Clotel; or, The President's Daughter
Chapter 15. To-Day A Mistress, To-Morrow A Slave
"I promised thee a sister tale
Of man's perfidious cruelty;
Come, then, and hear what cruel wrong
Befell the dark ladie."--Coleridge.
LET us return for a moment to the home of Clotel. While she was passing lonely and
dreary hours with none but her darling child, Horatio Green was trying to find relief in
that insidious enemy of man, the intoxicating cup. Defeated in politics, forsaken in love
by his wife, he seemed to have lost all principle of honour, and was ready to nerve
himself up to any deed, no matter how unprincipled. Clotel's existence was now well
known to Horatio's wife, and both her [sic] and her father demanded that the beautiful
quadroon and her child should be sold and sent out of the state. To this proposition he at
first turned a deaf ear; but when he saw that his wife was about to return to her father's
roof, he consented to leave the matter in the hands of his father-in-law. The result was,
that Clotel was immediately sold to the slave-trader, Walker, who, a few years previous,
had taken her mother and sister to the far South. But, as if to make her husband drink of
the cup of humiliation to its very dregs, Mrs. Green resolved to take his child under her
own roof for a servant. Mary was, therefore, put to the meanest work that could be found,
and although only ten years of age, she was often compelled to perform labour, which,
under ordinary circumstances, would have been thought too hard for one much older.
One condition of the sale of Clotel to Walker was, that she should be taken out of the
state, which was accordingly done. Most quadroon women who are taken to the lower
countries to be sold are either purchased by gentlemen for their own use, or sold for
waiting-maids; and Clotel, like her sister, was fortunate enough to be bought for the latter
purpose. The town of Vicksburgh stands on the left bank of the Mississippi, and is noted
for the severity with which slaves are treated. It was here that Clotel was sold to Mr.
James French, a merchant.
Mrs. French was severe in the extreme to her servants. Well dressed, but scantily fed, and
overworked were all who found a home with her. The quadroon had been in her new
home but a short time ere she found that her situation was far different from what it was
in Virginia. What social virtues are possible in a society of which injustice is the primary
characteristic? in a society which is divided into two classes, masters and slaves? Every
married woman in the far South looks upon her husband as unfaithful, and regards every
quadroon servant as a rival. Clotel had been with her new mistress but a few days, when
she was ordered to cut off her long hair. The Negro, constitutionally, is fond of dress and
outward appearance. He that has short, woolly hair, combs it and oils it to death. He that
has long hair, would sooner have his teeth drawn than lose it. However painful it was to
the quadroon, she was soon seen with her hair cut as short as any of the full-blooded
Negroes in the dwelling.
Even with her short hair, Clotel was handsome. Her life had been a secluded one, and
though now nearly thirty years of age, she was still beautiful. At her short hair, the other
servants laughed, "Miss Clo needn't strut round so big, she got short nappy har well as I,"
said Nell, with a broad grin that showed her teeth. "She tinks she white, when she come