The sitting-room of Legree’s establishment was a large, long room, with a wide, ample fireplace. It had once been hung with a showy and expensive paper, which now hung mouldering, torn and discolored, from the damp walls. The place had that peculiar sickening, unwholesome smell, compounded of mingled damp, dirt and decay, which one often notices in close old houses. The wall-paper was defaced, in spots, by slops of beer and wine; or garnished with chalk memorandums, and long sums footed up, as if somebody had been practising arithmetic there. In the fireplace stood a brazier full of burning charcoal; for, though the weather was not cold, the evenings always seemed damp and chilly in that great room; and Legree, moreover, wanted a place to light his cigars, and heat his water for punch. The ruddy glare of the charcoal displayed the confused and unpromising aspect of the room,—saddles, bridles, several sorts of harness, riding-whips, overcoats, and various articles of clothing, scattered up and down the room in confused variety; and the dogs, of whom we have before spoken, had encamped themselves among them, to suit their own taste and convenience.
Legree was just mixing himself a tumbler of punch, pouring his hot water from a cracked and broken-nosed pitcher, grumbling, as he did so,
“Plague on that Sambo, to kick up this yer row between me and the new hands! The fellow won’t be fit to work for a week, now,—right in the press of the season!”
“Yes, just like you,” said a voice, behind his chair. It was the woman Cassy, who had stolen upon his soliloquy.
“Hah! you she-devil! you’ve come back, have you?”
“Yes, I have,” she said, coolly; “come to have my own way, too!”
“You lie, you jade! I’ll be up to my word. Either behave yourself, or stay down to the quarters, and fare and work with the rest.”
“I’d rather, ten thousand times,” said the woman, “live in the dirtiest hole at the quarters, than be under your hoof!”
“But you are under my hoof, for all that,” said he, turning upon her, with a savage grin; “that’s one comfort. So, sit down here on my knee, my dear, and hear to reason,” said he, laying hold on her wrist.
“Simon Legree, take care!” said the woman, with a sharp flash of her eye, a glance so wild and insane in its light as to be almost appalling. “You’re afraid of me, Simon,” she said, deliberately; “and you’ve reason to be! But be careful, for I’ve got the devil in me!”
The last words she whispered in a hissing tone, close to his ear.
“Get out! I believe, to my soul, you have!” said Legree, pushing her from him, and looking uncomfortably at her. “After all, Cassy,” he said, “why can’t you be friends with me, as you used to?”
“Used to!” said she, bitterly. She stopped short,—a word of choking feelings, rising in her heart, kept her silent.