; and this small piece of information is the key to the preceding conversation.

Now, it had so happened that, in approaching the door, Eliza had caught enough of the conversation to know that a trader was making offers to her master for somebody.

She would gladly have stopped at the door to listen, as she came out; but her mistress just then calling, she was obliged to hasten away.

Still she thought she heard the trader make an offer for her boy;—could she be mistaken? Her heart swelled and throbbed, and she involuntarily strained him so tight that the little fellow looked up into her face in astonishment.

"Eliza, girl, what ails you today?" said her mistress, when Eliza had upset the wash-pitcher, knocked down the workstand, and finally was abstractedly offering her mistress a long nightgown in place of the silk dress she had ordered her to bring from the wardrobe.

Eliza started. "O, missis!" she said, raising her eyes; then, bursting into tears, she sat down in a chair, and began sobbing.

"Why, Eliza child, what ails you?" said her mistress.

"O! missis, missis," said Eliza, "there's been a trader talking with master in the parlor! I heard him."

"Well, silly child, suppose there has."

"O, missis, do you suppose mas'r would sell my Harry?" And the poor creature threw herself into a chair, and sobbed convulsively.

"Sell him! No, you foolish girl! You know your master never deals with those southern traders, and never means to sell any of his servants, as long as they behave well. Why, you silly child, who do you think would want to buy your Harry? Do you think all the world are set on him as you are, you goosie? Come, cheer up, and hook my dress. There now, put my back hair up in that pretty braid you learnt the other day, and don't go listening at doors any more."

"Well, but, missis, you never would give your consent—to—to—"

"Nonsense, child! to be sure, I shouldn't. What do you talk so for? I would as soon have one of my own children sold. But really, Eliza, you are getting altogether too proud of that little fellow. A man can't put his nose into the door, but you think he must be coming to buy him."

Reassured by her mistress' confident tone, Eliza proceeded nimbly and adroitly with her toilet, laughing at her own fears, as she proceeded.

Mrs. Shelby was a woman of high class, both intellectually and morally. To that natural magnanimity and generosity of mind which one often marks as characteristic of the women of Kentucky, she added high moral and religious sensibility and principle, carried out with great energy and ability into practical results. Her husband, who made no professions to any particular religious character, nevertheless reverenced and respected the consistency of hers, and stood, perhaps, a little in awe of her opinion. Certain it was that he gave her unlimited scope in all her benevolent efforts for the comfort, instruction, and improvement of her servants, though he never took any decided part in them himself. In fact, if not exactly a believer in the doctrine of the efficiency of the extra good works of saints, he really seemed somehow or other to fancy that his wife had piety and benevolence enough for two—to indulge a shadowy expectation of getting into heaven through her superabundance of qualities to which he made no particular pretension.

The heaviest load on his mind, after his conversation with the trader, lay in the foreseen necessity of breaking to his wife the arrangement contemplated,—meeting the importunities and opposition which he knew he should have reason to encounter.

Mrs. Shelby, being entirely ignorant of her husband's embarrassments, and knowing only the general kindliness of his temper, had been quite sincere in the entire incredulity with which she had met Eliza's suspicions. In fact, she dismissed the matter from her mind, without a second thought; and being occupied in preparations for an evening visit, it passed out of her thoughts entirely.





CHAPTER II

The Mother

Eliza had been brought up by her mistress, from girlhood, as a petted and indulged favorite.

The traveller in the south must often have remarked that peculiar air of refinement, that softness of voice and manner, which seems in many cases to be a particular gift to the quadroon and mulatto women. These natural graces in the quadroon are often united with beauty of the most dazzling kind, and in almost every case with a personal appearance prepossessing and agreeable. Eliza, such as we have described her, is not a fancy sketch, but taken from remembrance, as we saw her, years ago, in Kentucky. Safe under the protecting care of her mistress, Eliza had reached maturity without those temptations which make beauty so fatal an inheritance to a slave. She had been married to a bright and talented young mulatto man, who was a slave on a neighboring estate, and bore the name of George Harris.

This young man had been hired out by his master to work in a bagging factory, where his adroitness and ingenuity caused him to be considered the first hand in the place. He had invented a machine for the cleaning of the hemp, which, considering the education and circumstances of the inventor, displayed quite as much mechanical genius as Whitney's cotton-gin.*

     *  A machine of this description was really the invention of
     a young colored man in Kentucky. [Mrs. Stowe's note.]

He was possessed of a handsome person and pleasing manners, and was a general favorite in the factory. Nevertheless, as this young man was in the eye of the law not a man, but a thing, all these superior qualifications were subject to the control of a vulgar, narrow-minded, tyrannical master. This same gentleman, having heard of the fame of George's invention, took a ride over to the factory, to see what this intelligent chattel had been about. He was received with great enthusiasm by the employer, who congratulated him on possessing so valuable a slave.

He was waited upon over the factory, shown the machinery by George, who, in high spirits, talked so fluently, held himself so erect, looked so handsome and manly, that his master began to feel an uneasy consciousness of inferiority. What business had his slave to be marching round the country, inventing machines, and holding up his head among gentlemen? He'd soon put a stop to it. He'd take him back, and put him to hoeing and digging, and "see if he'd step about so smart." Accordingly, the manufacturer and all hands concerned were astounded when he suddenly demanded George's wages, and announced his intention of taking him home.

"But, Mr. Harris," remonstrated the manufacturer, "isn't this rather sudden?"

"What if it is?—isn't the man mine?"

"We would be willing, sir, to increase the rate of compensation."

"No object at all, sir. I don't need to hire any of my hands out, unless I've a mind to."

"But, sir, he seems peculiarly adapted to this business."

"Dare say he may be; never was much adapted to anything that I set him about, I'll be bound."

"But only think of his inventing this machine," interposed one of the workmen, rather unluckily.

"O yes! a machine for saving work, is it? He'd invent that, I'll be bound; let a nigger alone for that, any time. They are all labor-saving machines themselves, every one of 'em. No, he shall tramp!"

George had stood like one transfixed, at hearing his doom thus suddenly pronounced by a power that he knew was irresistible. He folded his arms, tightly pressed in his lips, but a whole volcano of bitter feelings burned in his bosom, and sent streams of fire through his veins. He breathed short, and his large dark eyes flashed like live coals; and he might have broken out into some dangerous ebullition, had not the kindly manufacturer touched him on the arm, and said, in a low tone,

"Give way, George; go with him for the present. We'll try to help you, yet."

The tyrant observed the whisper, and conjectured its import, though he could not hear what was said; and he inwardly strengthened himself in his determination to keep the power he possessed over his victim.

George was taken home, and put to the meanest drudgery of the farm. He had been able to repress every disrespectful word; but the flashing eye, the gloomy and troubled brow, were part of a natural language that could not be repressed,—indubitable signs, which showed too plainly that the man could not become a thing.

It was during the happy period of his employment in the factory that George had seen and married his wife. During that period,—being much trusted and favored by his employer,—he had free liberty to come and go at discretion. The marriage was highly approved of by Mrs. Shelby, who, with a little womanly complacency in match-making, felt pleased to unite her handsome favorite with one of her own class who seemed in every way suited to her; and so they were married in her mistress' great parlor, and her mistress herself adorned the bride's beautiful hair with orange-blossoms, and threw over it the bridal veil, which certainly could scarce have rested on a fairer head; and there was no lack of white gloves, and cake and wine,—of admiring guests to praise the bride's beauty, and her mistress' indulgence and liberality. For a year or two Eliza saw her husband frequently, and there was nothing to interrupt their happiness, except the loss of two infant children, to whom she was passionately attached, and whom she mourned with a grief so intense as to call for gentle remonstrance from her mistress, who sought, with maternal anxiety, to direct her naturally passionate feelings within the bounds of reason and religion.

After the birth of little Harry, however, she had gradually become tranquillized and settled; and every bleeding tie and throbbing nerve, once more entwined with that little life, seemed to become sound and healthful, and Eliza was a happy woman up to the time that her husband was rudely torn from his kind employer, and brought under the iron sway of his legal owner.

The manufacturer, true to his word, visited Mr. Harris a week or two after George had been taken away, when, as he hoped, the heat of the occasion had passed away, and tried every possible inducement to lead him to restore him to his former employment.

"You needn't trouble yourself to talk any longer," said he, doggedly; "I know my own business, sir."

"I did not presume to interfere with it, sir. I only thought that you might think it for your interest to let your man to us on the terms proposed."

"O, I understand the matter well enough. I saw your winking and whispering, the day I took him out of the factory; but you don't come it over me that way. It's a free country, sir; the man's mine, and I do what I please with him,—that's it!"

And so fell George's last hope;—nothing before him but a life of toil and drudgery, rendered more bitter by every little smarting vexation and indignity which tyrannical ingenuity could devise.

A very humane jurist once said, The worst use you can put a man to is to hang him. No; there is another use that a man can be put to that is WORSE!





CHAPTER III

The Husband and Father

Mrs. Shelby had gone on her visit, and Eliza stood in the verandah, rather dejectedly looking after the retreating carriage, when a hand was laid on her shoulder. She turned, and a bright smile lighted up her fine eyes.

"George, is it you? How you frightened me! Well; I am so glad you 's come! Missis is gone to spend the afternoon; so come into my little room, and we'll have the time all to ourselves."

Saying this, she drew him into a neat little apartment opening on the verandah, where she generally sat at her sewing, within call of her mistress.

"How glad I am!—why don't you smile?—and look at Harry—how he grows." The boy stood shyly regarding his father through his curls, holding close to the skirts of his mother's dress. "Isn't he beautiful?" said Eliza, lifting his long curls and kissing him.

"I wish he'd never been born!" said George, bitterly. "I wish I'd never been born myself!"

Surprised and frightened, Eliza sat down, leaned her head on her husband's shoulder, and burst into tears.

"There now, Eliza, it's too bad for me to make you feel so, poor girl!" said he, fondly; "it's too bad: O, how I wish you never had seen me—you might have been happy!"

"George! George! how can you talk so? What dreadful thing has happened, or is going to happen? I'm sure we've been very happy, till lately."

"So we have, dear," said George. Then drawing his child on his knee, he gazed intently on his glorious dark eyes, and passed his hands through his long curls.

"Just like you, Eliza; and you are the handsomest woman I ever saw, and the best one I ever wish to see; but, oh, I wish I'd never seen you, nor you me!"

"O, George, how can you!"

"Yes, Eliza, it's all misery, misery, misery! My life is bitter as wormwood; the very life is burning out of me. I'm a poor, miserable, forlorn drudge; I shall only drag you down with me, that's all. What's the use of our trying to do anything, trying to know anything, trying to be anything? What's the use of living? I wish I was dead!"

"O, now, dear George, that is really wicked! I know how you feel about losing your place in the factory, and you have a hard master; but pray be patient, and perhaps something—"

"Patient!" said he, interrupting her; "haven't I been patient? Did I say a word when he came and took me away, for no earthly reason, from the place where everybody was kind to me? I'd paid him truly every cent of my earnings,—and they all say I worked well."

"Well, it is dreadful," said Eliza; "but, after all, he is your master, you know."

"My master! and who made him my master? That's what I think of—what right has he to me? I'm a man as much as he is. I'm a better man than he is. I know more about business than he does; I am a better manager than he is; I can read better than he can; I can write a better hand,—and I've learned it all myself, and no thanks to him,—I've learned it in spite of him; and now what right has he to make a dray-horse of me?—to take me from things I can do, and do better than he can, and put me to work that any horse can do? He tries to do it; he says he'll bring me down and humble me, and he puts me to just the hardest, meanest and dirtiest work, on purpose!"

"O, George! George! you frighten me! Why, I never heard you talk so; I'm afraid you'll do something dreadful. I don't wonder at your feelings, at all; but oh, do be careful—do, do—for my sake—for Harry's!"

"I have been careful, and I have been patient, but it's growing worse and worse; flesh and blood can't bear it any longer;—every chance he can get to insult and torment me, he takes. I thought I could do my work well, and keep on quiet, and have some time to read and learn out of work hours; but the more he see I can do, the more he loads on. He says that though I don't say anything, he sees I've got the devil in me, and he means to bring it out; and one of these days it will come out in a way that he won't like, or I'm mistaken!"

"O dear! what shall we do?" said Eliza, mournfully.

"It was only yesterday," said George, "as I was busy loading stones into a cart, that young Mas'r Tom stood there, slashing his whip so near the horse that the creature was frightened. I asked him to stop, as pleasant as I could,—he just kept right on. I begged him again, and then he turned on me, and began striking me. I held his hand, and then he screamed and kicked and ran to his father, and told him that I was fighting him. He came in a rage, and said he'd teach me who was my master; and he tied me to a tree, and cut switches for young master, and told him that he might whip me till he was tired;—and he did do it! If I don't make him remember it, some time!" and the brow of the young man grew dark, and his eyes burned with an expression that made his young wife tremble. "Who made this man my master? That's what I want to know!" he said.

"Well," said Eliza, mournfully, "I always thought that I must obey my master and mistress, or I couldn't be a Christian."

"There is some sense in it, in your case; they have brought you up like a child, fed you, clothed you, indulged you, and taught you, so that you have a good education; that is some reason why they should claim you. But I have been kicked and cuffed and sworn at, and at the best only let alone; and what do I owe? I've paid for all my keeping a hundred times over. I won't bear it. No, I won't!" he said, clenching his hand with a fierce frown.

Eliza trembled, and was silent. She had never seen her husband in this mood before; and her gentle system of ethics seemed to bend like a reed in the surges of such passions.

"You know poor little Carlo, that you gave me," added George; "the creature has been about all the comfort that I've had. He has slept with me nights, and followed me around days, and kind o' looked at me as if he understood how I felt. Well, the other day I was just feeding him with a few old scraps I picked up by the kitchen door, and Mas'r came along, and said I was feeding him up at his expense, and that he couldn't afford to have every nigger keeping his dog, and ordered me to tie a stone to his neck and throw him in the pond."

"O, George, you didn't do it!"

"Do it? not I!—but he did. Mas'r and Tom pelted the poor drowning creature with stones. Poor thing! he looked at me so mournful, as if he wondered why I didn't save him. I had to take a flogging because I wouldn't do it myself. I don't care. Mas'r will find out that I'm one that whipping won't tame. My day will come yet, if he don't look out."

"What are you going to do? O, George, don't do anything wicked; if you only trust in God, and try to do right, he'll deliver you."

"I an't a Christian like you, Eliza; my heart's full of bitterness; I can't trust in God. Why does he let things be so?"

"O, George, we must have faith. Mistress says that when all things go wrong to us, we must believe that God is doing the very best."

"That's easy to say for people that are sitting on their sofas and riding in their carriages; but let 'em be where I am, I guess it would come some harder. I wish I could be good; but my heart burns, and can't be reconciled, anyhow. You couldn't in my place,—you can't now, if I tell you all I've got to say. You don't know the whole yet."

"What can be coming now?"

"Well, lately Mas'r has been saying that he was a fool to let me marry off the place; that he hates Mr. Shelby and all his tribe, because they are proud, and hold their heads up above him, and that I've got proud notions from you; and he says he won't let me come here any more, and that I shall take a wife and settle down on his place. At first he only scolded and grumbled these things; but yesterday he told me that I should take Mina for a wife, and settle down in a cabin with her, or he would sell me down river."

"Why—but you were married to me, by the minister, as much as if you'd been a white man!" said Eliza, simply.

"Don't you know a slave can't be married? There is no law in this country for that; I can't hold you for my wife, if he chooses to part us. That's why I wish I'd never seen you,—why I wish I'd never been born; it would have been better for us both,—it would have been better for this poor child if he had never been born. All this may happen to him yet!"

"O, but master is so kind!"

"Yes, but who knows?—he may die—and then he may be sold to nobody knows who. What pleasure is it that he is handsome, and smart, and bright? I tell you, Eliza, that a sword will pierce through your soul for every good and pleasant thing your child is or has; it will make him worth too much for you to keep."

The words smote heavily on Eliza's heart; the vision of the trader came before her eyes, and, as if some one had struck her a deadly blow, she turned pale and gasped for breath. She looked nervously out on the verandah, where the boy, tired of the grave conversation, had retired, and where he was riding triumphantly up and down on Mr. Shelby's walking-stick. She would have spoken to tell her husband her fears, but checked herself.

"No, no,—he has enough to bear, poor fellow!" she thought. "No, I won't tell him; besides, it an't true; Missis never deceives us."

"So, Eliza, my girl," said the husband, mournfully, "bear up, now; and good-by, for I'm going."

"Going, George! Going where?"

"To Canada," said he, straightening himself up; "and when I'm there, I'll buy you; that's all the hope that's left us. You have a kind master, that won't refuse to sell you. I'll buy you and the boy;—God helping me, I will!"

"O, dreadful! if you should be taken?"

"I won't be taken, Eliza; I'll die first! I'll be free, or I'll die!"

"You won't kill yourself!"

"No need of that. They will kill me, fast enough; they never will get me down the river alive!"

"O, George, for my sake, do be careful! Don't do anything wicked; don't lay hands on yourself, or anybody else! You are tempted too much—too much; but don't—go you must—but go carefully, prudently; pray God to help you."

"Well, then, Eliza, hear my plan. Mas'r took it into his head to send me right by here, with a note to Mr. Symmes, that lives a mile past. I believe he expected I should come here to tell you what I have. It would please him, if he thought it would aggravate 'Shelby's folks,' as he calls 'em. I'm going home quite resigned, you understand, as if all was over. I've got some preparations made,—and there are those that will help me; and, in the course of a week or so, I shall be among the missing, some day. Pray for me, Eliza; perhaps the good Lord will hear you."

"O, pray yourself, George, and go trusting in him; then you won't do anything wicked."

"Well, now, good-by," said George, holding Eliza's hands, and gazing into her eyes, without moving. They stood silent; then there were last words, and sobs, and bitter weeping,—such parting as those may make whose hope to meet again is as the spider's web,—and the husband and wife were parted.





CHAPTER IV

An Evening in Uncle Tom's Cabin

The cabin of Uncle Tom was a small log building, close adjoining to "the house," as the negro par excellence designates his master's dwelling. In front it had a neat garden-patch, where, every summer, strawberries, raspberries, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, flourished under careful tending. The whole front of it was covered by a large scarlet bignonia and a native multiflora rose, which, entwisting and interlacing, left scarce a vestige of the rough logs to be seen. Here, also, in summer, various brilliant annuals, such as marigolds, petunias, four-o'clocks, found an indulgent corner in which to unfold their splendors, and were the delight and pride of Aunt Chloe's heart.

Let us enter the dwelling. The evening meal at the house is over, and Aunt Chloe, who presided over its preparation as head cook, has left to inferior officers in the kitchen the business of clearing away and washing dishes, and come out into her own snug territories, to "get her ole man's supper"; therefore, doubt not that it is her you see by the fire, presiding with anxious interest over certain frizzling items in a stew-pan, and anon with grave consideration lifting the cover of a bake-kettle, from whence steam forth indubitable intimations of "something good." A round, black, shining face is hers, so glossy as to suggest the idea that she might have been washed over with white of eggs, like one of her own tea rusks. Her whole plump countenance beams with satisfaction and contentment from under her well-starched checked turban, bearing on it, however, if we must confess it, a little of that tinge of self-consciousness which becomes the first cook of the neighborhood, as Aunt Chloe was universally held and acknowledged to be.

A cook she certainly was, in the very bone and centre of her soul. Not a chicken or turkey or duck in the barn-yard but looked grave when they saw her approaching, and seemed evidently to be reflecting on their latter end; and certain it was that she was always meditating on trussing, stuffing and roasting, to a degree that was calculated to inspire terror in any reflecting fowl living. Her corn-cake, in all its varieties of hoe-cake, dodgers, muffins, and other species too numerous to mention, was a sublime mystery to all less practised compounders; and she would shake her fat sides with honest pride and merriment, as she would narrate the fruitless efforts that one and another of her compeers had made to attain to her elevation.

The arrival of company at the house, the arranging of dinners and suppers "in style," awoke all the energies of her soul; and no sight was more welcome to her than a pile of travelling trunks launched on the verandah, for then she foresaw fresh efforts and fresh triumphs.

Just at present, however, Aunt Chloe is looking into the bake-pan; in which congenial operation we shall leave her till we finish our picture of the cottage.

In one corner of it stood a bed, covered neatly with a snowy spread; and by the side of it was a piece of carpeting, of some considerable size. On this piece of carpeting Aunt Chloe took her stand, as being decidedly in the upper walks of life; and it and the bed by which it lay, and the whole corner, in fact, were treated with distinguished consideration, and made, so far as possible, sacred from the marauding inroads and desecrations of little folks. In fact, that corner was the drawing-room of the establishment. In the other corner was a bed of much humbler pretensions, and evidently designed for use. The wall over the fireplace was adorned with some very brilliant scriptural prints, and a portrait of General Washington, drawn and colored in a manner which would certainly have astonished that hero, if ever he happened to meet with its like.

On a rough bench in the corner, a couple of woolly-headed boys, with glistening black eyes and fat shining cheeks, were busy in superintending the first walking operations of the baby, which, as is usually the case, consisted in getting up on its feet, balancing a moment, and then tumbling down,—each successive failure being violently cheered, as something decidedly clever.

A table, somewhat rheumatic in its limbs, was drawn out in front of the fire, and covered with a cloth, displaying cups and saucers of a decidedly brilliant pattern, with other symptoms of an approaching meal. At this table was seated Uncle Tom, Mr. Shelby's best hand, who, as he is to be the hero of our story, we must daguerreotype for our readers. He was a large, broad-chested, powerfully-made man, of a full glossy black, and a face whose truly African features were characterized by an expression of grave and steady good sense, united with much kindliness and benevolence. There was something about his whole air self-respecting and dignified, yet united with a confiding and humble simplicity.

He was very busily intent at this moment on a slate lying before him, on which he was carefully and slowly endeavoring to accomplish a copy of some letters, in which operation he was overlooked by young Mas'r George, a smart, bright boy of thirteen, who appeared fully to realize the dignity of his position as instructor.

"Not that way, Uncle Tom,—not that way," said he, briskly, as Uncle Tom laboriously brought up the tail of his g the wrong side out; "that makes a q, you see."

"La sakes, now, does it?" said Uncle Tom, looking with a respectful, admiring air, as his young teacher flourishingly scrawled q's and g's innumerable for his edification; and then, taking the pencil in his big, heavy fingers, he patiently recommenced.

"How easy white folks al'us does things!" said Aunt Chloe, pausing while she was greasing a griddle with a scrap of bacon on her fork, and regarding young Master George with pride. "The way he can write, now! and read, too! and then to come out here evenings and read his lessons to us,—it's mighty interestin'!"

"But, Aunt Chloe, I'm getting mighty hungry," said George. "Isn't that cake in the skillet almost done?"

"Mose done, Mas'r George," said Aunt Chloe, lifting the lid and peeping in,—"browning beautiful—a real lovely brown. Ah! let me alone for dat. Missis let Sally try to make some cake, t' other day, jes to larn her, she said. 'O, go way, Missis,' said I; 'it really hurts my feelin's, now, to see good vittles spilt dat ar way! Cake ris all to one side—no shape at all; no more than my shoe; go way!"

And with this final expression of contempt for Sally's greenness, Aunt Chloe whipped the cover off the bake-kettle, and disclosed to view a neatly-baked pound-cake, of which no city confectioner need to have been ashamed. This being evidently the central point of the entertainment, Aunt Chloe began now to bustle about earnestly in the supper department.

"Here you, Mose and Pete! get out de way, you niggers! Get away, Polly, honey,—mammy'll give her baby some fin, by and by. Now, Mas'r George, you jest take off dem books, and set down now with my old man, and I'll take up de sausages, and have de first griddle full of cakes on your plates in less dan no time."

"They wanted me to come to supper in the house," said George; "but I knew what was what too well for that, Aunt Chloe."

"So you did—so you did, honey," said Aunt Chloe, heaping the smoking batter-cakes on his plate; "you know'd your old aunty'd keep the best for you. O, let you alone for dat! Go way!" And, with that, aunty gave George a nudge with her finger, designed to be immensely facetious, and turned again to her griddle with great briskness.

"Now for the cake," said Mas'r George, when the activity of the griddle department had somewhat subsided; and, with that, the youngster flourished a large knife over the article in question.

"La bless you, Mas'r George!" said Aunt Chloe, with earnestness, catching his arm, "you wouldn't be for cuttin' it wid dat ar great heavy knife! Smash all down—spile all de pretty rise of it. Here, I've got a thin old knife, I keeps sharp a purpose. Dar now, see! comes apart light as a feather! Now eat away—you won't get anything to beat dat ar."

"Tom Lincon says," said George, speaking with his mouth full, "that their Jinny is a better cook than you."

"Dem Lincons an't much count, no way!" said Aunt Chloe, contemptuously; "I mean, set along side our folks. They 's 'spectable folks enough in a kinder plain way; but, as to gettin' up anything in style, they don't begin to have a notion on 't. Set Mas'r Lincon, now, alongside Mas'r Shelby! Good Lor! and Missis Lincon,—can she kinder sweep it into a room like my missis,—so kinder splendid, yer know! O, go way! don't tell me nothin' of dem Lincons!"—and Aunt Chloe tossed her head as one who hoped she did know something of the world.

"Well, though, I've heard you say," said George, "that Jinny was a pretty fair cook."

"So I did," said Aunt Chloe,—"I may say dat. Good, plain, common cookin', Jinny'll do;—make a good pone o' bread,—bile her taters far,—her corn cakes isn't extra, not extra now, Jinny's corn cakes isn't, but then they's far,—but, Lor, come to de higher branches, and what can she do? Why, she makes pies—sartin she does; but what kinder crust? Can she make your real flecky paste, as melts in your mouth, and lies all up like a puff? Now, I went over thar when Miss Mary was gwine to be married, and Jinny she jest showed me de weddin' pies. Jinny and I is good friends, ye know. I never said nothin'; but go 'long, Mas'r George! Why, I shouldn't sleep a wink for a week, if I had a batch of pies like dem ar. Why, dey wan't no 'count 't all."

"I suppose Jinny thought they were ever so nice," said George.

"Thought so!—didn't she? Thar she was, showing em, as innocent—ye see, it's jest here, Jinny don't know. Lor, the family an't nothing! She can't be spected to know! 'Ta'nt no fault o' hem. Ah, Mas'r George, you doesn't know half 'your privileges in yer family and bringin' up!" Here Aunt Chloe sighed, and rolled up her eyes with emotion.

"I'm sure, Aunt Chloe, I understand my pie and pudding privileges," said George. "Ask Tom Lincon if I don't crow over him, every time I meet him."

Aunt Chloe sat back in her chair, and indulged in a hearty guffaw of laughter, at this witticism of young Mas'r's, laughing till the tears rolled down her black, shining cheeks, and varying the exercise with playfully slapping and poking Mas'r Georgey, and telling him to go way, and that he was a case—that he was fit to kill her, and that he sartin would kill her, one of these days; and, between each of these sanguinary predictions, going off into a laugh, each longer and stronger than the other, till George really began to think that he was a very dangerously witty fellow, and that it became him to be careful how he talked "as funny as he could."

"And so ye telled Tom, did ye? O, Lor! what young uns will be up ter! Ye crowed over Tom? O, Lor! Mas'r George, if ye wouldn't make a hornbug laugh!"

"Yes," said George, "I says to him, 'Tom, you ought to see some of Aunt Chloe's pies; they're the right sort,' says I."

"Pity, now, Tom couldn't," said Aunt Chloe, on whose benevolent heart the idea of Tom's benighted condition seemed to make a strong impression. "Ye oughter just ask him here to dinner, some o' these times, Mas'r George," she added; "it would look quite pretty of ye. Ye know, Mas'r George, ye oughtenter feel 'bove nobody, on 'count yer privileges, 'cause all our privileges is gi'n to us; we ought al'ays to 'member that," said Aunt Chloe, looking quite serious.

"Well, I mean to ask Tom here, some day next week," said George; "and you do your prettiest, Aunt Chloe, and we'll make him stare. Won't we make him eat so he won't get over it for a fortnight?"

"Yes, yes—sartin," said Aunt Chloe, delighted; "you'll see. Lor! to think of some of our dinners! Yer mind dat ar great chicken pie I made when we guv de dinner to General Knox? I and Missis, we come pretty near quarrelling about dat ar crust. What does get into ladies sometimes, I don't know; but, sometimes, when a body has de heaviest kind o' 'sponsibility on 'em, as ye may say, and is all kinder 'seris' and taken up, dey takes dat ar time to be hangin' round and kinder interferin'! Now, Missis, she wanted me to do dis way, and she wanted me to do dat way; and, finally, I got kinder sarcy, and, says I, 'Now, Missis, do jist look at dem beautiful white hands o' yourn with long fingers, and all a sparkling with rings, like my white lilies when de dew 's on 'em; and look at my great black stumpin hands. Now, don't ye think dat de Lord must have meant me to make de pie-crust, and you to stay in de parlor? Dar! I was jist so sarcy, Mas'r George."

"And what did mother say?" said George.

"Say?—why, she kinder larfed in her eyes—dem great handsome eyes o' hern; and, says she, 'Well, Aunt Chloe, I think you are about in the right on 't,' says she; and she went off in de parlor. She oughter cracked me over de head for bein' so sarcy; but dar's whar 't is—I can't do nothin' with ladies in de kitchen!"

"Well, you made out well with that dinner,—I remember everybody said so," said George.

"Didn't I? And wan't I behind de dinin'-room door dat bery day? and didn't I see de General pass his plate three times for some more dat bery pie?—and, says he, 'You must have an uncommon cook, Mrs. Shelby.' Lor! I was fit to split myself.

"And de Gineral, he knows what cookin' is," said Aunt Chloe, drawing herself up with an air. "Bery nice man, de Gineral! He comes of one of de bery fustest families in Old Virginny! He knows what's what, now, as well as I do—de Gineral. Ye see, there's pints in all pies, Mas'r George; but tan't everybody knows what they is, or as orter be. But the Gineral, he knows; I knew by his 'marks he made. Yes, he knows what de pints is!"

By this time, Master George had arrived at that pass to which even a boy can come (under uncommon circumstances, when he really could not eat another morsel), and, therefore, he was at leisure to notice the pile of woolly heads and glistening eyes which were regarding their operations hungrily from the opposite corner.

"Here, you Mose, Pete," he said, breaking off liberal bits, and throwing it at them; "you want some, don't you? Come, Aunt Chloe, bake them some cakes."

And George and Tom moved to a comfortable seat in the chimney-corner, while Aunte Chloe, after baking a goodly pile of cakes, took her baby on her lap, and began alternately filling its mouth and her own, and distributing to Mose and Pete, who seemed rather to prefer eating theirs as they rolled about on the floor under the table, tickling each other, and occasionally pulling the baby's toes.

"O! go long, will ye?" said the mother, giving now and then a kick, in a kind of general way, under the table, when the movement became too obstreperous. "Can't ye be decent when white folks comes to see ye? Stop dat ar, now, will ye? Better mind yerselves, or I'll take ye down a button-hole lower, when Mas'r George is gone!"

What meaning was couched under this terrible threat, it is difficult to say; but certain it is that its awful indistinctness seemed to produce very little impression on the young sinners addressed.

"La, now!" said Uncle Tom, "they are so full of tickle all the while, they can't behave theirselves."

Here the boys emerged from under the table, and, with hands and faces well plastered with molasses, began a vigorous kissing of the baby.

"Get along wid ye!" said the mother, pushing away their woolly heads. "Ye'll all stick together, and never get clar, if ye do dat fashion. Go long to de spring and wash yerselves!" she said, seconding her exhortations by a slap, which resounded very formidably, but which seemed only to knock out so much more laugh from the young ones, as they tumbled precipitately over each other out of doors, where they fairly screamed with merriment.

"Did ye ever see such aggravating young uns?" said Aunt Chloe, rather complacently, as, producing an old towel, kept for such emergencies, she poured a little water out of the cracked tea-pot on it, and began rubbing off the molasses from the baby's face and hands; and, having polished her till she shone, she set her down in Tom's lap, while she busied herself in clearing away supper. The baby employed the intervals in pulling Tom's nose, scratching his face, and burying her fat hands in his woolly hair, which last operation seemed to afford her special content.

"Aint she a peart young un?" said Tom, holding her from him to take a full-length view; then, getting up, he set her on his broad shoulder, and began capering and dancing with her, while Mas'r George snapped at her with his pocket-handkerchief, and Mose and Pete, now returned again, roared after her like bears, till Aunt Chloe declared that they "fairly took her head off" with their noise. As, according to her own statement, this surgical operation was a matter of daily occurrence in the cabin, the declaration no whit abated the merriment, till every one had roared and tumbled and danced themselves down to a state of composure.

"Well, now, I hopes you're done," said Aunt Chloe, who had been busy in pulling out a rude box of a trundle-bed; "and now, you Mose and you Pete, get into thar; for we's goin' to have the meetin'."

"O mother, we don't wanter. We wants to sit up to meetin',—meetin's is so curis. We likes 'em."

"La, Aunt Chloe, shove it under, and let 'em sit up," said Mas'r George, decisively, giving a push to the rude machine.

Aunt Chloe, having thus saved appearances, seemed highly delighted to push the thing under, saying, as she did so, "Well, mebbe 't will do 'em some good."

The house now resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to consider the accommodations and arrangements for the meeting.

"What we's to do for cheers, now, I declar I don't know," said Aunt Chloe. As the meeting had been held at Uncle Tom's weekly, for an indefinite length of time, without any more "cheers," there seemed some encouragement to hope that a way would be discovered at present.

"Old Uncle Peter sung both de legs out of dat oldest cheer, last week," suggested Mose.

"You go long! I'll boun' you pulled 'em out; some o' your shines," said Aunt Chloe.

"Well, it'll stand, if it only keeps jam up agin de wall!" said Mose.

"Den Uncle Peter mus'n't sit in it, cause he al'ays hitches when he gets a singing. He hitched pretty nigh across de room, t' other night," said Pete.

"Good Lor! get him in it, then," said Mose, "and den he'd begin, 'Come saints—and sinners, hear me tell,' and den down he'd go,"—and Mose imitated precisely the nasal tones of the old man, tumbling on the floor, to illustrate the supposed catastrophe.

"Come now, be decent, can't ye?" said Aunt Chloe; "an't yer shamed?"

Mas'r George, however, joined the offender in the laugh, and declared decidedly that Mose was a "buster." So the maternal admonition seemed rather to fail of effect.

"Well, ole man," said Aunt Chloe, "you'll have to tote in them ar bar'ls."

"Mother's bar'ls is like dat ar widder's, Mas'r George was reading 'bout, in de good book,—dey never fails," said Mose, aside to Peter.

"I'm sure one on 'em caved in last week," said Pete, "and let 'em all down in de middle of de singin'; dat ar was failin', warnt it?"

During this aside between Mose and Pete, two empty casks had been rolled into the cabin, and being secured from rolling, by stones on each side, boards were laid across them, which arrangement, together with the turning down of certain tubs and pails, and the disposing of the rickety chairs, at last completed the preparation.

"Mas'r George is such a beautiful reader, now, I know he'll stay to read for us," said Aunt Chloe; "'pears like 't will be so much more interestin'."

George very readily consented, for your boy is always ready for anything that makes him of importance.

The room was soon filled with a motley assemblage, from the old gray-headed patriarch of eighty, to the young girl and lad of fifteen. A little harmless gossip ensued on various themes, such as where old Aunt Sally got her new red headkerchief, and how "Missis was a going to give Lizzy that spotted muslin gown, when she'd got her new berage made up;" and how Mas'r Shelby was thinking of buying a new sorrel colt, that was going to prove an addition to the glories of the place. A few of the worshippers belonged to families hard by, who had got permission to attend, and who brought in various choice scraps of information, about the sayings and doings at the house and on the place, which circulated as freely as the same sort of small change does in higher circles.

After a while the singing commenced, to the evident delight of all present. Not even all the disadvantage of nasal intonation could prevent the effect of the naturally fine voices, in airs at once wild and spirited. The words were sometimes the well-known and common hymns sung in the churches about, and sometimes of a wilder, more indefinite character, picked up at camp-meetings.

The chorus of one of them, which ran as follows, was sung with great energy and unction:

     "Die on the field of battle,
     Die on the field of battle,
     Glory in my soul."

Another special favorite had oft repeated the words—

     "O, I'm going to glory,—won't you come along with me?
     Don't you see the angels beck'ning, and a calling me away?
     Don't you see the golden city and the everlasting day?"

There were others, which made incessant mention of "Jordan's banks," and "Canaan's fields," and the "New Jerusalem;" for the negro mind, impassioned and imaginative, always attaches itself to hymns and expressions of a vivid and pictorial nature; and, as they sung, some laughed, and some cried, and some clapped hands, or shook hands rejoicingly with each other, as if they had fairly gained the other side of the river.

Various exhortations, or relations of experience, followed, and intermingled with the singing. One old gray-headed woman, long past work, but much revered as a sort of chronicle of the past, rose, and leaning on her staff, said—"Well, chil'en! Well, I'm mighty glad to hear ye all and see ye all once more, 'cause I don't know when I'll be gone to glory; but I've done got ready, chil'en; 'pears like I'd got my little bundle all tied up, and my bonnet on, jest a waitin' for the stage to come along and take me home; sometimes, in the night, I think I hear the wheels a rattlin', and I'm lookin' out all the time; now, you jest be ready too, for I tell ye all, chil'en," she said striking her staff hard on the floor, "dat ar glory is a mighty thing! It's a mighty thing, chil'en,—you don'no nothing about it,—it's wonderful." And the old creature sat down, with streaming tears, as wholly overcome, while the whole circle struck up—

     "O Canaan, bright Canaan
     I'm bound for the land of Canaan."

Mas'r George, by request, read the last chapters of Revelation, often interrupted by such exclamations as "The sakes now!" "Only hear that!" "Jest think on 't!" "Is all that a comin' sure enough?"

George, who was a bright boy, and well trained in religious things by his mother, finding himself an object of general admiration, threw in expositions of his own, from time to time, with a commendable seriousness and gravity, for which he was admired by the young and blessed by the old; and it was agreed, on all hands, that "a minister couldn't lay it off better than he did; that 't was reely 'mazin'!"

Uncle Tom was a sort of patriarch in religious matters, in the neighborhood. Having, naturally, an organization in which the morale was strongly predominant, together with a greater breadth and cultivation of mind than obtained among his companions, he was looked up to with great respect, as a sort of minister among them; and the simple, hearty, sincere style of his exhortations might have edified even better educated persons. But it was in prayer that he especially excelled. Nothing could exceed the touching simplicity, the childlike earnestness, of his prayer, enriched with the language of Scripture, which seemed so entirely to have wrought itself into his being, as to have become a part of himself, and to drop from his lips unconsciously; in the language of a pious old negro, he "prayed right up." And so much did his prayer always work on the devotional feelings of his audiences, that there seemed often a danger that it would be lost altogether in the abundance of the responses which broke out everywhere around him.

While this scene was passing in the cabin of the man, one quite otherwise passed in the halls of the master.

The trader and Mr. Shelby were seated together in the dining room afore-named, at a table covered with papers and writing utensils.

Mr. Shelby was busy in counting some bundles of bills, which, as they were counted, he pushed over to the trader, who counted them likewise.

"All fair," said the trader; "and now for signing these yer."

Mr. Shelby hastily drew the bills of sale towards him, and signed them, like a man that hurries over some disagreeable business, and then pushed them over with the money. Haley produced, from a well-worn valise, a parchment, which, after looking over it a moment, he handed to Mr. Shelby, who took it with a gesture of suppressed eagerness.

"Wal, now, the thing's done!" said the trader, getting up.

"It's done!" said Mr. Shelby, in a musing tone; and, fetching a long breath, he repeated, "It's done!"

"Yer don't seem to feel much pleased with it, 'pears to me," said the trader.

"Haley," said Mr. Shelby, "I hope you'll remember that you promised, on your honor, you wouldn't sell Tom, without knowing what sort of hands he's going into."

"Why, you've just done it sir," said the trader.

"Circumstances, you well know, obliged me," said Shelby, haughtily.

"Wal, you know, they may 'blige me, too," said the trader. "Howsomever, I'll do the very best I can in gettin' Tom a good berth; as to my treatin' on him bad, you needn't be a grain afeard. If there's anything that I thank the Lord for, it is that I'm never noways cruel."

After the expositions which the trader had previously given of his humane principles, Mr. Shelby did not feel particularly reassured by these declarations; but, as they were the best comfort the case admitted of, he allowed the trader to depart in silence, and betook himself to a solitary cigar.





CHAPTER V

Showing the Feelings of Living Property on Changing Owners

Mr. and Mrs. Shelby had retired to their apartment for the night. He was lounging in a large easy-chair, looking over some letters that had come in the afternoon mail, and she was standing before her mirror, brushing out the complicated braids and curls in which Eliza had arranged her hair; for, noticing her pale cheeks and haggard eyes, she had excused her attendance that night, and ordered her to bed. The employment, naturally enough, suggested her conversation with the girl in the morning; and turning to her husband, she said, carelessly,

"By the by, Arthur, who was that low-bred fellow that you lugged in to our dinner-table today?"

"Haley is his name," said Shelby, turning himself rather uneasily in his chair, and continuing with his eyes fixed on a letter.

"Haley! Who is he, and what may be his business here, pray?"

"Well, he's a man that I transacted some business with, last time I was at Natchez," said Mr. Shelby.

"And he presumed on it to make himself quite at home, and call and dine here, ay?"

"Why, I invited him; I had some accounts with him," said Shelby.

"Is he a negro-trader?" said Mrs. Shelby, noticing a certain embarrassment in her husband's manner.

"Why, my dear, what put that into your head?" said Shelby, looking up.

"Nothing,—only Eliza came in here, after dinner, in a great worry, crying and taking on, and said you were talking with a trader, and that she heard him make an offer for her boy—the ridiculous little goose!"

"She did, hey?" said Mr. Shelby, returning to his paper, which he seemed for a few moments quite intent upon, not perceiving that he was holding it bottom upwards.

"It will have to come out," said he, mentally; "as well now as ever."

"I told Eliza," said Mrs. Shelby, as she continued brushing her hair, "that she was a little fool for her pains, and that you never had anything to do with that sort of persons. Of course, I knew you never meant to sell any of our people,—least of all, to such a fellow."

"Well, Emily," said her husband, "so I have always felt and said; but the fact is that my business lies so that I cannot get on without. I shall have to sell some of my hands."

"To that creature? Impossible! Mr. Shelby, you cannot be serious."

"I'm sorry to say that I am," said Mr. Shelby. "I've agreed to sell Tom."

"What! our Tom?—that good, faithful creature!—been your faithful servant from a boy! O, Mr. Shelby!—and you have promised him his freedom, too,—you and I have spoken to him a hundred times of it. Well, I can believe anything now,—I can believe now that you could sell little Harry, poor Eliza's only child!" said Mrs. Shelby, in a tone between grief and indignation.

"Well, since you must know all, it is so. I have agreed to sell Tom and Harry both; and I don't know why I am to be rated, as if I were a monster, for doing what every one does every day."

"But why, of all others, choose these?" said Mrs. Shelby. "Why sell them, of all on the place, if you must sell at all?"

"Because they will bring the highest sum of any,—that's why. I could choose another, if you say so. The fellow made me a high bid on Eliza, if that would suit you any better," said Mr. Shelby.

"The wretch!" said Mrs. Shelby, vehemently.

"Well, I didn't listen to it, a moment,—out of regard to your feelings, I wouldn't;—so give me some credit."

"My dear," said Mrs. Shelby, recollecting herself, "forgive me. I have been hasty. I was surprised, and entirely unprepared for this;—but surely you will allow me to intercede for these poor creatures. Tom is a noble-hearted, faithful fellow, if he is black. I do believe, Mr. Shelby, that if he were put to it, he would lay down his life for you."

"I know it,—I dare say;—but what's the use of all this?—I can't help myself."

"Why not make a pecuniary sacrifice? I'm willing to bear my part of the inconvenience. O, Mr. Shelby, I have tried—tried most faithfully, as a Christian woman should—to do my duty to these poor, simple, dependent creatures. I have cared for them, instructed them, watched over them, and know all their little cares and joys, for years; and how can I ever hold up my head again among them, if, for the sake of a little paltry gain, we sell such a faithful, excellent, confiding creature as poor Tom, and tear from him in a moment all we have taught him to love and value? I have taught them the duties of the family, of parent and child, and husband and wife; and how can I bear to have this open acknowledgment that we care for no tie, no duty, no relation, however sacred, compared with money? I have talked with Eliza about her boy—her duty to him as a Christian mother, to watch over him, pray for him, and bring him up in a Christian way; and now what can I say, if you tear him away, and sell him, soul and body, to a profane, unprincipled man, just to save a little money? I have told her that one soul is worth more than all the money in the world; and how will she believe me when she sees us turn round and sell her child?—sell him, perhaps, to certain ruin of body and soul!"

"I'm sorry you feel so about it,—indeed I am," said Mr. Shelby; "and I respect your feelings, too, though I don't pretend to share them to their full extent; but I tell you now, solemnly, it's of no use—I can't help myself. I didn't mean to tell you this Emily; but, in plain words, there is no choice between selling these two and selling everything. Either they must go, or all must. Haley has come into possession of a mortgage, which, if I don't clear off with him directly, will take everything before it. I've raked, and scraped, and borrowed, and all but begged,—and the price of these two was needed to make up the balance, and I had to give them up. Haley fancied the child; he agreed to settle the matter that way, and no other. I was in his power, and had to do it. If you feel so to have them sold, would it be any better to have all sold?"

Mrs. Shelby stood like one stricken. Finally, turning to her toilet, she rested her face in her hands, and gave a sort of groan.

"This is God's curse on slavery!—a bitter, bitter, most accursed thing!—a curse to the master and a curse to the slave! I was a fool to think I could make anything good out of such a deadly evil. It is a sin to hold a slave under laws like ours,—I always felt it was,—I always thought so when I was a girl,—I thought so still more after I joined the church; but I thought I could gild it over,—I thought, by kindness, and care, and instruction, I could make the condition of mine better than freedom—fool that I was!"

"Why, wife, you are getting to be an abolitionist, quite."

"Abolitionist! if they knew all I know about slavery, they might talk! We don't need them to tell us; you know I never thought that slavery was right—never felt willing to own slaves."

"Well, therein you differ from many wise and pious men," said Mr. Shelby. "You remember Mr. B.'s sermon, the other Sunday?"

"I don't want to hear such sermons; I never wish to hear Mr. B. in our church again. Ministers can't help the evil, perhaps,—can't cure it, any more than we can,—but defend it!—it always went against my common sense. And I think you didn't think much of that sermon, either."

"Well," said Shelby, "I must say these ministers sometimes carry matters further than we poor sinners would exactly dare to do. We men of the world must wink pretty hard at various things, and get used to a deal that isn't the exact thing. But we don't quite fancy, when women and ministers come out broad and square, and go beyond us in matters of either modesty or morals, that's a fact. But now, my dear, I trust you see the necessity of the thing, and you see that I have done the very best that circumstances would allow."

"O yes, yes!" said Mrs. Shelby, hurriedly and abstractedly fingering her gold watch,—"I haven't any jewelry of any amount," she added, thoughtfully; "but would not this watch do something?—it was an expensive one, when it was bought. If I could only at least save Eliza's child, I would sacrifice anything I have."

"I'm sorry, very sorry, Emily," said Mr. Shelby, "I'm sorry this takes hold of you so; but it will do no good. The fact is, Emily, the thing's done; the bills of sale are already signed, and in Haley's hands; and you must be thankful it is no worse. That man has had it in his power to ruin us all,—and now he is fairly off. If you knew the man as I do, you'd think that we had had a narrow escape."

"Is he so hard, then?"

"Why, not a cruel man, exactly, but a man of leather,—a man alive to nothing but trade and profit,—cool, and unhesitating, and unrelenting, as death and the grave. He'd sell his own mother at a good percentage—not wishing the old woman any harm, either."

"And this wretch owns that good, faithful Tom, and Eliza's child!"

"Well, my dear, the fact is that this goes rather hard with me; it's a thing I hate to think of. Haley wants to drive matters, and take possession tomorrow. I'm going to get out my horse bright and early, and be off. I can't see Tom, that's a fact; and you had better arrange a drive somewhere, and carry Eliza off. Let the thing be done when she is out of sight."

"No, no," said Mrs. Shelby; "I'll be in no sense accomplice or help in this cruel business. I'll go and see poor old Tom, God help him, in his distress! They shall see, at any rate, that their mistress can feel for and with them. As to Eliza, I dare not think about it. The Lord forgive us! What have we done, that this cruel necessity should come on us?"

There was one listener to this conversation whom Mr. and Mrs. Shelby little suspected.

Communicating with their apartment was a large closet, opening by a door into the outer passage. When Mrs. Shelby had dismissed Eliza for the night, her feverish and excited mind had suggested the idea of this closet; and she had hidden herself there, and, with her ear pressed close against the crack of the door, had lost not a word of the conversation.

When the voices died into silence, she rose and crept stealthily away. Pale, shivering, with rigid features and compressed lips, she looked an entirely altered being from the soft and timid creature she had been hitherto. She moved cautiously along the entry, paused one moment at her mistress' door, and raised her hands in mute appeal to Heaven, and then turned and glided into her own room. It was a quiet, neat apartment, on the same floor with her mistress. There was a pleasant sunny window, where she had often sat singing at her sewing; there a little case of books, and various little fancy articles, ranged by them, the gifts of Christmas holidays; there was her simple wardrobe in the closet and in the drawers:—here was, in short, her home; and, on the whole, a happy one it had been to her. But there, on the bed, lay her slumbering boy, his long curls falling negligently around his unconscious face, his rosy mouth half open, his little fat hands thrown out over the bedclothes, and a smile spread like a sunbeam over his whole face.

"Poor boy! poor fellow!" said Eliza; "they have sold you! but your mother will save you yet!"

No tear dropped over that pillow; in such straits as these, the heart has no tears to give,—it drops only blood, bleeding itself away in silence. She took a piece of paper and a pencil, and wrote, hastily,

"O, Missis! dear Missis! don't think me ungrateful,—don't think hard of me, any way,—I heard all you and master said tonight. I am going to try to save my boy—you will not blame me! God bless and reward you for all your kindness!"

Hastily folding and directing this, she went to a drawer and made up a little package of clothing for her boy, which she tied with a handkerchief firmly round her waist; and, so fond is a mother's remembrance, that, even in the terrors of that hour, she did not forget to put in the little package one or two of his favorite toys, reserving a gayly painted parrot to amuse him, when she should be called on to awaken him. It was some trouble to arouse the little sleeper; but, after some effort, he sat up, and was playing with his bird, while his mother was putting on her bonnet and shawl.

"Where are you going, mother?" said he, as she drew near the bed, with his little coat and cap.

His mother drew near, and looked so earnestly into his eyes, that he at once divined that something unusual was the matter.

"Hush, Harry," she said; "mustn't speak loud, or they will hear us. A wicked man was coming to take little Harry away from his mother, and carry him 'way off in the dark; but mother won't let him—she's going to put on her little boy's cap and coat, and run off with him, so the ugly man can't catch him."

Saying these words, she had tied and buttoned on the child's simple outfit, and, taking him in her arms, she whispered to him to be very still; and, opening a door in her room which led into the outer verandah, she glided noiselessly out.

It was a sparkling, frosty, starlight night, and the mother wrapped the shawl close round her child, as, perfectly quiet with vague terror, he clung round her neck.

Old Bruno, a great Newfoundland, who slept at the end of the porch, rose, with a low growl, as she came near. She gently spoke his name, and the animal, an old pet and playmate of hers, instantly, wagging his tail, prepared to follow her, though apparently revolving much, in this simple dog's head, what such an indiscreet midnight promenade might mean. Some dim ideas of imprudence or impropriety in the measure seemed to embarrass him considerably; for he often stopped, as Eliza glided forward, and looked wistfully, first at her and then at the house, and then, as if reassured by reflection, he pattered along after her again. A few minutes brought them to the window of Uncle Tom's cottage, and Eliza stopping, tapped lightly on the window-pane.

The prayer-meeting at Uncle Tom's had, in the order of hymn-singing, been protracted to a very late hour; and, as Uncle Tom had indulged himself in a few lengthy solos afterwards, the consequence was, that, although it was now between twelve and one o'clock, he and his worthy helpmeet were not yet asleep.

"Good Lord! what's that?" said Aunt Chloe, starting up and hastily drawing the curtain. "My sakes alive, if it an't Lizy! Get on your clothes, old man, quick!—there's old Bruno, too, a pawin round; what on airth! I'm gwine to open the door."

And suiting the action to the word, the door flew open, and the light of the tallow candle, which Tom had hastily lighted, fell on the haggard face and dark, wild eyes of the fugitive.

"Lord bless you!—I'm skeered to look at ye, Lizy! Are ye tuck sick, or what's come over ye?"

"I'm running away—Uncle Tom and Aunt Chloe—carrying off my child—Master sold him!"

"Sold him?" echoed both, lifting up their hands in dismay.

"Yes, sold him!" said Eliza, firmly; "I crept into the closet by Mistress' door tonight, and I heard Master tell Missis that he had sold my Harry, and you, Uncle Tom, both, to a trader; and that he was going off this morning on his horse, and that the man was to take possession today."

Tom had stood, during this speech, with his hands raised, and his eyes dilated, like a man in a dream. Slowly and gradually, as its meaning came over him, he collapsed, rather than seated himself, on his old chair, and sunk his head down upon his knees.

"The good Lord have pity on us!" said Aunt Chloe. "O! it don't seem as if it was true! What has he done, that Mas'r should sell him?"

"He hasn't done anything,—it isn't for that. Master don't want to sell, and Missis she's always good. I heard her plead and beg for us; but he told her 't was no use; that he was in this man's debt, and that this man had got the power over him; and that if he didn't pay him off clear, it would end in his having to sell the place and all the people, and move off. Yes, I heard him say there was no choice between selling these two and selling all, the man was driving him so hard. Master said he was sorry; but oh, Missis—you ought to have heard her talk! If she an't a Christian and an angel, there never was one. I'm a wicked girl to leave her so; but, then, I can't help it. She said, herself, one soul was worth more than the world; and this boy has a soul, and if I let him be carried off, who knows what'll become of it? It must be right: but, if it an't right, the Lord forgive me, for I can't help doing it!"

"Well, old man!" said Aunt Chloe, "why don't you go, too? Will you wait to be toted down river, where they kill niggers with hard work and starving? I'd a heap rather die than go there, any day! There's time for ye,—be off with Lizy,—you've got a pass to come and go any time. Come, bustle up, and I'll get your things together."

Tom slowly raised his head, and looked sorrowfully but quietly around, and said,

"No, no—I an't going. Let Eliza go—it's her right! I wouldn't be the one to say no—'tan't in natur for her to stay; but you heard what she said! If I must be sold, or all the people on the place, and everything go to rack, why, let me be sold. I s'pose I can bar it as well as any on 'em," he added, while something like a sob and a sigh shook his broad, rough chest convulsively. "Mas'r always found me on the spot—he always will. I never have broke trust, nor used my pass no ways contrary to my word, and I never will. It's better for me alone to go, than to break up the place and sell all. Mas'r an't to blame, Chloe, and he'll take care of you and the poor—"

Here he turned to the rough trundle bed full of little woolly heads, and broke fairly down. He leaned over the back of the chair, and covered his face with his large hands. Sobs, heavy, hoarse and loud, shook the chair, and great tears fell through his fingers on the floor; just such tears, sir, as you dropped into the coffin where lay your first-born son; such tears, woman, as you shed when you heard the cries of your dying babe. For, sir, he was a man,—and you are but another man. And, woman, though dressed in silk and jewels, you are but a woman, and, in life's great straits and mighty griefs, ye feel but one sorrow!

"And now," said Eliza, as she stood in the door, "I saw my husband only this afternoon, and I little knew then what was to come. They have pushed him to the very last standing place, and he told me, today, that he was going to run away. Do try, if you can, to get word to him. Tell him how I went, and why I went; and tell him I'm going to try and find Canada. You must give my love to him, and tell him, if I never see him again," she turned away, and stood with her back to them for a moment, and then added, in a husky voice, "tell him to be as good as he can, and try and meet me in the kingdom of heaven."

"Call Bruno in there," she added. "Shut the door on him, poor beast! He mustn't go with me!"

A few last words and tears, a few simple adieus and blessings, and clasping her wondering and affrighted child in her arms, she glided noiselessly away.





CHAPTER VI

Discovery

Mr. and Mrs. Shelby, after their protracted discussion of the night before, did not readily sink to repose, and, in consequence, slept somewhat later than usual, the ensuing morning.

"I wonder what keeps Eliza," said Mrs. Shelby, after giving her bell repeated pulls, to no purpose.

Mr. Shelby was standing before his dressing-glass, sharpening his razor; and just then the door opened, and a colored boy entered, with his shaving-water.

"Andy," said his mistress, "step to Eliza's door, and tell her I have rung for her three times. Poor thing!" she added, to herself, with a sigh.

Andy soon returned, with eyes very wide in astonishment.

"Lor, Missis! Lizy's drawers is all open, and her things all lying every which way; and I believe she's just done clared out!"

The truth flashed upon Mr. Shelby and his wife at the same moment. He exclaimed,

"Then she suspected it, and she's off!"

"The Lord be thanked!" said Mrs. Shelby. "I trust she is."

"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.

Very soon, about a dozen young imps were roosting, like so many crows, on the verandah railings, each one determined to be the first one to apprize the strange Mas'r of his ill luck.

"He'll be rael mad, I'll be bound," said Andy.

"Won't he swar!" said little black Jake.

"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.

"If I had the little devils!" muttered Haley, between his teeth.

"But you ha'nt got 'em, though!" said Andy, with a triumphant flourish, and making a string of indescribable mouths at the unfortunate trader's back, when he was fairly beyond hearing.

"I say now, Shelby, this yer 's a most extro'rnary business!" said Haley, as he abruptly entered the parlor. "It seems that gal 's off, with her young un."

"Mr. Haley, Mrs. Shelby is present," said Mr. Shelby.

"I beg pardon, ma'am," said Haley, bowing slightly, with a still lowering brow; "but still I say, as I said before, this yer's a sing'lar report. Is it true, sir?"

"Sir," said Mr. Shelby, "if you wish to communicate with me, you must observe something of the decorum of a gentleman. Andy, take Mr. Haley's 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."

"I did expect fair dealing in this matter, I confess," said Haley.

"Well, sir," said Mr. Shelby, turning sharply round upon him, "what am I to understand by that remark? If any man calls my honor in question, I have but one answer for him."

The trader cowered at this, and in a somewhat lower tone said that "it was plaguy hard on a fellow, that had made a fair bargain, to be gulled that way."

"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 gentlemen's coffee at the side-board, she left the room.

"Old lady don't like your humble servant, over and above," said Haley, with an uneasy effort to be very familiar.

"I am not accustomed to hear my wife spoken of with such freedom," said Mr. Shelby, dryly.

"Beg pardon; of course, only a joke, you know," said Haley, forcing a laugh.

"Some jokes are less agreeable than others," rejoined Shelby.

"Devilish free, now I've signed those papers, cuss him!" muttered Haley to himself; "quite grand, since yesterday!"

Never did fall of any prime minister at court occasion wider surges of sensation than the report of Tom's 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. Eliza's flight—an unprecedented event on the place—was 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 lookout to his own personal well-being, that would have done credit to any white patriot in Washington.

"It's an ill wind dat blow 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 down—wal, course der's room for some nigger to be up—and why not dis nigger?—dat's de idee. Tom, a ridin' round de country—boots blacked—pass in his pocket—all grand as Cuffee—but who he? Now, why shouldn't Sam?—dat's what I want to know."

"Halloo, Sam—O Sam! Mas'r wants you to cotch Bill and Jerry," said Andy, cutting short Sam's soliloquy.

"High! what's afoot now, young un?"

"Why, you don't know, I s'pose, that Lizy's cut stick, and clared out, with her young un?"

"You teach your granny!" said Sam, with infinite contempt; "knowed it a heap sight sooner than you did; this nigger an't so green, now!"

"Well, anyhow, Mas'r wants Bill and Jerry geared right up; and you and I 's to go with Mas'r Haley, to look arter her."

"Good, now! dat's de time o' day!" said Sam. "It's Sam dat's called for in dese yer times. He's de nigger. See if I don't cotch her, now; Mas'r'll see what Sam can do!"

"Ah! but, Sam," said Andy, "you'd better think twice; for Missis don't want her cotched, and she'll be in yer wool."

"High!" said Sam, opening his eyes. "How you know dat?"

"Heard her say so, my own self, dis blessed mornin', when I bring in Mas'r's shaving-water. She sent me to see why Lizy didn't come to dress her; and when I telled her she was off, she jest ris up, and ses she, 'The Lord be praised;' and Mas'r, 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.

"Der an't no saying'—never—'bout no kind o' thing in dis yer world," he said, at last. Sam spoke like a philosopher, emphasizing this—as if he had had a large experience in different sorts of worlds, and therefore had come to his conclusions advisedly.

"Now, sartin I'd a said that Missis would a scoured the varsal world after Lizy," added Sam, thoughtfully.

"So she would," said Andy; "but can't ye see through a ladder, ye black nigger? Missis don't want dis yer Mas'r Haley to get Lizy's boy; dat's de go!"

"High!" said Sam, with an indescribable intonation, known only to those who have heard it among the negroes.

"And I'll tell yer more 'n all," said Andy; "I specs you'd better be making tracks for dem hosses,—mighty sudden, too,—-for I hearn Missis 'quirin' arter yer,—so you've stood foolin' long enough."

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. Haley's horse, which was a skittish young colt, winced, and bounced, and pulled hard at his halter.

"Ho, ho!" said Sam, "skeery, ar ye?" and his black visage lighted up with a curious, mischievous gleam. "I'll fix ye now!" said he.

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.

"Dar!" he said, rolling his eyes with an approving grin; "me fix 'em!"

At this moment Mrs. Shelby appeared on the balcony, beckoning to him. Sam approached with as good a determination to pay court as did ever suitor after a vacant place at St. James' or Washington.

"Why have you been loitering so, Sam? I sent Andy to tell you to hurry."

"Lord bless you, Missis!" said Sam, "horses won't be cotched all in a minit; they'd done clared out way down to the south pasture, and the Lord knows whar!"

"Sam, how often must I tell you not to say 'Lord bless you, and the Lord knows,' and such things? It's wicked."

"O, Lord bless my soul! I done forgot, Missis! I won't say nothing of de sort no more."

"Why, Sam, you just have said it again."

"Did I? O, Lord! I mean—I didn't go fur to say it."

"You must be careful, Sam."

"Just let me get my breath, Missis, and I'll start fair. I'll be bery careful."

"Well, Sam, you are to go with Mr. Haley, to show him the road, and help him. Be careful of the horses, Sam; you know Jerry was a little lame last week; don't ride them too fast."

Mrs. Shelby spoke the last words with a low voice, and strong emphasis.

"Let dis child alone for dat!" said Sam, rolling up his eyes with a volume of meaning. "Lord knows! High! Didn't 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 wouldn't be 't all surprised if dat ar gen'lman's 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.

"High!" said Andy, with an air of instant appreciation.

"Yes, you see, Andy, Missis wants to make time,—dat ar's clar to der most or'nary '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 Mas'r won't be off in a hurry."

Andy grinned.

"Yer see," said Sam, "yer see, Andy, if any such thing should happen as that Mas'r Haley's horse should begin to act contrary, and cut up, you and I jist lets go of our'n to help him, and we'll help him—oh 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 horseposts, to be ready to "help Mas'r."

Sam's 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 Andy's 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 haven't got a hat?"

"Well, boys," said Haley, "look alive now; we must lose no time."

"Not a bit of him, Mas'r!" said Sam, putting Haley's rein in his hand, and holding his stirrup, while Andy was untying the other two horses.

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 horse's 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.

Haley's 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 hand's 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 Sam's 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 Coeur De Lion, which always blazed in the front and thickest of the battle, Sam's 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 o'clock, Sam appeared triumphant, mounted on Jerry, with Haley's 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.

"He's cotched!" he exclaimed, triumphantly. "If 't hadn't been for me, they might a bust themselves, all on 'em; but I cotched him!"

"You!" growled Haley, in no amiable mood. "If it hadn't been for you, this never would have happened."

"Lord bless us, Mas'r," said Sam, in a tone of the deepest concern, "and me that has been racin' and chasin' till the sweat jest pours off me!"

"Well, well!" said Haley, "you've lost me near three hours, with your cursed nonsense. Now let's be off, and have no more fooling."

"Why, Mas'r," 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, Mas'r won't think of startin' on now till arter dinner. Mas'r's hoss wants rubben down; see how he splashed hisself; and Jerry limps too; don't think Missis would be willin' to have us start dis yer way, no how. Lord bless you, Mas'r, 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 Haley's 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 warn't as good as a meetin', now, to see him a dancin' and kickin' and swarin' at us. Didn't 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.

"Yer oughter seen how mad he looked, when I brought the hoss up. Lord, he'd a killed me, if he durs' to; and there I was a standin' as innercent and as humble."

"Lor, I seed you," said Andy; "an't you an old hoss, Sam?"

"Rather specks I am," said Sam; "did yer see Missis up stars at the winder? I seed her laughin'."

"I'm sure, I was racin' so, I didn't see nothing," said Andy.

"Well, yer see," said Sam, proceeding gravely to wash down Haley's pony, "I 'se '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. Didn't I see which way the wind blew dis yer mornin'? Didn't 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."

"I guess if I hadn't helped your bobservation dis mornin', yer wouldn't have seen your way so smart," said Andy.

"Andy," said Sam, "you's a promisin' child, der an't no manner o' doubt. I thinks lots of yer, Andy; and I don't 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."





CHAPTER VII

The Mother's Struggle

It is impossible to conceive of a human creature more wholly desolate and forlorn than Eliza, when she turned her footsteps from Uncle Tom's cabin.

Her husband's suffering and dangers, and the danger of her child, all blended in her mind, with a confused and stunning sense of the risk she was running, in leaving the only home she had ever known, and cutting loose from the protection of a friend whom she loved and revered. Then there was the parting from every familiar object,—the place where she had grown up, the trees under which she had played, the groves where she had walked many an evening in happier days, by the side of her young husband,—everything, as it lay in the clear, frosty starlight, seemed to speak reproachfully to her, and ask her whither could she go from a home like that?

But stronger than all was maternal love, wrought into a paroxysm of frenzy by the near approach of a fearful danger. Her boy was old enough to have walked by her side, and, in an indifferent case, she would only have led him by the hand; but now the bare thought of putting him out of her arms made her shudder, and she strained him to her bosom with a convulsive grasp, as she went rapidly forward.

The frosty ground creaked beneath her feet, and she trembled at the sound; every quaking leaf and fluttering shadow sent the blood backward to her heart, and quickened her footsteps. She wondered within herself at the strength that seemed to be come upon her; for she felt the weight of her boy as if it had been a feather, and every flutter of fear seemed to increase the supernatural power that bore her on, while from her pale lips burst forth, in frequent ejaculations, the prayer to a Friend above—"Lord, help! Lord, save me!"

If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be torn from you by a brutal trader, tomorrow morning,—if you had seen the man, and heard that the papers were signed and delivered, and you had only from twelve o'clock till morning to make good your escape,—how fast could you walk? How many miles could you make in those few brief hours, with the darling at your bosom,—the little sleepy head on your shoulder,—the small, soft arms trustingly holding on to your neck?

For the child slept. At first, the novelty and alarm kept him waking; but his mother so hurriedly repressed every breath or sound, and so assured him that if he were only still she would certainly save him, that he clung quietly round her neck, only asking, as he found himself sinking to sleep,

"Mother, I don't need to keep awake, do I?"

"No, my darling; sleep, if you want to."

"But, mother, if I do get asleep, you won't let him get me?"

"No! so may God help me!" said his mother, with a paler cheek, and a brighter light in her large dark eyes.

"You're sure, an't you, mother?"

"Yes, sure!" said the mother, in a voice that startled herself; for it seemed to her to come from a spirit within, that was no part of her; and the boy dropped his little weary head on her shoulder, and was soon asleep. How the touch of those warm arms, the gentle breathings that came in her neck, seemed to add fire and spirit to her movements! It seemed to her as if strength poured into her in electric streams, from every gentle touch and movement of the sleeping, confiding child. Sublime is the dominion of the mind over the body, that, for a time, can make flesh and nerve impregnable, and string the sinews like steel, so that the weak become so mighty.

The boundaries of the farm, the grove, the wood-lot, passed by her dizzily, as she walked on; and still she went, leaving one familiar object after another, slacking not, pausing not, till reddening daylight found her many a long mile from all traces of any familiar objects upon the open highway.

She had often been, with her mistress, to visit some connections, in the little village of T——, not far from the Ohio river, and knew the road well. To go thither, to escape across the Ohio river, were the first hurried outlines of her plan of escape; beyond that, she could only hope in God.

When horses and vehicles began to move along the highway, with that alert perception peculiar to a state of excitement, and which seems to be a sort of inspiration, she became aware that her headlong pace and distracted air might bring on her remark and suspicion. She therefore put the boy on the ground, and, adjusting her dress and bonnet, she walked on at as rapid a pace as she thought consistent with the preservation of appearances. In her little bundle she had provided a store of cakes and apples, which she used as expedients for quickening the speed of the child, rolling the apple some yards before them, when the boy would run with all his might after it; and this ruse, often repeated, carried them over many a half-mile.

After a while, they came to a thick patch of woodland, through which murmured a clear brook. As the child complained of hunger and thirst, she climbed over the fence with him; and, sitting down behind a large rock which concealed them from the road, she gave him a breakfast out of her little package. The boy wondered and grieved that she could not eat; and when, putting his arms round her neck, he tried to wedge some of his cake into her mouth, it seemed to her that the rising in her throat would choke her.

"No, no, Harry darling! mother can't eat till you are safe! We must go on—on—till we come to the river!" And she hurried again into the road, and again constrained herself to walk regularly and composedly forward.

She was many miles past any neighborhood where she was personally known. If she should chance to meet any who knew her, she reflected that the well-known kindness of the family would be of itself a blind to suspicion, as making it an unlikely supposition that she could be a fugitive. As she was also so white as not to be known as of colored lineage, without a critical survey, and her child was white also, it was much easier for her to pass on unsuspected.

On this presumption, she stopped at noon at a neat farmhouse, to rest herself, and buy some dinner for her child and self; for, as the danger decreased with the distance, the supernatural tension of the nervous system lessened, and she found herself both weary and hungry.

The good woman, kindly and gossipping, seemed rather pleased than otherwise with having somebody come in to talk with; and accepted, without examination, Eliza's statement, that she "was going on a little piece, to spend a week with her friends,"—all which she hoped in her heart might prove strictly true.

An hour before sunset, she entered the village of T——, by the Ohio river, weary and foot-sore, but still strong in heart. Her first glance was at the river, which lay, like Jordan, between her and the Canaan of liberty on the other side.

It was now early spring, and the river was swollen and turbulent; great cakes of floating ice were swinging heavily to and fro in the turbid waters. Owing to the peculiar form of the shore on the Kentucky side, the land bending far out into the water, the ice had been lodged and detained in great quantities, and the narrow channel which swept round the bend was full of ice, piled one cake over another, thus forming a temporary barrier to the descending ice, which lodged, and formed a great, undulating raft, filling up the whole river, and extending almost to the Kentucky shore.

Eliza stood, for a moment, contemplating this unfavorable aspect of things, which she saw at once must prevent the usual ferry-boat from running, and then turned into a small public house on the bank, to make a few inquiries.

The hostess, who was busy in various fizzing and stewing operations over the fire, preparatory to the evening meal, stopped, with a fork in her hand, as Eliza's sweet and plaintive voice arrested her.

"What is it?" she said.

"Isn't there any ferry or boat, that takes people over to B——, now?" she said.

"No, indeed!" said the woman; "the boats has stopped running."

Eliza's look of dismay and disappointment struck the woman, and she said, inquiringly,

"May be you're wanting to get over?—anybody sick? Ye seem mighty anxious?"

"I've got a child that's very dangerous," said Eliza. "I never heard of it till last night, and I've walked quite a piece today, in hopes to get to the ferry."

"Well, now, that's onlucky," said the woman, whose motherly sympathies were much aroused; "I'm re'lly consarned for ye. Solomon!" she called, from the window, towards a small back building. A man, in leather apron and very dirty hands, appeared at the door.

"I say, Sol," said the woman, "is that ar man going to tote them bar'ls over tonight?"

"He said he should try, if 't was any way prudent," said the man.

"There's a man a piece down here, that's going over with some truck this evening, if he durs' to; he'll be in here to supper tonight, so you'd better set down and wait. That's a sweet little fellow," added the woman, offering him a cake.

But the child, wholly exhausted, cried with weariness.

"Poor fellow! he isn't used to walking, and I've hurried him on so," said Eliza.

"Well, take him into this room," said the woman, opening into a small bed-room, where stood a comfortable bed. Eliza laid the weary boy upon it, and held his hands in hers till he was fast asleep. For her there was no rest. As a fire in her bones, the thought of the pursuer urged her on; and she gazed with longing eyes on the sullen, surging waters that lay between her and liberty.

Here we must take our leave of her for the present, to follow the course of her pursuers.

Though Mrs. Shelby had promised that the dinner should be hurried on table, yet it was soon seen, as the thing has often been seen before, that it required more than one to make a bargain. So, although the order was fairly given out in Haley's hearing, and carried to Aunt Chloe by at least half a dozen juvenile messengers, that dignitary only gave certain very gruff snorts, and tosses of her head, and went on with every operation in an unusually leisurely and circumstantial manner.

For some singular reason, an impression seemed to reign among the servants generally that Missis would not be particularly disobliged by delay; and it was wonderful what a number of counter accidents occurred constantly, to retard the course of things. One luckless wight contrived to upset the gravy; and then gravy had to be got up de novo, with due care and formality, Aunt Chloe watching and stirring with dogged precision, answering shortly, to all suggestions of haste, that she "warn't a going to have raw gravy on the table, to help nobody's catchings." One tumbled down with the water, and had to go to the spring for more; and another precipitated the butter into the path of events; and there was from time to time giggling news brought into the kitchen that "Mas'r Haley was mighty oneasy, and that he couldn't sit in his cheer no ways, but was a walkin' and stalkin' to the winders and through the porch."

"Sarves him right!" said Aunt Chloe, indignantly. "He'll get wus nor oneasy, one of these days, if he don't mend his ways. His master'll be sending for him, and then see how he'll look!"

"He'll go to torment, and no mistake," said little Jake.

"He desarves it!" said Aunt Chloe, grimly; "he's broke a many, many, many hearts,—I tell ye all!" she said, stopping, with a fork uplifted in her hands; "it's like what Mas'r George reads in Ravelations,—souls a callin' under the altar! and a callin' on the Lord for vengeance on sich!—and by and by the Lord he'll hear 'em—so he will!"

Aunt Chloe, who was much revered in the kitchen, was listened to with open mouth; and, the dinner being now fairly sent in, the whole kitchen was at leisure to gossip with her, and to listen to her remarks.

"Sich'll be burnt up forever, and no mistake; won't ther?" said Andy.

"I'd be glad to see it, I'll be boun'," said little Jake.

"Chil'en!" said a voice, that made them all start. It was Uncle Tom, who had come in, and stood listening to the conversation at the door.

"Chil'en!" he said, "I'm afeard you don't know what ye're sayin'. Forever is a dre'ful word, chil'en; it's awful to think on 't. You oughtenter wish that ar to any human crittur."

"We wouldn't to anybody but the soul-drivers," said Andy; "nobody can help wishing it to them, they 's so awful wicked."

"Don't natur herself kinder cry out on 'em?" said Aunt Chloe. "Don't dey tear der suckin' baby right off his mother's breast, and sell him, and der little children as is crying and holding on by her clothes,—don't dey pull 'em off and sells 'em? Don't dey tear wife and husband apart?" said Aunt Chloe, beginning to cry, "when it's jest takin' the very life on 'em?—and all the while does they feel one bit, don't dey drink and smoke, and take it oncommon easy? Lor, if the devil don't get them, what's he good for?" And Aunt Chloe covered her face with her checked apron, and began to sob in good earnest.

"Pray for them that 'spitefully use you, the good book says," says Tom.

"Pray for 'em!" said Aunt Chloe; "Lor, it's too tough! I can't pray for 'em."

"It's natur, Chloe, and natur 's strong," said Tom, "but the Lord's grace is stronger; besides, you oughter think what an awful state a poor crittur's soul 's in that'll do them ar things,—you oughter thank God that you an't like him, Chloe. I'm sure I'd rather be sold, ten thousand times over, than to have all that ar poor crittur's got to answer for."

"So 'd I, a heap," said Jake. "Lor, shouldn't we cotch it, Andy?"

Andy shrugged his shoulders, and gave an acquiescent whistle.

"I'm glad Mas'r didn't go off this morning, as he looked to," said Tom; "that ar hurt me more than sellin', it did. Mebbe it might have been natural for him, but 't would have come desp't hard on me, as has known him from a baby; but I've seen Mas'r, and I begin ter feel sort o' reconciled to the Lord's will now. Mas'r couldn't help hisself; he did right, but I'm feared things will be kinder goin' to rack, when I'm gone Mas'r can't be spected to be a pryin' round everywhar, as I've done, a keepin' up all the ends. The boys all means well, but they 's powerful car'less. That ar troubles me."

The bell here rang, and Tom was summoned to the parlor.

"Tom," said his master, kindly, "I want you to notice that I give this gentleman bonds to forfeit a thousand dollars if you are not on the spot when he wants you; he's going today to look after his other business, and you can have the day to yourself. Go anywhere you like, boy."

"Thank you, Mas'r," said Tom.

"And mind yourself," said the trader, "and don't come it over your master with any o' yer nigger tricks; for I'll take every cent out of him, if you an't thar. If he'd hear to me, he wouldn't trust any on ye—slippery as eels!"

"Mas'r," said Tom,—and he stood very straight,—"I was jist eight years old when ole Missis put you into my arms, and you wasn't a year old. 'Thar,' says she, 'Tom, that's to be your young Mas'r; take good care on him,' says she. And now I jist ask you, Mas'r, have I ever broke word to you, or gone contrary to you, 'specially since I was a Christian?"

Mr. Shelby was fairly overcome, and the tears rose to his eyes.

"My good boy," said he, "the Lord knows you say but the truth; and if I was able to help it, all the world shouldn't buy you."

"And sure as I am a Christian woman," said Mrs. Shelby, "you shall be redeemed as soon as I can any bring together means. Sir," she said to Haley, "take good account of who you sell him to, and let me know."

"Lor, yes, for that matter," said the trader, "I may bring him up in a year, not much the wuss for wear, and trade him back."

"I'll trade with you then, and make it for your advantage," said Mrs. Shelby.

"Of course," said the trader, "all 's equal with me; li'ves trade 'em up as down, so I does a good business. All I want is a livin', you know, ma'am; that's all any on us wants, I, s'pose."

Mr. and Mrs. Shelby both felt annoyed and degraded by the familiar impudence of the trader, and yet both saw the absolute necessity of putting a constraint on their feelings. The more hopelessly sordid and insensible he appeared, the greater became Mrs. Shelby's dread of his succeeding in recapturing Eliza and her child, and of course the greater her motive for detaining him by every female artifice. She therefore graciously smiled, assented, chatted familiarly, and did all she could to make time pass imperceptibly.

At two o'clock Sam and Andy brought the horses up to the posts, apparently greatly refreshed and invigorated by the scamper of the morning.

Sam was there new oiled from dinner, with an abundance of zealous and ready officiousness. As Haley approached, he was boasting, in flourishing style, to Andy, of the evident and eminent success of the operation, now that he had "farly come to it."

"Your master, I s'pose, don't keep no dogs," said Haley, thoughtfully, as he prepared to mount.

"Heaps on 'em," said Sam, triumphantly; "thar's Bruno—he's a roarer! and, besides that, 'bout every nigger of us keeps a pup of some natur or uther."

"Poh!" said Haley,—and he said something else, too, with regard to the said dogs, at which Sam muttered,

"I don't see no use cussin' on 'em, no way."

"But your master don't keep no dogs (I pretty much know he don't) for trackin' out niggers."

Sam knew exactly what he meant, but he kept on a look of earnest and desperate simplicity.

"Our dogs all smells round considable sharp. I spect they's the kind, though they han't never had no practice. They 's far dogs, though, at most anything, if you'd get 'em started. Here, Bruno," he called, whistling to the lumbering Newfoundland, who came pitching tumultuously toward them.

"You go hang!" said Haley, getting up. "Come, tumble up now."

Sam tumbled up accordingly, dexterously contriving to tickle Andy as he did so, which occasioned Andy to split out into a laugh, greatly to Haley's indignation, who made a cut at him with his riding-whip.

"I 's 'stonished at yer, Andy," said Sam, with awful gravity. "This yer's a seris bisness, Andy. Yer mustn't be a makin' game. This yer an't no way to help Mas'r."

"I shall take the straight road to the river," said Haley, decidedly, after they had come to the boundaries of the estate. "I know the way of all of 'em,—they makes tracks for the underground."

"Sartin," said Sam, "dat's de idee. Mas'r Haley hits de thing right in de middle. Now, der's two roads to de river,—de dirt road and der pike,—which Mas'r mean to take?"

Andy looked up innocently at Sam, surprised at hearing this new geographical fact, but instantly confirmed what he said, by a vehement reiteration.

"Cause," said Sam, "I'd rather be 'clined to 'magine that Lizy 'd take de dirt road, bein' it's the least travelled."

Haley, notwithstanding that he was a very old bird, and naturally inclined to be suspicious of chaff, was rather brought up by this view of the case.

"If yer warn't both on yer such cussed liars, now!" he said, contemplatively as he pondered a moment.

The pensive, reflective tone in which this was spoken appeared to amuse Andy prodigiously, and he drew a little behind, and shook so as apparently to run a great risk of failing off his horse, while Sam's face was immovably composed into the most doleful gravity.

"Course," said Sam, "Mas'r can do as he'd ruther, go de straight road, if Mas'r thinks best,—it's all one to us. Now, when I study 'pon it, I think de straight road de best, deridedly."

"She would naturally go a lonesome way," said Haley, thinking aloud, and not minding Sam's remark.

"Dar an't no sayin'," said Sam; "gals is pecular; they never does nothin' ye thinks they will; mose gen'lly the contrary. Gals is nat'lly made contrary; and so, if you thinks they've gone one road, it is sartin you'd better go t' other, and then you'll be sure to find 'em. Now, my private 'pinion is, Lizy took der road; so I think we'd better take de straight one."

This profound generic view of the female sex did not seem to dispose Haley particularly to the straight road, and he announced decidedly that he should go the other, and asked Sam when they should come to it.

"A little piece ahead," said Sam, giving a wink to Andy with the eye which was on Andy's side of the head; and he added, gravely, "but I've studded on de matter, and I'm quite clar we ought not to go dat ar way. I nebber been over it no way. It's despit lonesome, and we might lose our way,—whar we'd come to, de Lord only knows."

"Nevertheless," said Haley, "I shall go that way."

"Now I think on 't, I think I hearn 'em tell that dat ar road was all fenced up and down by der creek, and thar, an't it, Andy?"

Andy wasn't certain; he'd only "hearn tell" about that road, but never been over it. In short, he was strictly noncommittal.

Haley, accustomed to strike the balance of probabilities between lies of greater or lesser magnitude, thought that it lay in favor of the dirt road aforesaid. The mention of the thing he thought he perceived was involuntary on Sam's part at first, and his confused attempts to dissuade him he set down to a desperate lying on second thoughts, as being unwilling to implicate Liza.

When, therefore, Sam indicated the road, Haley plunged briskly into it, followed by Sam and Andy.

Now, the road, in fact, was an old one, that had formerly been a thoroughfare to the river, but abandoned for many years after the laying of the new pike. It was open for about an hour's ride, and after that it was cut across by various farms and fences. Sam knew this fact perfectly well,—indeed, the road had been so long closed up, that Andy had never heard of it. He therefore rode along with an air of dutiful submission, only groaning and vociferating occasionally that 't was "desp't rough, and bad for Jerry's foot."

"Now, I jest give yer warning," said Haley, "I know yer; yer won't get me to turn off this road, with all yer fussin'—so you shet up!"

"Mas'r will go his own way!" said Sam, with rueful submission, at the same time winking most portentously to Andy, whose delight was now very near the explosive point.

Sam was in wonderful spirits,—professed to keep a very brisk lookout,—at one time exclaiming that he saw "a gal's bonnet" on the top of some distant eminence, or calling to Andy "if that thar wasn't 'Lizy' down in the hollow;" always making these exclamations in some rough or craggy part of the road, where the sudden quickening of speed was a special inconvenience to all parties concerned, and thus keeping Haley in a state of constant commotion.

After riding about an hour in this way, the whole party made a precipitate and tumultuous descent into a barn-yard belonging to a large farming establishment. Not a soul was in sight, all the hands being employed in the fields; but, as the barn stood conspicuously and plainly square across the road, it was evident that their journey in that direction had reached a decided finale.

"Wan't dat ar what I telled Mas'r?" said Sam, with an air of injured innocence. "How does strange gentleman spect to know more about a country dan de natives born and raised?"

"You rascal!" said Haley, "you knew all about this."

"Didn't I tell yer I knowd, and yer wouldn't believe me? I telled Mas'r 't was all shet up, and fenced up, and I didn't spect we could get through,—Andy heard me."

It was all too true to be disputed, and the unlucky man had to pocket his wrath with the best grace he was able, and all three faced to the right about, and took up their line of march for the highway.

In consequence of all the various delays, it was about three-quarters of an hour after Eliza had laid her child to sleep in the village tavern that the party came riding into the same place. Eliza was standing by the window, looking out in another direction, when Sam's quick eye caught a glimpse of her. Haley and Andy were two yards behind. At this crisis, Sam contrived to have his hat blown off, and uttered a loud and characteristic ejaculation, which startled her at once; she drew suddenly back; the whole train swept by the window, round to the front door.

A thousand lives seemed to be concentrated in that one moment to Eliza. Her room opened by a side door to the river. She caught her child, and sprang down the steps towards it. The trader caught a full glimpse of her just as she was disappearing down the bank; and throwing himself from his horse, and calling loudly on Sam and Andy, he was after her like a hound after a deer. In that dizzy moment her feet to her scarce seemed to touch the ground, and a moment brought her to the water's edge. Right on behind they came; and, nerved with strength such as God gives only to the desperate, with one wild cry and flying leap, she vaulted sheer over the turbid current by the shore, on to the raft of ice beyond. It was a desperate leap—impossible to anything but madness and despair; and Haley, Sam, and Andy, instinctively cried out, and lifted up their hands, as she did it.

The huge green fragment of ice on which she alighted pitched and creaked as her weight came on it, but she staid there not a moment. With wild cries and desperate energy she leaped to another and still another cake; stumbling—leaping—slipping—springing upwards again! Her shoes are gone—her stockings cut from her feet—while blood marked every step; but she saw nothing, felt nothing, till dimly, as in a dream, she saw the Ohio side, and a man helping her up the bank.

"Yer a brave gal, now, whoever ye ar!" said the man, with an oath.

Eliza recognized the voice and face for a man who owned a farm not far from her old home.

"O, Mr. Symmes!—save me—do save me—do hide me!" said Elia.

"Why, what's this?" said the man. "Why, if 'tan't Shelby's gal!"

"My child!—this boy!—he'd sold him! There is his Mas'r," said she, pointing to the Kentucky shore. "O, Mr. Symmes, you've got a little boy!"

"So I have," said the man, as he roughly, but kindly, drew her up the steep bank. "Besides, you're a right brave gal. I like grit, wherever I see it."

When they had gained the top of the bank, the man paused.

"I'd be glad to do something for ye," said he; "but then there's nowhar I could take ye. The best I can do is to tell ye to go thar," said he, pointing to a large white house which stood by itself, off the main street of the village. "Go thar; they're kind folks. Thar's no kind o' danger but they'll help you,—they're up to all that sort o' thing."

"The Lord bless you!" said Eliza, earnestly.

"No 'casion, no 'casion in the world," said the man. "What I've done's of no 'count."

"And, oh, surely, sir, you won't tell any one!"

"Go to thunder, gal! What do you take a feller for? In course not," said the man. "Come, now, go along like a likely, sensible gal, as you are. You've arnt your liberty, and you shall have it, for all me."

The woman folded her child to her bosom, and walked firmly and swiftly away. The man stood and looked after her.

"Shelby, now, mebbe won't think this yer the most neighborly thing in the world; but what's a feller to do? If he catches one of my gals in the same fix, he's welcome to pay back. Somehow I never could see no kind o' critter a strivin' and pantin', and trying to clar theirselves, with the dogs arter 'em and go agin 'em. Besides, I don't see no kind of 'casion for me to be hunter and catcher for other folks, neither."

So spoke this poor, heathenish Kentuckian, who had not been instructed in his constitutional relations, and consequently was betrayed into acting in a sort of Christianized manner, which, if he had been better situated and more enlightened, he would not have been left to do.

Haley had stood a perfectly amazed spectator of the scene, till Eliza had disappeared up the bank, when he turned a blank, inquiring look on Sam and Andy.

"That ar was a tolable fair stroke of business," said Sam.

"The gal 's got seven devils in her, I believe!" said Haley. "How like a wildcat she jumped!"

"Wal, now," said Sam, scratching his head, "I hope Mas'r'll 'scuse us trying dat ar road. Don't think I feel spry enough for dat ar, no way!" and Sam gave a hoarse chuckle.

"You laugh!" said the trader, with a growl.

"Lord bless you, Mas'r, I couldn't help it now," said Sam, giving way to the long pent-up delight of his soul. "She looked so curi's, a leapin' and springin'—ice a crackin'—and only to hear her,—plump! ker chunk! ker splash! Spring! Lord! how she goes it!" and Sam and Andy laughed till the tears rolled down their cheeks.

"I'll make ye laugh t' other side yer mouths!" said the trader, laying about their heads with his riding-whip.

Both ducked, and ran shouting up the bank, and were on their horses before he was up.

"Good-evening, Mas'r!" said Sam, with much gravity. "I berry much spect Missis be anxious 'bout Jerry. Mas'r Haley won't want us no longer. Missis wouldn't hear of our ridin' the critters over Lizy's bridge tonight;" and, with a facetious poke into Andy's ribs, he started off, followed by the latter, at full speed,—their shouts of laughter coming faintly on the wind.





CHAPTER VIII

Eliza's Escape

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 swollen 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, sundry 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 startled 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 an't the nearest, now, to what I've heard folks call 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 unto 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 catlike 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 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 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 are 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 accessories 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, an't ye?" he said; "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 't would 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 arn't. 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, "'est pass the hot water. Yes, sir, you say 'est what I feel and all'us have. Now, I bought a gal once, when I was in the trade,—a tight, 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 something 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, yer oughter seen how she went on. Why, re'lly, she did seem to me to valley the child more 'cause 't was sickly and cross, and plagued her; and she warn't making b'lieve, neither,—cried about it, she did, and lopped round, as if she'd lost every friend she had. It re'lly was droll to think on 't. Lord, there ain't no end to women's notions."

"Wal, jest 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, ye see, I thought there warn't no harm in my jest passing 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 jest like a tiger. So 't was before we started, and I hadn't got my gang chained up; so what should 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 't wan't 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 ye!"

"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 an't 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 ye may call emphasis," said Marks, poking Haley in the side, and going into another small giggle. "An't Tom peculiar? he! he! I say, Tom, I s'pect you make 'em understand, for all niggers' heads is woolly. They don't never have no doubt o' your meaning, Tom. If you an't 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, "ye re'lly is too bad, as I al'ays have told ye; ye know, Tom, you and I used to talk over these yer matters down in Natchez, and I used to prove to ye 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 the kingdom at last, when wust comes to wust, and thar an't nothing else left to get, ye 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 al'ays meant to drive my trade so as to make money on 't fust and foremost, as much as any man; but, then, trade an't everything, and money an't 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 re'lly necessary?—it don't seem to me it's 't all 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're 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? 'Tan't that you care one bit more, or have a bit more feelin'—it's clean, sheer, dog meanness, wanting to cheat the devil and save your own skin; don't I see through it? And your 'gettin' religion,' as you call it, arter all, is too p'isin mean for any crittur;—run up a bill with the devil all your life, and then sneak out when pay time comes! Bob!"

"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 purpose. 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're generally 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 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. An't it beautiful?"

Tom, whose great heavy mouth had stood ajar during this communication, now suddenly snapped it together, as a big dog closes 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 p'ints 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 roarer when there's any thumping or fighting to be done; but at lying he an't good, Tom an't,—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 long 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 rather wish they was more particular; 't would 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, ye needn't break all the glasses!" said Marks; "save your fist for time o' need."

"But, gentlemen, an't I to come in for a share of the profits?" said Haley.

"An't 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 worth 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 nothin' 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 as free to us as you, I hope. If you or Shelby wants to chase us, look where the partridges was last year; if you find them or us, you're quite welcome."

"O, 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 an't 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're 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 bush-whacking round arter yer young uns, 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, an't it, Marks?"

"Certainly, certainly," said Marks, with a conciliatory tone; "it's only a retaining fee, you see,—he! he! he!—we lawyers, you 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, three hundred dollars for him, dead or alive.

"Edwards—Dick and Lucy—man and wife, six hundred dollars; wench Polly and two children—six hundred 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 tonight, no mistake," said Tom.

"But there's no boat about," said Marks. "The ice is running awfully, Tom; an't it dangerous?"

"Don'no 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."

"O, no; I an't a grain afraid," said Marks, "only—"

"Only what?" said Tom.

"Well, about the boat. Yer see there an't 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 s'pose you've got good dogs," said Haley.

"First rate," said Marks. "But what's the use? you han't got nothin' o' hers 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, 'tan't no go, neither. Dogs is no 'count in these yer up states where these critters 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.

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?"

"Mas'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. Lizy's done gone over the river into 'Hio, as 'markably as if de Lord took her over in a charrit of fire and two hosses."

Sam's vein of piety was always uncommonly fervent in his mistress' 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 Mas'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, Mas'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, without de Lord. Why, now," said Sam, "'t was jist dis yer way. Mas'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 Mas'r Haley he goes past the door; and then, I tell ye, she clared out de side door; she went down de river bank;—Mas'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 t' other side ice a sawin' and a jiggling up and down, kinder as 't were 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 t' other side of the current, on the ice, and then on she went, a screeching and a jumpin',—the ice went crack! c'wallop! cracking! chunk! and she a boundin' like a buck! Lord, the spring that ar gal's got in her an't 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 't hadn't been for me today, she'd a been took a dozen times. Warn't it I started off de hosses, dis yer mornin' and kept 'em chasin' till nigh dinner time? And didn't I car Mas'r Haley night 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 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.

"Mas'r quite right,—quite; it was ugly on me,—there's no disputin' that ar; and of course Mas'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 Mas'r Haley; he an't 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 today. You and Andy 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 infrequently 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 dilettanti, 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 inexpressibly 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, bredren,—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 Mas'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."

Andy 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 Mas'r was sot dat way. When I found Missis 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 for, if we isn't persistent, I wanter know? Thar, Andy, you may have dat ar bone,—tan't 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 an't 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 an't 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 or'nary sort o' 'parison. Here! I'm a trying to get top o' der hay. Wal, I puts up my larder dis yer side; 'tan't no go;—den, cause I don't try dere no more, but puts my larder right de contrar side, an't 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 anything that I thinks is principle, I goes in to 't;—I wouldn't mind if dey burnt me 'live,—I'd 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 de gen'l interests of society."

"Well," said Aunt Chloe, "one o' yer principles will have to be to get to bed some time tonight, 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.





CHAPTER IX

In Which It Appears That a Senator Is But a Man

The light of the cheerful fire shone on the rug and carpet of a cosey parlor, and glittered on the sides of the tea-cups and well-brightened tea-pot, as Senator Bird was drawing off his boots, preparatory to inserting his feet in a pair of new handsome slippers, which his wife had been working for him while away on his senatorial tour. Mrs. Bird, looking the very picture of delight, was superintending the arrangements of the table, ever and anon mingling admonitory remarks to a number of frolicsome juveniles, who were effervescing in all those modes of untold gambol and mischief that have astonished mothers ever since the flood.

"Tom, let the door-knob alone,—there's a man! Mary! Mary! don't pull the cat's tail,—poor pussy! Jim, you mustn't climb on that table,—no, no!—You don't know, my dear, what a surprise it is to us all, to see you here tonight!" said she, at last, when she found a space to say something to her husband.

"Yes, yes, I thought I'd just make a run down, spend the night, and have a little comfort at home. I'm tired to death, and my head aches!"

Mrs. Bird cast a glance at a camphor-bottle, which stood in the half-open closet, and appeared to meditate an approach to it, but her husband interposed.

"No, no, Mary, no doctoring! a cup of your good hot tea, and some of our good home living, is what I want. It's a tiresome business, this legislating!"

And the senator smiled, as if he rather liked the idea of considering himself a sacrifice to his country.

"Well," said his wife, after the business of the tea-table was getting rather slack, "and what have they been doing in the Senate?"

Now, it was a very unusual thing for gentle little Mrs. Bird ever to trouble her head with what was going on in the house of the state, very wisely considering that she had enough to do to mind her own. Mr. Bird, therefore, opened his eyes in surprise, and said,

"Not very much of importance."

"Well; but is it true that they have been passing a law forbidding people to give meat and drink to those poor colored folks that come along? I heard they were talking of some such law, but I didn't think any Christian legislature would pass it!"

"Why, Mary, you are getting to be a politician, all at once."

"No, nonsense! I wouldn't give a fig for all your politics, generally, but I think this is something downright cruel and unchristian. I hope, my dear, no such law has been passed."

"There has been a law passed forbidding people to help off the slaves that come over from Kentucky, my dear; so much of that thing has been done by these reckless Abolitionists, that our brethren in Kentucky are very strongly excited, and it seems necessary, and no more than Christian and kind, that something should be done by our state to quiet the excitement."

"And what is the law? It don't forbid us to shelter those poor creatures a night, does it, and to give 'em something comfortable to eat, and a few old clothes, and send them quietly about their business?"

"Why, yes, my dear; that would be aiding and abetting, you know."

Mrs. Bird was a timid, blushing little woman, of about four feet in height, and with mild blue eyes, and a peach-blow complexion, and the gentlest, sweetest voice in the world;—as for courage, a moderate-sized cock-turkey had been known to put her to rout at the very first gobble, and a stout house-dog, of moderate capacity, would bring her into subjection merely by a show of his teeth. Her husband and children were her entire world, and in these she ruled more by entreaty and persuasion than by command or argument. There was only one thing that was capable of arousing her, and that provocation came in on the side of her unusually gentle and sympathetic nature;—anything in the shape of cruelty would throw her into a passion, which was the more alarming and inexplicable in proportion to the general softness of her nature. Generally the most indulgent and easy to be entreated of all mothers, still her boys had a very reverent remembrance of a most vehement chastisement she once bestowed on them, because she found them leagued with several graceless boys of the neighborhood, stoning a defenceless kitten.

"I'll tell you what," Master Bill used to say, "I was scared that time. Mother came at me so that I thought she was crazy, and I was whipped and tumbled off to bed, without any supper, before I could get over wondering what had come about; and, after that, I heard mother crying outside the door, which made me feel worse than all the rest. I'll tell you what," he'd say, "we boys never stoned another kitten!"

On the present occasion, Mrs. Bird rose quickly, with very red cheeks, which quite improved her general appearance, and walked up to her husband, with quite a resolute air, and said, in a determined tone,

"Now, John, I want to know if you think such a law as that is right and Christian?"

"You won't shoot me, now, Mary, if I say I do!"

"I never could have thought it of you, John; you didn't vote for it?"

"Even so, my fair politician."

"You ought to be ashamed, John! Poor, homeless, houseless creatures! It's a shameful, wicked, abominable law, and I'll break it, for one, the first time I get a chance; and I hope I shall have a chance, I do! Things have got to a pretty pass, if a woman can't give a warm supper and a bed to poor, starving creatures, just because they are slaves, and have been abused and oppressed all their lives, poor things!"

"But, Mary, just listen to me. Your feelings are all quite right, dear, and interesting, and I love you for them; but, then, dear, we mustn't suffer our feelings to run away with our judgment; you must consider it's a matter of private feeling,—there are great public interests involved,—there is such a state of public agitation rising, that we must put aside our private feelings."

"Now, John, I don't know anything about politics, but I can read my Bible; and there I see that I must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the desolate; and that Bible I mean to follow."

"But in cases where your doing so would involve a great public evil—"

"Obeying God never brings on public evils. I know it can't. It's always safest, all round, to do as He bids us.

"Now, listen to me, Mary, and I can state to you a very clear argument, to show—"

"O, nonsense, John! you can talk all night, but you wouldn't do it. I put it to you, John,—would you now turn away a poor, shivering, hungry creature from your door, because he was a runaway? Would you, now?"

Now, if the truth must be told, our senator had the misfortune to be a man who had a particularly humane and accessible nature, and turning away anybody that was in trouble never had been his forte; and what was worse for him in this particular pinch of the argument was, that his wife knew it, and, of course was making an assault on rather an indefensible point. So he had recourse to the usual means of gaining time for such cases made and provided; he said "ahem," and coughed several times, took out his pocket-handkerchief, and began to wipe his glasses. Mrs. Bird, seeing the defenceless condition of the enemy's territory, had no more conscience than to push her advantage.

"I should like to see you doing that, John—I really should! Turning a woman out of doors in a snowstorm, for instance; or may be you'd take her up and put her in jail, wouldn't you? You would make a great hand at that!"

"Of course, it would be a very painful duty," began Mr. Bird, in a moderate tone.

"Duty, John! don't use that word! You know it isn't a duty—it can't be a duty! If folks want to keep their slaves from running away, let 'em treat 'em well,—that's my doctrine. If I had slaves (as I hope I never shall have), I'd risk their wanting to run away from me, or you either, John. I tell you folks don't run away when they are happy; and when they do run, poor creatures! they suffer enough with cold and hunger and fear, without everybody's turning against them; and, law or no law, I never will, so help me God!"

"Mary! Mary! My dear, let me reason with you."

"I hate reasoning, John,—especially reasoning on such subjects. There's a way you political folks have of coming round and round a plain right thing; and you don't believe in it yourselves, when it comes to practice. I know you well enough, John. You don't believe it's right any more than I do; and you wouldn't do it any sooner than I."

At this critical juncture, old Cudjoe, the black man-of-all-work, put his head in at the door, and wished "Missis would come into the kitchen;" and our senator, tolerably relieved, looked after his little wife with a whimsical mixture of amusement and vexation, and, seating himself in the arm-chair, began to read the papers.

After a moment, his wife's voice was heard at the door, in a quick, earnest tone,—"John! John! I do wish you'd come here, a moment."

He laid down his paper, and went into the kitchen, and started, quite amazed at the sight that presented itself:—A young and slender woman, with garments torn and frozen, with one shoe gone, and the stocking torn away from the cut and bleeding foot, was laid back in a deadly swoon upon two chairs. There was the impress of the despised race on her face, yet none could help feeling its mournful and pathetic beauty, while its stony sharpness, its cold, fixed, deathly aspect, struck a solemn chill over him. He drew his breath short, and stood in silence. His wife, and their only colored domestic, old Aunt Dinah, were busily engaged in restorative measures; while old Cudjoe had got the boy on his knee, and was busy pulling off his shoes and stockings, and chafing his little cold feet.

"Sure, now, if she an't a sight to behold!" said old Dinah, compassionately; "'pears like 't was the heat that made her faint. She was tol'able peart when she cum in, and asked if she couldn't warm herself here a spell; and I was just a-askin' her where she cum from, and she fainted right down. Never done much hard work, guess, by the looks of her hands."

"Poor creature!" said Mrs. Bird, compassionately, as the woman slowly unclosed her large, dark eyes, and looked vacantly at her. Suddenly an expression of agony crossed her face, and she sprang up, saying, "O, my Harry! Have they got him?"

The boy, at this, jumped from Cudjoe's knee, and running to her side put up his arms. "O, he's here! he's here!" she exclaimed.

"O, ma'am!" said she, wildly, to Mrs. Bird, "do protect us! don't let them get him!"

"Nobody shall hurt you here, poor woman," said Mrs. Bird, encouragingly. "You are safe; don't be afraid."

"God bless you!" said the woman, covering her face and sobbing; while the little boy, seeing her crying, tried to get into her lap.

With many gentle and womanly offices, which none knew better how to render than Mrs. Bird, the poor woman was, in time, rendered more calm. A temporary bed was provided for her on the settle, near the fire; and, after a short time, she fell into a heavy slumber, with the child, who seemed no less weary, soundly sleeping on her arm; for the mother resisted, with nervous anxiety, the kindest attempts to take him from her; and, even in sleep, her arm encircled him with an unrelaxing clasp, as if she could not even then be beguiled of her vigilant hold.

Mr. and Mrs. Bird had gone back to the parlor, where, strange as it may appear, no reference was made, on either side, to the preceding conversation; but Mrs. Bird busied herself with her knitting-work, and Mr. Bird pretended to be reading the paper.

"I wonder who and what she is!" said Mr. Bird, at last, as he laid it down.

"When she wakes up and feels a little rested, we will see," said Mrs. Bird.

"I say, wife!" said Mr. Bird after musing in silence over his newspaper.

"Well, dear!"

"She couldn't wear one of your gowns, could she, by any letting down, or such matter? She seems to be rather larger than you are."

A quite perceptible smile glimmered on Mrs. Bird's face, as she answered, "We'll see."

Another pause, and Mr. Bird again broke out,

"I say, wife!"

"Well! What now?"

"Why, there's that old bombazin cloak, that you keep on purpose to put over me when I take my afternoon's nap; you might as well give her that,—she needs clothes."

At this instant, Dinah looked in to say that the woman was awake, and wanted to see Missis.

Mr. and Mrs. Bird went into the kitchen, followed by the two eldest boys, the smaller fry having, by this time, been safely disposed of in bed.

The woman was now sitting up on the settle, by the fire. She was looking steadily into the blaze, with a calm, heart-broken expression, very different from her former agitated wildness.

"Did you want me?" said Mrs. Bird, in gentle tones. "I hope you feel better now, poor woman!"

A long-drawn, shivering sigh was the only answer; but she lifted her dark eyes, and fixed them on her with such a forlorn and imploring expression, that the tears came into the little woman's eyes.

"You needn't be afraid of anything; we are friends here, poor woman! Tell me where you came from, and what you want," said she.

"I came from Kentucky," said the woman.

"When?" said Mr. Bird, taking up the interogatory.

"Tonight."

"How did you come?"

"I crossed on the ice."

"Crossed on the ice!" said every one present.

"Yes," said the woman, slowly, "I did. God helping me, I crossed on the ice; for they were behind me—right behind—and there was no other way!"

"Law, Missis," said Cudjoe, "the ice is all in broken-up blocks, a swinging and a tetering up and down in the water!"

"I know it was—I know it!" said she, wildly; "but I did it! I wouldn't have thought I could,—I didn't think I should get over, but I didn't care! I could but die, if I didn't. The Lord helped me; nobody knows how much the Lord can help 'em, till they try," said the woman, with a flashing eye.

"Were you a slave?" said Mr. Bird.

"Yes, sir; I belonged to a man in Kentucky."

"Was he unkind to you?"

"No, sir; he was a good master."

"And was your mistress unkind to you?"

"No, sir—no! my mistress was always good to me."

"What could induce you to leave a good home, then, and run away, and go through such dangers?"

The woman looked up at Mrs. Bird, with a keen, scrutinizing glance, and it did not escape her that she was dressed in deep mourning.

"Ma'am," she said, suddenly, "have you ever lost a child?"

The question was unexpected, and it was thrust on a new wound; for it was only a month since a darling child of the family had been laid in the grave.

Mr. Bird turned around and walked to the window, and Mrs. Bird burst into tears; but, recovering her voice, she said,

"Why do you ask that? I have lost a little one."

"Then you will feel for me. I have lost two, one after another,—left 'em buried there when I came away; and I had only this one left. I never slept a night without him; he was all I had. He was my comfort and pride, day and night; and, ma'am, they were going to take him away from me,—to sell him,—sell him down south, ma'am, to go all alone,—a baby that had never been away from his mother in his life! I couldn't stand it, ma'am. I knew I never should be good for anything, if they did; and when I knew the papers the papers were signed, and he was sold, I took him and came off in the night; and they chased me,—the man that bought him, and some of Mas'r's folks,—and they were coming down right behind me, and I heard 'em. I jumped right on to the ice; and how I got across, I don't know,—but, first I knew, a man was helping me up the bank."

The woman did not sob nor weep. She had gone to a place where tears are dry; but every one around her was, in some way characteristic of themselves, showing signs of hearty sympathy.

The two little boys, after a desperate rummaging in their pockets, in search of those pocket-handkerchiefs which mothers know are never to be found there, had thrown themselves disconsolately into the skirts of their mother's gown, where they were sobbing, and wiping their eyes and noses, to their hearts' content;—Mrs. Bird had her face fairly hidden in her pocket-handkerchief; and old Dinah, with tears streaming down her black, honest face, was ejaculating, "Lord have mercy on us!" with all the fervor of a camp-meeting;—while old Cudjoe, rubbing his eyes very hard with his cuffs, and making a most uncommon variety of wry faces, occasionally responded in the same key, with great fervor. Our senator was a statesman, and of course could not be expected to cry, like other mortals; and so he turned his back to the company, and looked out of the window, and seemed particularly busy in clearing his throat and wiping his spectacle-glasses, occasionally blowing his nose in a manner that was calculated to excite suspicion, had any one been in a state to observe critically.

"How came you to tell me you had a kind master?" he suddenly exclaimed, gulping down very resolutely some kind of rising in his throat, and turning suddenly round upon the woman.

"Because he was a kind master; I'll say that of him, any way;—and my mistress was kind; but they couldn't help themselves. They were owing money; and there was some way, I can't tell how, that a man had a hold on them, and they were obliged to give him his will. I listened, and heard him telling mistress that, and she begging and pleading for me,—and he told her he couldn't help himself, and that the papers were all drawn;—and then it was I took him and left my home, and came away. I knew 't was no use of my trying to live, if they did it; for 't 'pears like this child is all I have."

"Have you no husband?"

"Yes, but he belongs to another man. His master is real hard to him, and won't let him come to see me, hardly ever; and he's grown harder and harder upon us, and he threatens to sell him down south;—it's like I'll never see him again!"

The quiet tone in which the woman pronounced these words might have led a superficial observer to think that she was entirely apathetic; but there was a calm, settled depth of anguish in her large, dark eye, that spoke of something far otherwise.

"And where do you mean to go, my poor woman?" said Mrs. Bird.

"To Canada, if I only knew where that was. Is it very far off, is Canada?" said she, looking up, with a simple, confiding air, to Mrs. Bird's face.

"Poor thing!" said Mrs. Bird, involuntarily.

"Is 't a very great way off, think?" said the woman, earnestly.

"Much further than you think, poor child!" said Mrs. Bird; "but we will try to think what can be done for you. Here, Dinah, make her up a bed in your own room, close by the kitchen, and I'll think what to do for her in the morning. Meanwhile, never fear, poor woman; put your trust in God; he will protect you."

Mrs. Bird and her husband reentered the parlor. She sat down in her little rocking-chair before the fire, swaying thoughtfully to and fro. Mr. Bird strode up and down the room, grumbling to himself, "Pish! pshaw! confounded awkward business!" At length, striding up to his wife, he said,

"I say, wife, she'll have to get away from here, this very night. That fellow will be down on the scent bright and early tomorrow morning: if 't was only the woman, she could lie quiet till it was over; but that little chap can't be kept still by a troop of horse and foot, I'll warrant me; he'll bring it all out, popping his head out of some window or door. A pretty kettle of fish it would be for me, too, to be caught with them both here, just now! No; they'll have to be got off tonight."

"Tonight! How is it possible?—where to?"

"Well, I know pretty well where to," said the senator, beginning to put on his boots, with a reflective air; and, stopping when his leg was half in, he embraced his knee with both hands, and seemed to go off in deep meditation.

"It's a confounded awkward, ugly business," said he, at last, beginning to tug at his boot-straps again, "and that's a fact!" After one boot was fairly on, the senator sat with the other in his hand, profoundly studying the figure of the carpet. "It will have to be done, though, for aught I see,—hang it all!" and he drew the other boot anxiously on, and looked out of the window.

Now, little Mrs. Bird was a discreet woman,—a woman who never in her life said, "I told you so!" and, on the present occasion, though pretty well aware of the shape her husband's meditations were taking, she very prudently forbore to meddle with them, only sat very quietly in her chair, and looked quite ready to hear her liege lord's intentions, when he should think proper to utter them.

"You see," he said, "there's my old client, Van Trompe, has come over from Kentucky, and set all his slaves free; and he has bought a place seven miles up the creek, here, back in the woods, where nobody goes, unless they go on purpose; and it's a place that isn't found in a hurry. There she'd be safe enough; but the plague of the thing is, nobody could drive a carriage there tonight, but me."

"Why not? Cudjoe is an excellent driver."

"Ay, ay, but here it is. The creek has to be crossed twice; and the second crossing is quite dangerous, unless one knows it as I do. I have crossed it a hundred times on horseback, and know exactly the turns to take. And so, you see, there's no help for it. Cudjoe must put in the horses, as quietly as may be, about twelve o'clock, and I'll take her over; and then, to give color to the matter, he must carry me on to the next tavern to take the stage for Columbus, that comes by about three or four, and so it will look as if I had had the carriage only for that. I shall get into business bright and early in the morning. But I'm thinking I shall feel rather cheap there, after all that's been said and done; but, hang it, I can't help it!"

"Your heart is better than your head, in this case, John," said the wife, laying her little white hand on his. "Could I ever have loved you, had I not known you better than you know yourself?" And the little woman looked so handsome, with the tears sparkling in her eyes, that the senator thought he must be a decidedly clever fellow, to get such a pretty creature into such a passionate admiration of him; and so, what could he do but walk off soberly, to see about the carriage. At the door, however, he stopped a moment, and then coming back, he said, with some hesitation.

"Mary, I don't know how you'd feel about it, but there's that drawer full of things—of—of—poor little Henry's." So saying, he turned quickly on his heel, and shut the door after him.

His wife opened the little bed-room door adjoining her room and, taking the candle, set it down on the top of a bureau there; then from a small recess she took a key, and put it thoughtfully in the lock of a drawer, and made a sudden pause, while two boys, who, boy like, had followed close on her heels, stood looking, with silent, significant glances, at their mother. And oh! mother that reads this, has there never been in your house a drawer, or a closet, the opening of which has been to you like the opening again of a little grave? Ah! happy mother that you are, if it has not been so.

Mrs. Bird slowly opened the drawer. There were little coats of many a form and pattern, piles of aprons, and rows of small stockings; and even a pair of little shoes, worn and rubbed at the toes, were peeping from the folds of a paper. There was a toy horse and wagon, a top, a ball,—memorials gathered with many a tear and many a heart-break! She sat down by the drawer, and, leaning her head on her hands over it, wept till the tears fell through her fingers into the drawer; then suddenly raising her head, she began, with nervous haste, selecting the plainest and most substantial articles, and gathering them into a bundle.

"Mamma," said one of the boys, gently touching her arm, "you going to give away those things?"

"My dear boys," she said, softly and earnestly, "if our dear, loving little Henry looks down from heaven, he would be glad to have us do this. I could not find it in my heart to give them away to any common person—to anybody that was happy; but I give them to a mother more heart-broken and sorrowful than I am; and I hope God will send his blessings with them!"

There are in this world blessed souls, whose sorrows all spring up into joys for others; whose earthly hopes, laid in the grave with many tears, are the seed from which spring healing flowers and balm for the desolate and the distressed. Among such was the delicate woman who sits there by the lamp, dropping slow tears, while she prepares the memorials of her own lost one for the outcast wanderer.

After a while, Mrs. Bird opened a wardrobe, and, taking from thence a plain, serviceable dress or two, she sat down busily to her work-table, and, with needle, scissors, and thimble, at hand, quietly commenced the "letting down" process which her husband had recommended, and continued busily at it till the old clock in the corner struck twelve, and she heard the low rattling of wheels at the door.

"Mary," said her husband, coming in, with his overcoat in his hand, "you must wake her up now; we must be off."

Mrs. Bird hastily deposited the various articles she had collected in a small plain trunk, and locking it, desired her husband to see it in the carriage, and then proceeded to call the woman. Soon, arrayed in a cloak, bonnet, and shawl, that had belonged to her benefactress, she appeared at the door with her child in her arms. Mr. Bird hurried her into the carriage, and Mrs. Bird pressed on after her to the carriage steps. Eliza leaned out of the carriage, and put out her hand,—a hand as soft and beautiful as was given in return. She fixed her large, dark eyes, full of earnest meaning, on Mrs. Bird's face, and seemed going to speak. Her lips moved,—she tried once or twice, but there was no sound,—and pointing upward, with a look never to be forgotten, she fell back in the seat, and covered her face. The door was shut, and the carriage drove on.

What a situation, now, for a patriotic senator, that had been all the week before spurring up the legislature of his native state to pass more stringent resolutions against escaping fugitives, their harborers and abettors!

Our good senator in his native state had not been exceeded by any of his brethren at Washington, in the sort of eloquence which has won for them immortal renown! How sublimely he had sat with his hands in his pockets, and scouted all sentimental weakness of those who would put the welfare of a few miserable fugitives before great state interests!

He was as bold as a lion about it, and "mightily convinced" not only himself, but everybody that heard him;—but then his idea of a fugitive was only an idea of the letters that spell the word,—or at the most, the image of a little newspaper picture of a man with a stick and bundle with "Ran away from the subscriber" under it. The magic of the real presence of distress,—the imploring human eye, the frail, trembling human hand, the despairing appeal of helpless agony,—these he had never tried. He had never thought that a fugitive might be a hapless mother, a defenceless child,—like that one which was now wearing his lost boy's little well-known cap; and so, as our poor senator was not stone or steel,—as he was a man, and a downright noble-hearted one, too,—he was, as everybody must see, in a sad case for his patriotism. And you need not exult over him, good brother of the Southern States; for we have some inklings that many of you, under similar circumstances, would not do much better. We have reason to know, in Kentucky, as in Mississippi, are noble and generous hearts, to whom never was tale of suffering told in vain. Ah, good brother! is it fair for you to expect of us services which your own brave, honorable heart would not allow you to render, were you in our place?

Be that as it may, if our good senator was a political sinner, he was in a fair way to expiate it by his night's penance. There had been a long continuous period of rainy weather, and the soft, rich earth of Ohio, as every one knows, is admirably suited to the manufacture of mud—and the road was an Ohio railroad of the good old times.

"And pray, what sort of a road may that be?" says some eastern traveller, who has been accustomed to connect no ideas with a railroad, but those of smoothness or speed.

Know, then, innocent eastern friend, that in benighted regions of the west, where the mud is of unfathomable and sublime depth, roads are made of round rough logs, arranged transversely side by side, and coated over in their pristine freshness with earth, turf, and whatsoever may come to hand, and then the rejoicing native calleth it a road, and straightway essayeth to ride thereupon. In process of time, the rains wash off all the turf and grass aforesaid, move the logs hither and thither, in picturesque positions, up, down and crosswise, with divers chasms and ruts of black mud intervening.

Over such a road as this our senator went stumbling along, making moral reflections as continuously as under the circumstances could be expected,—the carriage proceeding along much as follows,—bump! bump! bump! slush! down in the mud!—the senator, woman and child, reversing their positions so suddenly as to come, without any very accurate adjustment, against the windows of the down-hill side. Carriage sticks fast, while Cudjoe on the outside is heard making a great muster among the horses. After various ineffectual pullings and twitchings, just as the senator is losing all patience, the carriage suddenly rights itself with a bounce,—two front wheels go down into another abyss, and senator, woman, and child, all tumble promiscuously on to the front seat,—senator's hat is jammed over his eyes and nose quite unceremoniously, and he considers himself fairly extinguished;—child cries, and Cudjoe on the outside delivers animated addresses to the horses, who are kicking, and floundering, and straining under repeated cracks of the whip. Carriage springs up, with another bounce,—down go the hind wheels,—senator, woman, and child, fly over on to the back seat, his elbows encountering her bonnet, and both her feet being jammed into his hat, which flies off in the concussion. After a few moments the "slough" is passed, and the horses stop, panting;—the senator finds his hat, the woman straightens her bonnet and hushes her child, and they brace themselves for what is yet to come.

For a while only the continuous bump! bump! intermingled, just by way of variety, with divers side plunges and compound shakes; and they begin to flatter themselves that they are not so badly off, after all. At last, with a square plunge, which puts all on to their feet and then down into their seats with incredible quickness, the carriage stops,—and, after much outside commotion, Cudjoe appears at the door.

"Please, sir, it's powerful bad spot, this' yer. I don't know how we's to get clar out. I'm a thinkin' we'll have to be a gettin' rails."

The senator despairingly steps out, picking gingerly for some firm foothold; down goes one foot an immeasurable depth,—he tries to pull it up, loses his balance, and tumbles over into the mud, and is fished out, in a very despairing condition, by Cudjoe.

But we forbear, out of sympathy to our readers' bones. Western travellers, who have beguiled the midnight hour in the interesting process of pulling down rail fences, to pry their carriages out of mud holes, will have a respectful and mournful sympathy with our unfortunate hero. We beg them to drop a silent tear, and pass on.

It was full late in the night when the carriage emerged, dripping and bespattered, out of the creek, and stood at the door of a large farmhouse.

It took no inconsiderable perseverance to arouse the inmates; but at last the respectable proprietor appeared, and undid the door. He was a great, tall, bristling Orson of a fellow, full six feet and some inches in his stockings, and arrayed in a red flannel hunting-shirt. A very heavy mat of sandy hair, in a decidedly tousled condition, and a beard of some days' growth, gave the worthy man an appearance, to say the least, not particularly prepossessing. He stood for a few minutes holding the candle aloft, and blinking on our travellers with a dismal and mystified expression that was truly ludicrous. It cost some effort of our senator to induce him to comprehend the case fully; and while he is doing his best at that, we shall give him a little introduction to our readers.

Honest old John Van Trompe was once quite a considerable land-owner and slave-owner in the State of Kentucky. Having "nothing of the bear about him but the skin," and being gifted by nature with a great, honest, just heart, quite equal to his gigantic frame, he had been for some years witnessing with repressed uneasiness the workings of a system equally bad for oppressor and oppressed. At last, one day, John's great heart had swelled altogether too big to wear his bonds any longer; so he just took his pocket-book out of his desk, and went over into Ohio, and bought a quarter of a township of good, rich land, made out free papers for all his people,—men, women, and children,—packed them up in wagons, and sent them off to settle down; and then honest John turned his face up the creek, and sat quietly down on a snug, retired farm, to enjoy his conscience and his reflections.

"Are you the man that will shelter a poor woman and child from slave-catchers?" said the senator, explicitly.

"I rather think I am," said honest John, with some considerable emphasis.

"I thought so,"' said the senator.

"If there's anybody comes," said the good man, stretching his tall, muscular form upward, "why here I'm ready for him: and I've got seven sons, each six foot high, and they'll be ready for 'em. Give our respects to 'em," said John; "tell 'em it's no matter how soon they call,—make no kinder difference to us," said John, running his fingers through the shock of hair that thatched his head, and bursting out into a great laugh.

Weary, jaded, and spiritless, Eliza dragged herself up to the door, with her child lying in a heavy sleep on her arm. The rough man held the candle to her face, and uttering a kind of compassionate grunt, opened the door of a small bed-room adjoining to the large kitchen where they were standing, and motioned her to go in. He took down a candle, and lighting it, set it upon the table, and then addressed himself to Eliza.

"Now, I say, gal, you needn't be a bit afeard, let who will come here. I'm up to all that sort o' thing," said he, pointing to two or three goodly rifles over the mantel-piece; "and most people that know me know that 't wouldn't be healthy to try to get anybody out o' my house when I'm agin it. So now you jist go to sleep now, as quiet as if yer mother was a rockin' ye," said he, as he shut the door.

"Why, this is an uncommon handsome un," he said to the senator. "Ah, well; handsome uns has the greatest cause to run, sometimes, if they has any kind o' feelin, such as decent women should. I know all about that."

The senator, in a few words, briefly explained Eliza's history.

"O! ou! aw! now, I want to know?" said the good man, pitifully; "sho! now sho! That's natur now, poor crittur! hunted down now like a deer,—hunted down, jest for havin' natural feelin's, and doin' what no kind o' mother could help a doin'! I tell ye what, these yer things make me come the nighest to swearin', now, o' most anything," said honest John, as he wiped his eyes with the back of a great, freckled, yellow hand. "I tell yer what, stranger, it was years and years before I'd jine the church, 'cause the ministers round in our parts used to preach that the Bible went in for these ere cuttings up,—and I couldn't be up to 'em with their Greek and Hebrew, and so I took up agin 'em, Bible and all. I never jined the church till I found a minister that was up to 'em all in Greek and all that, and he said right the contrary; and then I took right hold, and jined the church,—I did now, fact," said John, who had been all this time uncorking some very frisky bottled cider, which at this juncture he presented.

"Ye'd better jest put up here, now, till daylight," said he, heartily, "and I'll call up the old woman, and have a bed got ready for you in no time."

"Thank you, my good friend," said the senator, "I must be along, to take the night stage for Columbus."

"Ah! well, then, if you must, I'll go a piece with you, and show you a cross road that will take you there better than the road you came on. That road's mighty bad."

John equipped himself, and, with a lantern in hand, was soon seen guiding the senator's carriage towards a road that ran down in a hollow, back of his dwelling. When they parted, the senator put into his hand a ten-dollar bill.

"It's for her," he said, briefly.

"Ay, ay," said John, with equal conciseness.

They shook hands, and parted.





CHAPTER X

The Property Is Carried Off

The February morning looked gray and drizzling through the window of Uncle Tom's cabin. It looked on downcast faces, the images of mournful hearts. The little table stood out before the fire, covered with an ironing-cloth; a coarse but clean shirt or two, fresh from the iron, hung on the back of a chair by the fire, and Aunt Chloe had another spread out before her on the table. Carefully she rubbed and ironed every fold and every hem, with the most scrupulous exactness, every now and then raising her hand to her face to wipe off the tears that were coursing down her cheeks.

Tom sat by, with his Testament open on his knee, and his head leaning upon his hand;—but neither spoke. It was yet early, and the children lay all asleep together in their little rude trundle-bed.

Tom, who had, to the full, the gentle, domestic heart, which woe for them! has been a peculiar characteristic of his unhappy race, got up and walked silently to look at his children.

"It's the last time," he said.

Aunt Chloe did not answer, only rubbed away over and over on the coarse shirt, already as smooth as hands could make it; and finally setting her iron suddenly down with a despairing plunge, she sat down to the table, and "lifted up her voice and wept."

"S'pose we must be resigned; but oh Lord! how ken I? If I know'd anything whar you 's goin', or how they'd sarve you! Missis says she'll try and 'deem ye, in a year or two; but Lor! nobody never comes up that goes down thar! They kills 'em! I've hearn 'em tell how dey works 'em up on dem ar plantations."

"There'll be the same God there, Chloe, that there is here."

"Well," said Aunt Chloe, "s'pose dere will; but de Lord lets drefful things happen, sometimes. I don't seem to get no comfort dat way."

"I'm in the Lord's hands," said Tom; "nothin' can go no furder than he lets it;—and thar's one thing I can thank him for. It's me that's sold and going down, and not you nur the chil'en. Here you're safe;—what comes will come only on me; and the Lord, he'll help me,—I know he will."

Ah, brave, manly heart,—smothering thine own sorrow, to comfort thy beloved ones! Tom spoke with a thick utterance, and with a bitter choking in his throat,—but he spoke brave and strong.

"Let's think on our marcies!" he added, tremulously, as if he was quite sure he needed to think on them very hard indeed.

"Marcies!" said Aunt Chloe; "don't see no marcy in 't! 'tan't right! tan't right it should be so! Mas'r never ought ter left it so that ye could be took for his debts. Ye've arnt him all he gets for ye, twice over. He owed ye yer freedom, and ought ter gin 't to yer years ago. Mebbe he can't help himself now, but I feel it's wrong. Nothing can't beat that ar out o' me. Sich a faithful crittur as ye've been,—and allers sot his business 'fore yer own every way,—and reckoned on him more than yer own wife and chil'en! Them as sells heart's love and heart's blood, to get out thar scrapes, de Lord'll be up to 'em!"

"Chloe! now, if ye love me, ye won't talk so, when perhaps jest the last time we'll ever have together! And I'll tell ye, Chloe, it goes agin me to hear one word agin Mas'r. Wan't he put in my arms a baby?—it's natur I should think a heap of him. And he couldn't be spected to think so much of poor Tom. Mas'rs is used to havin' all these yer things done for 'em, and nat'lly they don't think so much on 't. They can't be spected to, no way. Set him 'longside of other Mas'rs—who's had the treatment and livin' I've had? And he never would have let this yer come on me, if he could have seed it aforehand. I know he wouldn't."

"Wal, any way, thar's wrong about it somewhar," said Aunt Chloe, in whom a stubborn sense of justice was a predominant trait; "I can't jest make out whar 't is, but thar's wrong somewhar, I'm clar o' that."

"Yer ought ter look up to the Lord above—he's above all—thar don't a sparrow fall without him."

"It don't seem to comfort me, but I spect it orter," said Aunt Chloe. "But dar's no use talkin'; I'll jes wet up de corn-cake, and get ye one good breakfast, 'cause nobody knows when you'll get another."

In order to appreciate the sufferings of the negroes sold south, it must be remembered that all the instinctive affections of that race are peculiarly strong. Their local attachments are very abiding. They are not naturally daring and enterprising, but home-loving and affectionate. Add to this all the terrors with which ignorance invests the unknown, and add to this, again, that selling to the south is set before the negro from childhood as the last severity of punishment. The threat that terrifies more than whipping or torture of any kind is the threat of being sent down river. We have ourselves heard this feeling expressed by them, and seen the unaffected horror with which they will sit in their gossipping hours, and tell frightful stories of that "down river," which to them is

     "That undiscovered country, from whose bourn
     No traveller returns."*
     *  A slightly inaccurate quotation from Hamlet, Act III,
     scene I, lines 369-370.

A missionary figure among the fugitives in Canada told us that many of the fugitives confessed themselves to have escaped from comparatively kind masters, and that they were induced to brave the perils of escape, in almost every case, by the desperate horror with which they regarded being sold south,—a doom which was hanging either over themselves or their husbands, their wives or children. This nerves the African, naturally patient, timid and unenterprising, with heroic courage, and leads him to suffer hunger, cold, pain, the perils of the wilderness, and the more dread penalties of recapture.

The simple morning meal now smoked on the table, for Mrs. Shelby had excused Aunt Chloe's attendance at the great house that morning. The poor soul had expended all her little energies on this farewell feast,—had killed and dressed her choicest chicken, and prepared her corn-cake with scrupulous exactness, just to her husband's taste, and brought out certain mysterious jars on the mantel-piece, some preserves that were never produced except on extreme occasions.

"Lor, Pete," said Mose, triumphantly, "han't we got a buster of a breakfast!" at the same time catching at a fragment of the chicken.

Aunt Chloe gave him a sudden box on the ear. "Thar now! crowing over the last breakfast yer poor daddy's gwine to have to home!"

"O, Chloe!" said Tom, gently.

"Wal, I can't help it," said Aunt Chloe, hiding her face in her apron; "I 's so tossed about it, it makes me act ugly."

The boys stood quite still, looking first at their father and then at their mother, while the baby, climbing up her clothes, began an imperious, commanding cry.

"Thar!" said Aunt Chloe, wiping her eyes and taking up the baby; "now I's done, I hope,—now do eat something. This yer's my nicest chicken. Thar, boys, ye shall have some, poor critturs! Yer mammy's been cross to yer."

The boys needed no second invitation, and went in with great zeal for the eatables; and it was well they did so, as otherwise there would have been very little performed to any purpose by the party.

"Now," said Aunt Chloe, bustling about after breakfast, "I must put up yer clothes. Jest like as not, he'll take 'em all away. I know thar ways—mean as dirt, they is! Wal, now, yer flannels for rhumatis is in this corner; so be careful, 'cause there won't nobody make ye no more. Then here's yer old shirts, and these yer is new ones. I toed off these yer stockings last night, and put de ball in 'em to mend with. But Lor! who'll ever mend for ye?" and Aunt Chloe, again overcome, laid her head on the box side, and sobbed. "To think on 't! no crittur to do for ye, sick or well! I don't railly think I ought ter be good now!"

The boys, having eaten everything there was on the breakfast-table, began now to take some thought of the case; and, seeing their mother crying, and their father looking very sad, began to whimper and put their hands to their eyes. Uncle Tom had the baby on his knee, and was letting her enjoy herself to the utmost extent, scratching his face and pulling his hair, and occasionally breaking out into clamorous explosions of delight, evidently arising out of her own internal reflections.

"Ay, crow away, poor crittur!" said Aunt Chloe; "ye'll have to come to it, too! ye'll live to see yer husband sold, or mebbe be sold yerself; and these yer boys, they's to be sold, I s'pose, too, jest like as not, when dey gets good for somethin'; an't no use in niggers havin' nothin'!"

Here one of the boys called out, "Thar's Missis a-comin' in!"

"She can't do no good; what's she coming for?" said Aunt Chloe.

Mrs. Shelby entered. Aunt Chloe set a chair for her in a manner decidedly gruff and crusty. She did not seem to notice either the action or the manner. She looked pale and anxious.

"Tom," she said, "I come to—" and stopping suddenly, and regarding the silent group, she sat down in the chair, and, covering her face with her handkerchief, began to sob.

"Lor, now, Missis, don't—don't!" said Aunt Chloe, bursting out in her turn; and for a few moments they all wept in company. And in those tears they all shed together, the high and the lowly, melted away all the heart-burnings and anger of the oppressed. O, ye who visit the distressed, do ye know that everything your money can buy, given with a cold, averted face, is not worth one honest tear shed in real sympathy?

"My good fellow," said Mrs. Shelby, "I can't give you anything to do you any good. If I give you money, it will only be taken from you. But I tell you solemnly, and before God, that I will keep trace of you, and bring you back as soon as I can command the money;—and, till then, trust in God!"

Here the boys called out that Mas'r Haley was coming, and then an unceremonious kick pushed open the door. Haley stood there in very ill humor, having ridden hard the night before, and being not at all pacified by his ill success in recapturing his prey.

"Come," said he, "ye nigger, ye'r ready? Servant, ma'am!" said he, taking off his hat, as he saw Mrs. Shelby.

Aunt Chloe shut and corded the box, and, getting up, looked gruffly on the trader, her tears seeming suddenly turned to sparks of fire.

Tom rose up meekly, to follow his new master, and raised up his heavy box on his shoulder. His wife took the baby in her arms to go with him to the wagon, and the children, still crying, trailed on behind.

Mrs. Shelby, walking up to the trader, detained him for a few moments, talking with him in an earnest manner; and while she was thus talking, the whole family party proceeded to a wagon, that stood ready harnessed at the door. A crowd of all the old and young hands on the place stood gathered around it, to bid farewell to their old associate. Tom had been looked up to, both as a head servant and a Christian teacher, by all the place, and there was much honest sympathy and grief about him, particularly among the women.

"Why, Chloe, you bar it better 'n we do!" said one of the women, who had been weeping freely, noticing the gloomy calmness with which Aunt Chloe stood by the wagon.

"I's done my tears!" she said, looking grimly at the trader, who was coming up. "I does not feel to cry 'fore dat ar old limb, no how!"

"Get in!" said Haley to Tom, as he strode through the crowd of servants, who looked at him with lowering brows.

Tom got in, and Haley, drawing out from under the wagon seat a heavy pair of shackles, made them fast around each ankle.

A smothered groan of indignation ran through the whole circle, and Mrs. Shelby spoke from the verandah,—"Mr. Haley, I assure you that precaution is entirely unnecessary."

"Don' know, ma'am; I've lost one five hundred dollars from this yer place, and I can't afford to run no more risks."

"What else could she spect on him?" said Aunt Chloe, indignantly, while the two boys, who now seemed to comprehend at once their father's destiny, clung to her gown, sobbing and groaning vehemently.

"I'm sorry," said Tom, "that Mas'r George happened to be away."

George had gone to spend two or three days with a companion on a neighboring estate, and having departed early in the morning, before Tom's misfortune had been made public, had left without hearing of it.

"Give my love to Mas'r George," he said, earnestly.

Haley whipped up the horse, and, with a steady, mournful look, fixed to the last on the old place, Tom was whirled away.

Mr. Shelby at this time was not at home. He had sold Tom under the spur of a driving necessity, to get out of the power of a man whom he dreaded,—and his first feeling, after the consummation of the bargain, had been that of relief. But his wife's expostulations awoke his half-slumbering regrets; and Tom's manly disinterestedness increased the unpleasantness of his feelings. It was in vain that he said to himself that he had a right to do it,—that everybody did it,—and that some did it without even the excuse of necessity;—he could not satisfy his own feelings; and that he might not witness the unpleasant scenes of the consummation, he had gone on a short business tour up the country, hoping that all would be over before he returned.

Tom and Haley rattled on along the dusty road, whirling past every old familiar spot, until the bounds of the estate were fairly passed, and they found themselves out on the open pike. After they had ridden about a mile, Haley suddenly drew up at the door of a blacksmith's shop, when, taking out with him a pair of handcuffs, he stepped into the shop, to have a little alteration in them.

"These yer 's a little too small for his build," said Haley, showing the fetters, and pointing out to Tom.

"Lor! now, if thar an't Shelby's Tom. He han't sold him, now?" said the smith.

"Yes, he has," said Haley.

"Now, ye don't! well, reely," said the smith, "who'd a thought it! Why, ye needn't go to fetterin' him up this yer way. He's the faithfullest, best crittur—"

"Yes, yes," said Haley; "but your good fellers are just the critturs to want ter run off. Them stupid ones, as doesn't care whar they go, and shifless, drunken ones, as don't care for nothin', they'll stick by, and like as not be rather pleased to be toted round; but these yer prime fellers, they hates it like sin. No way but to fetter 'em; got legs,—they'll use 'em,—no mistake."

"Well," said the smith, feeling among his tools, "them plantations down thar, stranger, an't jest the place a Kentuck nigger wants to go to; they dies thar tol'able fast, don't they?"

"Wal, yes, tol'able fast, ther dying is; what with the 'climating and one thing and another, they dies so as to keep the market up pretty brisk," said Haley.

"Wal, now, a feller can't help thinkin' it's a mighty pity to have a nice, quiet, likely feller, as good un as Tom is, go down to be fairly ground up on one of them ar sugar plantations."

"Wal, he's got a fa'r chance. I promised to do well by him. I'll get him in house-servant in some good old family, and then, if he stands the fever and 'climating, he'll have a berth good as any nigger ought ter ask for."

"He leaves his wife and chil'en up here, s'pose?"

"Yes; but he'll get another thar. Lord, thar's women enough everywhar," said Haley.

Tom was sitting very mournfully on the outside of the shop while this conversation was going on. Suddenly he heard the quick, short click of a horse's hoof behind him; and, before he could fairly awake from his surprise, young Master George sprang into the wagon, threw his arms tumultuously round his neck, and was sobbing and scolding with energy.

"I declare, it's real mean! I don't care what they say, any of 'em! It's a nasty, mean shame! If I was a man, they shouldn't do it,—they should not, so!" said George, with a kind of subdued howl.

"O! Mas'r George! this does me good!" said Tom. "I couldn't bar to go off without seein' ye! It does me real good, ye can't tell!" Here Tom made some movement of his feet, and George's eye fell on the fetters.

"What a shame!" he exclaimed, lifting his hands. "I'll knock that old fellow down—I will!"

"No you won't, Mas'r George; and you must not talk so loud. It won't help me any, to anger him."

"Well, I won't, then, for your sake; but only to think of it—isn't it a shame? They never sent for me, nor sent me any word, and, if it hadn't been for Tom Lincon, I shouldn't have heard it. I tell you, I blew 'em up well, all of 'em, at home!"

"That ar wasn't right, I'm 'feard, Mas'r George."

"Can't help it! I say it's a shame! Look here, Uncle Tom," said he, turning his back to the shop, and speaking in a mysterious tone, "I've brought you my dollar!"

"O! I couldn't think o' takin' on 't, Mas'r George, no ways in the world!" said Tom, quite moved.

"But you shall take it!" said George; "look here—I told Aunt Chloe I'd do it, and she advised me just to make a hole in it, and put a string through, so you could hang it round your neck, and keep it out of sight; else this mean scamp would take it away. I tell ye, Tom, I want to blow him up! it would do me good!"

"No, don't Mas'r George, for it won't do me any good."

"Well, I won't, for your sake," said George, busily tying his dollar round Tom's neck; "but there, now, button your coat tight over it, and keep it, and remember, every time you see it, that I'll come down after you, and bring you back. Aunt Chloe and I have been talking about it. I told her not to fear; I'll see to it, and I'll tease father's life out, if he don't do it."

"O! Mas'r George, ye mustn't talk so 'bout yer father!"

"Lor, Uncle Tom, I don't mean anything bad."

"And now, Mas'r George," said Tom, "ye must be a good boy; 'member how many hearts is sot on ye. Al'ays keep close to yer mother. Don't be gettin' into any of them foolish ways boys has of gettin' too big to mind their mothers. Tell ye what, Mas'r George, the Lord gives good many things twice over; but he don't give ye a mother but once. Ye'll never see sich another woman, Mas'r George, if ye live to be a hundred years old. So, now, you hold on to her, and grow up, and be a comfort to her, thar's my own good boy,—you will now, won't ye?"

"Yes, I will, Uncle Tom," said George seriously.

"And be careful of yer speaking, Mas'r George. Young boys, when they comes to your age, is wilful, sometimes—it is natur they should be. But real gentlemen, such as I hopes you'll be, never lets fall on words that isn't 'spectful to thar parents. Ye an't 'fended, Mas'r George?"

"No, indeed, Uncle Tom; you always did give me good advice."

"I's older, ye know," said Tom, stroking the boy's fine, curly head with his large, strong hand, but speaking in a voice as tender as a woman's, "and I sees all that's bound up in you. O, Mas'r George, you has everything,—l'arnin', privileges, readin', writin',—and you'll grow up to be a great, learned, good man and all the people on the place and your mother and father'll be so proud on ye! Be a good Mas'r, like yer father; and be a Christian, like yer mother. 'Member yer Creator in the days o' yer youth, Mas'r George."

"I'll be real good, Uncle Tom, I tell you," said George. "I'm going to be a first-rater; and don't you be discouraged. I'll have you back to the place, yet. As I told Aunt Chloe this morning, I'll build our house all over, and you shall have a room for a parlor with a carpet on it, when I'm a man. O, you'll have good times yet!"

Haley now came to the door, with the handcuffs in his hands.

"Look here, now, Mister," said George, with an air of great superiority, as he got out, "I shall let father and mother know how you treat Uncle Tom!"

"You're welcome," said the trader.

"I should think you'd be ashamed to spend all your life buying men and women, and chaining them, like cattle! I should think you'd feel mean!" said George.

"So long as your grand folks wants to buy men and women, I'm as good as they is," said Haley; "'tan't any meaner sellin' on 'em, that 't is buyin'!"

"I'll never do either, when I'm a man," said George; "I'm ashamed, this day, that I'm a Kentuckian. I always was proud of it before;" and George sat very straight on his horse, and looked round with an air, as if he expected the state would be impressed with his opinion.

"Well, good-by, Uncle Tom; keep a stiff upper lip," said George.

"Good-by, Mas'r George," said Tom, looking fondly and admiringly at him. "God Almighty bless you! Ah! Kentucky han't got many like you!" he said, in the fulness of his heart, as the frank, boyish face was lost to his view. Away he went, and Tom looked, till the clatter of his horse's heels died away, the last sound or sight of his home. But over his heart there seemed to be a warm spot, where those young hands had placed that precious dollar. Tom put up his hand, and held it close to his heart.

"Now, I tell ye what, Tom," said Haley, as he came up to the wagon, and threw in the handcuffs, "I mean to start fa'r with ye, as I gen'ally do with my niggers; and I'll tell ye now, to begin with, you treat me fa'r, and I'll treat you fa'r; I an't never hard on my niggers. Calculates to do the best for 'em I can. Now, ye see, you'd better jest settle down comfortable, and not be tryin' no tricks; because nigger's tricks of all sorts I'm up to, and it's no use. If niggers is quiet, and don't try to get off, they has good times with me; and if they don't, why, it's thar fault, and not mine."

Tom assured Haley that he had no present intentions of running off. In fact, the exhortation seemed rather a superfluous one to a man with a great pair of iron fetters on his feet. But Mr. Haley had got in the habit of commencing his relations with his stock with little exhortations of this nature, calculated, as he deemed, to inspire cheerfulness and confidence, and prevent the necessity of any unpleasant scenes.

And here, for the present, we take our leave of Tom, to pursue the fortunes of other characters in our story.

 

 


第一部

第一章 

给读者介绍一位好心人


  二月的某一天,天气依然比较寒冷。黄昏时分,在P城一间布置典雅兼作餐厅的接待室里,两位绅士相对而坐,喝着酒。他们没有要仆人在旁边侍候。他们紧挨着坐着,好像在商量什么很重要的事情。
  为了便于读者阅读,我们暂且称他们“绅士”。其实,如果我们挑剔地观察一下就可看出,其中一位看来不配称为“绅士”。他身材矮小,长相并无独特之处,但神态却是洋洋自得,一看便知他是那种混迹于社会、想方设法向高处爬的势利小人。他的衣服穿着有失风度,一件俗气的杂色背心,一条醒目的黄点蓝底围巾,脖子上是一条色彩艳丽的领带。他的这身打扮与他的派头看来还比较相配。他粗大的手指上套着几枚戒指,一串形状奇特、色彩艳丽的图章缀在那沉沉的表链上。当谈话进行得顺利时,他喜欢把表链弄得叮叮当当地响,俨然一副踌躇满志的神态。他的话语丝毫不符合默里氏语法规则,从他的嘴里经常冒出一些下流、猥陋的单词。尽管作者努力让自己的叙述更加形象,但还是难以正确地转述他的意思。
  相反,与他谈话的希尔比先生倒不失绅士风度。室内的摆设和情调都向我们证明这个家庭的生活殷实而且非常安逸。而现在这两个人正在认真地商讨着某件事情。
  “我想这件事就这么办吧。”希尔比先生说。
  “希尔比先生,这样成交,我实在难以答应。”对方一面回答,一面举起酒杯,对着客厅的灯看着。
  “嘿,赫利,汤姆不是普通的奴隶,不管把他摆在哪儿,他都值这么高的价。他做事稳重,为人诚实,又能干,他把我的农场管理得井井有条。”
  “汤姆的诚实是黑人式的诚实吧?”赫利一面给自己斟了一杯白兰地,一面问道。
  “我所指的诚实是真正的诚实。汤姆为人善良,做事稳重,头脑也很灵活,而且他还笃信上帝。四年前的一次野营布道会上,他宣誓入教。我相信他对上帝是虔诚的。从他入教以后,我把自己的一切,包括钱、房子、马匹都交给他来管理。我觉得他做任何事情都很在行。”
  “但人们不相信黑奴会对上帝真正地虔诚,希尔比先生!”赫利肆无忌惮地挥着手说,“不过我相信。今年,在我最后送往奥尔良的那批黑奴中就有一位虔诚的黑奴。你还别说,听这黑鬼祷告,还真像他真的在布道会上呢。他性情温和,话不多,但因为卖主急于卖掉他,所以我捡了个便宜货,从他身上我净赚六百美元,那可是一大笔钱啊。是啊,那些笃信上帝的黑奴能使我们多赚一些钱。当然,冒牌的信教者是不会给我们带来很多利润的。”
  “汤姆是真正的基督徒,他和别的教徒对上帝同样虔诚。”希尔比先生说,“我去年秋天派他独自一人去辛辛那提办事,为了取回价值五百美元的一笔巨款。我对他说,‘汤姆,因为我知道你笃信上帝,所以我认为你不会乘机逃跑的,我信任你。’汤姆果真没有失信,我知道他会准时返回的。后来我听说曾有些卑污小人对他说,‘汤姆,你为什么不乘机逃到加拿大呢?’‘我不能失信于我的主人。’这件事情是我事后听别人说的。我必须使你明白,我真得舍不得汤姆。你应该让他抵掉我的所有债务,如果你还有一点善良之心的话。”
  “我拥有买卖人所具有的起码的良心。这够我发誓的了,”奴隶贩子开着玩笑说,“不过,我会为朋友做力所能及的一切。但你要知道,现在的生意不好做啊!”奴隶贩子故作无奈地叹了口气,又向杯中倒了一些酒。
  “赫利,到底怎样你才能答应成交呢?”经过一段令人难以忍受的沉默后,希尔比先生问道。
  “难道你不能再添上一个男孩或女孩吗?”
  “嗯!我真的拿不出什么来了。如果不是情势所逼的话,我不会舍得卖掉任何一个奴隶的。”
  正在这时,门打开了,一个大约四五岁,俊俏、招人喜欢的男孩走了进来;一对浅浅的酒窝嵌在他圆润的面庞上,一头丝线样的黑发卷卷地爬在他的头上;浓长的眼睫毛下,一双炯炯的大眼睛好奇地朝屋内打量着;他穿着一件鲜艳的红黄格罩衫,更加衬托出他那黝黑、清纯的美,一分惹人的自信,几分腼腆的神态,无不向人表明主人对他的恩宠以及他对主人恩宠的熟稔。
  “嗨,吉姆·克罗,”希尔比先生吹着口哨扔给孩子一把葡萄干,“捡起它们来吧!”
  孩子跑来跑去拾取主人的赏赐,他的样子惹得主人大笑起来。
  “过来,吉姆。”希尔比先生喊道。吉姆走了过去,希尔比先生轻轻拍打着他满头的卷发,并轻抚着他的下巴。
  “吉姆,让这位先生欣赏一下你的技艺,来吧,唱支歌,跳个舞。”于是,孩子便唱了一首在黑人中颇为流行的歌曲,曲风很热烈、欢快。他的嗓音清脆、圆润,他的手脚和身体都在扭动着,动作和歌曲的节拍完美地结合在一起,不时做出一些滑稽的姿势。
  “太好了!”赫利扔给孩子几瓣桔子。
  “吉姆,你学一学库乔大叔患风湿病时走路的姿势。”希尔比先生吩咐小孩子道。
  刚才还很灵活的孩子的四肢马上显出了病残的样子。他弯着腰,拿着主人的拐杖,以不灵便的步伐在房间里艰难地挪动着。他拉长自己的脸,学着老者的样子,使那张本来稚气的小脸布满皱纹和愁容,并且不时胡乱吐着痰。
  两位绅士禁不住被逗得大声笑了起来。
  “吉姆,再让我们看一看老罗宾斯长老唱赞美诗的样子吧。”希尔比先生喊道。于是孩子把小脸拉得更长了,以便显出令人敬畏的样子,然后以平静、低稳的鼻音唱起赞美诗来。
  “我看就这样吧,”赫利突然拍打着希尔比的肩膀说,“再加上这个小精灵鬼儿,你的债就算还清了。我说话算数。这样难道不公平吗?”
  正在此时,门被轻轻地推开了,一位大约二十五岁的第二代混血女子走了进来。
  这个女子一看就是那孩子的母亲。她的黑眼睛同样地柔和,长长的睫毛,纤细的卷发似波浪般起伏。当她发现一个陌生人如此大胆且毫不掩饰地以一种赞赏的目光盯着她看时,她那棕黄色的面庞上泛起了一朵红晕。她整洁、合体的衣着更加衬托出身段的苗条,她那纤纤细手以及漂亮圆润的脚髁使她的外表更加端庄。奴隶贩子以敏锐的眼睛贪婪地观察着,女黑奴那娇美的身体的主要部分被看得一清二楚,没能逃过奴隶贩子的眼睛。
  “艾莉查,有事吗?”看着她欲言又止的样子,希尔比先生问道。
  “对不起,先生,我在找哈里。”孩子看到母亲,便活蹦乱跳地跑到母亲面前,并拿出衣兜中的战利品向母亲炫耀着。
  “那你就带他走吧。”希尔比先生说。女奴抱起孩子,匆匆忙忙走了出去。
  “老天!真是好货色,”奴隶贩子向希尔比称赞道,“随便你什么时间将这个女人送到奥尔良,都会赚一大笔钱。我见过有个人花一千多块买了一个女奴,但那女奴的姿色可是不能和这个女人相媲美的。”
  “我可不想靠她来发财。”希尔比冷冷地回答道。他又打开一瓶酒,岔开了话题,并问对方对酒的评价。
  “味道很好,希尔比先生,酒是上等的酒!”奴隶贩子称赞道,然后转过身来像熟人似地拍着希尔比的肩又说,“哎,把那女奴隶卖给我行吗?我出什么价你能接受?你要价多少?”
  “赫利先生,我不会卖掉她的,”希尔比先生说,“即使你付与她同样重的金子,我妻子也不会答应让她走的。”
  “哎,女人总是这样小家子气,因为她们算不清帐。如果你告诉她们,那么重的金子能买多少块钟表,多少个小饰物,她们就会改变主意,不再那样说了。”
  “赫利,我说不行,就是不行。你不要再提这件事了。”希尔比先生语气坚定地说。
  “好吧,但你要把那个男孩给我,你知道,即使添上那小孩,我也是作了很大的让步。”
  “你要那小孩干什么?”希尔比先生问道。
  “噢,今年我的一位朋友在做这方面的生意,他想买一批长相俊美,货色好的小男孩,养大后再送到市场上卖,给那些肯出大价钱的老爷们做侍者什么的。这些人家,用漂亮男孩开门、跑腿,可以增添极大的荣耀。所以漂亮男孩可以卖个好价钱。你家这个小精灵鬼儿懂音乐,又会玩,正是这方面的难得之材啊!”
  “我宁愿不卖他,我心肠软,我不想拆散他们母子二人。”希尔比先生考虑了一下说。
  “是这样吗?你的心肠确实比较软,我理解你的心情。跟女人们打交道有时确实有许多麻烦事。我也很讨厌哭泣时的悲伤场面。但先生请放心,我做生意时总是会进免这种悲伤场面出现的。我看就这样办吧!把这个女人支走一天,或者一周,其他的事情在人不知鬼不觉的情况下进行,她回来之前,我们把事情都办完。你觉得如何?至于那个女人,让你太太买只耳环,或一件新衣服,或其他一些小玩艺儿来作为补偿,不就行了吗?”
  “恐怕不会成功。”
  “上帝保佑你,我们会成功的。黑奴不像白人,只要你处理得当,事情过去后他们就会死心的。”说到这儿,赫利又假装推诚相见地说,“常言道,做奴隶买卖要心黑。但我觉得事情未必一定是这样的。我做这门生意的方法不同于其他人。我曾目睹一位同行从一个女奴的怀中抢走她的孩子并强行卖给别人,那女人从此一直疯疯癫癫,又哭又闹,这种做生意的方法是下下之选,把货物也给毁了,搞到最后有些女奴根本卖不出去了。有一次在奥尔良,我就亲眼目睹这种下下之选的方法毁掉了一位特别漂亮的少妇。买主只要她而不想要她的孩子,结果这把她给惹火了。告诉你呀,她死死抱住孩子,吵吵闹闹不肯罢休,那样子让人非常害怕。现在回想起这件事,我还心有余悸呢。她的孩子被抢走了,她自己也被锁起来,最后她被逼疯了,整天胡言乱语并在一个星期后死去了。那一千元等于打了水漂。希尔比先生,造成这种悲惨结果的原因不就是因为方法不得当嘛。根据我的经验,采用仁慈点的方法比较容易奏效。”说完这些,他便双手交叉于胸前靠在了椅背上,一副慈善的面孔,俨然自己就是第二个威尔伯福斯。
  这位绅士对道德问题似乎更感兴趣,因为当希尔比借剥桔子的时机考虑问题时,他故作迟疑,然后又旧话重提,好像有一股真理的力量驱使他不得不多说几句话似的。
  “吹嘘自己可不是一件光彩的事,但我所说的都是事实,经由我卖到市场上的一批又一批的黑奴,我认为都是上等货色,至少我听到别人是这样评价的。而且不止一次,成百上千次都是如此评价,一流的好货色——健壮、体面,但我为此付出的钱却是同行中最少的。之所以如此,我把这归功于经营有方。也可以说,先生,我经营这门生意的核心是富有人情味。”
  希尔比先生不知该说些什么,只好应道,“啊,是这样的!”
  “但我的经营之道一直为人所讥笑,还倍受责备。没有人附和我的主张,但我不会因此而改变我的经营之道的。先生,正是因为我的坚持,现在我终于凭借它而发了大财。是的,先生,黑暗终于过去了,光明已经到来。”奴隶贩子说到此时,不禁为自己的妙语大笑起来。
  这些关于人道和慈善的高论真有其独到之处,以至于希尔比先生也禁不住陪着奴隶贩子笑了起来。各位读者,读到此处,你或许也在发笑吧。当今世界,关于人道和慈善的高论层出不穷,慈善家们的奇谈怪论则更是数不胜数了。
  在希尔比先生的笑声的鼓励下,奴隶贩子又接着说了下去:
  “你说奇怪不奇怪,我很难让人接受我的观点。以前我有个合伙人叫汤姆·洛科,纳奇兹人,头脑灵活,很善于和黑人打交道,这一点符合做生意的原则,因为好心肠就不好赚钱。他做事情一贯如此。我常劝他说,‘哎,汤姆老兄,对那些因害怕而哭闹的女奴拳脚相向有什么作用呢?这样做只能证明你是个愚蠢的人。’我说,‘如果不让她们通过哭闹来作为发泄的方式,那她们会寻找其他方式的。而且,汤姆老兄,’我说,‘不让她们通过这种方式发泄,她们就会面容憔悴不堪,嘴巴会变得干裂,甚至会变得丑陋无比,那些黄皮肤的女人更是如此。这时再想让她们恢复过来可就不那么容易了,为什么不用好话来对付她们呢?’我说,‘听我的,对她们略施小惠取得的效果要比拳脚相向强多了,而且这样做可以多赚些钱,如果你照我所说的去做,你肯定会成功。’但汤姆还是榆木疙瘩一块。就这样,许多女人毁在了他的手中,虽然他心肠好,做事公道,但我只能和他分开来做生意了。”
  “你认为,你比汤姆更善于经营这门生意吗?”
  “嗯,你可以这样认为。做生意时,我都会尽量避免不愉快的场面发生的。比如我做小孩生意时,会把女人支走。女人看不到这种场面,就不会发生不愉快的事情。等到生米做成熟饭,她们也只好认命了。白人自儿时起受到的教育就是全家聚在一起,共享天伦之乐,但黑人却不比我们白人;你该知道受过一定教育的黑人不会存在这种共享天伦之乐的奢求,而这会让事情好办一些。”
  “但我家的黑奴可没有接受过这种教育。”希尔比先生说。
  “可不能这样说。你们肯塔基人太宠爱那些黑鬼了。你们这一片好心可不能算作是真正的慈善。在这个世界上,黑奴生下来就注定要四处漂泊,今天卖给汤姆老兄,明天会被卖给狄克老兄,后天不知道会被卖给哪位老兄呢,那时只有听天由命了。让他心中有思想和期望,或者很好地对待他,都不会对他有什么帮助,因为以后迎接他的将是更多的痛苦和磨难,你明白吗?我敢肯定,你家的黑奴即使到了那些令种植园的黑鬼发疯地唱歌和欢呼的地方,他们也不会感到高兴的,希尔比先生,你知道人们都喜欢自我夸耀。我已经够善待那些黑奴了,我已尽可能对他们好了。”
  “人们做任何事都能做到心安理得,也算有福了。”希尔比先生不以为然地耸耸肩说。
  双方沉默了片刻,心中在想着各自的心事,赫利接着问道,“你看这事怎么办呢?”
  “我还要好好考虑一下这件事,并要和太太商量一下,”希尔比先生说,“同时,赫利,如果你真想让事情如你想象中的那样悄悄进行的话,最好别向我的邻居透露一点风声,不然的话,这件事情会很快传到我的仆人耳中。我把丑话说在前面,如果仆人们知道了这件事,你就不会顺利地把人从我家带走了。”
  “好,一言为定,我不会走漏风声的。不过,我要提醒你尽早给我一个准信,因为我最近比较忙。”说完,赫利便起身穿上了大衣。
  “好吧,今晚六七点钟我给你回音。”听希尔比先生这样说,奴隶贩子向希尔比先生欠欠身告辞走了。
  “看看他那得意忘形的嘴脸,我真恨不得一脚把他踢到台阶下去。”看着门将要关上了,希尔比先生低声对自己说,“但他懂得落井下石的诀窍。如果以前有人劝我把汤姆卖给一个奴隶贩子,我肯定会告诉他们,‘难道仆人就可以像狗一样卖来卖去吗?’但我现在却对此无能为力,对艾莉查的孩子也是同样。我太太一定会唠叨个没完,她会反对我把汤姆卖掉的。但沉重的债务使我落到了这种境地,哎!这个混蛋家伙已是胜券在握,他正在不断向我逼近呢。”
  肯塔基州可能是最温和的带有奴隶制色彩的州了。在这里,农业劳动比较轻松,全然不似南方一些地区农忙时那样紧张得令人喘不过气来,所以黑人的劳动强度还是可以让人承受的。人的本性是脆弱的,因此当看到可以谋得暴利,同时只有依靠牺牲那些无依无靠的人的利益而别无选择时,人就会因脆弱的本性而生出一副狠毒的心肠。但肯塔基州的庄园主比较习惯渐进的经营方式,所以能抵抗这种人性的脆弱。
  只要到肯塔基州的一些庄园去走一走,看一看,你就会亲自体验到男女主人秉性的善良以及仆人们对主人的爱戴与拥护,俨然一幅传说中常出现的诗意盎然的家族社会的图画。但一层不祥的阴云——法律却笼罩在这古老的社会图景之上。只要法律仍把那些富有感情的人看作是主人的附属物,只要他们的主人生意上遇到挫折,生活中遭到不幸或不慎命丧黄泉路,他们便会随时因为生活失去保障而惨遭无穷的磨难,即使在奴隶制最完善的地方,过上美满的生活对于黑人也是极不容易的。
  希尔比先生是一个普通人,他本性善良,对人宽厚和蔼。在他的庄园中,黑奴们过着舒适的生活,所需的物品从来没有短缺过。但他却把自己的财物随意用于投机买卖,并沉溺于其中难以自拔。此时,他的期票证券和借据大都落入赫利手中。希尔比先生和赫利进行的谈话也正是基于这种情况。
  正巧,路过客厅门口的艾莉查无意中听到了两人间的谈话,她知道主人正和一名奴隶贩子讨论买卖奴隶的事。
  她真想在路过客厅时多听一会儿两人间的谈话。但女主人的召唤使得她不得不匆匆离开了。
  那奴隶贩子要出钱买自己的孩子,是不是自己听错了呢?她越想越感到紧张,下意识地紧搂住自己的孩子,心怦怦地跳着。孩子诧异地抬头看着母亲的脸,想从中窥出一些秘密。
  “亲爱的艾莉查,你觉得今天不太顺心吗?”看着女仆人那惊慌失措的样子,女主人便关切地问道。艾莉查紧张得不是弄翻水壶,就是碰倒小桌子,女主人要她从衣柜中拿出一件绸衫,但她却错拿了一件长睡衣。
  “啊,太太!”艾莉查吃惊地抬起头来,泪水“哗”地流了出来,一下子坐在椅子上哭泣起来。
  “艾莉查,我的好孩子,到底发生了什么事?”女主人问道。
  “太太,有一位奴隶贩子坐在客厅和老爷谈话,我听到他讲话了。”艾莉查说。
  “哎,真是个傻孩子,那又怎么样呢?”
  “啊,太太,你认为主人会把我的孩子哈里卖掉吗?”说着,这个可怜的女人便倒在椅子里哭泣起来,身体随之不停地起伏着。
  “卖掉哈里!傻孩子,你知道这件事是不会发生的。你的主人生来就不和南方的奴隶贩子来往,只要大家都听话,他是不会想到要卖掉你们中间的任何一个人的。啊,我的傻孩子,你认为世界上真会有人像你那样喜欢哈里而想买走他吗?好啦,不要担心,来,帮我扣紧衣服并把我后面的头发梳下去,就要你那天刚学会的好看的发式吧。以后不要再到门口听别人谈话了。”
  “那太太是绝不会同意卖掉……”
  “我当然不会同意卖的,孩子,你怎么会这样说呢?如果真是那样,我宁可也卖掉我的孩子。不过话说回来,你也太溺爱那个机灵鬼了,艾莉查。只要有人把头伸进我家,你就会怀疑他是来买你们家哈里的,那谁还敢来我家呢?”
  这番知心话使得艾莉查悬着的心终于放了下来,她一面笑自己的多心,一面轻巧地为女主人打扮着。
  希尔比太太不论智慧还是品德,都堪称是一位上等人。她不仅具有肯塔基州妇女那宽宏大度的天性、高尚的道德以及宗教式的操守,而且她还将这些特点融入到实际工作中。她的丈夫虽然不信某种宗教,但对于她对宗教的虔诚非常敬重。同时,对她的观点和想法有时还有几分敬畏。希尔比先生总是听任自己的太太由着自己的心愿去做善事,比如,尽力使仆人们生活得舒适一些,使他们受教育,尽力促使他们完善自己的品性。虽然他不参与他的太太所做的此类善举,但他从来没有阻拦过她。他并不完全相信圣贤多余功德有效论,但在他心中多多少少有着这样的想法:因为妻子的虔诚和仁爱,他们夫妇二人可以沉溺于某种难以名状的期望,而妻子德行的高尚可以保证日后两人共赴天堂之路,虽然妻子的德行是丈夫难于达到的。
  与奴隶贩子商谈之后,明知太太会反对他这样做而且会不时用这件事纠缠他,希尔比先生还是不断考虑着把自己的安排让太太知道,因为这份负担太过于沉重了。
  当艾莉查向她说出自己担心的即将发生的事情时,相信丈夫宽厚慈爱的希尔比太太对此并不放在心上,她对丈夫在经济上的窘境一无所知,而且事后她也没有仔细想这件事情。同时因为忙着为来访的客人的到来做准备,她便把这桩小事抛在了脑后。
  

 

第二章

母亲
  

         女主人把艾莉查从小带大,从孩童时起,她就很呵护和喜爱她。
  到过南方的人常谈到第一代、第二代混血女人那高雅的气质、优美的声音和文雅的举止。而第二代混血女人几乎都长有娇美的面容,透出一种令人目眩的美。我们文中所描述的艾莉查并不是作者凭空虚构的,在作者的记忆中,她是我们几年前在肯塔基州见过的一位混血女孩。在女主人的关怀呵护下,她没有受到各种诱惑的引诱,而她的美丽也没有给她带来什么大的灾祸。正是在这种环境中,她逐渐长大并成熟起来。后来,她嫁给了一位第一代混血男孩,他名叫乔治·哈里斯,是附近农庄的一名黑奴,既聪明又能干。
  主人送这个小伙子去制包厂工作。由于他的聪明灵活,他制造出一台清洗大麻的机器,成为了这个工厂雇工中的佼佼者。虽然他只是一名奴仆,所受教育不多,但他在工作中所显出的机械方面的天赋丝毫不逊于发明轧棉机的惠特尼。
  在大家的眼中,这个小伙子漂亮、惹人喜爱。但法律却把他看作是物品而非人,于是一个粗俗、专制、小心眼的、被称为主人的家伙便牢牢地控制了他的这些品质。当听说乔治发明了洗麻机器并因此成为名人之后,这位先生便匆匆忙忙骑马赶到工厂,他想知道这个属于自己的聪明透顶的财产到底是什么样子。雇主热情地接待了他并祝贺他拥有一名价值不菲的奴仆。
  在乔治的侍候下,他走进工厂察看了机器。此时,乔治滔滔不绝地说着,由于兴奋,他更显得漂亮而充满生气,这不禁使他的主人显得是那样渺小。作为奴仆,他怎能因为发明机器而出尽风头,并和这些绅士呆在一起呢?他要让他回庄园锄草耕地,他要阻止这种情况继续下去,“看你回去后还凭什么这样神气。”这位主人于是提出领走乔治的工资并带他回到庄园,这个决定使工厂主和工人们都感到诧异。
  “哈里斯,”工厂主辩解道,“你这样做是否显得过于唐突呢?”
  “唐突又怎样,哈里斯是我的人,不是吗?”
  “但我们愿意多付给您钱,以此作为对您的补偿,这样行吗?先生。”
  “钱对我不算什么!除非我认为有必要,否则我不会把自己的奴仆雇给别人。”
  “但他看起来很适合干这行啊!”
  “也许吧,但我却不太相信,以前他可是从来没有表现出来适合干我分配他干的事情。”
  “但你要知道,他发明了机器。”一位工人不合时宜地插了一句话。
  “他是不是发明了一部使你们少干活的机器?我相信他会发明那种机器;但是让一个黑奴在外一直干这种事怎么行呢?你们每个人不都是一部可以节省劳动力的机器吗?他必须要离开。”
  那个掌握生杀大权的人就这样宣告了乔治的命运,听完这番话,乔治呆呆地站在那里。他知道自己无法和这个人的势力相抗衡。一股怒火腾地从胸中升起,血管中热血奔腾。他呼吸变得急促起来,一道燃烧的光芒从他黑色的大眼睛中射出。如果没有工厂主在身边碰了碰他的胳膊并耐心劝他,他胸中的怒火很可能会一下子喷射出来。“不要来硬的,你先跟他回去,我们会想法帮助你的。”工厂主低声劝乔治说。
  两人的谈话没有逃过那个绅士的眼睛,虽然他并没有听清他们的谈话,但他大致猜到了他们二人谈话的内容。于是他更加下定决心要用自己手中的权力去惩罚乔治的大胆。
  乔治被带回农庄后就去做最差的重活。他一直忍着不说什么冒犯主人的话,但他那闪闪发光的眼睛,忧郁的眉头都向人们表明他是不会心甘情愿去充当货物的。而这些不容置疑的无声语言却是难以用权势来压抑的。
  当乔治受雇于工厂时,他认识了艾莉查。正是在那一段开心的日子中,他们结婚了。在此期间,由于雇主的信任和重用,乔治可以自由安排自己的时问。而女主人也因为自己身边的美丽姑娘找到了和她般配的黑人小伙子而对这桩婚姻表示出赞许。像其他女人一样,她撮合了这门亲事,并十分得意于在婚姻中担当媒人的角色,因此乔治和艾莉查的婚礼也得以被允许在女主人的客厅中举行。在新娘的秀发上,女主人亲自为她插上了香橙花,并为她披上了婚纱,这样的打扮使得新娘更显娇艳。在大厅里,糕点美酒应有尽有,戴着清一色白手套的客人们一方面对新娘的美丽交口称赞,一方面也不时称赞着女主人的慷慨与对仆人的恩宠。
  结婚后的一两年,夫妻二人过着美满幸福的生活,还能经常见面。除了前两个孩子出世不久便死去以外,他们没遇到什么不开心的事。但两个孩子的死使得艾莉查非常伤心,以致于女主人不得不好言相劝,并勉励她以理性和宗教的教义来控制自己的情感。
  随着小哈里的出世,艾莉查把一门心思都倾注于这个小鬼的身上,心也渐趋平静,以往的伤痛也得以愈合。从此,她沉浸于幸福中,直到乔治被狠心的的主人从好心的雇主那儿野蛮地带回庄园,并被置于狠心主人的严密控制下为止。
  工厂主在乔治离开工厂一两个星期后,估计哈里斯的火头已经过去了,于是便履行诺言去拜访了那位庄园主,想方设法劝他让乔治回到自己的工厂干活。
  “请不要再费什么心思了,”哈里斯固执地说,“我会处理这件事的。”
  “我怎么会干预你的事情。我只是想提醒你考虑一下自身的利益,同意你的仆人回到我的工厂做工。”
  “对这件事我非常清楚。那天我带他回庄园时,你们交头接耳,这可没有逃过我的眼睛。先生,乔治是我的仆人,在这个自由的国度,我让他干什么他就得干什么,事情就是这样的简单。”
  希望的最后一抹光熄灭了,等待乔治的将是终身的劳作和枯燥单调的生活。而那狠心的主人所给予他的令他痛苦不堪的折磨和屈辱,他也只有默默地忍受。
  一位熟稔法律的智者曾说过这样的话,处置一个人的最残酷的方法莫过于对他施以绞刑。这句话不对,还有一种处置人的方法比这种惩罚更为残酷。
  

第三章 

丈夫和父亲


  希尔比太太出门拜访朋友去了。望着渐渐远去的马车,艾莉查无精打采地站在门廊上。这时,有人从后面走来,把手搭在了她的肩膀上。她转回身,两眼顿时发出多彩的光辉,美丽的笑容浮现于脸上。
  “真是你吗?乔治,你把我吓了一跳。我真是太高兴了!太太出门拜访朋友去了,晚上前不会回来。我们快到我那个小房间吧,我们可以有一段愉快的时光。”
  她拉着乔治走进门廊对面那间小房间,平时,她总在那儿做针线活,这样她可以听见女主人的呼唤。
  “你能来我真高兴,快来看一看我们的孩子,乔治,你为什么不高兴呢?”孩子紧抓住母亲的长裙羞涩地站在那儿,从卷发下偷偷地看着父亲。“你看他多么漂亮,不是吗?”艾莉查拨弄着孩子头上的卷发,吻了他一下说。
  “我只希望自己没有出世,也没有生下这个孩子。”乔治惨然说道。
  听完这句话,艾莉查既惊讶又恐惧。她哭着把头靠在丈夫宽阔的肩膀上。
  “艾莉查,你真是太可怜了,我真不敢让你再伤心。”乔治爱怜地说,“如果当时你没有认识我,那你就不会这样不幸了。”
  “哟,乔治,你这是说什么话呢?是不是发生了什么可怕的事,还是要有什么可怕的事要发生?从我们相识到现在,我们不是活得挺幸福吗?”
  “亲爱的,确实很幸福。”乔治把自己的孩子抱到膝上,看着孩子那明亮的双眸,抚弄着他那柔软的卷发。
  “艾莉查,你是我所见的女人中最漂亮的,也是最好的,你看,我们的孩子长得多么像你。但是当时我们如果没有见面就好了。”
  “乔治,你为什么还要这样说呢?”
  “事实是这样的,我们除了痛苦以外,还拥有什么呢!我这辈子是那样的苦,就像黄连一样。我的生气已经被煎熬殆尽。现在我干的是苦命的活,我是那样穷,不会有什么前途的。你跟着我不会有什么好报,我只会带给你霉运。我们一直在努力做事,学东西,想做个有用的人,但这有什么用呢?这样活着有什么意思,真不如死了算了。”
  “乔治,你这样说真是罪过,我知道你不能在工厂工作,所以心里难受,你又遇到一个狠心的主人,但你还是要忍耐,说不定以后会有什么……”
  “忍耐,难道我还不够忍耐吗?”他打断她说道,“自从他无缘无故把我从那个待我好的人的工厂带回以后,我说过什么吗?说实话,我把自己挣的钱全都上交给他了。那个工厂的人,哪一个不夸我的活做得好呢!”
  “真是太可怕了,但他终究是你的主人啊。”艾莉查说。
  “谁赋予他这种权力让他做我的主人?我不时地考虑着这个问题。他是人,我也是人,他凭什么要骑在我的头上,况且他还不如我。无论是经商还是管理庄园,我都比他行,我比他认识的字多,书写也比他漂亮,而所有这些我都不欠他什么,因为我是自学的。尽管他对我是那样的残忍,但我还是学会了这些本领。他存心不把人当人看待,他凭什么让我为他做牛做马?他凭什么不让我充分发挥我所学到的本领,为什么他不能容忍我干得比他好呢?他故意把最脏、最重、最下等的活派给我去做,因为他想借此凌辱我,他说他要让我屈服。”
  “啊,我以前从没听你说过这样的话,乔治,你吓着我了,我知道你很愤懣,这我理解,但为了我和哈里,你千万不要做可怕的事情。不管你做什么事,一定要三思而后行啊!”
  “我一直是三思而后行的,我一直忍耐着,但现在看来情况越来越糟。我的身体已经快难以承受了。他不会放过任何一个侮辱、折磨我的机会。我只想在干好活的同时读书,静下来学点东西,但他加在我身上的重担会随我的能力的增加而加重。他说我被鬼魂附体了,他要把它抓出来。除非我讲错了,否则他不喜欢的事情迟早会发生。”
  “那我们该怎么办呢?亲爱的。”艾莉查悲伤地问。
  “昨天,当我往车上装石头时,站在车旁边的小主人用鞭子使劲地抽打着,这使得那匹马受到了惊吓。我温和地劝他不要抽了,但他却不听我的话。我再次求他,他却转回身用鞭子抽打我。我抓住了他的手,他就大声喊叫起来,先是用脚踢我,然后就跑去告诉他父亲我打了他。主人听了非常生气,声称要教训我一顿,让我明白他是主人。他把我绑在树上,用柳条狠劲抽了我几下,而他的儿子也按照父亲的吩咐使劲抽打我,直到他感到累了时为止。我一定要出这口气的,否则我誓不为人。”他脸色非常阴沉,两眼中那愤怒的火焰着实吓了他的妻子一跳。“我只想搞明白是谁赋予他做主人的权利的。”
  “我想我要服从我的主人的安排,”艾莉查惨然说道,“否则,我就不能算是真正的基督徒。”
  “这话对你来说当然有一定的道理。他们给你吃的穿的,就像对待自己的孩子一样,他们疼爱你,给了你良好的教育,他们认为你是他们家庭的一部分。但我的主人呢?他常对我拳脚相加;让我呆在一边不理睬我,这已是我能得到的最好的待遇了。他们收留了我,但我也为此付出了超过百倍的代价。难道我还欠他们什么吗?我现在已经是不能再忍耐下去了。是的,不能再忍受了。”乔治握紧双拳,瞪着眼睛说道。
  艾莉查没有说话,全身颤抖,她从未见丈夫这样愤怒。面对丈夫的愤怒,她的伦理观念顿时显得那样的苍白无力。
  “你还记得卡洛吗?就是你送给我的那只小狗。”乔治接着说,“晚上,它和我一起睡,白天跟在我的后面跑,它是我唯一的安慰,它看着我时的眼神,就像它懂得我内心的痛苦与欢乐似的。有一天,主人碰见我拿门旁的剩饭喂卡洛,他就责怪我用他的东西喂狗,并说如果每个黑奴都养狗,他就会破产的,于是他逼我在卡洛的脖子上挂上石头扔到水塘中去。”
  “乔治,你扔了吗?”
  “我没有那样做,但主人把它扔进去了。而且他还伙同汤姆向濒死的小狗扔石头。卡洛,它是那样的可怜,它的眼中满是悲伤的神色,好像奇怪于我为什么不帮助它。为此,我还被主人抽了一顿鞭子,但我不在乎。我迟早会让主人明白鞭子是驯服不了我的。迟早有一天,我会让他为此付出代价的,他就等着瞧吧。”
  “啊,乔治,那你打算做什么呢?千万别做坏事啊。只要我们对上帝虔诚,多做善事,上帝会帮助我们的。”
  “艾莉查,我和你是两种人,我不信仰上帝,因为我心中充满了痛苦,上帝为什么要把事情搞成这样呢?”
  “乔治,我们一定要相信上帝。太太常说,当我们无路可走时,上帝也正在想办法解救我们。”
  “这些话让那些乘车、坐沙发的人说当然很容易,但如果他们处于我的地位,我想他们也不会想得那么简单了。我也向往做些善事,但我胸中的怒火现在难以平息。如果你是我,你也会受不了的,你不了解事情的真相,如果我告诉你我所受的罪,你会受不了的。”
  “还有其它事情吗?”
  “噢,最近主人一直说自己很傻,因为他让我在那么远的地方娶妻生子。他还说希尔比先生和他的家族非常傲慢,在他面前趾高气扬,他恨死他们了,而我现在也变得傲慢了。他还说要禁止我再来找你,让我在他的庄园娶妻生子。以前他还只是说说,但昨天他却明白地告诉我,我必须娶密娜,跟她一起生活,否则就要卖我到河那边去。”
  “我们不是结婚了吗?我们不是也像白人一样由牧师证婚了吗?”艾莉查天真地问道。
  “难道你不知道奴隶是不允许结婚的吗?这个国家的法律不允许奴隶结婚,如果他们决心分开我们,我是没办法留下你的。所以我才会说如果我没有出生,没有遇到你就好了,如果可怜的哈里没有出世,那该多好啊,那样的话这一切不幸就不会降临到他头上了。”
  “我的主人可是心肠很好的。”
  “但谁能料到以后会发生什么事呢?主人会死的,那时我们的哈里可能会被卖给别人,谁知道买他的是什么人呢!他是那样聪明漂亮,但这有什么值得自豪的呢?艾莉查,孩子越是机灵得讨人喜欢,那你的痛苦就会越深,你会因为他太值钱而失去他的。”
  丈夫的话沉重地打在她的心头,那个奴隶贩子的身影好像又来到了她的面前。她面色苍白,呼吸变得急促起来,好像受到了一记猛击似的,神色非常紧张,并不时朝门廊外看去。孩子正骑着希尔比先生的手杖愉快地玩着,后来因为不想听父母谈论没有吸引力的话题而到别处去玩了。艾莉查本想告诉丈夫自己心中所担心的事,但最后还是忍住了。
  “不能再让他担心了,可怜的他已经承担了太多的重担,”她想,“再说那不一定会真的发生,我相信女主人是不会欺骗我的。”
  “亲爱的艾莉查,就这样吧,你一定要坚持,我走了,再见。”丈夫的声音是那样的凄惨。
  “乔治,你要走到哪儿去?”
  “加拿大,”他回答道,接着他又挺直身子说,“在那边,我会想法赎回你们的。这是我们所拥有的唯一希望。你的主人心肠好,我想他会允许我把你和孩子都买走的。我会做到的,愿上帝保佑。”
  “你如果被抓住怎么办?那太可怕了。”
  “不会发生这种事的,艾莉查。如果得不到自由,我宁可死,也不会让他们把我抓回去的。”
  “你可不要做傻事啊!”
  “我没必要做傻事,他们会很快杀死我的,但他们要想让我活着过河去,那是绝对不可能的。”
  “乔治,你要当心。为了我别做坏事,也别做傻事,也不要杀死人。这真是太诱惑人了,但千万不要——你是要走的,但要小心行事,愿上帝保佑你。”
  “好吧,艾莉查,你听一听我的计划。主人突然决定派我送给居住于一英里外的西门斯先生一封信。我想他知道我会到这儿来告诉你这件事的。他会非常高兴我这样做,因为这会激怒希尔比先生——他一直这样称呼他。我要赶回庄园,好像什么也没有发生,一切听其自然。我已经做了些准备,大约一周以后的某一天,我会出现在失踪名单中。所以,艾莉查,为我祷告吧,或许你的祷告会被上帝听到。”
  “噢,乔治,请相信上帝吧,为自己祈祷,这样你就不会做坏事了。”
  “好的,再见吧。”乔治说。他紧握着艾莉查的双手,深情地注视着她的双眸,但他却没有动。他们只是静静地站着,然后悄然话别,他们哭泣着,痛哭着。他们是那样的舍不得分离,就像蛛网一样难以割断。这一对小夫妻就这样分别了。
  

 

第四章

汤姆叔叔小屋之夜


  汤姆叔叔的小屋是一所用圆木盖成的小房子,紧挨着“大宅”(黑人通常这样称呼主人的住宅)。小屋前有个小园子,在主人的精心栽培和浇灌下,每逢夏季,里面便长满了草莓、木莓,以及各种各样的水果蔬菜。园子的前面被错综交织的比格诺亚藤条和当地的多花玫瑰所覆盖,就连横放在园子前面的园木也被遮住了。这里,每到夏天,万寿菊、矮牵牛花和紫茉莉等鲜花就在园子的一个角落里竞相开放,所有这些无不令克鲁伊大婶喜悦和自豪。
  让我们进屋看看吧。大宅里的晚餐已经结束,克鲁伊大婶作为领班厨师准备好晚餐后,把收拾碗筷等杂活交给其他仆人,回到了她自己的安乐窝来给老头烧饭来了。所以,在锅灶边忙碌的人一定是克鲁伊大婶无疑。她一会儿忙着在炖锅里炖着什么东西,一会儿又若有所思地揭开烤炉的盖子,顿时一股香气升腾而起,一看就是在烧好吃的东西。她圆圆的脸庞儿黝黑发亮,光光亮亮就像涂了一层蛋清似的,俨然就是她为茶点所做的小甜饼。她的头上戴着一个浆得笔挺的无沿帽,一张丰满的脸上,常挂着一丝满意的笑容。而且我们必须承认,对于附近首屈一指的厨师来说,脸上带着洋洋自得的神气也是一件很自然的事情。
  克鲁伊大婶浑身上下都透露出一种天生的厨师的神韵。当她走近时,空地上的鸡、鸭和火鸡无一不是担惊受怕,显然它们也意识到了自己即将面临的悲惨命运。而且克鲁伊大婶确实青睐于将鸡鸭的翅膀扎在身上、往鸡鸭腹中塞配料以及烹烤等事情,而这又使那些感觉敏锐的家禽深感恐惧。她做的玉米饼花样繁多,如锄形饼、多角饼、松饼以及其它名目众多的饼,这让那些经验不足的厨子觉得真是不可思议。
  客人的到来、酒席的置办,会引发她无穷的力量和精力;对她来说,没有什么比看到堆在门廓的一行行旅行箱更令她兴奋了。因为这时,她又可以大展厨技,再立新功了。
  这会儿,克鲁伊大婶正在向平底锅里端详着。我们就让她暂时沉浸于自己的快乐,趁此机会,我们仔细瞧一下她住的小屋吧。
  屋里的一角放着一张床,上面铺着一条洁白的床单。床边铺着一块相当面积的地毯。克鲁伊大婶站在地毯上,显示了她在这个庄园的上层身份。这地毯、床铺和这个小角落,都被给予了足够的重视,而且如果可能的话,这块地方是不容那些小机灵鬼们胡闹的。事实上,这个角落就是这家的客厅。在屋子的另一角,有一张粗陋得多的床,显然是供日常实用的。壁炉上方的墙上,是几幅《圣经》插图,旁边还挂着一幅华盛顿将军的肖像,其技法和色彩,如果将军偶然亲眼看到的话,肯定会目瞪口呆的。
  屋角的长凳上坐着两个卷发男孩,他们都有晶亮的黑眼睛和光润的脸蛋,此时,他们正在忙于教一个幼儿学步。正像其他的小儿一样,这个小家伙站起来,摇晃着没走几步,就一跤跌倒在地。她接连的失败受到了热烈的喝彩,好像是在观看绝妙的表演似的。
  一张桌子摆在壁炉前,桌腿就像患了风湿病似的放不平稳,桌上铺着一张桌布,上面摆放着图案艳丽的茶杯托盘。一些其它迹象表明晚饭就要开始了。桌子旁边坐着希尔比先生最得力的仆人汤姆。他将是本书的主人公,所以我们要向读者仔细介绍一下他。他身材魁梧,胸膛宽广,身体强壮,皮肤黝黑发亮,他的脸庞是典型的非洲式的,他脸上表情严肃、稳重,同时又流露出善良和仁慈。他的神态显示出某种自尊,然而又显得对人坦诚,兼有忠厚和纯朴的气质。
  这时他正在小心地、慢慢地往面前的石板上抄写字母。十三岁的小少爷乔治站在旁边指导着他。乔治聪明帅气,看来他正在充分享受当老师的尊严。
  “不是那样写法,汤姆叔叔,不是那样写法,”看到汤姆把g的尾巴拐到了右边,乔治喊道,“看,你那样写就成q了。”
  “哟,是吗?”汤姆应道。看着自己的小老师轻而易举地在石板上写了很多g和q,汤姆不禁又尊敬又羡慕。接着,汤姆用粗大的手指握住笔耐心地练习起来。
  “白人做事情真是灵巧。”克鲁伊大婶说。她欣赏地赞美着小主人,待了一会,她又用叉子叉了块腊肉来给平锅抹上油。“你瞧他写字时轻松的样子!他还认识许多字,每晚读书给我们听,真是太有趣了。”
  “但是,克鲁伊大婶,我现在觉得饿了,你锅里的饼是否快烙好了。”乔治说道。
  “快了,乔治少爷,”她掀开锅盖朝里看了一眼,“黄黄的,那颜色真好看。让我负责这事吧。那天,太太让莎莉试着去烙饼,她说,‘噢,让莎莉去试一下。’我说,‘算了,她把好好的粮食都糟蹋了,真是可惜。饼烙得坑坑洼洼,就像我的鞋子一样难看,我看她还是别再烙了。’”
  在贬了一下莎莉还显稚嫩的技术后,克鲁伊大婶掀开烤锅盖,映入眼帘的是一张烤得整洁的油饼,那是城里的糕点店争相接受的上等品。显然,它将成为款待客人的主要食品。现在,克鲁伊大婶开始认真地张罗起晚饭来。
  “嗨,莫思,贝特!快让开路,你们这些小鬼。滚开,波莉,妈妈的小心肝,我会尽快给宝宝弄点东西吃。乔治少爷,请拿走这些书,坐下来陪着那个老头,我立刻把香肠和刚出锅的烙饼给你们送来。”
  “他们想让我回大宅子吃晚饭,但我知道在哪儿能吃到好吃的饭菜。”乔治说。
  “宝贝,你知道就好。”克鲁伊大婶说着把冒着热气的烙面饼放在了乔治的盘子上,“你知道大婶我会把最好吃的留给你。你就独自在这儿享用吧,想怎么吃就怎么吃。”说完,她开玩笑地用手指头碰了一下乔治,然后又很快回到烤锅那儿去了。
  “现在吃饼啰!”当克鲁伊大婶着实忙了一阵后,乔治一面喊着,一面挥动一把大刀向烙饼砍了下去。
  “我的天啊,乔治少爷,”克鲁伊大婶急忙抓住乔治的胳膊,“不能用这么大的刀切烙饼!那样会毁掉涂在上面的东西。这把薄点的刀,我把它磨得很快,是专用来对付它的。看,这样很容易就把饼切好了。来,赶快吃吧。没有什么东西比这个更好吃了。”
  “汤米·林肯说,他家的詹妮厨师比你手艺高。”嘴里塞满了烙饼的乔治说道。
  “林肯家的人手艺一点也不高!”克鲁伊大婶面带鄙夷地说,“如果跟我们全家比较,他们还算说得过去。但他们的风度、气派却不能和我们相比。就拿林肯先生和我家老爷来比吧,还有林肯太太,她进门时,哪有我家太太的派头?去他的吧,不提林肯这家人了!”克鲁伊大婶摇着头,好像在这个世上,有人希望她不知道什么事似的。
  “噢,但我也听你说詹妮的厨技不错啊!”乔治说道。
  “我以前或许说过这话,”克鲁伊大婶说,“她做家常饭还行,玉米面包也做得不错,马铃薯和玉米糕点也还说得过去,起码现在她做饭不太好,以前詹妮做的玉米糕还算可以,但她怎么会烹调高档的食品?她可以让肉馅饼表面有光泽,但那皮又是怎样的啊?她能发出松软的面吗?她做的饼看起来能像一朵浮云,入口即化吗?我看过詹妮为玛莉小姐的婚事做的喜饼。你知道我和詹妮是好朋友,我没说过她的坏话。但是,乔治少爷,如果我做出那样一堆饼,我会整个星期都睡不好觉的。那是怎样的喜饼啊!”
  “我想,詹妮会自以为她做的春饼还不错呢。”
  “她当然感觉良好,不是吗?她还向我夸耀过自己的手艺呢,你知道吗?问题就出在这儿。詹妮不知道自己的手艺到底怎样,她的主人也不怎么样,她怎能指望从主人那儿得到指点呢。所以责任不在詹妮。啊,乔治少爷,你是身在福中不知福啊!”克鲁伊大婶叹息着,她的眼睛动情地眨着。
  “克鲁伊大婶,我心里明白我吃的馅饼和布丁是最好的,”乔治说,“不信你可以去问汤米·林肯,每次我碰到他,我都会夸耀我在家中所享有的福气。”
  小主人的几句玩笑逗得克鲁伊大婶大笑起来,她仰靠在椅背上,直笑得眼泪顺着黑色的脸庞滚下。一会儿,她用手拍打着乔治,一会儿,她又用手指捅他,让他走开,不然总有一天他会要了她的老命的。她一边说着这残酷的预言,一边不停地笑着,一次比一次长久、欢快,直搞得乔治也感到自己真是一位危险人物,他今后要小心说话,再也不能胡言乱语了。
  “你真对汤米这样说了吗?老天,你们这几个小鬼真是敢说敢做!你对汤米吹嘘了,是吗?乔治少爷,你这样做不怕人笑话吗?”
  “是的,”乔治说,“我这样对他说:‘汤米,你该去看一看克鲁伊大婶做的真正的馅饼。’”
  “很遗憾,汤米不会看到的。”克鲁伊大婶说。看来,汤米对馅饼的无知已在她那善良的心中留下了深刻的印象。“乔治少爷,你该让他来我家吃饭,那会为你增光的。不过,乔治少爷,你要永远记住,我们一切福分都源自上帝,所以不要因为吃到好馅饼而自视情高啊。”克鲁伊大婶神情严肃地说。
  “好吧,我约他下周来家里玩,”乔治说,“克鲁伊大婶,你要尽全力来做饭,我们要让他吃完饭后半个月还回味无穷,好不好?”
  “这样当然好啊,”克鲁伊大婶兴奋地说,“你就等着吧,老天,想想以前操办的宴席,多么风光啊!还记得那次科诺克斯将军来时,我为他准备的鸡肉馅饼吗?那次,我和太太差点为了馅饼皮而吵起来,我真不懂太太们在想什么。你责任重大,忙得不亦乐乎,但她们却要插上一脚,在你身边转来转去。那天,太太一会儿让我这样,一会儿又要求我那样,最后我只好顶撞太太了。我说,现在看看你白嫩的双手,太太,你的手指上戴满了金色的戒指,就像我种的白色合欢花一样;再看看我这双粗黑的双手,难道你不明白,你呆在客厅,我做馅饼是上帝的安排吗?啊,乔治少爷,那天我是如此莽撞。”
  “妈妈说什么呢?”乔治问。
  “说什么?她笑着眯着眼睛说,‘啊,克鲁伊大婶,我想你说的很对。’然后她便回到客厅去了。我是那样无礼,她本该敲碎我的脑壳。但话说回来,有小姐太太在厨房,我可是干不出什么来的。”
  “记得每个人都说,那顿饭很棒。”乔治说。
  “是真的吗?那天我不是躲在餐厅后面吗?我不是亲眼目睹科诺克斯将军三次要求添馅饼吗?我还听他说,‘希尔比太太,你家厨师的手艺真是不俗啊!’当时,我听了真是太高兴了。”
  “将军对烹调真是在行,”克鲁伊大婶伸直身子得意地说,“他是个好人!他是弗吉尼亚一个旧式人家的孩子,他就像我一样识货。乔治少爷,馅饼样式多样,各具特色。你知道吗?并不是每个人都像将军那样在行,可以品出不同的味道。他知道其中的奥妙,从他的话中,你就能听出他是这方面的行家。”
  这时,乔治少爷已经是再也吃不下一口饭了,在特别的形势下,一个小孩子也会吃得达到这种程度。直到现在他才有机会注意到屋子一角那几个长着卷发和乌黑发亮的眼珠的小脑袋。看着小少爷吃饼的情形,他们已是口水直流了。
  “哎,莫思,贝特,”乔治掰下一块块烙饼向他们扔去,“你们也想吃,是吗?克鲁伊大婶,再给他们烙几张饼吧。”
  乔治和汤姆走到壁炉边一个舒适的座位上坐下来,克鲁伊大婶已经烙好了一大堆馅饼。她把孩子抱在膝头上,不时往自己和孩子的嘴里塞饼,同时把饼分给莫思和贝特吃。这两个小鬼更喜欢边吃边在桌下打滚,还不时拉拉小妹妹的脚趾头。
  “靠边去,快点,”当孩子吵得太凶时,母亲一边说,一边朝桌底下踢着。“难道你们没看到家中有白人客人吗?放规矩点,都给我放老实点,好吗?如果不听话,等乔治少爷走后,看我不扯住你们的袖子打你们。”
  很难说清这种恐吓究竟意味着什么,但我们可以肯定:这可怕的警告并没有收到预期效果,孩子们对此并没什么感觉。
  “啊!”汤姆叔叔说,“他们浑身发痒,如果不处罚,他们就浑身不自在。”
  此时,这群小家伙从桌下爬出,猛亲着母亲怀中的孩子,手上、脸上满是糖浆。
  “滚开,”母亲一把推开那几个毛茸茸的小脑瓜,“你们这样胡闹,乱成一团,分都分不开,快去用水把自己洗干净。”说完,她又使劲打了他们一巴掌,这使孩子们又大笑起来,他们高声叫喊着跑到门外去了。
  “你见过这样淘气的孩子吗?”克鲁伊大婶自豪地说,接着拿出一条专门应付这种突发事件的旧毛巾,从破茶壶中倒了一点水,开始擦拭小家伙脸上和手上的糖浆。擦干净后,便把她放到汤姆叔叔怀中,自己就忙着收拾锅碗瓢盆去了。那个小家伙不时拉扯着汤姆叔叔的鼻子头,抓着他的脸,并把胖乎乎的小手放在汤姆叔叔的卷发上,看来她还是比较喜欢后一项工作。
  “她很神气,不是吗?”汤姆叔叔说着把孩子放在远处,以便仔细观察一下这个小宝贝;然后,他让孩子骑在他宽阔的肩上,带着她一起跳起舞来,乔治少爷此时也在用手帕逗她玩。这时,刚刚进屋的莫思和贝特也跟在妹妹后面像熊一样叫着,直到克鲁伊大婶喊着说他们的大喊大叫会让小妹妹的头搬家时,他们才停止吵闹。据克鲁伊大婶介绍,这种“外科手术”在这里就像家常便饭一般。她的喊声并没有制止孩子们的欢叫,他们唱着、跳着、翻滚着,直到尽兴后,才安静了下来。
  “好了,希望你们不再闹了,”克鲁伊大婶一面说着,一面从大木床下拉出一张做工粗糙的小床,上面装着脚轮,“好了,莫思,贝特,你们都给我上床,我们马上就要祷告了。”
  “噢,妈妈,我们要看祷告会,那很有意思,我们可不想睡。”
  “啊,克鲁伊大婶,把小床推进去,让他们看一会儿吧!”乔治少爷果断地说,同时推了一下小床。少爷的话让克鲁伊大婶觉得风光体面,于是她就高兴地把小床推了进去,说,“好吧,这或许对他们有好处。”
  这时,房间里的人都聚在了一起,讨论着会场的安排和布置事宜。
  “我可是没办法一下子弄那么多椅子。”克鲁伊大婶说。相当长时间以来,每周的祷告会都是在汤姆叔叔家举行的,椅子也是经常短缺,但人们认为这次椅子问题也是会解决的。“上周演唱时,老彼得叔叔把那张旧椅子的腿压断了。”莫思说。
  “得了吧,小鬼头,我看准是你把椅子腿拆了。”
  “嗯,如果靠墙放着,那椅子还是不会倒的。”莫思狡辩道。
  “不能让彼得叔叔坐那张椅子,因为他唱歌时喜欢挪地方。那天晚上,他差不多是从屋子这头移到屋子那头了。”贝特说。
  “上帝啊,就让他坐在那上面吧,”莫思说,“然后他唱道:‘圣徒们、罪人们,来吧,请听我说。’接着他便摔倒在地。”莫思很形象地模仿着老彼得的鼻音和老人倒地的样子,向人们展示着一场预演的恶作剧。
  “嘿,难道你不能规矩点吗,难道你不知羞吗?”克鲁伊大婶说。
  但乔治少爷却和冒犯者大笑起来,并大声称赞他是个不简单的小滑头。看来,母亲的警告再次失灵了。
  “哎,老家伙,你去把那两只大桶搬进来。”克鲁伊大婶说道。
  “就像乔治少爷读的圣书里的寡妇的坛子一样,妈妈的大桶没有一次失灵。”莫思侧过脸,对贝特说。
  “我敢肯定,上周一只桶瘪了,”贝特说,“就在大家唱到一半时。难道那次不算失灵吗?”
  在莫思和贝特交谈时,汤姆叔叔把那两只大空桶推了进来。为了不让它来回滚动,桶的两边都放上了大石块,大家在桶上架上了木板,又把几只盆和水桶倒放在地上,还有几把破椅子,最后,准备工作就算完成了。
  “乔治少爷的书读得真好,我知道他会留下为我们读圣书的,”克鲁伊大婶说,“那样会给祷告会增添不少乐趣。”
  乔治立刻答应了,只要受到重视,哪一个孩子会拒绝去做一些事情呢。
  很快,小屋里就挤满了人,既有八十岁的白发老人,又有十五六岁的姑娘小伙。他们随意地闲谈了一会儿,也就是些类似“塞莉大婶从哪儿搞来一条红头巾啦,”“太太打算在做好罗纱衣裳后,就把那件平纹布外衣送给莉兹啦,”“希尔比老爷打算买匹栗色马驹,这又会为此地增添不少风采啦”之类的话题。有些得到主人允许的邻近人家的仆人也赶来参加祷告会。他们带来了许多精彩的消息,比如,庄园的人说什么了,做什么了;在这里,人们可以自由地谈东论西,正如上流社会的人谈论那些不值一提的小事一样。
  不一会儿,唱念开始了,出席者都很兴奋。那与生俱来的嗓音的清脆嘹亮并没有被鼻音所掩盖。歌曲大都是附近教堂常听到的著名的圣歌,有些是从野外布道会上听来的较粗犷热烈的曲子。
  其中一首歌的合唱部分充满精力和热忱,歌词是这样的:
  战死在沙场,
  战死在沙场,
  我的灵魂却闪耀着光芒。
  另一首他们喜爱唱的歌中,经常重复出现下面的话:
  啊,我要前往天国——你不愿伴我同行吗?
  你没看到天使在向我招手,深情地把我呼唤?
  你没看到那金色的城市和永恒的时光?
  还有些曲子经常提及“约旦河岸”、“迦南战场”和“新耶路撒冷”。黑人们生来感情丰富,富于联想,他们经常让自己沉浸于赞美诗和触动人心的妙语中。唱歌时,他们或欢笑,或痛哭,或击掌,或悠然握手,那情景就好像他们已经抵达约旦河彼岸似的。
  和歌声交织在一起的,是人们的相互劝诫以及对灵性的感受的叙说。一位已经老得不能干活的白发老妇深受人们的尊敬,她拄着拐杖站起来说:
  “孩子们,我很高兴,因为我再一次见到了你们,听到了你们的歌声,因为说不定哪天我就撒手而去了。我已经收拾好包袱和帽子,我已为踏上天国之路做好一切准备。孩子们,我想说,”她使劲用拐杖敲打着地板,“天国是那样了不起,那是一块神奇之地,美妙无比啊!”老妇人激动不已,老泪横流。于是大家便唱道:
  啊,迦南,光明的迦南,
  我是那样热切地向往着你。
  应大家的邀请,乔治少爷诵读了《启示录》的最后几个章节。乔治的诵读常被人们的赞美之辞打断。“真是了不起!”“他念得多优美啊!”“真是不可思议!”“那会成为事实吗?”人们不住地说着。
  聪明的乔治对宗教的理解与认识主要得益于母亲的教导。由于众人对他的赞美,他便不时在庄重的诵读中加进自己的解说,这更加让年轻人羡慕,并得到了老者的祝福。大家公认,“乔治念得比任何一个牧师都好。”“真是不可思议”。
  在宗教事务方面,汤姆是众人公认的“主教”。他善于组织,道德高尚,再加上他的胸襟和教养远超过他人,所以人们都把他当作自己的牧师来尊敬。他做的祷告生动感人,饱含童稚般的痴迷,同时他使用《圣经》语言祷告,使得他的祷告更加别具特色,这是其他祷告风格所不能比拟的。他对经书的理解非常透彻,仿佛经书是他全部生命的组成部分,他的祈祷可以不加思索就脱口而出。用一位老黑奴的话来说,汤姆的祈祷就如天堂的福音一样。所以他祷告时的声音常被周围听众们虔诚的应对声所淹没。
  汤姆叔叔的小屋内出现的情况是这样的,而在主人希尔比先生家,呈现出的却是另一幅不同的景象。
  奴隶贩子和希尔比先生坐在餐厅的小桌子旁边,上面摆放着一些契约和书写用具。
  希尔比先生忙着数那几叠钞票,点完后,他把钞票递给奴隶贩子,奴隶贩子也照样点了一遍。
  “钱数没错,现在你在这契约上签字吧。”奴隶贩子说。
  希尔比先生把契约拿过来,在上面签了字,就像在匆忙做某件不愉快的事一样。接着,他把契约和钞票推到奴隶贩子面前。赫利从一个旧的提包里取出一张羊皮纸文件,看了看,然后把它递给了希尔比先生,希尔比先生急忙把文件接了过去。
  “好,现在这事儿完了!”奴隶贩子一面说,一面站起身来。
  “完了!”希尔比先生以沉思的口气说,又深吸了口气,接着又说道,“完了!”
  “看来你对这笔生意不大满意啊。”奴隶贩子说。
  “赫利,”希尔比先生说,“你要答应我在不清楚买主的身份前不卖汤姆。你要以名誉起誓。”
  “你刚才不是做了这件事吗?”奴隶贩子说。
  “你知道我是别无选择了。”希尔比先生傲慢地说。
  “那你也要明白我或许也会有别无选择的时候,”奴隶贩子说,“不过,你不用担心,我不会虐待他,我会尽可能给他找个好主人。如果有什么事情值得我对上帝表示感谢,那就是我从不是个心肠狠的人。”
  尽管奴隶贩子已经说明了他的人道主义原则,希尔比先生还是不太相信他的话,但最好的安慰也不过如此罢了。于是他无声地打发走了奴隶贩子,接着就点燃雪茄,独自抽了起来。
  

第五章 

改变主人对奴隶的感觉


  希尔比先生和太太已经回到卧室准备休息了。希尔比先生坐在一张安乐椅上,顺手翻看着下午送来的邮件。希尔比太太站在镜前梳理着艾莉查为她编的头发。艾莉查今天脸色苍白,眼睛也没有了往日的神采,于是她就让她回去睡觉了。这时,她想起了上午时和艾莉查的谈话,便转身问丈夫:
  “顺便问你一句,亚瑟,你今天请来吃饭的那个没教养的家伙是谁?”
  “他叫赫利。”希尔比先生眼睛盯著书说,身子在椅子里不安地转动着。
  “赫利是谁?他来我们家干什么?”
  “以前我和他在纳特切斯打过交道。”希尔比先生说。
  “难道他可以凭此来我家吃喝吗?”
  “我邀请他来的,我们之间要算清一些帐。”希尔比先生答道。
  看着丈夫那尴尬的神色,希尔比太太问道:“他是做奴隶生意的吗?”
  “亲爱的,你怎么会这样想呢?”希尔比先生抬头问道。
  “没什么,——艾莉查晚饭后来过,她因为担惊受怕而哭了,她说她听见奴隶贩子在和你谈论买她的孩子,那个小机灵鬼。”
  “真的吗?”说完,希尔比先生又低下头去看信了。有好几分钟——他看上去很专心。但没注意到把信纸都拿颠倒了。
  “真相迟早要公开的,”希尔比先生暗自思忖道,“还是现在就公开真相吧。”
  “我告诉艾莉查说,她那样担心是太傻了,”希尔比太太梳理着头发说,“你从不会和他们那种人打交道。而且我知道你从没考虑过卖掉他们中的任何一个,——至少你不会把他们卖给那样一个人。”
  “嗯,艾米丽,我一直都是这样认为,这样说的。”她丈夫说,“但我做的生意亏了,我没有别的办法,只有卖掉一些下人,否则我难以维持这个家庭。”
  “卖给那个家伙?真是难以想像。希尔比,你不会那样做,是吗?”
  “很抱歉,这都是事实,我已经同意卖掉汤姆。”希尔比先生说。
  “什么?汤姆?他从小就跟着你,他是那么的善良、忠实。希尔比,你还向他保证过要还他自由之身呢。关于这一点,我们已经讲了不下百遍了。唉,我现在相信没有什么事是不会发生的了,——我现在甚至也相信,你把哈里,可怜的艾莉查的孩子也卖掉了!”希尔比太太悲伤愤怒地说。
  “既然你已经猜到了,那我告诉你,我已经答应卖掉汤姆和哈里了。但我不明白,我只是做了别人每天都在做的事.凭什么我就要被当成魔鬼来看待呢?”
  “但你为什么从那么多仆人中选中他们两个?”希尔比太太说,“为什么是他们两个,家中那么多仆人,即使我们必须要卖掉一些仆人。”
  “因为他们两个人的身价是最高的,我可以选择别人,那家伙还想高价买艾莉查,如果你认为那样会令情况更好的话。”希尔比先生说。
  “这个卑鄙小人!”希尔比太太愤怒地骂着。
  “是啊,因为我考虑到你的感情,所以我没有答应他。你也该称赞我几句吧。”
  “亲爱的,”冷静下来后,希尔比太太说,“请原谅我,我很吃惊,对这事我毫无思想准备——但你肯定会允许我替这些可怜人辩护一下吧。虽然是个黑人,但汤姆是那样的高尚、忠实。希尔比,我确信,如果有必要,他会为你牺牲一切的。”
  “这点我也明白,——我敢这样说,——但这有什么用呢?我是迫不得已才走这条路的啊。”
  “为什么不破费一些钱呢?我宁肯过得节约一些。希尔比,作为一名女基督徒,我曾经忠诚地努力,想为这些纯朴、孤苦的可怜人尽自己的一份责任。多年来,我关心保护他们,试着了解他们的忧愁与欢乐;如果我们为了一点蝇头小利而把像汤姆这样忠诚可靠的人卖掉的话,我还怎么能抬得起头来呢?我教会他们家庭成员应尽的责任和义务、父母与儿女、丈夫和妻子应尽的责任和义务。现在我怎么能公开承认什么骨肉亲情,人伦道德都可以弃之不顾,而只关注钱呢?我和艾莉查谈论过她的孩子,谈到作为基督徒,母亲要照看好孩子,为他祈祷,使他长大成人,尽到母亲的责任。但现在如果仅为了省几个钱就把孩子从她身边夺走,卖给那样一个卑鄙小人,我又能对她说什么呢?我曾告诉她,一个人的灵魂比世界上所有的金钱都贵重。如果她看到我们出卖了她的小哈里,她怎能再相信我呢?把孩子卖掉,也许就意味着毁掉了孩子的灵魂和肉体。”
  “我很难过,艾米丽,这事让你感受如此之深,”希尔比先生说,“我也尊重你的感情,虽然我不是完全理解你的心情,但是现在,我要严肃地告诉你,这于事无补,艾米丽,我是别无选择了。我本来不想告诉你这些,坦白地讲,不卖掉他们,我们会倾家荡产,我已别无选择。赫利现在手握我的借据,如果我不立即还债,他就会从我们身边拿走一切。我已尽全力四处筹款,但还是需要加上他们两个才能还清借款,所以我只有忍痛割爱了。赫利看上了他们,除非答应他的要求,否则他不同意了结此事。我被他握在手中,只好照办了。你不希望卖掉哈里和汤姆,但这总比卖掉我们所有的奴隶好吧。”
  希尔比太太呆呆地站在那儿,最终她面向梳妆台,双手掩着脸庞,发出了一声长长的叹息。
  “这是上帝对奴隶制的诅咒,它是万恶的、最该被诅咒的怪物。这也是对主人、对奴隶的诅咒!我还傻乎乎地认为我可以从这邪恶的制度中发现一些美好的东西呢。法律维护蓄奴制真是一种罪过,——我一直有这种感觉——我孩童时代就这样认为——入教后,我对此更加坚信不疑,但我却天真地认为,我可以凭借仁爱、关怀和教导,使我的奴隶的境况好于获得自由之身,真是太傻了。”
  “太太,你怎么越来越像一名废奴主义者了。”
  “废奴主义者!他们只有像我这样了解奴隶制度,他们才可以这样说。我们不需要他们指手画脚。你知道,我从来不认为奴隶制是合法的,我从来不想自己蓄奴。”
  “在这方面,你与许多明智之士不同,”希尔比先生说,“你还记得有个星期天,我们听B先生布道吗?”
  “我不想听那种布道,我再也不想请他来我们教堂布道了。牧师们奈何不了邪恶,也许他们也像我们一样对此束手无策——但他们还在为此狡辩呢!这和我的常识背道而驰。我想你也不会对那次布道感兴趣吧。”
  “啊,”希尔比先生说,“我想说,有时牧师要比我们这些可怜的罪人胆大多了。我们这些普通人对某些事必须装做没有看到,并逐渐习惯那些不正确的事情。我们必须正视这样一种现实,女人和牧师说话是那样干脆、直白,在谦虚、道德等问题上将我们远远抛在后面。现在,亲爱的,我相信你理解此事的必要性了,你明白,我做了情况所允许我做的最恰当的事情。”
  “是啊!”希尔比太太发呆地说,并急匆匆地取出她那块金表,“我甚至没有一件像样的首饰,”她若有所思地补充道,“这只表能发挥点作用吗?——刚买时很贵的。如果我可以救艾莉查的孩子,我愿付出一切。”
  “很抱歉,艾米丽,”希尔比先生说,“没想到这事让你如此难以释怀。但这没什么用。事实是我已经签了契约并交给赫利。你应感谢事情并未变糟。这家伙拥有生杀大权,但现在他已算不上什么了。如果你像我一样了解他,你会庆幸我们逃脱了厄运。”
  “他真是那么难缠吗?”
  “嗯,他并不太凶狠,但很难缠。除了做买卖挣钱,他别无爱好,他头脑冷静,做事从不犹豫,像死神一样不留情面。只要有利润,他甚至会卖掉自己的母亲,虽然他对这个老妇人并无恶意。”
  “但现在这个卑鄙小人却拥有了善良、忠实的汤姆和艾莉查的孩子。”
  “亲爱的,这事让我很难从容应付。我甚至不愿再去想它,但赫利催着说要明天领人。我不想见到汤姆,所以我打算明早骑马出门,你最好也把艾莉查带出去。让事情在她不在场时都结束吧。”
  “噢,不!”希尔比太太说,“我可不希望充当这笔残忍的买卖的帮凶。我想在汤姆处于危难时去看看他,愿上帝保佑。我要让他们知道,无论如何,他们的女主人是同情他们的,并将始终站在他们一边。至于艾莉查,我真不敢再想下去了。请上帝饶恕,我们究竟在做什么,为什么这样残酷的事情要落到我们头上呢?”
  有个人偷听了这番谈话,这个人是希尔比先生和太太万万没有料到的。
  希尔比太太把艾莉查打发去睡觉后,这个妇人藏在了卧室旁的一间储藏室里,那有扇门和外边的过道相通。她把耳朵贴近门缝,心里既激动又不安,他们的谈话被她一字不漏全听见了。
  他们说完话以后,一切转入沉寂,艾莉查站起身,偷偷溜出储藏室。她脸色惨白,浑身发抖,面容呆傻,双唇紧闭,这时的她已不是以前那个温柔腼腆的艾莉查了,她完全变了一个样子。她放轻脚步,在女主人房门口停留了片刻,举起双手祈祷着,紧接着她转身溜回自己的房问。房间内整齐宁静,跟女主人的卧室在一层楼;屋内窗明几净,非常舒适,她常坐在那儿唱着歌儿做针线活。屋内的小书架上并排放著书和各种圣诞节时收到的小玩意。她的衣服都放在壁橱和衣柜里。她一直以为,她的这个小家是那样地温馨幸福。现在,孩子已躺在床上睡着了,他那圆润的小脸被一头卷发盖住了,小嘴半张着,胖胖的小手仍然露在被子外面,脸上带着阳光般的微笑。
  “可怜的孩子!可怜的小东西啊!”艾莉查说,“虽然他们已经把你卖掉了,但妈妈还是要救你的。”
  没有眼泪滴到枕头上,在这种极度悲惨的境地中,除了血,已经没有什么可流的了。她急忙拿出纸笔,并在上面写道:
  “太太,亲爱的太太!不要以为我知恩不报,不要把我想得很坏,我听到了你和主人的谈话。我要尽全力救我的孩子,我想你会原谅我的。上帝会因为你的仁慈而保佑回报你的。”
  她匆匆忙忙折好信,然后打开衣柜,为孩子准备了一包衣服,然后用手帕把包袱牢牢地系在了腰问。出于母亲对孩子的爱,她甚至没有忘记在这小包里放进了一两件孩子心爱的玩具,并特意带了一只花鹦鹉以用来逗孩子玩。要弄醒这熟睡的小孩真有些费事,但经过一番折腾,孩子终于坐起身来,并趁妈妈戴帽子、系围巾的空隙逗弄着那只花鹦鹉。
  “妈妈,你要去哪儿啊?”孩子问道,这时妈妈拿着他的外套和帽子走了过来。妈妈走近床边,那样急切地看着孩子的眼睛,孩子立刻明白发生了什么不平常的事。
  “嘘,哈里,”妈妈说,“我们不能大声说话,要不他们会听见的。有个坏蛋要抢去妈妈的小宝贝,并在晚上带哈里走,但妈妈不会让他得逞,妈妈要给小哈里戴好帽子,穿上衣服,然后逃走,这样,坏蛋就不会抓到哈里了。”
  她一边轻声说着,一边给孩子穿戴好衣帽,把孩子抱在怀中,轻声叮嘱他不要出声。然后她打开通向门廊的门,轻手轻脚溜了出去。
  那是个有点星光的夜晚,地上有些霜,妈妈用手巾把孩子紧紧裹住,由于害怕,孩子一声也没吭,只是紧搂住妈妈的脖子。
  那只名叫布鲁诺的纽芬兰狗正卧在门廊尽头。当她走近时,它站起来轻轻叫了一声。这是她的宠物,她柔声唤着这只小伙伴。那只狗摇着尾巴,显然想和她一块出去,想必它那简单的大脑是搞不懂主人为什么半夜出门的。在它那简单的头脑中,它也隐约感到,主人的这次出行显得有点不太得体。因此它一面跟着艾莉查走,一面不时停下,若有所思地看看主人,又看看房子,几次反复之后,它才跟着艾莉查走了出去。几分钟后,他们到了汤姆叔叔的窗下,艾莉查停下来,轻轻地敲打了几下窗玻璃。
  这天的祷告会由于唱赞美诗而很晚才散。后来,汤姆叔叔也尽兴地唱了几首长赞美诗,这样做的直接影响是,虽然现在时间已过十二点,快到一点了,但汤姆叔叔和大婶还没有入睡。
  “我的天啊!是谁在敲窗子?”克鲁伊大婶说着站起来,猛地拉开了窗帘。“天啊!这不是莉兹吗?老东西,快穿好衣服!——布鲁诺也跟来了,到底是怎么一回事。我就来开门。”
  紧接着,门便被打开了,汤姆叔叔急忙点起一支蜡烛,烛光下,艾莉查那憔悴的脸和急切的眼神一览无余。
  “上帝保佑!怎么回事,莉兹?看起来你好像病了,你怎么这么晚匆匆跑到这来了?”
  “我要逃跑——汤姆叔叔,克鲁伊大婶,——我要带孩子逃跑,——主人卖掉他了。”
  “卖了?”听完,两个人都惊慌地举起他们的双手。
  “是的,把他卖了!”艾莉查肯定地说,“昨晚,我爬进太太房间旁的储藏室。我亲耳听到老爷说,他把汤姆叔叔和哈里都卖给奴隶贩子了,今天早晨,等老爷骑马出去后,奴隶贩子就来领人了。”
  艾莉查说话时,汤姆叔叔一直呆呆地瞪着眼睛站在那儿,举着双手,就像在做梦似的。最后,他终于明白了这些话的意思,与其说他一下坐在旧椅子上,不如说倒在上面,他垂下头,抵在膝盖上。
  “仁慈的上帝,可怜一下我们吧!”克鲁伊大婶说,“难道这是真的吗?汤姆没有做错事,为什么要卖他?”
  “他没犯什么错,——不是因为这个。老爷也不想卖掉他们,我们的太太也是一贯仁慈。我听到她向老爷求情,但老爷说,他欠了那个混蛋的钱,就要听从那个奴隶贩子,所以求情是没用的。如果不还钱,就得卖掉整个庄园和所有的仆人。是的,老爷说,要不卖掉他俩,要不就卖掉全部的基业,他已别无选择。主人说他很抱歉,太太真是位了不起的基督徒,她的心肠真是太好了,你们真该听听她说的话。离她而去,对于我来说真是太不道德了,但我必须走。正如太太曾说的,人的灵魂重于整个世界。我的孩子拥有灵魂,如果不带他逃走,天知道以后会发生什么事?我想我所做的是正确的,但如果我做错了,请上帝宽恕我,因为我必须如此做。”
  “哎,老家伙!”克鲁伊大婶说,“你为什么不逃跑?难道你愿意被带到河的下游,一辈子做牛做马吗?在那儿你只有死路一条,或者累死,或者饿死。我这辈子宁死也不会去那种地方。现在还有时间,——跟莉兹一齐逃跑吧,你有通行证,可以随时出入。快点,我帮你收拾一下。”
  汤姆慢慢抬起头,悲伤而平静地环顾四周说:“不,我不会逃跑。让莉兹走吧,她有权那样做!我不会反对她逃跑,让她留下是不合人情的。你刚刚也听到她所说的了,要么卖掉我,要么卖掉整个基业。如果这样的话,我宁肯是卖我,别人可以承受的,我也可以。”他补充说,他宽阔强健的胸脯抽动起伏着,像哭泣,又像叹息,“我一向听天由命,以后也是如此。我从来没有辜负老爷的期望,也没使用通行证骗过人,我从不违背诺言,今后也决不会。还是卖掉我吧,免得庄园垮掉,这不怪老爷,他会照顾你和可怜的人的。”
  说到这,他转向那张简陋的小矮床,上面挤满了卷发孩子,看着看着,他再也控制不住大哭起来。他靠在椅背上,以手掩面,大声哭泣着,大滴的泪珠从指缝滚落到地板上。当埋葬你的第一个孩子时,先生,你就是这样哭泣的;太太,我现在的泪水和你听到奄奄一息的婴儿哭时的泪水是多么相似啊。先生,你是人,他也是人。太太,虽然你浑身珠光宝气,可是也是个人啊。面对生活的困苦和人生的灾难,人们的感受是那样的相同。
  “还有,下午我见到了我丈夫,”艾莉查站在门边说,“那时我还不知道会发生这种事。他那凶残的主人把他逼得无路可投,他告诉我他想逃跑。如果可能,你们一定给他捎个口信。告诉他我走了以及为什么走,告诉他我要逃往加拿大。你们一定替我转达我对他的爱,告诉他,如果我今生不能与他再见面,”她转身背对着汤姆夫妇,声音嘶哑着说,“让他多做好事,争取与我们在天堂再见。”
  “把布鲁诺叫进去吧,”她补充说,“把它关在屋里,别让它跟着我。”
  说完最后几句话,她哭了。又说了些祝福的话以后,她抱紧受惊的孩子,悄悄地出发了。
  

第六章

 发现逃跑


  那天晚上谈了很长一段时间,希尔比夫妇未能立即入睡,所以醒得要比以往晚些。
  “艾莉查今天是怎么了?”希尔比太太说。她拉了多次铃,但没有任何反应。
  希尔比先生站在镜子前磨刮胡子刀,这时门开了,一个黑人男孩端着热水走了进来。
  “艾迪,”女主人喊道,“去艾莉查房间告诉她,我已经拉了三次铃叫她了。可怜的孩子!”她叹了口气,自言自语道。
  艾迪很快就回来了,眼睛吃惊地大睁着。
  “太太,不好了!莉兹的抽屉全打开了,东西遍地都是。看来她是逃走了。”
  希尔比先生和太太同时醒悟过来,希尔比先生喊道:“那么她早已起疑心,于是逃走了。”
  “谢天谢地,我相信是这样的。”希尔比太太说。
  “太太,你怎么还这么傻,她真逃走的话,我可就完了。赫利知道我不大愿意卖掉那个孩子,这样他会认为这事得到了我的默许,这将损害我的声誉。”说完,希尔比先生匆匆离开了房问。
  人们奔跑着,喊叫着,开关门的声音此起彼伏,大约一刻钟的时间里,不同肤色的面孔出现于不同的地方。此时,克鲁伊大婶一个人沉默着,她一句话也不说,虽然她可以对此事提供一些线索,但她只是一如既往地准备着早餐时的饼子,以往兴高采烈的脸上见不到一丝笑容,对于周围的忙乱场面,她好像没有听到什么,也没有看到什么似的。
  不一会儿,大约十二个孩子爬到了栏杆上,就像一群乌鸦似的,大家都希望第一个把这件事告诉那个走霉运的陌生人。
  “我确信他听后会发疯的。”艾迪说。
  “他会大骂不止的。”小黑杰克说。
  “他会的,”莫迪说,“昨天吃饭时,我听到他在谈论那桩生意。因为我当时正躲在太太放罐子的屋子里,我听得清清楚楚。”莫迪摇头晃脑地说,俨然一位智者的样子。他就像一只小黑猫,到今天为止,他还没有仔细想过一个词的含义呢。而且需要说明的是,他当时确实是躲在那个放罐子的房间,但多半时间他都在睡觉。
  当赫利终于骑马出现时,仆人们争先恐后地告诉他那个坏消息,不出那些小机灵鬼所料,他果然非常生气并大骂起来。这令那些机灵鬼非常兴奋,他们躲开赫利的马鞭,欢呼着在门前草地上滚作一团,一面互相踢着,一面大声喊叫着。
  “你们如果落到我手里,走着瞧吧!”赫利恨恨地低语着。
  “但你就是不能逮住我们。”知道赫利已走远,听不到他说话了,艾迪得意地说。并跟在奴隶贩子后面不时做着鬼脸。
  “我说希尔比,真是不象话,”赫利冲进客厅说,“看来那女人带着她的孩子逃走了。”
  “赫利先生,我太太还在这儿呢。”希尔比先生说。
  “太太,我失礼了,”赫利皱着眉头说,“不过我还是想提醒你,这事有点蹊跷。这是真的吗,先生?”
  “先生,”希尔比先生说,“你若想和我打交道,那你必须遵守上流社会的规矩。艾迪,接过赫利先生的帽子和马鞭。先生,请先坐下。虽然很遗憾,但我还是要告诉你,那个女人偷听了我们的谈话,要不就是有人走漏了风声,她被吓得逃走了。”
  “我还期望着我们能公平交易呢!”赫利说。
  “先生,”希尔比先生猛地转身对赫利说,“你这是什么意思?如果有人对我有什么怀疑的话,我只有一个答复告诉他。”
  奴隶贩子被吓了一跳,他低声说:“一个人只想公平交易,没想到却上了当,这怎么不叫人气愤呢?”
  “赫利先生,”希尔比先生说,“如果我不认为你是因为失望而闯进来的话,我甚至不可能容忍你这种无礼的横冲直撞。我们都要面子,所以我更不能容忍别人站在那儿指桑骂槐,好像我是这件不公平的事情的同谋似的。但我还是会给你帮助,给你提供人力和马匹等帮助,以便帮你追回自己的财产。简言之,赫利先生,”他突然放弃了刚才那种严冷的口吻,而代之以一种轻松的语调说,“你现在最好保持冷静,我们吃完早饭后再看看可以做一些什么事。”
  此时,希尔比太太站起身来,说她早上约了朋友,所以不能陪客人共进早餐了。她让一位有教养的第一代混血女人来照顾客人享用咖啡,然后她就离开了。
  “你太太好像不太喜欢你谦卑的仆人啊。”赫利强装着显得自然一些。
  “我可不喜欢别人这样随随意意地对我妻子品头论足。”希尔比先生淡然说。
  “对不起,你知道我只是想开个玩笑。”赫利强作笑容说。
  “有些玩笑可并不可笑!”希尔比先生接着说。
  “知道我已经在契约上签字,他就变得这样放肆了。怪不得从昨天开始,他就做起来了。”赫利自言自语道。
  汤姆的命运成了农庄中黑人关注的话题,恐怕首相的辞职也难以引起这么大的轰动。在田间地头,人们什么都不干,只是议论着此事会造成的影响。艾莉查母子的逃跑,作为农庄里一件前所未有的事,也加速了人们的兴奋。
  黑山姆(因为他比此地任何人都要黑三分,所以才赢得了这个称号)仔细考虑着这件事及其发展的趋势。他的看法很有见地,又很好地考虑到了自身的利益。这使华盛顿的所有爱国白人都觉得面上增光不少。
  “塞翁失马,焉知祸福,这就是真理。”山姆若有所思地说,再一次提了提裤子。他找来一根钉子代替了吊带上的那粒丢失的钮扣,显得他是一名机械方面的天才,对此他常常引以自豪。
  “是的,塞翁失马,焉知祸福,”他重复道,“现在汤姆要下台了,他的空缺自然需要有个黑人接替。我想为什么我就不行呢?汤姆每天骑着马在田间地头闲逛,靴子黑亮,口袋里揣着通行证,他的威风有谁能相比呢?为什么山姆就不能做得好一些呢?我倒想试一试。”
  “喂,山姆,主人要你去找比利和杰瑞。”艾迪的话打断了山姆的自语。
  “嗨,年轻人,出了什么事?”
  “你还不知道莉兹带着小哈里逃跑了吗?”
  “你这叫班门弄斧!”山姆傲慢地说,“我不是小毛孩子,这事我知道的比你早多了。”
  “不管如何,主人让你把比利和杰瑞套好,然后咱俩和赫利先生去追艾莉查。”
  “太好了,我今天时来运转了!”山姆说,“这么多年来,这是山姆我第一次出马,主人会知道山姆的本事有多大的。”
  “但是,山姆,”艾迪说,“你要三思而后行。因为太太不想把艾莉查抓回来,你千万别做什么蠢事。”
  “嗨!”山姆睁大眼睛问道,“你怎么知道的?”
  “今天早晨我给主人送刮胡子水时,听她亲口说的。她派我去看看为什么莉兹还不为她梳头。当我告诉她莉兹逃走时,她站起身说了句‘谢天谢地!’而主人则看似真疯了,他说:‘太太,你说什么傻话啊!’但他好像听夫人的,我知道这一点。我说,你最好还是站在太太这边好些。”
  黑山姆听后抓了一下脑袋,虽然里面没什么深奥的智慧,但仍然包含着政治家所特别需要的特有的机智的观点,即知道自己应该站在哪一边。他停下来,认真考虑了一下,提提裤子,这已经成了他惯用的帮他解决思想难题的一件法宝了。
  “这世界上的事儿真是难以琢磨啊!”他最后说。
  山姆的谈话使他像哲学家,他特别强调了“这”字,好像他经历过各种各样的世界,并经过考虑得出了自己的结论似的。
  “噢,我还以为太太要我们搜遍整个世界也要追回莉兹不可呢!”山姆若有所思地说。
  “很对,”艾迪说,“你这黑小子,难道看不出这么显而易见的事情吗?关键在于太太不想赫利抓到莉兹的乖孩子。”
  “唉!”山姆感叹着,这声感叹,只有那些听惯了它的人才能体会到其中的深意。
  “我再告诉你一些情况,”艾迪说,“我想你最好快点找回马来,因为我听说太太在找你,而你却在这儿傻站了老半天了。”
  听完这话,山姆才认真干起活来。没有多长时间,他就骑马出现在大宅门前。比利和杰瑞跟在后面慢跑着,山姆在它们意识到该停下之前已飞快地翻身下马。他像风一样把马拉到马桩前面,赫利骑来的是匹小马驹,不停地蹦跳着,想挣开缰绳。
  “嗨!”山姆喊道,“害怕了,对吗?”他的脸上闪过一丝恶作剧的神色,“让我来帮你一把。”
  旁边有一棵高大的山毛榉树,枝繁叶茂,地上满是那种尖小的三角形果子。山姆拿起一个树果,走到小马身旁,轻抚着它的身体,好像要使它镇静下来。趁调整马鞍的时机,他熟练地把尖小的树果塞在马鞍下。只要稍微用力压一下马鞍,小马驹那敏感的神经就会感到刺痛,而且不留痕迹。
  “啊,”山姆得意地咧开嘴笑着说,“我帮你收拾好了。”
  此时,希尔比太太站在阳台上向他招手,他走上前去,就像去圣·詹姆士宫或华盛顿谋求一个空缺职位似的。他决心要乘机大献殷勤。
  “山姆,怎么那么慢?我不是派艾迪催你了吗?”
  “太太,上帝保佑你!”艾迪说,“马不是那么容易抓住的。它们跑到南边草地上去了。老天爷知道要抓住它们必须跑很远。”
  “山姆,我已经提醒你不止一次了,不要再讲‘上帝保佑’、‘老天爷知道’之类的话了。那听起未让人讨厌!”
  “上帝保佑,对不起太太,我忘了。以后我再也不说这种话了。”
  “看,你又说那句话了。”
  “是吗?老天爷,我再也不说那句话了。”
  “山姆,当心点。”
  “太太,让我歇口气,我一定特别留神,我会有个好的开始的。”
  “对了,山姆,你带赫利先生去帮帮忙。杰瑞腿有点跛,你要照顾好马,别让它跑得太快!”希尔比太太放低声音,加重了语气说。
  “你放心,我会留意的!”山姆意味深长地翻了翻眼皮说,“老天爷知道!嗨,瞧我这张臭嘴!”他突然屏住气若有所悟地挥了挥手,他的滑稽样使女主人大笑起来:“太太,我会照顾好杰瑞的!”
  “艾迪,”山姆返回到山毛榉树下,“等会儿那位先生上马时,如果被摔下来,我是不会感到奇怪的。你知道,有时候马会变得很顽钝!”他捅了一下艾迪的腰,暗示着他说。
  “哎!”艾迪心领神会地应了一声。
  “艾迪,你知道太太只想拖延时问。这点明眼人一眼就能看出来。让我帮他一把吧。喂,把马缰绳解开,让它们跑到树林那边去,我想这回赫利就不能立即出发去抓人了。”
  艾迪咧嘴笑了。
  “你要明白,”山姆说,“艾迪,等会儿赫利老爷的马使性子蹦跳起来,我们可是要去帮他的——是的,我们要帮他一把。”山姆和艾迪把头往后一仰,放纵地低笑着,然后又高兴地手舞足蹈起来。
  此时,赫利出现在门廊上。喝完几杯好咖啡,他心情平静了许多,说笑着走了出未。山姆和艾迪随手抓了几张棕榈叶——他们常把那叶子当作帽子,急忙跑到马桩边,做好准备来帮助赫利。
  山姆把棕榈叶整理好,他灵巧的手把叶子弄得有边有沿,叶梗片片直立,看上去显得那样的自由而傲慢,简直可以和斐济酋长的帽子相媲美。艾迪的帽沿脱落了,他把帽子往头上戴去,洋洋自得地回头说,“谁说我没有帽子?”
  “哎,孩子们,”赫利说,“我们不能再浪费时间了。”
  “不会浪费时间的,老爷!”说着,山姆把缰绳交给赫利,替他扶着马镫,艾迪则忙着去解开那两匹马。
  赫利一碰马鞍,那小马突然跳了起来,猛地把主人甩出好几英尺,赫利四脚朝天地摔在了草地上。山姆怒喝着马,想来拉马缰绳,没想到棕榈叶划到了马的眼睛,这更加刺激了它那狂乱的神经。它猛然把山姆掀翻在地,粗声喘了几口气,然后便朝着远方草地处跑去。此时,艾迪也不失时机地放开了比利和杰瑞,这两匹小马就跟着那匹惊马跑走了,后面,艾迪喊叫着催马追去。草地上乱作一团,山姆和艾迪追赶着小马,狗也在狂吠着,麦克、莫迪、法尼和其他小孩子都跳出来凑热闹,他们兴奋地跑着、拍着手,使劲叫个不停。
  赫利的马是匹活泼、迅捷的白马,看起来它似乎很陶醉于这种撒欢儿状态。它的脚下是一块差不多方圆半英里的通向森林的草地,草地朝四方蔓延倾斜着。小白马似乎惬意于让追赶它的人追上来,但等到他们追近时,它却喷着长气,恶作剧似地蹦跳着飞奔入一条林径。山姆只想等到最恰当的时机再把马抓住,所以他并不着急,——不过他还是表现英勇。只要那匹马有被抓住的危险,他便把棕榈叶伸到它的面前,那根棕榈叶就像狮子王的利剑一样,全身心地在前方和战斗最激烈处为大家开路。他大喊道,“赶快!快抓住它!抓住它!”好像他要在眨眼间将一切都降伏似的。
  赫利不时奔跑着,嘴里在不停地诅咒着,气得直跺脚。希尔比先生站在阳台上,徒劳地指挥着大家。希尔比太太坐在卧室前,似乎猜到了引起混乱的原因,于是她时而大笑着,时而惊讶地赞叹着。
  最后,直到十二点,山姆才骑着杰瑞回来,旁边跟着赫利那匹马。那匹马浑身是汗,眼睛不时眨动着,大张着鼻孔,展现出它那并未消退的野性。
  “我抓到它了!”山姆胜利地宣告着,“如果没有我,它们还不知道要折腾到何时呢。但我还是抓住它们了。”
  “你!”赫利咆哮着,“如果没你,这一切是不会发生的。”
  “愿上帝保佑你,”山姆无限关心地说,“我一直都在努力追赶它们,你看我浑身是汗。”
  “别再说了,算了!”赫利说,“真是胡闹,你耽误了我三个小时。现在别再添乱了,我们出发吧。”
  “老爷!”山姆不赞成地说道,“我看你是想杀死我们这些人和那可怜的马儿。我们都快被累倒了,马也是大汗淋漓。咳,你不认为我们应该吃完饭再走吗?你的马也需要冲洗一下。瞧它身上的泥土!另外,杰瑞的腿也有点跛。我想太太是不会同意我们这样出发的。老爷,上帝保佑你,只要歇一会儿,我们会追上她的,莉兹不善于走路。”
  听到这番话,门廊边的希尔比太太暗自高兴,便决定自己出面调解一番。她很礼貌地走上前,对赫利的损失表示了关心并挽留他吃午饭后走,说厨房会把饭菜很快准备好。
  仔细考虑了一番后,赫利勉强去了客厅。走在他后面的山姆诡秘地眨了眨眼,然后悠闲地牵马到马厩去了。
  “看到没,艾迪?看到他那样子了吗?”山姆边把马拴在马厩里的木桩上边说,“噢,天啊!他那指手画脚、不停咒骂的样子真像在举行祈祷会。难道我会听不到?骂吧,老混蛋(我对自己说):你现在要那匹马吗?还是你要把它亲自抓回来?艾迪,我现在依然记得他的样子。”山姆和艾迪背靠马厩,大声说笑着。
  “你该看看当我把马牵回来时,他那发疯的样子。老天爷,他真想杀死我,如果可能的话。而我却假装谦卑和无辜地站在那里。”
  “是的,我看到了,”艾迪说,“你干这事真是个老手。”
  “也没有什么,”山姆说,“你看到太太站在窗前看着我们了吗?我看见她在笑。”
  “我相信她在笑。只是我当时忙于奔跑,所以没看见。”艾迪说。
  “你要明白,”山姆边说着边认真地冲洗着赫利的马。“我已养成了你所谓的‘见机行事’的习惯。艾迪,这很重要。你还年轻,我建议你应使自己具备这种习惯。艾迪,把马的后腿抬起来。你要知道,是否具有这种习惯对黑人是很重要的。我今天早晨不就先察看了风向吗?我看透了太太的心思,虽然她没明白地告诉我。艾迪,这就叫察言观色。这点,你也可以称为能力。人的能力因人而异,但培养还是会有很大作用的。”
  “我想,如果不是我帮你‘察言观色’,你今天早晨是不会把事儿办得那么漂亮的。”艾迪说。
  “艾迪,”山姆说,“你是个很有前途的孩子,这是不容置疑的。我很看重你。我不会以从你那儿得到启发为耻的。即使最聪明的人也难免犯错误,所以我们不要看不起他人。好了,我们回大宅去吧,太太一定为我们准备了许多好吃的。”
  


第七章 

母亲的挣扎


  当艾莉查转身离开汤姆叔叔的小屋时,恐怕世界上没有比她更孤单,更凄惨的人了。
  丈夫的苦楚和危险,儿子的安危,一时全都涌上心头。向前跑的时候她的心头有一种难以割舍的冒险的感觉,离开自己这个唯一的家,远离昔日她所深爱的朋友以及所有熟悉的一切——自己成长的土地,自己曾嬉戏其下的树木以及和丈夫并肩走过的小树丛——这一切,清晰地躺在那儿,在璀璨的星光下,它们似乎在责备她并问她如果离开这样的家,她将何去何从。
  但是,母爱已经超过了一切,因为令人害怕的危险即将来临。孩子已经可以和她一起走路了,在某些情况下,她会牵着他的小手让他自己走路。但现在,想到孩子将脱离她的怀抱,她就浑身发抖。艾莉查把孩子紧紧抱在怀中,迅速向前走去。
  霜冻的地面在她脚下吱吱地响着,这声音吓得她直打哆嗦。在微风中,树影摇曳不定,把她吓得大气都不敢出,只是加快了步伐。她也暗自奇怪,自己哪里来的那么大的力气,她感到孩子是那样的轻,就像一根羽毛似的。每一次惊吓都增添了她的力量,她只是向前奔着。她的嘴唇苍白,不时向上天祈祷着:“噢,上帝,帮帮我!救救我吧!”
  母亲们,如果你的哈里或你的威利明天早晨要被一个畜生似的奴隶贩子从身边夺走,如果你看到过那个畜生并知道契约已经签好字并交给那个奴隶贩子,而且距天亮只有几个小时可以让你带孩子逃命时,你会走得多快呢?如果你怀中抱着亲爱的孩子,他那困倦的头颅靠在你的肩膀上,你会在这短短几小时内走多少英里路呢?
  孩子睡着了,开始,因为恐惧,孩子一直醒着,他每次呼吸和说话,母亲都会及时制止他,并安慰他说只要他老老实实不出声,她就能救他;所以,他就安静地搂着母亲的脖子,只是在快入睡时才问了妈妈一句:“妈妈,我不用老是醒着吧?”
  “不用,小心肝。你想睡就睡吧。”
  “但是,妈妈,如果我真睡着了,你不会让他抓走我吧?”
  “不会,决不会,上帝会帮助我们的!”妈妈说,她脸色苍白,黑色的大眼睛闪烁着明亮的光辉。
  “你肯定,对吗?妈妈。”
  “我保证!”妈妈说。语调的坚定让她自己都感到吃惊。因为这种回答是源于某种她自身并不具备的一种精神。接着,孩子把小脑袋垂在妈妈的肩上,不一会就进入了梦乡。母亲感到了脖子那儿孩子温暖的小胳膊和孩子轻柔的呼吸,这无疑给她注入了火和精神。她觉得,孩子身体的晃动和触动,都像电流一样给她注入了力量。在身体中,精神主宰着肉体,在一定时间内,它能使肌体和神经变得坚强。它能使肌肉变强健,使弱者变坚强。
  她继续向前走着,一座座农庄,丛林和小树林飞快地从她身边掠过;她不停地向前走着,走过一处又一处熟悉的景物,丝毫不敢停留。当红暖的阳光照向大地时,她已经走了好几英里,远离了平日熟悉的景物,踏在了宽阔的大路上。
  以前,她常陪着女主人到离俄亥俄河不远的T村亲戚家做客,所以她比较熟悉附近的道路。她打算先逃过俄亥俄河,等过河后,她就只有听天由命了。
  当公路上出现马车和马匹时,紧张时所特有的警觉使她意识到,脚步的忙乱以及自己慌张的神色会让人们注意和起疑心的。想到这儿,她放下孩子,整理好自己的衣帽,快步而又不失态地往前赶着。在她的小包中,放着一些蛋糕和苹果,她把苹果抛到路中几码远的地方,于是孩子便全力向前追去,就这样,她加快了前进的步伐。周而复始,他们又走了几英里路。
  没多久,他们到达了一片茂盛的树林边,清澈的小溪哗哗地流淌着。孩子这时喊着说他又渴又饿,于是她带着他爬过栅栏,坐在一块可以遮挡行人视线的石头后面,给孩子拿出早餐吃。孩子见她不吃,觉得很奇怪,他用手抱住母亲的脖子,尽力往母亲嘴里塞着小块的糕点,看起来她的嗓子被什么东西堵住了。
  “不,不,亲爱的哈里,你不脱离险境,妈妈就不吃东西。我们要不停赶路,直到过河为止。”说完她又重新踏上征程,并且从容不迫地向前赶去。
  她已经离认识的邻居很远了,因为希尔比家待人和蔼,即使碰到熟人,这一点也会保护他们,不至于让人有丝毫的怀疑。况且她的肤色相当白,如果不细看,就看不出她是黑人。孩子的肤色也很白,所以这有助于他蒙混过关而不引起人的怀疑。正是因此,中午时分,她决定在一户干净的农户家停下来吃些东西,自己也稍稍休息一下。因为这离家已经很远了,危险已减低,本来紧张的神经渐渐松弛下来,她也感到自己既累又饿。
  那位女主人态度和善,喜欢聊天,今天来了一位可以聊天的人,她很高兴。她甚至没有盘问就相信了艾莉查所说的,她有事要与朋友们呆一个星期,艾莉查多希望自己所说的都是事实啊!
  日落前一个小时,艾莉查走进了俄亥俄河边的T村,此时她已是浑身发软,两脚酸痛,但她依然保持着较高的精神。她一眼就看见了俄亥俄河,但它就像约旦河一样,把自己和自由乐土迦南分隔了开来。
  现在仍是初春,河水暴涨,水声轰鸣,大块大块的浮冰在河水中漂游着,撞击着。因为靠近肯塔基州的河岸形状奇特,远处,陆地已延伸到了河中,致使大量的冰块滞留下来,狭窄的河道中全是冰块,它们一块压着另一块,形成了一座巨大的冰筏,这冰筏铺满了河面,并一直延伸到河的对岸。
  艾莉查站在那看着那冰面沉思了一会儿,她知道平日的渡船是不可能有的了。她转身走向一间酒店,想去问一些情况。
  酒店的女主人正拿着刀叉准备晚餐,听到艾莉查悦耳而略带哀伤的声音,她便停下来,手里拿着叉子,问道:“你想干什么呢?”
  “现在有渡船到B地吗?”艾莉查问。
  “没有,”那女人说,“渡船已经停开了。”
  艾莉查惊慌失措的样子打动了她,她问道:“你是想过河吗?有人生病吗?看样子你很着急。”
  “我的孩子病得很重,”艾莉查说,“我昨天晚上才听到信儿,今天我走了很远的路,就是想赶上渡船。”
  “哦,这真是不巧,”那女人母性的同情心油然而生,“我真为你担心,所罗门!”她从窗户向一间小黑屋喊道。一个围着围裙,两手很脏的男人出现在门口。
  “我说呀,绪尔,”那女人说,“今晚是不是有人想把那几个木桶运过河去?”
  “如果有可能的话,他想试试。”男人说。
  “附近有个人今晚想运些东西过河,傍晚他要来吃晚饭,你最好坐下来等他,这孩子长得好可爱啊!”那女人接着说,又递给孩子一块蛋糕。但是精疲力竭的哈里哭了起来。
  “可怜的小宝贝,他不习惯走路,但我还是老催他。”艾莉查说。
  “噢,带他到这屋来吧。”女人说着打开了一间卧室的门,里面有一张很舒服的床。艾莉查把孩子抱上床,握住孩子的双手,直到孩子睡熟为止。但她自己却是不能休息,一想到后面有追兵,她的心里就像有团火在燃烧,催着她向前赶路。她的目光是那样地充满渴望,一直注视着那条把她和自由之地隔开的急流。
  现在让我们暂时离开他们,去看看后面追兵的情况吧。
  虽然希尔比太太保证很快就开饭,但人们很快就发现,就好像人们以前常看到的,要做成一笔生意,需要不止一方的努力。赫利虽然听到了希尔比太太的命令,而且至少有五六位少年仆人向克鲁伊传达了这个命令,但克鲁伊大婶却只是生硬地应着,摇晃着头,还是如她往日干活时那般的悠闲,这真是异乎寻常的事。
  因为某种奇特的原因,仆人们好像都觉得耽误一点时间,太太是不会责怪的。那天也真怪,不顺利的事情接连发生,这使得出发的事不得不一再推迟。一位不幸运的老兄打翻了肉汁,于是人们不得不再做一次肉汁。克鲁伊大婶边看着边不紧不慢地拌着肉汁。只要一催她,她就会回答说,她不想把生肉汁端上饭桌,不想帮忙去把人抓回来。一位老兄挑水时摔了一跤,所以只好再次回到泉边打一桶水。还有一位老兄把奶油洒在了路上。令人发笑的事情不时传回到厨房,所以“赫利老爷坐立不安,他烦躁地在屋里踱来踱去,显得非常着急。”
  “这是他自找的,”克鲁伊大婶愤然说道,“不久,他还会更加烦躁呢,如果他再不注意他行事的方法的话,他的主人就会派人叫他回去了,那时就有好看的了。”
  “他会受到惩罚的,肯定的。”小杰克说。
  “活该!”克鲁伊大婶冷酷地说,“我告诉你们,他已经伤害了太多太多人的心,”她停了下来,高举起一把叉子,“就好像乔治少爷为我们读的《启示录》中的句子,在圣坛下,灵魂们在喊叫着,他们在恳求上帝替他们报仇。总有一天,上帝会听到他们的呼喊,他一定会听到的。”
  克鲁伊大婶在厨房中倍受大家的尊敬,她说话时,人们总是张着嘴仔细听着。中饭已经差不多都送进来了,厨房里的仆人们仍在悠然自得地听着她的长篇大论。
  “这种人将被火烧死,肯定没错,是吗?”艾迪说。
  “如果能亲眼看到他被烧死才过瘾呢,我一定要看。”杰克说。
  “孩子们!”一个声音说,这让他们都大吃一惊,那是汤姆叔叔,他早就进来了,只不过一直站在门口听着他们的谈话。
  “孩子们!”他说,“我看就连你们也不知道自己在说什么。‘永远’是个可怕的词,孩子们,即使想一想它也是罪恶的,你们不要那样说一个人。”
  “我们没指别人,只是针对那些奴隶贩子,”艾迪说,“每个人都禁不住要诅咒他们,因为他们是如此的可恶狠毒。”
  “难道老天会宽恕他们吗?”克鲁伊大婶说,“难道不是他们从母亲的怀中夺走吃奶的孩子并卖掉的吗?尽管孩子们在哭个不停并死抓住母亲的衣角;难道不是他们把孩子们强行夺走并卖掉的吗?难道不是他们棒打鸳鸯,把好好的一对夫妻活活拆散分开的吗?”克鲁伊大婶说着说着,禁不住哭泣起来,“做这些事情时,难道他们就不感到内疚吗?你看他们还不是吃喝玩乐,过着神仙般快乐的生活吗?如果恶魔不去把他们抓来并惩罚他们,那还要魔鬼干什么?”说罢,克鲁伊大婶以围裙盖住脸,禁不住大声哭泣起来。
  “圣书说,要为粗暴地对待你的人祈祷。”汤姆说。
  “为他们祈祷!”克鲁伊大婶说,“上帝,这真是太残酷了,我不会为他们祈祷的。”
  “这是人之本性,克鲁伊,人的本性很强烈,”汤姆说,“但上帝的恩典更加强大。你应该这样来看这件事,那些干这种事的人的灵魂是处在多么可怕的境地啊,他们太可怜了。你应感谢上帝,你不像他们,克鲁伊。我确信我宁愿被卖掉一万次,也不愿那个可怜的人对所有这些负责。”
  “我也是这样认为,”杰克说,“上帝,我们会看到他的下场,对吗?艾迪。”
  艾迪耸耸肩,吹了一声口哨表示赞同。
  “今天早晨老爷没按计划出门,我很高兴。”汤姆说,“如果他按计划出门了,那会比卖掉我更让我伤心。他远离这里对他来说也许很自然,但我会感到很难受的。他还是个婴儿时,我就认识他了,我是看着他长大成人的。我走之前已经见过老爷的面了。主人也是别无选择,他的选择是正确的,我觉得我们应顺从上帝的安排。但我很担心,我怕以后事情会变得很糟。我们不能让老爷也像我一样到处去察看,处理农庄的事务。孩子们心肠都很好,但你们做事很粗心,这使我难以安心离去。”
  铃响了,汤姆被叫进大厅。
  “汤姆,”主人和蔼地说,“我想让你明白,我和这位先生订了个协议,他来要人时,如果你不在,我就要付给他一千美元。今天他忙着做别的事,所以今天你是自由的,你可以去你想去的地方,汤姆。”
  “谢谢你,老爷。”汤姆说。
  “你要当心点,”奴隶贩子说,“不要和主人玩你们这些黑鬼的小聪明了。如果我找不到你,我会让他变得身无分文。如果他相信我,就不应该相信你们,你们比泥鳅还要滑。”
  “老爷,”汤姆说,他直直地站在那儿,“老太太第一次把你交给我时,我八岁,你只有几个月大。太太说,‘汤姆,这是小主人,好好照看他。’老爷,现在我只想问你一句,自从我信仰基督教以来,我是否失信于你?我是否反对过你?”
  希尔比先生感动得泪水在眼眶中打转。
  “好孩子,”他说,“上帝知道你说的都是真话。如果我可以选择的话,就算整个世界也别想买走你。”
  “我以女基督徒的名义发誓,”希尔比太太说,“只要攒够钱,我就赎你回来。”她对赫利说,“请留意他是被谁买走的,到时通知我。”
  “这事很容易做到,”奴隶贩子说,“也许我会在一年后把他买回来卖给你,他不会少几根头发的。”
  “我会再次和你做生意,并让你多赚一点钱。”希尔比太太说。
  “当然可以,”奴隶贩子说,“对我来说,怎么样都不亏。我既往南也往北卖奴隶,所以我生意兴隆。你知道,太太,我只想生存,我想那是我们所期望得到的。”
  对于奴隶贩子的厚颜无耻,希尔比夫妇均感到既愤怒又丢人,但他们都明白此时控制自己的感情是很必要的。他的表现越卑鄙,希尔比太太越是担心他抓到艾莉查和她的孩子哈里,因此她更决心以妇女特有的计谋和他周旋。她优雅地笑着,随意附和着奴隶贩子的观点,并亲切地和他交谈,总之她尽了全力来使时间不被人注意地逝去。
  两点钟时,山姆和艾迪把马拴在了树桩上,显然上午的追逐使他们更加精神焕发,仿佛浑身有使不完的劲。
  吃完饭后,山姆又是精神焕发,显得是那样的热情殷勤。当赫利走过来时,他正活跃地向莫迪吹嘘说他已“做好了一切准备”,这次一定会成功。
  “我想你们的主人不会养狗吧。”赫利上马时若有所思地说。
  “有很多狗,”山姆得意地说,“它叫布鲁诺,叫声响亮。另外,每个黑人都养着一条各具特色的狗。”
  “呸!”赫利骂道,对刚才所提到的狗,赫利又骂了几句话。对此,山姆低声嘀咕道:
  “我不明白他骂狗有什么用。”
  “你们主人有没有喂养专门追捕逃跑的人的狗?我相信他没有养。”
  山姆明白了赫利所说话的意思,但他还是装出一副傻傻的样子。
  “我们养的狗嗅觉都很灵敏,我想它们属于你说的那种狗,尽管它们从来没被用来追捕过逃犯。如果你使用它们,它们就会跑得远。过来,布鲁诺。”他吹口哨叫着那只纽芬兰狗。它懒懒地晃着身子朝他跑了过来。
  “你去死吧!”说着,赫利便骑上马,“快点,上马。”
  山姆顺从地上了马,他逗着艾迪,这使得艾迪不停地笑着。赫利忍无可忍,便用马鞭狠劲抽了他一下。
  “艾迪,我真是很吃惊,”山姆认真地说,“这事很严重,艾迪。你不要不重视它,那样就不能帮老爷的忙了。”
  “我想一直向前走直到河边,”赫利说,语气很坚定。当他们快走出农庄时,他说,“我知道你们的办事之道,你们经常往地下钻。”
  “当然,”山姆说,“事实是这样的。赫利老爷说得很对。喏,到河边去有两条路,老爷打算走土路呢,还是大路呢?”艾迪看着山姆,心中感到很奇怪,因为他听到了关于地理方面的新知识。但很快他就重复着山姆问的问题,以证实山姆说的是真实的情况。
  “当然了,我认为莉兹走的是土路,因为很少有人走那条路。”山姆说。
  赫利自认为自己不是一只省油的灯,也不会轻意相信那些玩笑话,但听了山姆说的话以后,他也不得不先停下来仔细考虑一下。
  “你们不是说假话才怪呢!”仔细考虑后,赫利沉声说。
  赫利说话时那种若有所思的表情让艾迪觉得可笑,于是他就放慢马速落在了后面,心里乐得简直要从马上掉下来;但山姆却没露声色,他的脸阴沉沉的,看着很伤心。
  “当然,”山姆说,“老爷可以依照你自己的意愿去做,如果老爷认为走大路好,我们就走大路,对于我们来说,走哪条路都一样。我也认为大路比较好。”
  “她自然会走人少的路。”赫利一边想着,一边小声说着。他并没有理会山姆在说什么。
  “那也不一定都是对的,”山姆说,“女人有时非常怪,她们做事情经常异于常人,多数情况下是和常人完全相反。她们经常反其道而行之。所以,如果你认为她们走的是这条路,那你最好选择另一条路去追,这样你就可以捉到她们。根据我的了解,莉兹会选择大路,所以我们还是从大路去追吧。”
  这一套关于女人的意味深长的话并没让赫利下决心走大路去抓莉兹,相反,他决定选择另一条路去追莉兹,并问山姆他们什么时候可以到那儿。
  “离前面不远。”山姆说。他用靠近艾迪的那只眼向艾迪使了个眼色,接着又坚定地补充说,“我仔细考虑了这件事,我敢保证我们不应该走土路,我从没走过这条路,而且路上行人又很少,说不定我们会迷路的,到时只有上帝知道我们会走到哪儿去了。”
  “不管怎样,我都要走土路。”赫利说。
  “我又想起件事,我听人说这条路靠近河的那段有栅栏挡着,是吗,艾迪?”
  艾迪对此没有把握,他只是听人说过这条路,但并没有真正走过一次,所以他只有含混地答应着。
  赫利很善于权衡大小谎言的可能性。经过权衡,他还是认为走土路比较稳妥。他觉得,山姆之所以坚持走土路是因为他在无意中说漏了嘴,只是因为他不愿自己抓到艾莉查所以才编造各种理由,企图让自己不再坚持走土路。
  因此当山姆提出走大路时,赫利轻快地打马走向土路,后面紧跟着山姆和艾迪。
  实际上这条土路是一条老路,直接通向河边,只是新路修好之后,就被弃用多年了。前一个小时,他们走得比较顺利,但不久路被切断了,路上到处是大小的农田和栅栏,它们阻止了他们的去路,不能再往前走了。实际上,山姆对这条路很熟悉,他知道路已经被封闭了。但艾迪却不知道这种情况,所以他只是骑马跟着向前走去,他只是偶尔抱怨几句,发些牢骚,大声抱怨说一些这崎岖的路会伤害杰瑞的脚之类的话而已。
  “我警告你们,”赫利说,“我了解你们的秉性,不管你们说什么,我也不会改变路线的。都给我把嘴闭上。”
  “老爷,随你了。”山姆说,脸上是一副委屈的神情,但同时他却得意地朝艾迪眨着眼睛。艾迪高兴得几乎要喜形于色了。
  山姆的兴致也很高,故意说要仔细搜索一下,有一次他大声说,他看见远处山坡上有一顶女人的帽子,有一次他又对艾迪喊道,那山谷中的人不就是莉兹吗!他总在崎岖和乱石林立的地段大声喊叫,或者在某些地段催马加速前行,这无论对人还是马匹都是难以做到的。而这使得赫利无时不处于兴奋和忐忑不安之中。
  在这条路上大约走了一个小时后,他们来到一个院子里,那是一个大农场的谷仓。他们没有发现什么人,大家都到田里干活去了。这个谷仓,正好建在路的中间,所以明显的事实是,沿着这条路再走下去是没路可走的了。
  “老爷,我不是告诉过你吗?一个外地人怎么会比当地人更清楚这里的情况呢?”山姆以一种受到冤枉的口气说。
  “你这个强盗,”赫利说,“你很清楚所有这些事情。”
  “我不是明白告诉过你吗?但你不相信我的话,那你说我还能说什么呢?我告诉老爷说,这条路被封堵了,路上还有栅栏,我不确信我们能通过,艾迪可是听到我说的了。”
  这些都是真话,容不得赫利再说什么,倒霉的主人只好以他最好的优雅来掩饰自己的愤怒。于是三个人只好拨转马头,向右走上了大路。
  由于这各式各样的耽搁,当他们到达T村时,艾莉查已经让孩子在村中的旅店睡了一个半小时了。艾莉查站在窗前,观察着另外一个方向的动静。此时,山姆那双机灵的眼睛发现了她,后面两码处,就是赫利和艾迪。说时迟,那时快,山姆故意让风刮掉了头上的帽子,并极具特色地高叫了一声。这声叫喊惊动了艾莉查,她立刻缩回身,三个人骑着马从窗前一掠而过,到屋子的前门去了。
  刹那间,艾莉查好像突然拥有了一千倍的活力。她的房间有扇朝向河边的门。她一把抱起孩子,跳下一级级台阶,朝着河边猛跑过去。正当她即将消失身形于河岸下时,奴隶贩子一眼发现了她。他翻身下马,大声喊着山姆和艾迪,自己已像追赶一只小鹿一样朝艾莉查追来。一瞬间,艾莉查几乎脚不沾地地飞到河边,追捕她的人紧跟在身后。在老天给予绝望者的非凡力量的帮助下,她纵身一跳,越过岸边的混水,跳到了远处的冰筏上。那是拼死的一跳,只有在疯狂或绝望时才会有这样的一跳。看着艾莉查这样的跳跃,赫利、山姆、艾迪都本能地大喊起来,同时举起了双手。
  她跳上去的那块巨大的绿色冰筏在她身体的重压下左摇右晃,发出了咯吱吱的响声,但她不能有片刻停留,她狂叫着用尽力气跳到了一块冰筏上,接着是另一块,滑倒了,站起来再跳。鞋子掉了,袜子划破了,每走一步都留下斑斑血迹。但她什么也不看,什么也不听,身上也没什么感觉,最后,好像在梦中似的,她隐约看到了俄亥俄河的岸边,一个男子把她扶上了岸。
  “不论你是谁,你都是很勇敢的,我敢发誓!”那个人说道。
  听到这个声音,艾莉查通过面容认出了那个人。他是她老家附近一个农场的主人。
  “噢,西姆斯先生,救救我,千万要救我,你把我藏起来吧!”艾莉查说。
  “哎,你是谁啊?”那人说道,“你不是希尔比家的仆人吗?”
  “我的孩子,这个小男孩,他被卖掉了!那边那个人是他的新主人,”她指着河岸对面说,“西姆斯先生,你也有个男孩啊!”
  “我有的,”他很友善地把她用力拉上了陡峭的堤岸。“而且,你真是位大胆勇敢的姑娘。不管在哪儿,我看到勇敢的人就喜欢。”
  当他们爬到堤岸最高处时,这个男子停了下来。
  “我很乐意为你做些什么,”他说,“但我没有地方带你去,我能做的只是告诉你一个你该去的地方,”他指着远处村子大街外一间孤零零的白色大房子说,“到那儿去吧,他们很善良,在那儿你不会有危险,他们会帮你,他们专做这方面的事。”
  “上帝保佑你!”艾莉查诚挚地说。
  “算了,这没什么,”他说,“我做这件事算得了什么呢。”
  “哦,先生,你一定不会告诉别人吧!”
  “姑娘,你这是说什么,你认为我是什么人?我当然不会。”那人说,“快,勇敢向前走吧,你很聪明,有胆量。既然你已得到了自由,你就有权拥有它。”
  女人把孩子紧抱在胸口,迈着坚定而匆匆的步伐走了。那人站在那儿一直看着她的背影。
  “希尔比或许认为这是一件难以容忍的事。但人该怎么做才算对呢?如果他在同样的情况下抓到了我的一个女仆,欢迎他以同样的方式回敬我。再说我真受不了黑人喘着粗气拼命逃跑,后面又有狗追赶的情形。何况我为什么要帮助别人抓逃跑的黑奴呢?”
  这个可怜的异教徒肯塔基人自语着。他没怎么受过国家法律的教育,结果他以一种基督教精神糊里糊涂地背叛了自己的国家法律。如果他地位再高一点,受过更多教育的话,他一定会以截然相反的方式来对待艾莉查了。
  赫利站在那儿,惊讶地看着这个场面,直到艾莉查消失不见,他才以一种询问的目光看着山姆和艾迪。
  “这一手真是干净漂亮!”山姆说。
  “我想她定是魔鬼附体,”赫利说,“她蹦跳的样子就像只野猫。”
  “希望老爷原谅我们,”山姆搔着头说,“我们不该走那条土路。你别以为我心里很好受。”他哑着喉咙笑起来。
  “你还笑。”奴隶贩子怒吼道。
  “我还是忍耐不住,上帝保佑你,老爷。”本来他一直努力掩饰他的兴奋,现在他干脆大笑起来,“她的样子真是太逗了,她蹦着,跳着,脚下的冰咯吱吱响;她扑通扑通地跳着。老天爷,没想到她还有这种本事!”山姆和艾迪高兴得眼泪都流了出来。
  “我让你们还笑!”贩子说着便举起皮鞭朝他们打来。
  两人都躲开了皮鞭,大声叫喊着跑到堤岸上,当赫利赶上来时,他们已上马了。
  “老爷再见,”山姆以严肃的神情说,“太太一定在担心杰瑞。赫利老爷已不用我们帮忙了。太太肯定不想听到我们说我们骑着杰瑞过了利兹桥。”说完,他开玩笑似地戳了一下艾迪的前胸,艾迪紧跟着他飞奔而去。晚风中隐约传来他们的欢笑声和喊声。
  

八章 

艾莉查的逃亡生活


  傍晚的时候,艾莉查终于逃过了俄亥俄河。傍晚河面上烟雾迷茫,逐渐吞没了她的身影,很快,她便消失在河的堤岸上。在她和追兵之间,湍急的河水和横七竖八的冰筏构成了一道难以逾越的天然路障。赫利非常气愤,慢慢地返回小客店。客店的女主人为他开了一间房间供他休息。地面上铺着一条破旧的地毯,一张桌子上铺着一张油得发亮的黑布,几张高背椅零乱地放在屋里,壁炉上是几尊色彩鲜艳的石膏雕像,炉子里还有零星的烟火,一张形状丑陋的硬板睡椅把它的身躯延伸到了壁炉的烟囱处。赫利坐在这张丑陋的木睡椅上,心里不时考虑着这变幻莫测的人生和幸福希望的不稳定性。
  “我为什么非得追捕那个小东西呢?”他自忖道,“这个小东西搞得我如此狼狈,甚至是进退两难。”赫利暗自骂着自己以获得精神上的解脱,嘴里不时吐出一些不文雅的词语。尽管我们有充分的理由相信,赫利他自己非常适合于这些不文雅的咒骂话,但因为考虑到这些话是那么的不雅,所以我们还是把那些话略去不提了。
  赫利被一个男人大而刺耳的声音惊动了,那个人很显然刚下马,赫利急忙跑到窗户那儿,想去看个清楚。
  “老天!今天我真是幸运,这叫吉人自有天相,”赫利说,“如果我没看错,那不是汤姆·洛科吗?”
  赫利急忙跑了过去。在屋子的一角,一个身体强壮、肌肉结实的男子站在吧台旁,他身材足有六尺,脸上一副凶恶的神情。他身穿一件翻毛的水牛皮外衣,这和他的头发非常相配,使得他看起来毛茸茸的,而这又和他的外表非常相称。他头部和面部的每一个器官,凶残的相貌都处于极端恐怖的状态,这都充分显示了他的心狠手辣。确实,如果我们亲爱的读者能勾勒出一条戴帽子、穿人衣服的看门狗摇着尾巴跑进人们的院落时的样子的话,那他们也就不难想象出这个人的体型和举止行为了。他的旁边还有一个人,在许多方面,那个人的长相都和他有很大的差别。他个子不高,身体很瘦小,身子可以像猫一样弯曲,他的眼睛很锐利,总让人有种自己的脸上的各个部位在被他随时窥探研究的感觉,好像他是故意削尖了自己的眼睛似的。他长长削瘦的鼻子向前伸出,好像它很急于搞清楚自然界万事万物的奥秘似的。他那光亮稀少的头发也急切地向前伸了出来,他的一举一动,一言一行无不显示出他是一个冷静、严谨、感觉敏锐的人。那个高大男子倒了半杯没加水的烈酒,没说一句话便喝了个底儿朝天。那个小个儿站在那儿,踮着脚,不时把头从这边探向那边,又朝放各种瓶装酒的方向闻了闻,最后才以单薄、略显颤抖的声音点了一杯薄荷威士忌。倒好后,他自鸣得意地端起酒杯端详起来,好像刚做完一件非常正确而得体的事情一样,他在头上碰了碰指甲,然后悠闲地慢慢小口啜饮起来。
  “嗨,你好吗,洛科,你不认为在这儿遇到我是多么巧吗?”说着,赫利走上前去,把手伸向了那个高个男子。
  “见鬼!”那人礼貌地回答,“是什么事让你跑到这儿来了,赫利?”
  那个贼眉鼠眼名叫马科斯的人立刻放下酒杯,把头向前探了探,目光敏锐地盯着这个新认识的人,就像猫看到了一片移动的枯树叶或其他可追赶的东西似的。
  “我说,汤姆,今天我真是太幸运了。我他妈的遇到了麻烦事,你一定要拉兄弟一把。”
  “啊,那是当然,什么麻烦?”这位老兄得意地说,“当别人很乐于见你时,你一定要明白:他们一定是有求于你。今天你遇到了什么麻烦事?”
  “这位是你的朋友吗?”赫利以怀疑的目光打量着马科斯说,“他是你的合伙人,是吗?”
  “是的,他是我现在的合伙人。嗨,马科斯!这位老兄就是我在纳特切斯时的合伙人。”
  “很高兴认识你,”马科斯说着,边把他那只鸡爪般干瘦的手伸了出来,“我想,你是赫利先生吧?”
  “很对,先生!”赫利说,“首先,先生们,既然我们在此愉快地见面了,那我们就先为此庆祝一下吧。喂,老浣熊,”他向店主人喊道,“给我们来点热水,糖和雪茄烟,再弄点好喝的,我们要好好聊一会儿。”
  于是,店主人点着了蜡烛,把壁炉的火弄得旺了些,我们这三位兄弟围坐在桌边,桌上摆满了上面所提到的为增进感情而点的食物。
  赫利略带感伤地谈了谈自己的不幸遭遇。洛科闭着嘴,脸色阴沉地聆听着他的诉说,马科斯则忙着调制符合自己口味的饮料,偶而抬起头来,几乎要把鼻子和下巴伸到赫利的脸上。他从头到尾仔细听了赫利的诉说,显然他对故事的结尾部分更感兴趣,因为他静静地晃着肩膀,两片薄嘴唇高高地翘着,显然他内心很兴奋。
  “然后,你就束手无策了,是吗?”他说,“嘿!嘿!嘿!她干得真利落。”
  “在这种买卖中,小孩是麻烦事最多的了。”赫利面带忧伤地说。
  “如果我们能买到一种不关心疼爱她的孩子的女人,”马科斯说,“告诉你吧,我就认为是最伟大最伟大的现代的改善了。”说完,他低声笑了起来,好像这会有力地支持他的笑话一般。
  “是的,”赫利说,“我从来没有搞清楚这点。那些小孩对她们来说是种难以承受的负担,人们本来以为,帮她们解除这负担她们应该高兴才对,但事实却正好相反。小孩子越是麻烦,越是没有用,她们却越是舍不得放开他们。情况一般都是如此。”
  “赫利先生,”马科斯说,“请把开水递给我。先生,你刚才所说的,我和大家都有同感。以前有一次,当我干这种买卖时,我买了个女的,她身材修长匀称,长得很漂亮,人也聪明伶俐。她有个孩子,病得确实不轻,背还有点驼,于是我把他送给了别人,那个人想留下来养着碰碰运气,反正也没有花钱。但是没料到,那个女人却很看重这件事,你应该看看她闹得有多么凶!真的,那个孩子脾气很坏,整天都烦她,她为什么还要那样看重这个病孩子呢?她不是假装的——她是真哭了,没有一点精神,好像失去了所有的亲人朋友一样。想一想,这件事真是奇怪,女人的事,是不会有个完的。”
  “我也遇到过这种事,”赫利说,“去年夏天,在红河地区,我买了个带孩子的女奴,那孩子长得很漂亮,两只小眼睛乌黑发亮,就像你的眼睛。但过去一看,才发现他的眼睛是瞎了,而且是彻底瞎了。我想,我把他卖掉是不会有什么坏处的,所以我没有公开这件事。我用这个小孩子换了桶威士忌酒,但当我从那女人手中抢走孩子时,她却变得像一只老虎似的。那时我们还没出发,我也没给那些黑奴上锁,那女人像一只猫一样跳到了棉包上,把一个水手的刀抢了过去,霎时间,她把大家都吓跑了。等到她发现这样做没用时,便转身抢起她的孩子,头朝下跳进了河里,再也没有浮起来。”
  “你们两个真是废物!”汤姆·洛科面带厌恶地强忍着听完了他们的故事,说道,“我告诉你们,我的那些黑奴从来不敢这样地放肆。”
  “真的吗?你怎么对付他们?”马科斯以轻松的语调问道。
  “怎么对付他们?我买了一个女奴,如果正好她也有孩子要卖,我就走到她眼前,把我的拳头对准她的脸说,‘听着,如果你说一个字让我听到了,我会打碎你的脸蛋;我不想听到一个字,即使咕哝一声也不允许。’我告诉她说,‘从现在起,孩子属于我,他不再是你的了,你和他之间已经没有任何的联系,只要有机会,我会在第一时间把他卖掉。听好,别想什么鬼主意,否则我会让你后悔自己为什么要出生的。’这样一来,她们就不会和我耍心眼,她们知道在我面前,这是没有用的。我使得她们对我言听计从。如果谁敢对此提出异议,啈,”洛科先生用拳头猛击了一下桌子代表了那个不言而喻的结果。
  “也许这可以暂时称做‘下马威’吧,”马科斯说。他戳了一下赫利的腰,接着便笑起来。“你不觉得汤姆的做法很特别吗?嘿!嘿!嘿!汤姆,我认为虽然那些黑鬼的脑子都很迟钝,但你让他们都豁然长了见识。汤姆,他们对你的意思不会再有什么疑惑了。汤姆,我说,即使你不是魔鬼本人,也是魔鬼的孪生兄弟。”
  汤姆谦虚地接受了马科斯的恭维,脸色也变得像平时那样和蔼了,这种和蔼恰如约翰·班扬所说的局限于“暴烈的本性范围之内”。
  晚上,赫利愉快地多喝了几杯酒以后,便开始有了一种自己的道德观念得以升华和扩充的感觉,在同等情况下,一个先生能有如此深思熟虑和重大的变化并不是什么罕见的现象。
  “汤姆,”他说,“你这样做非常不好,正如我一直告诉你的一样。你知道,汤姆,你和我在纳特切斯时经常谈论此事,我曾试着让你明白,我们善待他们一点,仍会赚很多钱,这足以让我们今生过得舒服惬意。这样当我们陷入困境,不能再得到什么东西时,我们也会有一个较好的机会进入天堂。”
  “呸!”汤姆说,“难道我不明白吗?别再和我说这些让我难受的道理了,现在我都快要出离气愤了。”说着,汤姆把剩下的半杯白兰地全喝完了。
  “我说,”赫利说着,身子斜靠在椅子上,使劲挥了一下手,“我要承认,我做这种生意全都是为了赚钱。但钱不能代表一切,我们也不是说除了做奴隶生意外不能做别的生意。我们全都有灵魂,不管谁听到我说这些话,我都不在乎。现在不如我把事情都讲个明白吧。我是个信教的人,我也想有朝一日能过上舒服的生活,我想拯救一下自己的灵魂。如果不是万不得已,我为什么还要做坏事呢?现在做事情还是要谨慎一点。”
  “拯救你的灵魂!”汤姆轻蔑地反复说着,“如果想在你身上找到灵魂,那还真是麻烦事,你还是省点事吧。即使魔鬼用筛头发的筛子把你筛个遍儿,他也不会找到灵魂的。”
  “汤姆,你怎么生气了,”赫利说,“你为什么不泰然听之呢?我说的话都是为了你好。”
  “别再说下去了,”汤姆气愤地说,“我可以听信你的大多数话,但你老说什么灵魂真让人受不了,这样会杀死我的。毕竟,我们之间有什么差别呢?难道你的良心比我好吗?你的感情比我善良吗?这些话都是那样的卑鄙!你想欺骗魔鬼,拯救你的灵魂,难道我还不明白你的心思吗?你说什么自己信仰宗教,那全都是鬼话,是骗人的。你这辈子已经欠了魔鬼那么多债,现在要算帐了,你却想溜走,没门。”
  “哎,算了,先生们,我说我们这不像谈生意,”马科斯说,“人们可以从不同的角度来看待同一事物。赫利先生是个好人,无疑他富有正义感,有良心。汤姆,你有你的处世之道,而且也很不错。但你知道争吵无助于问题的解决。让我们步入正题吧。赫利先生,你说的是什么事情?你想让我们去抓那女人,是吗?”
  “那女人不关我的事,她还属于希尔比,我要抓那个小孩,买了那个小猴子,真是傻到家了。”
  “你本来就傻到家了!”汤姆气愤地说。
  “算了,洛科,别再气愤了,”马科斯说着,舔了舔自己的嘴唇,“你看,赫利先生不是让我们有了一份好工作去做吗?你还是在那儿坐着吧,我可是善于谈生意。我说赫利先生,那女人长相怎样?她是做什么工作的?”
  “哇!她皮肤很白,长得非常迷人,而且受过良好的教育。我曾打算付给希尔比八百或一千块钱把她买过来,也好从她身上发一笔财。”
  “白色的皮肤,长相迷人,还受过良好的教育!”马科斯那犀利的眼睛、鼻子和嘴无一不因为惊讶而活跃起来,“听着,洛科,诱人的开场白。我们甚至可以在这儿做一笔自己的生意。我们同意帮你抓他们。当然那孩子归赫利先生所有,我们把那女人带到奥尔良去赚一笔。难道这不诱人吗?”
  汤姆大而厚的嘴巴在谈话中一直大张着,此时却突然闭上了,就像一条大狗咬住了一块肉似的,看起来他在悠闲地咀嚼着这桩生意。
  “你知道,”马科斯对赫利说,“我们得到了沿途各个码头法院提供便利的许可,他们常帮我们做些琐碎的事,当然我们也花些钱。汤姆负责打架动手之类的事,我则穿戴齐整地站出来用发誓来圆场,我把皮鞋擦得锃亮,身上穿戴的都是最好的衣物。你要明白,”马科斯说,脸上透露出一种职业的自豪,“我很善于处理这方面的事。今天,我是从新奥尔良来的特卡姆先生,明天,我则成了一个珍珠河边的庄园主,拥有七百个奴隶。说不定哪天我又摇身一变成了亨瑞·克莱先生或者肯塔基的一个老资格的人的亲信。你知道,人的天份各不相同。如果需要打架之类的人,汤姆因为嗓门大而当选;但汤姆不善于撒谎和动嘴,你知道,对他来说那不是他生下来就擅长的。如果这个国家有这样一个人,无论做什么事,他都能一本正经地向上天发誓,无论遇到什么情况,他都可以把它吹得神乎其神,并能出色漂亮地把事情处理好,那我真想早日见到他。事情就是这样的。我对自己充满自信,即使某些部门比它们看起来更难缠,我也可以把它摆平并蒙混过关。有时,我甚至希望它们再难缠些,再给我找些麻烦,你知道,只有那样,事情才更加趣味盎然。”
  洛科,那个我们已让他上场的人,那个反应慢、动作迟钝的家伙,这时突然用拳重重地打在桌子上,打断了马科斯的话,桌子上的东西都被震得响了起来,“你说得已经够多了!”他说。
  “上帝保佑,汤姆,你不必把所有的杯子都打碎,”马科斯说,“收起你的拳头,等到需要时再把它拿出来吧。”
  “但是先生们,难道我不能从中分得一杯羹吗?”赫利问道。
  “我们帮你抓回那个孩子,这还不够吗?”洛科说,“你还想要什么?”
  “嗯,”赫利说,“我交给你们这份工作,它是有利可图的,我看除花销外,你们要付我百分之十的利润。”
  “我还不了解你丹·赫利吗?”洛科狠狠地骂道,并使劲用拳头敲着桌子,“你不要指望跟我玩花招,你认为我和马科斯干抓逃跑的黑奴的生意,只是为取悦像你这样的绅士们吗?难道我们不为自己谋得些利益吗?事情并非如此!那女人归我们,你就老实点吧,你知道,如果我们想要那两个人,谁敢有异议?你不是告诉我们猎物的情况了吗,我想,你和我们都可以追捕他们。如果你和希尔比想抓我们,还是去找我们去年追丢的松鸡吧。如果你发现他们或追上我们,我们会很欢迎的。”
  “噢,当然,就按你们说的吧,”赫利警觉地说,“你们只管抓孩子,汤姆,以前我们都是公平交易的,大家要遵守诺言。”
  “你知道的,”汤姆说,“我不会像你那样猫哭耗子——假慈悲。即便跟魔鬼做生意,我也不会失信。我说到就一定做到。丹·赫利,你对我是很了解的。”
  “是的,是的,汤姆,我也是那样说的,”赫利说,“只要你帮我在一周内抓到那孩子,你可以随便指定我们的见面地点,这是我所要求你做到的。”
  “但这并不是我要求的全部,”汤姆说,“你这次别再指望我为你白白干活了,赫利,就像上次在纳特切斯一样。当抓到泥鳅时,我已学会把它牢牢抓住不放手。直说吧,你必须先付给我们五十美元,否则你别想得到那孩子。我是太了解你了。”
  “哎,你手头这笔生意可以带给你一千美元或一千六百美元的纯利,汤姆,你这样做可是有失公道。”赫利说。
  “是的,以后一个星期,我们都要忙着做你这笔生意,这是我们能做的所有的事。你想一想,我们抛掉了其他的生意,全心全意去帮你抓那个小鬼头,但最后没有抓到那个女人,你知道女人是最难抓的,那我们怎么办呢?到时你会给我们一分钱吗?我想我已看透你了,不,不,先给我们五十美元。如果我们抓到那孩子,有钱可赚,我会把那五十美元还给你,如果事情办得不成功,那就算我们的劳务费了。这很公平,不是吗?马科斯。”
  “当然,当然了,”马科斯调解说,“你看,这就算作我们的定金吧!嘿!嘿!嘿!你知道我们这些律师的!我们一定要保持良好的教养,别着急,你知道的。汤姆会为你抓回那个男孩的。你说吧,我们在哪儿都可以交货。汤姆,你认为呢?”
  “如果我抓到那个年轻男孩,我会把他送往辛辛那提,我会把他放在贝彻奶奶那儿。”洛科说。
  马科斯从口袋中掏出一只油乎乎的皮夹,并从中抽出一张长长的纸。他坐下来以那双锐利的黑眼睛看着那张纸。并开始轻声念着上面的内容:“巴尼斯——希尔比郡——吉姆,男奴,三百美元,死活都行;艾德吾德夫妇——狄克和鲁西,六百美元;女奴波利和两个孩子——六百美元,活捉或取她的头。我只想看一看我们的生意,看看我们是否能顺便把这事办了。洛科,”停顿了一下后,他说,“我们一定要派亚得姆斯和斯波瑞格去抓他们了,他们已经和我们预约很长时间了。”
  “他们会向我们漫天要价的。”汤姆说。
  “我来安排这件事,他们还是这行中的新手,不能期望什么高价,”马科斯说,接着又继续向下读着,“这上面有三宗生意比较容易做,因为你所做的只是打死他们或者坚持说必须开枪打死他们,当然他们不会要太多的钱。另外几宗生意,”他边说着边卷好名单纸,“可以再往后拖一段时问。现在让我们谈一下细节吧。嗯,赫利先生,你亲眼看见那女人上了河岸,是吗?”
  “当然了,我看得清清楚楚。”
  “有个男人扶着她上了岸,是吗?”洛科说。
  “是的,一点也不错。”
  “她很可能已经找了个地方藏起来了,”马科斯说,“但问题是她藏在哪里。汤姆,你认为是这样吗?”
  “不容置疑,我们今晚一定要过河。”汤姆说。
  “但这儿没有渡船,”马科斯说,“河里那些冰筏横冲直撞,汤姆,看来很危险,是吗?”
  “可能很危险,但我们一定要过河。”汤姆毫不迟疑地说。
  “哎呀!”马科斯不安地说,“这要是——我说,”他说着走到门窗前,“外面就像狼的嘴一样黑,汤姆——”
  “说来说去,你害怕了,马科斯,但我可是下定决心了,你一定要去。你不会是想休息一两天,直到那女人被秘密转移到桑那西时,你才出发吧!”
  “噢,不,我一点也不害怕,”马科斯说,“只不过——”
  “不过什么?”汤姆问道。
  “是船,你知道,这连船的影子都没有。”
  “我听那女人说今晚会有一条船过来,有个人想过河去。无论如何,我们必须跟他一起过去。”汤姆说。
  “我想你们身边应该有好猎狗吧?”赫利说。
  “上等的猎狗,”马科斯说,“但那有什么用?你没有她的东西给它嗅的。”
  “不,我有,”赫利得意地说,“这是她仓促逃跑时落在床上的头巾,她还落了帽子。”
  “我们很幸运,”洛科说,“把那递给我。”
  “如果你们的狗追上她,把她咬伤,破坏了她的容貌怎么办?”赫利说。
  “我们要考虑一下这件事,”马科斯说,“以前在美孚时,我们的狗差点撕烂那个人,我们赶到后才把狗赶走。”
  “嗯,你明白,我们要靠她漂亮的外貌去卖钱,如果咬坏就把我们的事破坏了。”赫利说。
  “我知道,”马科斯说,“另外,如果有人把她藏起来,那可就麻烦了。有些州藏匿黑奴,你很难找到她们,狗也起不到什么作用。狗只有在庄园时起作用,那时他们独自向前跑,没有人帮助他们的。”
  “好了,”洛科说,他刚到柜台那去探听完消息回来,“他们说那人把船划过来了。马科斯,走吧。”
  马科斯恋恋不舍地看了一眼即将离开的舒适的住处,慢慢地站起来,听从了汤姆的话。谈了几句话后,赫利不情愿地交给汤姆五十美元。当晚这三个人便分手了。
  如果我们文明的信仰基督教的读者不希望看到我们刚介绍的那一幕的话,让我们请他们尽可能早一些控制一下他们的偏见。我们想提醒他们,抓捕逃奴这种生意正在上升为合法、爱国的职业。如果密西西比河和太平洋之间的广大土地成为一个进行身体和灵魂交易的市场的话,如果人们的财产依旧保持着19世纪的移动趋势的话,那么奴隶贩子们和追捕奴隶的人们今天可能仍自立于我们这个贵族之林。
  当客店这一幕正在进行的时候,山姆和艾迪正兴高采烈地骑马向回赶去。
  一路上,山姆都很兴奋,他不时发出各种各样的怪叫、呼喊,并以许多奇妙的翻滚和扭摆动作表达着他内心的喜悦。有时他倒骑在马背上,面对着马屁股和尾巴,有时他大叫着腾身翻个跟斗,端正地坐在了马鞍上。有时他却扳起面孔教训艾迪,大声责怪他的说笑和玩笑。然后,他用手夹住两腰,发出一串爽朗的笑声,这笑声响彻他们所路经的整片树林。一路上,他不断变着花样让马儿尽情地向前飞奔着。大约十点到十一点的时候,在阳台尽头的砂石路上传来了他们马匹的蹄声,听到这声音,希尔比太太飞快地跑到了栏杆边。
  “山姆,是你吗?他们在哪里?”
  “赫利先生在河边的客店里休息呢,他太累了,太太。”
  “艾莉查怎么样了,山姆?”
  “噢,她已经过了约旦河,现在可以说她已抵达乐土迦南了。”
  “喂,山姆,你说的是什么意思?”希尔比太太提心吊胆地问道,当那些话中所包含的言外之意传到她耳中时,她几乎要昏倒了。
  “太太,上帝一直在保佑他的儿女。莉兹以一种神奇的方式过了俄亥俄河,就如同上帝用火轮车和两匹马把她送过去似的。”
  当着女主人的面,山姆显得是那样的虔诚,而且他还不时在话中引用一些圣经书中常使用的象征和比喻。
  “过来,山姆,”希尔比先生说,他一直跟随他们来到阳台前面,“告诉女主人她想知道的一切。过来,艾米丽,”说着,他用两只手臂紧紧抱住她,“你浑身发冷,全身都在发抖,你让自己过于激动了。”
  “过于激动!难道我不是一个女人,一个母亲吗?在上帝的面前,难道我们不该对这个可怜的女人负责吗?上帝啊!不要把这罪过加到我们的头上。”
  “艾米丽,你说什么罪过?你自己也清楚我们这样做是迫不得已的。”
  “但我心中总有一种挥之不去的负罪感,”希尔比太太说,“我不能忘掉它。”
  “喂,艾迪,你快些替我把马牵到马厩中,”山姆站在阳台下喊着,“你没听到老爷叫我过去吗?”很快,山姆便出现在大厅门口,手中还拿着棕榈叶。
  “山姆,现在把事情的经过仔细地说给我们听,”希尔比先生说,“如果你知道的话,赶快告诉我们艾莉查在什么地方?”
  “老爷,我亲眼看着她踩着河中的冰筏过了河。那真是个奇迹,太神奇了,简直是一个奇迹。我看见一个男人扶着她上了俄亥俄河的大堤,然后她就消失于缥缈的薄雾中,再也见不到她了。”
  “山姆,真是不可思议,真是个奇迹,踩着浮动的冰筏过河,真是不容易做到。”希尔比先生说着。
  “容易?如果没有上帝的帮助,没有人能做到这一点儿。”山姆说,“事情的经过是这样的:赫利老爷、我,还有艾迪,正经过河边的一家客店,我走在前面一点(我急于抓住莉兹,所以我走在了前面)。当我走过客店窗前时,一眼就看见了莉兹。于是我故意让风吹掉帽子,并大叫了一声,那声音大得连死人也能听到,莉兹当然听到了。当赫利老爷经过门前时,她把身体缩了回去,然后,她飞快地从后门向河边跑去。这时,赫利先生也看到了她,便大声喊叫着,于是,艾迪,我和他便追了过去。她跑到了河边,那湍急的河流有十英尺宽。外面一点就是横冲直撞的大块浮冰,就如同一个由冰组成的小岛。当时我们就跟在她后面,我想赫利老爷肯定会抓住她的。但就在此时,她大叫了一声(以前我从没听她那样叫过),接着便纵身一跃,越过急流跳到了冰筏上。她没敢停下来,只是边叫边向前跳着。在她的脚下,浮冰咯吱吱地响着,并不时发出扑通扑通的声音,她像小鹿一样飞快地向前跳去。上帝,她那几个跳跃真是不简单,我想那是不简单的。”
  在听山姆叙述事情的经过时,希尔比太太一直默默地坐着,她的脸因为激动而显得非常苍白。
  “上帝保佑,她没有死掉,”她说,“但那可怜的孩子现在在哪儿呢?”
  “上帝会保佑她的,”山姆说,虔诚地翻动着眼睛,“就像我曾经说过的,这是老天爷的意见,不会错的。正如太太经常教导我们的,总会有个人挺身而出来履行上帝的旨意的。今天如果没有我的话,她至少已经被抓住十多次了。今天早上不是我惊跑了那匹马,并一直拖延到快吃午饭了吗?下午时,不是我使得赫利老爷多走了五英里长的弯路吗?否则他早像狗抓浣熊一样轻易把莉兹抓到了。这是上天的意愿啊!”
  “我的山姆大爷,以后你还是少说点类似的天意吧,我不能允许你在我的地面上对老爷们搞这种把戏。”在这种情况下,希尔比先生故作严厉地训斥道。
  假装对黑人发脾气并不比对小孩假装生气看起来起作用。虽然你竭尽全力做出生气的神情,但本能地,大家都明白为什么主人那样做。受到了责备的山姆看起来并不显得垂头丧气,虽然看起来他满脸悲伤,低垂着嘴角,显出后悔的神情。
  “老爷说得对,很对,都是我不好,这是不容置疑的。我很清楚老爷和太太是不喜欢这种鬼把戏的,但我是个低等黑人,所以看到赫利先生把农庄的人折腾得忙这儿忙那儿,我也会做出一些不太雅观的事。他看起来哪儿像一位老爷!就连我这样缺少教养的人也可以看清他的心思。”
  “好了,山姆,”希尔比太太说,“既然你已认识了自己的过错,那还是快去克鲁伊那儿吃点东西吧。让她给你们弄点中午的剩火腿吃,你和艾迪肯定饿坏了。”
  “太太对我们太好了。”山姆说着,弯了一下腰,高兴地跑出了客厅。
  我们在前面已经做了暗示,我想各位读者也已经注意到了,那就是山姆有种天赋的、可以使他在政治生活中很快出人头地的才能,也就是可以使他在各种场合赢得人们的称赞的才能。在客厅中,他那故作虔诚、低微的样子获得称赞,现在他已把棕榈叶戴在了头上,轻快地赶到了厨房,想在克鲁伊大婶的地盘上出一番风头。
  “我要向这些黑奴大讲一番,”山姆低声自语着说,“现在我得到了一个机会。上帝,我一定要让他们刮目相看。”
  值得一提的是,山姆最喜欢的事情是陪同主人去参加各种政治集会,他坐在栅栏上或骑在高处的树上,仔细地观察演说者的表情,并沉浸于其中而不能自拔。然后,他就跳下来站到那些与他肤色相同,同样陪同主人赶来的人们中间,一丝不苟地摹仿起他人的演讲来。他的表演从容而不失严肃,这使得大家非常高兴,并从中得到了许多启发。一般情况下,靠近他并听他演讲的都是黑人,但他们的外围也常会聚着一些白人,他们边听边笑,并不时地眨着眼睛,这使得山姆不禁有些飘飘然起来。实际上,山姆常把演讲当做自己的职业,他是不会放过每一个施展自己的才华并大出风头的机会的。
  山姆和克鲁伊大婶素来不和,也可以说,他们两人的关系一向很冷淡。但因为考虑到自己干什么事情都离不开粮食部门的支持,所以山姆知道自己还得和它打交道,所以他一直向克鲁伊大婶表示着妥协的方针。他更加清楚地意识到,虽然克鲁伊大婶会严格地执行太太的指示,但如果再加上自己的妥协方针,自己会获得更多的收获。于是他走到克鲁伊大婶那儿时,便做出一副低声下气的可怜相,语气温柔得令人感动,就好像他为受难者承受了千般苦难似的。他故意夸大太太对他的重视,说太太让克鲁伊大婶为他准备些吃的,以保持身体内固体和液体物质的平衡;这样在不知不觉中,他也承认了克鲁伊大婶在厨房和其他地方那不容替代的地位以及无上的权力。
  他的这种做法非常有效,山姆的殷勤很快就使得克鲁伊大婶满心欢喜,对于山姆的殷勤,恐怕就连用花言巧语以博取那些穷苦、单纯和善良的选民信任的政客也会觉得自惭形秽。即使是个彻底地改头换面的浪荡子也不会得到如此慈母般的照顾。克鲁伊大婶很快为他安排了一个座位,这使得山姆感到受宠若惊;他的面前摆着一个大的锡盘,里面是各种美味佳肴,那是前两天被端上桌子招待客人的那些美味,其中有美味的火腿,金黄可口的玉米饼,很多的馅饼、鸡翅、鸡胗以及鸡腿,颜色鲜艳。面对这么多的美味,山姆感到了一种君主般的自豪,他头上戴的棕榈叶歪到了一边,他傲然面对着坐在右边的艾迪。
  厨房里挤满了他的同伴,他们都是特意从各地匆匆赶过来的,想打听一下当天山姆他们追捕艾莉查的情况。于是,山姆终于可以大肆夸耀自己了。他再一次眉飞色舞地叙述了一遍当天发生的故事。为了增强故事的效果,他又对此进行了创作和再加工。在山姆看来,虽然他是一个并不纯粹地道的艺术爱好者,他还是不希望经他说出的故事不具备文学艺术的色彩。他讲故事时,大家不时被逗得哈哈大笑。那些小孩子,或躺在地上或躲在角落里,也跟着大家起哄并不时笑着。听着听众们欢快、响亮的声音,山姆却仍是一本正经地坐着,表情严肃,他只是偶尔翻动一下眼珠,向观众投去难以捉摸的一瞥,但他那略显说教的语调却没什么改变。
  “农夫们,你们知道,”山姆一边拿起一只火鸡腿,一边高声说,“你们要知道,我做这些是为了什么呢?我只是想保护你们,是的,保护你们每一个人。谁如果胆敢抓走我们中的任何一位,那他就是向我们大家宣战,那就等于他要抓我们大家,这事是再明白不过的了。如果奴隶贩子想抓走我们中的任何一位,他首先要过我这一关,那可是不容易做到的。农夫们,你们不管遇到什么事都可以来找我,我一定会保护你们,并为保卫你们的权利而流尽最后一滴血。”
  “哎,山姆,早上时,你不是告诉我你要帮老爷抓住莉兹吗?我看你所说的前后矛盾。”艾迪说。
  “艾迪,我告诉你,”山姆以高高在上的语气说,“你不了解情况的事,你就少发表议论。艾迪,你这个小伙子看起来不错,但他们不会指望你去领会每个行动的重大原则性问题的。”
  艾迪被这些不客气的责问搞得有点发呆了,特别是“领会”这个词,这更使得这个年轻人觉得“领会”这个词在这件小事件中起了重大的决定作用,此时山姆并没停下,而是继续发表着他的高见。
  “这可以称做见风使舵,艾迪。我想抓住莉兹,那是因为我觉得那是老爷的意思,但当我发现太太的想法和此截然不同时,我就换了副脑子。一般情况下,和太太站在一边感觉更好一些。你们看,我不得罪任何一个人,而是全按照当时的情况来做出选择,要坚持原则。是的,原则,”说着,山姆使劲挥动了一下手中的鸡脖子肉,“如果不坚持原则,我只想问一句,原则是用来做什么的呢?艾迪,给你这块鸡骨头,上面还有肉呢。”
  山姆的听众大张着嘴等待着他的下文。他没有办法只好继续讲下去:
  “至于言行如一,前后一致,各位黑人同胞,”山姆说,作出了一副要探究深奥的问题的样子,“关于这一问题,大多数人还没探究过。你们知道,如果一个人今天赞成某件事,第二天又反对这件事,人们就会责怪他为什么不前后一致呢?(这是很自然的)哎,艾迪,递给我那个玉米饼,好吧,就让我们来探讨一下吧。我想打个通俗些的比方,希望各位女士、先生能原谅,那就是比如我想爬到一个干草堆上去。于是我把梯子放在草堆这边,但发现爬不上去,我自然不再从这边往上爬,而是选择另一边,难道这能被叫做前后不一致吗?不管我把梯子放在哪里,只要我最后爬上草堆了,这不就是前后一致了吗?你们难道还不能理解吗?”
  “天晓得这是你唯一坚持的前后一致的事情。”克鲁伊大婶小声说着。今天晚上的欢快场面,对她来说可以说是别有一番滋味在心头,正如经书中所说的火上浇油,雪上加霜。
  “好了,就这样吧!”说着,山姆站起身。此时他已是酒足饭饱,也出够了风头,便用几句话结束了他的演讲,“是的,各位男女老少,我是坚持原则的,对此我深感自豪。不仅目前,任何时候原则都是不可缺少的东西。我不仅有原则,而且还坚决履行原则。只要我认为此事符合原则,我都会很乐意去做的,即使我被烧死也不改变。我要笑着迎接火刑。我要为我所说的原则,我的国家以及整个社会的利益奋斗到底。”
  “好了,”克鲁伊大婶说,“在你的原则中,总该有一条是晚上要睡觉吧。你总不能让每个人都待在这儿直到天光放亮吧。小鬼们,如果不想挨打,赶快都给我滚出去,快点!”
  “黑人们!”山姆语调慈爱地说,“我祝福你们!大家都回去睡觉吧!以后都成为好孩子。”
  山姆的祝福结束了,大家也都散了。
  

第九章 

议员也是一个普通人


  温馨的起居室里生起了火炉,火光在大小地毯、茶杯和擦得发亮的茶壶边上留下了欢快的投影。议员博德脱掉了靴子,正在穿那双博德夫人专门为他出访缝制的新拖鞋,拖鞋做得很漂亮。这时,博德夫人容光焕发,正在仔细检查餐桌的布置情况。一群孩子正在旁边兴奋地玩着一种荒诞的游戏。孩子们很顽皮,母亲们总对孩子们这种调皮感到奇怪,这次当然也不例外。
  “汤姆,好孩子是不会乱碰门把手的!玛丽!玛丽!不要再拉可怜的小猫的尾巴!吉姆,不要爬到桌子上去——不,不!——亲爱的,今天晚上能在这儿见到你真是让我们感到惊讶!”最后,她终于找到一个机会跟丈夫说话。
  “哎,我想我应暂停工作,休息一个晚上,在家舒服地休息一会儿。我快要累死了,头也非常痛!”
  博德夫人看了一眼樟脑油瓶,它就被放在那个柜门半开的木橱中,她想把它拿过来,但她丈夫制止了她。
  “不,不,玛莉,我不想吃药!一杯你泡的上等热香茶,我们温馨的家庭生活就可以让我觉得舒服满足了。立法的事真是太让人心烦了。”
  议员笑了笑,仿佛很热衷于把自己全都奉献给他的国家。
  “嗯,”博德夫人说,她把茶几准备停当,显得有些无精打采,“他们在议会里到底做了些什么事?”
  这位温顺善良的小博德夫人为议院里发生什么事而大伤脑筋,这显得很不寻常。博德先生本来以为自己的夫人关心自己的事已经够她忙一阵儿的了,所以听完这话也不禁诧异地大睁着眼睛,说道:“没什么重要的事情去做。”
  “嗯,听说他们通过一条法律,禁止人们给那些路过此地的可怜的黑人吃的和酒,这是真的吗?我听到他们在谈论这件事,但我不相信一个信仰上帝的立法机构会商议通过这样的一条法律。”
  “我说玛莉,你怎么这么快就成为一名政治家了。”
  “不,别胡说,我才不会插手你所从事的政治呢,但我认为这样做有些过于残酷而且还不符合基督教的教义。亲爱的,我希望这样的法律不获得通过。”
  “亲爱的,已经通过了那样一条法律,禁止人们帮助那些从肯塔基州逃过来的奴隶,那些不顾一切主张废奴的人已经干了许多这种事情,他们的所作所为激起了我们一些肯塔基兄弟的愤怒。现在国家有必要而且基于基督教的教义和仁慈也必须设法平息我们那些兄弟的愤怒。”
  “但法律是怎样规定的呢?法律不会禁止我们收留那些可怜人并留他们过夜,它不会禁止我们为他们提供吃的喝的,它也不会禁止我们送旧衣物给他们,并悄悄送他们去继续做他们的事。”
  “亲爱的,那样做就相当于协助罪犯和教唆他们犯罪,这你是很明白的。”
  博德夫人是一位羞涩的小妇人,她身高四英尺左右,有着一双温和的蓝色眸子,她面露桃红,嗓音是世界上最温和,最甜美的。至于她的胆量,一只中等大小体形的火鸡只要叫一声,她的精神防线就会全面崩溃,一只肥胖的看家狗,哪怕很普通,她也会被狗露一露牙齿而征服。她的丈夫和孩子是她的整个世界。即使在家里,她也常通过恳请和劝说来进行统治而不是通过命令或争论来统治她的世界。只有一件事情可以有力激怒她,而这是和她那温顺、仁慈的本性紧密相联系的,那就是任何显得残酷的事都会让她异常愤怒,和她平日那温顺的本性比起来,她的这种愤怒会让人们感到诧异得难以理解。说起来她可能是最具宽容精神,最容易被说动的母亲了,但她的孩子们至今还对母亲给予他们的那次极严厉的惩罚记忆犹新。他们和附近几位调皮的孩子用石头攻击一只无助的小猫咪时被他们母亲发现了。
  “我和你说吧,”比利少爷经常说,“当时我被吓坏了。妈妈冲向我的样子差点使我认为她发疯了。我还没反应过来,妈妈就用鞭子打了我一顿,并让我饿着肚子上床睡觉。后来,妈妈在门外哭被我听到了,我那时心里真得很难受。我告诉你,”他说,“从那以后,我们兄弟几个再也没拿石头攻击过小猫。”
  此时,博德太太猛然站起身来,脸颊发红,脸色看上去比平时好多了。她走到丈夫身边,以一种坚定的语气对她丈夫严肃地说:“约翰,我想知道你是否也认为那样的一条法律是公正的,是符合基督教义的吗?”
  “你不会杀我吧,玛莉,如果我做出肯定的回答。”
  “我从没那样想过你,约翰,你没投赞成票,是吗?”
  “我还投了一票呢,我漂亮迷人的政治家太太。”
  “你该为此感到羞愧,约翰!可怜的无家可归的人啊!这条法律是多么的可耻、多么的卑鄙、多么的毒辣啊!只要有机会,我就会打破这条法律的,我希望我能有机会这样做,肯定会的!如果一个女人不能给那些可怜人提供一顿热饭、一张床,只是因为他们是奴隶,只是因为他们一辈子都将被凌辱被欺压的话,那么事情就会陷入一种困境。可怜的人啊!”
  “但是,玛莉,听我说。你的感情是非常正确的,而且很有意思,亲爱的,我喜欢你这点,但亲爱的,我们不能感情用事,让感情来决定我们的判断,这不仅是涉及个人感情的事,这还涉及到了伟大的公众的利益,现在全国公众中正出现一种不安与恐慌,所以我们必须把个人感情放在一边。”
  “听着,约翰,我并不关心政治。但我读得懂我的《圣经》,从中我明白了我要给忍饥挨饿的人提供饭吃,给无衣可穿的人提供衣穿,并要安慰那些可怜的人儿,我一定要遵守《圣经》的规定。”
  “但是,你这样做在某些情况下会卷进一个公众的罪恶——”
  “服从上帝的旨意不可能带来公众的罪恶。我知道是不会的。上帝令我们做的事永远都是最安全的。”
  “现在,听我说,玛莉,让我给你好好分析一下,并且告诉你——”
  “噢,全都是胡说,约翰!你可以整个晚上都谈论这件事,但你不会那样做的。请问你一句,约翰,你现在会把一位浑身发抖,饥肠辘辘的可怜人从你的门口赶走,只是因为他是一名逃亡者吗?你会这样做吗?”
  说句实在话,我们这位议员不巧正是位非常慈祥、仁道的人,拒绝一位处于困境中的人更不是他的长项,对他更为不利的是,在这场争论中,他的妻子对他这一点了如指掌,而且,她会毫不犹豫地攻击他最薄弱的部位。于是,他不得不采取一种拖延的办法,这种办法他在遇到类似处境时已使用过多次了,他“啊”了一声,并咳嗽了几次,把手帕拿出来不时擦拭着镜片。博德夫人见丈夫已丧失了保卫自己的领地的能力,也就不忍心再推进她的优势乘胜追击了。
  “我希望亲眼见你这样做,约翰——我真希望!比如在个暴风雪的天气里把一个女人拒于门外,或者你把她送到监狱去,好吗?如果这样的话,你不久便会变得很善于做这种事的。”
  “当然,履行此项职责是令人倍感痛苦的。”博德先生以温和的语气说。
  “职责!约翰,不要用这个词!你知道这不能称为职责——它不是职责!如果人们想阻止他们的奴隶逃跑,那就请好好地对待他们——这就是我的原则。如果我拥有奴隶(但愿永远也没有),我会冒险让他们从你或我身边逃走的。我告诉你吧,人如果感到幸福的话,他们是不会逃跑的;如果他们逃跑,可怜的人儿!他们已经承受了足够的饥寒和恐惧的痛苦,即便不是每个人都轻视敌视他们。而且,不管有没有颁布法令,我还是不会那样去做,所以请上帝帮助我吧!”
  “玛莉,玛莉,亲爱的,听我给你讲一讲道理。”
  “约翰,我讨厌说教,尤其是就这件事进行的说教。你们这些政客非常擅长于在非常简明的事情上绕圈子,实际上呢,你们自己也不相信自己所说的。我了解你,约翰,你和我都不会相信,而且你也不会比我更着急去那样做。”
  正在这个节骨眼上,黑人管家卡乔在门口露了一下脑袋,希望“太太到厨房来一下”,议员这时才松了口气,以一种哭笑不得的神情眼望着妻子出去,他便坐在扶手椅中拿起一份报纸看了起来。
  不一会儿,门口传来了博德太太的呼唤,声音短促而急切——“约翰!约翰!我希望你过来一下。”
  他放下手中的报纸去了厨房,他立刻被呈现于眼前的情景所震惊而不禁呆住了——一个身材瘦弱的年轻女子被放在了两张椅子上,已经昏迷了。她衣衫破烂,身体被冻得有些僵冷;她的一只脚光着,袜子也被划破了,脚上仍在流血。在她的脸上,印有一个倍受欺压的人种的记号,但人们还是不禁被她脸上所呈现出的悲惨、凄凉的美所打动。她那张僵硬、冰冷,死人似的脸庞,令博德先生非常害怕。他的呼吸变得紧促起来,只是呆呆地站在那里。博德太太和他们唯一的黑仆蒂娜姨妈都在忙着救治她。老卡乔把小男孩抱起,让他坐在自己的膝盖上,帮他脱掉鞋袜,使劲揉搓着他那双快要冻僵的小脚。
  “真是太悲惨了!”老蒂娜同情地说:“好像因为这里很暖和,所以她才昏迷过去了。她刚进门时还好好的,并问我她是否可以在这儿暖和一下,我刚想问她是从哪儿来的,她就昏倒了。她没干过什么重活,这可以从她那双手上猜出来。”
  “可怜的人儿!”博德夫人怜惜地说着,此时那女人缓慢地睁开双眼,一双黑眼睛茫然地看着她,突然,那女人脸上闪过一丝痛苦,她跳了起来并喊道:“噢,我的哈里!他们抓住他了吗?”
  听到母亲的声音,小男孩从卡乔的膝头上跳了下来,跑到母亲身旁,举起了两只小手。
  “噢,他在这儿,在这儿!”女人叫喊着。
  “夫人,”她疯狂地向博德夫人叫喊着,“请你保护我们!别让他们抓到我们!”
  “可怜的女人,这儿没有人能伤害你们,”博德夫人鼓励他们说,“你们很安全,不要害怕。”
  “上帝保佑你!”女人说着便以手掩面哭了起来,男孩见妈妈哭了,便努力爬到了她的膝头上。
  在博德夫人那无人可以相媲美的温柔的女性的尽心呵护下,可怜的女人此时安静了许多。火炉边的靠椅上,人们帮她搭了个临时的床铺,不一会儿,她便沉沉地睡了。那个孩子显得很疲惫,此时也甜美地睡在母亲的怀中,人们曾出于好心想把孩子从她身边带走,但这种企图由于母亲的忧虑和警觉而被拒绝了,即使在睡梦中,她的胳膊依旧紧紧抱着他,看来即使她已经睡着了,人们还是没能使她放松警惕。
  博德夫妇回到起居室。奇怪的是,双方谁也没有再提到刚才的争论。博德夫人忙着她的编织活儿,博德先生则假装看报纸。
  “我正在想她是谁,是干什么的。”最后,博德先生放下手中的报纸说。
  “当她苏醒过来,休息一会儿后我们就会知道了。”博德夫人回答说。
  “我说,老伴儿!”博德先生看着报纸沉思了一会儿说道。
  “嗯,亲爱的。”
  “她穿不了你的衣服,能否把裙子边儿放长些或采取别的方法?看起来她比你高大多了。”
  一个不易察觉的微笑在博德夫人脸上快速闪过,她答道:“我们会想办法的。”
  又停了一会儿,博德先生又说话了。
  “我说,老伴儿!”
  “嗯,什么事?”
  “咱们不是有件旧细纹黑衣服吗,是你专为我睡午觉时披的那件,你可以拿去给她穿——她没有衣服可穿。”
  此时,蒂娜伸进头来说那个女人醒了,想见见夫人。
  博德夫妇走进了厨房,身后面是两个年龄最大的儿子,那个小孩此时被稳妥地放在了床上。
  那个女人正坐在炉火旁的椅子上。她以一种平静而极端伤心的表情凝视着火焰,这跟刚才的激动和疯狂简直判若两人。
  “你想见我,是吗?”博德夫人温和地问道,“希望你现在感觉舒服一些了,可怜的人儿!”
  那女人发出一声颤抖的叹息,那是她所做的唯一的答复,她抬起那双乌黑发亮的眼睛,以一种凄惨而惶恐的目光看着博德夫人,一汪泪水在眼眶中打着转儿。
  “不要怕,可怜的人儿。在这个地方我们都是朋友,告诉我你是从哪儿来的,你需要什么东西。”博德先生说。
  “我从肯塔基来。”女人说。
  “什么时候来到这儿的?”博德先生继续问道。
  “今天晚上。”
  “你怎么来的?”
  “我从冰上过来的。”
  “从冰上过来的?!”大家齐声问道。
  “是的,”女人缓声说,“我确实是从冰上过来的。上帝暗中助我从冰上过来,他们紧跟在身后追赶我,我没有别的路可走了。”
  “老天爷,”卡乔惊讶地说,“那些冰都是断开的,漂在水面上。”
  “我知道的,我知道的,”她急切地说,“我竟然过来了,我没有想到我能过来——我还以为自己过不来了。但我没考虑那么多!因为如果我不这样做的话,那就只有死路一条。上帝暗中帮助了我,你如果没有尝试过,你就不会知道上帝给予的帮助会有多么大。”说着,女人的眼中不禁泪光闪闪。
  “你是奴隶吗?”博德先生问。
  “先生,我是奴隶,我的主人住在肯塔基。”
  “难道是他对你不好?”
  “不,先生!他是个好主人。”
  “那么是你的女主人对你不好吗?”
  “不是的,先生,不是,我的女主人对我非常好。”
  “那你为什么要离开这么好的家庭,而甘愿跑出来冒险呢?”
  女人抬起了头,仔细打量了博德夫人一眼,她看到博德夫人正在服丧。
  “夫人,”她突然问,“你失去了孩子吗?”
  这个意外的问题正好触到了夫人的痛处。就在一个月前,博德家埋葬了一个可爱的孩子。
  博德先生转身走到了窗子前,博德夫人则禁不住哭出来。过了一会,他们才恢复了常态。夫人说:“你为什么问这种问题,我确实是刚失去一个孩子。”
  “那样的话你会理解我的。我接连失去了两个孩子,我把他们留在了那边的坟墓里,现在我只有这个孩子了。每天晚上,我都会带他一起睡觉,他是我的全部,也是我的慰藉和骄傲;亲爱的夫人,他们想把他夺走,从我身边把他卖到南方去,夫人,就让他,这个从没离开过母亲的孩子去?夫人,我知道我不能承受这个的,如果他们这样做,我知道我就完了;我知道他们签订了契约,我知道他被卖给别的人了,于是我连夜带着他逃跑了,那个买他的人还有我的主人的人,他们都在我身后追赶我,我能听到他们的声音。我一下子跳到了冰筏上,我也不知道自己是怎么从河上过来的,事后我知道的第一件事是有人把我拉上了堤岸。”
  女人既没有哭泣也没有流眼泪,她的眼泪已经全都流完了,身旁的人们也以各自独特的方式表示了对她的遭遇的同情。
  两个小男孩在自己的口袋里翻来翻去地找寻手帕,但妈妈早已知道口袋里肯定没有手帕,事实正是如此,他们只好扑到妈妈的怀中,大声哭了起来,鼻涕、眼泪弄得妈妈全身都是——博德夫人用手帕遮挡着脸;老蒂娜诚实、黑亮的脸庞上眼泪横流,她热情地高声喊着:“上帝,请可怜一下我们吧!”——老蒂娜拉长着脸,并用衣袖使劲揉着眼睛,不时激动地高声呼喊着那句话。作为一名政府高级官员,我们当然不能期望我们的议员先生也大声哭出声来,就像大家所做的那样。他只是背对大家,凝神望向窗外,似乎仍在忙着清一清喉咙或擦一擦眼镜片,如果人们留心注意的话,他擤鼻子的动作都会让人们有所怀疑。
  “你怎么会说你的主人很仁慈呢?”他突然转身问道,他使劲吞咽着,好像嗓子里有什么东西要冒出来。
  “因为他的确很仁慈,不管怎么样,我都会这样评价他——我也有一位很好的女主人;但因为他们欠别人钱,所以他们无可选择;也说不清为什么,有人莫名其妙地把他们控制了,他们必须要满足他的要求。我偷偷听了他们的谈话,听到他在和女主人说话,而女主人在为我向他哀求,他告诉女主人,他已别无选择,他已经签了契约——然后,我就带着孩子从家中跑了出来。我知道如果他们夺走我的孩子,我也活不下去了,因为对于我来说,孩子就是一切。”
  “你没有丈夫吗?”
  “我有丈夫,但他另有主人。那个人对他很厉害,不允许他来看我,对我们也不好,他还说要把我丈夫卖到南方去——也许我再也见不到他了。”
  如果让一个只会观察事物表面现象的人来判断的话,这女人一定是一个冷漠无情的人,因为她说话时语气是那样平静;但她那双乌黑发亮的双眸以及从中透露出的藏于内心的悲伤却向我们说明,事实并不是这样的。
  “可怜的女人,你打算到哪里去呢?”博德夫人问道。
  “我想去加拿大,只要我知道加拿大在什么地方。那儿离这里很远吗?”她抬起头望着博德夫人的脸,目光是那样的单纯并充满了信赖。
  “可怜的人啊!”博德夫人小声自语着。
  “真的很远吗?”女人急切地问道。
  “可怜的孩子,那比你想象中要远得多了,”博德夫人说,“我们会尽力帮助你的。蒂娜,在你房间靠近厨房那边为她搭一个床铺。让我想想早上时能为她做些什么事情。可怜的人儿,你不要再担惊受怕了,相信上帝吧,他会保护你的。”
  博德夫妇再次返回起居室。夫人坐在火炉旁的小摇椅上,随着摇椅的晃动她不断思索着。博德先生则在屋里踱来踱去,口中不停地说着:“呸!太不好处理了!”最后,他快步走到博德夫人面前说:“哎,老伴儿,她今天晚上就得离开这儿,那帮追赶她的人明天早晨就会到达这里,如果只有那个女人,那她可以老实地躺在这里直到事情的风头过去;但即使有一队步兵和骑兵也不会看住那个小孩子的,我敢说,他会让事情泄露的,只要他在门口或窗子前伸一下头就行了。而且,如果有人看到我和他们混在一起,那我就麻烦了。不行,他们今天晚上就得离开。”
  “今天晚上,这怎么能行呢?让他们到哪儿去?”
  “嗯,这个我知道。”议员边说着边穿着靴子,才伸进一半,他就停下来了,用双手抱着膝盖,似乎在想着什么事情。
  “讨厌,真是太难处理了!”他终于又说道,并开始系鞋带,“但现实就是这样的。”穿好了一只靴子,议员又手拿另一只靴子坐在那儿盯着地毯的图案沉思起来,“必须要这样做,尽管,但也未必——不管那么多了!”他心事重重地望着窗外穿好了另一只靴子。
  博德夫人言行谨慎,她一生从没有说过“我说得对吧!”现在,她很清楚地知道丈夫的想法,但她还是非常理智,努力不让自己去干涉他,她只是静静地坐在椅子上,看上去随时准备听从丈夫——她的国王的想法,现在只是等他想好后宣布了。
  “你知道,”他说,“过去,我有个叫梵·特鲁普的委托人。他是肯塔基人,他释放了自己所有的奴隶,他还在小溪上游几英里处的森林深处买了块地,除非特意去那儿,否则几乎没有人会去那儿,所以短时间内那里还不会被发现。在那里,她会很安全的。不过麻烦的是,今天晚上只有我能驾马车去那里。”
  “为什么呢?卡乔是很擅长驾车的。”
  “嗯,但问题是你必须两次穿过小溪,第二次时会很危险,除非他比我熟悉那里。我曾经多次骑马从那儿路过,我知道应该在哪儿转弯。所以,你看,我们别无选择。卡乔必须在十二点钟时把马车套好,并要小心,别弄出声响。我会带她去那儿。为掩人耳目,卡乔要送我去附近的酒店,然后乘坐到哥伦布的驿车,大概它会在三点或四点从那儿经过。这样,人们会认为我是为乘坐驿车才坐马车来的。明天一早,我就要着手进行工作了。我想,事情过后,我会感到惭愧的。不过,去死吧,我现在顾不上那么多了!”
  “在这种情况下,约翰,你的心比你的头脑好多了,”博德夫人把柔嫩的小手放在丈夫手上说,“如果我了解你没有甚过你的话,我怎么会爱上你呢?”说着话,小妇人的眼睛已是泪光点点,看上去是如此地俊美迷人以至于议员也认为自己是太聪明了,能让这个美丽的尤物如此深深地爱他。此时,他只是默默地走了出去,去查看马车是否已经准备停当。但走到门口时又犹豫了片刻,然后他又走了回来,对夫人说:“玛莉,我不知道你对此事的看法,但我认为那个小哈里是一个问题。”说完,他迅速转过身,带上门走了出去。
  博德夫人打开隔壁卧室的门,把手中的蜡烛放在了一个木柜顶上,从墙上的凹处取出钥匙,若有所思地把钥匙插入锁眼,接着又停了下来。就像大多数男孩喜欢的那样,两个儿子紧跟在妈妈的后面,一句话也不说,但同时以一种意味深长的眼光看着他们的妈妈。哎,天下的母亲们,你打开家中的抽屉或储藏室时,是否会觉得像是重新打开一个小的坟墓呢?如果没这种感觉,那你们都是很幸福的。
  博德夫人慢慢打开抽屉,抽屉里面放着款式各异的外套,一大堆围脖,一排排小袜子,有些纸包里还包着脚趾处已经磨破的鞋子。里面还有玩具马车,陀螺和一个球,这些都是她眼含热泪强忍悲痛收集的有纪念意义的物品。她坐在抽屉旁边,以手掩面哭泣起来,眼泪从手指缝中流出,滴到了抽屉里面,忽然,她抬起头,急忙从里面拣了些最普通最耐用的衣服,并包在了一个小包内。
  “妈妈,你要把这些东西送给别人吗?”一个孩子轻轻地碰了碰她的胳膊说。
  “亲爱的孩子,”她的语气温和而诚恳,“如果我们亲爱的亨利在天堂中知道这件事的话,他也会为我们的做法高兴的。我是不会把这些衣服送给那些普通人或那些快乐高兴的人,我要把它们送给那位比我更加难过更加悲伤的母亲,而且我们这些衣服也会送去上帝的保佑与祝福。”
  在这个世界上,有这样的善良人,他们为别人都会变悲伤为喜悦,他们那个随着泪水掩埋于地下的对人世的梦想,成为了一粒种子,它长出的鲜花和芳香的油脂医治了许多孤单困苦无所依靠的人的心灵创伤。现在坐在灯光下的这位柔柔弱弱的小妇人便是这样的善良人之一。她一边流着眼泪,一边从自己早逝的孩子留下的物品中拣了一些送给那个无家可归的可怜孩子。
  然后,博德夫人打开衣柜并从中取出了两件虽然不起眼但非常实用耐穿的长裙。她端坐在工作台前面,身旁放着针线、剪刀和顶针,静静地忙着按照丈夫所说的把衣服放得长些,她就这样忙碌着,直到屋角的钟敲了十二下。此时,门口传来车轮低沉的咯吱声。
  “玛莉,”博德先生边说边走进门来,他的手中拿着大衣,“你快把她叫醒,我们马上出发。”
  博德夫人连忙把她刚才整理好的东西放到一个小箱子里锁好,并告诉博德先生照看好箱子,然后她就赶去叫那个女人。很快,那个女人已穿戴好博德夫人给的衣帽,手抱孩子站在了门口。博德先生连忙让她上了马车,博德夫人紧跟着马车走了几步。艾莉查把头从车中伸了出来,并伸出了自己的手,博德夫人那双美丽柔嫩的小手也伸了过去。艾莉查盯着博德夫人的脸,眼神中满是诚挚。她看起来想说几句话,她试着动了动嘴唇,但却没有发出声音,然后她把手指向上指着,那情形很难让人忘记。最后她向后倒在座位上,用双手盖在脸上。然后车门被关上了,马车开始出发。
  此时,我们这位爱国的议员是处在一个多么尴尬的境地啊!上周他还在忙着推动立法机关通过一条法律,以更加严厉地惩处那些逃跑的奴隶以及那些窝藏、教唆他们的人。
  这位优秀的议员的家乡是华盛顿,在那里,他的口才比他所有的同胞都要好,尽管有些人曾因为他们的口才而获得过长时间的名声。当有人把为数不多的逃奴的利益放在具有重大意义的国家利益之上时,他显得是那样地威严,把手伸进口袋里,根本看不起这些人的感情用事。
  以前他曾经坚决地捍卫他的观点,而且他不仅让自己,而且也让当时所有在场的人也相信自己的观点——但是当时他对于逃奴的理解不过是组成这个单词的那几个字母而已,——也可以这样说,顶多也不过是报纸上面刊登的手拄棍杖,背着包袱的小图片,在图片下面写着“我家的逃奴”而已。但说起来那现实生活中实在的苦难——那央求的眼神,纤弱、颤抖的双手,那无助的绝望的哀求——这些都是他以前从来没有感受到的。他从来没有把逃奴想象为一位不幸的母亲,一个心无防范的小孩子——就好像那个戴着他夭折的孩子的小帽子的孩子;而且,我们这位可怜的议员先生并不是硬心肠,他是人,而且是一个道德高尚的人,现在,我们可以看出,爱国主义情感使他陷进了非常悲惨的地步。南方各个州的同胞啊!你们不要幸灾乐祸了,因为我们知道你们之中的绝大多数人遇到这样的情况,也不会做得更好。我们知道,在肯塔基和密西西比,那里有许许多多高尚仁厚的人,他们不会为这些不幸的描述所感动。啊,同胞们!如果你们处在我的地位,你们勇敢、高尚的心灵不允许你们做这种事,而你们却想让我们去做,难道这公平吗?
  尽管如此,如果我们把这位诚实的议员先生称做政治犯,那么他那晚上所遭受的罪和苦也足以使他抵消他的罪过了。人们知道,刚刚过去的漫长的雨季,使得俄亥俄州松软的泥土极易成为泥浆,他们走的是俄亥俄州那条旧的横木组成的火车轨道。
  “老天,这是怎样的一条路啊?”一个来自东部的乘客喊了一声,平日里他见到的火车轨道不是这样子的,他见到的是畅通、方便的大路。
  不熟悉情况的东部同胞啊,你要知道,对于在天黑后仍在赶路的西部人来说,泥浆很多而且很深的地方的道路是由许多很粗糙的圆木并排放在一起而组成的。在圆木的周围堆放着新鲜的泥土、草泥以及一些随手可得到的东西,当地人把这称之为路,然后就马上驾车试探着上路了。经过一段时间,雨水把圆木上的泥土和草泥都冲洗掉了,圆木也被冲得到处都是,它们杂乱无序地排列在那里,中间布满了泥坑和车辙。
  我们的议员先生就这样缓慢地在这样的道路上走着,正如人们可以想到的,一路上,他都在不断地反复考虑着自己的品德,大部分时间中,马车都是咣噹!咣噹!咣噹地向前行进着,烂泥!车陷进去了,突然之间,议员、女人和孩子互相调换了位置,还没等他们调换坐好,他们又被猛然挤到朝下的车窗户旁边。马车陷在泥里,不能向前移动。车外,车夫在吆喝着那几匹马,这些马又是拉又是拽,但是没什么作用,正当议员失去耐性时,马车又突然向上弹了一下,改变了原来的方位,它的两只前车轮深深地陷进了另一边的泥坑中,议员、女人和孩子又被抛向了前面的位子,议员的帽子遮住了他的面庞,显得很是狼狈,他感到自己都快要支撑不住了,小男孩也在哭着,卡乔在大声地喝叱着那几匹马,并不停地用鞭子抽打着它们,马胡乱地蹬着,使劲地拉着。紧接着马车又弹了起来,颠了一下,这一颠使得后轮飞了,议员、女人和孩子又被重新抛向后座,他的胳膊碰到了女人的帽子,女人的脚踩在了议员那个被震飞的帽子上。女人把帽子弄平整,哄着孩子,他们已重新打起精神来面对即将到来的情形。
  马车仍在“咣噹”、“咣噹”、“咣噹”地向前行着,不时地会有一些左右颠簸和很大的震荡,他们暗自庆幸情况还不算太坏。最后,马车猛然颤动着停了下来。坐车的人下意识地站起来又坐下,动作异常迅速。外面一阵混乱,然后卡乔出现在了车门口。
  “老爷,今年这里太不幸了,真不知我们怎样才能走出去。我想我们该去坐火车了。”
  议员非常气愤,他走下车小心谨慎地向前试探着走去,他的一只脚陷进了深深的污泥中,他试着拔出脚,却一时失去了平衡而跌倒在泥浆中,卡乔把他拉了起来,他看上去狼狈极了。
  出于对读者的无限同情,我们仍在忍耐着。那些西部乘客用从铁道边拔下的栅栏来撬深陷在污泥中的马车,他们兴趣盎然地做着这些事,以此来打发午夜的时光。对于我们不幸的主人公,他们既佩服又怜悯。让我们请他们黯然掉几滴眼泪,然后再驾车离去吧。
  沾满了泥浆的马车终于脱离了这难堪的境地,来到了一座大的农舍前,此时夜已经很深了。
  他们花费了很大的气力才叫醒了屋里的人。那位值得我们尊重的主人终于打开门,出现在大家面前。他身材魁梧,是位性情暴烈的奥森式人物。他足穿六英尺八英寸高的长统袜,身穿红色法兰绒猎衫,一头乱蓬蓬的土色头发,下巴上的胡须看来有几天没有刮了。因此,这位有钱人看起来最起码不招人喜欢。他站了几分钟,举着蜡烛眼望着这群不速之客,他的神情看起来不太高兴,又有几分困惑,很是好笑。我们的议员先生费了好大的劲儿才让他搞清楚发生了什么事。趁他还在思考的时候,我们先给读者介绍一下他。
  老约翰·梵·特鲁普很诚实,他曾经在肯塔基州拥有很多土地和许多奴隶。他心地善良,“皮肤像是熊,其余的还好”,他那仁慈、宽厚、公正的好心肠是与生俱来的,这倒是符合他魁梧的身材。多年以来,他目睹了那种对剥削阶级和被剥削阶级都没有好处的制度的后果,心中一直很郁闷。终于有一天,他那仁慈的胸怀再也不能忍受这压抑了太久的愤怒了,于是他拿出钱包,在俄亥俄州买了一个小镇子四分之一的肥沃土地,并使得他所有的奴隶——男人、女人和孩子都变成了自由人,并用马车把他们送到别的地方去定居。诚实的约翰紧接着在小溪上游找了个舒服恬静的农场住了下来,惬意于他那清清白白的心灵,并一直沉溺于各种沉思和想象之中。
  “你能保护这个可怜的女人和孩子,并不让他们被追捕逃跑奴隶的人抓走吗?”议员简单爽快地问道。
  “我想我能做到。”诚实的约翰特别加重了语气回答说。
  “我也是这样想的。”议员说。
  “如果哪个人胆敢来这儿,”说这话时,这位好心人挺起了胸膛,显得身材高大魁梧,肌肉也很发达,“那我就在这儿恭候他,我有七个身高六英尺的儿子,他们可以对付那些人,先代我们向他们‘致敬’吧。”约翰接着说,“并告诉他们不管他们行动多么迅速,对我们都没多大关系。”边说着话,约翰边笑着用手理顺着头上那蓬乱的头发。
  艾莉查走到门口,步伐显得很疲惫。她面色憔悴,没有神采,孩子躺在她的怀中熟睡着。这位约翰老兄把蜡烛举到她的脸旁边,同情地哼了一声,他打开厨房隔壁一间卧室的门,领着她走了进去。他把蜡烛放在了桌子上,向艾莉查说:“哎,姑娘,你不用害怕。就让他们来吧,我会来对付一切的。”壁炉上方挂着两三枝漂亮的枪,他指着它们说:“认识我的人们都知道,没有经过我的同意,谁若想从我的屋子里把人带走,那他肯定是活得不耐烦了。所以,现在你只管放心地休息吧,就如同你的母亲摇你入睡似的。”说完,他带上门走了出来。
  “嗨,这个姑娘真是太漂亮了,”他对议员说:“哎,有时,只有漂亮的姑娘才是最有资格逃跑的,只要她们还有感情,只要她们还有正派女人应有的各种感情。对此,我最清楚不过了。”
  议员向他简要介绍了艾莉查的来历。
  “哦,哦……哦!我知道是怎么回事,”这位好心人怜悯地说:“这是自然的了,嗯,自然的了!自然是那样,可怜的人儿!就像小鹿一样被人紧紧追赶着,只因为她心中有这种自然而然的感情,只是因为她做了每个母亲都不忍去做的事情!告诉你吧,听你说了这一件一件的事,无一不使我想骂人。”诚实的约翰说,同时用他那发黄的满是斑点的手背抹了一下眼睛。“陌生人,告诉你,我花费了好多年的时间才进教堂,因为我们这里的传教士在布道的时候说,《圣经》是赞成这种拆散亲人的行为的。他们会说希腊文和希伯来文,我争辩不过他们,我反对他们和《圣经》。后来我遇到了一个传教士,他可以用希腊语也可以用其它一些语言和他们辩论,他说的观点和那些传教士正好相反。从那时起我开始信教了,直到现在。”说着,约翰用手打开一瓶泡沫丰富的苹果酒。此时,他把酒递给了议员。
  “你们最好等天亮后再从这儿走,”他诚挚地说,“我去叫醒我老婆,很快就能为你准备好一张床的。”
  “多谢你,朋友,”议员说,“我必须得走,我要去赶那趟开往哥伦布的夜班车。”
  “噢,看来你非得走不可,我送你一程吧,我告诉你一条小路,比你们来时走的路好走一些。你走的那条路情况太差了。”
  约翰收拾停当后提着盏灯笼,领着议员的马车来到沿他家屋后山谷向下的一条小路。临分手前,议员塞给他一张十美元的钱票。
  “这个给她。”他简单地说。
  “好的。”同样简单地,约翰回答道。
  他们握了手后,便各自离开分手了。
  

第十章

黑奴伏首


  二月的一个早晨,牛毛细雨在空中飘飞。从汤姆叔叔的小屋的窗户向外看去,天是灰蒙蒙的一片。老天爷也在低着头观察着地上的人们:他们脸色阴沉,内心非常痛苦。小屋的火炉前面摆着一张小桌子,上面盖着一块平整的桌布,几件质地低劣但很干净的衬衣刚刚熨烫好,现在就挂在炉边的椅子背上。桌子上还有件已经铺好的衬衣等着克鲁伊大婶来熨烫。她仔细熨了一遍衬衣,甚至没有放过任何一个褶痕和折边。那汹涌而出顺着面颊流下的泪水,使得她不得不时时抬手去擦拭。
  汤姆就坐在旁边,他的膝头放着一本打开了的《新约》,他把头靠在自己的一只手上。屋里的两个人都没有说话。天气还很早,孩子们依然挤在那张做工粗劣的木轮床上熟睡。
  汤姆具有不幸的黑种人的通病,那就是生来善良、和善、恋家,而这也正是他们的可悲之处。这种不幸与可悲在汤姆身上表现更为突出。他站起身来走到孩子们的面前,默默地注视着他们。
  “这将是最后的机会了。”汤姆说道。
  克鲁伊大婶没有说什么,她只是将那件粗布衬衣翻来覆去地熨烫着,从手工熨烫的角度来看,这件衣服已经熨烫得足够平整了。最后,她猛然把熨斗放在地下,坐在桌子旁边绝望地大哭起来。
  “看起来我们得听天由命了。但是,上帝,我怎么可以做到这一点呢?如果我知道你在哪儿,如果我知道别人待你怎么样,那情况还算不错,太太告诉我说,一两年后,她要设法把你赎回来。但是,上帝,没有一个送到南方去的人活着回来,他们全都被折磨死了。我听别人讲过他们在那里的庄园受苦受累的情况。”
  “克鲁伊,那儿和这儿的上帝是一样的,情况也差不了多少。”
  “嗯,”克鲁伊大婶说,“姑且认为是这样吧,但是有些时候上帝也会任那些可怕的事情发生的,你让我怎么放心呢!”
  “我是在上帝的手心中,”汤姆说,“上帝不会允许人们做过分的事情的。我要感谢他一件事情,那就是:是我而不是你和孩子们被卖掉并被送到了南方。在这里你们不会有事儿的,再大的灾难也只能降临到我的身上,但我知道上帝一定会帮助我渡过灾难的。”
  这是一颗多么勇敢和富于男子汉气质的心灵啊!汤姆说话的时候声音有些嘶哑,他努力安慰着自己的亲人,克制着自己内心的悲伤,虽然痛苦使他难以出声,但他的语气中却充满了勇敢与坚毅。
  “让我们回想一下自己所受过的恩惠吧!”汤姆补充说,声音有些颤抖,那神情就好似他理应好好想一下这些恩惠似的。
  “恩惠!”克鲁伊大婶说,“我没有看到什么恩惠,这件事情主人做得不对,事情不应该是这样做的。主人把事情弄得一塌糊涂,却要你去抵债。你为他所挣的钱比他在你身上花的钱不止多一倍啊。早在几年前,他就该给你自由了。也许他也是没有别的选择,但我觉得他做得不对。不管他说什么,我也不会心服口服。你对他一直都很忠诚,对待他的事情尤重于对待自己的事情,而且总会想方设法把事情做好。但他为了摆脱掉尴尬的处境,竟然将别人的亲人卖掉,使得别人妻离子散。应该由上帝来惩罚他们。”
  “克鲁伊,如果你还爱我,你就不要说这种话。这或许就是我们的最后一次相聚了。告诉你,克鲁伊,说主人的坏话,即使说一个字,我也不会答应你的。从他儿时起,我就把他抱在怀中,是我把他拉扯大的,自然的,我要多想一想他对我的好处,不敢奢望他多么看重可怜的汤姆。主人们已经习惯了被人伺候的生活,并由下人们把事情全都做好。所以他们自然不会觉得这有什么大不了的。我们不应该奢望他们的回报!把他和其他人的主人作一下比较,哪家的黑奴享受过我这样的待遇?谁过着我这样舒适的生活呢?如果他早些知道情况会变得这样难堪,他也不会赞同的。我知道他会这样做的。”
  “不管怎样说,这件事办得不妥当。”克鲁伊大婶说。对正义感的执着追求是她最大的优点,“我也说不明白这事错在什么地方,但我心里很清楚这件事办得不对。”
  “你应该尊重上帝,崇尚上帝,他虽远在天上,但他主宰着一切,即使一只麻雀掉在地上也是出自他的旨意。”
  “但这也不能给我安慰。我想这是命运,没有别的办法的,”克鲁伊大婶说,“这样说下去也没有什么实际作用,我给你烙几张玉米饼,让你再好好吃一次早餐吧,不知道到什么时候你才能吃到比较不错的早餐呢!”
  在理解那些被卖到南方的黑奴的痛苦时,千万要记住一点,这非常有必要,那就是他们内心的感情都很强烈,都很眷恋家庭和乡土。对于他们来说,胆大和勇于进取不是他们天生的特点,他们天生恋家而且充满柔情蜜意。同时他们还有恐惧感。这种恐惧感和愚昧无知相混合就会使陌生的地方笼罩上一层神秘的色彩。从儿时起,黑人就把被卖到南方视为一种最严厉的惩罚。被卖到河流的下游的威胁比其它形式的折磨和鞭打都要使人恐惧。他们显露的这种恐惧感是作者亲耳听到的,他们坐在一起长谈着,丝毫不掩饰那种恐惧感,他们所说的河流下游所发生的种种耸人听闻的故事,作者也曾亲眼目睹过。对于他们来说,南方就是一个任何人去了以后就再难返回的神秘的土地。
  加拿大的逃亡者中有位传教士,他曾对我说,许多逃亡者都坦然承认,比较起来,他们的主人对他们还是不错的,他们冒着极大的风险逃亡,大都是出于对被卖往南方的极大的恐惧,这种担心一直盘旋在他们和他们的家人——丈夫、妻子和儿女的心头。非洲人天性能忍、胆子小、不思前进,但是他们一旦面临这样的危险,便会变得勇敢异常。他们会想尽办法逃亡,不惜忍饥挨饿,蒙受着巨大的痛苦,面对着田野中的多种危险以及被抓回去受到更加严厉的惩罚的苦难命运。
  简单的早餐已经做好并放在桌子上,上面还冒着热气。希尔比太太已经通知克鲁伊大婶早晨不用去大宅侍奉了。这可怜的女人用尽了身体内的那点气力才做完这顿告别早餐。她宰了一只最肥厚的鸡并烹好了,还精心烙了合乎丈夫口味的玉米饼,又从炉架上拿下了几瓶果酱,那是在特殊情况下才会被拿出的。
  “哇,贝特,”莫思高兴地说,“今天的早餐真是太好吃了!”说着,他抓起了一块鸡肉。
  克鲁伊大婶猛然打了他一个耳光。“这是你可怜的爸爸在家中吃的最后一顿早饭了,你这样猴急干什么?”
  “哎,克鲁伊!”汤姆温和地说。
  “哎,我实在难以忍受了,”说着,克鲁伊大婶用围裙盖住了面庞,“我心里很乱,所以一下子就火了。”
  孩子们看了看爸爸,又看了看妈妈,站在那儿一动没动,那个年岁最小的孩子在妈妈的身上爬来爬去,使劲大哭起来。
  “哎,”克鲁伊大婶擦了擦眼睛,把孩子抱在自己的怀中安慰着,“好了,事情都过去了,都来吃吧,这是我喂养的最肥的鸡。来吧,我的孩子,可怜的小宝贝,快来吃吧。妈妈刚才的火气太大了。”
  不用说什么话,孩子们便都马上高兴地吃起来,幸亏有他们的帮忙,否则这顿早餐要照原样子端下去,不会有人动一下的。
  “现在,”克鲁伊大婶说,早饭后她一直忙碌着,“我要帮你收拾衣服了。那个家伙大概也会像那些人一样,把你的东西都拿走的,我知道他们一向都是这样做的。多么的卑鄙丑恶啊!这件法兰绒衣裤是你风湿病发作时穿的,就放在这个角上,你要爱惜着穿,今后没有人会帮你做了。这些是旧衬衣,这些是新买的衬衣。昨天晚上我帮你把破洞的袜子都补好了。上帝啊,以后会有谁帮你缝补呢!”克鲁伊大婶再次不能自己地靠在箱子边上抽泣起来,“想起来真是让人害怕,今后不管你有没有生病,也不会有人关心你了。一想到这些,我真是不想做任何事了。”
  吃完了桌上的饭菜后,孩子们也想到了家中的情况。见到爸爸悲苦的眼神,见到妈妈哭泣的样子,他们也跟着哭起来,不断地用小手擦拭着眼中的泪水。汤姆把年纪最小的孩子抱在膝头上,让她尽情地玩着,小孩子一会儿用手抓他的脸,一会儿又用手拽他的头发,时不时发出高兴的笑声,这显然都是孩子内心的真实感受。
  “高兴点吧,可怜的孩子!”克鲁伊大婶说,“将来你会碰到这样的一天,眼看着自己的丈夫被卖掉,也许你也会被卖掉的。这两个男孩,等到长大能做事时,多半也会被卖掉的。黑人们一无所有,没有什么前途的。”
  此时,一个男孩大声叫道:“太太来啦!”
  “她帮不上什么忙,来这里干什么呢?”克鲁伊大婶说。
  希尔比太太走进屋里,克鲁伊大婶给她搬了一把椅子,脸上满是不满的神色,动作行为也很粗鲁。希尔比太太好像并没有注意到这些,她脸色苍白,显得非常焦急。
  “汤姆,”她说,“我来这儿是——”说到这儿,她突然停下来,再也说不出话来了,看着这沉默的一家人,她以帕掩面,坐在椅子上哭泣起来。
  “上帝,太太,请不要这样!”克鲁伊大婶说,她自己也禁不住失声痛哭。顿时,屋子里的人全都哭成了一团。在这里,高贵的人和低贱者的泪水,化解了受压迫者心中的不满和愤怒。啊!人们啊,看看这些受难者,你们就能看出,与其冷漠地花钱买东西送去,还不如给他们一滴真挚的同情的眼泪。
  “我的好仆人,”希尔比太太说,“我不能给你什么东西,也帮不了你什么忙。我给你钱,他们会立刻把钱拿走的。但是我可以郑重地在上帝面前起誓,我会随时找人探听你的下落,等我有了足够的钱,我就把你接回家来,但在此之前,先相信上帝吧!”
  这时候,孩子们叫嚷着说赫利老爷到了。紧接着,门被粗鲁地一脚踢开了。赫利出现在门前,非常地气愤。他骑着马追了一天,也没有追到猎物,他憋了一肚子的气,现在还没有消呢。
  “快点,”他叫嚷着,“你这个黑鬼,现在准备好了吗?啊,太太,您尊贵的奴仆向您问好。”赫利说,他看到希尔比太太在场,便脱帽向她致敬。
  克鲁伊大婶关好木箱,又仔细捆绑了一下,然后站起身,两只眼睛怒视着奴隶贩子,眼中的泪水霎时化成了愤怒的火焰。
  汤姆顺从地站起来,走到新主人的身后,并把沉重的箱子扛到了肩膀上。克鲁伊大婶抱着小孩子,陪着汤姆走到车子前,两个小男孩哭着跟在她的后面。
  希尔比太太来到奴隶贩子身旁,和他认真地交谈了一会儿。在这段时间内,汤姆一家人都走到了一辆备好车鞍的马车跟前。一大群仆人围在马车周围,特地来和多年的伙伴告别。汤姆是奴仆中的头儿,又是他们学习基督教义的老师。在这群人中,大家都真诚地同情他,那些妇女更为他感到悲伤。
  “哎,克鲁伊,怎么你比我们还能沉得住气啊?”一个一直在伤心的女人说。她看到站在马车旁边的克鲁伊大婶脸色阴沉但却很平静,于是便发问道。
  “我已经哭干了眼泪,”克鲁伊大婶边回答边用眼睛瞪着朝她们走来的奴隶贩子,“我不想在这个老家伙面前掉眼泪!”
  赫利在穿过怒视他的人群以后,对汤姆喊道:“上车!”
  汤姆上了马车,赫利从车座下拿出来一副沉重的脚镣,紧扣在汤姆的脚踝上。
  车子旁边的人们见此情形都非常气愤,但他们都克制着自己的感情,只是轻声抱怨着。希尔比太太在门廊上说:“赫利先生,你放心吧,你这种做法是没有必要的。”
  “对此我可没有把握,太太,我已经损失了五百美元,现在我不能再冒险了。”
  “太太,你别再对这种人心存幻想了。”克鲁伊大婶气愤地说。两个小男孩此时也明白了父亲的命运,不禁抓着母亲的衣角哭了起来。
  “我非常难过,”汤姆说,“乔治少爷恰好不在家。”
  乔治去附近农庄那个同伴家去了,要在那儿住两三天才回来。他大清早就走了,当时大家还不知道汤姆被卖的事情,所以他走时对此事也是闻所未闻的。
  “请代我转达对乔治少爷的爱意吧。”汤姆诚恳地说。
  赫利打马把汤姆带走了。汤姆目光忧郁地凝视着这个熟悉的农庄,他的目光没有离开过它,一直到最终看不见农庄为止。
  这时候,希尔比先生不在家中,他把汤姆卖掉以摆脱他所害怕的人的控制,他做完这桩生意以后,先是感到解除了一份负担,但妻子的一番话使他那本已泯灭一半的良知苏醒了。紧接着,他便懊悔起来,汤姆那特有的男子汉气概和高尚品德更加使他悔恨自己的选择。尽管他对自己说:他拥有这样做的权利,其它的人都这样做,而且有的人甚至连“别无选择”之类的借口也找不到,但是此时,这种安慰的话却并没起什么作用,他的心依然难以平静下来。他认为自己还是不见到那个令他难堪的场面为妙,于是他决定暂时离开这里几天,到乡下去处理一件生意场上的事情,他希望等他回来时一切都已经过去了。
  在一条脏乱的土路上,汤姆和赫利乘坐的马车在嘎吱吱地向前行进着。平日里所熟悉的景色逐渐被抛到了后面,最后,庄园也从视野中消失了。后来,汤姆发现马车已在一条空旷的大路上行进着。大约走出了半英里路后,赫利在一家铁匠铺前停下车来。他拿出一副手铐想让铁匠将它稍作一下修改。
  “这个手铐对于这个大个儿来说显得有些小了。”赫利边把手铐递给铁匠,边指着汤姆说。
  “上帝啊!那不是希尔比家的汤姆吗?他被卖掉了吗?”
  “是的,被卖掉了。”赫利回答说。
  “是真的吗?”铁匠说,“真是难以预料。你不用给他戴手铐,他最听话,最老实了……”
  “是啊!”赫利说,“但是想要逃走的也多是这种人。那些愚笨的人反倒不在乎去哪儿,更别说那些懒鬼、酒鬼了,说不定他们还喜欢被卖掉呢,那样的话还可以到处转一转,但这种上等货却不喜欢这样。没有办法的,他们长着两条腿,他们不会不用它的,所以只好把他们铐上,我说的不会有错。”
  “哎,”铁匠在自己的工具中摸索着说,“我说,外地人,肯塔基人不喜欢去那边的庄园。那边的黑人死亡频率极高,是这样吗?”
  “是的,很高。有时是因为天气的原因,有时则是另有原因。但话说回来,黑奴死得快些,市场才会兴旺啊。”赫利说。
  “汤姆真是一个好人,他是那样的体面、老实、可靠,一想起他会在南方某个甘蔗园被折磨至死,心里真是太难过了。”
  “但他的机会还是挺好的。我答应他原来的主人好好照料他。我想把他卖给有钱人家做个下人。只要他经受住那里的热病和那种气候,他会找到黑人们喜欢干的好工作的。”
  “他的妻子和孩子都留下了,是吗?”
  “是的,但在那边他可以再娶一个。哎,女人到处都是,很多的。”赫利说。
  赫利和铁匠谈话时,汤姆面带忧伤地坐在铁匠铺外。突然,后面传来了急促的马蹄声。还没等汤姆回过神来,乔治少爷已跳上马车伸手抱住了他的脖子,一面大声责备家里人,一面激动地哭起来。
  “我想说,这件事干得太不光彩了。我不管是谁,也不管他们怎样解释,反正我想说这事太不光彩,太卑鄙下流了!如果我是成人,我绝对不会同意他们这样做!绝对不会同意的。”乔治低声呼喊着。
  “啊,乔治少爷!你能赶来我真高兴!”汤姆说,“走之前见不到你,我真是有些放心不下你。你不知道我现在有多么高兴啊!”此时,汤姆动了一下他的脚,这使得乔治看到了赫利给汤姆戴的脚镣。
  “太可耻了!”他挥动双手喊道,“我非要揍那个家伙不可!我一定要揍他!”
  “不要,乔治少爷,千万别这样,不要再叫嚷了。你惹恼了他是不会对我有帮助的。”
  “那好,看在你的份儿上,我饶了他。但想起来这事,我就觉得不光彩。他们没派人去叫我或是写信告诉我这件事。如果不是汤姆·林肯告诉我的话,恐怕我到现在还不知道真相呢。你知道吗,我在家里把他们全都臭骂了一顿!”
  “乔治少爷,你这样做恐怕不太妥当吧!”
  “我实在忍不住了!我说过这样做不光彩。你看,汤姆叔,”他转身背对着铁匠铺,对汤姆神秘地说,“我把我的银元给你带来了。”
  “啊,乔治少爷,我从没想过要拿你的银元,我不能要你的银元的!”汤姆激动地说。
  “你必须收下,”乔治说,“情况是这样的,我告诉克鲁伊大婶说,我要送给你这块银元。她告诉我在银元中间打个洞,再穿上根线,这样你可以套在脖子上,别人就不会看到了。否则,那个可恶的家伙会拿走它的。告诉你,汤姆叔,我真想臭骂他一顿,这样我会感到好受一些!”
  “不要这样,乔治少爷,这样做对我不会有什么好处的。”
  “那好吧,看在你的面子上就算了,”乔治说着,忙把那银元套在了汤姆的脖子上。“要扣紧上衣,不要让它露出来。记住,每当你看到它,你就知道我会来赎回你的。我和克鲁伊大婶谈过了,我让她不要担心,我会让家里赶快办这件事的。如果父亲不答应,我一定会让他难为情的。”
  “啊,乔治少爷,你千万不要用这样的口气说你父亲啊!”
  “嗯,汤姆叔,我说这话并没有什么恶意。”
  “嗯,乔治少爷,”汤姆说,“你要做个好孩子。你要记得许多人都对你寄予厚望。你要永远都对母亲好,不要学某些孩子的坏样子,等他们长大时,他们甚至看不起自己的母亲。上帝给予我们许多双份的东西,但母亲却只有一个。你即使活到一百岁,也不会找到一个像你母亲这样好的女人。你要依靠她,等你长大后,要成为她最大的安慰。只有这样做,才是我的好孩子,你能做到吗?”
  “是的,汤姆叔,我可以做到。”乔治郑重其事地说。
  “讲话时也要注意分寸,乔治少爷。你这种年纪的男孩有时有点任性是可以理解的。但我希望你做个真正的男子汉,真正的男子汉是不会说出话来伤害自己的父母的。乔治少爷,我这样说,你不生气吧?”
  “不,绝对不生气,你经常给我忠告的。”
  “你知道的,我年岁比你大,”汤姆用他那粗壮的手抚弄着卷曲的头发说,声音如女人般轻柔,“我很清楚你身上所具备的优点。乔治少爷,你有知识,条件也很好,能读善写,你做什么都行,等你长大后,你会成为一个有学问的伟人,你会是个好人。到时候,你父母和庄园的人都会因为你而自豪。要做一个像你父亲那样的好主人,做一个像你母亲那样的真正的基督徒。从此时起,乔治少爷,你都要记住你的造物主啊,少爷!”
  “汤姆叔,你放心吧,我会成为好人的,”乔治说,“我活着要做人中之龙凤。你也不要丧失信心,我会接回你的,就像我上午对克鲁伊大婶所说的,我长大成人后,我要好好修葺一下你们的住处,给你们弄个客厅,再铺上地毯。你一定能过上这种好日子的!”
  此时,赫利手拿铐子来到了马车门口。
  “喂,先生,”乔治跳下车,以傲慢的口气对赫利叫道,“我要告诉我父母,你是怎样对待我的汤姆叔的!”
  “随你怎么去说吧。”奴隶贩子说。
  “我觉得,你这辈子贩卖男女奴隶,像牲口一样拴着他们,真是太可耻了!你不觉得自己这样做太下流了吗?”乔治说。
  “你们那些绅士需要男女奴隶,我不过和他们一样而已,”赫利说,“况且,贩卖者不一定会比购买的人更下流卑鄙。”
  “等我长大了,我决不会做买卖黑奴的事,”乔治说,“今天我真为肯塔基人感到羞耻。本来我还深为自豪呢。”乔治骑在马上环顾着四周,他仿佛期待着他的话能给整个州留下深刻的印象。
  “啊,再见,汤姆叔,你要坚强些啊!”乔治说。
  “再见了,乔治少爷,”汤姆面带爱怜和敬慕地望着乔治说,“愿上帝保佑你!在肯塔基州,像你这样的人太少了!”眼看着那张纯真、稚气未脱的面孔从视线中消失,他不禁真心感叹着。汤姆一直在注视着乔治,直到听不到一点马蹄声为止。到此,家乡的最后一点声响和最后一幅景象都消失了。但汤姆的心头还似留有一片温暖的地方,那就是乔治为他挂上那枚珍贵的银元的地方。汤姆用手按着那银元,使它紧贴在自己的胸膛上。
  “喂,听着,汤姆,”赫利把手铐扔进车厢后部,“我想开始时就对你公道些,就像我对其他黑奴一样。明白地说,你对我公道,我也公道对你。我对黑奴从不冷酷无情,我总会尽量让他们过得舒适。你现在明白了吗?我看你最好还是舒舒服服地坐着,不要耍花招,因为黑鬼的花招,我都已经领教过了,那是没有用的。如果他们老实点,不是总想逃走,在我这儿就可以过几天好日子。否则,那就是自取灭亡,不能怪我了。”
  汤姆让赫利放心,他绝对没想过逃跑。实际上,对于脚戴镣铐的人来说,赫利根本没必要再做什么训诫。但他有这样的习惯,他初次跟买来的黑奴打交道时,总会先训诫几句,以便他们如他所愿,开心一些,多一些信心,以避免不愉快的事情发生。
  现在,让我们先把汤姆搁在一边,来看一看故事中的其他人的命运如何吧!

       



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