|CHAPTER II. -- BEREAVEMENT--CHANGE OF MASTER AND HOME--UNJUST -- DEMANDS--PUNISHMENT ESCAPED.|
The next thing I recall as being of any particular importance to me was the death of my mother, and, soon after, that of Master Fletcher. I must have been about nine years old at that time.
Master's children consisted of five daughters and two sons. As usual in such cases, an inventory was taken of his property (all of which nearly was in slaves), and, being apportioned in shares, lots were drawn, and, as might chance, we fell to our several masters and mistresses.
My sister Matilda and myself were drawn by the eldest daughter, Miss Lucy. My grandmother had begged hard to be reckoned with me, but she and Uncle Peter fell to Miss Nasenath; but as after a time she married David Kibbler, and Miss Lucy went to live with them, taking her human property with her, to wait on her, and also to work for Mr. Kibbler, we were brought together again. In the mean time, I was put out with an old woman, who gave me my food and clothes for whatever work I could do for her. She was kind to me, as I then counted kindness, never whipping me or starving me; but it was not what a free-born white child would have found comforting or needful.
Going into the family of David Kibbler as I did with my mistress, I was really under his direction and subject to his
Master Kibbler was a Dutchman,--a man of most violent temper, ready to fight anything or anybody who resisted his authority or in any way crossed his path. His one redeeming quality was his love for his horses and dogs. These must be fed before his servants, and their comfort and health always considered. He was a blacksmith by trade, and would have me hold his irons while he worked them. I was awkward one day, and he struck me with a nail-rod, making me so lame my mistress noticed it, and asked Matilda what was the matter with me; and, when she was told, she was greatly troubled, and as I suppose spoke to Kibbler about it, for he called me to him, and bade me go a long way off into a field, and, as he said, cut some sprouts there. But he very soon followed me, and, cutting a rod, beat me severely, and then told me to "go again and tell my mistress that he had hit me with a nail-rod, if I wanted to."
Poor Miss Lucy! She was kind and tender-hearted. She often said she hated slavery, and wanted nothing to do with it; but she could see no way out of it.
It will give a clearer idea of the kind of a man Kibbler was, and the way I grew to manage with him, if I tell here a circumstance that happened after I had grown much older and stronger. I had been in the field a good ways from the house, helping him to haul logs. Our work was done, and he had mounted the team to go home, and the bars were let down for him to pass out, when a drove of hogs ran in to get the clover that was growing in a part of the field. He called to me to drive out the hogs. I clapped my hands together, and shouted, "Shoo! shoo!" This frightened the horses, and Kibbler was unable to control them;
A big boy who had been hauling the logs with us now helped me drive out the hogs and plant the post. We hurried with all our might, and then tried to run home; but, by the time we got out of the woods, we saw master so far ahead of us I knew it was no use to try, and I said I would risk the whipping and not run any longer. So, when we came up to the house, master was sitting in his chair by the window; and, as I passed into the room near him, he handed me his jack-knife, and said, "Now, girl, go cut me a good hickory,--a good one, mind you; for, if I have to cut it myself, I'll get a hard one, you may be sure." I took the knife, passed through the kitchen to the back door, just beside which was a little shelf where the pails of water just filled from the spring were standing. I laid the knife on the shelf, and passed out the door, and ran for the woods and the mountain. By the time I reached the woods, it began to rain, and poured fearfully all the night. I crowded my head under the alder bushes, while my shoulders and body were dripping wet. All night I crouched in this way; and, when morning came, I was afraid to show myself, and all day kept concealed by the trees and bushes as best I could. As night came on, I was very hungry, having eaten nothing for more than thirty-six hours; and so I decided to go down the mountain where old Kibbler, my master's father, lived, knowing that he would give me something to
I don't know how I dared to say this, for to his own slaves he was a hard, ugly man; but he gave me something to eat, then went home with me, and, after repeating my story to Master David, asked him if that was true, and added, "Then you have no right to whip her." And that was the end of it.
I must go back here to my mistress and her wish not to hold slaves. A gentleman from Ohio was visiting in the neighborhood; and Miss Lucy, knowing he was from a free State, asked him if he would not take me North with him. He very readily consented, promising to do the best he could for me; but, when Master David and others heard about it, they said it was a foolish thing to do, for this man would very likely sell me before he left the South, and put the money into his own pocket, and I should find myself worse of than ever. It was true that many Northern men came South very bitter in their opposition to slavery, and after a little while came to be the hardest and most cruel slaveholders.
I have sometimes tried to picture what my life might have been could I have been set free at that age; and I have
Miss Lucy now told me, if I would be contented and stay quietly where I was, and not be married, she would, when her nephew Noe came to be of age, give me my freedom. Instead of this, however, I was told soon after that she had made her will, bequeathing me already to this nephew. I was never sure this was true. Her kindness to me and my love for her made it always seem impossible.