It was late at night, and Tom lay groaning and bleeding alone, in an old forsaken room of the gin-house, among pieces of broken machinery, piles of damaged cotton, and other rubbish which had there accumulated. The night was damp and close, and the thick air swarmed with myriads of mosquitos, which increased the restless torture of his wounds; whilst a burning thirst—a torture beyond all others—filled up the uttermost measure of physical anguish.
“Poor critturs!” said Tom,—“what made ’em cruel?—and, if I give out, I shall get used to ’t, and grow, little by little, just like ’em! No, no, Missis! I’ve lost everything,—wife, and children, and home, and a kind Mas’r,—and he would have set me free, if he’d only lived a week longer; I’ve lost everything in this world, and it’s clean gone, forever,—and now I can’t lose Heaven, too; no, I can’t get to be wicked, besides all!”
He sold both those children. He took me to ride, one day, and when I came home, they were nowhere to be found! He told me he had sold them; he showed me the money, the price of their blood. Then it seemed as if all good forsook me. I raved and cursed,—cursed God and man; and, for a while, I believe, he really was afraid of me. But he didn’t give up so. He told me that my children were sold, but whether I ever saw their faces again, depended on him; and that, if I wasn’t quiet, they should smart for it. Well, you can do anything with a woman, when you’ve got her children.
Legree dreamed. In his heavy and feverish sleep, a veiled form stood beside him, and laid a cold, soft hand upon him. He thought he knew who it was; and shuddered, with creeping horror, though the face was veiled. Then he thought he felt that hair twining round his fingers; and then, that it slid smoothly round his neck, and tightened and tightened, and he could not draw his breath; and then he thought voices whispered to him,—whispers that chilled him with horror.
Is it strange that the religious peace and trust, which had upborne him hitherto, should give way to tossings of soul and despondent darkness? The gloomiest problem of this mysterious life was constantly before his eyes,—souls crushed and ruined, evil triumphant, and God silent. It was weeks and months that Tom wrestled, in his own soul, in darkness and sorrow.
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