Slavery in the United States/Chapter 10
At the time I joined the company, the overseer was calling over the names of the whole, from a little book; and the first name that I heard was that of my companion whom I had just left, which was Lydia—called by him Lyd. As she did not answer, I said, "Master, Lydia, the woman that caries the baby on her back, will be here in a minute—I left her just behind." The overseer took no notice of what I said, but went on with his roll-call.
As the people answered to their names, they passed off to the cabins, except three—two women and a man; who, when their names were called, were ordered to go into the yard, in front of the overseer's house. My name was the last on the list; and when it was called I was ordered into the yard with the three others. Just as we had entered, Lydia came up out of breath, with the child in her arms; and following us into the yard, dropped on her knees before the overseer, and begged him to forgive her. "Where have you been?" said he. Poor Lydia now burst into tears, and said, "I only stopped to talk awhile to this man," pointing to me; "but, indeed, master overseer, I will never do so again." "Lie down," was his reply. Lydia immediately fell prostrate upon the ground; and in this position he compelled her to remove her old tow linen shift, the only garment she wore, so as to expose her hips, when he gave her ten lashes, with his long whip, every touch of which brought blood, and a shriek from the sufferer. He then ordered her to go and get her supper, with an injunction never to stay behind again. The other three culprits were then put upon their trial.
The first was a middle aged woman, who had, as her overseer said, left several hills of cotton in the course of the day, without cleaning and hilling them in a proper manner. She received twelve lashes. The other two were charged in general terms, with having been lazy, and of having neglected their work that day. Each of these received twelve lashes.
These people all received punishment in the same manner that it had been inflicted upon Lydia, and when they were all gone, the overseer turned to me and said—"Boy, you are a stranger here yet, but I called you in, to let you see how things are done here, and to give you a little advice. When I get a new negro under my command, I never whip at first; I always give him a few days to learn his duty, unless he is an outrageous villain, in which case I anoint him a little at the beginning. I call over the names of all the hands twice every week, on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, and settle with them according to their general conduct, for the last three days. I call the names of my captains every morning, and it is their business to see that they have all their hands in their proper places. You ought not to have staid behind to-night with Lyd; but as this is your first offence, I shall overlook it, and you may go and get your supper. I made a low bow, and thanked master overseer for his kindness to me, and left him. This night for supper, we had corn bread and cucumbers; but we had neither salt, vinegar, nor pepper, with the cucumbers.
I had never before seen people flogged in the way our overseer flogged his people. This plan of making the person who is to be whipped, lie down upon the ground, was new to me, though it is much practised in the south; and I have since seen men and women too, cut nearly in pieces by this mode of punishment. It has one advantage over tying people up by the hands, as it prevents all accidents from sprains in the thumbs or wrists. I have known people to hurt their joints very much, by struggling when tied up by the thumbs, or wrists, to undergo a severe whipping. The method of ground whipping, as it is called, is, in my opinion, very indecent, as it compels females to expose themselves in a very shameful manner.
The whip used by the overseers on the cotton plantations, is different from all other whips, that I have ever seen. The staff is about twenty or twenty-two inches in length, with it large and heavy head, which is often loaded with a quarter or half a pound of lead, wrapped in cat-gut, and securely fastened on, so that nothing but the greatest violence can separate it from the staff. The lash is ten feet long, made of small strips of buckskin, tanned so as to be dry and hard, and plaited carefully and closely together, of the thickness, in the largest part, of a man's little finger, but quite small at each extremity. At the farthest end of this thong is attached a cracker, nine inches in length, made of strong sewing silk, twisted and knotted, until it feels as firm as the hardest twine.
This whip, in an unpractised hand, is a very awkward and inefficient weapon; but the best qualification of the overseer of a cotton plantation is the ability of using this whip with adroitness; and when wielded by an experienced arm, it is one of the keenest instruments of torture ever invented by the ingenuity of man. The cat-o'-nine tails, used in the British military service, is but a clumsy instrument beside this whip; which has superseded the cow-hide, the hickory, and every other species of lash, on the cotton plantations. The cow-hide and hickory, bruise and mangle the flesh of the sufferer; but this whip cuts, when expertly applied, almost as keen as a knife, and never bruises the flesh, nor injures the bones.
It was now Saturday night, and I wished very much for Sunday morning to come that I might see the manner of spending the Sabbath, on a great cotton plantation. I expected, that as these people had been compelled to work so hard, and fare so poorly all the week, they would be inclined to repose themselves on Sunday; and that the morning of this day would be passed in quietness, if not in sleep, by the inhabitants of our quarter. No horn was blown by the overseer, to awaken us this morning, and I slept, in my little loft, until it was quite day; but when I came down, I found our small community a scene of universal bustle and agitation.
Here it is necessary to make my readers acquainted with the rules of polity, which governed us on Sunday, (for I now speak of myself, as one of the slaves on this plantation,) and with the causes which gave rise to these rules.
All over the south, the slaves are discouraged, as much as possible, and by all possible means, from going to any place of religious worship on Sunday. This is to prevent them from associating together, from different estates, and distant parts of the country; and plotting conspiracies and insurrections. On some estates, the overseers are required to prohibit the people from going to meeting off the plantation, at any time, under the severest penalties. White preachers cannot come upon the plantations, to preach to the people, without first obtaining permission of the master, and afterwards procuring the sanction of the overseer. No slave dare leave the plantation to which he belongs, a single mile, without a written pass from the overseer, or master; but by exposing himself to the danger of being taken up and flogged. Any white man who meets a slave of the plantation without a pass, has a right to take him up, and flog him at his discretion. All these causes combined, operate powerfully to keep the slave at home. But, in addition to these principles of restraint, it is a rule on every plantation, that no overseer ever departs from, to flog every slave, male or female, that leaves the estate for a single hour, by night or by day—Sunday not excepted—without a written pass.
The overseer who should permit the people under his charge to go about the neighbourhood without a pass, would soon lose his character, and no one would employ him; nor would his reputation less certainly suffer in the estimation of the planters, were he to fall into the practice of granting passes, except on the most urgent occasions; and for purposes generally to be specified in the pass.
A cotton planter has no more idea of permitting his slaves to go at will, about the neighbourhood on Sunday, than a farmer in Pennsylvania has of letting his horses out of his field on that day. Nor would the neighbours be less inclined to complain of the annoyance, in the former, than in the latter case.
There has always been a strong repugnance, amongst the planters, against their slaves becoming members of any religious society, Not, as I believe, because they are so maliciously disposed towards their people as to wish to deprive them of the comforts of religion—provided the principles of religion did not militate against the principles of slavery—but they fear that the slaves, by attending meetings, and listening to the preachers, may imbibe with the morality they teach, the notions of equality and liberty, contained in the gospel. This, I have no doubt, is the ground of all the dissatisfaction, that the planters express, with the itinerant preachers, who have from time to time, sought opportunities of instructing the slaves in their religious duties.
The cotton planters have always, since I knew any thing of them, been most careful to prevent the slaves from learning to read; and such is the gross ignorance that prevails, that many of them could not name the four cardinal points.
At the time I first went to Carolina, there were a great many African slaves in the country, and they continued to come in for several years afterwards. I became intimately acquainted with some of these Many of them believed there were several gods; some of whom were good, and others evil, and they prayed as much to the latter as to the former. I knew several who must have been, from what I have since learned, Mohamedans; though at that time, I had never heard of the religion of Mohamed.
There was one man on this plantation, who prayed five times every day, always turning his face to the east, when in the performance of his devotion.
There is, in general, very little sense of religious obligation, or duty, amongst the slaves on the cotton plantations; and Christianity cannot be, with propriety, called the religion of these people. They are universally subject to the grossest and most abject superstition; and uniformly believe in witchcraft, conjuration, and the agency of evil spirits in the affairs of human life. Far the greater part of them are either natives of Africa, or the descendants of those who have always, from generation to generation, lived in the south, since their ancestors were landed on this continent; and their superstition, for it does not deserve the name of religion, is no better, nor is it less ferocious, than that which oppresses the inhabitants of the wildest regions of Negro-land.
They have not the slightest religious regard for the Sabbath-day, and their masters make no efforts to impress them with the least respect for this sacred institution. My first Sunday on this plantation was but a prelude to all that followed; and I shall here give an account of it.
At the time I rose this morning, it wanted only about fifteen or twenty minutes of sunrise; and a large number of the men, as well as some of the women, had already quitted the quarter, and gone about the business of the day. That is, they had gone to work for wages for themselves—in this manner: our overseer had, about two miles off, a field of near twenty acres, planted in cotton, on his own account. He was the owner of this land; but as he had no slaves, he was obliged to hire people to work it for him, or let it lie waste. He had procured this field to be cleared, as I was told, partly by letting white men make tar and turpentine from the pine wood which grew on it; and partly by hiring slaves to work upon it on Sunday. About twenty of our people went to work for him to-day, for which he gave them fifty cents each, Several of the others, perhaps forty in all, went out through the neighbourhood, to work for other planters.
On every plantation, with which I ever had any acquaintance, the people are allowed to make patches, as they are called—that is, gardens, in some remote and unprofitable part of the estate, generally in the woods, in which they plant corn, potatoes, pumpkins, melons, &c. for themselves.
These patches they must cultivate on Sunday, or let them go uncultivated. I think, that on this estate, there were about thirty of these patches, cleared in the woods, and fenced—some with rails, and others with brush—the property of the various families.
The vegetables that grew in these patches, were always consumed in the families of the owners; and the money that was earned by hiring out, was spent in various ways; sometimes for clothes, sometimes for better food than was allowed by the overseer, and sometimes for rum; but those who drank rum, had to do it by stealth.
By the time the sun was up an hour, this morning, our quarter was nearly as quiet and clear of inhabitants, as it had been at the same period on the previous day.
As I had nothing to do for myself, I went with Lydia, whose husband was still sick, to help her to work in her patch, which was about a mile and a half from our dwelling. We took with us some bread, and a large bucket of water; and worked all day. She had onions, cabbages, cucumbers, melons, and many other things in her garden,
In the evening, as we returned home, we were joined by the man who prayed five times a day; and at the going down of the sun, he stopped and prayed aloud in our hearing, in a language I did not understand.
This man told me, he formerly lived on the confines of a country, which had no trees, nor grass upon it; and that in some places, no water was to be found for several days' journey. That this barren country was, nevertheless, inhabited by a race of men, who had many camels and goats, and some horses. They had no settled place of residence; but removed from one part of the country to another, in quest of places where green herbage was to be found—their chief food being the milk of their camels, and goats; but that they also ate the flesh of these animals, sometimes. The hair of these people, was not short and woolly, like that of the negroes; nor were they of a shining black. They were continually at war with some of the neighbouring people, and very often with his own countrymen. He was himself once taken prisoner by them, when a lad, in a great battle fought between them and his own people, in which his party were defeated. The victors kept him in their possession, more than two years, compelling him to attend to their camels and goats.
Whilst he was with these people, they travelled a great way towards the rising sun; and came to a river, running through a country inhabited by yellow people, where the land was very rich, and produced great quantities of rice, such as grows here—and many other kinds of grain.
The people who had taken him prisoner, professed the same religion that he did; and it was forbidden by its precepts, for one man to sell another into slavery, who held the same faith with himself; otherwise he should have been sold to these yellow people. In the river of this country he saw alligators, in great abundance, like those that he had seen in Carolina; and the musquitos were, in some places, so numerous, that it was difficult to breathe without inhaling them.
"When we turned the camels out to graze, we used to tie their fore-feet together, with a rope made of the hair of this animal, spun upon small sticks, and twisted into a rope. Sometimes they broke these ropes, and slipped their feet out of its coils; and it was then very difficult to retake them. They would sometimes strike off at a trot, across the open country, and we would be obliged to mount other camels, and follow them for a day or two, before we could retake them. I had been with these people so long, and being of the same religion with themselves, had become so familiar with their customs and manner of life, that they seemed almost to regard me as one of their own nation; and frequently sent me alone, in pursuit of the stray camels, giving me instructions how to direct my course, so as to rejoin them; for they never waited for me, to return to them, at the place where I left them, if the beasts had consumed the bushes, and green herbage, growing there, before I came back.
"When I had been a captive with them fully two years, we came one evening, and encamped at a little well, the mouth of which was about a yard over and the water in which was sweet and very good.
"This well, seemed to have been scooped out of the hard and flinty sand, with men's hands, and was scarcely more than four feet deep; though it contained an abundant supply of water. We encamped by this fountain all night; and I remembered that we had been at the same place, soon after I was made a prisoner; and that when we had formerly come to it, we travelled with our backs to the mid-day sun. There was no herbage hereabout, except a few stunted and thorny bushes; and in wandering abroad in quest of something to eat, one of the best and fleetest camels, entangled the rope which bound his fore-feet, amongst these bushes, and broke it. I found part of the rope fast to a bush in the morning; but the camel was at a great distance from us, towards the setting sun.
"The chief of our party ordered me to mount another camel, and go with a long rope, in pursuit of the stray; and told me that they should travel towards the south, that day, and encamp at a place where there was much grass. I went in pursuit of the lost camel; but when I came near him, he took off at a great trot over the country,—and I pursued him until noon, without being able to overtake him, or even to change the line of his march. His course was towards the south-west; and when I found it impossible to overtake him, as his speed was superior to that of the beast I rode, I resolved to strive to accomplish that, by stratagem, which force could not effect. I knew the beasts were both hungry; and that having received as much water as they could drink, the night before, they would devour with the utmost avidity, the first green herbage that they might meet with.
"I slackened the speed of my camel, and followed at a leisure gait, after the one I pursued, suffering him to leave me behind him at a considerable distance. He still, however, kept on in the same direction, and with nearly the same speed, with which he had advanced all the morning; so that it became necessary for me to quicken my pace, to prevent him from passing out of my sight, and escaping from me altogether.
"About five o'clock in the afternoon, I came in sight of trees, the tops of which were only visible across the open plain. The camel I rode was now as desirous to advance rapidly, as his leader had been throughout the day. I was carried forward as quickly as the swiftest horse could trot; and awhile before sundown, I approached a small grove of tall straight trees, which are greatly valued in Africa, and which bear large quantities of nuts, of a very good quality. Under and about these trees, was a small tract of ground, covered with long green grass; and here my stray camel stopped.
"I have no doubt that he had scented the odour of this grass, soon after I first gave chase to him in the morning; though the distance at which he was from it, was so great, that the best horse could not have travelled it in one day. When I came up to the trees, I dismounted from the camel I rode, and tying its feet together with a short rope, preserved my long one, for the purpose of taking the runaway. I gathered as many nuts as I could eat, and after satisfying my hunger, lay down to sleep.
"This was the first time that I had ever attempted to pass a night alone, in this open country; and after I had made my bed in the grass, I became fearful that some wild beast might fall in with me before morning, as I had often heard lions, and other creatures of prey, breaking the stillness of night, in those desolate regions, by their yells and roaring. I therefore ascended a tree, and placed myself amongst some spreading limbs, in such a position as to be in no danger of falling, even if I should be overtaken by sleep.
"The moon was now full; and in that country where there are no clouds, and where there is seldom any dew, objects can be distinguished at the distance of several miles over the plains, by moonlight. When I had been in the tree about an hour, I heard at a great distance, a loud sullen noise, between a growl and a roar, which I knew to proceed from a lion; for I was well acquainted with the habits and noise of this animal; having frequently assisted in hunting him, in my own country.
I was greatly terrified by this circumstance; not for my own safety, for I knew that no beast of prey could reach me in the tree, but I feared that my camels might be devoured, and I be left to perish in the desert.
"My fears were in part, well founded; for keeping my eye steadily directed towards the point from which the sound had proceeded, it was not long before I saw some object, moving over the naked plain.
"The runaway camel now joined his tethered companion, and both quitting the herbage, came and stood at the root of the tree, upon the branches of which I was. I still kept my eye steadily fixed upon the moving body which was evidently advancing nearer to me over the plain. I had no longer any doubt that it was coming to the grove of trees, which were only twelve or fifteen in number; and so bare of branches that I could distinctly see in every direction around me.
"In a few minutes, the animal approached me. It was a monstrous lion, of the black maned species. It was now within one hundred paces of me, and the poor camels raised their heads, as high as they could, towards me, and crouched close to the trunk of the tree, apparently so stupified by fear, as to be incapable of attempting to fly. The lion approach- ed with a kind of circular motion; and at length dropping on his belly, glided along the ground, until within about ten yards of the tree, when uttering a terrific roar, which shook the stillness of the night for many a league around, he sprang upon and seized the unbound camel by the neck.
"Finding that I afforded no protection, the animal, after striving in vain to shake off his assailant, rushed out upon the open plain, carrying on his back the lion, which I could perceive, had already fastened upon the throat of his victim, which did not go more than a stone's cast from the trees, before he fell, and after a short struggle, ceased to move his limbs, The lion held the poor beast by the throat for some time after he was dead, and until, I suppose, the blood had ceased to flow from his veins—then, quitting the neck, he turned to the side of the slain, and tearing a hole into the cavity of the body, extracted the intestines, and devoured the liver and heart, before he began to gorge himself with the flesh. “The moon was now high in the heavens, and shone with such exceeding brilliancy, that I could see distinctly for many miles round me. In that country, the smooth and glittering surface of the hard and baked sandy plains, reflects the light of the moon, as strongly as a sheet of snow in winter does in this; and the atmosphere being free from all humidity, is so clear and transparent, that I could perceive the quivering motion of the camel's lips, in his last agony, as well as the tongue of the lion, when he licked the blood from his paws.
“As soon as my fright had a little subsided, I looked for my surviving camel which, to my terror, I could not see, either at the foot of the tree on which I was, and where I had last seen it, or anywhere in the grove.
"I now concluded, that in the alarm caused by the lion, and the destruction of his companion, my surviving beast had broken the cord which bound its feet, and had taken to flight leaving me alone, and without any means of escaping from the desert; for I had no hope of being able to reach, on foot, either the people with whom I had so long lived, or the inhabitants of the woody countries, lying far to the south of me. No condition can be more miserable than that to which I was now reduced.
"My late masters were distant from me, at least one day's journey, on a swift camel; and were removing farther from me every day, as fast as their beasts could carry them; and I had no knowledge of the various watering places, and spots of herbage, which lie scattered over the wide expanse of those unfrequented regions, in the midst of which I then was. I had not seen any water at this place, since I came to it; and had not the poor consolation of knowing, that I could remain here, and live on the fruit of the trees, until some chance should bring hither some of the wandering tribes, that roam over those solitudes.
"After a lapse of two or three hours, not being able to discover my living camel anywhere, although the moon had now passed her meridian, and shone with a splendour which enabled me to distinguish small pebbles at some distance, I gave him up for lost, and again turned my attention to the lion, which still continued at intervals, to utter deep and sullen growls over his prey. I expected, that at the approach of day, the lion would leave the dead carcass, and retire to his lair in some distant place; and I determined to await the period of his departure, to descend the tree, and search for water amongst the grass, which rose in some places to the height of my shoulders.
"I slept none this night,—but from my couch in the boughs, watched the motions of the lion, which, after swallowing at least one third of the camel, stretched himself at full length on his belly, about twenty paces from it, and laying his head between his fore-feet, prepared to guard his spoil against all the intruders of the night. In this position he remained, until the sun was up in the morning, and began to dart his rays across the naked and parched plain, upon which he lay—when rising and stretching himself, he walked slowly towards the grove-passed under me—went to the other side of the trees and entered some very tall herbage, where I heard him lap water. I now knew that I was in no danger of dying from thirst, provided I could escape wild beasts, on my way to and from the fountain.
"The trees afforded me both food and shelter; but I quickly found myself deprived of tasting water, at the present—for the lion, after slaking his thirst, returned by the same way that he had gone to the water, and coming to the tree in the boughs of which I lay, rubbed himself against its trunk, raising his tail, and exposing his sides alternately to the friction of the rough bark. After continuing this exercise for some time, he rested his weight on his hind-feet, licked his breast, fore-legs and paws, and then lying down on his side in the shade, appeared to fall into a deep sleep. Great as my anxiety was to leave my present lodgings, I dared not attempt to pass the sentinel that kept guard at the root of the tree, even though he slept on his post; for whenever I made the least rustling in the branches, I perceived that he moved his ears, and opened his eyes, but closed the latter again, when the noise ceased.
"The lion lay all day under the tree, only removing so as to place himself in the shade in the afternoon; but soon after the sun descended below the horizon, in the evening, he aroused himself, and resting upon his hind-feet, as he had done in the morning, uttered a roar that shook all the leaves about my head, and caused a tremulous motion in the branches upon which I rested. This horrid noise, together with the sight of the great beast that uttered it, so agitated my whole frame, that I was near leaping from my seat, and falling to the ground. I was so overcome with fear, that all prudence and self-possession forsook me; and I uttered a loud shout, as if in defiance of the monster below me.
"The moment the lion heard my voice, he raised his head, looked directly at me, with his fiery eyes, and crouched down in the attitude of springing; but perceiving me to be quite out of the reach of his longest leap, he walked slowly off, and lay down about half way between me and the dead camel, with his head towards my tree. I had no doubt that his object was to watch me, until my descent from the tree, that he might make his supper of me this night, as he had of my camel, the night before.
"I had now been without water two days—my thirst was tormenting, and I had no prospect before me but of remaining in this tree, until driven to delirium for water, I should voluntarily descend, and deliver myself into the jaws of my enemy.
“The moon did not rise this night until long after the disappearance of daylight; but in the country where I then was, the stars shed such abundant light, that objects of magnitude can be seen at a great distance by their rays, without the aid of the moon. The lion moved frequently from place to place, but I could perceive that his attention was still fixed upon me: at last, however, he started away across the plain, and went farther and farther from me, until at length I lost sight of him in the distance; and all remained as quiet and noiseless, in the immense expanse around me, as the land of the dead.
"I now thought of descending, to go in quest of water; but whilst I deliberated upon this subject the moon rose, and cast her broad and glorious light upon these wide fields of desolation. As I could now see every thing, I resolved to descend; but before doing this, thought it prudent to cast a look about me, to see if there might not be some other beast of prey near. This thought saved my life; for on turning my eyes in a direction quite different from that in which the lion had departed, I saw him returning, within two or three stone's cast, creeping along the ground. I watched him, and he came and placed himself between me and the water.
"All was again silent; and I remained in the tree, burning with thirst, until the moon was elevated high in the heavens, when the silence was interrupted by the roaring of a lion, at a great distance, which was again repeated after a short interval. At the end of half an hour I again heard the same lion, apparently not far off. Casting my eye in the direction of the sound, I saw the beast advancing rapidly, as I thought towards me, and began to apprehend that a whole den of lions were lying in wait for me.
"The stranger soon undeceived me, for he was coming to partake of the dead camel, whose flesh or blood he had doubtlessly smelled, though it was not putrid, for, in this dry atmosphere, flesh is preserved a long time free from taint, and is sometimes dried in the sun, in a state of perfect soundness. I knew the nature of the lion too well, to suppose that the stranger was going to get his supper free of cost; and before he had reached the carcass, my jailer quitted his post, and set off to defend his acquisition of the last night.
"The new comer arrived first, and fell upon the dead camel, with the fury of a hungry lion—as he was; but he had scarcely swallowed a second morsel when the rightful owner, uttering a roar yet more dreadful than any that had preceded it, leaped upon the intruder, and brought him to the ground. For a moment I heard nothing but the gnashing of teeth, the clashing of talons, and the sounds caused by the laceration of the flesh and hides of the combatants; but anon, they rolled along the ground, and filled the whole canopy of heaven with their yells of rage—then the roaring would cease, and only the rending of the flesh of these lords of the waste could be heard—then the roaring would again burst forth, with renewed energy.
"This battle lasted more than an hour; but at length both appearing to be exhausted, they lay for some minutes on their sides, each with the other wrapped in his fierce embrace. In the end, I perceived that one of them rose and walked away, leaving the other upon the ground. The victor, which I could perceive was the stranger, for his mane was not black, returned to the remnant of the camel, and lay down panting beside it. After he had taken time to breathe, he recommenced his attack, and consumed far the larger part of the carcass. Having eaten to fulness, he took up the bones and remaining flesh of the camel, and set out across the desert,—I followed him with my eye for more than an hour.
"Parched as my throat was, but still afraid to descend from my place of safety, I remained on the tree until the light of the next morning, when I examined carefully around, to see that there was no beast of prey lurking about the place, where I knew the water to be. Perceiving no danger, I descended before the sun was up, and going to the water, knelt down, and drank as long and as much as I thought I could with safety.
“I then proceeded to make a more minute examination of this place, and saw numerous tracks of wild goats, and of other animals, that had come here, as well to drink as to eat the grass. I also saw the tracks of lions, and other beasts of prey, which satisfied me that these had come to lie in wait for other animals coming to drink: it also convinced me that it was not safe for me to remain in this grove alone; but I knew of no means by which I could escape from it.
"It now occurred to my mind that if my living camel had not escaped from me, I might have made my way to my own country, for on my camel I had two leather bottles, which I had neglected to fill with water, the morning I left the company of my former masters. By replenishing these from the fountain, giving my camel as much as he could drink, and filling two small sacks attached to my saddle, with the nuts from these trees, I should have been equipped for a journey of ten days, within which period, I had no doubt, I should have been able to reach my own people; but my camel was gone, and these reflections served only to aggravate the bitterness of my anguish.
"I walked out upon the desert, and prayed to be delivered from the perils that environed me. At the distance of two or three miles from me, I now observed a small sand hill, rising to the height of eight or ten feet; easily perceived when looking along the level surface of the ground, but which had escaped my observation from my elevated post in the tree. Such sand hills are often found in those deserts, and sometimes contain the bones of men and animals that have been buried in them.
“In my situation, I could not remain idle; and urged forward by restlessness, bordering on despair, I resolved to go to the little hill before me, without having any definite object in view. I soon approached the hill, and having reached its foot, walked along its base for some distance. I then turned to go back to the trees; but after advancing a few steps, was seized with a sudden impulse, which urged me to go to the top of the sand hill. I again turned and walked slowly to the summit, beyond which I saw only the same dreary expanse that I was so well used to look upon. Advancing along the top of this sand hill, which had been blown up by the wind in a long narrow ridge, I saw a recess or hollow place, on the side opposite to that by which I had ascended it; and on coming to this spot, beheld my camel crouched down close to the ground, with his neck extended at full length. My joy was unbounded—I leaped with delight, and was wild for some minutes, with a delirium of gladness.
“My camel had fled from the grove, at the time his companion was killed by the lion, and reaching this place, had here taken refuge, and had not moved since. I hastened to loose his feet from the cords with which I had bound them; mounted upon his back, and was quickly at the watering place. I filled my two water skins with water, and gathering as many nuts as my sacks would contain, caused my camel to take a full draught, and fill his stomach with grass, and then directed my course to the south, with a quick pace.
"It was now noon when I left this watering place; and I travelled hard all that day and the succeeding night, until the moon rose. I then alighted, and causing my camel to lie down, crept close to his side, and betook myself to sleep. I rested well this night, and recommencing my journey at the dawn of day, I pursued my route, without any thing worthy of relating happening to me until the eighth day, when I discovered trees, and all the appearance of a woody country, before me.
"Soon after entering the forest, I came to a small stream of water. Descending this stream a few miles, I found some people, who were cutting grass for the purpose of making mats to sleep on. These people spoke my own language, and told me that one of them had been in my native village lately. They took me and my camel to their village, and treated me very kindly; promising me that after I had recovered from my fatigue, they would go with me to my friends.
"My protectors were at war with a nation whose religion was different from ours; and about a month after I came to the village we were alarmed one morning, just at break of day, by the horrible uproar caused by mingled shouts of men, and blows given with heavy sticks upon large wooden drums. The village was surrounded by enemies, who attacked us with clubs, long wooden spears, and bows and arrows. After fighting for more than an hour, those who were not fortunate enough to run away, were made prisoners. It was not the object of our enemies to kill; they wished to take us alive, and sell us as slaves. I was knocked down by a heavy blow of a club, and when I recovered from the stupor that followed, I found myself tied fast with the long rope that I had brought from the desert, and in which I had formerly led the camels of my masters.
“We were immediately led away from this village, through the forest, and were compelled to travel all day, as fast as we could walk. We had nothing to eat on this journey, but a small quantity of grain, taken with ourselves. This grain we were compelled to carry on our backs, and, roast by the fires which we kindled at nights, to frighten away the wild beasts. We travelled three weeks in the woods,—sometimes without any path at all; and arrived one day ata large river, with a rapid current. Here we were forced to help our conquerors, to roll a great number of dead trees into the water, from a vast pile that had been thrown together by high floods.
These trees being dry and light, floated high out of the water; and when several of them were fastened together, with the tough branches of young trees, formed a raft, upon which we all placed ourselves, and descended the river for three days, when we came in sight of what appeared to me the most wonderful object in the world; this was a large ship, at anchor, in the river. When our raft came near the ship, the white people—for such they were on board—assisted to take us on deck, and the logs were suffered to float down the river.
“I had never seen white people before; and they appeared to me the ugliest creatures in the world. The persons who brought us down the river received payment for us of the people in the ship, in various articles, of which I remember that a keg of liquor, and some yards of blue and red cotton cloth, were the principal. At the time we came into this ship, she was full of black people, who were all confined in a dark and low place, in irons. The women were in irons as well as the men.
"About twenty persons were seized in our village, at the time I was; and amongst these were three children, so young that they were not able to walk, or to eat any hard substance. The mothers of these children had brought them all the way with them; and had them in their arms when we were taken on board this ship.
"When they put us in irons, to be sent to our place of confinement in the ship, the men who fastened the irons on these mothers, took the children out of their hands, and threw them over the side of the ship, into the water. When this was done, two of the women leaped overboard after the children—the third was already confined by a chain to another woman, and could not get into the water, but in struggling to disengage herself she broke her arm, and died a few days after, of a fever. One of the two women who were in the river, was carried down by the weight of her irons, before she could be rescued; but the other was taken up by some men in a boat, and brought on board. This woman threw herself overboard one night, when we were at sea.The weather was very hot, whilst we lay in the river, and many of us died every day; but the number brought on board greatly exceeded those who died, and at the end of two weeks the place in which we were confined was so full that no one could lie down; and we were obliged to sit all the time, for the room was not high enough for us to stand. When our prison would hold no more, the ship sailed down the river, and on the night of the second day after she sailed, I heard the roaring of the ocean, as it dashed against her sides.
"After we had been at sea some days, the irons were removed from the women, and they were permitted to go upon deck; but whenever the wind blew high, they were driven down amongst us.
"We had nothing to eat but yams, which were thrown amongst us at random—and of these we had scarcely enough to support life. More than one-third of us died on the passage; and when we arrived at Charleston, I was not able to stand. It was more than a week after I left the ship, before I could straighten my limbs. I was bought by a trader, with several others; brought up the country, and sold to our present master: I have been here five years."