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    CHAPTER XVII.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER XIX.

Brown, Josephine
Biography of an American Bondman



"'Tis a glorious thing to send abroad a soul as free as air,
To throw aside the shackles which sectarian bondmen wear."

The following extract from Mr. Brown's "Sketches of Places and People Abroad," will show that all was not sunshine with him while in Europe. It was not the first time that forgetfulness for himself, and a desire to add to the comfort of others, placed him in an unpleasant position. The incident related below occurred during the first three months of the fugitive's sojourn in England:--

"Having published the narrative of my life, and escape from slavery, and put it into the booksellers' hands, and seeing a prospect of a fair sale, I ventured to take from my purse the last sovereign, to make up a small sum to remit to the United States, for the support of my daughters, who were at school there. Before doing this, however, I had made arrangements to attend a public meeting in the city of Worcester, at which the Mayor was to preside. Being informed by the friends of the slave there, that I would, in all probability, sell as number of copies of my book, and being told that Worcester was only ten miles from London, I felt safe in parting with all but a few shillings, feeling sure that my purse would soon be again replenished. But you may guess my surprise when I

learned that Worcester was above a hundred miles from London, and that I had not retained money enough to defray my expenses there. In my haste and wish to make up ten pounds to send to my children, I had forgotten that the payment for my lodgings would be demanded before I left town. Saturday morning came; I paid my lodging bill, and had three shillings and fourpence left. Out of this sum I was to get three dinners, as I was only served with breakfast and tea at my lodgings. Nowhere in the British Empire do the people witness such dark days as in London. It was on Monday morning in the fore part of October, as the clock on St. Martin's church was striking ten, that I left my lodgings and turned into the Strand. The street lamps were all burning and the shop lamps were all lighted, as if day had not made its appearance. This great thoroughfare, as usual at this time of the day, was thronged with business men going their way, and women sauntering about for pleasure, or for want of something to do. I passed down the Strand to Chairing Cross, and looked in vain to see the majestic statue of Nelson upon the top of the great shaft. The clock on St. Martin's church struck eleven, but my sight could not penetrate through the dark veil that hung between its face and me. In fact, day had been completely turned into night; and the brilliant lights from the shop windows, almost persuaded me that another day had not appeared. A London fog cannot be described. To be appreciated, it must be seen, or rather, felt, for it is altogether impossible to be clear and lucid on such a subject. It is the only thing
which can give you an idea of what Milton meant when he talked of darkness visible. There is a kind of light, to be sure, but it only serves as a medium for a series of optical illusions, and for all useful purposes of vision, the deepest darkness that ever fell from the heavens is infinitely preferable. A man perceives a coach a dozen yards off, and a single stride brings him under the horses' feet; he sees a gas light faintly glimmering (as he thinks) at the distance, but scarcely has he advanced a step or two towards it, when he becomes convinced of its actual station by finding his head rattling against the post; and as for attempting, if you once get mystified, to distinguish one street from another, it is ridiculous to think of such a thing. Turning, I retraced my steps, and was soon passing through the massive gates of Temple Bar, wending my way to the city, when a beggar boy at my heels accustomed me for a half-penny to buy bread. I had scarcely served the boy, when I observed near by, and standing close to a lamp-post, a colored man, and from his general appearance. I was satisfied that he was an American. He eyed me attentively as I passed him, and seemed anxious to speak. When I had got some distance from him, his eyes were still upon me. No longer able to resist the temptation to speak to him. I returned, and, commencing conversation with him, learned a little of his history, which was as follows: -- He had, he said, escaped from slavery in Maryland, and reached New York; but not feeling himself secure there, he had, through the kindness of the captain of an English ship, made his way to Liverpool, and not
being able to get employment there, he had come up to London. Here he had met with no better success, and having been employed in the growing of tobacco, and being unaccustomed to any other kind of work, he could not get labor in England. I told him he had better try to get to the West Indies, but he informed me that he had not a single penny, and that he had had nothing to eat that day. By this man's story I was moved to tears, and, going to a neighboring shop, I took from my purse my last shilling, changed it, and gave this poor fugitive one half. The poor man burst into tears, and exclaimed, `You are the first friend I have met in London.' I bade him farewell, and left him with a feeling of regret that I could not place him beyond the reach of want. I went on my way to the city, and while going through Cheapside, a streak of light appeared in the east, that reminded me that it was no night. In vain I wandered from street to street, with the hope that I might meet some one who would lend me money enough to get to Worcester. Hungry and fatigued, I was returning to my lodgings, when the great clock on St. Paul's Cathedral, under whose shadow I was then passing, struck four, A stroll through Fleet street and the Strand, and I was again pacing my room.

"On my return, I found a letter from Worcester had arrived during my absence, informing me that a party of gentlemen would meet me the next day on reaching the place, and saying, "Bring plenty of books, as you will doubtless sell a large number.' The last sixpence had been spent for postage stamps,

in order to send off some letters to other places; and I could not even stamp a letter in answer to the last one from Worcester. The only vestige of money about me was a smooth farthing, that a little girl had given me at a large number of meeting-in-Croyden, saying, `This is for the slaves.' I was three thousand miles from home, with but a single farthing in my pocket! Where on earth could a man be more destitute for the want of money than in the Great Metropolis? The cold hills of the Arctic regions have not a more inhospitable appearance than London to the stranger with an empty pocket. But whilst I felt depressed at being in such a sad condition, I was conscious that I had done right in remitting the last ten pounds to America, for the support of those whom God had committed to my care. I had no friend in London to whom I could apply for aid. My friend Mr. T -- was out of town, and I did not know his address. The dark day was rapidly passing away; the clock in the hall had struck six; I had given up all hopes of reaching Worcester the next day, and had just rung the bell for the servant to bring me some tea, when a gentle tap at the door was heard; the servant entered, and informed me that a gentleman below wished to see me. I bade her fetch a light, and ask him up. The stranger was my young friend, Frederick Stephenson, son of the excellent minister of the Borough-Road Chapel. I lectured in this chapel a few days previous, and this young gentleman, with more than ordinary zeal and enthusiasm for the cause of bleeding humanity and respect for me, had gone among his father's congregation and sold a number of copies
of my book, and had come to bring me the money. I wiped the silent tears from my eyes, as the young man placed to the thirteen half-crowns in my hand. I did not let him know under what obligation I was to him for this disinterested act of kindness. Like the man who called for bread and cheese, when feeling in his pocket for the last threepence with which to pay for it, found a sovereign that he was not aware he possessed, countermanded the order for lunch, and told them to bring him the best dinner they could get, so I told the servant, when she brought up tea, that I had changed my mind, and should go out to dine. With the means in my pocket of reaching Worcester the next day, I sat down to dinner at the Adelphi with a good cut of roast beef before me, and felt myself once more at home. Thus ended a dark day in London."

    CHAPTER XVII.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER XIX.