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    CHAPTER VI.
  --  A KIND MISTRESS.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER VIII.
  --  THE CURSE OF WHISKY.

Albert, Octavia V. Rogers
The House of Bondage

- CHAPTER VII -- BROKEN-DOWN FREEDMEN.

CHAPTER VII
BROKEN-DOWN FREEDMEN.


Aunt Charlotte splitting rails--In Sunday-school--Joe Sims, a runaway, sleeping in the woods with rattlesnakes--Eating out of trash-boxes.

"AUNT CHARLOTTE, people who never knew any thing about slave-life in the South can hardly credit the reports that have been circulated by those who have resided here. For it seems to me that the terrible treatment the slaves received from the hands of their masters was more than any human being could bear."

"But, my child, every word is true. I can't tell you half what my two eyes have seen since I have been in Louisiana. The white folks did not take the niggers for nothing more than brutes. They would take more time with fine horses, and put them up to rest. We poor darkies were never allowed to rest. I have split rails many and many a day, and sometimes my back would almost break when I'd

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have to roll logs, but I had to keep pulling along. When night came I could hardly drag one foot before the other. I'd go to my bed, and it would be wet where it leaked through the top of the house, and I'd just fall in it and would not know it was wet with water till next morning. I'd find leeches sticking to my legs, and blood would be all on my feet. I'd get them in the woods cutting wood. I tell you, if you get a leech on your it will draw like a blister. When I came to my house at night I was too tired to eat. I went to bed a many time hungry--was too broken down to cook my supper after working all the day hard."

"Why, I can't see what kept you alive, Aunt Charlotte, till now!"

"The dear Lord and Saviour kept me alive, and he is still taking care of me. Ever since I came to town I never miss going to church; and the other Sunday morning I went into the Sunday-school before church began, and I heard the children sing something like this:


"All the way my Saviour leads me'.

And when them children sang that it filled my eyes with tears, for I just thought how

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good the Lord had been to me. He had brought me through so much hardship, and I said, 'Here I am, Lord, blest to sit down and hear singing and preaching.' It was the first time I had ever heard that hymn, and I thought it was so sweet to my soul."

"Yes," I said, "it's one of my favorite hymns." "Wont you get your book and read it for me if your please?"

"Here it is:


"'All the way my Saviour leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt his tender mercy,
Who through life has been my guide?
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in him I dwell!
For I know whate'er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.


"'All the way my Saviour leads me;
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial;
Feeds me with the living bread;
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! a spring of joy I see.

"'All the way my Saviour leads me;
O, the fullness of his love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father's house above;
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When my spirit clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages--
Jesus led me all the way."

"O, bless the Lord for the chance of hearing those words! They suit my case. I want to sing that very hymn in glory. Yes, 'Jesus led me all the way.' Sometimes I don't know where I'll get a piece of bread when I get up in the morning, but still I'm living and praising God. We poor old colored people were turned off the plantations without any thing in this world to go on--turned out like in the woods. Mrs. B.--promised me last week if I'd come around and wash dishes for her every day she would give me the scraps she had left always at meals. I thank the Lord for that much. I don't need much in this world, no how--just enough to keep soul and body together. I know I can't stay here much longer, I don't want nothing in this world. If I can just get a little coffee every morning and a piece of bread I am satisfied."

"Aunt Charlotte, you can't always get a little coffee and bread?"

"No, child."

"Why, it seems you could get enough to do

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among the different families here in this town."

"No, bless your soul; the most of the white people don't want me--they say I am too old. I can't see how to work, and what I could do they wont let me."

"Aunt Charlotte, I see a great many old, feeble-looking men and women around in this place."

"Yes, many of them just like me--nobody to help them, and they are too old to do work, and just go wandering about picking up any thing they can get. Poor old Brother Joe Sims picks up, one half of his time, scraps out of the trash-boxes. He picks up rags for a living, and I have seen him eating out of the box of trash sometimes. Brother Joe is a member of our church; he never misses to come to church on Sundays. He came from Virginia too. He used to tell me how he stayed in the woods after he was sold out here. He said once his marster got after him to whip him and he would not led him do it. He said he run away in the woods for a long time. Brother Joe said he had a bed made of moss and limbs of trees in the woods. He said

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every day he would go off and get something to eat wherever he could, and then go back to his moss bed at night. You ought to hear him tell about the rattlesnakes that used to keep him company in the woods. He said the snakes got so used to him that they stayed under his moss bed at night. Sometimes he could hear them turning over under him. The snakes would go off in the day and come back at night. He could kill them if he wanted to, but he was glad to have them for company.

"You see, my child, God will take care of his people," said Aunt Charlotte. "He will hear us when we cry. True, we can't get anything to eat sometimes, but trials make us pray more. I just tell you, I don't sleep all night no night. I can't; for the Spirit of God wakes me up between midnight and day, and I just gets right down on my knees and tells my Father all about my trials here below. We all are free, but we can't stop praying; we must keep on; we aint out of Egypt yet. We have been let loose, and now we are just marching on to a better land.

"Aunt Charlotte, it really makes me feel

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happy to hear you express your faith in the goodness of God. He has wrought wonderful works for the colored people here. He has raised up friends all through the North for them. Never was education so cheap as now. School-houses are being built all through the South for them. The money is being given by philanthropic Christians to educate the colored children. Education and morality will lift the colored people up out of the degradation in which they have been kept so long by their educated white Christian brethren."

"But, my child, so few of the children can go to school about here. We have school six months in this town, and you can see the children coming for a little while, and then they have to leave to go to work in the cane-field. All are poor, and they have to work to get something to eat. The children learn to read a little, and after that they leave school. I know a few go off to New Orleans sometimes to school, but only two or three. O, I wish the good times had come when I was young!"

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    CHAPTER VI.
  --  A KIND MISTRESS.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER VIII.
  --  THE CURSE OF WHISKY.