"For now the ripened cane
Was ready for the knife,
And not a slave could be spared to aid
His mother or his wife."
In the cotton districts, the picking season is always the most severe for the bondman, for when they gather in the cotton, the slaves are worked from fifteen to twenty hours out of the twenty-four. The sugar-making season commences about the middle or last of October, and continues from four to ten weeks, according to the season and other circumstances; but more especially, the number of hands on the plantation, and the amount of sugar to be made. As soon as the cane is ready for harvesting, the grinding-mill is got in order, wood hauled, the boiling-house cleaned out, the kettles scoured, the coolers caulked, and the casks arranged to receive the sugar. Before the cane is gathered in, plants, or sprouts, as they are sometimes called, are secured for the next season. This is done by cutting cane and putting it in matelas ,--or mattressing it, as it is commonly denominated. The cane is cut and thrown out into different parcels in the field, in quantities sufficient of plant several acres, and so placed that the tops of one layer may completely cover and protect the stalks of another. When the required amount is thus obtained, the whole gang of slaves is employed in cutting
During the whole of this process, the driver is never seen without a short-handled whip in his hand. The lash of the negro-whip is from four to six feet in length, made of cowhide, and sometimes wire planted in with the leather. The handle of the whip, or the butt, is not unfrequently loaded or filled with lead.
Such is the process through which the sugar has to pass before it finds its way upon the tables of the people of the free States. William shrank back at the thought of his brothers dragging out their lives upon a cotton or sugar plantation.