It never pays to be a slave. It never benefits a man or a people to submit to tyranny. A slave is a man forgotten of God. That fight against slavery was a beautiful, a joyful thing to me, with all its penalties of compassion and guilty feeling afterward. I think the best thing a man or boy can do is to find out how far and to whom he is a slave, and fight that servitude tooth and nail as I fought Ace. It would make this a different world.
I SEE THE WORLD, AND SUFFER A GREAT LOSS
The strange thing to me about my fight with Ace was that nobody thought of such a thing as punishing me for it. I was free to fight or not as I pleased. I needed to be free more than anything else, and I wanted plenty of good food and fresh air. All these I got, for Captain Sproule, while stern and strict with us, enforced only those rules which were for the good of the boat, and these seemed like perfect liberty to me—after I whipped Ace. As for my old tyrant, he recovered his spirits very soon, and took the place of an underling quite contentedly. I suppose he had been used to it. I ruled in a manner much milder than his. I had never learned to swear—or to use harder words than gosh, and blast, and dang where the others swore the most fearful oaths as a matter of ordinary talk. I made a rule that Ace must quit swearing; and slapped him up to a peak a few times for not obeying—which was really a hard thing for him to do while driving; and when he was in a quarrel I always overlooked his cursing, because he could not fight successfully unless he had the right to work himself up into a passion by calling names and swearing.
As for myself I walked and rode erect and felt my limbs as light as feathers, as compared with their leaden weight when I lived at Tempe and worked in the factory. Soon I took on my share of the fighting as a matter of course. I did it as a rule without anger and found that beyond a bloody nose or a scratched face, these fights did not amount to much. I was small for my age, and like most runts I was stronger than I looked, and gave many a driver boy a bad surprise. I never was whipped, though I was pummeled severely at times. When the fight grew warm enough I began to see red, and to cry like a baby, boring in and clinching in a mad sort of way; and these young roughs knew that a boy who fought and cried at the same time had to be killed before he would say enough. So I never said enough; and in my second year I found I had quite a reputation as a fighter—but I never got any joy out of it.