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An Account of the Whippings, Rapes, and Violences that Preceded the Civil War in America

My attempts to escape are frustrated

The Memoirs Of Dolly Morton (Chapter VII)


All the versions of this article:

Jean de Villiot, The Memoirs Of Dolly Morton : The Story of A Woman’s Part in The Struggle to Free The Slaves, An Account of the Whippings, Rapes, and Violences that Preceded the Civil War in America, With Curious Anthropological Observations on the Radical Diversities In the Conformation of the Female Bottom and the Way Different Women endure Chastisement, Ed. Charles Carrington, London, Paris, 1899.

At Randolph’s house; I make Dinah’s acquaintance; her sympathy for me, and her contempt for unsophisticated «whites»; my attempts to escape are frustrated.

Randolph did not say a word to me, but just let me cry away, which was the best thing he could have done at the moment. The buggy, drawn by a fast trotter, rolled rapidly along the road, and, since Randolph’s plantation was only three miles distant, we soon reached the gates of the avenue leading to the house.

The gates were thrown open by two Negroes and we entered the avenue, which was about a quarter of a mile long, shaded throughout its length with tall trees. In a few minutes we arrived at the house, a very large and handsome building; consisting of a central part, with a cupola on top, and wings on either side. In front was a broad terrace sloping down to a lawn flanked with well-kept beds of beautiful flowers. Several Negroes were on the terrace, waiting to receive their master, and, when he pulled up the horse at the door, the men came forward and took charge of the animal.

The wide door of the house was opened. Then Randolph, lifting me out of the buggy, carried me through a spacious hall into a handsomely furnished room and placed me on a couch. «There, Dolly,» he said, smiling down at me. «You are safe from the lynchers now.»

He next rang a bell, which immediately was answered by a good-looking quadroon woman about thirty-five years of age. She was very tall, stout and broad shouldered, and was dressed in a well-fitting print frock, with white apron, collar and cuffs. She had very black, glossy, wavy hair, and on her head she wore a smart cap. The woman looked hard at me, but there was not the least expression of surprise on her face.

«Dinah,» said her master, «this lady has met with an accident. Carry her up to the pink room and attend to her. See that she has everything she wants and take great care of her. Do you understand?»

«Yes, Massa,» she replied.

Turning to me, Randolph said: «I am going to dinner now, but Dinah will look after you and I think that you had better let her put you to bed. You are quite feverish. You shall not be disturbed tonight,» he added meaningfully.

I understood the significance of the last words, but I made no remark and a blush dyed my cheeks. I was still dazed and stupid. The rapid succession of painful and startling events had been too much for me.

Dinah came to the sofa, and, lifting me in her strong arms as if I had been a baby, carried me out of the room and up a broad flight of stairs to a most luxuriously furnished bedroom, where she laid me on the bed. Then closing the door, she came back to the bedside and looked at me with a kind, motherly expression on her pleasant face.

«I know who you is, Missy,» she said, «you is one of the good Northern ladies who keeps the ’unnergroun’ station.’ All de cullud folks in dese parts has heard of you. But it was none of dem dat set de lynchers on you. I know de lynchers has been after you today, honey. What did dey do to you? Did dey ride you on a rail? Dey offen does dat to ablishinists. Don’t mind tellin’ me all about it, little Miss. I’se fond of you for what yo’ve done for de runaways.»

The woman’s sympathy was most comforting to me, so I told her all that had been done to Miss Dean and myself.

«Oh! you poor young lady! I’se so very sorry for you,» she exclaimed, in tones full of pity. «You mus’ be drefful sore. But I will bathe you an’ make you as comfortable as I can, an’ den you mus’ go to bed.»

It was rather dark, so she lit the lamps and drew the curtains. She then left the room, returning in a few minutes with a can of hot water. «Now, honey,» she said tenderly, «I’ll fix you up.»

Dinah undressed me to my chemise. Then, asking me to lie on my face, she rolled up the garment, and, after separating my legs a little, examined my body.

«I see dat dose horrid men gave you twelve strokes with de switch,» she observed. «De weals is quite plain on your poor bottom, Missy, an’ you is all bruised an’ marked between de thighs where the rail hurt you.»

She then sponged my bottom with cold water and gently rubbed the weals with some soft stuff, saying: «Dis is possum fat, Missy. It will take the smart out of de weals. We always uses possum fat to take away de sting of a whipping.» The stuff certainly did seem to make my bottom feel easier.

«What a bootiful figure you’ve got,» she continued. «And such pretty legs. And such a lubly white skin. I’se never seen such a white one in my life.»

When she had fixed my bottom, she turned me over onto my back and fomented with warm water my «spot» and the parts adjacent, uttering all the time expressions of pity for me and abusing the lynchers, whom she called a pack of «mean white trash.» (It is a curious fact that the slaves in the South used to have a contempt for white people who did not own a Negro. I may also here say that Dinah never knew that it was her master who had set the lynchers on us.)

Since my parts were very tender and also a good deal swollen, Dinah’s fomentation gave me great relief. When she had finished bathing the sore «spot,» she went to a drawer, which, to my surprise, I saw was filled with all sorts of feminine undergarments. Taking out a lace trimmed nightdress, she brought it to me. Then, removing my chemise, she put the nightgown on me and made me get into bed. She then went away, but soon returned with a tray on which were dishes, plates and a small bottle of champagne. She placed a small table by the bedside, and, spreading a cloth, laid out the good things she had brought.

«Now, honey,» she said, «here is a nice little dinner. You must try and eat a bit, and drink some of dis wine. It will do you good.»

Since I had been a teetotaller all my life, I did not want the wine. I asked Dinah to get me a cup of tea. She soon did so. Then I propped myself up in the bed, taking care to press as little as possible on my bottom, and, since I was feeling very faint, I began to eat and was able to make a very fair meal, forgetting the past for the moment, and not thinking of the future.

While I was having my supper, Dinah talked to me freely, but always with perfect respect. The fact of my having been indecently whipped by a band of men had not lowered me the least in her estimation. To her, I was still a white lady from the North, while she was only a slave.

She informed me with an air of pride that she was the housekeeper and had twenty female servants under her. Then she gave me some particulars about herself. She had been born on the plantation and had never been more than twenty miles from it in all her life. She once had had a husband, but was now a widow without a child. She further informed me in a most matter-of-course way that she often had been whipped.

When she had cleared away the dinner things, she brushed my hair—it was the first time that I had ever had such a thing done for me since I had become an adult woman. Then she put a bell on the table beside the bed, and, after turning down the lamp, bade me good night and left the room.

When I woke the next morning the hands of the handsome Dresden china clock on the mantelpiece pointed to half-past eight o’clock. Sitting up in bed, I looked about me with the puzzled feeling one always experiences on first waking in a strange place. Then my brain cleared, and I vividly remembered all the dreadful incidents of the previous day: the horrible exposure of my most secret parts before a number of rough men; the ignominious and painful whipping; the agonizing ride on the rail. I shuddered. Next I thought of Randolph, and of the promise which I had given him. He might come to me at any moment! I felt my cheeks flush, and, in a sudden, unthinking impulse, I jumped out of bed and ran to the door to lock it. But there was no key. Then it struck me that locking the door—even if I had been able to do so—would not save me. I was in the man’s power and would have to submit to him sooner or later. So I crept back to bed again, lying trembling and wondering whether he would do the horrid deed some time during the day or wait until nighttime.

At nine o’clock Dinah came in with a cup of tea for me, bringing with her a letter from Randolph saying that he had been unexpectedly called to Richmond on urgent business which probably would detain him four or five days. He said also that he had made arrangements for my trunks to be brought to Woodlands, and he had given orders to all the servants that they were to look upon me as their mistress. He finished the note by telling me that Dinah knew where everything was, and that she would take good care of me. Feeling very thankful for my temporary respite, I drank the tea and lay down again.

Presently a smart young quadroon chambermaid brought in a large tin bath which she filled with water. After laying out towels and all the other articles necessary for my toilet, she left the room. I had my bath and, while drying myself, looked at my bottom in the mirror, finding that the weals had gone down considerably. But they still showed in long red stripes on my skin and they still were tender to the touch. I also was still very sore between the legs, where the rail had bruised the flesh—in fact, it was a week before all the marks and bruises on my body had entirely disappeared. Tears rose to my eyes and my heart swelled with rage and bitterness as I gazed at the traces of the shameful punishment which had been inflicted on me.

Dinah came back and helped me to dress. She also arranged my hair. Then she showed me to a snug, well-furnished room where I sat down (my bottom was still rather tender) to breakfast, waited on by two pretty quadroon girls who gazed at me curiously with their big, soft, black eyes, but who treated me with the utmost deference.

Just as I had finished breakfast, Dinah came to inform me that my trunks had arrived; she told me also that she had heard that Miss Dean and Martha were going to start that evening for Richmond on their way North.

Oh! how I wished I were going with them. Then the idea of escape flashed across my mind, and I determined to try and get away from Woodlands. If I could get to Miss Dean, she would be delighted to see me and to know that I had returned to her as pure as when I left. Moreover, she would take me back with her to Philadelphia. Filled with new hope, I went up to my room.

I was glad to be able to change my clothes. Dressing in clean garments from head to foot, I put on my hat and went down into the hall. Finding Dinah standing near the open door, I told her that I was going out for a walk.

«Oh Missy,» she said, «I know what you is thinkin’ of. You wants to get away to Miss Dean. But, oh, honey, you can’t. De Massa has give strict orders to de men at de gate not to let you out, an’ all de place is watched. You can’t get away nohow.»

My hopes of escape were dashed to the ground. I felt utterly miserable. Throwing myself on a seat, I wept bitterly while Dinah hovered about me, looking sympathetic but saying nothing.

I saw at once that, if I could not reach Miss Dean before she started, all chance for me was gone, for, even if I managed to get away from Woodlands, I had neither money nor a place to go. Moreover, I had been warned by the lynchers to leave Virginia in forty-eight hours. If they caught me wandering about—which they would be sure to do—they would ride me on a rail again or whip me, perhaps both.

The prospect was too awful to contemplate, so with a heavy heart I gave up all thought of leaving Wood-Sands. I would have to remain and submit to my fate when the time came.

After a few minutes I grew calmer. Then Dinah, with the intention of diverting my thoughts, asked if I would come and see the house. I answered in the affirmative, and she showed me all over the place, from the attic to the kitchen.

It was a very large mansion, beautifully furnished throughout; it had long corridors and two flights of stairs, one at the front and one at the back; there were twenty bedrooms, each decorated in a different style, plus several sitting rooms and boudoirs, a spacious dining room and an immense drawing room; there also was a billiard table and a large library well filled with books of all sorts. I never before had been in such a grand house, nor had I seen such splendid furniture. The pictures, though, in some of the rooms made me blush.

There were twenty female servants—slaves, of course—living in the house. All were dressed alike in well-fitting pink-print frocks with white aprons, caps, collars and cuffs. They all wore neat, well-polished shoes and white cotton stockings, and everyone of them looked trim and clean. In fact, they were obliged to be always tidy and properly dressed, any slovenliness being punished.

The cooks and kitchen servants were black or mulatto women, but all the parlormaids and housemaids were young quadroons or octoroons from eighteen to twenty-five years of age. All of them were pretty, while two or three of the octoroons were really quite handsome and so light in colour that they might easily have passed as white girls anywhere except in the South. (People there can at once detect the least trace of black blood in a man or woman.) Some of them had full, voluptuous-looking figures, and, since none wore stays, the rounded contours of their bosoms were plainly outlined under their thin bodices. There were several children of both sexes about the place, but no male servants lived in the house.

When Dinah had shown me everything that was to be seen in the establishment, she left me and I went out into the grounds. They were extensive and beautifully kept. There were flower gardens, fruit and kitchen gardens, shrubberies and hot houses. The whole place was surrounded by high iron railings, the only means of exit being the gate at the entrance to the avenue.

I wandered about listlessly, but I noticed that the men who were at work about the grounds kept a watch on my movements. I walked down to the gate, and, just to see if I was really a prisoner, I tried to open it. Two men instantly came out of the lodge and one of them said civilly: «You can’t go out, Missy. De gate is locked, by de Massa’s order.»

I then returned to the house and went up to my grand bedroom, all pink and white and gold, with two large windows looking out onto the gardens at the back. It was partly furnished as a sitting room, with a comfortable sofa and easy chairs, a round table, and a large well-fitted writing cabinet. Drawing an easy chair to one of the windows, I sat down and had a long think. I thought what a cruel man Randolph was to have betrayed us to the lynchers and then to have taken advantage of my agony to extract that promise from me.

Oh! Why had I not sufficient fortitude to bear the pain! If I had refused to accept release on the shameful terms which he had offered, I should in a few hours have been on my way to Richmond with Miss Dean!

I thought of her, and contrasted her position with mine. She was all right, except for the whipping, and in a couple of days would be safe at home in Philadelphia, still in possession of her virgin treasure—while I would be at Woodlands, a prisoner in the hands of a man who had shown himself to be utterly unscrupulous.

And what was to become of me afterwards? «Oh dear! Oh dear!» I said to myself. «How I wish I had never persuaded Miss Dean to let me come to Virginia with her!»

The morning passed, and at one o’clock Dinah came to tell me that lunch was ready. I went downstairs and managed to have something to eat. Then I betook myself to the library, where I remained for the rest of the afternoon trying to divert my thoughts by reading a novel At seven o’clock I sat down to a dainty, well-cooked little dinner—a better dinner than I ever had seen, frankly, since Miss Dean always lived very plainly. The two quadroon parlormaids, whose names were Lucy and Kate, waited on me, while Dinah, as «Butler,» overlooked them.

Dinah had the key to everything and was entirely trusted by her master. She offered me champagne, claret and bottled ale, but I refused them all. However, I made a fair meal, for I was a healthy girl and my appetite asserted itself in spite of the depressing nature of the position I was in at the moment. When dinner was over, I went into one of the smaller sitting rooms where the lamps had been lighted, the curtains drawn and everything made snug for me. But the evening seemed very long, and I felt very lonely. I should have liked Dinah’s company, for her quaint talk would have amused me a little. But I did not think that it would be quite correct for me to send for her, and she, I suppose, did not think it right to intrude upon me. So I did not see her until I went up to my room, when she came to brush my hair and to help me undress.

View online : My virginity is to be sacrificed (Chapter VIII)

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