“Mas’r Legree, as ye bought me, I’ll be a true and faithful servant to ye. I’ll give ye all the work of my hands, all my time, all my strength; but my soul I won’t give up to mortal man. I will hold on to the Lord, and put his commands before all,—die or live; you may be sure on ’t. Mas’r Legree, I ain’t a grain afeard to die. I’d as soon die as not. Ye may whip me, starve me, burn me,—it’ll only send me sooner where I want to go.”
“I’ll make ye give out, though, ’fore I’ve done!” said Legree, in a rage.
“I shall have help,” said Tom; “you’ll never do it.”
“Who the devil’s going to help you?” said Legree, scornfully.
“The Lord Almighty,” said Tom.
“D—n you!” said Legree, as with one blow of his fist he felled Tom to the earth.
A cold soft hand fell on Legree’s at this moment. He turned,—it was Cassy’s; but the cold soft touch recalled his dream of the night before, and, flashing through the chambers of his brain, came all the fearful images of the night-watches, with a portion of the horror that accompanied them.
“Will you be a fool?” said Cassy, in French. “Let him go! Let me alone to get him fit to be in the field again. Isn’t it just as I told you?”
They say the alligator, the rhinoceros, though enclosed in bullet-proof mail, have each a spot where they are vulnerable; and fierce, reckless, unbelieving reprobates, have commonly this point in superstitious dread.
Legree turned away, determined to let the point go for the time.
“Well, have it your own way,” he said, doggedly, to Cassy.
“Hark, ye!” he said to Tom; “I won’t deal with ye now, because the business is pressing, and I want all my hands; but I never forget. I’ll score it against ye, and sometime I’ll have my pay out o’ yer old black hide,—mind ye!”
Legree turned, and went out.
“There you go,” said Cassy, looking darkly after him; “your reckoning’s to come, yet!—My poor fellow, how are you?”
“The Lord God hath sent his angel, and shut the lion’s mouth, for this time,” said Tom.
“For this time, to be sure,” said Cassy; “but now you’ve got his ill will upon you, to follow you day in, day out, hanging like a dog on your throat,—sucking your blood, bleeding away your life, drop by drop. I know the man.”
“No matter with what solemnities he may have been devoted upon the altar of slavery, the moment he touches the sacred soil of Britain, the altar and the God sink together in the dust, and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled, by the irresistible genius of universal emancipation.” CURRAN.*
* John Philpot Curran
(1750-1817), Irish orator and judge
who worked for Catholic emancipation.
A while we must leave Tom in the hands of his persecutors, while we turn to pursue the fortunes of George and his wife, whom we left in friendly hands, in a farmhouse on the road-side.