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“There would be a store of balm in that, if I did but know. Her beauty doomed her to a creature life, which, when she had worn out, she was sold, as I may be, God knows how soon. Though far away from me, she is my mother still, in all that recollection can make her; her countenance seems like a wreath decorating our past associations. Shrink not when I tell it, for few shrink at such things now,–I saw her chained; I didn’t think much of it then, for I was too young. And she took me in her arms and kissed me, the tears rolled down her cheeks; and she said-‘Clotilda, Clotilda, farewell! There is a world beyond this, a God who knows our hearts, who records our sorrows;’ and her image impressed me with feelings I cannot banish. To look back upon it seems like a rough pilgrimage; and then when I think of seeing her again my mind gets lost in hopeless expectations”–
“You saw her chained?” interrupted Maxwell.
“Yes, even chained with strong irons. It need not surprise you. Slavery is a crime; and they chain the innocent lest the wrong should break forth upon themselves.” And she raised her hands to her face, shook her head, and laid Annette in the little bed at the foot of her own.
What is it that in chaining a woman, whether she be black as ebony or white as snow, degrades all the traits of the southerner’s character, which he would have the world think noble? It is fear! The monster which the southerner sees by day, tolerates in his silence, protects as part and parcel of a legal trade, only clothes him with the disgrace that menials who make themselves mere fiends are guilty of, Maxwell thought to himself.
“I will set you free, if it cost my life!” he exclaimed.
“Hush, hush!” rejoined Clotilda: “remember those wretches on the plantation. They, through their ignorance, have learned to wield the tyranny of petty power; they look upon us with suspicious eyes. They know we are negroes (white negroes, who are despicable in their eyes), and feeling that we are more favoured, their envy is excited. They, with the hope of gaining favour, are first to disclose a secret. Save my child first, and then save me”–
“I will save you first; rest assured, I will save you;” he responded, shaking her hand, bidding her good night. On returning to the mansion he found Marston seated at the table in the drawing-room, in a meditative mood. Good night, my friend!” he accosted him.
“Ah, good night!” was the sudden response.
“You seem cast down?”
“No!-all’s not as it seems with a man in trouble. How misfortune quickens our sense of right! O! how it unfolds political and moral wrongs! how it purges the understanding, and turns the good of our natures to thoughts of justice. But when the power to correct is beyond our reach we feel the wrong most painfully,” Marston coldly replied.
“It never is too late to do good; my word for it, friend Marston, good is always worth its services. I am young and may serve you yet; rise above trouble, never let trifles trouble a man like you. The world seems wagging pleasantly for you; everybody on the plantation is happy; Lorenzo has gone into the world to distinguish himself; grief should never lay its scalpel in your feelings. Remember the motto-peace, pleasantry, and plenty; they are things which should always dispel the foreshadowing of unhappiness,” says Maxwell, jocularly, taking a chair at Marston’s request, and seating himself by the table.
Marston declares such consolation to be refreshing, but too easily conceived to effect his purpose. The ripest fruits of vice often produce the best moral reflections: he feels convinced of this truth; but here the consequences are entailed upon others. The degradation is sunk too deep for recovery by him,–his reflections are only a burden to him. The principle that moves him to atone is crushed by the very perplexity of the law that compels him to do wrong. “There’s what goads me,” he says: “it is the system, the forced condition making one man merchandise, and giving another power to continue him as such.” He arises from the table, his face flushed with excitement, and in silence paces the room to and fro for several minutes. Every now and then he watches at the window,–looks out towards the river, and again at the pine-woods forming a belt in the background, as if he expected some one from that direction. The serene scene without, calm and beautiful, contrasting with the perplexity that surrounded him within, brought the reality of the change which must soon take place in his affairs more vividly to his mind.
“Your feelings have been stimulated and modified by education; they are keenly sensitive to right,–to justice between man and man. Those are the beautiful results of early instruction. New England education! It founds a principle for doing good; it needs no contingencies to rouse it to action. You can view slavery with the unprejudiced eye of a philosopher. Listen to what I am about to say: but a few months have passed since I thought myself a man of affluence, and now nothing but the inroads of penury are upon me. The cholera (that scourge of a southern plantation) is again sweeping the district: I cannot expect to escape it, and I am in the hands of a greater scourge than the cholera,–a slow death-broker. He will take from you that which the cholera would not deign to touch: he has no more conscience than a cotton-press,” says Marston, reclining back in his chair, and calling the negro waiter.
The word conscience fell upon Maxwell’s ear with strange effect. He had esteemed Marston according to his habits-not a good test when society is so remiss of its duties: he could not reconcile the touch of conscience in such a person, nor could he realise the impulse through which some sudden event was working a moral regeneration in his mind. There was something he struggled to keep from notice. The season had been unpropitious nike air max 95 , bad crops had resulted; the cholera made its appearance, swept off many of the best negroes, spread consternation, nearly suspended discipline and labour. One by one his negroes fell victims to its ravages, until it became imperatively necessary to remove the remainder to the pine-woods.
Families might be seen here and there making their little preparations to leave for the hills: the direful scourge to them was an evil spirit, sent as a visitation upon their bad deeds. This they sincerely believe, coupling it with all the superstition their ignorance gives rise to. A few miles from the mansion, among the pines, rude camps are spread out, fires burn to absorb the malaria, to war against mosquitoes, to cook the evening meal; while, up lonely paths, ragged and forlorn-looking negroes are quietly wending their way to take possession. The cheap nike air max trainers stranger might view this forest bivouac as a picture of humble life pleasantly domiciled; but it is one of those unfortunate scenes, fruitful of evil, which beset the planter when he is least able to contend against them. Such events develope the sin of an unrighteous institution, bring its supporters to the portals of poverty, consign harmless hundreds to the slave-marts.
In this instance, however, we must give Marston credit for all that was good in his intentions, and separate him from the system. Repentance, however produced, is valuable for its example, and if too late for present utility, seldom fails to have an ultimate influence. Thus it was with Marston; and now that all these inevitable disasters were upon him, he resolved to be a father to Annette and Nicholas,–those unfortunates whom law and custom had hitherto compelled him to disown.
nike air max 90 sale Drawing his chair close to Maxwell, he lighted a cigar, and resumed the disclosure his feelings had apparently interrupted a few minutes before. “Now, my good friend, all these things are upon me; there is no escaping the issue. My people will soon be separated from me; my old, faithful servants, Bob and Harry, will regret me, and if they fall into the hands of a knave, will die thinking of the old plantation. As for Harry, I have made him a preacher,–his knowledge is wonderfully up on Scripture; he has demonstrated to me that niggers are more than mortal, or transitory things. My conscience was touched while listening to one of his sermons; and then, to think how I had leased him to preach upon a neighbouring plantation, just as a man would an ox to do a day’s work! Planters paid me so much per sermon, as if the gospel were merchandise, and he a mere thing falsifying all m cheap nike air max 95 y arguments against his knowledge of the Word of God. Well, it makes me feel as if I were half buried in my own degradation and blindness. And then, again, they are our property, and are bestowed upon us by a legal-”
“If that be wrong,” interrupted Maxwell, “you have no excuse for continuing it.”
“True! That’s just what I was coming at. The evil in its broadest expanse is there. We look calmly on the external objects of the system without solving its internal grievances,–we build a right upon the ruins of ancient wrongs, and we swathe our thoughts with inconsistency that we may make the curse of a system invulnerable. It is not that we cannot do good under a bad system, but that we cannot ameliorate it, lest we weaken the foundation. And yet all this seems as nothing when I recall a sin of greater magnitude-a sin that is upon me-a hideous blot, goading my very soul, rising up against me like a mountain, over which I can see nike air max 90 no pass. Again the impelling force of conscience incites me to make a desperate effort; but conscience rebukes me for not preparing the way in time. I could translate my feelings further, but, in doing so, the remedy seems still further from me-”
“Is it ever too late to try a remedy-to make an effort to surmount great impediments-to render justice to those who have suffered from such acts?” inquired Maxwell, interrupting Marston as he proceeded.
“If I could do it without sacrificing my honour, without exposing myself to the vengeance of the law. We are great sticklers for constitutional law, while we care little for constitutional justice. There is Clotilda; you see her, but you don’t know her history: if it were told it would resound through the broad expanse of our land. Yes, it would disclose a wrong, perpetrated under the smiles of liberty, against which the vengeance of high Heaven would be invoked. I know the secret, and yet I dare not disclose it; the curse handed down from her forefathers has been perpetuated by me. She nike air max 1 seems happy, and yet she is unhappy; the secret recesses of her soul are poisoned. And what more natural? for, by some unlucky incident, she has got an inkling of the foul means by which she was made a slave. To him who knows the right, the wrong is most painful; but I bought her of him whose trade it was to sell such flesh and blood! And yet that does not relieve me from the curse: there’s the stain; it hangs upo nike air max sale n me, it involves my inclinations, it gloats over my downfall-”
“You bought her!” again interrupts Maxwell.
“True,” rejoins the other, quickly, “’tis a trade well protected by our democracy. Once bought, we cannot relieve ourselves by giving them rights in conflict with the claims of creditors. Our will may be good, but the will without the means falls hopeless. My heart breaks under the knowledge that those children are mine. It is a sad revelation to make,–sad in the eyes of heaven and earth. My participation in wrong has proved sorrow to them: how can I look to the pains and struggles they must endure in life, when stung with the knowledge that I am the cause of it? I shall wither under the torture of my own conscience. And there is even an interest about them that makes my feelings bound joyfully when I recur them. Can it be aught but the fruit of natural affection? I think not; and yet I am compelled to disown them, and even to smother with falsehood the rancour that might find a place in Franconia’s bosom. Clotilda loves Annette with a mother’s fondness; but with all her fondness for her child she dare not love me, nor I the child.”
Maxwell suggests that his not having bought the child would certainly give him the right to control his own flesh and blood: but he knows little of slave law, and less of its customs. He, however, was anxious to draw from Marston full particulars of the secret that would disclose Clotilda’s history, over which the partial exposition had thrown the charm of mystery. Several times he was on the eve of proffering his services to relieve the burden working upon Marston’s mind; but his sympathies were enlisted t cheap nike air max oward the two unfortunate women, for whom he was ready to render good service, to relieve them and their children. Again, he remembered how singularly sensitive Southerners were on matters concerning the peculiar institution, especially when approached by persons from abroad. Perhaps it was a plot laid by Marston to ascertain his feelings on the subject, or, under that peculiar jealousy of Southerners who live in this manner, he might have discovered his interview with Clotilda, and, in forming a plan to thwart his project, adopted this singular course for disarming apprehensions.
At this stage of the proceedings a whispering noise was heard, as if coming from another part of the room. They stopped at the moment, looked round with surprise, but not seeing anything, resumed the conversation.
“Of whom did you purchase?” inqui air max 95 red Maxwell, anxiously.
“One Silenus; a trader who trades in this quality of property only, and has become rich by the traffic. He is associated with Anthony Romescos, once a desperado on the Texan frontier. These two coveys would sell their mossmates without a scruple, and think it no harm so long as they turned a dime. They know every justice of the peace from Texas to Fort M’Henry. Romescos is turned the desperado again, shoots, kills, and otherwise commits fell deeds upon his neighbour’s negroes; he even threatens them with death when they approach him for reparation. He snaps his fingers at law, lawyers, and judges: slave law is moonshine to those who have no rights in common law-”
“And he escapes? Then you institute laws, and substitute custom to make them null. It is a poor apology for a namesake. But do you assert t nike air max hat in the freest and happiest country-a country that boasts the observance of its statute laws-a man is privileged to shoot, maim, and torture a fellow-being, and that public opinion fails to bring him to justice?” ejaculated Maxwell.
“Yes,” returns Marston, seriously; “it is no less shameful than true. Three of my negroes has he killed very good-naturedly, and yet I have no proof to convict him. Even were I to seek redress, it would be against that prejudice which makes the rights of the enslaved unpopular.”
The trouble exists in making the man merchandise, reducing him to an abject being, without the protection of common law. Presently the tears began to flow down Marston’s cheeks, as he unbuttoned his shirt-collar with an air of restlessness, approached a desk that stood in one corner of the room, and drew from it a som cheap nike air max ewhat defaced bill of sale. There was something connected with that bit of paper, which, apart from anything else, seemed to harass him most. “But a minute before you entered I looked upon that paper,” he spoke, throwing it upon the table, “and thought how much trouble it had brought me, how through it I had left a curse upon innocent life. I paid fifteen hundred dollars for the souls and bodies of those two women, creatures of sense, delicacy, and tenderness. But I am not a bad man, after all. No, there are worse men than me in the world.”
“Gather, gather, ye incubus of misfortune, bearing to me the light of heaven, with which to see my sins. May it come to turn my heart in the right way, to seek its retribution on the wrong!” Thus concluding, Marston covers his face in his hands, and for several minutes weeps like a child cheap air max 95 . Again rising from his seat, he throws the paper on a table near an open window, and himself upon a couch near by.
Maxwell attempts to quiet him by drawing his attention from the subject. There is little use, however,–it is a terrible conflict,–the conflict of conscience awakening to a sense of its errors; the fate of regrets when it is too late to make amends.
While this was going on, a brawny hand reached into the window, and quickly withdrew the paper from the table. Neither observed it.
And at the moment, Marston ejaculated, “I will! I will! let it cost what it may. I will do justice to Clotilda and her child,–to Ellen and her child; I will free them, send them into a free country to be educated.” In his excitement he forgot the bill of sale.
“Like enough you will!” responds a gruff voice; and a loud rap at the hall nike air max classic -door followed. Dandy was summoned, opened the door, bowed Romescos into the room. He pretends to be under the influence of liquor, which he hopes will excuse his extraordinary familiarity at such a late hour. Touching the hilt of his knife, he swaggers into the presence of Marston, looks at him fixedly, impertinently demands something to drink. He cares not what it be, waits for no ceremony, tips the decanter, gulps his glass, and deliberately takes a seat.
The reader will perhaps detect the object of his presence; but, beyond that, there is something deep and desperate in the appearance of the man, rendering his familiarity exceedingly disagreeable. That he should present himself at such an untimely hour was strange, beyond Marston’s comprehension. It was, indeed, most inopportune; but knowing him, he feared him. He could not treat him with indifference,–there was his connection with Graspum, his power over the poor servile whites; he must be courteous-so, summoning his suavity, he orders Dandy to wait upon him.
Romescos amuses himself with sundry rude expressions about the etiquette of gentlemen,–their rights and associations,–the glorious freedom of a glorious land. Not heeding Dandy’s attention, he fills another glass copiously, twirls it upon the table, eyes Marston, and then Maxwell, playfully-drinks his beverage with the air of one quite at home.
“Marston, old feller,” he says, winking at Maxwell, “things don’t jibe so straight as they use’t-do they? I wants a stave o’ conversation on matters o’ business with ye to-morrow. It’s a smart little property arrangement; but I ain’t in the right fix just now; I can’t make the marks straight so we can understand two and two. Ye take, don’t ye? Somethin’ touching a genteel business with your fast young nephew, Lorenzo. Caution to the wise.” Romescos, making several vain attempts, rises, laughing with a half-independent air, puts his slouch hat on his head, staggers to the door, makes passes at Dandy, who waits his egress, and bidding them good night, disappears. ③

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