Emmeline and Cassy
Cassy entered the room, and found Emmeline sitting, pale with fear, in the furthest corner of it. As she came in, the girl started up nervously; but, on seeing who it was, rushed forward, and catching her arm, said, "O Cassy, is it you? I'm so glad you've come! I was afraid it was — . O, you don't know what a horrid noise there has been, down stairs, all this evening!"
"I ought to know," said Cassy, dryly. "I've heard it often enough."
"O Cassy! do tell me, — couldn't we get away from this place? I don't care where, — into the swamp among the snakes, — anywhere! Couldn't we get somewhere away from here?"
"Nowhere, but into our graves," said Cassy.
"Did you ever try?"
"I've seen enough of trying and what comes of it," said Cassy.
"I'd be willing to live in the swamps, and gnaw the bark from trees. I an't afraid of snakes! I'd rather have one near me than him," said Emmeline, eagerly.
"There have been a good many here of your opinion," said Cassy; "but you couldn't stay in the swamps, — you'd be tracked by the dogs, and brought back, and then — then — "
"What would he do?" said the girl, looking, with breathless interest, into her face.
"What wouldn't he do, you'd better ask," said Cassy. "He's learned his trade well, among the pirates in the West Indies. You wouldn't sleep much, if I should tell you things I've seen, — things that he tells of, sometimes, for good jokes. I've heard screams here that I haven't been able to get out of my head for weeks and weeks. There's a place way out down by the quarters, where you can see a black, blasted tree, and the ground all covered with black ashes. Ask anyone what was done there, and see if they will dare to tell you."
"O! what do you mean?"
"I won't tell you. I hate to think of it. And I tell you, the Lord only knows what we may see tomorrow, if that poor fellow holds out as he's begun."
"Horrid!" said Emmeline, every drop of blood receding from her cheeks. "O, Cassy, do tell me what I shall do!"
"What I've done. Do the best you can, — do what you must, — and make it up in hating and cursing."
"He wanted to make me drink some of his hateful brandy," said Emmeline; "and I hate it so — "
"You'd better drink," said Cassy. "I hated it, too; and now I can't live without it. One must have something; — things don't look so dreadful, when you take that."
"Mother used to tell me never to touch any such thing," said Emmeline.
"Mother told you!" said Cassy, with a thrilling and bitter emphasis on the word mother. "What use is it for mothers to say anything? You are all to be bought and paid for, and your souls belong to whoever gets you. That's the way it goes. I say, drink brandy; drink all you can, and it'll make things come easier."
"O, Cassy! do pity me!"
"Pity you! — don't I? Haven't I a daughter, — Lord knows where she is, and whose she is, now, — going the way her mother went, before her, I suppose, and that her children must go, after her! There's no end to the curse — forever!"
"I wish I'd never been born!" said Emmeline, wringing her hands.
"That's an old wish with me," said Cassy. "I've got used to wishing that. I'd die, if I dared to," she said, looking out into the darkness, with that still, fixed despair which was the habitual expression of her face when at rest.
"It would be wicked to kill one's self," said Emmeline.
"I don't know why, — no wickeder than things we live and do, day after day. But the sisters told me things, when I was in the convent, that make me afraid to die. If it would only be the end of us, why, then — "
Emmeline turned away, and hid her face in her hands.
While this conversation was passing in the chamber, Legree, overcome with his carouse, had sunk to sleep in the room below. Legree was not an habitual drunkard. His coarse, strong nature craved, and could endure, a continual stimulation, that would have utterly wrecked and crazed a finer one. But a deep, underlying spirit of cautiousness prevented his often yielding to appetite in such measure as to lose control of himself.
This night, however, in his feverish efforts to banish from his mind those fearful elements of woe and remorse which woke within him, he had indulged more than common; so that, when he had discharged his sable attendants, he fell heavily on a settle in the room, and was sound asleep.
O! how dares the bad soul to enter the shadowy world of sleep? — that land whose dim outlines lie so fearfully near to the mystic scene of retribution! Legree dreamed. In his heavy and feverish sleep, a veiled form stood beside him, and laid a cold, soft hand upon him. He thought he knew who it was; and shuddered, with creeping horror, though the face was veiled. Then he thought he felt that hair twining round his fingers; and then, that it slid smoothly round his neck, and tightened and tightened, and he could not draw his breath; and then he thought voices whispered to him, — whispers that chilled him with horror. Then it seemed to him he was on the edge of a frightful abyss, holding on and struggling in mortal fear, while dark hands stretched up, and were pulling him over; and Cassy came behind him laughing, and pushed him. And then rose up that solemn veiled figure, and drew aside the veil. It was his mother; and she turned away from him, and he fell down, down, down, amid a confused noise of shrieks, and groans, and shouts of demon laughter, — and Legree awoke.
Calmly the rosy hue of dawn was stealing into the room. The morning star stood, with its solemn, holy eye of light, looking down on the man of sin, from out the brightening sky. O, with what freshness, what solemnity and beauty, is each new day born; as if to say to insensate man, "Behold! thou hast one more chance! Strive for immortal glory!" There is no speech nor language where this voice is not heard; but the bold, bad man heard it not. He woke with an oath and a curse. What to him was the gold and purple, the daily miracle of morning! What to him the sanctity of the star which the Son of God has hallowed as his own emblem? Brute-like, he saw without perceiving; and, stumbling forward, poured out a tumbler of brandy, and drank half of it.