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X: a ride through Kansas

The returned pastor was at once launched into exciting scenes. The assault on Charles Sumner in the Senate Chamber had but just occurred, and the contest between the free and slave States for the possession of the Territory of Kansas was at its height. There was then a reign of terror along the Kansas border, the advocates of slavery victimizing the Free-State settlers. An enthusiastic meeting was held in Worcester to welcome Mr. Higginson home and promote emigration to Kansas, and an earnest appeal was made for volunteers, rifles, and blankets in aid of the Free-State emigrants against whom the Missouri River was blockaded. ‘It is amazing,’ wrote the impatient clergyman, ‘how sluggish people have been in acting for Kansas. Nobody seems to feel the need of promptness or of a better organization.’

A committee, of which Mr. Higginson was a member, was appointed to arrange for the passage and equipment of emigrants to Kansas. In June, 1856, he was sent to Chicago and St. Louis to give [167] aid and advice to a party from Massachusetts who, to quote a newspaper account, ‘had fallen among thieves.’ From Alton, Illinois, he wrote to his wife, ‘To-morrow I expect to meet our disarmed troops in St. Louis—poor things. I shall send them on through Iowa, where Stowell has gone before them.’ At St. Louis, Mr. Higginson chartered a steamboat to take the party up the Mississippi to Davenport, Iowa. This party, led by a certain Dr. Cutter, had been charged by a Missouri paper with cowardice. To this charge Mr. Higginson responded in the Boston Journal: ‘I have seen frightened men, in Massachusetts and elsewhere, and I never saw men look less like them than did Dr. Cutter's party. I went out to St. Louis partly to see how they had stood fire, and partly to give them instructions for the future. My instructions were, if they met a party of Missourians not larger than five to one, to fight to the last rather than surrender.’ This party of forty men had surrendered to three thousand of the enemy by whom they were disarmed and turned back.

‘I almost hoped to hear,’ he wrote to the ‘Tribune,’ ‘that some of their lives had been sacrificed, for it seems as if nothing but that would arouse the Eastern States to act. This seems a terrible thing to say, but these are terrible times.’ Of the [168] party led by Stowell, a Worcester man who was conspicuous in the Anthony Burns affair, Mr. Higginson said in the same letter:—

Do you know that they came and absolutely begged of me to let them go up the Missouri River . . . pledging themselves to die, if need be, but to redeem the honor of Massachusetts. From the bottom of my heart I felt with them; one word from me would have done it, but I did not feel authorized to speak that word, and therefore sent them on by the other route. Had they gone by the river I should have gone with them, for I never found anything harder than it would be to quit this river, believing, as I do, that there are plans practicable by which the passage might yet be opened to free emigrants.

In these frequent articles for the newspapers, Mr. Higginson not only reported the progress of the different groups of emigrants, but called for funds. Soon after his return to Worcester, the city hall was crowded with eager listeners to hear the report of his trip and an account of the exciting events which were transpiring on the Missouri River. He wrote to his mother:—

Our parties are getting safely on beyond Iowa City—there is stage connection now to the Missouri River below Council Bluffs—thence about 100 miles on foot to Topeka. . ..

Beneath the stir of civil war we keep up a more perfectly placid domestic existence than ever before. [169] . . . We make little walks and visits in the cool of the evening, water our seeds, dig round the fruit trees, train our vines and plan for improving rosebushes. The sunsets never were so lovely here; and copious dishes of currants (succeeding cherries) partially console us for the disasters of the times..

I am particularly popular in private just now, for what I am doing about Kansas, and it is rather pathetic to have them thank me for doing what they ought to have taken hold of, themselves, but have not . . .

I am probably to be Agent for Kansas parties from New England officially, which I have hitherto been unofficially—this will save me trouble by putting funds in my hands. . . .

A party left Boston for Kansas on Tuesday— 20 were from Maine and the strongest looking men I ever saw—mostly in red shirts.

In September Mr. Higginson was made an agent of the Kansas National Committee, and in this capacity went to Kansas to superintend the movements of these very Maine lumbermen. In his letters to the New York Tribune describing this trip, and later printed in a little pamphlet called ‘A Ride Through Kansas,’ he says:—

Coming from a land where millionaires think themselves generous in giving fifty dollars to Kansas, I converse daily with men who have sacrificed all their property in its service, and are ready at any hour to add their lives.


From Nebraska City, he wrote (September, 1856):—

I have myself bought up for the emigrants all the cowhide boots to be found in town (except extra sizes) and nearly all the flannel shirts and blankets ..

At present no person, without actually travelling across Iowa, can appreciate the injury done by the closing of the Missouri River. Emigrants must toil, week after week, beneath a burning sun, over the parched and endless “rolling prairie,” sometimes seeing no house for a day or two together, camping often without wood, and sometimes without water, and obliged to carry with them every eatable they use. It is no wonder that they often fall sick on the way; and when I consider how infinitely weary were even my four days and nights of staging (after as many more of railroad travel), I can only wonder at the patience and fortitude which the present emigrants have shown.

As soon as one approaches the Missouri River, even in Iowa and Nebraska, he begins to feel as if he were in France or Austria. Men are very cautious in defining their position, and wait to hear what others will say. Then, perhaps, their tongues are slightly loosed, if they think there are no spies about them. But it is no slight risk when a man may have to pay with his life, further down the river, for a free word, spoken at Council Bluffs or Sidney, both Pro-Slavery towns.

The first night I spent in this place, it seemed as [171] if a symbolical pageant had been got up to remind me where I was. I sat writing by an open window in the beautiful moonlight. A party of boys in the street were shouting and screeching, playing “Border Ruffian,” and “storming a fort.” In a building beyond, two very inexperienced performers played martial tunes with a drum and fife. Within, the small tavern rocked with the music and dancing of a border ball. Thus I sat between tragedy and comedy.

To his mother the faithful son wrote from the same town:—

This is a queer little cluster of houses, and a very crowded little tavern—nothing very abundant but watermelons which every body eats all day. . . . We hear often from Kansas, they are not in distress actually, nor besieged, and the invaders seem just now rather discouraged. We shall have a strong mounted escort to lead us in, a week hence, and probably not danger enough to make it exciting. There is also perfectly safe exit this way, so my spirit of adventure is a little checked. But along the lower river towns the Missourians have it all their own way and we are constantly seeing men who have been plundered of all they possess.

The traveller reported to his wife:—

I have been for a week in a forlorn little town, arranging a train of emigrants to go into Kansas, armed and equipped as the law forbids.

... I am very busy, but lead a crowded, dusty, [172] dirty life—and though death for freedom is all very fine, when it comes to dirt for freedom, the sacrifice becomes unexpectedly hard.

Here he encountered General ‘Jim’ Lane, commanding the ‘Free-State Forces of Kansas,’ but then retreating by order of Governor Geary. From the supplies sent from the East, Mr. Higginson helped to re-clothe the General's band, and was amused at receiving from the guerrilla leader a position on his staff with the title of Brigadier-General, an honor liberally conferred by Lane on sympathizers with the Free-State cause.

To his mother he wrote:—

A new and important town in Kansas is threatened with the name of Quindaro, which means a Bundle of Sticks, after the Indian wife of the projector. This I deprecate and suggest Quincy—after old Josiah, as a substitute. Also I have urged your name of Sumner. The trouble of these family names is that by and by there must be Christian names to distinguish them, there will be so many. Fancy a town of South-Wendell Phillips or Wm. Lloyd-Garrison-4-corners, or Rev. Gen. Thos. Wentworth Higginson Centre!

On September 24, Mr. Higginson wrote home from Topeka:—

I got here yesterday afternoon after six days ride and walk (chiefly the former) across the prairies [173] of Kansas. A few of the fort teams came with me, the rest of the train will be in to-day and to-morrow. . . . We camped out five nights which I enjoyed on the whole, though only in the last night did we have wood enough for the Maine style of tent, open toward the fire. Imagine me also patrolling as one of the guard for an hour every night, in high boots amid the dewy grass, rifle in hand and revolver in belt. But nobody ever came and we never had any danger. Only once, in the day time, the whole company charged upon a band of extremely nude Indians, taking them for Missourians. ..

We had in our camps some twenty tents and thirty wagons; including parties from Maine, Mass., Vt., Illinois, etc., and six large families from Indiana. On the other hand, we met quite as many going out of Kansas, some to avoid arrest, others from poverty. . . . At this moment, moreover, there are nineteen wagons on the two sides of the river here, moving away in despair.

. . . The people are braver than anything I ever dreamed of, and when they once adopt the policy of resistance to the United States will do it. But they will wait till after election first.

This winter there will be much suffering, but not from the absence of food, only the money to buy it. All employment has been suspended and still is so.

The story is continued from ‘A Ride Through Kansas’:—

It was like entering Hungary just after the [174] treachery of Gorgey. Each had his story to tell of arrests and tyrannies; how a Pro-Slavery witness had only to point at a man as identified with any measure of public defence, and he was seized at once. Several whom we met had been arrested in person, herded with a hundred others, like cattle, on the bare prairie, been scantily fed once a day, and escaped by rolling half a mile through the grass while the sentinels' backs were turned. The bravest young men of Lawrence were put under arrest, charged with treason, murder, arson, robbery, and what not; while not a Pro-Slavery man was seized. This was the penalty they had to pay for defending themselves vigorously at last, and clearing their own soil from the invading Missourians. “The worst enemy Kansas had ever had,” they pronounced Governor Geary to be; and they were going into Iowa to wait for better times. “Will you give up Kansas?” I asked. “Never!” was the reply from bronzed and bearded lips, stern and terrible as the weapons that hung to the saddle-bow. “We are scattered, starved, hunted, half-naked, but we are not conquered yet.”

Some of these were young men, whom I had seen go from prosperous homes, well clothed and cared for. I had since heard of them performing acts of heroic courage in this summer's battles. Lane had praised them to me, and declared that there never was such courage in the world as that of the Free-State men of Kansas. “I saw one of them,” said he, “ride up alone within thirty yards of a body of a hundred and fifty men, during an engagement, take [175] deliberate aim, and bring one down.” I now saw that very man—that boy rather, a Worcester boy —retreating from his adopted country, hungry, ragged, and almost barefooted, walking wearily on, with others hunted like himself, while some, who had been less scrupulous, rode by on horses which they had plundered from the Missourians, who had first plundered them.

Mrs. Higginson wrote to Brattleboro that the news from Kansas grew worse every day, and after describing various household economies she said, ‘Money is very scarce, and everything goes to Kansas, I believe.’ Then she told of a ‘Kansas Sewing Circle which is to meet every P. M. . . . Mrs. Le B. has begun the first pair of pants! . . . Martha Le B. says she shall sew all day for Kansas and the evenings for Anti-Slavery fair!’

Meantime, the traveller wrote from Lawrence, September 28, to his friend, Dr. Seth Rogers (afterward surgeon of his regiment):—

Yesterday morning I waked at Topeka and found the house surrounded by dragoons. To my amazement, on going out, the Captain addressed me by name. . . . He was very cordial, but their office was to arrest the leaders of the party just arrived if they proved to be a military company. They were happily already satisfied that we were not, and this was merely a matter of form; and they also wanted Redpath, the reported leader of the [176] party, and not me. Finally Col. Preston, the young Virginia Marshal, decided to arrest no one, and he, Redpath, Gov. Robinson, and I rode down in one carriage to Gov. Geary at Lecompton, and after some talk with the pompous, foolish, conceited, obstinate Governor were honorably discharged. If they had had wit to discover the Sharp's rifles and cannon we brought in with us, we should all have been arrested ..

Lawrence is a beautiful place and this Kansas People is glorious—so brave and patient and perfectly buoyant, no one depressed, even after 3 weeks of green corn and squash. There has been and is suffering here, and the greatest need is now of money in Kansas, to keep people from moving out. Half of those who come in as emigrants go out again, but these old settlers must be kept here.

Money can now buy flour here cheaper than it can be sent in—say at $5 per 100 lbs. Clothing should be forwarded instantly before the river is closed again, but money is the great need.

I shall stay till over election because there may be trouble then. That is Monday Oct. 6. Next day I shall leave and try to get home (by the river) on the following Sunday. At any rate by the Convention of Oct. 14, which I see advertised to-day. I am perfectly well and would not have missed this visit for hundreds of dollars ..

Two of the best Worcester Emigrants are among the prisoners confined at Lecompton. They were at first very badly treated, but are said to be better off now. Gov. Geary promised us yesterday that he [177] would see that they had blankets. To-morrow I shall see them myself if possible.

The following day, Mr. Higginson visited the prisoners at Lecompton and found that most of them were young men, ‘the flower of the youth of Lawrence.’ One of the guards he described as ‘an evil-looking scoundrel with fixed bayonet,’ and said: ‘It is singular how much alike all Slavery's officials look. I saw half a dozen times repeated the familiar features of my Boston friend, Mr. Asa O. Butman.’ Relating the suffering of the new settlers, Mr. Higginson quoted a man whom he had known at the East, who had a wife and nine children, but who said, ‘I have in my house no meat, no flour, no meal, no potatoes, no money to buy them, no prospect of a dollar; but I'll live or die in Kansas!’ And he added, ‘Such is the spirit of multitudes, many of whom are as badly off as this man.’

In a letter to the ‘Tribune,’ dated Lawrence, October 4, Mr. Higginson said:—

Last Sunday I preached in this place (though I must say that I am commonly known here by a title which is elsewhere considered incompatible with even the Church Militant). It was quite an occasion; and I took for my text the one employed by Rev. John Martin the Sunday after he fought at Bunker Hill—Neh. IV, 14; “Be not ye afraid of [178] them; remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your houses.”

A Kansas correspondent of the Christian Register of September 26, 1857, heard Mr. Higginson preach on that occasion and thus described the event:—

The place where we congregated was a low chamber over a store, built up of rough boards and lined with cloth tacked to the walls in lieu of plastering. The sacred desk was an impromptu affair made of a packing box covered with buffalo robes, while the Bible rested on a smaller box covered with a coarse blanket. I shall never forget how solemn and appropriate the 4th chapter of Nehemiah seemed as Mr. H. read it so impressively in his opening service. . . . Every word of the excellent sermon which followed was full of magnetic power to me. It revived my drooping spirits, quickened my energies, and imparted some of the faith, hope and strength I had so long needed.

Mr. Higginson spoke again at Lawrence October 4, and the next day went to Leavenworth to witness a ‘Border Ruffian election.’ On McCarty's doorsteps (the principal tavern in the town) he overheard some interesting remarks which he thus related:—

Said one man, just from Lecompton, “Tell you what, we've found out one thing, there's a preacher [179] going about here preaching politics.” “Fact?” and “Is that so?” was echoed with virtuous indignation on all sides. “That's so,” continued he, “and he fixes it this way; first, he has his text and preaches religion; then he drops that and pitches into politics; and then he drops that, too, and begins about the sufferina niggers” (with ineffable contempt); “and what's more, he's here in Leavenworth now.” “What's his name?” exclaimed several eagerly. “Just what I don't know,” was the sorrowful reply; “and I should n't know him if I saw him; but he's here, boys, and in a day or two there'll be some gentlemen here that know him.” (N. B. At my last speech in Lawrence, I was warned that three Missouri spies were present.) “It's well we've got him here, to take care of him,” said one. “Won't our boys enjoy running him out of town?” added another, affectionately; while I listened with pleased attention, thinking that I might, perhaps, afford useful information. But the “gentlemen” have not yet appeared, or else are in search of higher game.

Disunion still seemed to the more radical thinkers the only cure for the prevailing troubles. On his return trip from the afflicted territory Mr. Higginson wrote:—

Steamboat Cataract, aground on a bank in the Missouri River, Oct. 9th, 1856.
My best hope is that the contest may be at once transferred to more favorable soil, Nebraska or Iowa, and result in a disruption of the Union; for I [180] am sure that the disease is too deep for cure without amputation.

I left here on Sept. 9th for six weeks; reached Nebraska City through Iowa in ten days, a weary stage journey. Staid nine days in and near Nebraska City, organizing and directing for a train of 150 emigrants, and then travelled with them to Topeka in six days, camping at night; since then I have been in Topeka, Lecompton, Lenora and Leavenworth. . . . Tell Sam I had an Allen's Rifle with me which is an improvement on Sharp's, but had no occasion to shoot anything with it except a superb hawk, whose wings I carry home as a Kansas trophy. Never have I been in any special danger, except that they talked of lynching me in Leavenworth, whither I went to witness an election; I was the only person in town who knew my name or person; but I was a minister that had been ‘preaching politics’; . . . as however I gave no information, two of them shot each other instead, just as our boat left the wharf.

It is not strange that a sarcastic Buffalo paper, commenting on this errand of the Reverend Mr. Higginson's, said, ‘We do not know what denomination of the gospel of peace claims him.’

At the twenty-fifth anniversary festival of the formation of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, Mr. Higginson thus spoke of his western visit:—

I found a great deal in Kansas. . . . But I did not go there even to see an underground railroad, [181] for I had seen that in Massachusetts. I wanted to see something above the ground. All my life I had been a citizen of a Republic where I had seen my fellow-citizens retreating, and retreating, and retreating, before the Slave Power, and I heard that away off, a thousand miles west, there was one town where men had made their stand, and said to Slavery, “Thus far, but no farther.” I went the thousand miles to see it, and saw it. I saw there the American Revolution, and every great Revolution of bygone days in still living progress. I was tired of reading of Leonidas; I wanted to see him. I was tired of reading of Lafayette; I wanted to see him. I saw in Kansas the history of the past, clothed in living flesh before me.

In January, 1857, a call was issued for a ‘State Disunion Convention’ to consider the expediency of a separation between free and slave States, and Mr. Higginson's name led the signatures. This meeting was followed the next July by a call for a National Convention which was signed by Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, Higginson, and 6400 others. This proposed convention, however, was never held.

Some of his reasons for belief in disunion, Mr. Higginson expressed in a letter to Harriet Prescott, January, 1861:—

I cannot agree with you and Mr. Seward about the Union, because I think that the Free States without the Slave will instantly command an influence, [182] moral and material, which is denied us now. You know that even now the credit of Massachusetts Stocks is far higher in Europe than [that] of United States Stocks, and this symbolizes everything. A rough swearing mate of a vessel once told me he never dared own himself an American abroad, because he was so reproached in every port with slavery.

While in St. Louis in 1856, Mr. Higginson attended the slave market, and wrote the following description of the scene under the title ‘Assorted Lots of Young Negroes.’ This was printed in the ‘Tribune’ at the time and widely copied, both in America and in England.

I have before been in other slave States, but never in Missouri. The first thing that struck me on arriving in this city was the apparent absence of the Negro race. In a crowd of a thousand persons on the levee this morning, assembled to witness the burning of six steamboats, I could not count ten black faces. I was told, in explanation, that the colored people were all “uptown,” not in the business part of the city.

So, too, I searched the newspapers for slave advertisements, though I knew this city not to be a great mart for those commodities like Richmond; but in vain. At last, in a corner of the “Republican,” I discovered the following:—

Negroes Wanted.—I wish to purchase a large lot of Negroes, expressly for the Louisiana and [183] Mississippi market, for which I will pay the highest cash prices. All those who have Negroes for sale would do well to give me a call. I can always be seen at the City Hotel, or at Mr. Thompson's Negro-yard, No. 67, Locust St., St. Louis, Mo.

Negroes wanted and for sale.—Wanted and for sale Negroes of all kinds, at my office, No. 67, Locust St., between 2d and 3d Sts., St. Louis, Mo. Having a good and safe yard to board and keep Negroes, I will buy and sell on commission as low as any other house in this city. Please to give me a call.

I took an early opportunity to call on Mr. Corbin Thompson. I found him in the doorway of a little wooden office, like a livery-stable office in one of our cities; he being a large, lounging, good-natured looking man, not unlike a reputable stable-keeper in appearance and manner. Inside his stable, alas! I saw his dusky “stock,” and he readily acceded to my desire to take a nearer look at them.

Behind the little office there was a little dark room, behind that a little kitchen, opening into a dirty little yard. This yard was surrounded by high brick walls, varied by other walls made of old iron plates, reaching twenty feet high. These various places were all swarming with Negroes, dirty and clean, from six years old to forty—perhaps two dozen in all, the majority being children under fourteen. [184]

“Fat and sleek as Harry Clay's,” said my conductor, patting one on the head patriarchally.

Most of them had small paper fans, which they used violently. This little article of comfort looked very odd, amid such squalid raggedness as most of them showed. One was cooking, two or three washing, and two playing euchre with a filthy pack of cards. The sun shone down intensely hot (it was noon) in the little brick yard, and they sat, lounged, or lay about, only the children seeming lively.

I talked a little with them, and they answered, some quietly, some with that mixture of obsequiousness and impudence so common among slaves. Mr. Thompson answered all questions very readily. The ‘Negroes’ or “Niggers,” he said (seldom employing the Virginia phrases ‘servants’ or “people” ), came mostly from Missouri or Virginia, and were with him but a little while. “Buy when I can and sell when I can, that's my way; and never ask no questions, only in the way of trade. At this season, get a good many from travellers.”

On inquiry, he explained this mystery by adding that it was not uncommon for families visiting Northern watering-places to bring with them a likely boy or girl, and sell them to pay the expenses of the jaunt! This is a feature of the patriarchal institution which I think has escaped Mrs. Stowe. Hereafter I shall never see a Southern heiress at Newport without fancying I read on her ball-dress the names of the “likely boy or girl” who was sold for it. “As for yonder Sambo and Dinah” (I meditated), “no doubt, young Bulford Dashaway, Esq., is at this moment [185] driving them out to Saratoga Lake, as a pair of blood-horses. O Miss Caroline Pettitoes, of Fifth Avenue, how odd it would be if, as you sit superb by his side, those four-legged cattle suddenly resumed the squalid two-legged condition in which I now behold them, in Thompson's Negro-yard, No. 67, Locust Street.”

I strolled back into the front office and sat down to see if anything turned up. The thing that turned up was a rather handsome, suburban-looking two-horse carriage, out of which stepped lazily a small, spare, gentlemanly man, evidently a favored patron of my host. After a moment's private talk Thompson went out, while the gentleman said abruptly to me, “Well, it is all bad enough, housekeeping, marketing, and all, but I'm—if servants ain't the worst of all.” We then talked a little, and I found him the pleasantest type of a Southerner—courteous, kind, simple, a little imperious—finally, a man of property, member of the city Government, and living a little out of town.

Thompson came in and shook his head. “Can't let Negroes to anybody, Mr.——.Glad to sell, anyhow.”

“Got a good article of a small girl?” said the gentleman suddenly.

“Martha!” shouted the slave-dealer, and presently three good articles, aged eleven, nine, and seven, came trotting in. I had not seen them before. Nice little pink frocks, not very dirty—barefooted, of course, but apparently well taken care of, and evidently sisters. With some manoeuvring, they [186] were arranged in a line before my new acquaintance, the purchaser.

He fixed his eyes on Sue, a black marble statue, aged seven. Nothing could have been kinder than Mr.——'s manner in addressing the little thing. “Will you like to come and live with me, and have some little girls to play with?”

(It is a little patriarchal, I said. That kind voice would win any child.)

I looked to see the merry African smile on the child's face. But no smile came. There was a moment's pause.

“Speak up, child,” said the merchant roughly. But she did n't speak up, nor look up, either. Down went the black marble face, drooping down, down, till the chin rested on the breast of the little pink frock. Down, down came one big tear, and then another over the black marble cheeks; and then the poor little wretch turned away to the wall, and burst into as hearty an agony of tears as your little idol Susy, or yours (my good New-England mother), might give way to, at such an offer from the very kindest man who ever chewed tobacco in the streets of Missouri!

Human nature is a rather unconquerable thing, after all, is n't it?

My kind purchaser looked annoyed, and turned away. The slave-trader gave an ominous look to the poor child, such as I had not seen on his face before. “Beg pardon, sir” (said he gruffly); “they only came from Virginia yesterday, and have n't learnt how to treat gentlemen yet” (with an emphasis). [187]

Poor little Sue!

The purchaser next turned to Martha, the elder sister, a bright Topsy-looking thing.

“What's that on her cheek,” he asked, pointing to a sort of scar or streak of paleness. Martha grinned.

“Somebody's whacked her chops, most likely,” said the slave-trader, coolly (in whose face I saw nothing good-natured after that). Nothing more was said about it.

The gentleman drew the child to him, felt the muscles of her arm, and questioned her a little. Her price was 700 dollars, and little Sue's 450 dollars.

“Well, Martha,” said he at last, “would n't you like to go with me and have a pleasant home?”

Strange to say, the African smile left Martha's merry face, too. “Please, sir,” said she, “I wish I could stay with my mother.”

“Confound the girls,” said the good-natured purchaser, turning to me in despair; “they must be sold to somebody, you know. Of course, I can't buy the whole of them, and the mother, too.” Of course not; and there was the whole story in a nutshell.

“Nonsense, gals,” said Thompson; “ your mother'll be up here, maybe, some day.” (Pleasant prospect, in the lottery of life, for three ‘articles’ under twelve years.)

On inquiry it appeared that the mother was in Virginia, and might or might not be sent to St. Louis for sale. The intention was, however, to sell the children in a day or two, together or separately, or else to send them south with Mr. Mattingly. [188]

To avert this, I hoped earnestly that my good-natured friend would buy one or more of the poor things. “For,” said he to me, “I mean to bring her up well. She'll be a pet for the children—black or white it will make no difference—and while I live I shan't sell her—that is while it is possible to help it.” (A formidable reservation, considering the condition of most Southern estates.)

The little pink frocks were ordered to stand off, and a bargain was finally struck for Martha, quite to Mr. Thompson's chagrin, who evidently hoped to sell Sue, and would, no doubt, have done so, but for her ignorance “how to treat gentlemen.”

“Girl is sound, I suppose?” carelessly inquired the purchaser.

“Wind and limb,” responded the trader. “But strip her naked and examine every inch of her, if you wish,” he quickly added; “I never have any disguises with my customers.”

So ended the bargain, and I presently took my leave. I had one last glance at little Sue. It is not long since I set foot on the floating wreck of an unknown vessel at sea, and then left it drifting away in the darkness alone. But it was sadder to me to think of that little wreck of babyhood drifting off alone into the ocean of Southern crime and despair.

St. Louis must unquestionably be a very religious place, however, for in returning to my hotel I passed a church with inscriptions in four different languages. There was Jehovah in Hebrew, “Deo Uno et Trino,” “In honorem S. Ludovici.” Finally in English and [189] French, “My house shall be called the house of prayer,” with the rest of the sentence, in both cases, omitted. Singular accident, is n't it?

I forgot to mention that I asked Mr. Thompson, out of the dozen children in his “yard,” how many had their parents or mothers with them. “Not one,” he answered, as if rather surprised at the question; “I take 'em as they come, in lots. Hardly ever have a family.”

“I suppose you would rather keep a family together?” I put in, suggestively.

“Yes,” he answered carelessly. “Can't think much about that, though. Have to shut up shop pretty quick, if I did. Have to take 'em as they come.”

This was evident enough, and I only insert it in the faint hope of enlightening the minds of those verdant innocents who still believe that the separation of families is a rare occurrence, when every New Orleans newspaper contains a dozen advertisements of “Assorted lots of young Negroes.”

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