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field is done, the most of them having their wash-
ing, mending, and cooking to do, and having few or
none of the ordinary facilities for doing either of
these, very many of their sleeping hours are con-
sumed in preparing for the field the coming day;
and when this is done, old and young, male and
female, married and single, drop down side by side,
on one common bed,--the cold, damp floor,--each
covering himself or herself with their miserable
blankets; and here they sleep till they are summoned
to the field by the driver's horn. At the sound of
this, all must rise, and be off to the field. There
must be no halting; every one must be at his or
her post; and woe betides them who hear not this
morning summons to the field; for if they are not
awakened by the sense of hearing, they are by the
sense of feeling: no age nor sex finds any favor.

Mr. Severe, the overseer, used to stand by the door
of the quarter, armed with a large hickory stick
and heavy cowskin, ready to whip any one who was
so unfortunate as not to hear, or, from any other
cause, was prevented from being ready to start for
the field at the sound of the horn.

Mr. Severe was rightly named: he was a cruel
man. I have seen him whip a woman, causing the
blood to run half an hour at the time; and this, too,
in the midst of her crying children, pleading for their
mother's release. He seemed to take pleasure in
manifesting his fiendish barbarity. Added to his
cruelty, he was a profane swearer. It was enough to
chill the blood and stiffen the hair of an ordinary
man to hear him talk. Scarce a sentence escaped him
but that was commenced or concluded by some hor-
rid oath. The field was the place to witness his
cruelty and profanity. His presence made it both
the field of blood and of blasphemy. From the rising
till the going down of the sun, he was cursing, raving,
cutting, and slashing among the slaves of the field,
in the most frightful manner. His career was short.
He died very soon after I went to Colonel Lloyd's;
and he died as he lived, uttering, with his dying
groans, bitter curses and horrid oaths. His death was
regarded by the slaves as the result of a merciful
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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