Three or four mounted horsemen were curvetting about, on the space in front of the house; and one or two leashes of strange dogs were struggling with the negroes who held them, baying and barking at each other.
The men are, two of them, overseers of plantations in the vicinity; and others were some of Legrees associates at the tavern-bar of a neighboring city, who had come for the interest of the sport. A more hard-favored set, perhaps, could not be imagined. Legree was serving brandy, profusely, round among them, as also among the negroes, who had been detailed from the various plantations for this service; for it was an object to make every service of this kind, among the negroes, as much of a holiday as possible.
Cassy placed her ear at the knot-hole; and, as the morning air blew directly towards the house, she could overhear a good deal of the conversation. A grave sneer overcast the dark, severe gravity of her face, as she listened, and heard them divide out the ground, discuss the rival merits of the dogs, give orders about firing, and the treatment of each, in case of capture.
Cassy drew back; and, clasping her hands, looked upward, and said, O, great Almighty God! we are all sinners; but what have we done, more than all the rest of the world, that we should be treated so?
There was a terrible earnestness in her face and voice, as she spoke.
If it wasnt for you, child, she said, looking at Emmeline, Id go out to them; and Id thank any one of them that would shoot me down; for what use will freedom be to me? Can it give me back my children, or make me what I used to be?
Emmeline, in her child-like simplicity, was half afraid of the dark moods of Cassy. She looked perplexed, but made no answer. She only took her hand, with a gentle, caressing movement.
Dont! said Cassy, trying to draw it away; youll get me to loving you; and I never mean to love anything, again!
Poor Cassy! said Emmeline, dont feel so! If the Lord gives us liberty, perhaps hell give you back your daughter; at any rate, Ill be like a daughter to you. I know Ill never see my poor old mother again! I shall love you, Cassy, whether you love me or not!
The gentle, child-like spirit conquered. Cassy sat down by her, put her arm round her neck, stroked her soft, brown hair; and Emmeline then wondered at the beauty of her magnificent eyes, now soft with tears.
O, Em! said Cassy, Ive hungered for my children, and thirsted for them, and my eyes fail with longing for them! Here! here! she said, striking her breast, its all desolate, all empty! If God would give me back my children, then I could pray.
You must trust him, Cassy, said Emmeline; he is our Father!
His wrath is upon us, said Cassy; he has turned away in anger.
No, Cassy! He will be good to us! Let us hope in Him, said Emmeline,I always have had hope.
The hunt was long, animated, and thorough, but unsuccessful; and, with grave, ironic exultation, Cassy looked down on Legree, as, weary and dispirited, he alighted from his horse.
Now, Quimbo, said Legree, as he stretched himself down in the sitting-room, you jest go and walk that Tom up here, right away! The old cuss is at the bottom of this yer whole matter; and Ill have it out of his old black hide, or Ill know the reason why!
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