Friday, August 14, 2009

From Methuselah's Diary

Twenty-seventh Day-This day, Zuar, a slave of mine, did prostrate himself before me, humbly reminding me that it is now six years since I bought him of his father. Calling my steward, he shewed me that it was so. Wherefore, the man being a Hebrew, I might not longer hold him, so told him he was free from bondage. Then bowed he again to the earth saying, "My lord, I have a wife and children." Then would I, not thinking, have said, "Take them also," but that my steward, falling upon his knees, cried, "O Prince, I must not fail my duty, albeit it is hard: they came not with him when he was bought; your grace did give him his wife, and his children were born in servitude." Whereat I was troubled, as not knowing my own matter, I having no experience of a like case before, but said, "Well, if it be so, let it be so-give him money and clothing and let him depart from his house alone; but be kind to his wife and babes, they shall not be sold neither suffered to want."

Then Zuar rose up and saluting, went out bowed as one that is stricken with a great sorrow. I was not easy in my mind, though fulfilling the law. I wished it might be otherwise. I went out to see, forbidding the guards to come, and found them locked in each other's arms, but not speaking, their faces turned to stone, and not a tear, the babes prattling about their knees, contending for a butterfly that one had caught. I drew back to my place, the pleasure of life gone out of me, which was strange, these being only slaves, dust under my feet. I must give this thing some further thought.

Twenty-eighth Day-Came these poor creatures to me, and Zuar, with a despondent face that belied his words, said, "My Lord, in the form and according to the usage of the law, I am come to declare that I love my lord, and my wife and my children, and do refuse to go out free; therefore, let my ear be bored with an awl before the judges, and I and mine by this token be returned to slavery forever, since that or even death itself is better than I be parted from these that are more to me than bread and sunshine and the breath that giveth life."

I know not if I did right, but there was no finding it in my heart to suffer this; so I said, "It is a hard law and cruel; go forth free, all of ye, that my conscience may trouble me no more." These were servants of price, but I pray God I shall not repent me of it, since my state is so great and opulent it is but casting away a farthing in any wise. (Mark Twain-The Bible According to Mark Twain)

No comments: