Chapter VI: Henry's Return

Early on Monday morning, a steamer was heard puffing up the Mississippi. Many who reside near the river, by custom can tell the name of every approaching boat by the peculiar sound of the steam-pipe, the one in the present instance being the Sultana.
Daddy Joe had risen and just leaving for the plantation, but stopped a moment to be certain.
' Hush!' admonished mammy Judy, ' hush! sho chile, do'n yeh heah how she hollah? Sholy dat's de wat's name ! wat dat yeh call eh ? " Suckana," wat not; sho! I ain' gwine bautha my head long so—sho! See, ole man see ! dah she come ! See dat now! I tole yeh so, but yeh uden bleve me !' and the old man and woman stood for some minutes in breathless silence, although the boat must have been some five miles distant, as the escape of steam can be heard on the western waters a great way off.
The approach toward sunrise, admonished daddy Joe of demands for him at the cotton farm, when after bidding 'good monin' ole umin,' he hurried to the daily task which lie before him.
5Mammy Judy had learned by the boy Tony, that Henry was expected on the Sultana, and at the approach of every steamer, her head had been thrust out of the door or window to catch a distinct sound. In motionless attitude after the departure of her husband this morning, the old woman stood awaiting the steamer, when presently the boat arrived. But then to be certain that it was the expected vessel—now came the suspense.
The old woman was soon relieved from this most disagreeable of all emotions, by the cry of news boys returning from the wharf—
' 'Ere's the Picayune, Atlas, Delta! lates' news from New Orleans by the swift steamer Sultana!'
' Dah now !' exclaimed mammy Judy in soliloquy ; dah now! I tole yeh so!—de wat's name come!' Hurrying into the kitchen, she waited with anxiety the arrival of Henry
Busying about the breakfast for herself and other servants about the house—the white members of the family all being absent—mammy Judy for a time lost sight of the expected arrival. Soon however, a hasty footstep arrested her attention, when on looking around it proved to be Henry who came smiling up the yard.
10' How'd you do mammy! how's Mag' and the boy ?' inquired he, grasping the old woman by the hand.
She burst into a flood of tears, throwing herself upon him.
' What is the matter!' exclaimed Henry, ' is Maggie dead ?'
' No chile,' with increased sobs she replied, ' much betteh she wah.'
' My God! has she disgraced herself?'
15' No chile, may be betteh she dun so, den she bin heah now an' not sole. Maus Stephen sell eh case she!—I dun'o, reckon dat's da reason !'
' What!—Do you tell me mammy she had better disgraced herself than been sold! By the—!'
' So, Henry ! yeh ain' gwine swah! hope yeh ain' gwine lose yeh 'ligion ? Do'n do so ; put yeh trus' in de Land, he is suffishen fah all!'
' Don't tell me about religion! What's religion to me? My wife is sold away from me by a man who is one of the leading members of the very church to which both she and I belong! Put my trust in the Lord ! I have done so all my life nearly, and of what use is it to me ? My wife is sold from me just the same as if I did n't. I'll—'
' Come, come, Henry, yeh mus'n talk so; we is po' weak an' bline cretehs, an' cah see de way uh da Laud. He move' in a mystus way, his wundahs to puhfaum.'
20' So he may, and what is all that to me ? I don't gain anything by it, and—'
' Stop, Henry, stop! ain' de Land bless yo' soul ? ain' he take yeh foot out de miah an' clay, an' gib yeh hope da uddah side dis vale ub teahs ?'
'I'm tired looking the other side; I want a hope this side of the vale of tears. I want something on this earth as well as a promise of things in another world. I and my wife have been both robbed of our liberty, and you want me to be satisfied with a hope of heaven. I won't do any such thing; I have waited long enough on heavenly promises ; I'll wait no longer. I—'
'Henry, wat de mauttah wid yeh ? I neveh heah yeh talk so fo'—yeh sin in de sight ub God; yeh gone clean back, I reckon. De good Book tell us, a tousan' yeahs wid man, am but a day wid de Laud. Boy, yeh got wait de Laud own pinted time.'
' Well mammy, it is useless for me to stand here and have the same gospel preached into my ears by you, that I have all my life time heard from my enslavers. My mind is made up, my course is laid out, and if life last, I'll carry it out. I'll go out to the place to-day, and let them know that I have returned.'
25'Sho boy! what yeh gwine do, bun house down ? Bettah put yeh trus' in de Laud !' concluded the old woman.
' You have too much religion mammy for me to tell you what I intend doing,' said Henry in conclusion.
After taking up his little son, impressing on his lips and cheeks kisses for himself and tears for his mother, the intelligent slave left the abode of the care-worn old woman, for that of his master at the cotton place.
Henry was a black—a pure negro—handsome, manly and intelligent, in size comparing well with his master, but neither so fleshy nor heavy built in person. A man of good literary attainments—unknown to Col. Franks, though he was aware he could read and write—having been educated in the West Indies, and decoyed away when young. His affection for wife and child was not excelled by colonel Franks for his. He was bold, determined and courageous, but always mild, gentle and courteous, though impulsive when an occasion demanded his opposition.
Going immediately to the place, he presented himself before his master. Much conversation ensued concerning the business which had been entrusted to his charge, all of which was satisfactorily transacted, and full explanations concerning the horses, but not a word was uttered concerning the fate of Maggie, the Colonel barely remarking ' your mistress is unwell.'
30After conversing till a late hour, Henry was assigned a bed in the great house, but sleep was far from his eyes. He turned and changed upon his bed with restlessness and anxiety, impatiently awaiting a return of the morning.
To Chapter VII

Textual Notes

3heah] 59; hear 61
3hollah] 59; holler 61
3eh?] 59; er?' 61
3bautha] 59; bauther 61
3dah] 59; dare 61
3!'] 59; ?' 61
3,] 59; not in 61
6of] 59; of the news 61
7'] 59; not in 61
8Dah] 59; Dare 61
8dah] 59; 'dare 61
8-9Henry] 59; of Henry. / Busying 61
13wah] 59; war 61
15betteh] 59; bettah 61
15heah] 59; hear 61
15an'] 59; and 61
15da] 59; de 61
17ain'] 59; yeh ain't gwine 61
17swah] 59; swar 61
17Do'n] 59; Don't 61
17Land] 59; Laud 61
18both] 59; not in 61
18did n't] 59; didn't 61
19cretehs] 59; cretors 61
19cah] 59; cant 61
19uh da] 59; ob de 61
19wundahs] 59; wundehs 61
19puhfaum] 59; pufaum 61
20,] 59; not in 61
21Land] 59; Laud 61
21miah] 59; mieh 61
21da uddah] 59; de udder 61
21ub teahs] 59; uh tears 61
22—'] 59;61
23/ 'Henry,] 59; ' / 'Henry, wat 61
23mauttah] 59; mautter 61
23heah] 59; hear 61
23yeahs] 59; years 61
23,] 59; not in 61
24life time] 59; lifetime 61
24that] 59; not in 61
25house] 59; hous 61
25Bettah] 59; Betteh 61
28colonel] 59; Colonel 61