villages and carry the people away as slabes. All berry bad business
dat. But Sam he tink nothing, and just do the same as oder people.
Sometimes oder tribes come and fight against our villages and carry
our people away. So it happened to Sam.
"Jus' when he about twenty years old we had come back from a long
'spedition. Dis village got its share ob slabes, and we drink and
sing and make merry wid de palm tree wine and tink ourselves berry
grand fellows. Well, sar, dat night great hullyballoo in de village.
De dogs bark, de men shout and seize deir arms and run out to fight,
but it no good. Anoder tribe fall on us ten times as many as we.
We fight hard but no use. All de ole men and de ole women and de
little babies dat no good to sell dey killed, and de rest of us,
de men and de women and de boys and girls, we tied together and
march away wid de people dat had taken us.
"Berry bad time dat, sar. De season was dry and de water scarce.
We make long march ebery day, and berry little food given. Dey beat
us wid sticks and prod us wid spear to make us go. A good many ob
de weak ones dey die, but de most ob us arribe at mouth ob riber;
me neber know what riber dat was, but we were berry nigh two months
in getting dere. By dis time Sam arribe at the conclusion berry
strong, dat de burning ob villages and carrying off ob slabes berry
bad affair altogether. Sam hab changed his mind about a great many
things, but about dat he am fixed right up to dis time.
"Well, at de mouth ob dat riber Sam saw de white man for de first
time; and me tell you fair, sar, Sam not like him no way. Dey were
Spanish men, and de way dey treat us poor niggers was someting awful.
We huddle up night and day in a big shed dey call a barracoon. Dey
gabe us berry little food, berry little water. Dey flog us if we
grumble. Dese men belong to ships, and had bought us from dose who
brought us down from up country. Deir ship not come yet, and for
a long time we wait in the barracoon wishing dat we could die.
At last de ship came, and we were taken on board and huddled down
below. Law, what a place dat was to be sure! Not more than tree feet
high, just high enough to sit up, and dere we chained to deck. De
heat, sar, was someting terrible. Some ob us yell out and scream
for air, but dey only come down and beat us wid whips.
"De day after we got on board de ship set sail. Tree hours after
dat we hear a great running about on deck, and a shouting by the
white men. Den we hear big gun fire ober head, almost make us jump
out of skin wid de noise. Den more guns. Den dere was a crash, and
before we knew what was de matter dere was a big hole in de side,
and six niggers was killed dead. Ebery one yelled berry loud. We
tink for sure that de last day come. For a long time de guns keep
firing, and den everyting quiet again. At de time no one could tink
what de matter, but I s'pose dat British cruiser chase us and dat
de slaber sail away.
"Dat was an awful voyage, sar. At first de sea smoove, and de ship
go along straight. Den de ship begin to toss about jus' as nigger
does when he has taken too much palm wine, and we all feel berry bad.
Ebery one groan and cry and tink dat dey must have been poisoned.
For tree days it was a terrible time. De hatches were shut down
and no air could come to us, and dere we was all alone in de dark,
and no one could make out why de great house on de water roll and
tumble so much. We cry and shout till all breaff gone, and den lie
quiet and moan, till jus' when ebery one tink he dead, dey take
off de hatch and come down and undo de padlocks and tell us to go
up on deck. Dat berry easy to say, not at all easy to do. Most of
us too weak to walk, and say dat we dead and cannot move. Den dey
whip all about, and it was astonishing, sar, to see what life dat
whip put into dead nigger. Somehow people feel dat dey could crawl
after all, and when dey get up on deck and see de blessed sun again
and de blue sky dey feel better. But not all. In spite ob de whip
many hab to be carried up on deck, and dere de sailor men lay 'em
down and trow cold water ober dem till dey open dere eyes and come
to life. Some neber come to life. Dere were about six hundred when
we start, and ob dese pretty nigh a hundred die in dose tree days.
"After dat tings not so bad. De weather was fine and no more English
cruisers seen, so dey let half ob us up on deck at once for tree
or four hours ebery day. Dey give us more food, too, and fatten us
up. We talk dis ober among ourselves, and s'pose dat dey going to
eat us when we get to land again. Some propose not to eat food,
but when dey try dat on they get de whip, and conclude dat if dey
must be eaten dey might as well be eaten fat as lean.
"At last we come in sight of land. Den we all sent below and stay
dere till night. Den we brought on deck, and find de vessel lying
in a little creek. Den we all land in boats, and march up country
all night. In de morning we halt. Tree or four white men come on
horses and look at us. Dey separate us into parties, and each march
away into country again. Den we separate again, till at last me and
twenty oders arribe at a plantation up in de hills. Here we range
along in line before a white man. He speak in berry fierce tones,
and a nigger by his side tell us dat dis man our master, dat he
say if we work well he gib us plenty of food and treat us well,
but dat if we not work wid all our might he whip us to death. After
dis it was ebident that de best ting to do was to work hard.
"I was young and berry strong, sar, and soon got de name of a
willing hard working nigger. De massa he keep his word. Dose who
work well not bad treated, plenty ob food and a piece of ground
to plant vegetables and to raise fowls for ourselves. So we passed
two or tree year, plenty ob hard work, but not berry much to grumble
at. Den me and a gal of my own village, who had been bought in de
same batch wid me, we go to massa and say we want to marry. Massa
say, berry well. I fine strong nigger and work well, so he gib de
gal four yards ob bright cotton for wedding dress, and a bottle ob
rum to me, and we married.
"Two or tree years pass, and my wife hab two piccanninies. Den de
massa go home to Spain, and leab overseer in plantation. Berry bad
man dat. Before, if nigger work well he not beaten. Now he beaten
wheder he work or not. For two or tree months we 'tand it, but
tings get worse and worse. De oberseer he always drunk and go on
like wild beast. One day he passed by my wife hoeing de sugarcane
and he gib her cut wid whip, jus' out of 'musement. She turn round
and ask, 'What dat for?' He get mad, cut her wid whip, knock her
down wid de handle, and den seizing de chile dat she had fastened
to her back, he catch him by de leg and smash him skull against a
tree. Den, sar, I seize my hoe, I rush at him, and I chop him down
wid all my strength, cut his skull clean in sunder, and he drop
"Den I knew dat dat was no place for Sam, so I take my hoe and I
run away as fast as I could. No one try to stop me. De oder niggers
dance and sing when dey saw de oberseer fall dead. I ran all dat
day up among de hills, skirting round de different plantations till
I get quite into de wild part. Wheneber I came to stream I walk a
long way in him till I get to tree hanging ober. Den pull myself
up into de branches, climb along and drop at de farthest end, and
den run again, for I knew dat dey would set de bloodhounds after
"At last I tink dat it am quite safe, and when de night came on
lie down to sleep for a few hours. Before morning me off again,
and by night get to de center of de wild country. Here I light a
fire, and sit down, and, just as I 'spected, in two or tree hours
five or six men come down to me. Dose were niggers who had run away
from plantations. I tell dem my story, dey agree dat I did berry
right in killing oberseer. Dey take me away to place where dey hab
little huts and patches of yams. Two or tree days pass and no one
come, so, we s'pose dat dey hab lost de scent. Me waited a month and
den determined to go down and see about wife. I journey at night,
and reach plantation in two days. Dere I hide till I see nigger
come along close to bush. I call him and he come. I tell him to
tell my wife to steal away when night come, and to meet me dere.
He nod and go away. Dat night my wife come wid de oder chile. We
not talk much but start away for mountains. Me berry much afraid now
because my wife not berry strong, she hurt by de blow and fretting
after me. Howeber, we follow the way I had gone before. I make shift
to help her up into trees from the streams, and dis time after tree
days' travel we got back to hut in the mountain.
"Dere we lib berry happy for a year. Sometimes some ob us go down
to plantation and take down baskets and oder tings dat we had made
and chop dem for cotton. We had tobacco of our own, and some fowls
which we got from the plantations in de fust place. Altogether we
did berry well. Sometimes band of soldiers come and march trough
the country, but we hab plenty hiding places and dey never find
us. More and more runway slabes come, and at last we hear dat great
'spedition going to start to search all de mountains. Dey come,
two tree thousand ob dem. Dey form long skirmishing line, five or
six mile long, and dey go ober mountain. Ebery nigger dey find who
not surrender when dey call to him dey shoot. When I heard ob deir
coming I had long talk wid wife. We agree that it better to leave
de mountains altogether and go down and live in the bushes close
to the old plantation. Nobody look for us dere. So we make our way
down and lib there quiet. We get the yams out ob de plantations and
lib very comfortable. When we tink all ober in the mountain we go
"Well, sar, when we tink it all safe, and we get widin a mile ob de
huts whar we had libed, all at once we came upon a lot of soldiers
in camp. Dey see us and make shout. I call to my wife to run, when
dey fire. A bullet hit de baby, which she hab at her back, and pass
through both deir bodies. I did not run any more, but jus' stood
looking at my wife and chile as if my senses had gone. Dere I stood
till the soldiers came up. Dey put a cord round my arms and led me
away. After a time I was taken down the country. Dere I was claimed,
and when it was known I had killed a white oberseer I was tried.
But de new oberseer did not want me to be hung, for I was a strong
slave and worth money, so he told a story about how it happen, and
after dey had flogged me very hard dey sent me back to plantation.
Dere I work for a long time wid a great log of wood chained to my
ankle to prevent me from running away again.
"For a time I not care whether I lib or die, but at last I made
up my mind to 'scape again. After six months dey took off de log,
tinking dat I had had enuf of de mountains and would not try to
'scape, and de log prevented my doing so much work. De bery next
night I ran away again but dis time I determined to make for de
town in hopes ob getting on board an English ship, for I had heard
from de oder slabes dat de English did not keep black men as slabes,
but dat, on de contry, dey did what dey could to stop de Spanish
from getting dem away from Africa, and I understood now dat de
dreful noise we had heard on de first day we were on board ship
was an attack upon our vessel by an English cruiser.
"It was four days' journey down to de town by de sea. Dere was no
difficulty in finding de way, for de road was good, and I s'pose
dat dey only looked for me towards de hills. Anyhow I got dar
safe, walking at night and sleeping in the bushes by day. I got as
near de town as I dar, and could see seberal vessels lying near de
shore. I could see dat some ob dem had de Spanish flag - I knew
dat flag - de oders had flags which I did not know. When it was
dark I walked boldly into the town; no one asked me any question,
and I make my way through de streets down to de shore. Dere I get
into a boat and lay quiet till all de town was asleep. Den I get
into water and swim off to a ship - one dat I had noticed had
a flag which was not Spanish. Dere was a boat alongside. I climb
into it and pull myself up by the rope on deck. Den some white men
seize me and say someting in language which I not understand. Den
dey take me into cabin and say someting to captain; me not know
what it was, but de captain laugh, and me not like his laugh at
all. Howeber, dey give me someting to eat, and den take me down
into hold of ship and tell me to go to sleep on some sacks of sugar,
and throw some empty sacks ober me to cover me. Den dey close up
hatch and leab me alone.
"When I come on deck de land was gone and de vessel sailing along.
I speak to no one, for I only understand little Spanish, and dese
people not speak dat. We sail along for some time, and at last we
come in sight of land again. Den dey hoist flag and I see dat it
a flag wid lots of red stars and stripes upon him. I know now dat
it was a 'Merican ship. Den I know noting. We get to port and I
want to land, but dey shake deir heads.
"De next day de captain he make sign to me to come wid him. I go
along to shore and he take me to a open space in town, where a man
was standing on a raised platform. He had a black woman by de side
ob him. Seberal men come up and look at her. De man he shout bery
loud. Oder men say something short. At last he knock on de table;
a man tell de woman to come after him and she walk away. Den a boy
was put up, and den two more women, and ebery time just de same
ting was done. Den de man call out, and de captain push his way
through the crowd wid me, and tell me to climb up on platform. I
get up and look round quite surprised. Eberybody laugh. Den de man
began to holloa again. Den seberal men come up and feel my arms and
my legs. Dey point to de marks which de whip had left on my back,
and dey laugh again. Presently de man who was shouting bang his hand
on the table again, and a white man in the crowd, who had seberal
times called out loud, come up to me, take me by the arm, and sign
to me to go wid him.
"I begin to understand now; dat rascally captain had sold me for
a slabe, and dat flag I had seen was not de English flag. However,
it was no use to say anyting, and I went along wid my new massa.
He was a nice looking man, and I thought it might not be so bery
bad after all. He took me to a high carriage wid two wheels and
a fine horse. A negro, who was dressed up like a white man, was
holding de horse. He showed me to climb up behind, de oders climb
up in front, and we dribe away."
CHAPTER XIII: A FUGITIVE SLAVE
"Well, sar, work bery much de same on plantation in Virginia and
Cuba, but de slabe much merrier in 'Merica, when de master am good.
My new massa bery good man. Slabes all treat bery kind, work not
too hard. At night dance and sing bery much. Den I marry again, dis
time to one ob de girls in de house. She favorite ob missy, and so
when we marry, missy hab me taken off de fields and put to garden.
Bery fine garden dat was. Tree, four of us work dar, Sam jus' as
happy as man could be. Sometime, when der am party, Sam come into
the house to help at de table, dat how Sam know how to do tings
proper. De little massas dey bery fond ob me, and when dey want to
go out hunting de coon or fishing in de riber, dey always cry for
"So fifteen years passed by, bery happy years, sar, den do ole massa
die; missy, too, soon after. De young massa not like him father.
Me tink de ole gentleman make mistake wid him when him chile, let
him hab too much his own way. I bery fond ob him because I had
been wid him so much, but I often shake my head when I tink de time
come dat he be massa ob de plantation. It was not dat his nature
was bad; he get in rage sometime, but dat all ober in no time, but
he lub pleasure too much; go to de races and 'top at de town weeks
together, and play too much wid de cards. Dere were two boys and
two girls; de second boy, he go to West Point and become officer
in de army.
"After de death ob de ole people de house change bery much. Before
dat time we keep good company, gib sometimes grand balls, and all
de fust families ob Virginia in dat part visit dar. After dat always
people in de house. De young massa, when he go to Richmond, bring
back six or eight young men wid him, and dey laugh and drink and
play cards half de night. I tink de young missys speak to him about
his ways. Anyhow, one day dere great row, and dey off to lib wid
an aunt in de city. After dat tings get worse. One day missy come
back from town and she gib my wife her papers of freedom. You see,
my wife was giben by de ole man to missy when her war a little
girl, and fortunate it was dat he had made out de papers all right
and presented dem to her. When missy gib her de papers ob freedom,
she cry bery much. 'Me 'fraid bad time coming, Sally,' she said.
'Me tink dat it better for a time dat you clar out ob dis. Now
you got de paper you free woman, but you wife ob slabe; might be
difficulty about it. Me fear dat broder Dick ruined - de plantation
and slabes to be sole;' and wid dat she bu'st out crying wus dan
eber. Ob course my wife she cry too.
"'Better you go norf, Sally,' missy say presently. 'I gib you letter
to friends dar, and tell dem you bery good nurse. Den if Sam get
good master you can come back to him again. If not, as you tell
me dat when he slabe before he run away, it jus' possible he do de
"'Don't you tink, missy,' de wife said, 'dat de young massa gib
freedom to Sam too. Sam wait on him a great many years, sabe him
life when he tumbled into water.'
"'I bery much afraid,' missy said, shaking her head, 'dat my broder
not able to do so if he wish. He borrow money on de plantation
and de slabes, and dat prevent him from making any ob dem free. De
sale soon come now. You go tell Sam; tell him not to say word to
nobody. Den you pack up and come right away wid me to de city. It
bery much better you clar out ob dis before dey come down and seize
"Well, sar, you guess when Sam heard dis he in fine taking. He often
grieve bery much dat he and Sally hab no children. Now he tank de
Lord wid all his heart dat dere no piccanniny, for dey would hab
been sold, one one way and one another, and we should neber hab
seen dem again. Hows'ever, I make great effort, and tell Sally she
do jus' what missy say. I tell her to go norf while she can, and
promise dat some day or oder Sam join her dar. 'Better for to be
parted for ten year, Sally, dan to hab de risk ob you being seize
and sold to one master, me to anoder. You trus' Sam to break out
some day. He do bery well here for a time. He bery good strong
nigger, good gardner, good at de horses, good carpenter. Sam sure
to get good place, but, howeber good, when he see a chance he run
away. If no chance, he sabe up his money, and you sabe up your
money, Sally, and buy him freedom.'
"Well, sar, we bofe cry bery much, and den Sally go away wid de
young missy. A week after dat de bust up come. De officers dey come
down and seize de place, and a little while after dey sell all de
slabes. Dat was a terrible affair, to see de husbands and de wives
and de children separated and sold to different masters. De young
massa he not dere at sale. Dey say he pretty nigh break him heart,
but he ought to hab thought ob dat before. Me sure dat de ole
gentleman and de ole missy pretty nigh turn in deir grabe at de
thought ob all de hands they was so kind to sold away.
"Dat de curse of slabery, sar. Me trabel a good deal, and me tink
dat no working people in de world are so merry and happy as de
slabe in a plantation wid a good massa and missy. Dey not work so
hard as de white man. Dey have plenty to eat and drink, dey hab
deir gardens and deir fowls. When dey are sick dey are taken care
ob, when dey are ole they are looked after and hab nothing to do.
I have heard people talk a lot of nonsense about de hard life of
de plantation slabe. Dat not true, sar, wid a good massa. De slabe
hab no care and he bery happy. If all massas were good, and dere
were a law dat if a plantation were broken up de slabes must be
sold in families together, me tell you dat de life on a plantation
a thousand times happier dan de life ob a black man in his own
country. But all masters are not good. Some neber look after de
slabes, and leabe all to overseers, and dese bery often bad, cruel
men. But worst of all is when a sale comes. Dat terrible, sar. De
husban' sold to Alabama, de wife to Carolina, de children scattered
trough de States. Dis too bad, sar, dis make ob slabery a curse to
de black men.
"Well, sar, we all sold. Me fetch high price and sold to a planter
in Missouri. Sam no like dat. Dat a long way from the frontier.
Tree years Sam work dar in plantation. Den he sold again to a man
who hab boats on de riber at New Orleans. Dar Sam work discharging
de ships and working de barges. Dar he come to learn for sure which
de British flag. De times were slack, and my massa hire me out to
be waiter in a saloon. Dat place dey hab dinners, and after dinner
dey gamble. Dat war a bad place, mos' ebery night quarrels, and
sometimes de pistols drawn, and de bullets flying about. Sam 'top
dar six months; de place near de riber, and de captains ob de ships
often come to dine.
"One young fellow come bery often, and one day Sam saw tree or
four men he knew to be Texas horse dealers talking wid him. Now dis
young captain had been bery friendly wid Sam; always speak cibil
and gib him quarter for himself, and Sam sorry to see dose chaps
get hold ob him. Dis went on for two or tree days, till one ebening
de captain, instead of going away after dinner, stopped talking to
dese follows. De play begin at de table, and dey persuade him to
join. He hab de debil's luck. Dey thought they going to cheat him,
and if dey had got him by demselves dey would have cleaned him out
sure. But dere were oder people playing and dey not able to cheat.
"Well, sar, he won all de money. Drinks had been flying about, and
when at last de man dat kep' de table said, 'De bank will close
for tonight,' de young fellow could scarce walk steady on his feet.
His pockets were full ob notes. I went up to him and said, 'Will
you hab a bed here, sar, bery good bed?' but he laugh and say, 'No,
Sam, I may be a little fresh in de wind, but I tink I can make de
boat.' I saw dose fellows scowl when I speak to him, and I make up
my mind dey after no good. Well, sar, dey go out fust. Den he go
out wid some oder people and stand laughing and talking at de door.
Sam run up to him room, slip on his money belt, for he had had a
good deal giben him while he was dar, and was sabing up to buy his
freedom, and he didn't know what was going to happen. Den Sam look
into de kitchen and caught up a heavy poker and a long knife, den
he run down and turn out de lights ob de saloon and lock de door
"He was jus' in time, for he saw at de corner, where de street go
down on to the wharves, de young captain separate from de men who
had gone out wid him and walk away by hisself. Sam kicked off his
shoes and ran as fast as he could to de end ob de street. De wharf
was bery badly lighted, jus' a lamp here and dere. Sam ran along
till he got widin about thirty yards ob de sailor, and den stole
quiet along in de shadow ob de houses. Sudden he see five men run
out. Den Sam he leap forward like tiger and gibs a shout to warn
de captain. He turn round jus' in time. Sam saw an arm lifted and
de captain fall, and den at de same moment almost him poker come
down wid a crunch upon de top ob one of deir head. Den they turn on
Sam, but, law bless you, sar! what was de good ob dat? Bery strong
negro wid heavy poker in one hand and long knife in de oder more
dan match for four men. He knock dem ober like nine pin. Tree of
dem, he tink he kill straight, the poker fall on de top ob deir
heads, de oder man give a dig in Sam's left shoulder wid his knife,
and de sudden pain shake Sam's aim a little and de blow fall on
him neck. He gib a shout and tumble down. None ob do oder four had
shouted or made any remark when Sam hit dem. Den Sam caught up de
captain and ran along de wharf. Presently he heard a hail. 'All
right,' Sam said.
"'Am dat you, captain?' some one say.
"'Me got a captain here,' Sam say; 'you come and see wheder he
"De men came up and look in de captain's face.
"'Hullo,' dey say; 'de captain am dead.'
"'Me no tink him dead,' I say. 'He had a fight, and Sam come to
him aid and beat de rascals off. You had better take him straight