Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter XXXVI: Emmeline and Cassy
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Cassy entered the room, and found Emmeline sitting, pale with
fear, in the furthest corner of it. As she came in, the girl
started up nervously; but, on seeing who it was, rushed forward,
and catching her arm, said, "O Cassy, is it you? I'm so glad you've
come! I was afraid it was--. O, you don't know what a horrid noise
there has been, down stairs, all this evening!"
"I ought to know," said Cassy, dryly. "I've heard it often enough."
"O Cassy! do tell me,--couldn't we get away from this place?
I don't care where,--into the swamp among the snakes,--anywhere!
Couldn't we get somewhere away from here?"
"Nowhere, but into our graves," said Cassy.
"Did you ever try?"
"I've seen enough of trying and what comes of it," said Cassy.
"I'd be willing to live in the swamps, and gnaw the bark
from trees. I an't afraid of snakes! I'd rather have one near me
than him," said Emmeline, eagerly.
"There have been a good many here of your opinion," said Cassy;
"but you couldn't stay in the swamps,--you'd be tracked by
the dogs, and brought back, and then--then--"
"What would he do?" said the girl, looking, with breathless
interest, into her face.
"What wouldn't he do, you'd better ask," said Cassy.
"He's learned his trade well, among the pirates in the West Indies.
You wouldn't sleep much, if I should tell you things I've seen,--things
that he tells of, sometimes, for good jokes. I've heard screams
here that I haven't been able to get out of my head for weeks
and weeks. There's a place way out down by the quarters, where you
can see a black, blasted tree, and the ground all covered with
black ashes. Ask anyone what was done there, and see if they will
dare to tell you."
"O! what do you mean?"
"I won't tell you. I hate to think of it. And I tell you, the
Lord only knows what we may see tomorrow, if that poor fellow
holds out as he's begun."
"Horrid!" said Emmeline, every drop of blood receding from
her cheeks. "O, Cassy, do tell me what I shall do!"
"What I've done. Do the best you can,--do what you must,--and
make it up in hating and cursing."
"He wanted to make me drink some of his hateful brandy,"
said Emmeline; "and I hate it so--"
"You'd better drink," said Cassy. "I hated it, too; and
now I can't live without it. One must have something;--things
don't look so dreadful, when you take that."
"Mother used to tell me never to touch any such thing,"
"Mother told you!" said Cassy, with a thrilling and bitter
emphasis on the word mother. "What use is it for mothers to say
anything? You are all to be bought and paid for, and your souls
belong to whoever gets you. That's the way it goes. I say, drink
brandy; drink all you can, and it'll make things come easier."
"O, Cassy! do pity me!"
"Pity you!--don't I? Haven't I a daughter,--Lord knows
where she is, and whose she is, now,--going the way her mother
went, before her, I suppose, and that her children must go,
after her! There's no end to the curse--forever!"
"I wish I'd never been born!" said Emmeline, wringing her hands.
"That's an old wish with me," said Cassy. "I've got used to
wishing that. I'd die, if I dared to," she said, looking out
into the darkness, with that still, fixed despair which was the
habitual expression of her face when at rest.
"It would be wicked to kill one's self," said Emmeline.
"I don't know why,--no wickeder than things we live and do,
day after day. But the sisters told me things, when I was in
the convent, that make me afraid to die. If it would only be the
end of us, why, then--"
Emmeline turned away, and hid her face in her hands.
While this conversation was passing in the chamber, Legree,
overcome with his carouse, had sunk to sleep in the room below.
Legree was not an habitual drunkard. His coarse, strong nature
craved, and could endure, a continual stimulation, that would have
utterly wrecked and crazed a finer one. But a deep, underlying
spirit of cautiousness prevented his often yielding to appetite in
such measure as to lose control of himself
This night, however, in his feverish efforts to banish from his
mind those fearful elements of woe and remorse which woke within
him, he had indulged more than common; so that, when he had discharged
his sable attendants, he fell heavily on a settle in the room, and
was sound asleep.
O! how dares the bad soul to enter the shadowy world of
sleep?--that land whose dim outlines lie so fearfully near to the
mystic scene of retribution! Legree dreamed. In his heavy and
feverish sleep, a veiled form stood beside him, and laid a cold,
soft hand upon him. He thought he knew who it was; and shuddered,
with creeping horror, though the face was veiled. Then he
thought he felt that hair twining round his fingers; and then,
that it slid smoothly round his neck, and tightened and tightened,
and he could not draw his breath; and then he thought voices
whispered to him,--whispers that chilled him with horror. Then
it seemed to him he was on the edge of a frightful abyss, holding
on and struggling in mortal fear, while dark hands stretched up,
and were pulling him over; and Cassy came behind him laughing, and
pushed him. And then rose up that solemn veiled figure, and drew
aside the veil. It was his mother; and she turned away from him,
and he fell down, down, down, amid a confused noise of shrieks,
and groans, and shouts of demon laughter,--and Legree awoke.
Calmly the rosy hue of dawn was stealing into the room.
The morning star stood, with its solemn, holy eye of light, looking
down on the man of sin, from out the brightening sky. O, with what
freshness, what solemnity and beauty, is each new day born; as if
to say to insensate man, "Behold! thou hast one more chance!
Strive for immortal glory!" There is no speech nor language where
this voice is not heard; but the bold, bad man heard it not. He woke
with an oath and a curse. What to him was the gold and purple,
the daily miracle of morning! What to him the sanctity of the star
which the Son of God has hallowed as his own emblem? Brute-like,
he saw without perceiving; and, stumbling forward, poured out a
tumbler of brandy, and drank half of it.
"I've had a h--l of a night!" he said to Cassy, who just
then entered from an opposite door.
"You'll get plenty of the same sort, by and by," said she, dryly.
"What do you mean, you minx?"
"You'll find out, one of these days," returned Cassy, in the
same tone. "Now Simon, I've one piece of advice to give you."
"The devil, you have!"
"My advice is," said Cassy, steadily, as she began adjusting
some things about the room, "that you let Tom alone."
"What business is 't of yours?"
"What? To be sure, I don't know what it should be. If you
want to pay twelve hundred for a fellow, and use him right up in
the press of the season, just to serve your own spite, it's no
business of mine, I've done what I could for him."
"You have? What business have you meddling in my matters?"
"None, to be sure. I've saved you some thousands of dollars,
at different times, by taking care of your hands,--that's all the
thanks I get. If your crop comes shorter into market than any of
theirs, you won't lose your bet, I suppose? Tompkins won't lord it
over you, I suppose,--and you'll pay down your money like a lady,
won't you? I think I see you doing it!"
Legree, like many other planters, had but one form of
ambition,--to have in the heaviest crop of the season,--and he had
several bets on this very present season pending in the next town.
Cassy, therefore, with woman's tact, touched the only string that
could be made to vibrate.
"Well, I'll let him off at what he's got," said Legree;
"but he shall beg my pardon, and promise better fashions."
"That he won't do," said Cassy.
"No, he won't," said Cassy.
"I'd like to know why, Mistress," said Legree, in the
extreme of scorn.
"Because he's done right, and he knows it, and won't say
he's done wrong."
"Who a cuss cares what he knows? The nigger shall say what
I please, or--"
"Or, you'll lose your bet on the cotton crop, by keeping
him out of the field, just at this very press."
"But he will give up,--course, he will; don't I know what
niggers is? He'll beg like a dog, this morning."
He won't, Simon; you don't know this kind. You may kill him
by inches,--you won't get the first word of confession out of him."
"We'll see,--where is he?" said Legree, going out.
"In the waste-room of the gin-house," said Cassy.
Legree, though he talked so stoutly to Cassy, still sallied forth
from the house with a degree of misgiving which was not common
with him. His dreams of the past night, mingled with Cassy's
prudential suggestions, considerably affected his mind. He resolved
that nobody should be witness of his encounter with Tom; and
determined, if he could not subdue him by bullying, to defer his
vengeance, to be wreaked in a more convenient season.
The solemn light of dawn--the angelic glory of the
morning-star--had looked in through the rude window of the shed
where Tom was lying; and, as if descending on that star-beam, came
the solemn words, "I am the root and offspring of David, and the
bright and morning star." The mysterious warnings and intimations
of Cassy, so far from discouraging his soul, in the end had roused
it as with a heavenly call. He did not know but that the day of
his death was dawning in the sky; and his heart throbbed with solemn
throes of joy and desire, as he thought that the wondrous all,
of which he had often pondered,--the great white throne, with its
ever radiant rainbow; the white-robed multitude, with voices as
many waters; the crowns, the palms, the harps,--might all break
upon his vision before that sun should set again. And, therefore,
without shuddering or trembling, he heard the voice of his persecutor,
as he drew near.
"Well, my boy," said Legree, with a contemptuous kick, "how do
you find yourself? Didn't I tell yer I could larn yer a thing
or two? How do yer like it--eh?
How did yer whaling agree with yer, Tom? An't quite so crank as ye
was last night. Ye couldn't treat a poor sinner, now, to a bit of
sermon, could ye,--eh?"
Tom answered nothing.
"Get up, you beast!" said Legree, kicking him again.
This was a difficult matter for one so bruised and faint;
and, as Tom made efforts to do so, Legree laughed brutally.
"What makes ye so spry, this morning, Tom? Cotched cold,
may be, last night."
Tom by this time had gained his feet, and was confronting
his master with a steady, unmoved front.
"The devil, you can!" said Legree, looking him over. "I believe
you haven't got enough yet. Now, Tom, get right down on yer
knees and beg my pardon, for yer shines last night."
Tom did not move.
"Down, you dog!" said Legree, striking him with his
"Mas'r Legree," said Tom, "I can't do it. I did only what
I thought was right. I shall do just so again, if ever the
time comes. I never will do a cruel thing, come what may."
"Yes, but ye don't know what may come, Master Tom. Ye think
what you've got is something. I tell you 'tan't anything,--nothing
't all. How would ye like to be tied to a tree, and have a slow
fire lit up around ye;--wouldn't that be pleasant,--eh, Tom?"
"Mas'r," said Tom, "I know ye can do dreadful things;
but,"--he stretched himself upward and clasped his hands,--"but,
after ye've killed the body, there an't no more ye can do. And O,
there's all ETERNITY to come, after that!"
ETERNITY,--the word thrilled through the black man's soul with
light and power, as he spoke; it thrilled through the sinner's
soul, too, like the bite of a scorpion. Legree gnashed on him
with his teeth, but rage kept him silent; and Tom, like a man
disenthralled, spoke, in a clear and cheerful voice,
"Mas'r Legree, as ye bought me, I'll be a true and faithful
servant to ye. I'll give ye all the work of my hands, all my time,
all my strength; but my soul I won't give up to mortal man. I will
hold on to the Lord, and put his commands before all,--die or live;
you may be sure on 't. Mas'r Legree, I ain't a grain afeard to die.
I'd as soon die as not. Ye may whip me, starve me, burn me,--it'll
only send me sooner where I want to go."
"I'll make ye give out, though, 'fore I've done!" said
Legree, in a rage.
"I shall have help," said Tom; "you'll never do it."
"Who the devil's going to help you?" said Legree, scornfully.
"The Lord Almighty," said Tom.
"D--n you!" said Legree, as with one blow of his fist he
felled Tom to the earth.
A cold soft hand fell on Legree's at this moment. He turned,--it
was Cassy's; but the cold soft touch recalled his dream of the
night before, and, flashing through the chambers of his brain,
came all the fearful images of the night-watches, with a
portion of the horror that accompanied them.
"Will you be a fool?" said Cassy, in French. "Let him go!
Let me alone to get him fit to be in the field again. Isn't it
just as I told you?"
They say the alligator, the rhinoceros, though enclosed in
bullet-proof mail, have each a spot where they are vulnerable; and
fierce, reckless, unbelieving reprobates, have commonly this point
in superstitious dread.
Legree turned away, determined to let the point go for the time.
"Well, have it your own way," he said, doggedly, to Cassy.
"Hark, ye!" he said to Tom; "I won't deal with ye now,
because the business is pressing, and I want all my hands;
but I never forget. I'll score it against ye, and sometime
I'll have my pay out o' yer old black hide,--mind ye!"
Legree turned, and went out.
"There you go," said Cassy, looking darkly after him; "your
reckoning's to come, yet!--My poor fellow, how are you?"
"The Lord God hath sent his angel, and shut the lion's
mouth, for this time," said Tom.
"For this time, to be sure," said Cassy; "but now you've got
his ill will upon you, to follow you day in, day out, hanging
like a dog on your throat,--sucking your blood, bleeding away your
life, drop by drop. I know the man."