I have now reached a period of my life when Ican give dates. I left Baltimore, and went to livewith Master Thomas Auld, at St. Michael's, inMarch, 1832

Download 92.2 Kb.
Date conversion19.05.2016
Size92.2 Kb.
  1   2   3
Chapter 9

I have now reached a period of my life when Ican give dates. I left Baltimore, and went to livewith Master Thomas Auld, at St. Michael's, inMarch, 1832. It was now more than seven yearssince I lived with him in the family of my old master, on Colonel Lloyd's plantation. We of coursewere now almost entire strangers to each other. Hewas to me a new master, and I to him a new slave.I was ignorant of his temper and disposition; hewas equally so of mine. A very short time, however,brought us into full acquaintance with each other.I was made acquainted with his wife not less thanwith himself. They were well matched, being equallymean and cruel. I was now, for the first time duringa space of more than seven years, made to feel thepainful gnawings of hunger--a something which Ihad not experienced before since I left ColonelLloyd's plantation. It went hard enough with methen, when I could look back to no period at whichI had enjoyed a sufficiency. It was tenfold harderafter living in Master Hugh's family, where I hadalways had enough to eat, and of that which wasgood. I have said Master Thomas was a mean man.He was so. Not to give a slave enough to eat, isregarded as the most aggravated development ofmeanness even among slaveholders. The rule is, nomatter how coarse the food, only let there be enoughof it. This is the theory; and in the part of Marylandfrom which I came, it is the general practice,--thoughthere are many exceptions. Master Thomas gave usenough of neither coarse nor fine food. There werefour slaves of us in the kitchen--my sister Eliza, myaunt Priscilla, Henny, and myself; and we were allowed less than a half of a bushel of corn-meal perweek, and very little else, either in the shape ofmeat or vegetables. It was not enough for us tosubsist upon. We were therefore reduced to thewretched necessity of living at the expense of ourneighbors. This we did by begging and stealing,whichever came handy in the time of need, the onebeing considered as legitimate as the other. A greatmany times have we poor creatures been nearlyperishing with hunger, when food in abundance laymouldering in the safe and smoke-house, and ourpious mistress was aware of the fact; and yet thatmistress and her husband would kneel every morning, and pray that God would bless them in basketand store!

Bad as all slaveholders are, we seldom meet onedestitute of every element of character commandingrespect. My master was one of this rare sort. I donot know of one single noble act ever performed byhim. The leading trait in his character was meanness; and if there were any other element in hisnature, it was made subject to this. He was mean;and, like most other mean men, he lacked the abilityto conceal his meanness. Captain Auld was not borna slaveholder. He had been a poor man, master onlyof a Bay craft. He came into possession of all hisslaves by marriage; and of all men, adopted slaveholders are the worst. He was cruel, but cowardly.He commanded without firmness. In the enforcement of his rules, he was at times rigid, and at timeslax. At times, he spoke to his slaves with the firmnessof Napoleon and the fury of a demon; at other times,he might well be mistaken for an inquirer who hadlost his way. He did nothing of himself. He mighthave passed for a lion, but for his ears. In all thingsnoble which he attempted, his own meanness shonemost conspicuous. His airs, words, and actions,were the airs, words, and actions of born slaveholders, and, being assumed, were awkward enough.He was not even a good imitator. He possessed allthe disposition to deceive, but wanted the power.Having no resources within himself, he was compelled to be the copyist of many, and being such, hewas forever the victim of inconsistency; and of consequence he was an object of contempt, and was heldas such even by his slaves. The luxury of havingslaves of his own to wait upon him was somethingnew and unprepared for. He was a slaveholder without the ability to hold slaves. He found himself incapable of managing his slaves either by force, fear,or fraud. We seldom called him "master;" we generally called him "Captain Auld," and were hardlydisposed to title him at all. I doubt not that ourconduct had much to do with making him appearawkward, and of consequence fretful. Our want ofreverence for him must have perplexed him greatly.He wished to have us call him master, but lackedthe firmness necessary to command us to do so. Hiswife used to insist upon our calling him so, but tono purpose. In August, 1832, my master attended aMethodist camp-meeting held in the Bay-side, Talbot county, and there experienced religion. I indulged a faint hope that his conversion would leadhim to emancipate his slaves, and that, if he did notdo this, it would, at any rate, make him more kindand humane. I was disappointed in both these respects. It neither made him to be humane to hisslaves, nor to emancipate them. If it had any effecton his character, it made him more cruel and hatefulin all his ways; for I believe him to have been a muchworse man after his conversion than before. Priorto his conversion, he relied upon his own depravityto shield and sustain him in his savage barbarity;but after his conversion, he found religious sanctionand support for his slaveholding cruelty. He madethe greatest pretensions to piety. His house was thehouse of prayer. He prayed morning, noon, andnight. He very soon distinguished himself amonghis brethren, and was soon made a class-leader andexhorter. His activity in revivals was great, and heproved himself an instrument in the hands of thechurch in converting many souls. His house was thepreachers' home. They used to take great pleasurein coming there to put up; for while he starved us, hestuffed them. We have had three or four preachersthere at a time. The names of those who used tocome most frequently while I lived there, were Mr.Storks, Mr. Ewery, Mr. Humphry, and Mr. Hickey.I have also seen Mr. George Cookman at our house.We slaves loved Mr. Cookman. We believed him tobe a good man. We thought him instrumental in getting Mr. Samuel Harrison, a very rich slaveholder, toemancipate his slaves; and by some means got theimpression that he was laboring to effect the emancipation of all the slaves. When he was at our house,we were sure to be called in to prayers. When theothers were there, we were sometimes called in andsometimes not. Mr. Cookman took more notice ofus than either of the other ministers. He could notcome among us without betraying his sympathy forus, and, stupid as we were, we had the sagacity tosee it.

While I lived with my master in St. Michael's,there was a white young man, a Mr. Wilson, whoproposed to keep a Sabbath school for the instructionof such slaves as might be disposed to learn to readthe New Testament. We met but three times, whenMr. West and Mr. Fairbanks, both class-leaders,with many others, came upon us with sticks andother missiles, drove us off, and forbade us to meetagain. Thus ended our little Sabbath school in thepious town of St. Michael's.

I have said my master found religious sanctionfor his cruelty. As an example, I will state one ofmany facts going to prove the charge. I have seenhim tie up a lame young woman, and whip her witha heavy cowskin upon her naked shoulders, causingthe warm red blood to drip; and, in justificationof the bloody deed, he would quote this passage ofScripture--"He that knoweth his master's will, anddoeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes."

Master would keep this lacerated young womantied up in this horrid situation four or five hours ata time. I have known him to tie her up early in themorning, and whip her before breakfast; leave her,go to his store, return at dinner, and whip her again,cutting her in the places already made raw with hiscruel lash. The secret of master's cruelty toward"Henny" is found in the fact of her being almosthelpless. When quite a child, she fell into the fire,and burned herself horribly. Her hands were soburnt that she never got the use of them. She coulddo very little but bear heavy burdens. She was tomaster a bill of expense; and as he was a mean man,she was a constant offence to him. He seemeddesirous of getting the poor girl out of existence.He gave her away once to his sister; but, being apoor gift, she was not disposed to keep her. Finally,my benevolent master, to use his own words, "sether adrift to take care of herself." Here was a recently-converted man, holding on upon the mother,and at the same time turning out her helpless child,to starve and die! Master Thomas was one of themany pious slaveholders who hold slaves for thevery charitable purpose of taking care of them.

My master and myself had quite a number ofdifferences. He found me unsuitable to his purpose.My city life, he said, had had a very pernicious effectupon me. It had almost ruined me for every goodpurpose, and fitted me for every thing which wasbad. One of my greatest faults was that of lettinghis horse run away, and go down to his father-inlaw's farm, which was about five miles from St.Michael's. I would then have to go after it. Myreason for this kind of carelessness, or carefulness,was, that I could always get something to eat whenI went there. Master William Hamilton, my master'sfather-in-law, always gave his slaves enough to eat.I never left there hungry, no matter how great theneed of my speedy return. Master Thomas at lengthsaid he would stand it no longer. I had lived withhim nine months, during which time he had givenme a number of severe whippings, all to no goodpurpose. He resolved to put me out, as he said, tobe broken; and, for this purpose, he let me for oneyear to a man named Edward Covey. Mr. Coveywas a poor man, a farm-renter. He rented the placeupon which he lived, as also the hands with whichhe tilled it. Mr. Covey had acquired a very highreputation for breaking young slaves, and this reputation was of immense value to him. It enabled himto get his farm tilled with much less expense tohimself than he could have had it done withoutsuch a reputation. Some slaveholders thought it notmuch loss to allow Mr. Covey to have their slavesone year, for the sake of the training to which theywere subjected, without any other compensation.He could hire young help with great ease, in consequence of this reputation. Added to the naturalgood qualities of Mr. Covey, he was a professor ofreligion--a pious soul--a member and a class-leader inthe Methodist church. All of this added weight tohis reputation as a "nigger-breaker." I was aware ofall the facts, having been made acquainted withthem by a young man who had lived there. I nevertheless made the change gladly; for I was sure ofgetting enough to eat, which is not the smallestconsideration to a hungry man.
Chapter 10

I had left Master Thomas's house, and went to livewith Mr. Covey, on the 1st of January, 1833. I wasnow, for the first time in my life, a field hand. Inmy new employment, I found myself even moreawkward than a country boy appeared to be in alarge city. I had been at my new home but oneweek before Mr. Covey gave me a very severe whipping, cutting my back, causing the blood to run,and raising ridges on my flesh as large as my little finger.The details of this affair are as follows: Mr. Coveysent me, very early in the morning of one of ourcoldest days in the month of January, to the woods,to get a load of wood. He gave me a team of unbroken oxen. He told me which was the in-hand ox,and which the off-hand one. He then tied the endof a large rope around the horns of the in-hand ox,and gave me the other end of it, and told me, ifthe oxen started to run, that I must hold on uponthe rope. I had never driven oxen before, and ofcourse I was very awkward. I, however, succeeded ingetting to the edge of the woods with little difficulty; but I had got a very few rods into the woods,when the oxen took fright, and started full tilt, carrying the cart against trees, and over stumps, in themost frightful manner. I expected every momentthat my brains would be dashed out against thetrees. After running thus for a considerable distance, they finally upset the cart, dashing it withgreat force against a tree, and threw themselves intoa dense thicket. How I escaped death, I do notknow. There I was, entirely alone, in a thick wood,in a place new to me. My cart was upset and shattered, my oxen were entangled among the youngtrees, and there was none to help me. After a longspell of effort, I succeeded in getting my cart righted,my oxen disentangled, and again yoked to the cart.I now proceeded with my team to the place whereI had, the day before, been chopping wood, andloaded my cart pretty heavily, thinking in this wayto tame my oxen. I then proceeded on my wayhome. I had now consumed one half of the day. Igot out of the woods safely, and now felt out ofdanger. I stopped my oxen to open the woods gate;and just as I did so, before I could get hold of myox-rope, the oxen again started, rushed through thegate, catching it between the wheel and the body ofthe cart, tearing it to pieces, and coming within afew inches of crushing me against the gate-post. Thustwice, in one short day, I escaped death by themerest chance. On my return, I told Mr. Coveywhat had happened, and how it happened. He ordered me to return to the woods again immediately.I did so, and he followed on after me. Just as I gotinto the woods, he came up and told me to stop mycart, and that he would teach me how to trifle awaymy time, and break gates. He then went to a largegum-tree, and with his axe cut three large switches,and, after trimming them up neatly with his pocketknife, he ordered me to take off my clothes. I madehim no answer, but stood with my clothes on. Herepeated his order. I still made him no answer, nordid I move to strip myself. Upon this he rushedat me with the fierceness of a tiger, tore off myclothes, and lashed me till he had worn out hisswitches, cutting me so savagely as to leave the marksvisible for a long time after. This whipping was thefirst of a number just like it, and for similar offences.

I lived with Mr. Covey one year. During the firstsix months, of that year, scarce a week passed without his whipping me. I was seldom free from a soreback. My awkwardness was almost always his excuse for whipping me. We were worked fully upto the point of endurance. Long before day we wereup, our horses fed, and by the first approach of daywe were off to the field with our hoes and ploughing teams. Mr. Covey gave us enough to eat, butscarce time to eat it. We were often less than fiveminutes taking our meals. We were often in the fieldfrom the first approach of day till its last lingeringray had left us; and at saving-fodder time, midnightoften caught us in the field binding blades.

Covey would be out with us. The way he used tostand it, was this. He would spend the most of hisafternoons in bed. He would then come out freshin the evening, ready to urge us on with his words,example, and frequently with the whip. Mr. Coveywas one of the few slaveholders who could and didwork with his hands. He was a hard-working man.He knew by himself just what a man or a boy coulddo. There was no deceiving him. His work went onin his absence almost as well as in his presence; andhe had the faculty of making us feel that he wasever present with us. This he did by surprising us.He seldom approached the spot where we were atwork openly, if he could do it secretly. He alwaysaimed at taking us by surprise. Such was his cunning,that we used to call him, among ourselves, "thesnake." When we were at work in the cornfield, hewould sometimes crawl on his hands and knees toavoid detection, and all at once he would risenearly in our midst, and scream out, "Ha, ha!Come, come! Dash on, dash on!" This being hismode of attack, it was never safe to stop a singleminute. His comings were like a thief in the night.He appeared to us as being ever at hand. He wasunder every tree, behind every stump, in every bush,and at every window, on the plantation. He wouldsometimes mount his horse, as if bound to St. Michael's, a distance of seven miles, and in half anhour afterwards you would see him coiled up inthe corner of the wood-fence, watching every motionof the slaves. He would, for this purpose, leave hishorse tied up in the woods. Again, he would sometimes walk up to us, and give us orders as thoughhe was upon the point of starting on a long journey,turn his back upon us, and make as though he wasgoing to the house to get ready; and, before he wouldget half way thither, he would turn short and crawlinto a fence-corner, or behind some tree, and therewatch us till the going down of the sun.

Mr. Covey's FORTE consisted in his power to deceive. His life was devoted to planning and perpetrating the grossest deceptions. Every thing he possessed in the shape of learning or religion, he madeconform to his disposition to deceive. He seemedto think himself equal to deceiving the Almighty.He would make a short prayer in the morning, anda long prayer at night; and, strange as it may seem,few men would at times appear more devotionalthan he. The exercises of his family devotions werealways commenced with singing; and, as he was avery poor singer himself, the duty of raising thehymn generally came upon me. He would read hishymn, and nod at me to commence. I would attimes do so; at others, I would not. My non-compliance would almost always produce much confusion. To show himself independent of me, he wouldstart and stagger through with his hymn in the mostdiscordant manner. In this state of mind, he prayedwith more than ordinary spirit. Poor man! such washis disposition, and success at deceiving, I do verilybelieve that he sometimes deceived himself into thesolemn belief, that he was a sincere worshipper ofthe most high God; and this, too, at a time whenhe may be said to have been guilty of compellinghis woman slave to commit the sin of adultery. Thefacts in the case are these: Mr. Covey was a poorman; he was just commencing in life; he was onlyable to buy one slave; and, shocking as is the fact,he bought her, as he said, for A BREEDER. This womanwas named Caroline. Mr. Covey bought her fromMr. Thomas Lowe, about six miles from St. Michael's. She was a large, able-bodied woman, abouttwenty years old. She had already given birth to onechild, which proved her to be just what he wanted.After buying her, he hired a married man of Mr.Samuel Harrison, to live with him one year; and himhe used to fasten up with her every night! The result was, that, at the end of the year, the miserablewoman gave birth to twins. At this result Mr. Coveyseemed to be highly pleased, both with the man andthe wretched woman. Such was his joy, and that ofhis wife, that nothing they could do for Carolineduring her confinement was too good, or too hard,to be done. The children were regarded as beingquite an addition to his wealth.

If at any one time of my life more than another,I was made to drink the bitterest dregs of slavery,that time was during the first six months of my staywith Mr. Covey. We were worked in all weathers.It was never too hot or too cold; it could never rain,blow, hail, or snow, too hard for us to work in thefield. Work, work, work, was scarcely more the orderof the day than of the night. The longest days weretoo short for him, and the shortest nights too longfor him. I was somewhat unmanageable when I firstwent there, but a few months of this disciplinetamed me. Mr. Covey succeeded in breaking me. Iwas broken in body, soul, and spirit. My naturalelasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, thedisposition to read departed, the cheerful spark thatlingered about my eye died; the dark night of slaveryclosed in upon me; and behold a man transformedinto a brute!

Sunday was my only leisure time. I spent this ina sort of beast-like stupor, between sleep and wake,under some large tree. At times I would rise up, aflash of energetic freedom would dart through mysoul, accompanied with a faint beam of hope, thatflickered for a moment, and then vanished. I sankdown again, mourning over my wretched condition.I was sometimes prompted to take my life, and thatof Covey, but was prevented by a combination ofhope and fear. My sufferings on this plantation seemnow like a dream rather than a stern reality.

Our house stood within a few rods of the Chesapeake Bay, whose broad bosom was ever white withsails from every quarter of the habitable globe.Those beautiful vessels, robed in purest white, sodelightful to the eye of freemen, were to me somany shrouded ghosts, to terrify and torment mewith thoughts of my wretched condition. I have often, in the deep stillness of a summer's Sabbath,stood all alone upon the lofty banks of that noblebay, and traced, with saddened heart and tearfuleye, the countless number of sails moving off tothe mighty ocean. The sight of these always affectedme powerfully. My thoughts would compel utterance; and there, with no audience but the Almighty,I would pour out my soul's complaint, in my rudeway, with an apostrophe to the moving multitude ofships:--

"You are loosed from your moorings, and are free;I am fast in my chains, and am a slave! You movemerrily before the gentle gale, and I sadly beforethe bloody whip! You are freedom's swift-wingedangels, that fly round the world; I am confined inbands of iron! O that I were free! O, that I wereon one of your gallant decks, and under your protecting wing! Alas! betwixt me and you, the turbidwaters roll. Go on, go on. O that I could also go!Could I but swim! If I could fly! O, why was I borna man, of whom to make a brute! The glad shipis gone; she hides in the dim distance. I am left inthe hottest hell of unending slavery. O God, saveme! God, deliver me! Let me be free! Is there anyGod? Why am I a slave? I will run away. I will notstand it. Get caught, or get clear, I'll try it. I hadas well die with ague as the fever. I have only onelife to lose. I had as well be killed running as diestanding. Only think of it; one hundred milesstraight north, and I am free! Try it? Yes! Godhelping me, I will. It cannot be that I shall liveand die a slave. I will take to the water. This verybay shall yet bear me into freedom. The steamboats steered in a north-east course from NorthPoint. I will do the same; and when I get to thehead of the bay, I will turn my canoe adrift, andwalk straight through Delaware into Pennsylvania.When I get there, I shall not be required to have apass; I can travel without being disturbed. Let butthe first opportunity offer, and, come what will, Iam off. Meanwhile, I will try to bear up under theyoke. I am not the only slave in the world. Whyshould I fret? I can bear as much as any of them.Besides, I am but a boy, and all boys are bound tosome one. It may be that my misery in slavery willonly increase my happiness when I get free. Thereis a better day coming."

Thus I used to think, and thus I used to speakto myself; goaded almost to madness at one moment, and at the next reconciling myself to mywretched lot.

I have already intimated that my condition wasmuch worse, during the first six months of my stayat Mr. Covey's, than in the last six. The circumstances leading to the change in Mr. Covey's coursetoward me form an epoch in my humble history.You have seen how a man was made a slave; youshall see how a slave was made a man. On one ofthe hottest days of the month of August, 1833, BillSmith, William Hughes, a slave named Eli, andmyself, were engaged in fanning wheat. Hughes wasclearing the fanned wheat from before the fan. Eliwas turning, Smith was feeding, and I was carryingwheat to the fan. The work was simple, requiringstrength rather than intellect; yet, to one entirelyunused to such work, it came very hard. About threeo'clock of that day, I broke down; my strength failedme; I was seized with a violent aching of the head,attended with extreme dizziness; I trembled in everylimb. Finding what was coming, I nerved myselfup, feeling it would never do to stop work. I stoodas long as I could stagger to the hopper with grain.When I could stand no longer, I fell, and felt asif held down by an immense weight. The fan ofcourse stopped; every one had his own work to do;and no one could do the work of the other, andhave his own go on at the same time.

Mr. Covey was at the house, about one hundredyards from the treading-yard where we were fanning.On hearing the fan stop, he left immediately, andcame to the spot where we were. He hastily inquired what the matter was. Bill answered that Iwas sick, and there was no one to bring wheat to thefan. I had by this time crawled away under theside of the post and rail-fence by which the yardwas enclosed, hoping to find relief by getting outof the sun. He then asked where I was. He wastold by one of the hands. He came to the spot, and,after looking at me awhile, asked me what wasthe matter. I told him as well as I could, for I scarcehad strength to speak. He then gave me a savagekick in the side, and told me to get up. I tried todo so, but fell back in the attempt. He gave meanother kick, and again told me to rise. I againtried, and succeeded in gaining my feet; but, stooping to get the tub with which I was feeding thefan, I again staggered and fell. While down in thissituation, Mr. Covey took up the hickory slat withwhich Hughes had been striking off the half-bushelmeasure, and with it gave me a heavy blow uponthe head, making a large wound, and the blood ranfreely; and with this again told me to get up. I madeno effort to comply, having now made up my mindto let him do his worst. In a short time after receiving this blow, my head grew better. Mr. Coveyhad now left me to my fate. At this moment I resolved, for the first time, to go to my master, entera complaint, and ask his protection. In order to dothis, I must that afternoon walk seven miles; andthis, under the circumstances, was truly a severeundertaking. I was exceedingly feeble; made so asmuch by the kicks and blows which I received, asby the severe fit of sickness to which I had beensubjected. I, however, watched my chance, whileCovey was looking in an opposite direction, andstarted for St. Michael's. I succeeded in getting aconsiderable distance on my way to the woods, whenCovey discovered me, and called after me to comeback, threatening what he would do if I did notcome. I disregarded both his calls and his threats,and made my way to the woods as fast as my feeblestate would allow; and thinking I might be overhauled by him if I kept the road, I walked throughthe woods, keeping far enough from the road toavoid detection, and near enough to prevent losingmy way. I had not gone far before my little strengthagain failed me. I could go no farther. I fell down,and lay for a considerable time. The blood was yetoozing from the wound on my head. For a time Ithought I should bleed to death; and think now thatI should have done so, but that the blood so mattedmy hair as to stop the wound. After lying thereabout three quarters of an hour, I nerved myselfup again, and started on my way, through bogs andbriers, barefooted and bareheaded, tearing my feetsometimes at nearly every step; and after a journeyof about seven miles, occupying some five hours toperform it, I arrived at master's store. I then presented an appearance enough to affect any but aheart of iron. From the crown of my head to myfeet, I was covered with blood. My hair was allclotted with dust and blood; my shirt was stiff withblood. I suppose I looked like a man who had escaped a den of wild beasts, and barely escaped them.In this state I appeared before my master, humblyentreating him to interpose his authority for myprotection. I told him all the circumstances as wellas I could, and it seemed, as I spoke, at times toaffect him. He would then walk the floor, and seekto justify Covey by saying he expected I deservedit. He asked me what I wanted. I told him, to letme get a new home; that as sure as I lived with Mr.Covey again, I should live with but to die withhim; that Covey would surely kill me; he was in afair way for it. Master Thomas ridiculed the ideathat there was any danger of Mr. Covey's killingme, and said that he knew Mr. Covey; that he wasa good man, and that he could not think of takingme from him; that, should he do so, he would losethe whole year's wages; that I belonged to Mr. Coveyfor one year, and that I must go back to him, comewhat might; and that I must not trouble him withany more stories, or that he would himself GET HOLDOF ME. After threatening me thus, he gave me a verylarge dose of salts, telling me that I might remainin St. Michael's that night, (it being quite late,)but that I must be off back to Mr. Covey's earlyin the morning; and that if I did not, he would~get hold of me,~ which meant that he would whipme. I remained all night, and, according to his orders, I started off to Covey's in the morning, (Saturday morning,) wearied in body and broken inspirit. I got no supper that night, or breakfast thatmorning. I reached Covey's about nine o'clock; andjust as I was getting over the fence that dividedMrs. Kemp's fields from ours, out ran Covey withhis cowskin, to give me another whipping. Beforehe could reach me, I succeeded in getting to thecornfield; and as the corn was very high, it affordedme the means of hiding. He seemed very angry, andsearched for me a long time. My behavior was altogether unaccountable. He finally gave up thechase, thinking, I suppose, that I must come homefor something to eat; he would give himself no further trouble in looking for me. I spent that daymostly in the woods, having the alternative beforeme,--to go home and be whipped to death, or stayin the woods and be starved to death. That night,I fell in with Sandy Jenkins, a slave with whomI was somewhat acquainted. Sandy had a free wifewho lived about four miles from Mr. Covey's; andit being Saturday, he was on his way to see her. Itold him my circumstances, and he very kindly invited me to go home with him. I went home withhim, and talked this whole matter over, and got hisadvice as to what course it was best for me to pursue.I found Sandy an old adviser. He told me, withgreat solemnity, I must go back to Covey; but thatbefore I went, I must go with him into anotherpart of the woods, where there was a certain ~root,~which, if I would take some of it with me, carryingit ~always on my right side,~ would render it impossible for Mr. Covey, or any other white man, towhip me. He said he had carried it for years; andsince he had done so, he had never received a blow,and never expected to while he carried it. I at firstrejected the idea, that the simple carrying of a rootin my pocket would have any such effect as he hadsaid, and was not disposed to take it; but Sandyimpressed the necessity with much earnestness, telling me it could do no harm, if it did no good. Toplease him, I at length took the root, and, according to his direction, carried it upon my rightside. This was Sunday morning. I immediatelystarted for home; and upon entering the yard gate,out came Mr. Covey on his way to meeting. Hespoke to me very kindly, bade me drive the pigsfrom a lot near by, and passed on towards thechurch. Now, this singular conduct of Mr. Coveyreally made me begin to think that there was something in the ROOT which Sandy had given me; andhad it been on any other day than Sunday, I couldhave attributed the conduct to no other cause thanthe influence of that root; and as it was, I was halfinclined to think the ~root~ to be something morethan I at first had taken it to be. All went well tillMonday morning. On this morning, the virtue ofthe ROOT was fully tested. Long before daylight, Iwas called to go and rub, curry, and feed, the horses.I obeyed, and was glad to obey. But whilst thusengaged, whilst in the act of throwing down someblades from the loft, Mr. Covey entered the stablewith a long rope; and just as I was half out of theloft, he caught hold of my legs, and was about tyingme. As soon as I found what he was up to, I gavea sudden spring, and as I did so, he holding to mylegs, I was brought sprawling on the stable floor.Mr. Covey seemed now to think he had me, andcould do what he pleased; but at this moment-from whence came the spirit I don't know--I resolved to fight; and, suiting my action to the resolution, I seized Covey hard by the throat; and as Idid so, I rose. He held on to me, and I to him. Myresistance was so entirely unexpected that Coveyseemed taken all aback. He trembled like a leaf.This gave me assurance, and I held him uneasy,causing the blood to run where I touched him withthe ends of my fingers. Mr. Covey soon called outto Hughes for help. Hughes came, and, while Coveyheld me, attempted to tie my right hand. While hewas in the act of doing so, I watched my chance,and gave him a heavy kick close under the ribs.This kick fairly sickened Hughes, so that he leftme in the hands of Mr. Covey. This kick had theeffect of not only weakening Hughes, but Covey also.When he saw Hughes bending over with pain, hiscourage quailed. He asked me if I meant to persistin my resistance. I told him I did, come whatmight; that he had used me like a brute for sixmonths, and that I was determined to be used sono longer. With that, he strove to drag me to astick that was lying just out of the stable door. Hemeant to knock me down. But just as he was leaningover to get the stick, I seized him with both handsby his collar, and brought him by a sudden snatchto the ground. By this time, Bill came. Covey calledupon him for assistance. Bill wanted to know whathe could do. Covey said, "Take hold of him, takehold of him!" Bill said his master hired him out towork, and not to help to whip me; so he left Coveyand myself to fight our own battle out. We wereat it for nearly two hours. Covey at length let mego, puffing and blowing at a great rate, saying thatif I had not resisted, he would not have whippedme half so much. The truth was, that he had notwhipped me at all. I considered him as getting entirely the worst end of the bargain; for he had drawnno blood from me, but I had from him. The wholesix months afterwards, that I spent with Mr. Covey,he never laid the weight of his finger upon me inanger. He would occasionally say, he didn't wantto get hold of me again. "No," thought I, "youneed not; for you will come off worse than you didbefore."

This battle with Mr. Covey was the turningpoint in my career as a slave. It rekindled the fewexpiring embers of freedom, and revived within mea sense of my own manhood. It recalled the departed self-confidence, and inspired me again witha determination to be free. The gratification afforded by the triumph was a full compensation forwhatever else might follow, even death itself. Heonly can understand the deep satisfaction which Iexperienced, who has himself repelled by force thebloody arm of slavery. I felt as I never felt before.It was a glorious resurrection, from the tomb ofslavery, to the heaven of freedom. My long-crushedspirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance tookits place; and I now resolved that, however long Imight remain a slave in form, the day had passedforever when I could be a slave in fact. I did nothesitate to let it be known of me, that the whiteman who expected to succeed in whipping, mustalso succeed in killing me.

  1   2   3

The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2016
send message

    Main page