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    Chapter 17

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    Chapter 18
    Previous Chapter
    _The Last Flogging_

    A SLEEPLESS NIGHT--RETURN TO COVEY'S--PURSUED BY COVEY--THE CHASE
    DEFEATED--VENGEANCE POSTPONED--MUSINGS IN THE WOODS--THE
    ALTERNATIVE--DEPLORABLE SPECTACLE--NIGHT IN THE WOODS--EXPECTED
    ATTACK--ACCOSTED BY SANDY, A FRIEND, NOT A HUNTER--SANDY'S
    HOSPITALITY--THE "ASH CAKE" SUPPER--THE INTERVIEW WITH SANDY--HIS
    ADVICE--SANDY A CONJURER AS WELL AS A CHRISTIAN--THE MAGIC ROOT--
    STRANGE MEETING WITH COVEY--HIS MANNER--COVEY'S SUNDAY FACE--MY
    DEFENSIVE RESOLVE--THE FIGHT--THE VICTORY, AND ITS RESULTS.

    Sleep itself does not always come to the relief of the weary in
    body, and the broken in spirit; especially when past troubles
    only foreshadow coming disasters. The last hope had been
    extinguished. My master, who I did not venture to hope would
    protect me as _a man_, had even now refused to protect me as _his
    property;_ and had cast me back, covered with reproaches and
    bruises, into the hands of a stranger to that mercy which was the
    soul of the religion he professed. May the reader never spend
    such a night as that allotted to me, previous to the morning
    which was to herald my return to the den of horrors from which I
    had made a temporary escape.

    I remained all night--sleep I did not--at St. Michael's; and in
    the morning (Saturday) I started off, according to the order of
    Master Thomas, feeling that I had no friend on earth, and
    doubting if I had one in heaven. I reached Covey's about nine
    o'clock; and just as I stepped into the field, before I had
    reached the house, Covey, true to his snakish habits, darted out
    at me from a fence corner, in which he had
    secreted himself, for the purpose of securing me. He was amply
    provided with a cowskin and a rope; and he evidently intended to
    _tie me up_, and to wreak his vengeance on me to the fullest
    extent. I should have been an easy prey, had he succeeded in
    getting his hands upon me, for I had taken no refreshment since
    noon on Friday; and this, together with the pelting, excitement,
    and the loss of blood, had reduced my strength. I, however,
    darted back into the woods, before the ferocious hound could get
    hold of me, and buried myself in a thicket, where he lost sight
    of me. The corn-field afforded me cover, in getting to the
    woods. But for the tall corn, Covey would have overtaken me, and
    made me his captive. He seemed very much chagrined that he did
    not catch me, and gave up the chase, very reluctantly; for I
    could see his angry movements, toward the house from which he had
    sallied, on his foray.

    Well, now I am clear of Covey, and of his wrathful lash, for
    present. I am in the wood, buried in its somber gloom, and
    hushed in its solemn silence; hid from all human eyes; shut in
    with nature and nature's God, and absent from all human
    contrivances. Here was a good place to pray; to pray for help
    for deliverance--a prayer I had often made before. But how could
    I pray? Covey could pray--Capt. Auld could pray--I would fain
    pray; but doubts (arising partly from my own neglect of the means
    of grace, and partly from the sham religion which everywhere
    prevailed, cast in my mind a doubt upon all religion, and led me
    to the conviction that prayers were unavailing and delusive)
    prevented my embracing the opportunity, as a religious one.
    Life, in itself, had almost become burdensome to me. All my
    outward relations were against me; I must stay here and starve (I
    was already hungry) or go home to Covey's, and have my flesh torn
    to pieces, and my spirit humbled under the cruel lash of Covey.
    This was the painful alternative presented to me. The day was
    long and irksome. My physical condition was deplorable. I was
    weak, from the toils of the previous day, and from the want of
    food and rest; and had been so little concerned about my
    appearance, that I had not yet washed the blood from my garments.
    I was an object of horror, even to myself. Life, in Baltimore,
    when most oppressive, was a paradise to this. What had I done,
    what had my parents done, that such a life as this should be
    mine? That day, in the woods, I would have exchanged my manhood
    for the brutehood of an ox.

    Night came. I was still in the woods, unresolved what to do.
    Hunger had not yet pinched me to the point of going home, and I
    laid myself down in the leaves to rest; for I had been watching
    for hunters all day, but not being molested during the day, I
    expected no disturbance during the night. I had come to the
    conclusion that Covey relied upon hunger to drive me home; and in
    this I was quite correct--the facts showed that he had made no
    effort to catch me, since morning.

    During the night, I heard the step of a man in the woods. He was
    coming toward the place where I lay. A person lying still has
    the advantage over one walking in the woods, in the day time, and
    this advantage is much greater at night. I was not able to
    engage in a physical struggle, and I had recourse to the common
    resort of the weak. I hid myself in the leaves to prevent
    discovery. But, as the night rambler in the woods drew nearer, I
    found him to be a _friend_, not an enemy; it was a slave of Mr.
    William Groomes, of Easton, a kind hearted fellow, named "Sandy."
    Sandy lived with Mr. Kemp that year, about four miles from St.
    Michael's. He, like myself had been hired out by the year; but,
    unlike myself, had not been hired out to be broken. Sandy was
    the husband of a free woman, who lived in the lower part of
    _"Potpie Neck,"_ and he was now on his way through the woods, to
    see her, and to spend the Sabbath with her.

    As soon as I had ascertained that the disturber of my solitude
    was not an enemy, but the good-hearted Sandy--a man as famous
    among the slaves of the neighborhood for his good nature, as for
    his good sense I came out from my hiding place, and made ASH CAKE SUPPER>myself known to him. I explained the
    circumstances of the past two days, which had driven me to the
    woods, and he deeply compassionated my distress. It was a bold
    thing for him to shelter me, and I could not ask him to do so;
    for, had I been found in his hut, he would have suffered the
    penalty of thirty-nine lashes on his bare back, if not something
    worse. But Sandy was too generous to permit the fear of
    punishment to prevent his relieving a brother bondman from hunger
    and exposure; and, therefore, on his own motion, I accompanied
    him to his home, or rather to the home of his wife--for the house
    and lot were hers. His wife was called up--for it was now about
    midnight--a fire was made, some Indian meal was soon mixed with
    salt and water, and an ash cake was baked in a hurry to relieve
    my hunger. Sandy's wife was not behind him in kindness--both
    seemed to esteem it a privilege to succor me; for, although I was
    hated by Covey and by my master, I was loved by the colored
    people, because _they_ thought I was hated for my knowledge, and
    persecuted because I was feared. I was the _only_ slave _now_ in
    that region who could read and write. There had been one other
    man, belonging to Mr. Hugh Hamilton, who could read (his name was
    "Jim"), but he, poor fellow, had, shortly after my coming into
    the neighborhood, been sold off to the far south. I saw Jim
    ironed, in the cart, to be carried to Easton for sale--pinioned
    like a yearling for the slaughter. My knowledge was now the
    pride of my brother slaves; and, no doubt, Sandy felt something
    of the general interest in me on that account. The supper was
    soon ready, and though I have feasted since, with honorables,
    lord mayors and aldermen, over the sea, my supper on ash cake and
    cold water, with Sandy, was the meal, of all my life, most sweet
    to my taste, and now most vivid in my memory.

    Supper over, Sandy and I went into a discussion of what was
    _possible_ for me, under the perils and hardships which now
    overshadowed my path. The question was, must I go back to Covey,
    or must I now tempt to run away? Upon a careful survey, the
    latter was found to be impossible; for I was on a narrow neck of
    land, every avenue from which would bring me in sight of
    pursuers. There was the Chesapeake bay to the right, and "Pot-
    pie" river to the left, and St. Michael's and its neighborhood
    occupying the only space through which there was any retreat.

    I found Sandy an old advisor. He was not only a religious man,
    but he professed to believe in a system for which I have no name.
    He was a genuine African, and had inherited some of the so-called
    magical powers, said to be possessed by African and eastern
    nations. He told me that he could help me; that, in those very
    woods, there was an herb, which in the morning might be found,
    possessing all the powers required for my protection (I put his
    thoughts in my own language); and that, if I would take his
    advice, he would procure me the root of the herb of which he
    spoke. He told me further, that if I would take that root and
    wear it on my right side, it would be impossible for Covey to
    strike me a blow; that with this root about my person, no white
    man could whip me. He said he had carried it for years, and that
    he had fully tested its virtues. He had never received a blow
    from a slaveholder since he carried it; and he never expected to
    receive one, for he always meant to carry that root as a
    protection. He knew Covey well, for Mrs. Covey was the daughter
    of Mr. Kemp; and he (Sandy) had heard of the barbarous treatment
    to which I was subjected, and he wanted to do something for me.

    Now all this talk about the root, was to me, very absurd and
    ridiculous, if not positively sinful. I at first rejected the
    idea that the simple carrying a root on my right side (a root, by
    the way, over which I walked every time I went into the woods)
    could possess any such magic power as he ascribed to it, and I
    was, therefore, not disposed to cumber my pocket with it. I had
    a positive aversion to all pretenders to _"divination."_ It was
    beneath one of my intelligence to countenance such dealings with
    the devil, as this power implied. But, with all my learning--it
    was really precious little--Sandy was more than a match for me.
    "My book learning," he said, "had not kept Covey off me" (a
    powerful argument just then) and he entreated
    me, with flashing eyes, to try this. If it did me no good, it
    could do me no harm, and it would cost me nothing, any way.
    Sandy was so earnest, and so confident of the good qualities of
    this weed, that, to please him, rather than from any conviction
    of its excellence, I was induced to take it. He had been to me
    the good Samaritan, and had, almost providentially, found me, and
    helped me when I could not help myself; how did I know but that
    the hand of the Lord was in it? With thoughts of this sort, I
    took the roots from Sandy, and put them in my right hand pocket.

    This was, of course, Sunday morning. Sandy now urged me to go
    home, with all speed, and to walk up bravely to the house, as
    though nothing had happened. I saw in Sandy too deep an insight
    into human nature, with all his superstition, not to have some
    respect for his advice; and perhaps, too, a slight gleam or
    shadow of his superstition had fallen upon me. At any rate, I
    started off toward Covey's, as directed by Sandy. Having, the
    previous night, poured my griefs into Sandy's ears, and got him
    enlisted in my behalf, having made his wife a sharer in my
    sorrows, and having, also, become well refreshed by sleep and
    food, I moved off, quite courageously, toward the much dreaded
    Covey's. Singularly enough, just as I entered his yard gate, I
    met him and his wife, dressed in their Sunday best--looking as
    smiling as angels--on their way to church. The manner of Covey
    astonished me. There was something really benignant in his
    countenance. He spoke to me as never before; told me that the
    pigs had got into the lot, and he wished me to drive them out;
    inquired how I was, and seemed an altered man. This
    extraordinary conduct of Covey, really made me begin to think
    that Sandy's herb had more virtue in it than I, in my pride, had
    been willing to allow; and, had the day been other than Sunday, I
    should have attributed Covey's altered manner solely to the magic
    power of the root. I suspected, however, that the _Sabbath_, and
    not the _root_, was the real explanation of Covey's manner. His
    religion hindered him from breaking the Sabbath, but not
    from breaking my skin. He had more respect for the _day_ than
    for the _man_, for whom the day was mercifully given; for while
    he would cut and slash my body during the week, he would not
    hesitate, on Sunday, to teach me the value of my soul, or the way
    of life and salvation by Jesus Christ.

    All went well with me till Monday morning; and then, whether the
    root had lost its virtue, or whether my tormentor had gone deeper
    into the black art than myself (as was sometimes said of him), or
    whether he had obtained a special indulgence, for his faithful
    Sabbath day's worship, it is not necessary for me to know, or to
    inform the reader; but, this I _may_ say--the pious and benignant
    smile which graced Covey's face on _Sunday_, wholly disappeared
    on _Monday_. Long before daylight, I was called up to go and
    feed, rub, and curry the horses. I obeyed the call, and would
    have so obeyed it, had it been made at an earilier{sic} hour, for
    I had brought my mind to a firm resolve, during that Sunday's
    reflection, viz: to obey every order, however unreasonable, if it
    were possible, and, if Mr. Covey should then undertake to beat
    me, to defend and protect myself to the best of my ability. My
    religious views on the subject of resisting my master, had
    suffered a serious shock, by the savage persecution to which I
    had been subjected, and my hands were no longer tied by my
    religion. Master Thomas's indifference had served the last link.
    I had now to this extent "backslidden" from this point in the
    slave's religious creed; and I soon had occasion to make my
    fallen state known to my Sunday-pious brother, Covey.

    Whilst I was obeying his order to feed and get the horses ready
    for the field, and when in the act of going up the stable loft
    for the purpose of throwing down some blades, Covey sneaked into
    the stable, in his peculiar snake-like way, and seizing me
    suddenly by the leg, he brought me to the stable floor, giving my
    newly mended body a fearful jar. I now forgot my roots, and
    remembered my pledge to _stand up in my own defense_. The brute
    was endeavoring skillfully to get a slip-knot on my legs, before
    I could draw up my feet. As soon as I found what
    he was up to, I gave a sudden spring (my two day's rest had been
    of much service to me,) and by that means, no doubt, he was able
    to bring me to the floor so heavily. He was defeated in his plan
    of tying me. While down, he seemed to think he had me very
    securely in his power. He little thought he was--as the rowdies
    say--"in" for a "rough and tumble" fight; but such was the fact.
    Whence came the daring spirit necessary to grapple with a man
    who, eight-and-forty hours before, could, with his slightest word
    have made me tremble like a leaf in a storm, I do not know; at
    any rate, _I was resolved to fight_, and, what was better still,
    I was actually hard at it. The fighting madness had come upon
    me, and I found my strong fingers firmly attached to the throat
    of my cowardly tormentor; as heedless of consequences, at the
    moment, as though we stood as equals before the law. The very
    color of the man was forgotten. I felt as supple as a cat, and
    was ready for the snakish creature at every turn. Every blow of
    his was parried, though I dealt no blows in turn. I was strictly
    on the _defensive_, preventing him from injuring me, rather than
    trying to injure him. I flung him on the ground several times,
    when he meant to have hurled me there. I held him so firmly by
    the throat, that his blood followed my nails. He held me, and I
    held him.

    All was fair, thus far, and the contest was about equal. My
    resistance was entirely unexpected, and Covey was taken all aback
    by it, for he trembled in every limb. _"Are you going to
    resist_, you scoundrel?" said he. To which, I returned a polite
    _"Yes sir;"_ steadily gazing my interrogator in the eye, to meet
    the first approach or dawning of the blow, which I expected my
    answer would call forth. But, the conflict did not long remain
    thus equal. Covey soon cried out lustily for help; not that I
    was obtaining any marked advantage over him, or was injuring him,
    but because he was gaining none over me, and was not able, single
    handed, to conquer me. He called for his cousin Hughs, to come
    to his assistance, and now the scene was changed. I was
    compelled to give blows, as well as to parry them; and,
    since I was, in any case, to suffer for resistance, I felt (as
    the musty proverb goes) that "I might as well be hanged for an
    old sheep as a lamb." I was still _defensive_ toward Covey, but
    _aggressive_ toward Hughs; and, at the first approach of the
    latter, I dealt a blow, in my desperation, which fairly sickened
    my youthful assailant. He went off, bending over with pain, and
    manifesting no disposition to come within my reach again. The
    poor fellow was in the act of trying to catch and tie my right
    hand, and while flattering himself with success, I gave him the
    kick which sent him staggering away in pain, at the same time
    that I held Covey with a firm hand.

    Taken completely by surprise, Covey seemed to have lost his usual
    strength and coolness. He was frightened, and stood puffing and
    blowing, seemingly unable to command words or blows. When he saw
    that poor Hughes was standing half bent with pain--his courage
    quite gone the cowardly tyrant asked if I "meant to persist in my
    resistance." I told him "_I did mean to resist, come what
    might_;" that I had been by him treated like a _brute_, during
    the last six months; and that I should stand it _no longer_.
    With that, he gave me a shake, and attempted to drag me toward a
    stick of wood, that was lying just outside the stable door. He
    meant to knock me down with it; but, just as he leaned over to
    get the stick, I seized him with both hands by the collar, and,
    with a vigorous and sudden snatch, I brought my assailant
    harmlessly, his full length, on the _not_ overclean ground--for
    we were now in the cow yard. He had selected the place for the
    fight, and it was but right that he should have all the
    advantges{sic} of his own selection.

    By this time, Bill, the hiredman, came home. He had been to Mr.
    Hemsley's, to spend the Sunday with his nominal wife, and was
    coming home on Monday morning, to go to work. Covey and I had
    been skirmishing from before daybreak, till now, that the sun was
    almost shooting his beams over the eastern woods, and we were
    still at it. I could not see where the matter was to terminate.
    He evidently was afraid to let me go, lest I should again BILL REFUSES TO ASSIST COVEY>make off to the woods; otherwise, he
    would probably have obtained arms from the house, to frighten me.
    Holding me, Covey called upon Bill for assistance. The scene
    here, had something comic about it. "Bill," who knew _precisely_
    what Covey wished him to do, affected ignorance, and pretended he
    did not know what to do. "What shall I do, Mr. Covey," said
    Bill. "Take hold of him--take hold of him!" said Covey. With a
    toss of his head, peculiar to Bill, he said, "indeed, Mr. Covey I
    want to go to work." _"This is_ your work," said Covey; "take
    hold of him." Bill replied, with spirit, "My master hired me
    here, to work, and _not_ to help you whip Frederick." It was now
    my turn to speak. "Bill," said I, "don't put your hands on me."
    To which he replied, "My GOD! Frederick, I ain't goin' to tech
    ye," and Bill walked off, leaving Covey and myself to settle our
    matters as best we might.

    But, my present advantage was threatened when I saw Caroline (the
    slave-woman of Covey) coming to the cow yard to milk, for she was
    a powerful woman, and could have mastered me very easily,
    exhausted as I now was. As soon as she came into the yard, Covey
    attempted to rally her to his aid. Strangely--and, I may add,
    fortunately--Caroline was in no humor to take a hand in any such
    sport. We were all in open rebellion, that morning. Caroline
    answered the command of her master to _"take hold of me,"_
    precisely as Bill had answered, but in _her_, it was at greater
    peril so to answer; she was the slave of Covey, and he could do
    what he pleased with her. It was _not_ so with Bill, and Bill
    knew it. Samuel Harris, to whom Bill belonged, did not allow his
    slaves to be beaten, unless they were guilty of some crime which
    the law would punish. But, poor Caroline, like myself, was at
    the mercy of the merciless Covey; nor did she escape the dire
    effects of her refusal. He gave her several sharp blows.

    Covey at length (two hours had elapsed) gave up the contest.
    Letting me go, he said--puffing and blowing at a great rate--
    "Now, you scoundrel, go to your work; I would not have whipped
    you half so much as I have had you not resisted." The fact was,
    _he had not whipped me at all_. He had not, in all the
    scuffle, drawn a single drop of blood from me. I had drawn blood
    from him; and, even without this satisfaction, I should have been
    victorious, because my aim had not been to injure him, but to
    prevent his injuring me.

    During the whole six months that I lived with Covey, after this
    transaction, he never laid on me the weight of his finger in
    anger. He would, occasionally, say he did not want to have to
    get hold of me again--a declaration which I had no difficulty in
    believing; and I had a secret feeling, which answered, "You need
    not wish to get hold of me again, for you will be likely to come
    off worse in a second fight than you did in the first."

    Well, my dear reader, this battle with Mr. Covey--undignified as
    it was, and as I fear my narration of it is--was the turning
    point in my _"life as a slave_." It rekindled in my breast the
    smouldering embers of liberty; it brought up my Baltimore dreams,
    and revived a sense of my own manhood. I was a changed being
    after that fight. I was _nothing_ before; I WAS A MAN NOW. It
    recalled to life my crushed self-respect and my self-confidence,
    and inspired me with a renewed determination to be A FREEMAN. A
    man, without force, is without the essential dignity of humanity.
    Human nature is so constituted, that it cannot _honor_ a helpless
    man, although it can _pity_ him; and even this it cannot do long,
    if the signs of power do not arise.

    He can only understand the effect of this combat on my spirit,
    who has himself incurred something, hazarded something, in
    repelling the unjust and cruel aggressions of a tyrant. Covey
    was a tyrant, and a cowardly one, withal. After resisting him, I
    felt as I had never felt before. It was a resurrection from the
    dark and pestiferous tomb of slavery, to the heaven of
    comparative freedom. I was no longer a servile coward, trembling
    under the frown of a brother worm of the dust, but, my long-cowed
    spirit was roused to an attitude of manly independence. I had
    reached the point, at which I was _not afraid to die_. This RESULTS OF THE VICTORY>spirit made me a freeman in _fact_, while
    I remained a slave in _form_. When a slave cannot be flogged he
    is more than half free. He has a domain as broad as his own
    manly heart to defend, and he is really _"a power on earth_."
    While slaves prefer their lives, with flogging, to instant death,
    they will always find Christians enough, like unto Covey, to
    accommodate that preference. From this time, until that of my
    escape from slavery, I was never fairly whipped. Several
    attempts were made to whip me, but they were always unsuccessful.
    Bruises I did get, as I shall hereafter inform the reader; but
    the case I have been describing, was the end of the brutification
    to which slavery had subjected me.

    The reader will be glad to know why, after I had so grievously
    offended Mr. Covey, he did not have me taken in hand by the
    authorities; indeed, why the law of Maryland, which assigns
    hanging to the slave who resists his master, was not put in force
    against me; at any rate, why I was not taken up, as is usual in
    such cases, and publicly whipped, for an example to other slaves,
    and as a means of deterring me from committing the same offense
    again. I confess, that the easy manner in which I got off, for a
    long time, a surprise to me, and I cannot, even now, fully
    explain the cause.

    The only explanation I can venture to suggest, is the fact, that
    Covey was, probably, ashamed to have it known and confessed that
    he had been mastered by a boy of sixteen. Mr. Covey enjoyed the
    unbounded and very valuable reputation, of being a first rate
    overseer and _Negro breaker_. By means of this reputation, he
    was able to procure his hands for _very trifling_ compensation,
    and with very great ease. His interest and his pride mutually
    suggested the wisdom of passing the matter by, in silence. The
    story that he had undertaken to whip a lad, and had been
    resisted, was, of itself, sufficient to damage him; for his
    bearing should, in the estimation of slaveholders, be of that
    imperial order that should make such an occurrence _impossible_.
    I judge from these circumstances, that Covey deemed it best to
    give me the go-by. It is, perhaps, not altogether
    creditable to my natural temper, that, after this conflict with
    Mr. Covey, I did, at times, purposely aim to provoke him to an
    attack, by refusing to keep with the other hands in the field,
    but I could never bully him to another battle. I had made up my
    mind to do him serious damage, if he ever again attempted to lay
    violent hands on me.

    _ Hereditary bondmen, know ye not
    Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow?
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