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"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 Sam.
"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 same again.'
"'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 eberybody.'
"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 after him.
"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 yours.'
"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 on board de ship.'
"Dey put him in boat and Sam go wid him to ship. Dey examine de wound and find it not bery serious. De captain was turning round when dey struck, and de blow had glanced off, but it had made a ugly gash; and what wid de surprise, and de loss ob blood, and knocking him head on de wharf, and de liquor, de captain had lost his consciousness. He soon come round, and Sam tell all about it. De captain shake Sam's hand bery much and call him his preserver, and ask what he do for him.
"'You take me out ob dis country,' me said, 'and Sam be grateful.'
"'Sartain, I will,' he said; 'and now what am de best ting to do?'
"'Me not stop on board now. Dey come and search de vessel for sure in de morning. When de four white men found, me hope five, den dere great rumpus. If five dead no suspicion fall on Sam, but you're sure to be asked questions. It would be known dat dey were gambling in de saloon, and it would be known dat you had broken de bank and had gone away wid your pockets stuffed full ob notes. People would suspec' dat likely enuff dey had made an attack on you. Dis you couldn't deny, for you will be bandaged up in de morning, and if you had killed dem no one would blame you. But it a different ting wid Sam. All dose rascals friends together, and you be bery sure dat some ob dem pay him off for it. If five men dead, all well and good. Den you say you knocked down and know nufing furder. You s'pose some people came up and take your side, and kill dose men, and carry you to de boat, and gib you ober to de sailors, and den go away; but dat you know nufing at all about it. If only four men killed den do oder, who will be sure to go away and say nufing ob his share in de business, will tell all his mates dat dis nigger intrude himself into de affair, and dat bad for Sam. So, sar, propose dat I go ashore, and dat I go down de bank five or six mile, and dere hide in de bush. When your ship come down you hoist little white flag, so Sam sure ob de right ship. If Sam tink de coast am clear he swim off. If you no see Sam when you get fifteen mile down de riber, den you anchor, and at night send a boat ashore. Sam come down to it for sure.'
"So de matter was arranged. De captain say he tree more days fill up his ship, but dat no do for me come on board by daylight because dere would be a pilot on board. Also he says little white flag no do, pilot tink him strange, but would tell one ob de men to hang a red shirt, as if to dry, up in de rigging. At night would show two lights ober de bow for me to know which was de ship.
"Fust dey bind up de wound on my shoulder, den dey gib me food for four days and a bottle of rum, and den row me ashore. Den Sam start, and before morning he hid in de swampy bush ten miles down de riber. He wait dere two days, den make him way down anoder four miles and dere stop. Late dat afternoon he see a ship come down de riber wid a red shirt in de rigging. He go on and on, and jus' as it got dark he anchor two miles furder down. Sam make his way along through de bush and at last get facing de ship. At twelve o'clock boat come along bery quiet. Sam go down and get in. De men say, 'Hush, make no noise. De pilot am as watchful as a cat. Dey had tied tings round de oars dat dey should make no noise, and when dey get to de side ob de ship dey lay dem in very quiet, hook on de tackle and hoist her up. De hatchway were off, and de men beckon to Sam, and two ob dem go down wid him, and de hatchways closed down again.
"'I tink we hab tricked him,' one ob de sailors said. 'Dere great row at New Orleans about de four men found dead dar. Dey come off and inquire ob de captain ober and ober again. Dey know you missing, and dey find de kitchen poker lying by de men, and tink you must have had a hand in it. A thousand dollars reward have been offered, and dey searched de ship high and low, and turn ober all de cargo. A guard stop on board till de last ting to see no one come off. When de captain say he anchor de pilot say no, but de captain say he in no hurry and not going to risk his ship by sailing at night. Me tink pilot smell a rat, for ebery time he hear a noise on deck he come out of his cabin and look round. We greased de falls to make dem run quiet, and took off our shoes so as to make no noise while we were lowering it. De men on deck was told to get de hatchway open when dey saw us coming, and so we hoped dat de pilot heard nufing. Now we must head you up in a cask. We hab bored some holes in it for de air. Den we shall pile oder casks on de top and leabe you. Dey are as likely as not to search de ship again when she goes past de forts, for de pilot will suspect dat it am possible dat you have come on board tonight.'
"Me take my place in a big sugar cask. Dey give me some water and some food, and den shut in de head ober me. Dere I remain two days. I heard some men come below and make a great noise, moving de cargo about near de hatchway, and dey hammered in all de casks ob de top tier to see if any ob dem was empty. I felt bery glad when it was all ober, and de hold was quiet again. I slept a great deal and did not know anything about time; but at last I heard a noise again, and de moving of casks, and den de head of de hogshead was taken out, and dere were de sailors and de captain. Dey shook Sam very hearty by de hand, and told him dat de ship was safe out at sea, and dat he was a free man.
"All through dat voyage dey bery kind to Sam. He libed de life ob a gentleman; ate, and drank, and smoke plenty, and nufing at all to do. At last we got to Liberpool, and dar de captain take Sam to a vessel bound to New York, pay him passage across, and gib Sam a present ob fifty pound. Dis chile had saved fifty beside, so he felt dat he was a rich man. Nufing happen on passage, except great storm, and Sam thought dat de steamer go to de bottom, but she got through all right, and Sam land at New York. Den he journey to Philadelphia, dat the place where missy give Sam a card wid a name and address written on it, for him to go to ask where Sally was living. Well, sar, you could have knocked me down when I find a great bill in de window, saying dat de house were to let. Sam almost go out ob his mind. He ask a great many people, de servants at de doors, and de people in de shops and at last find dat de family am gone to trabel in Europe, and dat dey might be away for years.
"For two months Sam searched about Philadelphia, and looked at ebery black woman he saw in de streets. He could see no signs whatsomeber ob Sally. Den he took a place as waiter at an hotel, and he wrote to missy at Richmond, to ask if she know Sally's address, but he neber got no answer to dat letter, and s'posed that missy was either dead or gone away. After he work dere for some months de idea came to Sam dat first class hotel wasn't de best place in de world to look for black woman. Den Sam went to warehouse and bought a lot of books and started to peddle them trough de country. He walked thousands ob miles, and altogether saw thousands ob black men, but nothing like Sally. Ebery black woman he could he spoke to, and asked dem if dey knew her. It was a curious ting dat no one did. Me did not find Sally, but me made a good deal of money, and tree more years pass away at dis work. By dis time me was nigh forty-five years old, as well as me could tell. Ebery few months me go back to Philadelphia and search dere again.
"One day a woman, dressed bery plain, came up to me and said, 'I hab been tole by my nurse dat you have been asking her if she had seen your wife.' I s'pose I looked hopeful like for she said at once, 'Me know nothing ob her, but I was interested about you. You are an escaped slabe, are you not?'
"'Yes, ma'am,' me said. 'Dere is no law against me here.'
"'None at all,' she said. 'But I thought that you might, like me, be interested in freeing slabes.'
"'Dat I am,' I said, 'dough I had neber thought much about it.'
"'You hab heard, p'raps,' she said, 'ob de underground railway.'
"'Yes, ma'am,' said I. 'Dat is de blessed 'stitution which smuggles slaves across the frontier.'
"'Dat is it,' she said, 'and I belongs to it.'
"'Does you, missy?' me says. 'De Lord bless you.'
"'Now,' she said, 'we want two or three more earnest men, men not afraid to risk deir libes, or what is worse deir freedom, to help deir follow creatures. I thought that you, habing suffered so much yourself, might be inclined to devote yourself to freeing oders from de horrors of slabery.'
"'Sam is ready, ma'am,' me says, 'It may be dat de Lord neber intends me see my Sally again, but if I can be de means ob helping to get oder men to join deir wives I shall be content.'
"'Very well,' she said. 'Come into my house now and we will talk about it.'
"Den she 'splained the whole business to me. Dere were, principally in lonely places, in swamps and woods, but sometimes libing in villages and towns in de south, people who had devoted deir libes to de carrying out of de purposes ob de underground railway. For de most part dese led libes differing no way from deir neighbors; dey tilled de land, or kept stores like oders, and none of dose around dem suspected in de slightest degree deir mission in de south. To deir houses at night fugitive slabes would come, guided by dose from de next post. De fugitives would be concealed for twenty-four hours or more, and den passed on at night again to de next station. Dose formed the larger portion ob de body.
"Dere were oders who lived a life in de swamps, scattered trough the country. Deir place of residence would be known to de slabes ob de neighborhood, but de masters had no suspicion dat de emissaries ob de association were so near. To dese any negro, driben to desperation by harsh treatment, would resort, and from dem instructions would be received as to de route to be taken, and de places where aid could be obtained. Dose people held deir life in deir hands. Had any suspicion fallen upon dem ob belonging to de 'stitution dey would be lynched for sartin. De lady set before me all de dangers ob de venture. She said it war a case whar dere were no money to be earned, and only de chances of martyrdom. My mind quite made up. Me ready to undertake any work dey like to give me. My life ob no value to no one. De next day me saw some ob de oder people connected wid de affair, and tree days afterwards I started for de south."
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