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  --  CRUEL MASTERS   Table of Contents     CHAPTER VI.

Albert, Octavia V. Rogers
The House of Bondage



The death of Lena--Her dying testimony--Aunt Charlotte's mistress ties a servant by the thumbs--She returns and finds her dead.

"YOU remember I told you about Lena being one of our sisters in our prayer-meetings," said Aunt Charlotte.

"Yes; I recollect, I believe, a great many names you have spoken to me about every time you came talking about your past unhappy life; and I must confess to you that I have enjoyed your conversation very much. I have concluded to write the story of your life in the cane-fields of Louisiana, and I desire to write it in your own words, as near as possible."

"La, me, child! I never thought any body would care enough for me to tell of my trials and sorrows in this world! None but Jesus knows what I have passed through."

"Tell me, Aunt Charlotte, about Lena."


"She died with small-pox, and we all grieved and missed her among us. I had to 'tend to Lena when she was sick. I was the only one that had the small-pox at that time. She told me when she first got sick she would not live. But she said,' 'Charlotte, I have been working and praying for this hour. O,' she said, 'God has promised to lead all who will follow him. I have been toiling so long; now I'm about to cross over.' I said to Lena, 'Yes, my sister, Jesus stopped dying to redeem one soul on the cross. Remember how Aunt Jane used to read to us that Jesus promised the thief on the cross that he should be with him in paradise.' Lena asked me to sing, 'On Jordan's stormy banks I stand, and cast a wistful eye.' O, I can never forget Lena! She is in heaven this day, I believe. We learned that hymn from Aunt Jane Lee. Just before Lena died she said, 'Glory be to God and the Lamb forever! Safe at last, safe at last!' These were her last words to me. I remember when old marster got mad with Lena he used to put her in jail all day on Sunday and give her nothing but bread and water to eat."

"Aunt Charlotte, my heart throbs with sym-

pathy, and my eyes are filled with tears, whenever I hear you tell of the trials of yourself and others. I've read and heard very often of the hard punishments of the slaves in the South; but the half was never told."

"No, half of it aint been told. I could sit right here and tell you the trials and tribulations I have had to go through with my three marsters here in Louisiana, and it would be dark before I got half through with my own; but if I tried to tell of the sorrows of others, what I have seen here in Louisiana since I have been here, it would take me all the week, I reckon."

"But Aunt Charlotte, have you nothing good to tell? Did your master never show any sympathy for his slaves?"

"My dear child, if you believe me, I never got one dollar from my marster in my life. After rolling was over he would get big jugs of whisky and make us all drinks at his house door, but after that nothing more but hard work and rough treatment from one year's end to the other.

"I want to tell you about poor Ella, old mistress's house-servant. She was only twelve

years old. Ella's mother did not live with her. Mistress had no more feeling for her than she had for a cat. She used to beat her and pull her ears till they were sore. She would crack her on the head with a key or any thing she could get her hands on till blood would ooze out of the poor child's head. Mistress's mother give Ella to her, and when Ella got to be about eighteen mistress got jealous of her and old marster. She used to punish Ella all sorts of ways. Sometimes she tied her up by her thumbs. She could do nothing to please mistress. She had been in the habit of trying Ella up, but one day she tied her up and left her, and when she went back she found Ella dead. She told old marster she did not intend to kill her, that she only wanted to punish her. Mistress and marster did not live good after she killed Ella, for a long time. Poor Ella! I don't know where she is to-day. She was a Catholic. You could always see her with her beads and cross in her pocket. She is in purgatory, I reckon; for the Catholics say the priest can hold mass and get any body out for so much money. But nobody held mass for Ella, and so she will have to stay in purgatory.
But, I tell you, I believe there is only two places for us--heaven and torment. If we miss heaven we must be forever lost."

"Yes, Aunt Charlotte, that's the teaching of the Bible."

"Aunt Jane used to tell us, too, that the children of Israel was in Egypt in bondage, and that God delivered them out of Egypt; and she said he would deliver us. We all used to sing a hymn like this:

"'My God delivered Daniel, Daniel, Daniel;
My God delivered Daniel,
And why not deliver me too?
He delivered Daniel from the lion's den,
Jonah from the belly of the whale,
The three Hebrew children from the fiery furnace,
And why not deliver me too?'

"O, you ought to hear Richard sing that hymn! I never can forget Aunt Jane, for when old marster used to be so hard on me it seemed I'd have to give up sometimes and die. But then the Spirit of God would come to me and fill my heart with joy. It seemed the more trials I had the more I could pray."

"Aunt Charlotte, you remind me of Pilgrim's Progress."

"Yes, I remember about Pilgrim traveling

from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City."

I said, "His name was John Bunyan. He was confined in jail twelve years on account of his religion."

"Was he a slave too?"

"No; he was not a slave, but at the time he lived people were persecuted on account of their religious belief."

Yes, my child, that's the way it is here in Louisiana. The most of the white people were Catholics around where I lived, and we poor darkies that did not believe in Catholic religion had to suffer on account of it. But that's the time a true child of God prays, when he gets in trouble. For I know the most peaceful hours were when marster would put me in jail all day Sunday. We used to sing this song:

"O, brother, where was you?
O, brother, where was you?
O, brother, where was you?
When the Lord come passing by?
Jesus been here,
O, He's been here
He's been here
Soon in the morning;
Jesus been here,
And blest my soul and gone.

"Yes, my dear child, that hymn filled me with joy many a time when I'd be in prison on Sunday. I'd sit all day singing and praying. I tell you, Jesus did come and bless me in there. I was sorry for marster. I wanted to tell him sometimes about how sweet Jesus was to my soul; but he did not care for nothing in this world but getting rich. He had a brother living in Georgia. I believe he did not believe in Catholic religion.

"We all knowed his brother from Georgia, because he used to always come out in rolling season to see us make sugar. He used to love to hear us sing. Once while he was out he too might sick, and I had to attend to him. He asked me to pray for him. I said, "Yes, sir; I will pray for you, but you must touch the hem of the Saviour's garment yourself.' 'Yes,' he said, I am a Christian, and have been for many years.' We used to hear him sing, when he was ridding over the field looking at the cane, one hymn he used to like. It was this:

"'When my heart first believed,
What a joy I received,
What a heaven in Jesus's name!

"I knowed that hymn, and it used to do me good to hear him sing Aunt Jane's hymns. He married a woman in Georgia; and he had lived there so long till he almost forgot how to speak French. Old marster did not like 'Merican people. Old mistress used to have ball on Sunday. She had me and her cook fixing all days Sunday for the ball on Sunday night sometimes. Mistress's religion did not make her happy like my religion did. I was a poor slave, and every body knowed I had religion, for it was Jesus with me every-where I went. I could never hear her talk about that heavenly journey."


  --  CRUEL MASTERS   Table of Contents     CHAPTER VI.