Black Sam, as he was commonly called, from his being about three shades blacker than any other son of ebony on the place, was revolving the matter profoundly in all its phases and bearings, with a comprehensiveness of vision and a strict lookout to his own personal well-being, that would have done credit to any white patriot in Washington.
"It's an ill wind dat blow nowhar, — dat ar a fact," said Sam, sententiously, giving an additional hoist to his pantaloons, and adroitly substituting a long nail in place of a missing suspender-button, with which effort of mechanical genius he seemed highly delighted.
"Yes, it's an ill wind blows nowhar," he repeated. "Now, dar, Tom's down — wal, course der's room for some nigger to be up — and why not dis nigger? — dat's de idee. Tom, a ridin' round de country — boots blacked — pass in his pocket — all grand as Cuffee — but who he? Now, why shouldn't Sam? — dat's what I want to know."
"Halloo, Sam — O Sam! Mas'r wants you to cotch Bill and Jerry," said Andy, cutting short Sam's soliloquy.
"High! what's afoot now, young un?"
"Why, you don't know, I s'pose, that Lizy's cut stick, and clared out, with her young un?"
"You teach your granny!" said Sam, with infinite contempt; "knowed it a heap sight sooner than you did; this nigger an't so green, now!"
"Well, anyhow, Mas'r wants Bill and Jerry geared right up; and you and I 's to go with Mas'r Haley, to look arter her."
"Good, now! dat's de time o' day!" said Sam. "It's Sam dat's called for in dese yer times. He's de nigger. See if I don't cotch her, now; Mas'r'll see what Sam can do!"
"Ah! but, Sam," said Andy, "you'd better think twice; for Missis don't want her cotched, and she'll be in yer wool."
"High!" said Sam, opening his eyes. "How you know dat?"
"Heard her say so, my own self, dis blessed mornin', when I bring in Mas'r's shaving-water. She sent me to see why Lizy didn't come to dress her; and when I telled her she was off, she jest ris up, and ses she, 'The Lord be praised;' and Mas'r, he seemed rael mad, and ses he, 'Wife, you talk like a fool.' But Lor! she'll bring him to! I knows well enough how that'll be, — it's allers best to stand Missis' side the fence, now I tell yer."
Black Sam, upon this, scratched his woolly pate, which, if it did not contain very profound wisdom, still contained a great deal of a particular species much in demand among politicians of all complexions and countries, and vulgarly denominated "knowing which side the bread is buttered;" so, stopping with grave consideration, he again gave a hitch to his pantaloons, which was his regularly organized method of assisting his mental perplexities.
"Der an't no saying' — never — 'bout no kind o' thing in dis yer world," he said, at last. Sam spoke like a philosopher, emphasizing this — as if he had had a large experience in different sorts of worlds, and therefore had come to his conclusions advisedly.
"Now, sartin I'd a said that Missis would a scoured the varsal world after Lizy," added Sam, thoughtfully.
"So she would," said Andy; "but can't ye see through a ladder, ye black nigger? Missis don't want dis yer Mas'r Haley to get Lizy's boy; dat's de go!"
"High!" said Sam, with an indescribable intonation, known only to those who have heard it among the negroes.
"And I'll tell yer more 'n all," said Andy; "I specs you'd better be making tracks for dem hosses, — mighty sudden, too, — -for I hearn Missis 'quirin' arter yer, — so you've stood foolin' long enough."
Sam, upon this, began to bestir himself in real earnest, and after a while appeared, bearing down gloriously towards the house, with Bill and Jerry in a full canter, and adroitly throwing himself off before they had any idea of stopping, he brought them up alongside of the horse-post like a tornado. Haley's horse, which was a skittish young colt, winced, and bounced, and pulled hard at his halter.
"Ho, ho!" said Sam, "skeery, ar ye?" and his black visage lighted up with a curious, mischievous gleam. "I'll fix ye now!" said he.
There was a large beech-tree overshadowing the place, and the small, sharp, triangular beech-nuts lay scattered thickly on the ground. With one of these in his fingers, Sam approached the colt, stroked and patted, and seemed apparently busy in soothing his agitation. On pretence of adjusting the saddle, he adroitly slipped under it the sharp little nut, in such a manner that the least weight brought upon the saddle would annoy the nervous sensibilities of the animal, without leaving any perceptible graze or wound.
"Dar!" he said, rolling his eyes with an approving grin; "me fix 'em!"
At this moment Mrs. Shelby appeared on the balcony, beckoning to him. Sam approached with as good a determination to pay court as did ever suitor after a vacant place at St. James' or Washington.
"Why have you been loitering so, Sam? I sent Andy to tell you to hurry."
"Lord bless you, Missis!" said Sam, "horses won't be cotched all in a minit; they'd done clared out way down to the south pasture, and the Lord knows whar!"
"Sam, how often must I tell you not to say 'Lord bless you, and the Lord knows,' and such things? It's wicked."
"O, Lord bless my soul! I done forgot, Missis! I won't say nothing of de sort no more."
"Why, Sam, you just have said it again."
"Did I? O, Lord! I mean — I didn't go fur to say it."
"You must be careful, Sam."
"Just let me get my breath, Missis, and I'll start fair. I'll be bery careful."
"Well, Sam, you are to go with Mr. Haley, to show him the road, and help him. Be careful of the horses, Sam; you know Jerry was a little lame last week; don't ride them too fast."
Mrs. Shelby spoke the last words with a low voice, and strong emphasis.
"Let dis child alone for dat!" said Sam, rolling up his eyes with a volume of meaning. "Lord knows! High! Didn't say dat!" said he, suddenly catching his breath, with a ludicrous flourish of apprehension, which made his mistress laugh, spite of herself. "Yes, Missis, I'll look out for de hosses!"
"Now, Andy," said Sam, returning to his stand under the beech-trees, "you see I wouldn't be 't all surprised if dat ar gen'lman's crittur should gib a fling, by and by, when he comes to be a gettin' up. You know, Andy, critturs will do such things;" and therewith Sam poked Andy in the side, in a highly suggestive manner.