Clotel; or, The President's Daughter
Chapter 24. The Arrest
"The fearful storm--it threatens lowering,
Which God in mercy long delays;
Slaves yet may see their masters cowering,
While whole plantations smoke and blaze!"
IT was late in the evening when the coach arrived at Richmond, and Clotel once more
alighted in her native city. She had intended to seek lodging somewhere in the outskirts
of the town, but the lateness of the hour compelled her to stop at one of the principal
hotels for the night. She had scarcely entered the inn, when she recognised among the
numerous black servants one to whom she was well known; and her only hope was, that
her disguise would keep her from being discovered. The imperturbable calm and entire
forgetfulness of self which induced Clotel to visit a place from which she could scarcely
hope to escape, to attempt the rescue of a beloved child, demonstrate that overwillingness
of woman to carry out the promptings of the finer feelings of her heart. True to woman's
nature, she had risked her own liberty for another.
She remained in the hotel during the night, and the next morning, under the plea of
illness, she took her breakfast alone. That day the fugitive slave paid a visit to the suburbs
of the town, and once more beheld the cottage in which she had spent so many happy
hours. It was winter, and the clematis and passion flower were not there; but there were
the same walks she had so often pressed with her feet, and the same trees which had so
often shaded her as she passed through the garden at the back of the house. Old
remembrances rushed upon her memory, and caused her to shed tears freely. Clotel was
now in her native town, and near her daughter; but how could she communicate with her?
How could she see her? To have made herself known, would have been a suicidal act;
betrayal would have followed, and she arrested. Three days had passed away, and Clotel
still remained in the hotel at which she had first put up; and yet she had got no tidings of
her child. Unfortunately for Clotel, a disturbance had just broken out amongst the slave
population in the state of Virginia, and all strangers were eyed with suspicion.
The evils consequent on slavery are not lessened by the incoming of one or two rays of
light. If the slave only becomes aware of his condition, and conscious of the injustice
under which he suffers, if he obtains but a faint idea of these things, he will seize the first
opportunity to possess himself of what he conceives to belong to him. The infusion of
Anglo-Saxon with African blood has created an insurrectionary feeling among the slaves
of America hitherto unknown. Aware of their blood connection with their owners, these
mulattoes labour under the sense of their personal and social injuries; and tolerate, if they
do not encourage in themselves, low and vindictive passions. On the other hand, the slave
owners are aware of their critical position, and are ever watchful, always fearing an
outbreak among the slaves.