“I’ll give him to you,” Hugh said. “Call him, Miss Johnson.”
Alice obeyed, and Sam came hobbling in, listening in amazement to Hugh’s question.
“Would you like to be free, my boy?”
There was a sudden flush on the old man’s cheek, and then he answered, meekly:
“Thanky’, Mas’r Hugh. It comed a’most too late. Years ago, when Sam was young and peart, de berry smell of freedom make de sap bump through de veins like trip-hammer. Den, world all before, now world all behind. Nothing but t’other side of Jordan before. ’Bleeged to you, berry much, but when mas’r bought ole Sam for pity, ole Sam feel in his bones that some time he pay Mas’r Hugh; he don’t know how, but it be’s comin’. Sam knows it. I’m best off here.”
“But suppose I died, when I was so sick, what then?” Hugh asked, and Sam replied:
“I thinks that all over on dem days mas’r so rarin’. I prays many times that God would spar’ young mas’r, and He hears ole Sam. He gives us back our mas’r.”
There were tears in Hugh’s eyes, but he again urged upon him his freedom, offering to give him either to Adah or Alice, just which he preferred.
“I likes ’em both,” Sam said, “but I likes Mas’r Hugh de best, ’case, scuse me, mas’r, he ain’t in de way, I feared, and Sam hope to help him find it. Sam long’s to Mas’r Hugh till dat day comes he sees ahead, when he pays off de debt.”
With another blessing on Mas’r Hugh Sam left the room.
“What can he mean about a coming day when he can pay his debt?” Hugh asked, but Alice could not enlighten him.
Adah, however, after hesitating a moment, replied:
“During your illness you have lost the newspaper gossip to the effect that if Lincoln is elected to the presidential chair, civil war is sure to be the result. Now, what Sam means is this, that in case of a rebellion or insurrection, which he fully expects, he will in some way save your life, he don’t know how, but he is sure.”
To Alice the word rebellion or insurrection had a dreadful sound, and her cheek paled with fear, but the feeling quickly passed away, as, like many other deluded ones she thought how impossible it was that our fair republic should be compelled to lay her dishonored head low in the dust.
It was settled finally that Adah should go as soon as the necessary additions could be made to her own and Willie’s wardrobe, and then Alice adroitly led the conversation to Colonel Tiffton and his embarrassments. What did Hugh think Mosside worth, and who would probably be most anxious to secure it? There were livid spots on Hugh’s face now, and a strange gleam in his dark eyes as he answered between his teeth, “Harney,” groaning aloud as he remembered Rocket, and saw him in fancy the property of his enemy.
THE DAY OF THE SALE
It was strange Hugh did not improve faster, the old doctor thought. There was something weighing on his mind, he said, something which kept him awake, and the kind man set himself to divine the cause. Thinking at last he had done so, he said to him one day, the last before the sale: