But the action of the woman had been seen by the driver, across the field; and, flourishing his whip, he came up to her.
"What! what!" he said to the woman, with an air of triumph, "You a foolin'? Go along! yer under me now, — mind yourself, or yer'll cotch it!"
A glance like sheet-lightning suddenly flashed from those black eyes; and, facing about, with quivering lip and dilated nostrils, she drew herself up, and fixed a glance, blazing with rage and scorn, on the driver.
"Dog!" she said, "touch me, if you dare! I've power enough, yet, to have you torn by the dogs, burnt alive, cut to inches! I've only to say the word!"
"What de devil you here for, den?" said the man, evidently cowed, and sullenly retreating a step or two. "Didn't mean no harm, Misse Cassy!"
"Keep your distance, then!" said the woman. And, in truth, the man seemed greatly inclined to attend to something at the other end of the field, and started off in quick time.
The woman suddenly turned to her work, and labored with a despatch that was perfectly astonishing to Tom. She seemed to work by magic. Before the day was through, her basket was filled, crowded down, and piled, and she had several times put largely into Tom's. Long after dusk, the whole weary train, with their baskets on their heads, defiled up to the building appropriated to the storing and weighing the cotton. Legree was there, busily conversing with the two drivers.
"Dat ar Tom's gwine to make a powerful deal o' trouble; kept a puttin' into Lucy's basket. — One o' these yer dat will get all der niggers to feelin' bused, if Masir don't watch him!" said Sambo.
"Hey-dey! The black cuss!" said Legree. "He'll have to get a breakin' in, won't he, boys?"
Both negroes grinned a horrid grin, at this intimation.
"Ay, ay! Let Mas'r Legree alone, for breakin' in! De debil heself couldn't beat Mas'r at dat!" said Quimbo.
"Wal, boys, the best way is to give him the flogging to do, till he gets over his notions. Break him in!"
"Lord, Mas'r'll have hard work to get dat out o' him!"
"It'll have to come out of him, though!" said Legree, as he rolled his tobacco in his mouth.
"Now, dar's Lucy, — de aggravatinest, ugliest wench on de place!" pursued Sambo.
"Take care, Sam; I shall begin to think what's the reason for your spite agin Lucy."
"Well, Mas'r knows she sot herself up agin Mas'r, and wouldn't have me, when he telled her to."
"I'd a flogged her into 't," said Legree, spitting, "only there's such a press o' work, it don't seem wuth a while to upset her jist now. She's slender; but these yer slender gals will bear half killin' to get their own way!"
"Wal, Lucy was real aggravatin' and lazy, sulkin' round; wouldn't do nothin, — and Tom he stuck up for her."
"He did, eh! Wal, then, Tom shall have the pleasure of flogging her. It'll be a good practice for him, and he won't put it on to the gal like you devils, neither."
"Ho, ho! haw! haw! haw!" laughed both the sooty wretches; and the diabolical sounds seemed, in truth, a not unapt expression of the fiendish character which Legree gave them.
"Wal, but, Mas'r, Tom and Misse Cassy, and dey among 'em, filled Lucy's basket. I ruther guess der weight 's in it, Mas'r!"
"I do the weighing!" said Legree, emphatically.
Both the drivers again laughed their diabolical laugh.
"So!" he added, "Misse Cassy did her day's work."
"She picks like de debil and all his angels!"
"She's got 'em all in her, I believe!" said Legree; and, growling a brutal oath, he proceeded to the weighing-room.
Slowly the weary, dispirited creatures, wound their way into the room, and, with crouching reluctance, presented their baskets to be weighed.
Legree noted on a slate, on the side of which was pasted a list of names, the amount.
Tom's basket was weighed and approved; and he looked, with an anxious glance, for the success of the woman he had befriended.
Tottering with weakness, she came forward, and delivered her basket. It was of full weight, as Legree well perceived; but, affecting anger, he said,
"What, you lazy beast! short again! stand aside, you'll catch it, pretty soon!"
The woman gave a groan of utter despair, and sat down on a board.
The person who had been called Misse Cassy now came forward, and, with a haughty, negligent air, delivered her basket. As she delivered it, Legree looked in her eyes with a sneering yet inquiring glance.
She fixed her black eyes steadily on him, her lips moved slightly, and she said something in French. What it was, no one knew; but Legree's face became perfectly demoniacal in its expression, as she spoke; he half raised his hand, as if to strike, — a gesture which she regarded with fierce disdain, as she turned and walked away.
"And now," said Legree, "come here, you Tom. You see, I telled ye I didn't buy ye jest for the common work; I mean to promote ye, and make a driver of ye; and tonight ye may jest as well begin to get yer hand in. Now, ye jest take this yer gal and flog her; ye've seen enough on't to know how."
"I beg Mas'r's pardon," said Tom; "hopes Mas'r won't set me at that. It's what I an't used to, — never did, — and can't do, no way possible."
"Ye'll larn a pretty smart chance of things ye never did know, before I've done with ye!" said Legree, taking up a cowhide, and striking Tom a heavy blow cross the cheek, and following up the infliction by a shower of blows.
"There!" he said, as he stopped to rest; "now, will ye tell me ye can't do it?"
"Yes, Mas'r," said Tom, putting up his hand, to wipe the blood, that trickled down his face. "I'm willin' to work, night and day, and work while there's life and breath in me; but this yer thing I can't feel it right to do; — and, Mas'r, I never shall do it, — never!"