from her air and bearing, that she belonged to that class; but how or why she could be fallen to those degrading circumstances, he could not tell. The women neither looked at him nor spoke to him, though, all the way to the field, she kept close at his side.
Tom was soon busy at his work; but, as the woman was at no great distance from him, he often glanced an eye to her, at her work. He saw, at a glance, that a native adroitness and handiness made the task to her an easier one than it proved to many. She picked very fast and very clean, and with an air of scorn, as if she despised both the work and the disgrace and humiliation of the circumstances in which she was placed.
In the course of the day, Tom was working near the mulatto woman who had been bought in the same lot with himself. She was evidently in a condition of great suffering, and Tom often heard her praying, as she wavered and trembled, and seemed about to fall down. Tom silently as he came near to her, transferred several handfuls of cotton from his own sack to hers.
O, dont, dont! said the woman, looking surprised; itll get you into trouble.
Just then Sambo came up. He seemed to have a special spite against this woman; and, flourishing his whip, said, in brutal, guttural tones, What dis yer, Luce,foolin a and, with the word, kicking the woman with his heavy cowhide shoe, he struck Tom across the face with his whip.
Tom silently resumed his task; but the woman, before at the last point of exhaustion, fainted.
Ill bring her to! said the driver, with a brutal grin. Ill give her something better than camphire! and, taking a pin from his coat-sleeve, he buried it to the head in her flesh. The woman groaned, and half rose. Get up, you beast, and work, will yer, or Ill show yer a trick more!
The woman seemed stimulated, for a few moments, to an unnatural strength, and worked with desperate eagerness.
See that you keep to dat ar, said the man, or yerll wish yers dead tonight, I reckin!
That I do now! Tom heard her say; and again he heard her say, O, Lord, how long! O, Lord, why dont you help us?
At the risk of all that he might suffer, Tom came forward again, and put all the cotton in his sack into the womans.
O, you mustnt! you donno what theyll do to ye! said the woman.
I can bar it! said Tom, better n you; and he was at his place again. It passed in a moment.
Suddenly, the stranger woman whom we have described, and who had, in the course of her work, come near enough to hear Toms last words, raised her heavy black eyes, and fixed them, for a second, on him; then, taking a quantity of cotton from her basket, she placed it in his.
You know nothing about this place, she said, or you wouldnt have done that. When youve been here a month, youll be done helping anybody; youll find it hard enough to take care of your own skin!
The Lord forbid, Missis! said Tom, using instinctively to his field companion the respectful form proper to the high bred with whom he had lived.
The Lord never visits these parts, said the woman, bitterly, as she went nimbly forward with her work; and again the scornful smile curled her lips.
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