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Among the Pines - or, South in Secession Time
by James R. Gilmore
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"sot Huldy all alone, When Zeke peeked thru the winder;"

and on it, her head resting partly on her arm, partly on the end of the settle, one small, bare foot pressing the ground, the other, with the part of the person which is supposed to require stockings, extended in a horizontal direction—reclined, not Huldy, but her Southern cousin, who, I will wager, was decidedly the prettier and dirtier of the two. Our entrance did not seem to disconcert her in the least, for she lay there as unmoved as a marble statue, her large black eyes riveted on my face, as if seeing some nondescript animal for the first time. I stood for a moment transfixed with admiration. In a somewhat extensive observation of her sex in both hemispheres, I had never witnessed such a form, such eyes, such faultless features, and such wavy, black, luxuriant hair. A glance at her dress—a soiled, greasy, grayish linsey-woolsey gown, apparently her only garment—and a second look at her face, which, on closer inspection, had precisely the hue of a tallow candle, recalled me to myself, and allowed me to complete the survey of the premises.

The house was built of unhewn logs, separated by wide interstices, through which the cold air came, in decidedly fresh if not health-giving currents, while a large rent in the roof, that let in the rain, gave the inmates an excellent opportunity for indulging in a shower-bath, of which they seemed greatly in need. The chimney, which had intruded a couple of feet into the room, as if to keep out of the cold, and threatened momentarily to tumble down, was of sticks, built up in clay, while the windows were of thick, unplaned boards.

Two pretty girls, one of perhaps ten and the other of fourteen years, evidently sisters of the unadorned beauty, the middle-aged woman who had admitted us, and the dog—the only male member of the household—composed the family. I had seen negro cabins, but these people were whites, and these whites were South Carolinians. When such counterparts of the feudal serfs still exist, who will say that the days of chivalry are over!

After I had seated myself by the fire, and the driver had gone out to stow the horse away under the tumble-down shed at the back of the house, the elder woman said to me—

"Reckon yer wet. Ben in the rain!"

"Yes, madam, we've been out most of the day, and got in the river below here."

"Did ye? Ye mean the 'run.' I reckon it's right deep now."

"Yes, our horse had to swim," I replied.

"Ye orter strip and put on dry cloes to onst."

"Thank you, madam, I will."

Going to my portmanteau, which the darky had placed near the door, I found it dripping with wet, and opening it I discovered that every article had undergone the rite of immersion.

"Every thing is thoroughly soaked, madam. I shall have to dry myself by your fire. Can you get me a cup of tea?"

"Right sorry, stranger, but I can't. Haint a morsel to eat or drink in the house."

Remembering that our excellent hostess of the night before had insisted on filling the wagon-box with a quantity of "chicken fixins," to serve us in an emergency, and that my brandy flask was in my India-rubber coat, I sent Scip out for them.

The stores disclosed boiled chicken, bacon, sandwiches, sweet potatoes, short cake, corn-bread, buttered waffles, and 'common doin's' too numerous to mention, enough to last a family of one for a fortnight, but all completely saturated with water. Wet or dry, however, the provisions were a godsend to the half-starved family, and their hearts seemed to open to me with amazing rapidity. The dog got up and wagged his tail, and even the marble-like beauty rose from her reclining posture and invited me to a seat with her on the bench.

The kettle was soon steaming over the fire, and the boiling water, mixed with a little brandy, served as a capital substitute for tea. After the chicken was recooked, and the other edibles "warmed up," the little pine table was brought out, and I learned—what I had before suspected—that the big wooden bowl and the half dozen pewter spoons were the only "crockery" the family possessed.

I declined the proffered seat at the table, the cooking utensils being any thing but inviting, and contented myself with the brandy and water; but, forgetting for a moment his color, I motioned to the darky—who was as wet and jaded, and much more hungry than I was—to take the place offered to me. The negro did not seem inclined to do so, but the woman, observing my gesture, yelled out, her eyes flashing with anger:

"No, sar! No darkies eats with us. Hope you don't reckon yerself no better than a good-for-nothin', no account nigger!"

"I beg your pardon, madam; I intended no offence. Scipio has served me very faithfully for two days, and is very tired and hungry. I forgot myself."

This mollified the lady, and she replied:

"Niggers is good enuff in thar place, but warn't meant to 'sociate with white folks."

There may have been some ground for a distinction in that case; there certainly was a difference between the specimens of the two races then before me; but, not being one of the chivalry, it struck me that the odds were on the side of the black man. The whites were shiftless, ragged, and starving; the black well clad, cleanly, energetic, and as much above the others in intellect as Jupiter is above a church steeple. To be sure, color was against him, and he was, after all, a servant in the land of chivalry and of servant-owners. Of course the woman was right.

She soon resumed the conversation with this remark:

"Reckon yer a stranger in these parts; whar d'ye come from?"

"From New York, madam."

"New York! whar's that?"

"It's a city at the North."

"Oh! yas; I've heern tell on it: that's whar the Cunnel sells his turpentime. Quite a place, arnt it?"

"Yes, quite a place. Something larger than all South Carolina."

"What d'ye say? Larger nor South Carolina. Kinder reckon tain't, is't?"

"Yes, madam, it is."

"Du tell! 'Taint so large as Charles'n, is't?"

"Yes, twenty times larger than Charleston."

"Lord o'massy! How does all the folks live thar?"

"Live quite as well as they do here."

"Ye don't have no niggers thar, does ye?"

"Yes, but none that are slaves."

"Have Ablisherners thar, don't ye? them people that go agin the South?"

"Yes, some of them."

"What do they go agin the South for?"

"They go for freeing the slaves. Some of them think a black man as good as a white one."

"Quar, that; yer an Ablisherner, arnt ye?"

"No, I'm an old-fashioned Whig."

"What's that? Never heerd on them afore."

"An old-fashioned Whig, madam, is a man whose political principles are perfect, and who is as perfect as his principles."

That was a "stumper" for the poor woman, who evidently did not understand one-half of the sentence.

"Right sort of folks, them," she said, in a half inquiring tone.

"Yes, but they're all dead now."

"Dead?"

"Yes, dead, beyond the hope of resurrection."

"Iv'e heern all the dead war to be resurrected. Didn't ye say ye war one on 'em? Ye aint dead yet," said the woman, chuckling at having cornered me.

"But I'm more than half dead just now."

"Ah," replied the woman, still laughing, "yer a chicken."

"A chicken! what's that?"

"A thing that goes on tu legs, and karkles," was the ready reply.

"Ah, my dear madam, you can out-talk me."

"Yas, I reckon I kin outrun ye, tu. Ye arnt over rugged." Then, after a pause, she added—"What d'ye 'lect that darky, Linkum, President for?"

"I didn't elect him. I voted for Douglas. But Lincoln is not a darky."

"He's a mullater, then; I've heern he war," she replied.

"No, he's not a mulatto; he's a rail-splitter."

"Rail-splitter? Then he's a nigger, shore."

"No, madam; white men at the North split rails."

"An' white wimmin tu, p'raps," said the woman, with a contemptuous toss of the head.

"No, they don't," I replied, "but white women work there."

"White wimmin work thar!" chimed in the hitherto speechless beauty, showing a set of teeth of the exact color of her skin—yaller. "What du the' du?"

"Some of them attend in stores, some set type, some teach school, and some work in factories."

"Du tell! Dress nice, and make money?"

"Yes," I replied, "they make money, and dress like fine ladies; in fact, are fine ladies. I know one young woman, of about your age, that had to get her own education, who earns a thousand dollars a year by teaching, and I've heard of many factory-girls who support their parents, and lay by a great deal of money, by working in the mills."

"Wal!" replied the young woman, with a contemptuous curl of her matchless upper lip; "schule-marms arn't fine ladies; fine ladies don't work; only niggers works har. I reckon I'd rather be 'spectable than work for a livin'."

I could but think how magnificently the lips of some of our glorious Yankee girls would have curled had they have heard that remark, and have seen the poor girl that made it, with her torn, worn, greasy dress; her bare, dirty legs and feet, and her arms, neck, and face so thickly encrusted with a layer of clayey mud that there was danger of hydrophobia if she went near a wash-tub. Restraining my involuntary disgust, I replied:

"We at the North think work is respectable. We do not look down on a man or a woman for earning their daily bread. We all work."

"Yas, and that's the why ye'r all sech cowards," said the old woman.

"Cowards!" I said; "who tells you that?"

"My old man; he says one on our boys can lick five of your Yankee men."

"Perhaps so. Is your husband away from home?"

"Yas, him and our Cal. ar down to Charles'n."

"Cal. is your son, is he?"

"Yas, he's my oldest, and a likely lad he ar tu—he's twenty-one, and his name are JOHN CAL'OUN MILLS. He's gone a troopin' it with his fader."

"What, both gone and left you ladies here alone?"

"Yas, the Cunnel sed every man orter go, and they warn't to be ahind the rest. The Cunnel—Cunnel J.—looks arter us while they is away."

"But I should think the Colonel looked after you poorly—giving you nothing to eat."

"Oh! it's ben sech a storm to-day, the gals couldn't go for the vittles, though 'tain't a great way. We'r on his plantation; this house is his'n."

This last was agreeable news, and it occurred to me that if we were so near the Colonel's we might push on, in spite of the storm, and get there that night; so I said:

"Indeed; I'm going to the Colonel's. How far is his house from here?"

"A right smart six mile; it's at the Cross roads. Ye know the Cunnel, du ye?"

"Oh, yes, I know him well. If his home is not more than six miles off, I think we had better go on to-night. What do you say, Scip?"

"I reckon we'd better gwo, massa," replied the darky, who had spread my travelling-shawl in the chimney-corner, and was seated on it, drying his clothes.

"Ye'd better not," said the woman; "ye'd better stay har; thar's a right smart run twixt har and the Cunnel's, and 'tain't safe to cross arter dark."

"If that is so we'd better stay, Scip; don't you think so?" I said to the darky.

"Jess as you say, massa. We got fru wid de oder one, and I reckon taint no wuss nor dat."

"The bridge ar carried away, and ye'll hev to swim shore," said the woman. "Ye'd better stay."

"Thank you, madam, I think we will," I replied, after a moment's thought; "our horse has swum one of your creeks to-night, and I dare not try another."

Having taken off my coat, I had been standing, during the greater part of this conversation, in my shirt-sleeves before the fire, turning round occasionally to facilitate the drying process, and taking every now and then a sip from the gourd containing our brandy and water; aided in the latter exercise by the old woman and the eldest girl, who indulged quite as freely as I did.

"Mighty good brandy that," at last said the woman. "Ye like brandy, don't ye?"

"Not very much, madam. I take it to-night because I've been exposed to the storm, and it stimulates the circulation. But Scip, here, don't like spirits. He'll get the rheumatism because he don't."

"Don't like dem sort of sperits, massa; but rumatics neber trubble me."

"But I've got it mighty bad," said the woman, "and I take 'em whenever I kin get 'em."

I rather thought she did, but I "reckoned" her principal beverage was whiskey.

"You have the rheumatism, madam, because your house is so open; a draught of air is always unhealthy."

"I allers reckoned 'twar healthy," she replied. "Ye Yankee folks have quar notions."

I looked at my watch, and found it was nearly ten o'clock, and, feeling very tired, said to the hostess:

"Where do you mean we shall sleep?"

"Ye can take that ar bed," pointing to the one nearer the wall, "the darky can sleep har;" motioning to the settle on which she was seated.

"But where will you and your daughters sleep? I don't wish to turn you out of your beds."

"Oh! don't ye keer for us; we kin all bunk together; dun it afore. Like to turn in now?"

"Yes, thank you, I would;" and without more ceremony I adjourned to the further part of the room, and commenced disrobing. Doffing my boots, waistcoat, and cravat, and placing my watch and purse under the pillow, I gave a moment's thought to what a certain not very old lady, whom I had left at home, might say when she heard of my lodging with a grass-widow and three young girls, and sprang into bed. There I removed my under-mentionables, which were still too damp to sleep in, and in about two minutes and thirty seconds sunk into oblivion.

A few streaks of grayish light were beginning to creep through the crevices in the logs, when a movement at the foot of the bed awakened me, and glancing downward I beheld the youngest girl emerging from under the clothes at my feet. She had slept there, "cross-wise," all night. A stir in the adjoining bed soon warned me that the other feminines were preparing to follow her example; so, turning my face to the wall, I feigned to be sleeping. Their toilet was soon made, when they quietly left Scip and myself in possession of the premises.

The darky rose as soon as they were gone, and, coming to me, said:

"Massa, we'd better be gwine. I'se got your cloes all dry, and you can rig up and breakfust at de Cunnel's."

The storm had cleared away, and the sun was struggling to get through the distant pines, when Scip brought the horse to the door, and we prepared to start. Turning to the old woman, I said:

"I feel greatly obliged to you, madam, for the shelter you have given us, and would like to make you some recompense for your trouble. Please to tell me what I shall pay you."

"Wal, stranger, we don't gin'rally take in lodgers, but seein' as how as thar ar tu on ye, and ye've had a good night on it, I don't keer if ye pay me tu dollars."

That struck me as "rather steep" for "common doin's," particularly as we had furnished the food and "the drinks;" yet, saying nothing, I handed her a two-dollar bank-note. She took it, and held it up curiously to the sun for a moment, then handed it back, saying, "I don't know nuthin' 'bout that ar sort o' money; haint you got no silver?"

I fumbled in my pocket a moment, and found a quarter-eagle, which I gave her.

"Haint got nary a fip o' change," she said, as she took it.

"Oh! never mind the change, madam; I shall want to stop and look at you when I return," I replied, good-humoredly.

"Ha! ha! yer a chicken," said the woman, at the same time giving me a gentle poke in the ribs. Fearing she might, in the exuberance of her joy at the sight of the money, proceed to some more decided demonstration of affection, I hastily stepped into the wagon, bade her good-by, and was off.

We were still among the pines, which towered gigantically all around us, but were no longer alone. Every tree was scarified for turpentine, and the forest was alive with negro men and women gathering the "last dipping," or clearing away the stumps and underbrush preparatory to the spring work. It was Christmas week; but, as I afterward learned, the Colonel's negroes were accustomed to doing "half tasks" at that season, being paid for their labor as if they were free. They stopped their work as we rode by, and stared at us with a stupid, half-frightened curiosity, very much like the look of a cow when a railway train is passing. It needed but little observation to convince me that their status was but one step above the level of the brutes.

As we rode along I said to the driver, "Scip, what did you think of our lodgings?"

"Mighty pore, massa. Niggas lib better'n dat."

"Yes," I replied, "but these folks despise you blacks; they seem to be both poor and proud."

"Yas, massa, dey'm pore 'cause dey wont work, and dey'm proud 'cause dey'r white. Dey wont work 'cause dey see de darky slaves doin' it, and tink it am beneaf white folks to do as de darkies do. Dis habin' slaves keeps dis hull country pore."

"Who told you that?" I asked, astonished at hearing a remark showing so much reflection from a negro.

"Nobody, massa; I see it myseff."

"Are there many of these poor whites around Georgetown?"

"Not many 'round Georgetown, sar, but great many in de up-country har, and dey'm all 'like—pore and no account; none ob 'em kin read, and dey all eat clay."

"Eat clay!" I said; "what do you mean by that?"

"Didn't you see, massa, how yaller all dem wimmin war? Dat's 'cause dey eat clay. De little children begin 'fore dey kin walk, and dey eat it till dey die; dey chaw it like 'backer. It makes all dar stumacs big, like as you seed 'em, and spiles dar 'gestion. It'm mighty onhealfy."

"Can it be possible that human beings do such things! The brutes wouldn't do that."

"No, massa, but dey do it; dey'm pore trash. Dat's what de big folks call 'em, and it am true; dey'm long way lower down dan de darkies."

By this time we had arrived at the "run." We found the bridge carried away, as the woman had told us; but its abutments were still standing, and over these planks had been laid, which afforded a safe crossing for foot-passengers. To reach these planks, however, it was necessary to wade into the stream for full fifty yards, the "run" having overflowed its banks for that distance on either side of the bridge. The water was evidently receding, but, as we could not well wait, like the man in the fable, for it all to run by, we alighted, and counselled as to the best mode of making the passage.

Scip proposed that he should wade in to the first abutment, ascertain the depth of the stream, and then, if it was not too deep for the horse to ford to that point, drive that far, get out, and walk to the end of the planking, leading the horse, and then again mount the wagon at the further end of the bridge. We were sure the horse would have to swim in the middle of the current, and perhaps for a considerable distance beyond; but, having witnessed his proficiency in aquatic performances, we had no doubt he would get safely across.

The darky's plan was decided on, and divesting himself of his trowsers, he waded into the "run" to take the soundings.

While he was in the water my attention was attracted to a printed paper, posted on one of the pines near the roadside. Going up to it, I read as follows:

"$250 REWARD.

"Ran away from the subscriber, on Monday, November 12th, his mulatto man, SAM. Said boy is stout-built, five feet nine inches high, 31 years old, weighs 170 lbs., and walks very erect, and with a quick, rapid gait. The American flag is tattooed on his right arm above the elbow. There is a knife-cut over the bridge of his nose, a fresh bullet-wound in his left thigh, and his back bears marks of a recent whipping. He is supposed to have made his way back to Dinwiddie County, Va., where he was raised, or to be lurking in the swamps in this vicinity.

"The above reward will be paid for his confinement in any jail in North or South Carolina, or Virginia, or for his delivery to the subscriber on his plantation at ——.

"——, December 2, 1860."

The name signed to this hand-bill was that of the planter I was about to visit.

Scip having returned, and reported the stream fordable to the bridge, I said to him, pointing to the "notice:"

"Read that, Scip."

He read it, but made no remark.

"What does it mean—that fresh bullet wound, and the marks of a recent whipping?" I asked.

"It mean, massa, dat de darky hab run away, and ben took; and dat when dey took him dey shot him, and flogged him arter dat. Now, he hab run away agin. De Cunnel's mighty hard on his niggas!"

"Is he? I can scarcely believe that."

"He am, massa; but he arnt so much to blame, nuther; dey'm awful bad, most ob 'em—so dey say."

Our conversation was here interrupted by our reaching the bridge. After safely "walking the plank," and making our way to the opposite bank, I resumed it by asking:

"Why are the Colonel's negroes so particularly bad?"

"'Cause, you see, massa, de turpentime business hab made great profits for sum yars now, and de Cunnel hab been gettin' rich bery fass. He put all his money, jes so fass as he make it, into darkies, so to make more; for he's got bery big plantation, and need nuffin' but darkies to work it to make money jess like a gold mine. He goes up to Virginny to buy niggas; and up dar now dey don't sell none less dey'm bad uns, 'cep when sum massa die or git pore. Virginny darkies dat cum down har aint gin'rally ob much account. Dey'm either kinder good-for-nuffin, or dey'm ugly; and de Cunnel'd ruther hab de ugly dan de no-account niggas."

"How many negroes has he?"

"'Bout two hundred, men and wimmin, I b'lieve, massa."

"It can't be pleasant for his family to remain in such an out-of-the-way place, with so bad a gang of negroes about them, and no white people near."

"No, massa, not in dese times; but de missus and de young lady arnt dar now."

"Not there now? The Colonel said nothing to me about that. Are you sure?"

"Oh yas, massa; I seed 'em gwo off on de boat to Charles'n most two weeks ago. Dey don't mean to cum back till tings am more settled; dey'm 'fraid to stay dar."

"Would it be safe for the Colonel there, if a disturbance broke out among the slaves."

"'T wouldn't be safe den anywhar, sar; but de Cunnel am a bery brave man. He'm better dan twenty of his niggas."

"Why better than twenty of his niggers?"

"'Cause dem ugly niggas am gin'rally cowards. De darky dat is quiet, 'spectful, and does his duty, am de brave sort; dey'll fight, massa, till dey'm cut down."

We had here reached a turn in the road, and passing it, came suddenly upon a coach, attached to which were a pair of magnificent grays, driven by a darky in livery.

"Hallo, dar!" said Scip to the driver, as we came nearly abreast of the carriage. "Am you Cunnel J——'s man?"

"Yas, I is dat," replied the darky.

At this moment a woolly head, which I recognized at once as that of the Colonel's man "Jim," was thrust from the window of the vehicle.

"Hallo, Jim," I said. "How do you do? I'm glad to see you."

"Lor bress me, Massa K——, am dat you?" exclaimed the astonished negro, hastily opening the door, and coming to me. "Whar did you cum from? I'se mighty glad to see you;" at the same time giving my hand a hearty shaking. I must here say, in justice to the reputation of South Carolina, that no respectable Carolinian refuses to shake hands with a black man, unless—the black happens to be free.

"I thought I wouldn't wait for you," I replied. "But how did you expect to get on? the 'runs' have swollen into rivers."

"We got a 'flat' made for dis one—it's down by dis time—de oders we tought we'd get ober sumhow."

"Jim, this is Scip," I said, seeing the darkies took no notice of each other.

"How d'ye do, Scipio?" said Jim, extending his hand to him. A look of singular intelligence passed over the faces of the two negroes as their hands met; it vanished in an instant, and was so slight that none but a close observer would have detected it, but some words that Scip had previously let drop had put me on the alert, and I felt sure it had a hidden significance.

"Wont you get into de carriage, massa?" inquired Jim.

"No, thank you, Jim. I'll ride on with Scip. Our horse is jaded, and you had better go ahead."

Jim mounted the driver's seat, turned the carriage, and drove off at a brisk pace to announce our coming at the plantation, while Scip and I rode on at a slower gait.

"Scip, did you know Jim before?" I asked.

"Hab seed him afore, massa, but neber know'd him."

"How is it that you have lived in Georgetown five years, and have not known him?"

"I cud hab know'd him, massa, good many time, ef I'd liked, but darkies hab to be careful."

"Careful of what?"

"Careful ob who dey knows; good many bad niggas 'bout."

"Pshaw, Scip, you're 'coming de possum'; there isn't a better nigger than Jim in all South Carolina. I know him well."

"P'raps he am; reckon he am a good 'nuff nigga."

"Good enough nigga, Scip! Why, I tell you he's a splendid fellow; just as true as steel. He's been North with the Colonel, often, and the Abolitionists have tried to get him away; he knew he could go, but wouldn't budge an inch."

"I knew he wouldn't," said the darky, a pleasurable gleam passing through his eyes; "dat sort don't run; dey face de music!"

"Why don't they run? What do you mean by facing the music?"

"Nuffin' massa—only dey'd rather stay har."

"Come, Scip, you've played this game long enough. Tell me, now, what that look you gave each other when you shook hands meant."

"What look, massa? Oh! I s'pose 'twar 'cause we'd both heerd ob each oder afore."

"'Twas more than that, Scip. Be frank; you know you can trust me."

"Wal, den, massa," he replied hesitatingly, adding, after a short pause, "de ole woman called you a Yankee, sar—you can guess."

"If I should guess, 't would be that it meant mischief."

"It don't mean mischief, sar," said the darky, with a tone and air that would not have disgraced a Cabinet officer; "it mean only RIGHT and JUSTICE."

"It means that there is some secret understanding between you."

"I toled you, massa," he replied, relapsing into his usual manner, "dat de blacks am all Freemasons. I gabe Jim de grip, and he knowd me. He'd ha knowd my name ef you hadn't toled him."

"Why would he have known your name?"

"'Cause I gabe de grip, dat tole him."

"Why did he call you Scipio? I called you Scip."

"Oh! de darkies all do dat. Nobody but de white folks call me Scip. I can't say no more, massa; I SHUD BREAK DE OATH EF I DID!"

"You have said enough to satisfy me that there is a secret league among the blacks, and that you are a leader in it. Now, I tell you, you'll get yourself into a scrape. I've taken a liking to you, Scip, and I should be very sorry to see you run yourself into danger."

"I tank you, massa, from de bottom ob my soul I tank you," he said, as the tears moistened his eyes. "You bery kind, massa; it do me good to talk wid you. But what am my life wuth? What am any slave's life wuth? Ef you war me you'd do like me!"

I could not deny it, and I made no reply.

The writer is aware that he is here making an important statement, and one that may be called in question by those persons who are accustomed to regard the Southern blacks as only reasoning brutes. The great mass of them are but a little above the brutes in their habits and instincts, but a large body are fully on a par, except in mere book-education, with their white masters.

The conversation above recorded is, verbatim et literatim, TRUE. It took place at the time indicated, and was taken down, as were other conversations recorded in this book, within twenty-four hours after its occurrence. The name and the locality, only, I have, for very evident reasons, disguised.

From this conversation, together with others, held with the same negro, and from after developments made to me at various places, and at different times, extending over a period of six weeks, I became acquainted with the fact that there exists among the blacks a secret and wide-spread organization of a Masonic character, having its grip, pass-word, and oath. It has various grades of leaders, who are competent and earnest men, and its ultimate object is FREEDOM. It is quite as secret and wide-spread as the order of the "Knights of the Golden Circle," the kindred league among the whites.

This latter organization, which was instituted by John C. Calhoun, William L. Porcher, and others, as far back as 1835, has for its sole object the dissolution of the Union, and the establishment of a Southern Empire—Empire is the word, not Confederacy, or Republic; and it was solely by means of its secret but powerful machinery that the Southern States were plunged into revolution, in defiance of the will of a majority of their voting population.

Nearly every man of influence at the South (and many a pretended Union man at the North) is a member of this organization, and sworn, under the penalty of assassination, to labor "in season and out of season, by fair means and by foul, at all times, and all occasions," for the accomplishment of its object. The blacks are bound together by a similar oath, and only bide their time.

The knowledge of the real state of political affairs which the negroes have acquired through this organization is astonishingly accurate; their leaders possess every essential of leadership—except, it may be, military skill—and they are fully able to cope with the whites.

The negro whom I call Scipio, on the day when Major Anderson evacuated Fort Moultrie, and before he or I knew of that event, which set all South Carolina in a blaze, foretold to me the breaking out of this war in Charleston harbor, and as confidently predicted that it would result in the freedom of the slaves!

The fact of this organization existing is not positively known (for the black is more subtle and crafty than any thing human), but it is suspected by many of the whites, the more moderate of whom are disposed to ward off the impending blow by some system of gradual emancipation—declaring all black children born after a certain date free—or by some other action that will pacify and keep down the slaves. These persons, however, are but a small minority, and possess no political power, and the South is rushing blindly on to a catastrophe, which, if not averted by the action of our government, will make the horrors of San Domingo and the French Revolution grow pale in history.

I say the action of our government, for with it rests the responsibility. What the black wants is freedom. Give him that, and he will have no incentive to insurrection. If emancipation is proclaimed at the head of our armies—emancipation for all—confiscation for the slaves of rebels, compensation for the slaves of loyal citizens—the blacks will rush to the aid of our troops, the avenging angel will pass over the homes of the many true and loyal men who are still left at the South, and the thunderbolts of this war will fall only—where they should fall—on the heads of its blood-stained authors. If this is not done, after we have put down the whites we shall have to meet the blacks, and after we have waded knee-deep in the blood of both, we shall end the war where it began, but with the South desolated by fire and sword, the North impoverished and loaded down with an everlasting debt, and our once proud, happy, and glorious country the by-word and scorn of the civilized world.

Slavery is the very bones, marrow, and life-blood of this rebellion, and it cannot be crushed till we have destroyed that accursed institution. If a miserable peace is patched up before a death-stroke is given to slavery, it will gather new strength, and drive freedom from this country forever. In the nature of things it cannot exist in the same hemisphere with liberty. Then let every man who loves his country determine that if this war must needs last for twenty years, it shall not end until this root of all our political evils is weeded out forever.

A short half-hour took us to the plantation, where I found the Colonel on the piazza awaiting me. After our greeting was over, noticing my soiled and rather dilapidated condition, he inquired where I had passed the night. I told him, when he burst into a hearty fit of laughter, and for several days good-naturedly bantered me about "putting up" at the most aristocratic hotel in South Carolina—the "Mills House."

We soon entered the mansion, and the reader will, I trust, pardon me, if I leave him standing in its door-way till another chapter.



CHAPTER V.

ON THE PLANTATION.

The last chapter left the reader in the door-way of the Colonel's mansion. Before entering, we will linger there awhile and survey the outside of the premises.

The house stands where two roads meet, and, unlike most planters' dwellings, is located in full view of the highway. It is a rambling, disjointed structure, thrown together with no regard to architectural rules, and yet there is a rude harmony in its very irregularities that has a pleasing effect. The main edifice, with a frontage of nearly eighty feet, is only one and a half stories high, and is overshadowed by a broad projecting roof, which somehow, though in a very natural way, drops down at the eaves, and forms the covering of a piazza, twenty feet wide, and extending across the entire front of the house. At its south-easterly angle, the roof is truncated, and made again to form a covering for the piazza, which there extends along a line of irregular buildings for sixty yards. A portion of the verandah on this side being enclosed, forms a bowling-alley and smoking-room, two essential appendages to a planter's residence. The whole structure is covered with yellow-pine weather boarding, which in some former age was covered with paint of a grayish brown color. This, in many places, has peeled off and allowed the sap to ooze from the pine, leaving every here and there large blotches on the surface, somewhat resembling the "warts" I have seen on the trunks of old trees.

The house is encircled by grand old pines, whose tall, upright stems, soaring eighty and ninety feet in the air, make the low hamlet seem lower by the contrast. They have stood there for centuries, their rough, shaggy coats buttoned close to their chins, and their long green locks waving in the wind; but the long knife has been thrust into their veins, and their life-blood is now fast oozing away.

With the exception of the negro huts, which are scattered at irregular intervals through the woods in the rear of the mansion, there is not a human habitation within an hour's ride; but such a cosy, inviting, hospitable atmosphere surrounds the whole place, that a stranger does not realize he has happened upon it in a wilderness.

The interior of the dwelling is in keeping with the exterior, though in the drawing-rooms, where rich furniture and fine paintings actually lumber the apartments, there is evident the lack of a nice perception of the "fitness of things," and over the whole hangs a "dusty air," which reminds one that the Milesian Bridget does not "flourish" in South Carolina.

I was met in the entrance-way by a tall, fine-looking woman, to whom the Colonel introduced me as follows:

"Mr. K——, this is Madam P——, my housekeeper; she will try to make you forget that Mrs. J—— is absent."

After a few customary courtesies were exchanged, I was shown to a dressing-room, and with the aid of Jim, a razor, and one of the Colonel's shirts—all of mine having undergone a drenching—soon made a tolerably presentable appearance. The negro then conducted me to the breakfast-room, where I found the family assembled.

It consisted, besides the housekeeper, of a tall, raw-boned, sandy-haired personage, with a low brow, a blear eye, and a sneaking look—the overseer of the plantation; and of a well-mannered, intelligent lad—with the peculiarly erect carriage and uncommon blending of good-natured ease and dignity which distinguished my host—who was introduced to me as the housekeeper's son.

Madam P——, who presided over the "tea-things," was a person of perhaps thirty-five, but a rich olive complexion, enlivened by a delicate red tint, and relieved by thick masses of black hair, made her appear to a casual observer several years younger. Her face bore vestiges of great beauty, which time, and, perhaps, care, had mellowed but not obliterated, and her conversation indicated high cultivation. She had evidently mingled in refined society in this country and in Europe, and it was a strange freak of fortune that had reduced her to a menial condition in the family of a backwoods planter.

After some general conversation, the Colonel remarked that his wife and daughter would pass the winter in Charleston.

"And do you remain on the plantation?" I inquired.

"Oh yes, I am needed here," he replied; "but Madam's son is with my family."

"Madam's son!" I exclaimed in astonishment, forgetting in my surprise that the lady was present.

"Yes, sir," she remarked, "my oldest boy is twenty."

"Excuse me, Madam; I forgot that in your climate one never grows old."

"There you are wrong, sir; I'm sure I feel old when I think how soon my boys will be men."

"Not old yet, Alice," said the Colonel, in a singularly familiar tone; "you seem to me no older than when you were fifteen."

"You have been long acquainted," I remarked, not knowing exactly what to say.

"Oh, yes," replied my host, "we were children together."

"Your Southern country, Madam, affords a fine field for young men of enterprise."

"My eldest son resides in Germany," replied the lady. "He expects to make that country his home. He would have passed his examination at Heidelberg this autumn had not circumstances called him here."

"You are widely separated," I replied.

"Yes, sir; his father thinks it best, and I suppose it is. Thomas, here, is to return with his brother, and I may live to see neither of them again."

My curiosity was naturally much excited to learn more, but nothing further being volunteered, and the conversation soon turning to other topics, I left the table with it unsatisfied.

After enjoying a quiet hour with the Colonel in the smoking-room, he invited me to join him in a ride over the plantation. I gladly assented, and Jim shortly announced the horses were in waiting. That darky, who invariably attended his master when the latter proceeded from home, accompanied us. As we were mounting I bethought me of Scip, and asked where he was.

"He'm gwine to gwo, massa, and want to say good-by to you."

It seemed madness for Scip to start on a journey of seventy miles without rest, so I requested the Colonel to let him remain till the next day. He cheerfully assented, and sent Jim to find him. While waiting for the darky, I spoke of how faithfully he had served me during my journey.

"He's a splendid nigger," replied the Colonel; "worth his weight in gold. If affairs were more settled I would buy him."

"But Colonel A—— tells me he is too intelligent. He objects to 'knowing' niggers."

"I do not," replied my host, "if they are honest, and I would trust Scip with uncounted gold. Look at him," he continued, as the negro approached; "were flesh and bones ever better put together?"

The darky was a fine specimen of sable humanity, and I readily understood why the practiced eye of the Colonel appreciated his physical developments.

"Scip," I said, "you must not think of going to-day; the Colonel will be glad to let you remain until you are fully rested."

"Tank you, massa, tank you bery much, but de ole man will spec' me, and I orter gwo."

"Oh, never mind old——," said the Colonel, "I'll take care of him."

"Tank you, Cunnel, den I'll stay har till de mornin'."

Taking a by-path which led through the forest in the rear of the mansion, we soon reached a small stream, and, following its course for a short distance, came upon a turpentine distillery, which the Colonel explained to me was one of three that prepared the product of his plantation for market, and provided for his family of nearly three hundred souls.

It was enclosed, or rather roofed, by a rude structure of rough boards, which was open at the sides, and sustained on a number of pine poles about thirty feet in height, and bore a strong resemblance to the usual covering of a New England haystack.

Three stout negro men, divested of all clothing excepting a pair of coarse gray trowsers and a red shirt—it was a raw, cold, wintry day—and with cotton bandannas bound about their heads, were "tending the still." The foreman stood on a raised platform level with its top, but as we approached very quietly seated himself on a turpentine barrel which a moment before he had rolled over the mouth of the boiler. Another negro was below, feeding the fire with "light wood," and a third was tending the trough by which the liquid rosin found its way into the semicircle of rough barrels intended for its reception.

"Hello, Junius, what in creation are you doing there?" asked the Colonel, as we approached, of the negro on the turpentine barrel.

"Holein' her down, Cunnel; de ole ting got a mine to blow up dis mornin'; I'se got dis barrl up har to hole her down."

"Why, you everlasting nigger, if the top leaks you'll be blown to eternity in half a second."

"Reckon not, massa; be barrl and me kin hole her. We'll take de risk."

"Perhaps you will," said the Colonel, laughing, "but I wont. Nigger property isn't of much account, but you're too good a darky, June, to be sent to the devil for a charge of turpentine."

"Tank you, massa, but you dun kno' dis ole ting like I do. You cudn't blow her up nohow; I'se tried her afore dis way."

"Don't you do it again; now mind; if you do I'll make a white man of you." (This I suppose referred to a process of flaying with a whip; though the whip is generally thought to redden, not whiten, the negro.)

The black did not seem at all alarmed, for he showed his ivories in a broad grin as he replied, "Jess as you say, massa; you'se de boss in dis shanty."

Directing the fire to be raked out, and the still to stand unused until it was repaired, the Colonel turned his horse to go, when he observed that the third negro was shoeless, and his feet chapped and swollen with the cold. "Jake," he said, "where are your shoes?"

"Wored out, massa."

"Worn out! Why haven't you been to me?"

"'Cause, massa, I know'd you'd jaw; you tole me I wears 'em out mighty fass."

"Well, you do, that's a fact; but go to Madam and get a pair; and you, June, you've been a decent nigger, you can ask for a dress for Rosy. How is little June?"

"Mighty pore, massa; de ma'am war dar lass night and dis mornin', and she reckun he'm gwine to gwo, sartain."

"Sorry to hear that," said the Colonel. "I'll go and see him. Don't feel badly, June," he continued, for the tears welled up to the eyes of the black man as he spoke of his child; "we all must die."

"I knows dat, massa, but it am hard to hab 'em gwo."

"Yes, it is, June, but we may save him."

"Ef you cud, massa! Oh, ef you cud!" and the poor darky covered his face with his great hands and sobbed like a child.

We rode on to another "still," and there dismounting, the Colonel explained to me the process of gathering and manufacturing turpentine. The trees are "boxed" and "tapped" early in the year, while the frost is still in the ground. "Boxing" is the process of scooping a cavity in the trunk of the tree by means of a peculiarly shaped axe, made for the purpose; "tapping" is scarifying the rind of the wood above the boxes. This is never done until the trees have been worked one season, but it is then repeated year after year, till on many plantations they present the marks of twenty and frequently thirty annual "tappings," and are often denuded of bark for a distance of thirty feet from the ground. The necessity for this annual tapping arises from the fact that the scar on the trunk heals at the end of a season, and the sap will no longer run from it; a fresh wound is therefore made each spring. The sap flows down the scarified surface and collects in the boxes, which are emptied six or eight times in a year, according to the length of the season. This is the process of "dipping," and it is done with a tin or iron vessel constructed to fit the cavity in the tree.

The turpentine gathered from the newly boxed or virgin tree is very valuable, on account of its producing a peculiarly clear and white rosin, which is used in the manufacture of the finer kinds of soap, and by "Rosin the Bow." It commands, ordinarily, nearly five times the price of the common article. When barrelled, the turpentine is frequently sent to market in its crude state, but more often is distilled on the plantation, the gatherers generally possessing means sufficient to own a still.

In the process of distilling, the crude turpentine is "dumped" into the boiler through an opening in the top—the same as that on which we saw Junius composedly seated—water is then poured upon it, the aperture made tight by screwing down the cover and packing it with clay, a fire built underneath, and when the heat reaches several hundred degrees Fahrenheit, the process of manufacture begins. The volatile and more valuable part of the turpentine, by the action of the heat, rises as vapor, then condensing flows off through a pipe in the top of the still, and comes out spirits of turpentine, while the heavier portion finds vent at a lower aperture, and comes out rosin.

No article of commerce is so liable to waste and leakage as turpentine. The spirits can only be preserved in tin cans, or in thoroughly seasoned oak barrels, made tight by a coating of glue on the inner side. Though the material for these barrels exists at the South in luxuriant abundance, they are all procured from the North, and the closing of the Southern ports has now entirely cut off the supply; for while the turpentine farmer may improvise coopers, he can by no process give the oak timber the seasoning which is needed to render the barrel spirit-tight. Hence it is certain that a large portion of the last crop of turpentine must have gone to waste. When it is remembered that the one State of North Carolina exports annually nearly twenty millions in value of this product, and employs fully two-thirds of its negroes in its production, it will be seen how dearly the South is paying for the mad freak of secession. Putting out of view his actual loss of produce, how does the turpentine farmer feed and employ his negroes? and pressed as these blacks inevitably are by both hunger and idleness, those prolific breeders of sedition, what will keep them quiet?

"What effect will secession have on your business?" I asked the Colonel, after a while.

"A favorable one. I shall ship my crop direct to Liverpool and London, instead of selling it to New York middle-men."

"But is not the larger portion of the turpentine crop consumed at the North?"

"Oh, yes. We shall have to deal with the Yankees anyhow, but we shall do as little with them as possible."

"Suppose the Yankees object to your setting up by yourselves, and put your ports under lock and key?"

"They wont do that, and if they do, England will break the blockade."

"We may rap John Bull over the knuckles in that event," I replied.

"Well, suppose you do; what then?"

"Merely, England would not have a ship in six months to carry your cotton. A war with her would ruin the shipping trade of the North. Our marine would seek employment at privateering, and soon sweep every British merchant ship from the ocean. We could afford to give up ten years' trade with you, and to put secession down by force, for the sake of a year's brush with John Bull."

"But, my good friend, where would the British navy be all this while?"

"Asleep. The English haven't a steamer that can catch a Brookhaven schooner. The last war proved that government vessels are no match for privateers."

"Well, well! but the Yankees wont fight."

"Suppose they do. Suppose they shut up your ports, and leave you with your cotton and turpentine unsold? You raise scarcely any thing else—what would you eat?"

"We would turn our cotton fields into corn and wheat. Turpentine-makers, of course, would suffer."

"Then why are not you a Union man?"

"My friend, I have nearly three hundred mouths to feed. I depend on the sale of my crop to give them food. If our ports are closed, I cannot do it—they will starve, and I be ruined. But sooner than submit to the domination of the cursed Yankees, I will see my negroes starving, and my child a beggar!"

At this point in the conversation we arrived at the negro shanty where the sick child was. Dismounting, the Colonel and I entered.

The cabin was almost a counterpart of the "Mills House," described in the previous chapter, but it had a plank flooring, and was scrupulously neat and clean. The logs were stripped of bark, and whitewashed. A bright, cheerful fire was blazing on the hearth, and an air of rude comfort pervaded the whole interior. On a low bed in the farther corner of the room lay the sick child. He was a boy of about twelve years, and evidently in the last stages of consumption. By his side, bending over him as if to catch his almost inaudible words, sat a tidy, youthful-looking colored woman, his mother, and the wife of the negro we had met at the "still." Playing on the floor, was a younger child, perhaps five years old, but while the faces of the mother and the sick lad were of the hue of charcoal, his skin by a process well understood at the South, had been bleached to a bright yellow.

The woman took no notice of our entrance, but the little fellow ran to the Colonel and caught hold of the skirts of his coat in a free-and-easy way, saying, "Ole massa, you got suffin' for Dicky?"

"No, you little nig," replied the Colonel, patting his woolly head as I might have done a white child's, "Dicky isn't a good boy."

"Yas, I is," said the little darky; "you'se ugly ole massa to gib nuffin' to Dick."

Aroused by the Colonel's voice, the woman turned toward us. Her eyes were swollen, and her face bore traces of deep emotion.

"Oh massa!" she said, "de chile am dyin'! It'm all along ob his workin' in de swamp—no man orter work dar, let alone a chile like dis."

"Do you think he is dying, Rosy?" asked the Colonel, approaching the bed-side.

"Shore, massa, he'm gwine fass. Look at 'im."

The boy had dwindled to a skeleton, and the skin lay on his face in crimpled folds, like a mask of black crape. His eyes were fixed, and he was evidently going.

"Don't you know massa, my boy?" said the Colonel, taking his hand tenderly in his.

The child's lips slightly moved, but I could hear no sound. The Colonel put his ear down to him for a moment, then, turning to me, said:

"He is dying. Will you be so good as to step to the house and ask Madam P—— here, and please tell Jim to go for Junius and the old man."

I returned in a short while with the lady, but found the boy's father and "the old man"—the darky preacher of the plantation—there before us. The preacher was a venerable old negro, much bowed by years, and with thin wool as white as snow. When we entered, he was bending over the dying boy, but shortly turning to my host, said:

"Massa, de blessed Lord am callin' for de chile—shall we pray?"

The Colonel nodded assent, and we all, blacks and whites, knelt down on the floor, while the old preacher made a short, heart-touching prayer. It was a simple, humble acknowledgment of the dependence of the creature on the Creator—of His right to give and to take away, and was uttered in a free, conversational tone, as if long communion with his Maker had placed the old negro on a footing of friendly familiarity with Him, and given the black slave the right to talk with the Deity as one man talks with another.

As we rose from our knees my host said to me, "It is my duty to stay here, but I will not detain you. Jim will show you over the plantation. I will join you at the house when this is over." The scene was a painful one, and I gladly availed myself of the Colonel's suggestion.

Mounting our horses, Jim and I rode off to the negro house where Scip was staying.

Scip was not at the cabin, and the old negro woman told us he had been away for several hours.

"Reckon he'll be 'way all day, sar," said Jim, as we turned our horses to go.

"He ought to be resting against the ride of to-morrow. Where has he gone?"

"Dunno, sar, but reckon he'm gwine to fine Sam."

"Sam? Oh, he's the runaway the Colonel has advertised."

"Yas, sar, he'm 'way now more'n a monfh."

"How can Scip find him?"

"Dunno, sar. Scipio know most ebery ting—reckon he'll track him. He know him well, and Sam'll cum back ef he say he orter."

"Where do you think Sam is?"

"P'raps in de swamp."

"Where is the swamp?"

"'Bout ten mile from har."

"Oh, yes! the shingles are cut there. I should think a runaway would be discovered where so many men are at work."

"No, massa, dar'm places dar whar de ole debble cudn't fine him, nor de dogs nudder."

"I thought the bloodhounds would track a man anywhere."

"Not fru de water, massa; dey lose de scent in de swamp."

"But how can a man live there—how get food?"

"De darkies dat work dar take 'em nuff."

"Then the other negroes know where the runaways are; don't they sometimes betray them?"

"Neber, massa; a darky neber tells on anoder. De Cunnel had a boy in dat swamp once good many years."

"Is it possible! Did he come back?"

"No, he died dar. Sum ob de hands found him dead one mornin' in de hut whar he lib'd, and buried him dar."

"Why did Sam run away?"

"'Cause de oberseer flog him. He use him bery hard, massa."

"What had Sam done?"

"Nuffin, massa."

"Then why was he flogged? Did the Colonel know it?"

"Oh, yas; Moye cum de possum ober de Cunnel, and make him b'lieve Sam war bad. De Cunnel dunno de hull ob dat story."

"Why didn't you, tell him? The Colonel trusts you."

"'T wudn't hab dun no good; de Cunnel wud hab flogged me for tellin' on a wite man. Nigga's word aint ob no account."

"What is the story about, Sam?"

"You wont tell dat I tole you, massa?"

"No, but I'll tell the Colonel the truth."

"Wal den, sar, you see Sam's wife am bery good-lookin', her skin's most wite—her mudder war a mulatter, her fader a wite man—she lub'd Sam 'bout as well as de wimmin ginrally lub dar husbands" (Jim was a bachelor, and his observation of plantation morals had given him but little faith in the sex), "but most ob 'em, ef dey'm married or no, tink dey must smile on de wite men, so Jule she smiled on de oberseer—so Sam tought—and it made him bery jealous. He war sort o' sassy, and de oberseer strung him up, and flog him bery hard. Den Sam took to de swamp, but he didn't know whar to gwo, and de dogs tracked him; he'd ha' got 'way dough ef ole Moye hadn't a shot him; den he cudn't run. Den Moye flogged him till he war 'most dead, and arter dat chained him down in de ole cabin, and gave him 'most nuffin' to eat. De Cunnel war gwine to take Sam to Charles'on and sell him, but somehow he got a file and sawed fru de chain and got 'way in de night to de 'still.' Den when de oberseer come dar in de mornin', Sam jump on him and 'most kill him. He'd hab sent him whar dar aint no niggas, ef Junius hadn't a holed him. I'd a let de ole debble gwo."

"Junius, then, is a friend of the overseer."

"No, sar; he haint no friends, 'cep de debble; but June am a good nigga, and he said 'twarn't right to kill ole Moye so sudden, for den dar'd be no chance for de Lord to forgib him."

"Then Sam got away again?"

"Oh yas; nary one but darkies war round, and dey wouldn't hole him. Ef dey'd cotched him den, dey'd hung him, shore."

"Why hung him?"

"'Cause he'd struck a wite man; it'm shore death to do dat."

"Do you think Scip will bring him back?"

"Yas; 'cause he'm gwine to tell massa de hull story. De Cunnel will b'lieve Scipio ef he am brack. Sam'll know dat, so he'll come back. De Cunnel'll make de State too hot to hole ole Moye, when he fine him out."

"Does Sam's wife 'smile' on the overseer now?"

"No; she see de trubble she bring on Sam, and she bery sorry. She wont look at a wite man now."

During the foregoing conversation, we had ridden for several miles over the western half of the plantation, and were again near the house. My limbs being decidedly stiff and sore from the effect of the previous day's journey, I decided to alight and rest until the hour for dinner.

I mentioned my jaded condition to Jim, who said:

"Dat's right, massa; come in de house. I'll cure de rumatics; I knows how to fix dem."

Fastening the horses at the door, Jim accompanied me to my sleeping-room, where he lighted a fire of pine knots, which in a moment blazed up on the hearth and sent a cheerful glow through the apartment; then, saying he would return after stabling the horses, the darky left me.

I took off my boots, drew the sofa near the fire, and stretched myself at full length upon it. If ever mortal was tired, "I reckon" I was. It seemed as though every joint and bone in my body had lost the power of motion, and sharp, acute pains danced along my nerves, as I have seen the lightning play along the telegraph wires. My entire system had the toothache.

Jim soon returned, bearing in one hand a decanter of "Otard," and in the other a mug of hot water and a crash towel.

"I'se got de stuff dat'll fix de rumatics, massa."

"Thank you, Jim; a glass will do me good. Where did you get it?" I asked, thinking it strange the Colonel should leave his brandy-bottle within reach of the negroes, who have an universal weakness for spirits.

"Oh, I keeps de keys; de Cunnel hissef hab to come to me when he want suffin' to warm hissef."

It was the fact; Jim had exclusive charge of the wine-cellar; in short, was butler, barber, porter, footman, and body-servant, all combined.

"Now, massa, you lay right whar you is, and I'll make you ober new in less dan no time."

And he did; but I emptied the brandy-bottle. Lest my temperance friends should be horror-stricken, I will mention, however, that I took the fluid by external absorption. For all rheumatic sufferers, I would prescribe hot brandy, in plentiful doses, a coarse towel, and an active Southern darky, and if on the first application the patient is not cured, the fault will not be the negro's. Out of mercy to the chivalry, I hope our government, in saving the Union, will not annihilate the order of body-servants. They are the only perfect institution in the Southern country, and, so far as I have seen, about the only one worth saving.

The dinner-bell sounded a short while after Jim had finished the scrubbing operation, and I went to the table with an appetite I had not felt for a week. My whole system was rejuvenated, and I am not sure that I should, at that moment, have declined a wrestling match with Heenan himself.

I found at dinner only the overseer and the young son of Madam P——, the Colonel and the lady being still at the cabin of the dying boy. The dinner, though a queer mixture of viands, would not have disgraced, except, perhaps, in the cooking, the best of our Northern hotels. Venison, bacon, wild fowl, hominy, poultry, corn bread, French "made-dishes," and Southern "common doin's," with wines and brandies of the choicest brands, were placed on the table together.

"Dis, massa," said Jim, "am de raal juice; it hab been in de cellar eber since de house war built. Massa tole me to gib you some, wid him complimen's."

Passing it to my companions, I drank the Colonel's health in as fine wine as I ever tasted.

I had taken an instinctive dislike to the overseer at the breakfast-table, and my aversion was not lessened by learning his treatment of Sam; curiosity to know what manner of man he was, however, led me, toward the close of our meal, to "draw him out," as follows:

"What is the political sentiment, sir, of this section of the State?"

"Wal, I reckon most of the folks 'bout har' is Union; they'm from the 'old North,' and gin'rally pore trash."

"I have heard that the majority of the turpentine-farmers are enterprising men and good citizens—more enterprising, even, than the cotton and rice planters."

"Wal, they is enterprisin', 'cause they don't keer for nuthin' 'cep' money."

"The man who is absorbed in money-getting is generally a quiet citizen."

"P'raps that's so. But I think a man sh'u'd hev a soul suthin' 'bove dollars. Them folks will take any sort o' sarce from the Yankees, ef they'll only buy thar truck."

"What do you suffer from the Yankees?"

"Suffer from the Yankees? Don't they steal our niggers, and haint they 'lected an ab'lishener for President?"

"I've been at the North lately, but I am not aware that is so."

"So! it's damnably so, sir. I knows it. We don't mean to stand it eny longer."

"What will you do?"

"We'll give 'em h—l, ef they want it!"

"Will it not be necessary to agree among yourselves before you do that? I met a turpentine farmer below here who openly declared that he is friendly to abolishing slavery. He thinks the masters can make more money by hiring than by owning the negroes."

"Yes, that's the talk of them North County[D] fellers, who've squatted round har. We'll hang every mother's son on 'em, by ——."

"I wouldn't do that: in a free country every man has a right to his opinions."

"Not to sech opinions as them. A man may think, but he mustn't think onraasonable."

"I don't know, but it seems to me reasonable, that if the negroes cost these farmers now one hundred and fifty dollars a year, and they could hire them, if free, for seventy-five or a hundred, that they would make by abolition."

"Ab'lish'n! By—, sir, ye aint an ab'lishener, is ye?" exclaimed the fellow, in an excited manner, bringing his hand down on the table in a way that set the crockery a-dancing.

"Come, come, my friend," I replied, in a mild tone, and as unruffled as a pool of water that has been out of a December night; "you'll knock off the dinner things, and I'm not quite through."

"Wal, sir, I've heerd yer from the North, and I'd like to know if yer an ab'lishener."

"My dear sir, you surprise me. You certainly can't expect a modest man like me to speak of himself."

"Ye can speak of what ye d— please, but ye can't talk ab'lish'n har, by—," he said, again applying his hand to the table, till the plates and saucers jumped up, performed several jigs, then several reels, and then rolled over in graceful somersaults to the floor.

At this juncture, the Colonel and Madam P—— entered.

Observing the fall in his crockery, and the general confusion of things, my host quietly asked, "What's to pay?"

I said nothing, but burst into a fit of laughter at the awkward predicament of the overseer. That gentleman also said nothing, but looked as if he would like to find vent through a rat-hole or a window-pane. Jim, however, who stood at the back of my chair, gave his eloquent thoughts utterance, very much as follows:

"Moye hab 'sulted Massa K——, Cunnel, awful bad. He hab swore a blue streak at him, and called him a d— ab'lishener, jess 'cause Massa K—— wudn't get mad and sass him back. He hab disgrace your hosspital, Cunnel, wuss dan a nigga."

The Colonel turned white with rage, and striding up to Moye, seized him by the throat, yelling, rather than speaking, these words: "You d—— —— —— —— —— —— ——, have you dared to insult a guest in my house?"

"I did'nt mean to 'sult him," faltered out the overseer, his voice running through an entire octave, and changing with the varying pressure of the Colonel's fingers on his throat; "but he said he war an ab'lishener."

"No matter what he said, he is my guest, and in my house he shall say what he pleases, by—. Apologize to him, or I'll send you to h—in a second."

The fellow turned cringingly to me, and ground out something like this, every word seeming to give him the face-ache:

"I meant no offence, sar; I hope ye'll excuse me."

This satisfied me, but, before I could reply, the Colonel again seized him by the throat and yelled:

"None of your sulkiness; you d— white-livered hound, ask the gentleman's pardon like a man."

The fellow then got out, with less effort than before:

"I 'umbly ax yer pardon, sar, very 'umbly, indeed."

"I am satisfied, sir," I replied. "I bear you no ill-will."

"Now go," said the Colonel; "and in future take your meals in your cabin. I have none but gentlemen at my table."

The fellow went. As soon as he closed the door, the Colonel said to me:

"Now, my dear friend, I hope you will pardon me for this occurrence. I sincerely regret you have been insulted in my house."

"Don't speak of it, my dear sir; the fellow is ignorant, and really thinks I am an abolitionist. His zeal in politics led to his warmth. I blame him very little," I replied.

"But he lied, Massa K——," chimed in Jim, very warmly; "you neber said you war an ab'lishener."

"You know what they are, Jim, don't you?" said the Colonel, laughing, and taking no notice of his breach of decorum in wedging black ideas into a white conversation.

"Yas, I does dat," said the darky, grinning.

"Jim," said his master, "you're a prince of a nigger, but you talk too much; ask me for something to-day, and I reckon you'll get it; but go now, and tell Chloe (the cook) to get us some dinner."

The negro left, and, excusing myself, I soon followed suit.

I went to my room, laid down on the lounge, and soon fell asleep. It was nearly five o'clock when a slight noise in the apartment awoke me, and, looking up, I saw the Colonel quietly seated by the fire, smoking a cigar. His feet were elevated above his head, and he appeared absorbed in no very pleasant reflections.

"How is the sick boy, Colonel?" I asked.

"It's all over with him, my friend. He died easy; but 'twas very painful to me; I feel I have done him wrong."

"How so?"

"I was away all summer, and that cursed Moye sent him to the swamp to tote for the shinglers. It killed him."

"Then you are not to blame," I replied.

"I wish I could feel so."

The Colonel remained with me till supper-time, evidently much depressed by the events of the morning, which had affected him more than I should have thought possible. I endeavored, by directing his mind to other topics, to cheer him, and in a measure succeeded.

While we were seated at the supper table, the black cook entered from the kitchen—a one-story shanty, detached from, and in the rear of the house—and, with a face expressive of every conceivable emotion a negro can feel—joy, sorrow, wonder, and fear all combined—exclaimed, "O massa, massa! dear massa! Sam, O Sam!"

"Sam!" said the Colonel; "what about Sam?"

"Why, he hab—dear, dear massa, don't yer, don't yer hurt him—he hab come back!"

If a bombshell had fallen in the room, a greater sensation could not have been produced. Every individual arose from the table, and the Colonel, striding up and down the apartment, exclaimed:

"Is he mad? The everlasting fool! Why in h—has he come back?"

"Oh, don't ye hurt him massa," said the black cook, wringing her hands. "Sam hab been bad, bery bad, but he won't be so no more."

"Stop your noise, aunty," said the Colonel, but with no harshness in his tone. "I shall do what I think right."

"Send for him, David," said Madame P——; "let us hear what he has to say. He would not come back if he meant to be ugly."

"Send for him, Alice!" replied my host. "He's prouder than Lucifer, and would send me word to come to him. I will go. Will you accompany me, Mr. K——? You'll hear what a runaway nigger thinks of slavery: Sam has the gift of speech, and uses it regardless of persons."

"Yes, sir, I'll go with pleasure."

It was about an hour after nightfall when we emerged from the door of the mansion and took our way to the negro quarters. The full moon had risen half way above the horizon, and the dark pines cast their shadows around the little collection of negro huts, which straggled about through the woods for the distance of a third of a mile. It was dark, but I could distinguish the figure of a man striding along at a rapid pace a few hundred yards in advance of us.

"Is'nt that Moye?" I asked the Colonel, directing his attention to the receding figure.

"I reckon so; that's his gait. He's had a lesson to-day that'll do him good."

"I don't like that man's looks," I replied, carelessly; "but I've heard of singed cats."

"He is a sneaking d—l," said the Colonel; "but he's very valuable to me. I never had an overseer who got so much work out of the hands."

"Is he severe with them?"

"Well, I reckon he is; but a nigger is like a dog—you must flog him to make him like you."

"I judge your niggers haven't been flogged into liking Moye."

"Why, have you heard any of them speak of him?"

"Yes; though, of course, I've made no effort to draw gossip from them. I had to hear."

"O yes; I know; there's no end to their gabble; niggers will talk. But what have you heard?"

"That Moye is to blame in this affair of Sam, and that you don't know the whole story."

"What is the whole story?" he asked, stopping short in the road; "tell me before I see Sam."

I then told him what Jim had recounted to me. He heard me through attentively, then laughingly exclaimed:

"Is that all! Lord bless you, he didn't seduce her. There's no seducing these women; with them it's a thing of course. It was Sam's d— high blood that made the trouble. His father was the proudest man in Virginia, and Sam is as like him as a nigger can be like a white man."

"No matter what the blood is, it seems to me such an injury justifies revenge."

"Pshaw, my good fellow, you don't know these people. I'll stake my plantation against a glass of whiskey there's not a virtuous woman with a drop of black blood in her veins in all South Carolina. They prefer the white men; their husbands know it, and take it as a matter of course."

We had here reached the negro cabin. It was one of the more remote of the collection, and stood deep in the woods, an enormous pine growing up directly beside the doorway. In all respects it was like the other huts on the plantation. A bright fire lit up its interior, and through the crevices in the logs we saw, as we approached, a scene that made us pause involuntarily, when within a few rods of the house. The mulatto man, whose clothes were torn and smeared with swamp mud, stood near the fire. On a small pine table near him lay a large carving-knife, which glittered in the blaze, as if recently sharpened. His wife was seated on the side of the low bed at his back, weeping. She was two or three shades lighter than the man, and had the peculiar brown, kinky hair, straight, flat nose, and speckled, gray eyes which mark the metif. Tottling on the floor at the feet of the man, and caressing his knees, was a child of perhaps two years.

As we neared the house, we heard the voice of the overseer issuing from the doorway on the other side of the pine-tree.

"Come out, ye black rascal."

"Come in, you wite hound, ef you dar," responded the negro, laying his hand on the carving-knife.

"Come out, I till ye; I sha'n't ax ye agin."

"I'll hab nuffin' to do wid you. G'way and send your massa har," replied the mulatto man, turning his face away with a lordly, contemptuous gesture, that spoke him a true descendant of Pocahontas. This movement exposed his left side to the doorway, outside of which, hidden from us by the tree, stood the overseer.

"Come away, Moye," said the Colonel, advancing with me toward the door; "I'll speak to him."

Before all of the words had escaped the Colonel's lips, a streak of fire flashed from where the overseer stood, and took the direction of the negro. One long, wild shriek—one quick, convulsive bound in the air—and Sam fell lifeless to the floor, the dark life-stream pouring from his side. The little child also fell with him, and its greasy, grayish shirt was dyed with its father's blood. Moye, at the distance of ten feet, had discharged the two barrels of a heavily-loaded shot-gun directly through the negro's heart.

"You incarnate son of h—," yelled the Colonel, as he sprang on the overseer, bore him to the ground, and wrenched the shot-gun from his hand. Clubbing the weapon, he raised it to brain him. The movement occupied but a second; the gun was descending, and in another instant Moye would have met Sam in eternity, had not a brawny arm caught the Colonel's, and, winding itself around his body, pinned his limbs to his side so that motion was impossible. The woman, half frantic with excitement, thrust open the door when her husband fell, and the light which came through it revealed the face of the new-comer. But his voice, which rang out on the night air as clear as a bugle, had there been no light, would have betrayed him. It was Scip. Spurning the prostrate overseer with his foot, he shouted:

"Run, you wite debble, run for your life!"

"Let me go, you black scoundrel," shrieked the Colonel, wild with rage.

"When he'm out ob reach, you'd kill him," replied the negro, as cool as if he was doing an ordinary thing.

"I'll kill you, you black—hound, if you don't let me go," again screamed the Colonel, struggling violently in the negro's grasp, and literally foaming at the mouth.

"I shan't lef you gwo, Cunnel, till you 'gree not to do dat."

The Colonel was a stout, athletic man, in the very prime of life, and his rage gave him more than his ordinary strength, but Scip held him as I might have held a child.

"Here, Jim," shouted the Colonel to his body-servant, who just then emerged from among the trees, "'rouse the plantation—shoot this d— nigger."

"Dar aint one on 'em wud touch him, massa. He'd send me to de debble wid one fist."

"You ungrateful dog," groaned his master. "Mr. K——, will you stand by and see me handcuffed by a miserable slave?"

"The black means well, my friend; he has saved you from murder. Say he is safe, and I'll answer for his being away in an hour."

The Colonel made one more ineffectual attempt to free himself from the vice-like grip of the negro, then relaxing his efforts, and, gathering his broken breath, he said, "You're safe now, but if you're found within ten miles of my plantation by sunrise, by—you're a dead man."

The negro relinquished his hold, and, without saying a word, walked slowly away.

"Jim, you—rascal," said the Colonel to that courageous darky, who was skulking off, "raise every nigger on the plantation, catch Moye, or I'll flog you within an inch of your life."

"I'll do dat, Cunnel; I'll kotch de ole debble, ef he's dis side de hot place."

His words were echoed by about twenty other darkies, who, attracted by the noise of the fracas, had gathered within a safe distance of the cabin. They went off with Jim, to raise the other plantation hands, and inaugurate the hunt.

"If that — nigger hadn't held me, I'd had Moye in — by this time," said the Colonel to me, still livid with excitement.

"The law will deal with him, my friend. The negro has saved you from murder."

"The law be d—; it's too good for such a—hound; and that the d— nigger should have dared to hold me—by—he'll rue it."

He then turned, exhausted with the recent struggle, and, with a weak, uncertain step, entered the cabin. Kneeling down by the dead body of the negro, he attempted to raise it; but his strength was gone. He motioned to me to aid him, and we placed the corpse on the bed. Tearing open the clothing, we wiped away the still flowing blood, and saw the terrible wound which had sent the negro to his account. It was sickening to look on, and I turned to go.

The negro woman, who was weeping and wringing her hands, now approached, and, in a voice nearly choked with sobs, said:

"Massa, oh massa, I done it! it's me dat killed him!"

"I know you did, you d——. Get out of my sight."

"Oh, massa," sobbed the woman, falling on her knees, "I'se so sorry; oh, forgib me!"

"Go to ——, you ——, that's the place for you," said the Colonel, striking the kneeling woman with his foot, and felling her to the floor.

Unwilling to see or hear more, I left the master with the slave.

[Footnote D: The "North Counties" are the north-eastern portion of North Carolina, and include the towns of Washington and Newbern. They are an old turpentine region, and the trees are nearly exhausted. The finer virgin forests of South Carolina, and other cotton States, have tempted many of the North County farmers to emigrate thither, within the past ten years, and they now own nearly all the trees that are worked in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. They generally have few slaves of their own, their hands being hired of wealthier men in their native districts. The "hiring" is an annual operation, and is done at Christmas time, when the negroes are frequently allowed to go home. They treat the slaves well, give them an allowance of meat (salt pork or beef), as much corn as they can eat, and a gill of whiskey daily. No class of men at the South are so industrious, energetic, and enterprising. Though not so well informed, they have many of the traits of our New England farmers; in fact, are frequently called "North Carolina Yankees." It was these people the overseer proposed to hang. The reader will doubtless think that "hanging was not good enough for them."]



CHAPTER VI.

THE PLANTER'S "FAMILY."

A quarter of a mile through the woods brought me to the cabin of the old negress where Scip lodged. I rapped at the door, and was admitted by the old woman. Scip, nearly asleep, was lying on a pile of blankets in the corner.

"Are you mad?" I said to him. "The Colonel is frantic with rage, and swears he will kill you. You must be off at once."

"No, no, massa; neber fear; I knows him. He'd keep his word, ef he loss his life by it. I'm gwine afore sunrise; till den I'm safe."

"Der ye tink Massa Davy wud broke his word, sar?" said the old negress, bridling up her bent form, and speaking in a tone in which indignation mingled with wounded dignity; "p'raps gemmen do dat at de Norf—dey neber does it har."

"Excuse me, Aunty; I know your master is a man of honor; but he's very much excited, and very angry with Scip."

"No matter for dat, sar; Massa Davy neber done a mean ting sense he war born."

"Massa K—— tinks a heap ob de Cunnel, Aunty; but he reckon he'm sort o' crazy now; dat make him afeard," said Scip, in an apologetic tone.

"What ef he am crazy? You'se safe har," rejoined the old woman, dropping her aged limbs into a chair, and rocking away with much the air which ancient white ladies occasionally assume.

"Wont you ax Massa K—— to a cheer?" said Scip; "he hab ben bery kine to me."

The negress then offered me a seat; but it was some minutes before I rendered myself sufficiently agreeable to thaw out the icy dignity of her manner. Meanwhile I glanced around the apartment.

Though the exterior of the cabin was like the others on the plantation, the interior had a rude, grotesque elegance about it far in advance of any negro hut I had ever seen. The logs were chinked with clay, and the one window, though destitute of glass, and ornamented with the inevitable board-shutter, had a green moreen curtain, which kept out the wind and the rain. A worn but neat and well swept carpet partly covered the floor, and on the low bed was spread a patch-work counter-pane. Against the side of the room opposite the door stood an antique, brass-handled bureau, and an old-fashioned table, covered with a faded woollen cloth, occupied the centre of the apartment. In the corner near the fire was a curiously-contrived sideboard, made of narrow strips of yellow pine, tongued and grooved together, and oiled so as to bring out the beautiful grain of the wood. On it were several broken and cracked glasses, and an array of irregular crockery. The rocking chair, in which the old negress passed the most of her time, was of mahogany, wadded and covered with chintz, and the arm-seat I occupied, though old and patched in many places, had evidently moved in good society.

The mistress of this second-hand furniture establishment was arrayed in a mass of cast-off finery, whose gay colors were in striking contrast with her jet-black skin and bent, decrepit form. Her gown, which was very short, was of flaming red and yellow worsted stuff, and the enormous turban that graced her head and hid all but a few tufts of her frizzled, "pepper-and-salt" locks, was evidently a contribution from the family stock of worn-out pillow-cases. She was very aged—upward of seventy—and so thin that, had she not been endowed with speech and motion, she might have passed for a bundle of whalebone thrown into human shape, and covered with a coating of gutta-percha. It was evident she had been a valued house-servant, whose few remaining years were being soothed and solaced by the kind and indulgent care of a grateful master.

Scip, I soon saw, was a favorite with the old negress, and the marked respect he showed me quickly dispelled the angry feeling my doubts of "Massa Davy" had excited, and opened her heart and her mouth at the same moment. She was terribly garrulous; her tongue, as soon as it got under way, ran on as if propelled by machinery and acquainted with the secret of perpetual motion; but she was an interesting study. The single-hearted attachment she showed for her master and his family gave me a new insight into the practical working of "the peculiar institution," and convinced me that even slavery, in some of its aspects, is not so black as it is painted.

When we were seated, I said to Scip, "What induced you to lay hands on the Colonel? It is death, you know, if he enforces the law."

"I knows dat, massa; I knows dat; but I had to do it. Dat Moye am de ole debble, but de folks round har wud hab turned on de Cunnel, shore, ef he'd killed him. Dey don't like de Cunnel; dey say he'm a stuck-up seshener."

"The Colonel, then, has befriended you at some time?"

"No, no, sar; 'twarn't dat; dough I'se know'd him a long w'ile—eber sense my ole massa fotched me from Habana—but 'twarn't dat."

"Then why did you do it?"

The black hesitated a moment, and glanced at the old negress, then said:

"You see, massa, w'en I fuss come to Charles'n, a pore little ting, wid no friend in all de worle, dis ole aunty war a mudder to me. She nussed de Cunnel; he am jess like her own chile, and I know'd 'twud kill her ef he got hissef enter trubble."

I noticed certain convulsive twitchings about the corners of the old woman's mouth as she rose from her seat, threw her arms around Scip, and, in words broken by sobs, faltered out:

"You am my chile; I loves you better dan Massa Davy—better dan all de worle."

The scene, had they not been black, would have been one for a painter.

"You were the Colonel's nurse, Aunty," I said, when she had regained her composure. "Have you always lived with him?"

"Yas, sar, allers; I nussed him, and den de chil'ren—all ob 'em."

"All the children? I thought the Colonel had but one—Miss Clara."

"Wal, he habn't, massa, only de boys."

"What boys? I never heard he had sons."

"Neber heerd of young Massa Davy, nor Massa Tommy! Haint you seed Massa Tommy, sar?"

"Tommy! I was told he was Madam P——'s son."

"So he am; Massa Davy had her long afore he had missus."

The truth flashed upon me; but could it be possible? Was I in South Carolina or in Utah?

"Who is Madam P——?" I asked.

The old woman hesitated a moment as if in doubt whether she had not said too much; but Scip quietly replied:

"She'm jess what aunty am—de Cunnel's slave!"

"His slave! it can't be possible; she is white!"

"No, massa; she am brack, and de Cunnel's slave!"

Not to weary the reader with a long repetition of negro-English, I will tell in brief what I gleaned from an hour's conversation with the two blacks.

Madam P—— was the daughter of Ex-Gov. ——, of Virginia, by a quarteron woman. She was born a slave, but was acknowledged as her father's child, and reared in his family with his legitimate children. When she was ten years old her father died, and his estate proving insolvent, the land and negroes were brought under the hammer. His daughter, never having been manumitted, was inventoried and sold with the other property. The Colonel, then just of age, and a young man of fortune, bought her and took her to the residence of his mother in Charleston. A governess was provided for her, and a year or two afterward she was taken to the North to be educated. There she was frequently visited by the Colonel; and when fifteen her condition became such that she was obliged to return home. He conveyed her to the plantation, where her elder son, David, was soon after born, "Aunt Lucy" officiating on the occasion. When the child was two years old, leaving it in charge of the aged negress, she accompanied the Colonel to Europe, where they remained for a year. Subsequently she passed another year at a Northern seminary; and then, returning to the homestead, was duly installed as its mistress, and had ever since presided over its domestic affairs. She was kind and good to the negroes, who were greatly attached to her, and much of the Colonel's wealth was due to her excellent management of the plantation.

Six years after the birth of "young Massa Davy," the Colonel married his present wife, that lady having full knowledge of his left-handed connection with Madam P——, and consenting that the "bond-woman" should remain on the plantation, as its mistress. The legitimate wife resided, during most of the year, in Charleston, and when at the homestead took little interest in domestic matters. On one of her visits to the plantation, twelve years before, her daughter, Miss Clara, was born, and within a week, under the same roof, Madam P—— presented the Colonel with a son—the lad Thomas, of whom I have spoken. As the mother was slave, the children were so also at birth, but they had been manumitted by their father. One of them was being educated in Germany; and it was intended that both should spend their lives in that country, the taint in their blood being an insuperable bar to their ever acquiring social position at the South.

As she finished the story, the old woman said, "Massa Davy am bery kind to the missus, sar, but he love de ma'am; an' he can't help it, 'cause she'm jess so good as de angels."[E]

In conversation with a well-known Southern gentleman, not long since, I mentioned these two cases, and commented on them as a man educated with New England ideas might be supposed to do. The gentleman admitted that he knew of twenty such instances, and gravely defended the practice as being infinitely more moral and respectable than the more common relation existing between masters and slaves.

I looked at my watch—it was nearly ten o'clock, and I rose to go. As I did so the old negress said:

"Don't yer gwo, massa, 'fore you hab sum ob aunty's wine; you'm good friends wid Scip, and I knows you'se not too proud to drink wid brack folks, ef you am from de Norf."

Being curious to know what quality of wine a plantation slave indulged in, I accepted the invitation. She went to the side-board, and brought out a cut-glass decanter, and three cracked tumblers, which she placed on the table. Filling the glasses to the brim, she passed one to Scip, and one to me, and, with the other in her hand, resumed her seat. Wishing her a good many happy years, and Scip a pleasant journey home, I emptied my glass. It was Scuppernong, and the pure juice of the grape!

"Aunty," I said, "this wine is as fine as I ever tasted."

"Oh, yas, massa, it am de raal stuff. I growed de grapes myseff."

"You grew them?"

"Yas, sar, an' Massa Davy make de wine. He do it ebery yar for de ole nuss."

"The Colonel is very good. Do you raise any thing else?"

"Yas, I hab collards and taters, a little corn, and most ebery ting."

"But who does your work? You certainly can't do it?"

"Oh, de ma'am looks arter dat, sar; she'm bery good to de ole aunty."

Shaking hands with both the negroes, I left the cabin, fully convinced that all the happiness in this world is not found within plastered apartments.

The door of the mansion was bolted and barred; but, rapping for admission, I soon heard the Colonel's voice asking, "Who is there?" Giving a satisfactory answer, I was admitted. Explaining that he supposed I had retired to my room, he led the way to the library.

That apartment was much more elegantly furnished than the drawing-rooms. Three of its sides were lined with books, and on the centre-table, papers, pamphlets, and manuscripts were scattered in promiscuous confusion. In an arm-chair near the fire, Madame P—— was seated, reading. The Colonel's manner was as composed as if nothing had disturbed the usual routine of the plantation; no trace of the recent terrible excitement was visible; in fact, had I not been a witness to the late tragedy, I should have thought it incredible that he, within two hours, had been an actor in a scene which had cost a human being his life.

"Where in creation have you been, my dear fellow?" he asked, as we took our seats.

"At old Lucy's cabin, with Scip," I replied.

"Indeed. I supposed the darky had gone."

"No, he doesn't go till the morning."

"I told you he wouldn't, David," said Madame P——; "now, send for him—make friends with him before he goes."

"No, Alice, it wont do. I bear him no ill-will, but it wont do. It would be all over the plantation in an hour."

"No matter for that; our people would like you the better for it."

"No, no. I can't do it. I mean him no harm, but I can't do that."

"He told me why he interfered between you and Moye," I remarked.

"Why did he?"

"He says old Lucy, years ago, was a mother to him; that she is greatly attached to you, and it would kill her if any harm happened to you; and that your neighbors bear you no good-will, and would have enforced the law had you killed Moye."

"It is true, David; you would have had to answer for it."

"Nonsense! what influence could this North County scum have against me?"

"Perhaps none. But that makes no difference; Scipio did right, and you should tell him you forgive him."

The Colonel then rang a small bell, and a negro woman soon appeared. "Sue," he said, "go to Aunt Lucy's, and ask Scip to come here. Bring him in at the front door, and, mind, let no one know he comes."

The woman in a short time returned with Scip. There was not a trace of fear or embarrassment in the negro's manner as he entered the room. Making a respectful bow, he bade us "good evening."

"Good evening, Scip," said the Colonel, rising and giving the black his hand; "let us be friends. Madam tells me I should forgive you, and I do."

"Aunt Lucy say ma'am am an angel, sar, and it am tru—it am tru, sar," replied the negro with considerable feeling.

The lady rose, also, and took Scip's hand, saying, "I not only forgive you, but I thank you for what you have done. I shall never forget it."

"You'se too good, ma'am; you'se too good to say dat," replied the darky, the moisture coming to his eyes; "but I meant nuffin' wrong—I meant nuffin' dis'specful to de Cunnel."

"I know you didn't, Scip; but we'll say no more about it;—good-by," said the Colonel.

Shaking hands with each one of us, the darky left the apartment.

One who does not know that the high-bred Southern gentleman considers the black as far below him as the horse he drives, or the dog he kicks, cannot realize the amazing sacrifice of pride which the Colonel made in seeking a reconciliation with Scip. It was the cutting off of his right hand. The circumstance showed the powerful influence held over him by the octoroon woman. Strange that she, his slave, cast out from society by her blood and her life, despised, no doubt, by all the world, save by him and a few ignorant blacks, should thus control a proud, self-willed, passionate man, and control him, too, only for good.

After the black had gone, I said to the Colonel, "I was much interested in old Lucy. A few more such instances of cheerful and contented old age, might lead me to think better of slavery."

"Such cases are not rare, sir. They show the paternal character of our 'institution.' We are forced to care for our servants in their old age."

"But have your other aged slaves the same comforts that Aunt Lucy has?"

"No; they don't need them. She has been accustomed to live in my house, and to fare better than the plantation hands; she therefore requires better treatment."

"Is not the support of that class a heavy tax upon you?"

"Yes, it is heavy. We have, of course, to deduct it from the labor of the able-bodied hands."

"What is the usual proportion of sick and infirm on your plantation?"

"Counting in the child-bearing women, I reckon about twenty per cent."

"And what does it cost you to support each hand?"

"Well, it costs me, for children and all, about seventy-five dollars a year. In some places it costs less. I have to buy all my provisions."

"What proportion of your slaves are able-bodied hands?"

"Somewhere about sixty per cent. I have, all told, old and young—men, women, and children—two hundred and seventy. Out of that number I have now equal to a hundred and fifty-four full hands. You understand that we classify them: some do only half tasks, some three-quarters. I have more than a hundred and fifty-four working-men and women, but they do only that number of full tasks."

"What does the labor of a full hand yield?"

"At the present price of turpentine, my calculation is about two hundred dollars a year."

"Then your crop brings you about thirty-one thousand dollars, and the support of your negroes costs you twenty thousand."

"Yes."

"If that's the case, my friend, let me advise you to sell your plantation, free your niggers, and go North."

"Why so, my dear fellow?" asked the Colonel laughing.

"Because you'd make money by the operation."

"I never was good at arithmetic; go into the figures," he replied, still laughing, while Madam P——, who had laid aside her book, listened very attentively.

"Well, you have two hundred and seventy negroes, whom you value, we'll say, with your mules, 'stills,' and movable property, at two hundred thousand dollars; and twenty thousand acres of land, worth about three dollars and a half an acre; all told, two hundred and seventy thousand dollars. A hundred and fifty-four able-bodied hands produce you a yearly profit of eleven thousand dollars, which, saying nothing about the cost of keeping your live stock, the wear and tear of your mules and machinery, and the yearly loss of your slaves by death, is only four per cent. on your capital. Now, with only the price of your land, say seventy thousand dollars, invested in safe stocks at the North, you could realize eight per cent.—five thousand six hundred dollars—and live at ease; and that, I judge, if you have many runaways, or many die on your hands, is as much as you really clear now. Besides, if you should invest seventy thousand dollars in almost any legitimate business at the North, and should add to it, as you now do, your time and labor, you would realize far more than you do at present from your entire capital."

"I never looked at the matter in that light. But I have given you my profits as they now are; some years I make more; six years ago I made twenty-five thousand dollars."

"Yes; and six years hence you may make nothing."

"That's true. But it would cost me more to live at the North."

"There you are mistaken. What do you pay for your corn, your pork, and your hay, for instance?"

"Well, my corn I have to bring round by vessel from Washington (North Carolina), and it costs me high when it gets here—about ten bits (a dollar and twenty-five cents), I think."

"And in New York you could buy it now at sixty to seventy cents. What does your hay cost?"

"Thirty-five dollars. I pay twenty for it in New York—the balance is freight and hauling."

"Your pork costs you two or three dollars, I suppose, for freight and hauling."

"Yes; about that."

"Then in those items you might save nearly a hundred per cent.; and they are the principal articles you consume."

"Yes; there's no denying that. But another thing is just as certain: it costs less to support one of my niggers than one of your laboring men."

"That may be true. But it only shows that our laborers fare better than your slaves."

"I am not sure of that. I am sure, however, that our slaves are more contented than the run of laboring men at the North."

"That proves nothing. Your blacks have no hope, no chance to rise; and they submit—though I judge not cheerfully—to an iron necessity. The Northern laborer, if very poor, may be discontented; but discontent urges him to effort, and leads to the bettering of his condition. I tell you, my friend, slavery is an expensive luxury. You Southern nabobs will have it; and you have to pay for it."

"Well, we don't complain. But, seriously, my good fellow, I feel that I am carrying out the design of the Almighty in holding my niggers. I think he made the black to serve the white."

"I think," I replied, "that whatever He designs works perfectly. Your institution certainly does not. It keeps the producer, who, in every society, is the really valuable citizen, in the lowest poverty, while it allows those who do nothing to be 'clad in fine linen, and to fare sumptuously every day.'"

"It does more than that, sir," said Madam P——, with animation; "it brutalizes and degrades the master and the slave; it separates husband and wife, parent and child; it sacrifices virtuous women to the lust of brutal men; and it shuts millions out from the knowledge of their duty and their destiny. A good and just God could not have designed it; and it must come to an end."

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