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CHAPTER V. THE OVERSEER, FORDHAM. THE excellent lady of whom these words were spoken, had, meanwhile, quietly taken her place in the carriage which had been awaiting her in the street. The driver was a black, in the livery of Mrs. Merchant, to whom the establishment belonged. Mrs. Eveleigh was not its only occupant. On the back seat, beside her, Page 22sat a white man, who had held possession while she remained within the quarters of Moncrieff. Here, he had studiously kept himself from being seen, but had not been the less disposed to maintain a vigilant watch upon all without. He received the widow, on her return, with a manner which was equally attentive and respectful. The appearance of this person was that of one who had not been accustomed to a place so distinguished. He was not abashed, but awkward. He was evidently a backwoodsman, in humble life, wearing the costume of the woodsman of that period, a rather snug fitting suit of blue homespun, with a sort of hunting shirt of the same colour and material, though without the customary fringes which made it the military garb of the forest rangers, or militia. His face and hands were well embrowned by the sun. The latter were large and rough, and had been well exercised in splitting their two hundred rails per day. The features of his face were large and rough also, but mild, and full of honesty. His great blue eye was expressive of much benevolence, but mixed with a decisive and earnest manliness. The widow addressed him as Mr. Fordham--nay, she called him "Fordham," familiarly, without the prefix, and it did not at all lessen his deference, this freedom. He was, in fact, the overseer of her plantation, and had been the employée of her husband. A long experience had perfectly assured them both of his fidelity and worth. That the widow had chosen him as her companion, on the present occasion, was due to the objects she had in view, and to the necessity of the case. He had been the agent who had successfully discovered the place in which her negroes were confined. By his scheming, the Hessian guards at the "Hulk" had been drenched with Jamaica, and access had been procured to that prison, and to the books which identified the slaves with their several British appropriators. In this business he was much more efficient than any of the more eminent friends of Mrs. Eveleigh could have been; and the work being an unpleasant one, she had preferred to Page 23employ a person whose services she could compensate, rather than those who, however well pleased to serve her, would yet have found the particular duty somewhat disagreeable. But the good lady, though an aristocrat, was not disposed to underrate Mr. Fordham, as a friend, while employing him as her overseer. She really respected the man, and, as he never trespassed upon her indulgence, she felt that she might safely honour him with her friendship, as well as her interests.


"Well, I suppose so. Tom is certainly a negro. Tom is certainly mine. As mine, Tom is liable for my debts, and it may be, that some d--d fool of a creditor or sheriff may fancy that he can take Tom. But he shall have a hint, in season, of the danger of any such experiments upon my philosophy. I love Tom. Tom is virtually a free man. It's true, being a debtor, I cannot confer his freedom upon him. But let a sheriff touch him, and I'll put a bullet through his diaphragm. I will, by Jupiter! If I don't do that, Lance--if there's no escape for Tom--for they may seize him when I am napping--after dinner, perhaps--then, I shall kill Tom, Lance; I'll shoot him--him, Tom,--in order to save him. The poor fellow has faithfully served a gentleman.--He shall never fall into the hands of a scamp. I'll sacrifice him as a burnt offering for my sins and his own. Tom, I'm thinking, would rather die my slave, than live a thousand years under another owner."


"They'll carry you off to Porgy's house, and I'll follow. They ain't got no lock up. I'll be close ahind them. I'll wat




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