"Deem not the just by Heaven forgot!
Though life its common gifts deny,--
Though, with a crushed and bleeding heart,
And spurned of man, he goes to die!
For God hath marked each sorrowing day,
And numbered every bitter tear,
And heaven's long years of bliss shall pay
For all his children suffer here."
[This poem does not appear in the collected works of William
Cullen Bryant, nor in the collected poems of his brother, John
Howard Bryant. It was probably copied from a newspaper or magazine.]
The longest way must have its close,--the gloomiest night will
wear on to a morning. An eternal, inexorable lapse of moments
is ever hurrying the day of the evil to an eternal night, and the
night of the just to an eternal day. We have walked with our humble
friend thus far in the valley of slavery; first through flowery
fields of ease and indulgence, then through heart-breaking separations
from all that man holds dear. Again, we have waited with him in
a sunny island, where generous hands concealed his chains with
flowers; and, lastly, we have followed him when the last ray of
earthly hope went out in night, and seen how, in the blackness of
earthly darkness, the firmament of the unseen has blazed with stars
of new and significant lustre.
The morning-star now stands over the tops of the mountains,
and gales and breezes, not of earth, show that the gates of day
The escape of Cassy and Emmeline irritated the before surly
temper of Legree to the last degree; and his fury, as was to be
expected, fell upon the defenceless head of Tom. When he hurriedly
announced the tidings among his hands, there was a sudden light in
Tom's eye, a sudden upraising of his hands, that did not escape him.
He saw that he did not join the muster of the pursuers. He thought
of forcing him to do it; but, having had, of old, experience of
his inflexibility when commanded to take part in any deed of
inhumanity, he would not, in his hurry, stop to enter into any
conflict with him.
Tom, therefore, remained behind, with a few who had learned
of him to pray, and offered up prayers for the escape of
When Legree returned, baffled and disappointed, all the
long-working hatred of his soul towards his slave began to gather
in a deadly and desperate form. Had not this man braved him,--steadily,
powerfully, resistlessly,--ever since he bought him? Was there not
a spirit in him which, silent as it was, burned on him like the
fires of perdition?
"I hate him!" said Legree, that night, as he sat up in his bed;
"I hate him! And isn't he MINE? Can't I do what I like
with him? Who's to hinder, I wonder?" And Legree clenched his fist,
and shook it, as if he had something in his hands that he could
rend in pieces.
But, then, Tom was a faithful, valuable servant; and,
although Legree hated him the more for that, yet the consideration
was still somewhat of a restraint to him.
The next morning, he determined to say nothing, as yet; to
assemble a party, from some neighboring plantations, with
dogs and guns; to surround the swamp, and go about the
hunt systematically. If it succeeded, well and good; if not,
he would summon Tom before him, and--his teeth clenched and his
blood boiled--then he would break the fellow down, or--there
was a dire inward whisper, to which his soul assented.
Ye say that the interest of the master is a sufficient
safeguard for the slave. In the fury of man's mad will, he will
wittingly, and with open eye, sell his own soul to the devil to
gain his ends; and will he be more careful of his neighbor's body?
"Well," said Cassy, the next day, from the garret, as she
reconnoitred through the knot-hole, "the hunt's going to begin
Three or four mounted horsemen were curvetting about, on the
space in front of the house; and one or two leashes of strange
dogs were struggling with the negroes who held them, baying and
barking at each other.
The men are, two of them, overseers of plantations in the
vicinity; and others were some of Legree's associates at the
tavern-bar of a neighboring city, who had come for the interest of
the sport. A more hard-favored set, perhaps, could not be imagined.
Legree was serving brandy, profusely, round among them, as also
among the negroes, who had been detailed from the various plantations
for this service; for it was an object to make every service of
this kind, among the negroes, as much of a holiday as possible.
Cassy placed her ear at the knot-hole; and, as the morning air
blew directly towards the house, she could overhear a good deal
of the conversation. A grave sneer overcast the dark, severe
gravity of her face, as she listened, and heard them divide out
the ground, discuss the rival merits of the dogs, give orders about
firing, and the treatment of each, in case of capture.
Cassy drew back; and, clasping her hands, looked upward,
and said, "O, great Almighty God! we are all sinners; but
what have we done, more than all the rest of the world, that
we should be treated so?"
There was a terrible earnestness in her face and voice, as
"If it wasn't for you, child," she said, looking at Emmeline,
"I'd go out to them; and I'd thank any one of them that would
shoot me down; for what use will freedom be to me? Can it
give me back my children, or make me what I used to be?"
Emmeline, in her child-like simplicity, was half afraid of the
dark moods of Cassy. She looked perplexed, but made no answer.
She only took her hand, with a gentle, caressing movement.
"Don't!" said Cassy, trying to draw it away; "you'll get
me to loving you; and I never mean to love anything, again!"
"Poor Cassy!" said Emmeline, "don't feel so! If the Lord
gives us liberty, perhaps he'll give you back your daughter; at
any rate, I'll be like a daughter to you. I know I'll never see
my poor old mother again! I shall love you, Cassy, whether you love
me or not!"
The gentle, child-like spirit conquered. Cassy sat down by her,
put her arm round her neck, stroked her soft, brown hair; and
Emmeline then wondered at the beauty of her magnificent eyes, now
soft with tears.
"O, Em!" said Cassy, "I've hungered for my children, and
thirsted for them, and my eyes fail with longing for them!
Here! here!" she said, striking her breast, "it's all desolate,
all empty! If God would give me back my children, then I could pray."
"You must trust him, Cassy," said Emmeline; "he is our Father!"
"His wrath is upon us," said Cassy; "he has turned away in anger."
"No, Cassy! He will be good to us! Let us hope in Him,"
said Emmeline,--"I always have had hope."
The hunt was long, animated, and thorough, but unsuccessful;
and, with grave, ironic exultation, Cassy looked down on Legree,
as, weary and dispirited, he alighted from his horse.
"Now, Quimbo," said Legree, as he stretched himself down in the
sitting-room, "you jest go and walk that Tom up here, right away!
The old cuss is at the bottom of this yer whole matter; and I'll
have it out of his old black hide, or I'll know the reason why!"
Sambo and Quimbo, both, though hating each other, were joined
in one mind by a no less cordial hatred of Tom. Legree had
told them, at first, that he had bought him for a general overseer,
in his absence; and this had begun an ill will, on their part,
which had increased, in their debased and servile natures, as
they saw him becoming obnoxious to their master's displeasure.
Quimbo, therefore, departed, with a will, to execute his orders.
Tom heard the message with a forewarning heart; for he knew
all the plan of the fugitives' escape, and the place of their
present concealment;--he knew the deadly character of the man he
had to deal with, and his despotic power. But he felt strong in
God to meet death, rather than betray the helpless.
He sat his basket down by the row, and, looking up, said,
"Into thy hands I commend my spirit! Thou hast redeemed me, oh Lord
God of truth!" and then quietly yielded himself to the rough, brutal
grasp with which Quimbo seized him.
"Ay, ay!" said the giant, as he dragged him along; ye'll cotch
it, now! I'll boun' Mas'r's back 's up high! No sneaking
out, now! Tell ye, ye'll get it, and no mistake! See how ye'll
look, now, helpin' Mas'r's niggers to run away! See what ye'll get!"
The savage words none of them reached that ear!--a higher
voice there was saying, "Fear not them that kill the body, and,
after that, have no more that they can do." Nerve and bone of that
poor man's body vibrated to those words, as if touched by the finger
of God; and he felt the strength of a thousand souls in one. As he
passed along, the trees. and bushes, the huts of his servitude,
the whole scene of his degradation, seemed to whirl by him as the
landscape by the rushing ear. His soul throbbed,--his home was
in sight,--and the hour of release seemed at hand.
"Well, Tom!" said Legree, walking up, and seizing him grimly
by the collar of his coat, and speaking through his teeth, in a
paroxysm of determined rage, "do you know I've made up my mind to
"It's very likely, Mas'r," said Tom, calmly.
"I have," said Legree, with a grim, terrible calmness,
"done--just--that--thing, Tom, unless you'll tell me what you
know about these yer gals!"
Tom stood silent.
"D'ye hear?" said Legree, stamping, with a roar like that
of an incensed lion. "Speak!"
"I han't got nothing to tell, Mas'r," said Tom, with a
slow, firm, deliberate utterance.
"Do you dare to tell me, ye old black Christian, ye don't
know?" said Legree.
Tom was silent.
"Speak!" thundered Legree, striking him furiously. Do you
"I know, Mas'r; but I can't tell anything. I can die!"
Legree drew in a long breath; and, suppressing his rage, took
Tom by the arm, and, approaching his face almost to his, said,
in a terrible voice, "Hark 'e, Tom!--ye think, 'cause I've let you
off before, I don't mean what I say; but, this time, I've made up
my mind, and counted the cost. You've always stood it out again'
me: now, I'll conquer ye, or kill ye!--one or t' other. I'll count
every drop of blood there is in you, and take 'em, one by one,
till ye give up!"
Tom looked up to his master, and answered, "Mas'r, if you was
sick, or in trouble, or dying, and I could save ye, I'd give
ye my heart's blood; and, if taking every drop of blood in this
poor old body would save your precious soul, I'd give 'em freely,
as the Lord gave his for me. O, Mas'r! don't bring this great sin
on your soul! It will hurt you more than 't will me! Do the worst
you can, my troubles'll be over soon; but, if ye don't repent,
yours won't never end!"
Like a strange snatch of heavenly music, heard in the lull
of a tempest, this burst of feeling made a moment's blank pause.
Legree stood aghast, and looked at Tom; and there was such a silence,
that the tick of the old clock could be heard, measuring, with
silent touch, the last moments of mercy and probation to that
It was but a moment. There was one hesitating pause,--one
irresolute, relenting thrill,--and the spirit of evil came back,
with seven-fold vehemence; and Legree, foaming with rage, smote
his victim to the ground.
Scenes of blood and cruelty are shocking to our ear and heart.
What man has nerve to do, man has not nerve to hear. What
brother-man and brother-Christian must suffer, cannot be told us,
even in our secret chamber, it so harrows the soul! And yet, oh my
country! these things are done under the shadow of thy laws!
O, Christ! thy church sees them, almost in silence!
But, of old, there was One whose suffering changed an
instrument of torture, degradation and shame, into a symbol of
glory, honor, and immortal life; and, where His spirit is, neither
degrading stripes, nor blood, nor insults, can make the Christian's
last struggle less than glorious.
Was he alone, that long night, whose brave, loving spirit was
bearing up, in that old shed, against buffeting and brutal stripes?
Nay! There stood by him ONE,--seen by him alone,--"like
unto the Son of God."
The tempter stood by him, too,--blinded by furious, despotic
will,--every moment pressing him to shun that agony by the betrayal
of the innocent. But the brave, true heart was firm on the Eternal
Rock. Like his Master, he knew that, if he saved others, himself
he could not save; nor could utmost extremity wring from him words,
save of prayers and holy trust.
"He's most gone, Mas'r," said Sambo, touched, in spite of
himself, by the patience of his victim.
"Pay away, till he gives up! Give it to him!--give it to
him!" shouted Legree. I'll take every drop of blood he has, unless
Tom opened his eyes, and looked upon his master. "Ye poor
miserable critter!" he said, "there ain't no more ye can do!
I forgive ye, with all my soul!" and he fainted entirely away.
"I b'lieve, my soul, he's done for, finally," said Legree,
stepping forward, to look at him. "Yes, he is! Well, his mouth's
shut up, at last,--that's one comfort!"
Yes, Legree; but who shall shut up that voice in thy soul?
that soul, past repentance, past prayer, past hope, in whom the
fire that never shall be quenched is already burning!
Yet Tom was not quite gone. His wondrous words and pious
prayers had struck upon the hearts of the imbruted blacks, who had
been the instruments of cruelty upon him; and, the instant Legree
withdrew, they took him down, and, in their ignorance, sought to
call him back to life,--as if that were any favor to him.
"Sartin, we 's been doin' a drefful wicked thing!" said
Sambo; "hopes Mas'r'll have to 'count for it, and not we."
They washed his wounds,--they provided a rude bed, of some
refuse cotton, for him to lie down on; and one of them, stealing
up to the house, begged a drink of brandy of Legree, pretending
that he was tired, and wanted it for himself. He brought it back,
and poured it down Tom's throat.
"O, Tom!" said Quimbo, "we's been awful wicked to ye!"
"I forgive ye, with all my heart!" said Tom, faintly.
"O, Tom! do tell us who is Jesus, anyhow?" said Sambo;--"Jesus,
that's been a standin' by you so, all this night!--Who is he?"
The word roused the failing, fainting spirit. He poured
forth a few energetic sentences of that wondrous One,--his life,
his death, his everlasting presence, and power to save.
They wept,--both the two savage men.
"Why didn't I never hear this before?" said Sambo; "but I
do believe!--I can't help it! Lord Jesus, have mercy on us!"
"Poor critters!" said Tom, "I'd be willing to bar' all I
have, if it'll only bring ye to Christ! O, Lord! give me these two
more souls, I pray!"
That prayer was answered!