Albert, Octavia V. Rogers
|CHAPTER III. -- AUNT CHARLOTTE'S FRIENDS|
Death of Aunt Charlotte's children--Jane Lee's master leaves the neighborhood--Nellie Johnson tries to escape to her old Virginia home.
"AUNT CHARLOTTE, what became of your baby? were you blest to raise it?"
"No; my poor child died when it was two years old. Old marster's son was the father of my child?"
"Did its father help to take care of it?"
"Why, no; he never noticed my child."
"Did you have any more children?"
"Yes; but they all died."
"Why could you not rear any of them?"
"La, me, child! they died for want of attention. I used to leave them alone half of the time. Sometimes old mistress would have some one to mind them till they got so they could walk, but after that they would have to paddle for themselves. I was glad the Lord
Poor Charlotte Brooks! I can never forget how her eyes were filled with tears when she would speak of all her children: "Gone, and no one to care for me!" Sometimes she failed to come and see me (or she always visited me when she was able; never missed a day, unless she was sick, during the two years I lived near her). She was in poor health, and had no one to help her in her old age, when she really needed help. She had spent her life working hard for her masters, and after giving all of her youthful days to them van turned upon this cold, unfriendly world with nothing. She left her master's plantation with two blankets, and was several day on the road walking to get to the town of -- and, having become so exhausted, dropped them by the way-side. She said when she arrived at her destination she had nothing but the clothes she had on her back. She was then old and feeble.
I remember she used to come and beg me to save the stale coffee for her, saying she had not eaten any thing all day. Notwithstanding
She answered, "No, my dear; how can a child of God feel lonesome? My heavenly Father took care of me in slave-time. He led me all the way along, and now he has set me free, and I am free both in soul and body."
She said, "I heard a preacher say once since I got free, 'Not a foot of land do I possess, not a cottage in the wilderness.' Just so it is with me; sometimes I don't have bread to eat; but I tell you, my soul is always feasting on my dear Jesus. Nobody knows what it is to taste of Jesus but them that has been washed by him. Many years ago, my white folds did not want me even to pray, and would whip me for praying, saying it was foolishness for me to pray. But the more old marster whipped me the more I'd pray. Sometimes he'd put me in jail; but, la, me! it did not stop me from praying. I'd kneel down on the jail floor and pray often, and nearly all day Sundays. I'd fall asleep sometimes praying. Old marster would come and call me about sundown. He would always
"Aunt Jane's white folks was not so hard on her as mine was. They did not let her go off at night, but she would slip away and come and lead prayer-meeting at my house. She always brought her Bible and hymn-book. She read to us that night something like this: "I know my Reedeemer lives.'"
I said to her, "O, yes, Aunt Charlotte; I remember it very well. It is in the book of Job, nineteenth chapter, twenty-fifth verse."
"Well, it has been so long since I heard it
"With much pleasure I'll read it to you. Here it is: 'For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.' I've read three verses of that chapter for you.
Thank you, too, for it. O, how it makes me think of them happy times in the canefield I used to have! I do wish I could read. I long to read the Bible and hymn-book. When I was in Virginia I used to study some. I learned my A,B,C, and begun to spell some in my blue-back spelling-book. I could spell 'ba-ker' and 'sha-dy,' and all along there in the spelling-book; but after I came to Louisiana I forgot every thing."
I said, "You have no hope of learning, now that you are free, although you are at liberty to do as you please?'
"No, my child; I can't see how to thread my needle now. I have given all my young;
"Aunt Charlotte, what became of Jane Lee?"
"Well, about five or six years before the war her marster moved way off to Texas, and I never saw her any more. We all cried when she left us. We felt lost, because we had nobody to lead us in our little meetings. After a while I begun to lead, and then some of the others would lead. Aunt Jane caused many of our people to get religion on our place. Where she lived the black folks were all Catholic, and she could not do much with them. I tell you, them Catholic people loved them beads and crosses they used to pray to. The last time Aunt Jane was with us she told us her white people was going to move, and she might never see us any more in this world; but she said, "Charlotte, promise me you will meet me in heaven.' And then she turned around to all the others in the little cabin that night and asked them all to promise is to meet her there. We all promised to fight on till death. La, me! such crying there
"Aunt Jane said that when she came out here a pretty woman was brought here with her by the name of Nellie Johnson. Nellie was sold to a mighty bad man. She tried to run away to her old Virginia home, but the white men caught her and brought her back. Aunt Jane told me Nellie was almost white, and had pretty, long, straight hair. When they got her back they made her wear men's pants for one year. They made her work in the filed in that way. She said they put deer-horns on her head to punish her, with bells on them. Aunt Jane said once while she was passing on the levee she saw Nellie working with the men on the Mississippi River, and she had men's clothes on then. The white folks used to have the levee worked on often before the war. They were afraid the levees would cave in."