Before Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, there was the early libertarian Frances Whipple and her story of “The Slave Wife”.
Anthony Comegna, PhD
Assistant Editor for Intellectual History
This is Frances Whipple at her very best. Though her name changed somewhat frequently (Whipple to Green, then McDougall), Frances was always a powerful writer. Her work was fearless and passionate, committed to first principles and a broad platform of reform. In our current item, “The Slave‐Wife” (which is the first of Whipple’s two authored contributions to Liberty Chimes), she gives us the most piercingly intimate and tragic published insight into the woman slave’s sufferings before Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It lays bare the real brutality and cruelty of the slave system, showing for all who cared to see that much of American life rested on a bedrock of rape, torture, and murder–with a million other miseries in between.
The story takes the form of an oral history told by a runaway slave, presumably communicating it to Whipple, who has given it to us. The former slave tells of his life in chains, made tolerable by the powerful love between himself and a young woman named Clusy Davis, owned by a neighboring planter and with skin practically indistinguishable from a white woman’s. No doubt, it was a conscious choice on Whipple’s part to show her northern audience the similarities—behind all the pseudoscience—between all peoples. It truly might as well be a bunch of Puritan‐stock Bostonians or Wisconsin farmers’-daughters in place of the barely‐black Clusy. Whipple challenged her audience to grapple with the fact that whatever the woman’s skin color, no one deserved to be treated like Clusy’s master regularly handled her.
And Whipple’s story was enough to make most of her audience sick with scandal. For probably most of these genteel New Englanders, antislavery was a moral imperative. But we can easily imagine them grumbling to themselves “Well, did she really have to be so vulgar about it?” Where other authors would have strayed away from the slave’s reality merely for the sake of a reader’s comfort, Frances was determined to make her writing as gritty as necessary to get the point across. And after reading this tale of love between two slaves, regular attempted rapes and beatings from Clusy’s master, and a series of tragic deaths, one might have expected many northerners to have been shocked out of their complacency and gentility already.
Instead, Frances’ story of “The Slave‐Wife” never grew beyond her built‐in abolitionist audience. Seven years later, when Harriet Beecher Stowe published her smash hit Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), politics had already pushed enough people to antislavery that many of them were actually ready to absorb a moral lesson along with it. In massive waves, readers made Stowe’s far more tame portrayal of slave life a bestseller; meanwhile, Whipple was spending less time speaking with political allies and much more time communicating with spirits. She had all the right ideas (that is, she was an early libertarian!), but her insistence that literature reflect real people and their real sufferings was more than most contemporaries—even the abolitionists!—were willing to entertain. When the world’s real state was a bit too gritty for tender hearts to contemplate, most wanted to turn aside and avert their gazes toward more pleasing sights. Whipple, to the end of her days, faced the world’s nastiness with both grim realism and boundless reformist optimism.
AMONG the numerous facts, which our “peculiar Institution” is continually developing–facts, which from the wild daring on the one hand, and the deep malignity on the other, outvie the most extravagant romance, may be found evidence that truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction. The following story was related to me by one who well knew the parties; and I give it, nearly as possible, in his own words.
“I had been,” said he, “sojourning for several weeks at Dawns, Upper Canada, which you well know, was settled by a colony of Fugitive Slaves, observing the regenerating influence of a free atmosphere, which is daily working out a phenomenon more wonderful than the dreaming alchemist ever imputed to the philosopher’s stone–the transmutation of chattels into men. These facts stand out against the deep black ground of Slavery, like miracles wrought in lightning, and fraught with an interest strong and deep as the eternal interests or humanity. There are among these people some fine specimens of the race, whom it would do our negro‐haters good to know–and many whose fine manly character–ay, and intellect also, would put to the blush our traducers of the colored race. Of all these none pleased me better, or interested me more deeply, than Laco Ray. He was, I think a fine a specimen of the physical man, as I ever knew. Tall, muscular, and every way well‐proportioned, he had the large expansion of chest and shoulders that are seen in the best representations of Hercules. He was quite black, the skin soft and glossy; but the features had none of the revolting characteristics which are supposed by some to be inseparable from the African visage. On the contrary they were remarkably fine–the nose aquiline–the mouth even handsome–the forehead singularity high and broad. Superadded to this was a noble intellect, with a power of language and expression which, under happier circumstances, might have produced the poet, or the orator, and which under every incumbrance rose at times to the loftiest eloquence. I had often been astonished at the spontaneous exercise of this power;–and the rude men among whom we dwelt likewise felt , and quietly yielded to the sway of a master‐spirit. Although he had been in Dawn only two years, he had yet acquired no small degree of influence among his people–and both for integrity and ability he was highly esteemed. But notwithstanding all this I observed that a deep shadow seemed to rest upon his heart, and that there was a void in his being which nothing appeared to fill. These tendencies became more distinct as I knew him better; and I was convinced that some very painful circumstance connected with his former life, hung like a pall above him, darkening the glad sunshine, and making bitter the free air he breathed. I determined to learn his history from his own mouth the first opportunity that presented itself. Fortune favoured my wishes.
I had been walking through the fields of various acquaintances, conversing with them as they worked, or listening to the happy song, or the merry whistle that rang out on the clear air of a fine spring morning, when at about nine o’clock, I leaned over the rude fence that enclosed the field where my friend Laco was at work. He was at the lower end of the lot; and I stood listening to the native melodies that resounded on every side. There was in this music a fullness of joy that spoke at once of the consciousness and the love of freedom; yet not unmingled with occasional notes of the sweetest and the deepest pathos, that whispered of friends left far behind, yet groping darkly in the land of bondage; or, may be, it uttered the sadness which belonged to memory–or pictured forth shadows which long‐brooding wing of Slavery yet left resting on the free soul. It was infinitely touching; and I could not listen to it without tears. As Laco drew near, I saw that he was unusually sad and disinclined to talk; and, after passing the compliments of the morning, he dropped his eyes to the ground, and appeared quite absorbed with his business of planting. I waited, deliberating within myself how I should best enter upon the subject, until he had advanced to the end of the row, and stood opposite of me.
“Well Laco” I said, extending my hand, as he was about turning to commence another row, “This is a fine morning, but you are not quite in the spirit of it. You seem unhappy. Has any thing happened to distress you”
“No Maasa, no. Nothing happen to Laco now. Nothing now ever happen to him,” he replied , turning upon me a look of unutterable sadness.
“Why do you say that, Laco? you surely are happy now you are free; and you cannot be insensible to the beauty of this lovely morning! The free sunlight is shining abroad. The birds are singing. The neighbours are singing. They are happy–all are happy. Why should not Laco sing and be happy too?”
“The birds” he answered, “are singing songs of love. Each one has a mate in his nest; but Laco’s nest is cold and silent. Why then should he sing? The free are singing the song of liberty;-but the light of Laco’s freedom is put out. The sun is shining very bright; but he never reach here,” he added, laying a hand on his breast, and smiling with the expression of of one who feels that he has already met the worst. “Massa very good; but he never make darkness light–he never make the dead live again. It’s no use talking, Massa. Laco better work. If he would eat, he must make corn grow. Talking never help him;” and he turned away, as if resolved to say nothing more.
“Excuse me Laco,” I urged, as I sprang over the fence and stood beside him, “I am your friend. Speak to me freely, as to a friend–a brother–and the confidence may relieve you. I see your story is a sad one.
“Ah, Massa, so slave story always be. But come to the cabin, Massa; and Laco will tell you, what he has whispered only in the great ear of night, when God and angels alone are walking.” He threw down his hoe in the furrow and sprang over the fence at a single bound. I followed him; and with a few more steps we stood in the log‐cabin where he spent the solitary hours of rest. A draught of cool milk and water refreshed us; and seating himself on the ground near the rude bench he had offered me, after pause of some minutes marked by profound emotion, he thus related his simple but heart‐thrilling story.
“I was raised on a plantation of J.C—-,and perhaps few slaves have had a kinder master. At the age of twenty‐two I married Clusy Davis, a girl of twenty. She was white. At least no one would suspect that she had any African blood in her veins. Some have said that the only trace of it was in her eyes; and they were large, and soft, and brilliant, although very black. I believe no one ever knew Clusy without loving her–she was so sweet, and kind, and gentle–and no one ever saw her without admiring her beauty–which I may say now, I never saw the like of, in the fairest lady that ever gladdened the heart of a free man; for it is two years this day since I laid her in her lonely grave away out there in Maryland; and nothing but her sweet soul is left.”
He bowed himself to the ground; and I knew by the convulsive heavings of his crouching form that he wept bitterly–The unwonted indulgence appeared to relieve him. He arose and went out a few moments; and when he returned to his seat, all trace of tears had been carefully washed away; and he resumed his narrative.
“I had long been tenderly attached to Clusy. We had loved even from childhood; and for about three months after marriage we were happy as the birds. Until that time I had thought little, though I had seen much, of the evils of Slavery; for I had begun to love so early, and this so entirely took up my attention, that I had little time to dwell on the sorrows of my less fortunate companions. I had won the favour and confidence of my master and mistress. I always had enough to eat and drink, and I was well clothed. Upon my marriage I was promoted from the post of errand boy, or runner of the plantation, to that of coachman, and as Clusy was the personal attendant of her mistress this arrangement added much to our happiness, as we generally travelled together. Both parties were mutually pleased with our new relation; and, for a time, all went on happily. Clusy was a great favorite with her mistress–they had, indeed, been raised together, and were more like sisters, than mistress and slave.–Our master and mistress were married about a year before we were; and they already had a fine little boy, of which the young parents were very proud. Our courtship had advanced together. Year in, and year out, we went in company to the neighbouring plantation of Col. Davis. We shared each other’s secrets. All our little love‐quarrels all our hopes, and all our fears, were freely communicated; and in the warmth and confidence of mutual friendship, and mutual love, we at times, forgot, we were master and slave–we forgot that there was a gulf lay between us wide and deep as that which separates chattels from men. Clusy and I were very happy. All our wants were supplied. We were contented in the present, and without care for the future. We considered ourselves the most favoured mortals. But how blind was our satisfaction! We soon found that we stood in a false position. What is true can never come out of falsehood–what is right can never come out of wrong. I have known slavery in its best form; but there is no good in it.
“At length I observed that Clusy was getting pale; and I often found her in tears. I asked her the cause–I urged her to tell me; but she would dry them instantly, and say that she was not well–or that she was some lonesome she could not help crying when I was gone. I saw that this was mere pretence, and sought in vain for the truth that lay under it: and when, at last, she could no longer hide from me the fact of her unhappiness, she resolutely refused to tell the cause. I could find no relief to my anxiety. Strange indistinct visions of wrong haunted my bed at night, and my work by day. A new feeling of insecurity came upon me. I felt afraid of I knew not what. A dreamy consciousness of my false position began to present itself; and a vague sense of the horrors of Slavery oppressed me. When I slept it lay upon my breast like a night‐mare; and when I woke it stared at me with the eyes of a fiend, making hideous faces in the dark. It followed me every where. It looked out from the corners of the road. It mounted the carriage box and sat beside me. This spirit of unrest haunted me forever–a strange intimation of the approach of some unknown evil. It seemed to me that spirits were continually whispering words of warning; and though I did not understand their meaning, I felt their power. In this manner three months more wore heavily away–Clusy all the time getting paler, weaker and more silent, until, at length, she trembled as I approached her; and any act of tenderness on my part seemed to terrify her so that I began to lose all pleasure in her society–and at length seldom visited her.
“One holy day–it was the Fourth of July, I had resolved to go to a carouse, with my fellow slaves, and drown my troubles in whiskey. My master was even more complacent than usual, and gave me a generous allowance of money. He warmly encouraged my going, as masters always do, because whatever sinks the man, secures the slave; and it seems he had another reason for wishing me absent. I had already left the plantation and set out to join my companions at a small ale‐house about half a mile farther, when my purpose was arrested in a very singular manner.–While loitering through the meadow, whistling–not so much for want of thought, as to drown thought, I came accidently to a large magnolis tree, where I had first met Clusy, when we were both children. I threw myself into the refreshing shadow, when the times past and long forgotten, seemed to rise up before me. There we had often played together in childhood; and when she came to the great house, to this tree I always accompanied her; and here we always parted.–Here too, she often came to meet me in the long starry evenings, after our work was done. Here she first promised to be mine; and here, too, my mother blessed us, but a few days before her death; and I remembered well the hot tears that fell upon my hand, as it was clasped between the bony and shrivelled ones of my mother. I thought then that she wept because she was going to die; but I know now it was a deeper sorrow, that shook her so fearfully. Here too, beneath this very tree, we sat, with hand fast locked in hand, on the eve of our marriage; and here the minister blessed us, and called us one. All these things became present with me. I loved again in the past; and my spirit returned to its former peace. I abandoned my design of a frolic. I thought only of Clusy; for Love and Faith once more blossomed in my heart; and I hastened to reach the path which led to the pretty cottage that her loving mistress had built for her. I ran–I flew along its windings–and, almost breathless, I reached the viny shadow of her porch. I would clasp her to my heart, which was throbbing with but one great pulse, for her‐for her alone‐my love‐my wife. I would assure her of my love–I would make amends for all my former coldness. I was nearly insane with the violence of my feelings. Oh, God! what did I see! My master rushed from the cottage as I drew near–his face flushed–his eyes terribly bright. As if by the help of a flash of lightning, I saw the truth–Too horrible to speak of! I had never been jealous of Clusy–why had I not?–she was beautiful. She was in her master’s power. She was in the power of every white man that chose to possess her. She was no longer mine. She was not my wife. And the babe that slept under her bosom–that, too. A thousand devils seemed to possess me! I rushed into the house. She lay there on her couch, pale and almost lifeless. I know not what I did. I know not how long a time had passed. I only remember that Clusy lay stretched upon the floor, and the hot blood that gushed from her mouth and nostrils was wetting my feet, and stood in puddles upon the ground. A horrible thought that I had murdered her took possession of me. I lifted her up and bore her to a neighboring spring. I bathed her head–her hands. I drenched her with cold water. For minutes that seemed hours, years, ages, I watched to see whether she would live or die. At length, slowly, and faintly, she opened her eyes; and the horrid guilt of murder, like a great weight, was lifted from my soul. I wept, I prayed. I covered her hands, her arms, her very feet with kisses. I blessed her with blessings that seemed wrought out of my heart’s blood.
“She appeared very weak–too weak to utter a sound, though she often strove to do so; but she feebly pressed my hand; and when she turned those large, loving, truthfull eyes upon me, looking into my very soul, I knew that she was guiltless. Whatever others might have done, she had done no wrong. At length I became completely exhausted. I sank down beside her, weak and helpless as a child; and side by side, with cheek resting against cheek, we slept together. Clusy was first to wake, ‘Laco’ she whispered, ‘rise, I pray for you! Massa will be very angry, if we are seen here together!’
“Why, what do you mean” I cried, starting up in alarm, ‘you are my wife–my own wife! Did not Massa Minister himself ‚say–What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder? I cannot leave you, for you are ill.”
“O, you must, I shall die, soon, Laco–very soon–and then you will have no more trouble–your baby will never see the light.–It is yours,’ she added, in a hollow whisper–‘and I have kept it pure for your sake.’ After a short pause she resumed–‘I believe I must tell you now, Laco–I thought I never should, but I believe I must. I shall never get another chance. Let us go to the woods. I dare not speak here.’ She attempted to rise; but she fell back quite exhausted. ‘Can you carry me?’ she whispered faintly. I took her in my arms and bore her to the wood. She was so light and thin it seemed like carrying a shadow. ‘Clusy,’ I cried, in agony; ‘how much you must have suffered! And why–why could I not have known it?’
“’I will tell you;’ she answered ‘but hush and be quick;’ I piled together a heap of fresh leaves, and laid her gently down. ‘Sit down by me now, Laco and turn your eyes away; for you must not look at me while I am telling.’
“O, I wish some of those fine ladies, who think that the slave woman has no virtue–no delicacy–no sense even of decency–could have seen with what sweet and shrinking modesty she told the revolting tale; and when it was finished how she hid her head in my bosom, and wept so piteously!
It was a common story, I have since found. Her master was enamored of her beauty. He had sought in vain to win her favour–at first by entreaty, by presents, and flattery; then by violence and the most abusive treatment.’ ‘And why did you not tell me this before, Clusy?’ I asked . “O, said she, looking up in my face, and at the same time clinging to me with a convulsive shudder, ‘he said he would kill you, if I ever told; and massa very strong–massa very cunning–massa very rich. What could poor slave do? I never should dare to tell now, only lord Jesus Christ came to me last night, in my dreams, and say I must. He say poor slave woman come to him presently. There is no selling–there is no buying where the Lord Jesus is; there is no flogging to make poor woman wicked; no more–‘
“He surely has not dared to flog you, Clusy!” I interrupted.
“’Look here,’ she answered, with a shudder, ‘see if Clusy tell truth or no.’ She drew aside from her back one loose garment, and–O, my God! That sift white skin was cut up and crossed and seamed in all directions; and there were deep ridges, and running sores. And all this she had borne without complaint, for my sake–for the love of virtue–for the inborn love of purity–O,God! It was hard to look upon, and think I had no power to help her!”
He paused, unable for some time to speak farther. He shook from head to foot, and bitter groans burst from his heaving bosom.
At length he grew calm, and continued . “We resolved to apply for advice to the minister who married us. He was a Presbyterian. Mr. and Mrs. C—-, were members of his church. Clusy and I, also, were baptized members of his flock. I bore my wife to the cottage, and laid her on the couch; and having summoned an old woman to attend her, and to inform her mistress that she was ill, I went in pursuit of the minister. I had the good fortune to find him. I told him my story, in words that seemed to burn me as I uttered them. And what do you think he said? He said there was no help–that I must submit! Think of that, Christians! a minister of the gospel, in high standing, deliberately instructs one member of his church to sin, that another member may be accommodated in sin! Think of that, husbands–ye who have beds you can call your own! ye who have honor to lose–I must submit to see my wife polluted! I must submit to see her scourged, because she would not yield herself willingly! And she must submit! Think of that, wives! Think of it, all ye modest and virtuous women, who have husbands, and brothers, and friends, and the laws, to wall round, and protect your purity, so that the shadow of evil may not approach you–a gentle and lovely, and delicate woman; ay, and as modest and virtuous as any of you–although she had been taught only by her own pure and loving nature–although she was shielded only by the majesty of innocence–she who had borne repeated stripes and bitter sorrow rather than pollution–she was told by her minister–her spiritual guide and pattern, that she must commit a damming sin–that she must have no conscience of her own–that her master was answerable to her offences! She was told this by the very man who had placed on her brow the seal of baptism–who had mocked her with the rite of marriage!–Think of this, all ye virtuous–all ye pious women of the land; and if your virtue, your piety, are not a mere sham–are not a damning lie–give speedy help to the thousands of women–all of them your sisters in the bonds of Humanity–many of them sisters in the bonds of Christianity–who are daily prostituted on the altar of slavery! while black‐hearted, lying Priests, lift up their bloody hands in consecration of the rite!!
“Is it strange that I hated religion–that I hated the very form of man? for I came to believe that a devil incarnate had taken possession of it!
“I dreaded to communicate this intelligence to Clusy; but she was prepared. When I told her all, a superhuman strength seemed to possess her. The poor, ignorant, weak and almost dying woman, was changed at once into the form of a seraph. Her eyes shone with terrible brightness, as she rose up and sat erect on her couch, her long, black silken hair streaming, with a contrast almost terrific, over her pale features. Her eyes were raised toward heaven; and for some moments she seemed conversing with the spirits that dwell there. At length she turned her eyes upon me, with a dignity and majesty I cannot describe although it astonished and terrified me; for I thought I had seen a spirit. ‘Then he is a liar,’ she said–‘and the Lord Jesus Christ never sent him. He came from Hell; and he will return to Hell again. But the innocent will triumph! God never will forsake his children!’ A radiance not of earth overspread her features. She sank gently down upon her couch, as if the hands of angels had supported her. I could almost feel the breath from their fanning plumes–for I knew they were watching her, when she slept so sweetly, a lamb among prowling wolves, yet in her simple faith she rested securely; for God kept her.
“I will not, and I need not, recount her all the disgusting steps in this affair. Clusy and I were happier than we had been; since we had no secrets from each other. In the deepest trouble we could kneel down and pray together; and we were not left entirely without comfort, bitter and heavy as the yoke of bondage was. For God drew near unto our souls in the day of trouble; and our good mistress, to whom the whole affair became known, not only felt for, but shared our sorrows.
I should have told you that on the Sabbath following the fourth of July alluded to, the Rev Mr. Lovegold broke the bread of life, and administered the communion. The seducer, the adulterer–the tenfold murderer was there, and partook of the holy feast–not only unrebuked, but with the smiling approbation of his kind pastor. Our master, finding that I had become apprised of his conduct , threw off all disguise, and openly declared that after the birth of her child, Clusy should be his exclusively; threatening, if I made the least opposition, to sell me into Louisiana. To the birth of our child–that event so pleasing to most parents, we looked forward with the most agonizing fears. How we were sustained I know not; but it really seemed as if an angel had entered into the heart of my wife; for what else could have supported her? From day to day she bore punishments which I cannot repeat–which I dare not even think of–with a heroic gentleness which was nerved to suffer all things, but to yield nothing. She endured with the spirit of a lamb; but she resisted with the heart of a lion.
“It was early in the month of September, that Mr., in attempting to extort a promise from Clusy to favour his wishes, became so exasperated by her refusal, that he ordered the overseer to bestow forty lashes on her back, which had never been permitted to heal. She in vain pleaded that fright and agitation had made her very ill–that she could not even stand. She was bound to the stake; and while cruel and vulgar men mocked her agony, THERE our babe was born! Had I been there, all the devils in Hell could not have kept me from defending her. But I had been purposely sent some distance from home, and on my return I found the wretched mother scarcely alive, and the dead child lying beside her.
“Three weeks from that night I escaped with my wife; for her master had begun to renew his base proposals. I asked her if she dared to undertake his journey, in her then weak state. I told her of the blood hounds, of the rifle shots, of the nameless tortures that would await us, If retaken; for Clusy had been kindly dealt with almost all her life and knew very little of slavery. ‘I can die,’ she replied; ‘I am ready and willing and I must die soon; but I cannot live here. That answer determined me. I bore her in my arms, that night, to the heart of a thick swamp; and, on the cod wet earth we nestled together. There was no terror in the numerous serpents and reptiles that crept around, and crawled over us. They were not so cold, or so venomous, as the heart of the slave holder. We seldom stirred abroad by day; but at night we crept from our hiding place, found out the north star, and resumed our journey. When she was overcome with fatigue, which often happened, I carried her in my arms; and I really began to hope that the prospect of liberty would be the elixir of life, and completely restore her; but I found that there is no medicine to heal a broken heart. True, she seemed, at times much stronger–her eyes grew brighter and brighter every day; and her fair cheek was tinged with a deep spot of red; but when we had reached the northern boundary of Maryland, she could go no farther. Before she knew what it is to be a SLAVE-WOMAN!!’ Think of this, ye wives, whose maternal anguish is alleviated by all that love, and friendship, and art, and science, can do! think if ye would see your own daughters suffer like; and inasmuch as ye would not, strive to redeem these, also, from the bitter degeneration–the cruel suffering!
“Although extremely weak I found my wife perfectly sane. Her kind mistress had done everything that could then be done, to promote her safety and comfort. When I arrived she was holding a pale hand of the sufferer between both of hers and bathing it with her tears. She loved poor Clusy with a sister’s love; but she could do nothing to save her.
“Three weeks from that night I escaped with my wife; for her master had begun to renew his base proposals. I asked her if she dared to undertake the journey, in her then weak state. I told her of the blood hounds, of the rifle shots, of the nameless tortures that would await us, if retaken; for Clusy had been kindly dealt with almost all her life and knew very little of slavery. ‘I can die,’ she replied; ‘I am ready and willing and I must die soon; but I cannot live here. That answer determined me. I bore her in my arms, that night, to the heart of a thick swamp; and, on the cold wet earth we nestled together. There was no terror in the numerous serpents and reptiles that crept around, and crawled over us. They were not so cold, or so venomous, as the heart of the slave holder. We seldom stirred abroad by day; but at night we crept from our hiding place, found out the north star, and resumed our journey. When she was overcome with fatigue, which often happened, I carried her in my arms; and I really began to hope that the prospect of liberty would be the elixir of life, and completely restore her; but I found that there is no medicine to heal a broken heart. True, she seemed, at times much stronger–her eyes grew brighter and brighter every day; and her fair cheek was tinged with a deep spot of red; but when we had reached the northern boundary of Maryland, she could go no farther.
“’Lay me down,’ she whispered. ‘It is useless to strive on. I have panted for freedom. I have struggled hard for it; but I can struggle no longer. Pile me a bed of leaves, and sit down by me; for I feel that I am dying. There, let the north wind blow upon my cheek, for it is the breath of the free; and let me look once more upon the bright star we have followed so long. It has been our only friend. Do you think it will shine in heaven, Laco? Ah, now I hear angels singing songs of freedom! I shall never suffer any more; I have no pain–no sorrow. God will send a good spirit to lead you, my husband into the land of liberty! O, God I pity and forgive poor Massa! Oh, Lord! bless dear Missis!–Is there a cloud upon the moon?–It is dark–dark. Ah, now a bright light is springing up within me; and through it I see heaven! Never mourn for Clusy! She is FREE! FREE!! She murmured a few indistinct words of praise and prayer; then her lips were still; and I saw that without a struggle the free soul had departed.
“In the deep loneliness of a widowed heart I sat by her till morning, and then by the help of a small flat stone, but mostly with my hands alone, I hollowed out a grave in the sandy earth. There I buried her. There I sat all day, so absorbed in my sorrow that I knew nothing of the flight of time, until it was dark again. The melancholy owl came out and mourned with me. It seemed then as if I had companionship–as if an intelligent being had spoken to me; and I, for the first time, gave utterance to my grief aloud. At length a whippoorwill came and sat upon the new grave, and sang her plaintive song. I thought the pure spirit spoke to me in the voice of that gentle bird: and then the angel of peace dropped his wings up on my weary soul, and I slept.
“I left her there, sleeping in the lonely woods of Maryland; but I brought with me a shadow, which no earthly sun can chase away. Tell my story,” he added, as he rose from the ground–“publish it abroad; for if any woman can bear it without a wish–a determination to labor with all her might to abolish THE SLAVERY OF WOMAN, I impeach her virtue–She is not TRUE–she is not PURE.”