|CHAPTER IV. -- COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE--A SLAVEHOLDER'S IDEA OF ITS -- REQUIREMENTS--SEPARATION.|
Year after year rolled on. Master Jonas Mannyfield lived seven miles from us, on the other side of the Blue Ridge; and he owned a likely young fellow called Jerry. We had always known each other, and now he wanted to marry me. Our masters were both willing; and there was nothing to hinder, except that there was no minister about there to marry us. "No matter for that," Kibbler said to Jerry. "If you want Bett, and she wants you, that's the whole of it." But I didn't think so. I said, "No: neve till somebody comes along who can marry us." So it happened, one day, there was a colored man--a pedler, wit' his cart--on the road, and Jerry brought him in, and said he was ready to be minister for us. He asked us a few questions, which we answered in a satisfactory manner, and the he declared us husband and wife. I did not want him to make us promise that we would always be true to each other forsaking all others, as the white people do in their marriage service, because I knew that at any time our masters could compel us to break such a promise; and I had never forgotten the lesson learned, so many years before, in the blackberry pasture.
So Jerry and I were happy as, under all the circumstance we could well be. When he asked his master's consent to our marriage, he told him he had had thoughts of removing
Eight or ten months passed on, when one night my brother Stephen, who lived on the Blue Ridge, near Master Mannyfield, came to see me, and, as we talked of many things, he spoke of Jerry in a way that instantly roused my suspicion. I said: "Tell me what is the matter? I know there is something. Is Jerry dead? Is he sold? Tell me what it is." I saw he dreaded to speak, and that frightened me the more.
At last, he said: "'Tis no use, Betty. You have got to know it. Old Look-a-here's people are all in jail for debt." "Old Look-a-here" was the nickname by which Mannyfield was known by the colored people far and near, because he had a way of saying, when he was about to whip one of his slaves, "Now look-a-here, you black rascal," or "you black wench."
The next day was Saturday, and I hurried to complete my ask in the corn-field, and then asked my master if I could go to see Jerry. He objected at first, but at last gave me a pass to see my brother, and be gone until Monday morning.
The sun might have been two hours high when I started; but, before I was half over the mountain, night had closed around me its deepest gloom. The vivid flashes of lightning made the carriage path plain at times, and then I could not see a step before me; and the rolling thunder added to my and dread. I was dripping wet when, about nine clock, I reached the house. It had been my plan to get Stephen to go on with me to Jerry's mother's, and stay the
Jerry saw us, as we came along the road, through the prison bars; and the jailer allowed us to talk together there, not, however, without a witness to all we might say. We had committed no offence against God or man. Jerry had not and yet, like base criminals, we were denied even the consolation of privacy. This was a necessary part of the system of American slavery. Neither wife nor mother could intervene to soften its rigors one jot.
Several months passed, and Mannyfield was still unable to redeem his property; and they were at last put up at auction, and sold to the highest bidder. Frank White, a slave-trader bought the entire lot, and proceeded at once to make up a gang for the Southern market.
Arrangements were made to start Friday morning; and on Thursday afternoon, chained together, the gang were taken across the stream, and encamped on its banks. White then went to Jerry, and, taking the handcuffs from his wrists, told him to go and stay the night with his wife, and see if he could persuade her to go with him. If he could, he would buy her, and so they need not be separated. He would pass that way in the morning, and see. Of course Jerry was only too glad to come; and, at first, I thought would go with him. Then came the consciousness that the
We talked late into the night; and at last, in the silence and dread, worn out with sorrow and fear, my head on his shoulder, we both dropped asleep.
Daylight was upon us when we waked. The sad consciousness ousness of our condition, and our utter helplessness, overpowered us. I opened the door, and there was my mistress, with pail in hand, going to the spring for water. "Oh, what shall I do? Where shall I go?" cried Jerry, as he saw her "Have no fear," I said. "Go right along. I know distress will never betray you." And, with a bound, he mistress over the fence, into the fields, and off to the mountains.
In a very short time, White and his poor, doomed company came along, and called for Jerry. I had taken my pail to milk the cows; and, seeing me, he sung out, "Woman, where is Jerry, I say?" "I don't know where Jerry is," I answered. Then, turning to Kibbler, who, hearing the outcry, now came out, he said, "You told me that woman wouldn't lie; and you know well enough she is lying now, when she says she don't know where that--rascal is." Kibbler answered very slowly and thoughtfully, "I never knowed her to lie; but may be this time,--may be this time." White then turned to me, and said, "I took off his handcuffs, and let him go to you, and you had no business to serve me so."
It was true I did not know where Jerry was at that time. We had agreed that we would meet that night near the blacksmith's old shop, on the other side of the run; and that was all I knew of his whereabouts, though he had not been gone long enough to be far away. It was true he had trusted us, and I felt very badly; but what else could we have done? Kind reader, what think you?
I then told him that Jerry had said he was willing to work, and would go to his mother's and serve her, but never , if he could help it, would he be carried South.
Then White tried to bargain with Kibbler for my purchase, saying he would give any price he should name for me, because he knew I would then find Jerry. But it was no use. Kibbler had a kind spot in his heart, and would not consent to let me go. So the slave-trader moved on with his human cattle.
Five miles on the road lived David McCoy, another slave trader. When White reached his house, it was agreed by them that, if McCoy could find Jerry within two days, be should bring him on, and they would meet at Stanton, Va.