Eliza had been brought up by her mistress, from girlhood, as a petted and indulged favorite.
The traveller in the south must often have remarked that peculiar air of refinement, that softness of voice and manner, which seems in many cases to be a particular gift to the quadroon and mulatto women. These natural graces in the quadroon are often united with beauty of the most dazzling kind, and in almost every case with a personal appearance prepossessing and agreeable. Eliza, such as we have described her, is not a fancy sketch, but taken from remembrance, as we saw her, years ago, in Kentucky. Safe under the protecting care of her mistress, Eliza had reached maturity without those temptations which make beauty so fatal an inheritance to a slave. She had been married to a bright and talented young mulatto man, who was a slave on a neighboring estate, and bore the name of George Harris.
This young man had been hired out by his master to work in a bagging factory, where his adroitness and ingenuity caused him to be considered the first hand in the place. He had invented a machine for the cleaning of the hemp, which, considering the education and circumstances of the inventor, displayed quite as much mechanical genius as Whitneys cotton-gin.1
He was possessed of a handsome person and pleasing manners, and was a general favorite in the factory. Nevertheless, as this young man was in the eye of the law not a man, but a thing, all these superior qualifications were subject to the control of a vulgar, narrow-minded, tyrannical master. This same gentleman, having heard of the fame of Georges invention, took a ride over to the factory, to see what this intelligent chattel had been about. He was received with great enthusiasm by the employer, who congratulated him on possessing so valuable a slave.
He was waited upon over the factory, shown the machinery by George, who, in high spirits, talked so fluently, held himself so erect, looked so handsome and manly, that his master began to feel an uneasy consciousness of inferiority. What business had his slave to be marching round the country, inventing machines, and holding up his head among gentlemen? Hed soon put a stop to it. Hed take him back, and put him to hoeing and digging, and see if hed step about so smart. Accordingly, the manufacturer and all hands concerned were astounded when he suddenly demanded Georges wages, and announced his intention of taking him home.
But, Mr. Harris, remonstrated the manufacturer, isnt this rather sudden?
What if it is?isnt the man mine?
We would be willing, sir, to increase the rate of compensation.
No object at all, sir. I dont need to hire any of my hands out, unless Ive a mind to.
But, sir, he seems peculiarly adapted to this business.
Dare say he may be; never was much adapted to anything that I set him about, Ill be bound.
But only think of his inventing this machine, interposed one of the workmen, rather unluckily.
O yes! a machine for saving work, is it? Hed invent that, Ill be bound; let a nigger alone for that, any time. They are all labor-saving machines themselves, every one of em. No, he shall tramp!
George had stood like one transfixed, at hearing his doom thus suddenly pronounced by a power that he knew was irresistible. He folded his arms, tightly pressed in his lips, but a whole volcano of bitter feelings burned in his bosom, and sent streams of fire through his veins. He breathed short, and his large dark eyes flashed like live coals; and he might have broken out into some dangerous ebullition, had not the kindly manufacturer touched him on the arm, and said, in a low tone,