LIFE AMONG THE LOWLY 155
The La Belle Riviere, as brave and beautiful a boat as ever walked the waters of her namesake river, was floating gayly down the stream, under a brilliant sky, the Stripes and Stars of free America waving and fluttering overhead; the guards crowded with well-dressed ladies and gentlemen walking and enjoying the delightful day. All was full of life, buoyant and rejoicing; — all hut Haley's gang, who were stored, with other freight, on the lower deck, and who, somehow, did not seem to appreciate their various privileges, as they sat in a knot, talking to each other in low tones.
" Boys," said Haley, coming up, briskly, " I hope you keep up good heart, and are cheerful. Now, no sulks, ye see; keep stiff upper lip, boys; do well by me, and I '11 do well by you."
The boys addressed responded the invariable "Yes, Mas'r," for ages the watchword of poor Africa; but it's to be owned they did not look particularly cheerful; they had their various little prejudices in favor of wives, mothers, sisters, and children, seen for the last time, — and though "they that wasted them required of them mirth," it was not instantly forthcoming.
" I 've got a wife," spoke out the article enumerated as " John, aged thirty," and he laid his chained hand on Tom's knee, — " and she don't know a word about this* poor girl! "
" Where does she live ? " said Tom.
" In a tavern a piece down here," said John ; " I wish, now, I could see her once more in this world," he added.
Poor John ! It was rather natural; and the tears that fell, as as spoke, came as naturally as if he had been a white man. Tom drew a long breath from a sore heart, and tried, in his poor way, to comfort him. '
And overhead, in the cabin, sat fathers and mothers, husbands and wives; and merry, dancing children moved round among them, like so many little butterflies, and everything was going on quite easy and comfortable.