Chapter XVII: Henry at Large

On leaving the plantation carrying them hanging upon his arm, thrown across his shoulders, and in his hands Henry had a bridle, halter, blanket, girt, and horsewhip, the emblems of a faithful servant in discharge of his master's business.
By shrewdness and discretion such was his management as he passed along, that he could tell the name of each place and proprietor, long before he reached them. Being a scholar, he carefully kept a record of the plantations he had passed, that when accosted by a white, as an overseer or patrol, he invariably pretended to belong to a back estate, in search of his master's race horse. If crossing a field, he was taking a near cut; but if met in a wood, the animal was in the forest, as being a great leaper no fence could debar him, though the forest was fenced and posted. The blanket a substitute for a saddle, was in reality carried for a bed.
With speed unfaltering and spirits unflinching, his first great strive was to reach the Red River, to escape from his own state as quickly as possible Proceeding on in the direction of the Red River country, he met with no obstruction, except in one instance, when he left his assailant quietly upon the earth. A few days after an inquest was held upon the body of a deceased overseer—verdict of the Jury, 'By hands unknown.'
On approaching the river, after crossing a number of streams, as the Yazoo, Ouchita, and such, he was brought to sad reflections. A dread came over him, difficulties lie before him, dangers stood staring him in the face at every step he took. Here for the first time since his maturity of manhood responsibilities rose up in a shape of which he had no conception. A mighty undertaking, such as had never before been ventured upon, and the duty devolving upon him, was too much for a slave with no other aid than the aspirations of his soul panting for liberty. Reflecting upon the peaceful hours he once enjoyed as a professing Christian, and the distance which slavery had driven him from its peaceful portals, here in the wilderness, determining to renew his faith and dependence upon Divine aid, when falling upon his knees, he opened his heart to God, as a tenement of the Holy Spirit.
5' Arm of the Lord awake! renew my faith, confirm my hope, perfect me in love. Give strength, give courage, guide and protect my pathway, and direct me in my course!' Springing to his feet as if a weight had fallen from him, he stood up a new man.
The river is narrow, the water red as if colored by iron rust, the channel winding. Beyond this river lies his hopes, the broad plains of Louisiana with a hundred thousand bondsmen, seeming anxiously to await him.
Standing upon a high bank of the stream, contemplating his mission, a feeling of humbleness, and a sensibility of unworthiness impressed him, and that religious sentiment which once gave comfort to his soul now inspiring anew his breast, Henry raised in solemn tones amidst the lonely wilderness:
' Could I but climb where Moses stood,
And view the landscape o'er;
10Not Jordan's streams, nor death's cold flood,
Could drive me from the shore !'
To the right of where he stood was a cove, formed by the washing of the stream at high water, which ran quite into the thicket, into which the sun shone through a space among the high trees.
While thus standing and contemplating his position, the water being too deep to wade, and on account of numerious sharks and alligators, too dangerous to swim, his attention was attracted by the sound of a steamer coming up the channel. Running into the cove to shield himself, a singular noise disturbed him, when to his terror he found himself amidst a squad of huge alligators, which sought the advantages of the sunshine.
His first impulse was to surrender himself to his fate and be devoured, as in the rear and either side, the bank was perpendicular, escape being impossible except by the way he entered, to do which would have exposed him to the view of the boat, which could not have been avoided. Meantime the frightful animals were crawling over and among each other, at a fearful rate.
15Seizing the fragment of a limb which lay in the cove, beating upon the ground and yelling like a madman, giving them all possible space, the beasts were frightened at such a rate, that they reached the water in less time than Henry reached the bank. Receding into the forest, he thus escaped the observation of the passing steamer, his escape serving to strengthen his fate in a renewed determination of spiritual dependence.
While gazing upon the stream in solemn reflection for Divine aid to direct him, logs came floating down, which suggested a proximity to the raft with which sections of that stream is filled, when going but a short distance up, he crossed in safety to the Louisiana side. His faith was now fully established, and thenceforth, Henry was full of hope and confident of success.
Reaching Alexandria with no obstruction, his first secret meeting was held in the hut of aunt Dilly. Here he found them all ready for an issue.
' An dis you chile ?' said the old woman, stooping with age, sitting on a low stool in the chimney corner ; 'dis many day, I heahn on yeh !' though Henry had just entered on his mission. From Alexandria he passed rapidly on to Latuer's making no immediate stops, prefering to organize at the more prominent places.
This is a mulatto planter, said to have come from the isle of Guadaloupe. Riding down the road upon a pony at a quick gallop, was a mulatto youth a son of the planter, an old black man on foot keeping close to the horse's heels.
20'Whose boy are you?' enquried the young mulatto, who had just dismounted, the old servant holding his pony.
' I'm in search of master's race horse.'
' What is your name ?' farther enquired the young mulatto.
' Gilbert sir.'
' What do you want ?'
25' I am hungry sir.'
' Dolly,' said he to an old black woman at the woodpile ; ' show this man into the negro quarter, and give him something to eat; give him a cup of milk. Do you like milk my man ?'
' Yes sir, I have no choice when hungry ; anything will do.'
' Da is none heah but claubah, maus Eugene,' replied the old cook.
' Give him that,' said the young master. ' You people like that kind of stuff I believe; our negroes like it.'
30' Yes sir,' replied Henry, when the the lad left.
' God knows'e needn' talk 'bout wat we po' black folks eat,case da don'ghin us nothin' else but dat an' caun bread.' muttered the old woman.
' Dont they treat you well, aunty ?' enquired Henry.
' God on'y knows my chile, wat we suffeh.'
' Who was that old man who ran behind your master's horse ?
35' Dat Nathan, my husban'.'
' Do they treat him well, aunty ?'
' No chile, wus an' any dog, da beat 'im foh little an nothin'.'
' Is uncle Nathan religious ?'
' Yes chile ole man an' I's been sahvin' God dis many day, fo yeh baun ! Wen any on 'em in de house git sick, den da sen foh 'uncle Nathan' come pray foh dem ; ' uncle Nathan' mighty good den!'
40' Do you know that the Latuers are colored people ?'
' Yes, chile; God bless yeh soul yes! Case huh mammy ony dead two-three yehs, an' she black as me.'
' How did they treat her?'
' Not berry well; she nus da childen; an eat in a house arter all done.'
' What did Latuer's children call her?'
45' Da call huh 'mammy,' same like wite folks childen call de nus.'
' Can you tell me aunty why they treat you people so badly, knowing themselves to be colored, and some of the slaves related to them ?'
' God bless yeh hunny, de wite folks, dese plantehs make 'em so; da run heah, an' tell 'em da mus'n treat deh niggehs, well, case da spile 'em.'
' Do the white planters frequently visit here ?'
' Yes, hunny, yes, da heah some on 'em all de time eatin' an' drinkin' long wid de old man ; da on'y tryin' git wat little 'e got, dat all! Da 'tend to be great frien' de ole man ; but laws a massy hunny, I doh mine dese wite folks no how !'
50' Does your master ever go to their houses and eat with them ?'
' Yes chile, some time'e go, but den half on 'em got nothin' fit to eat; da hab fat poke an' bean, caun cake an' sich like, dat all da got, some on 'em.'
' Does Mr. Latuer give them better at his table ?'
' Laws hunny, yes; yes'n deed chile? 'E got mutton—some time whole sheep mos'—fowl, pig, an' ebery tum ting a nuddeh, 'e got so much ting dah, I haudly know wat cook fus.'
' Do the white planters associate with the family of Latuer ?'
55' One on 'em, ten 'e coatin de dahta ; I dont recon 'e gwine hab heh. Da cah fool long wid 'Toyeh's gals dat way.'
' Whose girls, Metoyers ?'
' Yes chile.'
' Do you mean the wealthy planters of that name ?'
' Dat same chile.'
60' Well, I want to understand you : You don't mean to say that they are colored people.'
' Yes, hunny, yes ; da good culed folks any body. Some five-six boys' an five-six gals on 'em ; da all rich.'
' How do they treat their slaves ?'
' Da boys all mighty haud maustas, da gals all mighty good ; sahvants all like em.'
' You seem to understand these people very well aunty. Now please tell me what kind of masters there are generally in the Red river country.'
65'Haud 'nough chile, haud 'nough, God on'y knows!'
' Do the colored masters treat theirs generally worse than the whites ?'
' No hunny, 'bout da same.'
' That's just what I want to know. What are the usual allowances for slaves ?'
' Da 'low de fiel' han' two suit a yeah foh umin one long linen coat,* make suit, an' foh man, pantaloon an' jacket.'
70' How about eating ?'
' Half peck meal ah day foh family uh fo!'
' What about weekly privileges ? Do you have Saturday to yourselves ?'
' Laud hunny, no ! no chile, no ! Da do'n 'low us no time, 'tall. Da 'low us ebery uddeh Sunday wash ouh close ; dat all de time we git.'
' Then you don't get to sell anything for yourselves ?'
75' No, hunny, no ? Da don' 'low pig, chicken, tucky, goose, bean, pea, tateh, nothin' else.'
' Well aunty, I'm glad to meet you, and as evening's drawing nigh, I must see your husband a little, then go.'
' God bless yeh chile whah ebeh yeh go ! Yeh ain' arteh no race-hos, dat yeh aint.
' You got something to eat my man, did you?' enquired the lad Eugene, at the conclusion of his interview with uncle Nathan.
' I did sir, and feasted well!' replied Henry in conclusion ; ' Good bye!' and he left for the next plantation suited to his objects.
80' God bless de baby !' said old aunt Dolly as uncle Nathan entered the hut, referring to Henry.
' Ah, chile !' replied the old man with tears in his eyes; 'my yeahs has heahn dis day !'
* Coat—a term used by slaves for frock.

Textual Notes

1them] 59; not in 61
1hands] 59; his hands, Henry 61
2fence] 59; thing 61
3possible] 59; as possible. 61
4lie] 59; lay 61
4falling] 59; dropping 61
6lies] 59; lay 61
7,] 59; not in 61
8climb] 59; clime 61
13numerious] 59; numerous 61
13which] 59; which had sought 61
13advantages] 59; advantage 61
15fate] 59; faith 61
16stream] 59; steamer 61
16is] 59; are 61
17/ Reaching] 59; Reaching the Alexandria 61
18?'] 59; !' 61
18heahn] 59; hearn 61
19is] 59; was 61
19pony] 59; poney 61
19youth] 59; mulatto youth, a 61
20enquried] 59; inquired 61
28heah] 59; hear 61
28claubah] 59; claubeh 61
30the] 59; not in 61
31ghin] 59; g'in 61
31.'] 59; ,' 61
32enquired] 59; inquired 61
34?] 59; ?' 61
37foh] 59; for 61
39sahvin] 59; sarvin 61
39day,] 59; day, 'fo yeh 61
39foh] 59; for 61
39foh] 59; for 61
41huh] 59; 'er 61
41yehs] 59; years 61
43da] 59; de 61
43a] 59; de 61
45huh] 59; not in 61
45'mammy,'] 59; call 'er 'mammy' same 61
45,'] 59; ' 61
46knowing] 59; konwing 61
47heah] 59; hear 61
47deh] 59; der 61
47,] 59; not in 61
48frequently] 59; frequentl 61
49heah] 59; hear 61
49laws] 59; laus 61
49massy] 59; messy 61
49doh] 59; don' 61
53?] 59; ! 61
53nuddeh] 59; nudder 61
53dah] 59; dar 61
53haudly] 59; hardly 61
55,] 59; ' 61
55dahta] 59; darter 61
55dont] 59; don't 61
55heh] 59; 'er 61
55cah] 59; can' 61
60:] 59; . 61
61' an] 59; and 61
63Da] 59; De 61
63maustas] 59; maustes 61
63da] 59; de 61
65'nough] 59; 'Haud 'nough, chile, 61
67da] 59; de 61
69yeah foh] 59; year for 61
69umin] 59; for umin, one 61
69foh] 59; for 61
71ah] 59; a 61
71foh] 59; for 61
71uh] 59; ob 61
71!'] 59; '!' 61
72?] 59; ?' 61
73uddeh] 59; udder 61
73wash ouh] 59; was our 61
75'] 59; not in 61
77whah ebeh] 59; whar eber 61
77.] 59; .' 61
78enquired] 59; inquired 61
78.] 59; not in 61
81yeahs] 59; years 61
81heahn] 59; hearn 61