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    Chapter 6

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    Chapter 7
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    My new mistress proved to be all she appeared
    when I first met her at the door,--a woman of the
    kindest heart and finest feelings. She had never had
    a slave under her control previously to myself, and
    prior to her marriage she had been dependent upon
    her own industry for a living. She was by trade a
    weaver; and by constant application to her business,
    she had been in a good degree preserved from the
    blighting and dehumanizing effects of slavery. I was
    utterly astonished at her goodness. I scarcely knew
    how to behave towards her. She was entirely unlike
    any other white woman I had ever seen. I could not
    approach her as I was accustomed to approach other
    white ladies. My early instruction was all out of
    place. The crouching servility, usually so acceptable
    a quality in a slave, did not answer when manifested
    toward her. Her favor was not gained by it; she
    seemed to be disturbed by it. She did not deem it
    impudent or unmannerly for a slave to look her in
    the face. The meanest slave was put fully at ease
    in her presence, and none left without feeling bet-
    ter for having seen her. Her face was made of heav-
    enly smiles, and her voice of tranquil music.

    But, alas! this kind heart had but a short time to
    remain such. The fatal poison of irresponsible power
    was already in her hands, and soon commenced its
    infernal work. That cheerful eye, under the influ-
    ence of slavery, soon became red with rage; that
    voice, made all of sweet accord, changed to one of
    harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic face gave
    place to that of a demon.

    Very soon after I went to live with Mr. and Mrs.
    Auld, she very kindly commenced to teach me the
    A, B, C. After I had learned this, she assisted me in
    learning to spell words of three or four letters. Just
    at this point of my progress, Mr. Auld found out
    what was going on, and at once forbade Mrs. Auld
    to instruct me further, telling her, among other
    things, that it was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to
    teach a slave to read. To use his own words, further,
    he said, "If you give a nigger an inch, he will take
    an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey
    his master--to do as he is told to do. Learning would
    ~spoil~ the best nigger in the world. Now," said he, "if
    you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to
    read, there would be no keeping him. It would for-
    ever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once be-
    come unmanageable, and of no value to his master.
    As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great
    deal of harm. It would make him discontented and
    unhappy." These words sank deep into my heart,
    stirred up sentiments within that lay slumbering,
    and called into existence an entirely new train of
    thought. It was a new and special revelation, ex-
    plaining dark and mysterious things, with which my
    youthful understanding had struggled, but struggled
    in vain. I now understood what had been to me a
    most perplexing difficulty--to wit, the white man's
    power to enslave the black man. It was a grand
    achievement, and I prized it highly. From that mo-
    ment, I understood the pathway from slavery to free-
    dom. It was just what I wanted, and I got it at a
    time when I the least expected it. Whilst I was sad-
    dened by the thought of losing the aid of my kind
    mistress, I was gladdened by the invaluable instruc-
    tion which, by the merest accident, I had gained
    from my master. Though conscious of the difficulty
    of learning without a teacher, I set out with high
    hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost of trou-
    ble, to learn how to read. The very decided manner
    with which he spoke, and strove to impress his wife
    with the evil consequences of giving me instruction,
    served to convince me that he was deeply sensible
    of the truths he was uttering. It gave me the best
    assurance that I might rely with the utmost confi-
    dence on the results which, he said, would flow from
    teaching me to read. What he most dreaded, that
    I most desired. What he most loved, that I most
    hated. That which to him was a great evil, to be
    carefully shunned, was to me a great good, to be
    diligently sought; and the argument which he so
    warmly urged, against my learning to read, only
    served to inspire me with a desire and determina-
    tion to learn. In learning to read, I owe almost as
    much to the bitter opposition of my master, as to
    the kindly aid of my mistress. I acknowledge the
    benefit of both.

    I had resided but a short time in Baltimore before
    I observed a marked difference, in the treatment of
    slaves, from that which I had witnessed in the coun-
    try. A city slave is almost a freeman, compared with
    a slave on the plantation. He is much better fed and
    clothed, and enjoys privileges altogether unknown
    to the slave on the plantation. There is a vestige of
    decency, a sense of shame, that does much to curb
    and check those outbreaks of atrocious cruelty so
    commonly enacted upon the plantation. He is a des-
    perate slaveholder, who will shock the humanity of
    his non-slaveholding neighbors with the cries of his
    lacerated slave. Few are willing to incur the odium
    attaching to the reputation of being a cruel master;
    and above all things, they would not be known as
    not giving a slave enough to eat. Every city slave-
    holder is anxious to have it known of him, that he
    feeds his slaves well; and it is due to them to say,
    that most of them do give their slaves enough to eat.
    There are, however, some painful exceptions to this
    rule. Directly opposite to us, on Philpot Street, lived
    Mr. Thomas Hamilton. He owned two slaves. Their
    names were Henrietta and Mary. Henrietta was
    about twenty-two years of age, Mary was about four-
    teen; and of all the mangled and emaciated creatures
    I ever looked upon, these two were the most so. His
    heart must be harder than stone, that could look
    upon these unmoved. The head, neck, and shoulders
    of Mary were literally cut to pieces. I have fre-
    quently felt her head, and found it nearly covered
    with festering sores, caused by the lash of her cruel
    mistress. I do not know that her master ever whipped
    her, but I have been an eye-witness to the cruelty of
    Mrs. Hamilton. I used to be in Mr. Hamilton's house
    nearly every day. Mrs. Hamilton used to sit in a large
    chair in the middle of the room, with a heavy cow-
    skin always by her side, and scarce an hour passed
    during the day but was marked by the blood of one
    of these slaves. The girls seldom passed her without
    her saying, "Move faster, you ~black gip!~" at the same
    time giving them a blow with the cowskin over the
    head or shoulders, often drawing the blood. She
    would then say, "Take that, you ~black gip!~" con-
    tinuing, "If you don't move faster, I'll move you!"
    Added to the cruel lashings to which these slaves
    were subjected, they were kept nearly half-starved.
    They seldom knew what it was to eat a full meal.
    I have seen Mary contending with the pigs for the
    offal thrown into the street. So much was Mary
    kicked and cut to pieces, that she was oftener called
    "~pecked~" than by her name.
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