The poor mulatto woman, whose simple faith had been well-nigh crushed and overwhelmed, by the avalanche of cruelty and wrong which had fallen upon her, felt her soul raised up by the hymns and passages of Holy Writ, which this lowly missionary breathed into her ear in intervals, as they were going to and returning from work; and even the half-crazed and wandering mind of Cassy was soothed and calmed by his simple and unobtrusive influences.
Stung to madness and despair by the crushing agonies of a life, Cassy had often resolved in her soul an hour of retribution, when her hand should avenge on her oppressor all the injustice and cruelty to which she had been witness, or which she had in her own person suffered.
One night, after all in Tom's cabin were sunk in sleep, he was suddenly aroused by seeing her face at the hole between the logs, that served for a window. She made a silent gesture for him to come out.
Tom came out the door. It was between one and two o'clock at night, — broad, calm, still moonlight. Tom remarked, as the light of the moon fell upon Cassy's large, black eyes, that there was a wild and peculiar glare in them, unlike their wonted fixed despair.
"Come here, Father Tom," she said, laying her small hand on his wrist, and drawing him forward with a force as if the hand were of steel; "come here, — I've news for you."
"What, Misse Cassy?" said Tom, anxiously.
"Tom, wouldn't you like your liberty?"
"I shall have it, Misse, in God's time," said Tom. "Ay, but you may have it tonight," said Cassy, with a flash of sudden energy. "Come on."
"Come!" said she, in a whisper, fixing her black eyes on him. "Come along! He's asleep — sound. I put enough into his brandy to keep him so. I wish I'd had more, — I shouldn't have wanted you. But come, the back door is unlocked; there's an axe there, I put it there, — his room door is open; I'll show you the way. I'd a done it myself, only my arms are so weak. Come along!"
"Not for ten thousand worlds, Misse!" said Tom, firmly, stopping and holding her back, as she was pressing forward.
"But think of all these poor creatures," said Cassy. "We might set them all free, and go somewhere in the swamps, and find an island, and live by ourselves; I've heard of its being done. Any life is better than this."
"No!" said Tom, firmly. "No! good never comes of wickedness. I'd sooner chop my right hand off!"
"Then I shall do it," said Cassy, turning.
"O, Misse Cassy!" said Tom, throwing himself before her, "for the dear Lord's sake that died for ye, don't sell your precious soul to the devil, that way! Nothing but evil will come of it. The Lord hasn't called us to wrath. We must suffer, and wait his time."
"Wait!" said Cassy. "Haven't I waited? — waited till my head is dizzy and my heart sick? What has he made me suffer? What has he made hundreds of poor creatures suffer? Isn't he wringing the life-blood out of you? I'm called on; they call me! His time's come, and I'll have his heart's blood!"
"No, no, no!" said Tom, holding her small hands, which were clenched with spasmodic violence. "No, ye poor, lost soul, that ye mustn't do. The dear, blessed Lord never shed no blood but his own, and that he poured out for us when we was enemies. Lord, help us to follow his steps, and love our enemies."
"Love!" said Cassy, with a fierce glare; "love such enemies! It isn't in flesh and blood."
"No, Misse, it isn't," said Tom, looking up; "but He gives it to us, and that's the victory. When we can love and pray over all and through all, the battle's past, and the victory's come, — glory be to God!" And, with streaming eyes and choking voice, the black man looked up to heaven.
And this, oh Africa! latest called of nations, — called to the crown of thorns, the scourge, the bloody sweat, the cross of agony, — this is to be thy victory; by this shalt thou reign with Christ when his kingdom shall come on earth.
The deep fervor of Tom's feelings, the softness of his voice, his tears, fell like dew on the wild, unsettled spirit of the poor woman. A softness gathered over the lurid fires of her eye; she looked down, and Tom could feel the relaxing muscles of her hands, as she said,
"Didn't I tell you that evil spirits followed me? O! Father Tom, I can't pray, — I wish I could. I never have prayed since my children were sold! What you say must be right, I know it must; but when I try to pray, I can only hate and curse. I can't pray!"
"Poor soul!" said Tom, compassionately. "Satan desires to have ye, and sift ye as wheat. I pray the Lord for ye. O! Misse Cassy, turn to the dear Lord Jesus. He came to bind up the broken-hearted, and comfort all that mourn."
Cassy stood silent, while large, heavy tears dropped from her downcast eyes.
"Misse Cassy," said Tom, in a hesitating tone, after surveying her in silence, "if ye only could get away from here, — if the thing was possible, — I'd 'vise ye and Emmeline to do it; that is, if ye could go without blood-guiltiness, — not otherwise."
"Would you try it with us, Father Tom?"
"No," said Tom; "time was when I would; but the Lord's given me a work among these yer poor souls, and I'll stay with 'em and bear my cross with 'em till the end. It's different with you; it's a snare to you, — it's more'n you can stand, — and you'd better go, if you can."
"I know no way but through the grave," said Cassy. "There's no beast or bird but can find a home some where; even the snakes and the alligators have their places to lie down and be quiet; but there's no place for us. Down in the darkest swamps, their dogs will hunt us out, and find us. Everybody and everything is against us; even the very beasts side against us, — and where shall we go?"
Tom stood silent; at length he said,
"Him that saved Daniel in the den of lions, — that saves the children in the fiery furnace, — Him that walked on the sea, and bade the winds be still, — He's alive yet; and I've faith to believe he can deliver you. Try it, and I'll pray, with all my might, for you."
By what strange law of mind is it that an idea long overlooked, and trodden under foot as a useless stone, suddenly sparkles out in new light, as a discovered diamond?
Cassy had often revolved, for hours, all possible or probable schemes of escape, and dismissed them all, as hopeless and impracticable; but at this moment there flashed through her mind a plan, so simple and feasible in all its details, as to awaken an instant hope.
"Father Tom, I'll try it!" she said, suddenly.
"Amen!" said Tom; "the Lord help ye!"