Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter IX: In Which It Appears That a Senator Is But a Man
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
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,
"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 fip 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
"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 defenseless 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
"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
"But in cases where your doing so would involve a great
"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
"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
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
"She couldn't wear one of your gowns, could she, by any
letting down, or such matter? She seems to be rather larger than
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
"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.
"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
"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 defenseless 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
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
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 travelers 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.