But the tale teller gets a crock of butter for his tale. She feeds a mouse a spoonful of kasha. The mouse tells her not to fear and distracts the bear who can catch neither. At last the bear congratulates the girl at her skill and rewards her with a drove of horses and cartful of goods. But the dog announces that the daughter is returning with horses and a cartful of goods.
The stepmother is both disappointed and filled with greed. She sends her own daughter to the hut. The girl scorns the mouse, and when the bear breaks in she chatters with fear, thus revealing her whereabouts. Her bones are in the basket and the cart is empty. She dies of grief next day. The peasant lives with his daughter and soon welcomes into his house a wealthy son-in-law. They go to another town and set up in trade. The brother marries a sorceress who is jealous of the sister. While her husband is away she breaks all the furniture in the house and says the sister did it. The husband says they can get more.
When the husband is away a second time the wife cuts the head off his favorite horse and blames the sister. The sorceress murders the baby and says the sister did it. So the husband tells his sister that they must go to Mass in the middle of the night. She objects but he insists. The cart gets caught in a bramble in the woods and the brother tells her to untangle it. When she gets down he cuts off her arms at the elbow and abandons her.
She wanders for years and finally arrives in a village where she is taken in as a beggar woman. After a time the son of a wealthy merchant falls in love with her and would marry her. At first his parents object but a priest gives his blessing. They have a child whose arms were golden to the elbows, with sides studded with stars, the brightest moon in his forehead, and the sun near his heart.
The grandparents send a message to the father who is away but the sorceress intercepts the message and rewrites the message, saying that she has given birth to a monster, half dog, half bear which she conceived in the woods. The husband is shocked but replies that they should care for the child until his return.
Again the sorceress intercepts the message and substitutes a letter saying that the mother and babe should be cast out. As the new mother wanders in the woods she comes to a well. As she attempts to get water the child falls in. She cries out in distress and an old man tells her to reach in and lift the child out. She says she cannot because she has no hands. He tells her to try anyway and as she does her arms and hands are restored. Filled with joy she returns to the city where her husband and brother are living. They invite her in, insisting that a beggar woman tells the best stories.
The woman says she knows no stories but will tell the truth. She then tells the story of her life. Repeatedly the sorceress tries to interrupt but the brother and then her husband insist that she continue. Her husband asks for further proof, and she shows him his son with the golden arms, etc. The sorceress is tied to a horse and dragged through the fields until only a braid of hair is left. Then the new husband and his family return to the grandparents and all live happily and prosper.
The new wife dislikes his daughter, beats her, and would destroy her. She sends her to the Baba Yaga, but she goes first to her aunt who advises her to take a ribbon, some oil, some bread, and some ham. Baba puts her to work spinning, planning soon to eat her. The girl is kind to the maid, giving her a kerchief. She gives ham to the cat and the cat gives her a comb and a towel and tells her to run. The dogs would tear her but she gives them bread and they let her pass. The gate would stop her but she oils its hinges. The birch would lash her eyes but she ties it with a ribbon.
But the cat says she has served many years but not been given even a bone, while the girl gave her ham. Baba Yaga starts thrashing the dogs, but he reminds her that she never gave them even a crust. The gate reminds her that she never even poured water on the hinges let alone oil, and the birch too had never been tended even with a thread, let alone a ribbon.
Baba Yaga pursues but the girl puts her ear to the ground and hears her coming. She lays the towel on the ground which turns into a river. Again, as she approaches the girl the girl places the comb in the ground. It turns into a thick forest through which the Baba Yaga cannot pass.
When she gets home her father asks where she has been. The king takes the bird to his castle promising to feed him for three years. He asks to go free but is unable to fly. So the king borrows cattle and feeds the bird a third year. The bird then takes the king on his back and casts him into the sea where the king is wet up to the knees, then into a second sea where he is wet to the waist, and then into a third sea where he is wet to the neck.
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Each time he asks the king if he is afraid before being rescued. At last he explains that he did this to let the king know how he felt when the king threatened to shoot him. She too scorns the king and is punished by the eagle. He then takes him to the home of his mother and eldest sister.
The king is waylayed on an island and out of curiosity opens the red coffer out of which came cattle of every king, completely filling the island. Overcome with grief he weeps until a man comes out of the water and says he will help him get the cattle back into the coffer if he gives him that which he does not know is in his house. The king agrees, the cattle are returned to the coffer, and he returns home to discover that his wife has given birth to a son.
He opens the coffers: the red one fills his estate with cattle and the green one provides a splendid garden in which to dwell. Years later he walks by the river and the old man appears and claims his son. They surrender the prince by the seashore. He looks around and enters a thick forest where Baba Yaga lives. She instructs him to go to the seashore where twelve spoonbills will come and turn into lovely maidens and bathe. He should steal the shift of the eldest maiden.
He will also meet Eater, Drinker, and Sharp Frost, whom he should take with him. He does as commanded. The lovely maiden pleads to have her shift returned, promising him help when he needs it. He complies and she returns to spoonbill form and flies away. The Sea King then invites him to a feast, ordering him to build a great crystal bridge.
As the prince weeps at the impossible task Vasilisa the Wise appears at his window and offers to help. She puts him to sleep and builds the bridge. Then the prince is ordered to grow an orchard with songbirds and fruit laden trees overnight. Again he weeps and again Vasilisa puts him to sleep and accomplishes the task. The king then orders him to choose the same girl from a group of identical women three times in succession. Vasilisa the Wise gives him signs to accomplish the task and next day three times he chooses her and marries her.
They then attempt to return home. But the king sends pursuers after them. Vasilisa puts her ear to the earth and hears them coming. She turns her horses into a well, herself into a ladle, and her husband into an old man. The pursuers are tricked and return home to be executed by the Sea King. He sends more pursuers. This time she turns the prince into an old priest and herself into an ancient church.
These messengers return and are likewise put to death. This time the Sea King pursues them himself. Vasilisa turns her horses into a river of mead with banks of pudding. The Sea King eats and drinks until he bursts. So Vasilisa and the prince return to his father and mother. Vasilisa tells him to go first and greet his parents but not to kiss his sister else he forget his wife. He forgets her command, forgets Vasilisa, and is to be married to a rich queen. Vasilisa bakes a cake for the wedding with a pair of doves and some cheese in it.
At the feast the cake is cut and the doves fly out, squabble over the cheese and remind him of his wife. The prince remembers Vasilisa, jumps up and takes her by the hand and seats her beside him. Thenceforth, they live together in prosperity and happiness. Vasilisa grows in beauty, the other daughters in ugliness. She feeds her doll choice morsels at night and is consoled by the doll who helps her with her work.
The woman repeatedly sends Vasilisa into the woods, hoping the Baba Yaga will devour her, but her doll always leads her home safely. One autumn the stepmother gives the three maidens work, the oldest making lace, the second knitting stockings, and Vasilisa spinning. One of the sisters snuffs out the candle, and Vasilisa is ordered to go to Baba Yaga to get some light.
She goes to her room, feeds her doll whose eyes glow like candles, and then sets out. A horseman in white rides by, then one in red, then one in black and the eyes in the skulls gleam. She invites Vasilisa in and makes her prepare food, clean the hut, wash the linen, and sort grain. She feeds her doll and it helps her with the work. At dawn the white horseman returns, at sunrise the red one. Baba Yaga arises amazed that the work has all been done.
At dusk the black horseman flashes by. Help Centre. My Wishlist Sign In Join. Be the first to write a review. Sorry, the book that you are looking for is not available right now. Books with a similar title. The Autobiography Of Mrs. Tom Thumb 2. Isabel Adams the Banbury Cross Series. Tom Thumb Softcover and CD. Johnson's Odds and Ends for Old and Young. Tom Thumb. Tom Thumb- In Afrikaans. A cook she certainly was, in the very bone and centre of her soul. Not a chicken or turkey or duck in the barn-yard but looked grave when they saw her approaching, and seemed evidently to be reflecting on their latter end; and certain it was that she was always meditating on trussing, stuffing and roasting, to a degree that was calculated to inspire terror in any reflecting fowl living.
Her corn-cake, in all its varieties of hoe-cake, dodgers, muffins, and other species too numerous to mention, was a sublime mystery to all less practised compounders; and she would shake her fat sides with honest pride and merriment, as she would narrate the fruitless efforts that one and another of her compeers had made to attain to her elevation. Just at present, however, Aunt Chloe is looking into the bake-pan; in which congenial operation we shall leave her till we finish our picture of the cottage. In one corner of it stood a bed, covered neatly with a snowy spread; and by the side of it was a piece of carpeting, of some considerable size.
On this piece of carpeting Aunt Chloe took her stand, as being decidedly in the upper walks of life; and it and the bed by which it lay, and the whole corner, in fact, were treated with distinguished consideration, and made, so far as possible, sacred from the marauding inroads and desecrations of little folks.
The wall over the fireplace was adorned with some very brilliant scriptural prints, and a portrait of General Washington, drawn and colored in a manner which would certainly have astonished that hero, if ever he happened to meet with its like. On a rough bench in the corner, a couple of woolly-headed boys, with glistening black eyes and fat shining cheeks, were busy in superintending the first walking operations of the baby, which, as is usually the case, consisted in getting up on its feet, balancing a moment, and then tumbling down,—each successive failure being violently cheered, as something decidedly clever.
A table, somewhat rheumatic in its limbs, was drawn out in front of the fire, and covered with a cloth, displaying cups and saucers of a decidedly brilliant pattern, with other symptoms of an approaching meal. At this table was seated Uncle Tom, Mr. He was a large, broad-chested, powerfully-made man, of a full glossy black, and a face whose truly African features were characterized by an expression of grave and steady good sense, united with much kindliness and benevolence. There was something about his whole air self-respecting and dignified, yet united with a confiding and humble simplicity.
Cake ris all to one side—no shape at all; no more than my shoe; go way! This being evidently the central point of the entertainment, Aunt Chloe began now to bustle about earnestly in the supper department. O, let you alone for dat! Go way! Smash all down—spile all de pretty rise of it. Dar now, see! Good Lor! O, go way! Why, she makes pies—sartin she does; but what kinder crust? Can she make your real flecky paste, as melts in your mouth, and lies all up like a puff?
Jinny and I is good friends, ye know. O, Lor! Ye crowed over Tom? Yer mind dat ar great chicken pie I made when we guv de dinner to General Knox? I and Missis, we come pretty near quarrelling about dat ar crust. I was fit to split myself. Yes, he knows what de pints is! By this time, Master George had arrived at that pass to which even a boy can come under uncommon circumstances, when he really could not eat another morsel , and, therefore, he was at leisure to notice the pile of woolly heads and glistening eyes which were regarding their operations hungrily from the opposite corner.
Come, Aunt Chloe, bake them some cakes. Stop dat ar, now, will ye? What meaning was couched under this terrible threat, it is difficult to say; but certain it is that its awful indistinctness seemed to produce very little impression on the young sinners addressed. Here the boys emerged from under the table, and, with hands and faces well plastered with molasses, began a vigorous kissing of the baby.
Go long to de spring and wash yerselves! As, according to her own statement, this surgical operation was a matter of daily occurrence in the cabin, the declaration no whit abated the merriment, till every one had roared and tumbled and danced themselves down to a state of composure. The house now resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to consider the accommodations and arrangements for the meeting.
During this aside between Mose and Pete, two empty casks had been rolled into the cabin, and being secured from rolling, by stones on each side, boards were laid across them, which arrangement, together with the turning down of certain tubs and pails, and the disposing of the rickety chairs, at last completed the preparation. George very readily consented, for your boy is always ready for anything that makes him of importance.
The room was soon filled with a motley assemblage, from the old gray-headed patriarch of eighty, to the young girl and lad of fifteen. A few of the worshippers belonged to families hard by, who had got permission to attend, and who brought in various choice scraps of information, about the sayings and doings at the house and on the place, which circulated as freely as the same sort of small change does in higher circles.
After a while the singing commenced, to the evident delight of all present. Not even all the disadvantage of nasal intonation could prevent the effect of the naturally fine voices, in airs at once wild and spirited. The words were sometimes the well-known and common hymns sung in the churches about, and sometimes of a wilder, more indefinite character, picked up at camp-meetings.
Various exhortations, or relations of experience, followed, and intermingled with the singing. Uncle Tom was a sort of patriarch in religious matters, in the neighborhood. But it was in prayer that he especially excelled. While this scene was passing in the cabin of the man, one quite otherwise passed in the halls of the master. The trader and Mr. Shelby were seated together in the dining room afore-named, at a table covered with papers and writing utensils. Shelby was busy in counting some bundles of bills, which, as they were counted, he pushed over to the trader, who counted them likewise.
Shelby hastily drew the bills of sale towards him, and signed them, like a man that hurries over some disagreeable business, and then pushed them over with the money. Haley produced, from a well-worn valise, a parchment, which, after looking over it a moment, he handed to Mr. Shelby, who took it with a gesture of suppressed eagerness. After the expositions which the trader had previously given of his humane principles, Mr. Shelby did not feel particularly reassured by these declarations; but, as they were the best comfort the case admitted of, he allowed the trader to depart in silence, and betook himself to a solitary cigar.
Shelby had retired to their apartment for the night. He was lounging in a large easy-chair, looking over some letters that had come in the afternoon mail, and she was standing before her mirror, brushing out the complicated braids and curls in which Eliza had arranged her hair; for, noticing her pale cheeks and haggard eyes, she had excused her attendance that night, and ordered her to bed. The employment, naturally enough, suggested her conversation with the girl in the morning; and turning to her husband, she said, carelessly,.
Shelby, returning to his paper, which he seemed for a few moments quite intent upon, not perceiving that he was holding it bottom upwards. Of course, I knew you never meant to sell any of our people,—least of all, to such a fellow. I shall have to sell some of my hands. O, Mr. Shelby, in a tone between grief and indignation. I could choose another, if you say so. I have been hasty. I was surprised, and entirely unprepared for this;—but surely you will allow me to intercede for these poor creatures.
Tom is a noble-hearted, faithful fellow, if he is black.
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I do believe, Mr. Shelby, that if he were put to it, he would lay down his life for you. Shelby, I have tried—tried most faithfully, as a Christian woman should—to do my duty to these poor, simple, dependent creatures. I have cared for them, instructed them, watched over them, and know all their little cares and joys, for years; and how can I ever hold up my head again among them, if, for the sake of a little paltry gain, we sell such a faithful, excellent, confiding creature as poor Tom, and tear from him in a moment all we have taught him to love and value?
I have taught them the duties of the family, of parent and child, and husband and wife; and how can I bear to have this open acknowledgment that we care for no tie, no duty, no relation, however sacred, compared with money? I have talked with Eliza about her boy—her duty to him as a Christian mother, to watch over him, pray for him, and bring him up in a Christian way; and now what can I say, if you tear him away, and sell him, soul and body, to a profane, unprincipled man, just to save a little money?
I have told her that one soul is worth more than all the money in the world; and how will she believe me when she sees us turn round and sell her child? Haley fancied the child; he agreed to settle the matter that way, and no other. Shelby stood like one stricken. Finally, turning to her toilet, she rested her face in her hands, and gave a sort of groan. I was a fool to think I could make anything good out of such a deadly evil.
Tom Thumb by WATSON RICHARD JESSE | | Booktopia
It is a sin to hold a slave under laws like ours,—I always felt it was,—I always thought so when I was a girl,—I thought so still more after I joined the church; but I thought I could gild it over,—I thought, by kindness, and care, and instruction, I could make the condition of mine better than freedom—fool that I was! But now, my dear, I trust you see the necessity of the thing, and you see that I have done the very best that circumstances would allow.
That man has had it in his power to ruin us all,—and now he is fairly off. Haley wants to drive matters, and take possession tomorrow. Let the thing be done when she is out of sight. They shall see, at any rate, that their mistress can feel for and with them. As to Eliza, I dare not think about it. The Lord forgive us! What have we done, that this cruel necessity should come on us? Communicating with their apartment was a large closet, opening by a door into the outer passage. When Mrs. Shelby had dismissed Eliza for the night, her feverish and excited mind had suggested the idea of this closet; and she had hidden herself there, and, with her ear pressed close against the crack of the door, had lost not a word of the conversation.
When the voices died into silence, she rose and crept stealthily away. Pale, shivering, with rigid features and compressed lips, she looked an entirely altered being from the soft and timid creature she had been hitherto. It was a quiet, neat apartment, on the same floor with her mistress. There was a pleasant sunny window, where she had often sat singing at her sewing; there a little case of books, and various little fancy articles, ranged by them, the gifts of Christmas holidays; there was her simple wardrobe in the closet and in the drawers:—here was, in short, her home; and, on the whole, a happy one it had been to her.
But there, on the bed, lay her slumbering boy, his long curls falling negligently around his unconscious face, his rosy mouth half open, his little fat hands thrown out over the bedclothes, and a smile spread like a sunbeam over his whole face. No tear dropped over that pillow; in such straits as these, the heart has no tears to give,—it drops only blood, bleeding itself away in silence.
She took a piece of paper and a pencil, and wrote, hastily,. I am going to try to save my boy—you will not blame me! God bless and reward you for all your kindness! It was some trouble to arouse the little sleeper; but, after some effort, he sat up, and was playing with his bird, while his mother was putting on her bonnet and shawl. His mother drew near, and looked so earnestly into his eyes, that he at once divined that something unusual was the matter. It was a sparkling, frosty, starlight night, and the mother wrapped the shawl close round her child, as, perfectly quiet with vague terror, he clung round her neck.
Old Bruno, a great Newfoundland, who slept at the end of the porch, rose, with a low growl, as she came near. Some dim ideas of imprudence or impropriety in the measure seemed to embarrass him considerably; for he often stopped, as Eliza glided forward, and looked wistfully, first at her and then at the house, and then, as if reassured by reflection, he pattered along after her again.
Get on your clothes, old man, quick! And suiting the action to the word, the door flew open, and the light of the tallow candle, which Tom had hastily lighted, fell on the haggard face and dark, wild eyes of the fugitive. Tom had stood, during this speech, with his hands raised, and his eyes dilated, like a man in a dream.
Slowly and gradually, as its meaning came over him, he collapsed, rather than seated himself, on his old chair, and sunk his head down upon his knees. Yes, I heard him say there was no choice between selling these two and selling all, the man was driving him so hard.
Master said he was sorry; but oh, Missis—you ought to have heard her talk! Will you wait to be toted down river, where they kill niggers with hard work and starving? If I must be sold, or all the people on the place, and everything go to rack, why, let me be sold.
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I never have broke trust, nor used my pass no ways contrary to my word, and I never will. Here he turned to the rough trundle bed full of little woolly heads, and broke fairly down. He leaned over the back of the chair, and covered his face with his large hands. Sobs, heavy, hoarse and loud, shook the chair, and great tears fell through his fingers on the floor; just such tears, sir, as you dropped into the coffin where lay your first-born son; such tears, woman, as you shed when you heard the cries of your dying babe.
For, sir, he was a man,—and you are but another man. They have pushed him to the very last standing place, and he told me, today, that he was going to run away. Do try, if you can, to get word to him. A few last words and tears, a few simple adieus and blessings, and clasping her wondering and affrighted child in her arms, she glided noiselessly away. Shelby, after their protracted discussion of the night before, did not readily sink to repose, and, in consequence, slept somewhat later than usual, the ensuing morning. Shelby, after giving her bell repeated pulls, to no purpose.
Shelby was standing before his dressing-glass, sharpening his razor; and just then the door opened, and a colored boy entered, with his shaving-water. Really, it will be something pretty awkward for me, if she is. It touches my honor! Shelby left the room hastily. There was great running and ejaculating, and opening and shutting of doors, and appearance of faces in all shades of color in different places, for about a quarter of an hour.
One person only, who might have shed some light on the matter, was entirely silent, and that was the head cook, Aunt Chloe. Silently, and with a heavy cloud settled down over her once joyous face, she proceeded making out her breakfast biscuits, as if she heard and saw nothing of the excitement around her. When, at last, Haley appeared, booted and spurred, he was saluted with the bad tidings on every hand. Is it true, sir? Andy, take Mr. Take a seat, sir. Yes, sir; I regret to say that the young woman, excited by overhearing, or having reported to her, something of this business, has taken her child in the night, and made off.
If any man calls my honor in question, I have but one answer for him. I say thus much, however, since appearances call for it, that I shall allow of no insinuations cast upon me, as if I were at all partner to any unfairness in this matter. It was the topic in every mouth, everywhere; and nothing was done in the house or in the field, but to discuss its probable results. Black Sam, as he was commonly called, from his being about three shades blacker than any other son of ebony on the place, was revolving the matter profoundly in all its phases and bearings, with a comprehensiveness of vision and a strict lookout to his own personal well-being, that would have done credit to any white patriot in Washington.
Sam, upon this, began to bestir himself in real earnest, and after a while appeared, bearing down gloriously towards the house, with Bill and Jerry in a full canter, and adroitly throwing himself off before they had any idea of stopping, he brought them up alongside of the horse-post like a tornado. There was a large beech-tree overshadowing the place, and the small, sharp, triangular beech-nuts lay scattered thickly on the ground.
With one of these in his fingers, Sam approached the colt, stroked and patted, and seemed apparently busy in soothing his agitation. On pretence of adjusting the saddle, he adroitly slipped under it the sharp little nut, in such a manner that the least weight brought upon the saddle would annoy the nervous sensibilities of the animal, without leaving any perceptible graze or wound.
At this moment Mrs. Shelby appeared on the balcony, beckoning to him. Sam approached with as good a determination to pay court as did ever suitor after a vacant place at St. Haley, to show him the road, and help him. I jis make a little for her. At this instant, Haley appeared on the verandah. Somewhat mollified by certain cups of very good coffee, he came out smiling and talking, in tolerably restored humor. The instant Haley touched the saddle, the mettlesome creature bounded from the earth with a sudden spring, that threw his master sprawling, some feet off, on the soft, dry turf.
So, with great vehemence, he overturned Sam, and, giving two or three contemptuous snorts, flourished his heels vigorously in the air, and was soon prancing away towards the lower end of the lawn, followed by Bill and Jerry, whom Andy had not failed to let loose, according to contract, speeding them off with various direful ejaculations. And now ensued a miscellaneous scene of confusion. Sam and Andy ran and shouted,—dogs barked here and there,—and Mike, Mose, Mandy, Fanny, and all the smaller specimens on the place, both male and female, raced, clapped hands, whooped, and shouted, with outrageous officiousness and untiring zeal.
Haley ran up and down, and cursed and swore and stamped miscellaneously. Shelby in vain tried to shout directions from the balcony, and Mrs. Shelby from her chamber window alternately laughed and wondered,—not without some inkling of what lay at the bottom of all this confusion. Here we are all just ready to drop down, and the critters all in a reek of sweat.
Lizy never was no great of a walker. Shelby, who, greatly to her amusement, had overheard this conversation from the verandah, now resolved to do her part. Thus, all things considered, Haley, with rather an equivocal grace, proceeded to the parlor, while Sam, rolling his eyes after him with unutterable meaning, proceeded gravely with the horses to the stable-yard. Swar away, ole fellow says I to myself ; will yer have yer hoss now, or wait till you cotch him?
Lor, Andy, I think I can see him now. Hist up that hind foot, Andy. We oughtenter overlook nobody, Andy, cause the smartest on us gets tripped up sometimes. Then there was the parting from every familiar object,—the place where she had grown up, the trees under which she had played, the groves where she had walked many an evening in happier days, by the side of her young husband,—everything, as it lay in the clear, frosty starlight, seemed to speak reproachfully to her, and ask her whither could she go from a home like that?
But stronger than all was maternal love, wrought into a paroxysm of frenzy by the near approach of a fearful danger. Her boy was old enough to have walked by her side, and, in an indifferent case, she would only have led him by the hand; but now the bare thought of putting him out of her arms made her shudder, and she strained him to her bosom with a convulsive grasp, as she went rapidly forward.
The frosty ground creaked beneath her feet, and she trembled at the sound; every quaking leaf and fluttering shadow sent the blood backward to her heart, and quickened her footsteps.
Lord, save me! How many miles could you make in those few brief hours, with the darling at your bosom,—the little sleepy head on your shoulder,—the small, soft arms trustingly holding on to your neck? For the child slept. At first, the novelty and alarm kept him waking; but his mother so hurriedly repressed every breath or sound, and so assured him that if he were only still she would certainly save him, that he clung quietly round her neck, only asking, as he found himself sinking to sleep,. How the touch of those warm arms, the gentle breathings that came in her neck, seemed to add fire and spirit to her movements!
It seemed to her as if strength poured into her in electric streams, from every gentle touch and movement of the sleeping, confiding child. Sublime is the dominion of the mind over the body, that, for a time, can make flesh and nerve impregnable, and string the sinews like steel, so that the weak become so mighty. The boundaries of the farm, the grove, the wood-lot, passed by her dizzily, as she walked on; and still she went, leaving one familiar object after another, slacking not, pausing not, till reddening daylight found her many a long mile from all traces of any familiar objects upon the open highway.
She had often been, with her mistress, to visit some connections, in the little village of T——, not far from the Ohio river, and knew the road well.
To go thither, to escape across the Ohio river, were the first hurried outlines of her plan of escape; beyond that, she could only hope in God. When horses and vehicles began to move along the highway, with that alert perception peculiar to a state of excitement, and which seems to be a sort of inspiration, she became aware that her headlong pace and distracted air might bring on her remark and suspicion. She therefore put the boy on the ground, and, adjusting her dress and bonnet, she walked on at as rapid a pace as she thought consistent with the preservation of appearances.
In her little bundle she had provided a store of cakes and apples, which she used as expedients for quickening the speed of the child, rolling the apple some yards before them, when the boy would run with all his might after it; and this ruse, often repeated, carried them over many a half-mile.
After a while, they came to a thick patch of woodland, through which murmured a clear brook. As the child complained of hunger and thirst, she climbed over the fence with him; and, sitting down behind a large rock which concealed them from the road, she gave him a breakfast out of her little package. The boy wondered and grieved that she could not eat; and when, putting his arms round her neck, he tried to wedge some of his cake into her mouth, it seemed to her that the rising in her throat would choke her.
We must go on—on—till we come to the river! She was many miles past any neighborhood where she was personally known.
If she should chance to meet any who knew her, she reflected that the well-known kindness of the family would be of itself a blind to suspicion, as making it an unlikely supposition that she could be a fugitive. As she was also so white as not to be known as of colored lineage, without a critical survey, and her child was white also, it was much easier for her to pass on unsuspected.
On this presumption, she stopped at noon at a neat farmhouse, to rest herself, and buy some dinner for her child and self; for, as the danger decreased with the distance, the supernatural tension of the nervous system lessened, and she found herself both weary and hungry. An hour before sunset, she entered the village of T——, by the Ohio river, weary and foot-sore, but still strong in heart.
Her first glance was at the river, which lay, like Jordan, between her and the Canaan of liberty on the other side. It was now early spring, and the river was swollen and turbulent; great cakes of floating ice were swinging heavily to and fro in the turbid waters. Owing to the peculiar form of the shore on the Kentucky side, the land bending far out into the water, the ice had been lodged and detained in great quantities, and the narrow channel which swept round the bend was full of ice, piled one cake over another, thus forming a temporary barrier to the descending ice, which lodged, and formed a great, undulating raft, filling up the whole river, and extending almost to the Kentucky shore.
Eliza stood, for a moment, contemplating this unfavorable aspect of things, which she saw at once must prevent the usual ferry-boat from running, and then turned into a small public house on the bank, to make a few inquiries. A man, in leather apron and very dirty hands, appeared at the door. Eliza laid the weary boy upon it, and held his hands in hers till he was fast asleep.
For her there was no rest. As a fire in her bones, the thought of the pursuer urged her on; and she gazed with longing eyes on the sullen, surging waters that lay between her and liberty. Though Mrs. Shelby had promised that the dinner should be hurried on table, yet it was soon seen, as the thing has often been seen before, that it required more than one to make a bargain.
For some singular reason, an impression seemed to reign among the servants generally that Missis would not be particularly disobliged by delay; and it was wonderful what a number of counter accidents occurred constantly, to retard the course of things. Aunt Chloe, who was much revered in the kitchen, was listened to with open mouth; and, the dinner being now fairly sent in, the whole kitchen was at leisure to gossip with her, and to listen to her remarks. It was Uncle Tom, who had come in, and stood listening to the conversation at the door. You oughtenter wish that ar to any human crittur.
That ar troubles me. Go anywhere you like, boy. Shelby both felt annoyed and degraded by the familiar impudence of the trader, and yet both saw the absolute necessity of putting a constraint on their feelings. The more hopelessly sordid and insensible he appeared, the greater became Mrs. She therefore graciously smiled, assented, chatted familiarly, and did all she could to make time pass imperceptibly.
Sam was there new oiled from dinner, with an abundance of zealous and ready officiousness. Andy looked up innocently at Sam, surprised at hearing this new geographical fact, but instantly confirmed what he said, by a vehement reiteration. Haley, notwithstanding that he was a very old bird, and naturally inclined to be suspicious of chaff, was rather brought up by this view of the case. This profound generic view of the female sex did not seem to dispose Haley particularly to the straight road, and he announced decidedly that he should go the other, and asked Sam when they should come to it.
I nebber been over it no way. In short, he was strictly noncommittal. Haley, accustomed to strike the balance of probabilities between lies of greater or lesser magnitude, thought that it lay in favor of the dirt road aforesaid. When, therefore, Sam indicated the road, Haley plunged briskly into it, followed by Sam and Andy.
Now, the road, in fact, was an old one, that had formerly been a thoroughfare to the river, but abandoned for many years after the laying of the new pike. Sam knew this fact perfectly well,—indeed, the road had been so long closed up, that Andy had never heard of it. After riding about an hour in this way, the whole party made a precipitate and tumultuous descent into a barn-yard belonging to a large farming establishment. Not a soul was in sight, all the hands being employed in the fields; but, as the barn stood conspicuously and plainly square across the road, it was evident that their journey in that direction had reached a decided finale.
It was all too true to be disputed, and the unlucky man had to pocket his wrath with the best grace he was able, and all three faced to the right about, and took up their line of march for the highway. In consequence of all the various delays, it was about three-quarters of an hour after Eliza had laid her child to sleep in the village tavern that the party came riding into the same place.
Haley and Andy were two yards behind. At this crisis, Sam contrived to have his hat blown off, and uttered a loud and characteristic ejaculation, which startled her at once; she drew suddenly back; the whole train swept by the window, round to the front door. A thousand lives seemed to be concentrated in that one moment to Eliza. Her room opened by a side door to the river. She caught her child, and sprang down the steps towards it. The trader caught a full glimpse of her just as she was disappearing down the bank; and throwing himself from his horse, and calling loudly on Sam and Andy, he was after her like a hound after a deer.
Right on behind they came; and, nerved with strength such as God gives only to the desperate, with one wild cry and flying leap, she vaulted sheer over the turbid current by the shore, on to the raft of ice beyond. It was a desperate leap—impossible to anything but madness and despair; and Haley, Sam, and Andy, instinctively cried out, and lifted up their hands, as she did it.
The huge green fragment of ice on which she alighted pitched and creaked as her weight came on it, but she staid there not a moment. With wild cries and desperate energy she leaped to another and still another cake; stumbling—leaping—slipping—springing upwards again! Her shoes are gone—her stockings cut from her feet—while blood marked every step; but she saw nothing, felt nothing, till dimly, as in a dream, she saw the Ohio side, and a man helping her up the bank.
I like grit, wherever I see it. What do you take a feller for? The woman folded her child to her bosom, and walked firmly and swiftly away. The man stood and looked after her. So spoke this poor, heathenish Kentuckian, who had not been instructed in his constitutional relations, and consequently was betrayed into acting in a sort of Christianized manner, which, if he had been better situated and more enlightened, he would not have been left to do.
Haley had stood a perfectly amazed spectator of the scene, till Eliza had disappeared up the bank, when he turned a blank, inquiring look on Sam and Andy. Eliza made her desperate retreat across the river just in the dusk of twilight. The gray mist of evening, rising slowly from the river, enveloped her as she disappeared up the bank, and the swollen current and floundering masses of ice presented a hopeless barrier between her and her pursuer.
Haley therefore slowly and discontentedly returned to the little tavern, to ponder further what was to be done. The woman opened to him the door of a little parlor, covered with a rag carpet, where stood a table with a very shining black oil-cloth, sundry lank, high-backed wood chairs, with some plaster images in resplendent colors on the mantel-shelf, above a very dimly-smoking grate; a long hard-wood settle extended its uneasy length by the chimney, and here Haley sat him down to meditate on the instability of human hopes and happiness in general.
He was startled by the loud and dissonant voice of a man who was apparently dismounting at the door.
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He hurried to the window. Haley hastened out. Standing by the bar, in the corner of the room, was a brawny, muscular man, full six feet in height, and broad in proportion. He was dressed in a coat of buffalo-skin, made with the hair outward, which gave him a shaggy and fierce appearance, perfectly in keeping with the whole air of his physiognomy.
In the head and face every organ and lineament expressive of brutal and unhesitating violence was in a state of the highest possible development. He was accompanied by a travelling companion, in many respects an exact contrast to himself. He was short and slender, lithe and catlike in his motions, and had a peering, mousing expression about his keen black eyes, with which every feature of his face seemed sharpened into sympathy; his thin, long nose, ran out as if it was eager to bore into the nature of things in general; his sleek, thin, black hair was stuck eagerly forward, and all his motions and evolutions expressed a dry, cautious acuteness.
The great man poured out a big tumbler half full of raw spirits, and gulped it down without a word. The little man stood tiptoe, and putting his head first to one side and then the other, and snuffing considerately in the directions of the various bottles, ordered at last a mint julep, in a thin and quivering voice, and with an air of great circumspection.
When poured out, he took it and looked at it with a sharp, complacent air, like a man who thinks he has done about the right thing, and hit the nail on the head, and proceeded to dispose of it in short and well-advised sips. Why, Loker, how are ye? The mousing man, who bore the name of Marks, instantly stopped his sipping, and, poking his head forward, looked shrewdly on the new acquaintance, as a cat sometimes looks at a moving dry leaf, or some other possible object of pursuit.
Haley, I believe? Behold, then, the candles lighted, the fire stimulated to the burning point in the grate, and our three worthies seated round a table, well spread with all the accessories to good fellowship enumerated before. Haley began a pathetic recital of his peculiar troubles.
Loker shut up his mouth, and listened to him with gruff and surly attention. The conclusion of it appeared to amuse him extremely, for he shook his shoulders and sides in silence, and perked up his thin lips with an air of great internal enjoyment. Fact—he was stone blind. Loker brought down his fist with a thump that fully explained the hiatus.
Haley, who had been imbibing very freely of the staple of the evening, began to feel a sensible elevation and enlargement of his moral faculties,—a phenomenon not unusual with gentlemen of a serious and reflective turn, under similar circumstances. Now, Mr. Haley, what is it?