"Come, my friend, rouse yourself—this is weakness; you are tired with the long ride and excitement of the past few days. Come, go home—I will look after them."
"No, no! I must do it. I will be a man again;" and he rose and walked steadily to the dead bodies. "Is there any one here to help?" he asked.
Jim was standing in the door-way, and I motioned to him to come forward. The great tears were streaming down his face as he stepped timidly towards his master, and said: "I'll do dis, massa, don't you trubble yerself no more."
"It's good of you, Jim. You'll forgive me for being so cruel to you, wont you?" said the Colonel, taking the black by the hand.
"Forgib ye, massa! I war all ter blame—but ye'll forgib me, massa—ye'll forgib me!" cried the black, with strong emotion.
"Yes, yes; but say no more about it. Come, let us get Julie home."
But the poor girl was already home—home where her sufferings and her sorrows were over, and all her tears were wiped away forever!
We four bore away the mother and the child. A number of blankets were in the bottom of the wagon, and we laid the bodies carefully upon them. When all seemed ready, the Colonel, who was still standing by the side of the dead, turned to my new friend, and said: "Barnes, will you loan me a pillow? I will send it back to-night."
"Sartin, Cunnel;" and the farmer soon brought one from the house. Lifting tenderly the head of the drowned girl, the Colonel placed it beneath her, and smoothing back her tangled hair, he gently covered her face with his handkerchief, as if she could still feel his kindness, or longer cared for the pity or the love of mortal. Yet, who knows but that her parted soul, from the high realm to which it had soared, may not then have looked down, have seen that act, and have forgiven him!
THE SMALL PLANTER.
In the first moments of grief the sympathy of friends, and the words of consolation bring no relief. How much more harshly do such words grate on the ear when the soul is bowed down by remorse and unavailing regret! Then the wounded spirit finds peace nowhere but with God.
I saw that the Colonel would be alone, and turning to him, as he prepared to follow the strange vehicle, which, with its load of death, was already jolting its way over the rough forest road, I said,
"Will you pardon me, if I remain with your friend here for awhile? I will be at the mansion before dark."
"Oh, certainly, my friend, come when you feel disposed," he replied, and mounting his horse he was soon out of sight among the trees.
"Now, Barnes," I said, shaking off the gloomy feelings that had oppressed me: "come, I must see that wife of yours, and get a glimpse of how you live?"
"Sartin, stranger; come in; I'll give ye th' tallest dinner my 'oman can scare up, an' she's sum pumkins in th' cookin' line;" and he led the way to the farm-house.
As I turned to follow, I slipped a half-dollar into the hand of the darky who was holding my horse, and asked him to put her again into the stable.
"I'll do dat, sar, but I karn't take dis; masaa doant 'low it nohow;" he replied, tendering me back the money.
"Barnes, your negroes have strange ways; I never met one before who'd refuse money."
"Wal, stranger, 'taint hosspetality to take money on yer friends, and Bill gets all he wants from me."
I took the silver and gave it to the first darky I met, who happened to be an old centenarian belonging to the Colonel. As I tossed it to him, he grinned out: "Ah, massa, I'll git sum 'backer wid dis; 'pears like I hadn't nary a chaw in forty yar." With more than one leg in the grave the old negro had not lost his appetite for the weed—in fact, that and whiskey are the only "luxuries" ever known to the plantation black.
As we went nearer, I took a closer survey of the farm-house. It was, as I have said, a low, unpainted wooden building, located in the middle of a ten acre lot. It was approached by a straight walk, paved with a mixture of sand and tar, similar to that which the reader may have seen in the Champs Elysees. I do not know whether my back-woods friend, or the Parisian pavior, was the first inventor of this composition, but I am satisfied the corn-cracker had not stolen it from the stone-cracker. The walk was lined with fruit-bearing shrubs, and directly in front of the house, were two small flower-beds.
The dwelling itself, though of a dingy brown wood-color, was neat and inviting. It may have been forty feet square on the ground, and was only a story and a half high, but a projecting roof, and a front dormer-window, relieved it from the appearance of disproportion. Its gable ends were surmounted by two enormous brick chimneys, carried up on the outside, in the fashion of the South, and its high, broad windows were ornamented with Venetian blinds. Its front door opened directly into the "living-room," and at the threshold we met its mistress.
As the image of that lady has still a warm place in a pleasant corner of my memory, I will describe her. She was about thirty years of age, and had a fresh, cheerful face. To say that she was handsome, would not be strictly true; though she had that pleasant, gentle, kindly expression that sometimes makes even a homely person seem beautiful. But she was not homely. Her features were regular, her hair, glossy and brown, and her eyes, black and brilliant, and, for their color, the mildest and softest I had ever seen. Her figure was tall, and in its outline somewhat sharp and angular, but she had an ease and grace about her that made one forget she was not moulded as softly and roundly as others. She seemed just the woman on whose bosom a tired, worn, over-burdened man might lay his weary head, and find rest and forgetfulness.
She wore a neat calico dress, fitting closely to the neck, and an apron of spotless white muslin. A little lace cap perched cosily on the back of her head, hiding a portion of her wavy, dark hair, and on her feet—a miracle, reader, in one of her class—were stockings and shoes! Giving me her hand—which, at the risk of making her husband jealous, I held for a moment—she said, making a gentle courtesy:
"Ye ar welcome, stranger."
"I sincerely thank you, madam; I am a stranger in these parts."
She tendered me a chair, while her husband opened a sideboard, and brought forth a box of Havanas, and a decanter of Scuppernong. As I took the proffered seat, he offered me the refreshments. I drank the lady's health in the wine, but declined the cigars. Seeing this, she remarked:
"Yer from th' North, sir; arn't ye?"
"Yes, madam, I live in New York, but I was born in New-England."
"I reckoned so; I knew ye didn't belong in Car'lina."
"How did you know that, madam?" I asked, laughing.
"I seed ye doan't smoke 'fore wimmin. But ye musn't mind me; I sort o' likes it; its a great comfut to John, and may be it ar to ye."
"Well, I do relish a good cigar, but I never smoke before any lady except my wife, and though she's only 'a little lower than the angels,' she does, once in awhile, say it's a shame to make the house smell like a tobacco factory."
Barnes handed me the box again, and I took one. As I was lighting it, he said:
"Ye've got a good 'oman, hev ye?"
"There's none better; at least, I think so."
"Wal, I'm 'zactly uv thet 'pinion 'bout mine: I wouldn't trade her fur all this worle, an' th' best half uv 'tother."
"Don't ye talk so, John," said the lady; then addressing me, she added: "It's a good husband thet makes a good wife, sir."
"Sometimes, madam, but not always. I've known some of the best of wives who had miserable husbands."
"An' I'm d——d ef I made my wife th' 'oman she ar'," said the corn-cracker.
"Hush, John; ye musn't sw'ar so; ye knows how often ye've said ye wouldn't."
"Wal, I du, an' I wont agin, by ——. But Sukey, whar's th' young 'uns?"
"Out in the lot, I reckon; but ye musn't holler'm in—they'r all dirt."
"No matter for that, madam," I said; "dirt is healthy for little ones; rolling in the mud makes them grow."
"Then our'n orter grow right smart, fur they'r in it allers."
"How many have you, madam?"
"Two; a little boy, four, and a little gal, six."
"They're of interesting ages."
"Yas, the' is int'restin'; ev'ry 'uns own chil'ren is smart; but the' does know a heap. John was off ter Charl'ston no great while back, an' the little boy used ter pray ev'ry mornin' an' ev'nin' fur his fader ter cum hum. I larned 'em thet jest so soon as the' talked, 'cause thar's no tellin' how quick the' moight be tooken 'way. Wal, the little feller prayed ev'ry mornin' an' ev'nin' fur his fader ter cum back; an' John didn't cum; so finarly he got sort o' provoked with th' Lord; an' he said God war aither deaf, an' couldn't har, or he war naughty, an' wouldn't tell fader thet little Johnny wanted to seed 'im 'werry mooch'"—and here the good lady laughed pleasantly, and I joined in most heartily.
Blessed are the children that have such a mother.
Soon the husband returned with the little girl and boy, and four young ebonies, all bare-headed, and dressed alike, in thick trousers, and a loose linsey shirt. Among them was my new acquaintance, "Dandy Jim, of ole Car'lina."
The little girl came to me, and soon I had two white children on one knee, and two black on the other, and Dandy Jim between my legs, playing with my watch-chain. The family made no distinction between the colors, and as the children were all equally clean I did not see why I should do so.
The lady renewed the conversation by remarking; "P'raps ye reckon it's quar, sir, that we 'low our'n to 'sociate 'long with th' black chil'ren; but we karn't help it. On big plantations it works sorry bad, fur th' white young 'ons larn all manner of evil from the black 'uns; but I've laboored ter teach our'n so one wont do no harm ter 'tother."
"I suppose, madam, that is one of the greatest evils of slavery. The low black poisons the mind of the white child, and the bad influence lasts through life."
"Yas, it's so, stranger; an' it's the biggest keer I hev. It often 'pears strange ter me thet our grow'd up men arn't no wuss then the' is."
In those few words that unlettered woman had said, what would—if men were but wise enough to hear and heed the great truth which she spoke—banish slavery from this continent forever!
After awhile the farmer told the juvenile delineator of Mrs. Hemans, and the other poets, to give us a song; and planting himself in the middle of the floor, the little darky sang "Dixie," and several other negro songs, which his master had taught him, but into which he had introduced some amusing variations of his own. The other children joined in the choruses; and then Jim danced breakdowns, "walk-along-Joes," and other darky dances, his master accompanying him on a cracked fiddle, till my sides were sore with laughter, and the hostess begged them to stop. Finally the clock struck twelve, and the farmer, going to the door, gave a long, loud blast on a cow's horn. In about five minutes one after another of the field hands came in, till the whole ten had seated themselves on the verandah. Each carried a bowl, a tin-cup, or a gourd, into which my host—who soon emerged from a back room[J] with a pail of whiskey in his hand—poured a gill of the beverage. This was the day's allowance, and the farmer, in answer to a question of mine, told me he thought negroes were healthier, and worked better for a small quantity of alcohol daily. "The' work hard, and salt feed doant set 'em up 'nough," was his remark.
Meanwhile the hostess busied herself with preparations for dinner, and it was soon spread on a bright cherry table, covered by a spotless white cloth. The little darkies had scattered to the several cabins, and we soon sat down to as good a meal as I ever ate at the South.
We were waited on by a tidy negro woman, neatly clad in a calico gown, with shoes on her feet, and a flaming red and yellow 'kerchief on her head. This last was worn in the form of a turban, and one end escaping from behind, and hanging down her back, it looked for all the world like a flag hung out from a top turret. Observing it, my host said:
"Aggy—showin' yer colors? Ye'r Union gal—hey?"
"Yas, I is dat, massa; Union ter de back bone;" responded the negress, grinning widely.
"All th' Union ye knows on," replied the master, winking slyly at me, "is th' union yer goin' ter hitch up 'long with black Cale over ter Squire Taylor's."
"No, 'taint, massa; takes more'n tu ter make de Union."
"Yas, I knows—it gin'rally takes ten or a dozen: reckon it'll take a dozen with ye."
"John, ye musn't talk so ter th' sarvents; it spiles 'em," said his wife.
"No it doant—do it, Aggy?"
"Lor', missus, I doant keer what massa say; but I doant leff no oder man run on so ter me!"
"No more'n ye doant, gal! only Cale."
"Nor him, massa; I makes him stan' roun' I reckon."
"I reckon ye du; ye wudn't be yer massa's gal ef ye didn't."
When the meal was over, I visited, with my host, the negro houses. The hour allowed for dinner[K] was about expiring, and the darkies were preparing to return to the field. Entering one of the cabins, where were two stout negro men and a woman, my host said to them, with a perfectly serious face:
"Har, boys, I've fotched ye a live Yankee ab'lishener; now, luk at 'im all roun'. Did ye ever see sech a critter?"
"Doant see nuffin' quar in dat gemman, massa," replied one of the blacks. "Him 'pears like bery nice gemman; doant 'pear like ab'lishener;" and he laughed, and scraped his head in the manner peculiar to the negro, as he added: "kinder reckon he wudn't be har ef he war one of dem."
"What der ye knows 'bout th' ab'lisheners? Ye never seed one—what d'ye 'spose the' luk like?"
"Dey say dey luk likes de bery ole debil, massa, but reckon taint so."
"Wal, the' doant; the' luk wusa then thet: they'm bottled up thunder an' lightnin', an' ef the' cum down har, they'll chaw ye all ter hash."
"I reckon!" replied the darky, manipulating his wool, and distending his face into a decidedly incredulous grin.
"What do you tell them such things for?" I asked, good-humoredly.
"Lor, bless ye, stranger, the' knows th' ab'lisheners ar thar friends, jest so well as ye du; and so fur as thet goes, d——d ef the' doan't know I'm one on 'em myseff, fur I tells 'em, ef the' want to put, the' kin put, an' I'll throw thar trav'lin 'spences inter th' bargin. Doan't I tell ye thet, Lazarus."
"Yas, massa, but none ob massa's nigs am gwine ter put—lesswise, not so long as you an' de good missus, am 'bove groun'."
The darky's name struck me as peculiar, and I asked him where he got it.
"'Tain't my name, sar; but you see, sar, w'en massa fuss hire me ob ole Capt'in ——, up dar ter Newbern-way, I war sort o' sorry like—hadn't no bery good cloes—an' massa, he den call me Lazarus, 'case he say I war all ober rags and holes, an' it hab sort o' stuck ter me eber sense. I war a'mighty bad off 'fore dat, but w'en I cum down har I gets inter Abr'am's buzzum, I does;" and here the darky actually reeled on his seat with laughter.
"Is this woman your wife?" I asked.
"No, sar; my wife 'longs to Cunnel J——; dat am my new wife—my ole wife am up dar whar I cum from!"
"What! have you two wives?"
"Yas, massa, I'se two."
"But that's contrary to Scripture."
"No, sar; de Cunnel say 'tain't. He say in Scriptur' dey hab a heap ob' 'em, and dat niggers kin hab jess so many as dey likes—a hun'red ef dey want ter."
"Does the Colonel teach that to his negroes?" I asked, turning to the native.
"Yas, I reckon he do—an' sits 'em th' 'zample, too," he replied, laughing; "but th' old sinner knows better'n thet; he kin read."
"Do you find that in the Bible, Lazarus?"
"Yas, massa; whar I reads it. Dat's whar it tell 'bout David and Sol'mon and all dem—dey hab a heap ob wives. A pore ole darky karn't hab 'nuffin 'sides dem, an' he orter be 'low'd jess so many as he likes."
Laughing at the reasoning of the negro, I asked:
"How would you like it, if your wife over at Colonel J——'s, had as many husbands as she liked?"
"Wal, I couldn't fine no fault, massa: an' I s'pose she do; dough I doan't knows it, 'case I'se dar only Sundays."
"Have you any children?"
"Yas, sar; I'se free 'longin' ter de Cunnel, an' four or five—I doant 'zactly know—up ter hum; but dey'se grow'd up."
"Is your wife, up there, married again?"
"Yas, massa, she got anoder man jess w'en I cum 'way; har ole massa make har do it."
We then left the cabin, and when out of hearing of the blacks, I said to the corn-cracker: "That may be Scripture doctrine, but I have not been taught so!"
"Scriptur or no Scriptur, stranger, it's d——d heathenism," replied the farmer, who, take him all in all, is a superior specimen of the class of small-planters at the South; and yet, seeing polygamy practised by his own slaves, he made no effort to prevent it. He told me that if he should object to his darky cohabiting with the Colonel's negress, it would be regarded as unneighborly, and secure him the enmity of the whole district! And still we are told that slavery is a Divine institution!
After this, we strolled off into the woods, where the hands were at work. They were all stout, healthy and happy-looking, and in answer to my comments on their appearance, the native said that the negroes on the turpentine farms are always stronger and longer-lived, than those on the rice and cotton-fields. Unless carried off by the fevers incident to the climate, they generally reach a good old age, while the rice-negro seldom lives to be over forty, and the cotton-slave very rarely attains sixty. Cotton-growing, however, my host thought, is not, in itself, much more unhealthy than turpentine-gathering, though cotton-hands work in the sun, while the turpentine slaves labor altogether in the shade. "But," he said, "the' work 'em harder nor we does, an' doan't feed 'em so well. We give our'n meat and whiskey ev'ry day, but them articles is skarse 'mong th' cotton blacks, an' th' rice niggers never get 'em excep' ter Chris'mas time, an' thet cums but onst a yar."
"Do you think the white could labor as well as the black, on the rice and cotton-fields?" I asked.
"Yas, an' better—better onywhar; but, in coorse, 'tain't natur' fur black nor white ter stand long a workin' in th' mud and water up ter thar knees; sech work wud kill off th' very devil arter a while. But th' white kin stand it longer nor the black, and its' 'cordin' ter reason that he shud; fur, I reckon, stranger, that the sperit and pluck uv a man hev a durned sight ter du with work. They'll hole a man up when he's clean down, an' how kin we expec' thet the pore nig', who's nary a thing ter work fur, an' who's been kept under an' 'bused ever sense Adam was a young un'—how kin we expec' he'll work like men thet own 'emselfs, an' whose faders hev been free ever sense creation? I reckon that the parient has a heap ter du with makin' th' chile. He puts the sperit inter 'im: doan't we see it in hosses an' critters an' sech like? It mayn't crap eout ter onst, but it's shore ter in th' long run, and thet's th' why th' black hain't no smarter nor he is. He's been a-ground down an' kept under fur so long thet it'll take more'n 'un gin'ration ter bring him up. 'Tain't his fault thet he's no more sperit, an' p'raps 'tain't ourn—thet is, them on us as uses 'em right—but it war the fault uv yer fader an' mine—yer fader stole 'em, and mine bought 'em, an' the' both made cattle uv 'em."
"But I had supposed the black was better fitted by nature for hard labor, in a hot climate, than the white?"
"Wal, he arn't, an' I knows it. Th' d——d parsons an' pol'tishuns say thet, but 'tain't so. I kin do half agin more work in a day then th' best nig' I've got, an' I've dun it, tu, time an' agin, an' it didn't hurt me nuther. Ye knows ef a man hev a wife and young 'uns 'pendin' on him, an' arn't much 'forehanded, he'll work like th' devil. I've dun it, and ye hev ef ye war ever put ter it; but th' nig's, why the' hain't got no wives and young 'uns ter work fur—the law doan't 'low 'em ter hev any—the' hain't nary a thing but thar carcasses, an' them's thar masters'."
"You say a man works better for being free; then you must think 'twould be well to free the negroes?"
"In coorse, I does. Jest luk at them nig's o' mine; they're ter all 'tents an' purposes free, 'case I use 'em like men, an' the' knows the' kin go whenever the' d——d please. See how the' work—why, one on 'em does half as much agin as ony hard-driv' nigger in creation."
"What would you do with them, if they were really free?"
"Du with 'em? why, hire 'em, an' make twice as much eout on 'em as I does now."
"But I don't think the two races were meant to live together."
"No more'n the' warn't. But 'tain't thar fault thet they's har. We hain't no right ter send 'em off. We orter stand by our'n an' our faders' doin's. The nig' keers more fur his hum, so durned pore as it ar', then ye or I does fur our'n. I'd pack sech off ter Libraria or th' devil, as wanted ter go, but I'd hev no 'pulsion 'bout it."
"Why, my good friend, you're half-brother to Garrison. You don't talk to your neighbors in this way?"
"Wal; I doan't;" he replied, laughing. "Ef I dun it, they'd treat me to a coat uv tar, and ride me out uv th' deestrict raather sudden, I reckon; but yer a Nuthener, an' the' all take nat'rally ter freedum, excep' th' d——d dough-faces, an' ye aren't one on 'em, I'll swar."
"Well, I'm not. Do many of your neighbors think as you do?"
"Reckon not many round har; but op in Cart'ret, whar I cum from, heaps on 'em do, though the' darn't say so."
By this time we had reached the still, and, directing his attention to the enormous quantity of rosin that had been run into the pit which I have spoken of, I asked him why he threw so much valuable material away.
"Wal, 'tain't wuth nothin' har. Thet's th' common, an' it won't bring in York, now, more'n a dollar forty-five. It costs a dollar an' two bits ter get it thar, and pay fur sellin' on it, an' th' barr'l's wuth th' diff'rence. I doan't ship nuthin wuss nor No. 2."
"What is No. 2?"
He took the head from one of the barrels, and with an adze cut out a small piece, then handing me the specimen, replied:
"Now hole thet up ter th' sun. Ye'll see though its yaller, it's clean and clar. Thet's good No. 2, what brings now two dollars and two bits, in York, an' pays me 'bout a dollar a barr'l, its got eout o' second yar dip, an' as it comes eout uv th' still, is run through thet ar strainer," pointing to a coarse wire seive that lay near. "Th' common rosum, thet th' still's runnin' on now, is made eout on th' yaller dip—thet's th' kine o' turpentine thet runs from th' tree arter two yars' tappin'—we call it yallar dip ca'se it's allers dark. We doant strain common 't all, an' it's full uv chips and dirt. It's low now, but ef it shud ever git up, I'd tap thet ar' heap, barr'l it up, run a little fresh stilled inter it, an' 'twould be a'most so good as new."
"Then it is injured by being in the ground."
"Not much; it's jest as good fur ev'rything but makin' ile, puttin it in the 'arth sort o' takes th' sap eout on it, an' th' sap's th' ile. Natur' sucks thet eout, I s'pose, ter make th' trees grow—I expec' my bones 'ill fodder 'em one on these days."
"Rosin is put to very many uses?"
"Yes, but common's used mainly for ile and soap, th' Yankees put it inter hard yaller soap, 'case it makes it weigh, an' yer folks is up ter them doin's," and he looked at me and gave a sly laugh. I could not deny the "hard" impeachment, and said nothing. Taking a specimen of very clear light-colored rosin from a shelf in the still-house, I asked him what that quality was worth.
"Thet ar brought seven dollars, for two hundred an' eighty pounds, in York, airly this yar. It's th' very best No. 1; an' its hard ter make, 'case ef th' still gets overhet it turns it a tinge. Thet sort is run through two sieves, the coarse 'un, an' thet ar," pointing to another wire strainer, the meshes of which were as fine as those of the flour sieve used by housewives.
"Do your seven field hands produce enough 'dip' to keep your still a running?"
"No, I buys th' rest uv my naboors who haint no stills; an' th' Cunnel's down on me 'case I pay 'em more'n he will; but I go on Franklin's princerpel: 'a nimble sixpence's better'n a slow shillin.' A great ole feller thet, warn't he? I've got his life."
"And you practice on his precepts; that's the reason you've got on so well."
"Yas, thet, an' hard knocks. The best o' doctrin's am't wuth a d——n ef ye doan't work on 'em."
"That is true."
We shortly afterward went to the house, and there I passed several hours in conversation with my new friend and his excellent wife. The lady, after a while, showed me over the building. It was well-built, well-arranged, and had many conveniences I did not expect to find in a back-woods dwelling. She told me its timbers and covering were of well-seasoned yellow pine—which will last for centuries—and that it was built by a Yankee carpenter, whom they had "'ported" from Charleston, paying his fare, and giving him his living, and two dollars and a half a day. It had cost as near as she "cud reckon, 'bout two thousan' dollars."
It was five o'clock, when, shaking them warmly by the hand, I bade my pleasant friends "good-bye," and mounting my horse rode off to the Colonel's.
[Footnote J: The whiskey was kept in a back room, above ground, because the dwelling had no cellar. The fluid was kept safely, under lock and key, and the farmer accounted for that, by saying that his negroes would steal nothing but whiskey. Few country houses at the South have a cellar—that apartment deemed so essential by Northern housekeepers. The intervening space between the ground and the floor is there left open, to allow of a free circulation of air.]
[Footnote K: No regular dinner-hour is allowed the blacks on most turpentine plantations. Their food is usually either taken with them to the woods, or carried there by house servants, at stated times.]
THE BURIAL OF "JULE."
The family were at supper when I returned to the mansion, and, entering the room, I took my accustomed place at the table. None present seemed disposed to conversation. The little that was said was spoken in a low, subdued tone, and no allusion was made to the startling event of the day. At last the octoroon woman asked me if I had met Mrs. Barnes at the farmer's.
"Yes," I replied, "and I was greatly pleased with her. She seems one of those rare women who would lend grace to even the lowest station."
"She is a rare woman; a true, sincere Christian. Every one loves her; but few know all her worth; only those do who have gone to her in sorrow and trial, as—" and her voice trembled, and her eyes moistened—"as I have."
And so that poor, outcast, despised, dishonored woman, scorned and cast-off by all the world, had found one sympathizing, pitying friend. Truly, "He tempers the wind to the shorn lamb."
When the meal was over, all but Madam P—— retired to the library. Tommy and I fell to reading, but the Colonel shortly rose and continued pacing up and down the apartment till the clock sounded eight. The lady then entered, and said to him.
"The negroes are ready, David; will you go, Mr. K——?"
"I think not, madam," I replied; "at least not now."
I continued reading, for a time, when, tiring of the book, I laid it down, and followed them to the little burial-ground.
The grave of Sam was open, and the plantation blacks were gathered around it. In the centre of the group, and at the head of the rude coffin, the Colonel was seated, and near him the octoroon woman and her son. The old preacher was speaking.
"My chil'ren," he said: "she hab gone ter Him, wid har chile: gone up dar, whar dey doan't sorrer no more, whar dey doan't weep no more, whar all tears am wiped from dar eyes foreber. I knows she lay han's on harseff, and dat, my chil'ren, am whot none ob us shud do, 'case we'm de Lord's; He put us har, an' he'll take us 'way when we's fru wid our work, not afore. We hab no right ter gwo afore. Pore Juley did—but p'raps she cudn't help it. P'raps de great sorrer war so big in har heart, dat she cudn't fine rest nowhar but in de cole, dark riber. P'raps she warn't ter blame—p'raps," and here his eyes filled: "p'raps ole Pomp war all ter blame, for I tole har, my chil'ren"—he could say no more, and sinking down on a rude seat, he covered his face, and sobbed audibly. Even the Colonel's strong frame heaved with emotion, and not a dry eye was near. After a time the old man rose again, and with streaming eyes, and upturned face, continued:
"Dars One up dar, my chil'ren, dat say: 'Come unter Me, all ye dat am a weary an' a heaby laden, an' I will gib you ress.' He, de good Lord, He say dat; and p'raps Juley hard Him say it, an' dat make har gwo." Again his voice failed, and he sank down, weeping and moaning as if his heart would break.
A pause followed, when the Colonel rose, and aided by Jim and two other blacks, with his own hands nailed down the lid, and lowered the rude coffin into the ground. Then the earth was thrown upon it, and then the long, low chant which the negroes raise over the dead, mingling now with sobs and moans, and breaking into a strange wild wail, went up among the pines, and floating off on the still night air, echoed through the dark woods, till it sounded like music from the grave. I have been in the chamber of the dying; I have seen the young and the beautiful laid away in the earth; but I never felt the solemn awfulness of death, as I did, when, in the stillness and darkness of night, I listened to the wild grief of that negro group, and saw the bodies of that slave mother and her child, lowered to their everlasting rest by the side of Sam.
The morning broke bright and mellow with the rays of the winter sun, which in Carolina lends the warmth of October to the chills of January, when, with my portmanteau strapped, and my thin overcoat on my arm, I gave my last "God bless you" to the octoroon woman, and turned my face toward home.
Jim shouted "all ready," the driver cracked his whip, and we were on our way to Georgetown.
The recent rains had hardened the roads, the bridges were repaired, and we were whirled rapidly forward, and, at one o'clock, reached Bucksville. There we met a cordial welcome, and remained to dinner. Our host pressed us to pass the night at his house, but the Colonel had business with one of his secession friends residing down the road—my wayside acquaintance, Colonel A——, and desired to stay overnight with him. At three o'clock, bidding a kindly farewell to Captain B—— and his excellent family, we were again on our way.
The sun was just sinking among the western pines, when we turned into a broad avenue, lined with stately old trees, and rode up to the door-way of the rice-planter. It was a large, square, dingy old house, seated on a gentle knoll, a short half-mile from the river, along whose banks stretched the rice-fields. We entered, and were soon welcomed by its proprietor.
He received my friend warmly, and gave me a courteous greeting, remarking, when I mentioned that I was homeward bound, that it was wise to go. "Things are very unsettled; there's no telling what a day may bring forth; feeling is running very high, and a Northern man, whatever his principles, is not safe here. By-the-way," he added, "did you not meet with some little obstruction at Conwayboro', on your way up?"
"Yes, I did; a person there ordered me back, but when things began to look serious, Scipio, the negro whom you saw with me, got me out of the hobble."
"Didn't he tell the gentleman that you were a particular friend of mine, and had met me by appointment at Captain B——'s?" he asked, smiling.
"I believe he did, sir; but I assure you, I said nothing of the kind, and I think the black should not be blamed, under the circumstances."
"Oh, no; I don't blame him. I think he did a smart thing. He might have said you were my grandmother, if it would have served you, for that low fellow is as fractious as the devil, and dead sure on the trigger."
"You are very good, sir," I replied: "how did you hear of it?"
"A day or two afterward, B—— passed here on his way to Georgetown. I had been riding out, and happened to be at the head of my avenue when he was going by. He stopped, and asked if I knew you. Not knowing, then, the circumstances, I said that I had met you casually at Bucksville, but had no particular acquaintance with you. He rode on, saying nothing further. The next morning, I had occasion to go to Georgetown, and at Mr. Fraser's office, accidentally heard that Scip—who is well-known and universally liked there—was to have a public whipping that evening. Something prompted me to inquire into it, and I was told that he had been charged by B—— with shielding a well-known abolitionist at Conwayboro'—a man who was going through the up-country, distributing such damnable publications as the New York Independent and Tribune. I knew, of course, it referred to you, and that it wasn't true. I went to Scip and got the facts, and by stretching the truth a little, finally got him off. There was a slight discrepancy between my two accounts of you" (and here he laughed heartily), "and B——, when we were before the Justice, remarked on it, and came d——d near calling me a liar. It was lucky he didn't, for if he had, he'd have gone to h—l before the place was hot enough for him."
"I cannot tell you, my dear sir, how grateful I am to you for this. It would have pained me more than I can express, if Scip had suffered for doing a disinterested kindness to me."
Early in the morning we were again on our way, and twelve o'clock found us seated at a dinner of bacon, corn-bread, and waffles, in the "first hotel" of Georgetown. The Charleston boat was to leave at three o'clock; and, as soon as dinner was over, I sallied out to find Scip. After a half-hour's search I found him on "Shackelford's wharf," engaged in loading a schooner bound for New York with a cargo of cotton and turpentine.
He was delighted to see me, and when I had told him I was going home, and might never see him again, I took his hand warmly in mine, and said:
"Scip, I have heard of the disgrace that was near being put upon you on my account, and I feel deeply the disinterested service you did to me; now, I can not go away without doing something for you—showing you in some way that I appreciate and like you."
"I like's you, massa," he replied, the tears coming to his eyes: "I tuk ter you de bery fuss day I seed you, 'case, I s'pose," and he wrung my hand till it ached: "you pitied de pore brack man. But you karnt do nuffin fur me, massa; I doant want nuffin; I doant want ter leab har, 'case de Lord dat put me har, arn't willin' I shud gwo. But you kin do suffin, massa, fur de pore brack man,—an' dat'll be doin' it fur me, 'case my heart am all in dat. You kin tell dem folks up dar, whar you lib, massa, dat we'm not like de brutes, as dey tink we is. Dat we's got souls, an' telligence, an' feelin's, an' am men like demselfs. You kin tell 'em, too, massa,—'case you's edication, and kin talk—how de pore wite man 'am kep' down har; how he'm ragged, an' starvin', an' ob no account, 'case de brack man am a slave. How der chil'ren can't get no schulein', how eben de grow'd up ones doan't know nuffin—not eben so much as de pore brack slave, 'case de 'stockracy wan't dar votes, an cudn't get 'em ef dey 'low'd 'em larning. Ef your folks know'd all de trufh—ef dey know'd how both de brack an' de pore w'ite man, am on de groun', and can't git up, ob demselfs—dey'd do suffin'—dey'd break de Constertution—dey'd do suffin' ter help us. I doant want no one hurted, I doant want no one wronged; but jess tink ob it, massa, four million ob bracks, and nigh so many pore wites, wid de bressed gospil shinin' down on 'em, an' dey not knowin' on it. All dem—ebry one of 'em—made in de image ob de great God, an' dey driven roun', an' 'bused wuss dan de brutes. You's seed dis, massa, wid your own eyes, an' you kin tell 'em on it; an' you will tell 'em on it, massa;" and again he took my hand while the tears rolled down his cheeks; "an' Scip will bress you fur it, massa; wid his bery lass breaf he'll bress you; an' de good Lord will bress you, too, massa; He will foreber bress you, for He'm on de side ob de pore, an' de 'flicted: His own book say dat, an' it am true, I knows it, fur I feels it har;" and he laid his hand on his heart, and was silent.
I could not speak for a moment. When I mastered my feelings, I said, "I will do it Scip; as God gives me strength, I will."
Reader, I am keeping my word.
This is not a work of fiction. It is a record of facts, and therefore the reader will not expect me to dispose of its various characters on artistic principles—that is, lay them away in one of those final receptacles for the creations of the romancer—the grave and matrimony. Death has been among them, but nearly all are yet doing their work in this breathing, busy world.
The characters I have introduced are real. They are not drawn with the pencil of fancy, nor, I trust, colored with the tints of prejudice. The scenes I have described are true. I have taken some liberties with the names of persons and places, and, in a few instances, altered dates; but the events themselves occurred under my own observation. No one acquainted with the section of country I have described, or familiar with the characters I have delineated, will question this statement. Lest some one who has not seen the slave and the poor white man of the South, as he actually is, should deem my picture overdrawn, I will say that "the half has not been told!" If the whole were related—if the Southern system, in all its naked ugliness, were fully exposed—the truth would read like fiction, and the baldest relation of fact like the wildest dream, of romance.
* * * * *
The overseer was never taken. A letter which I received from Colonel J——, shortly prior to the stoppage of the mails, informed me that Moye had succeeded in crossing the mountains into Tennessee, where, in an interior town, he disposed of the horse, and then made his way by an inland route to the free states. The horse the Colonel had recovered, but the overseer he never expected to see. Moye is now, no doubt, somewhere in the North, and is probably at this present writing a zealous Union man, of somewhat the same "stripe" as the conductors of the New York Herald and the Boston Courier.
I have not heard directly from Scipio, but one day last July, after a long search, I found on one of the wharves of South Street, a coasting captain, who knew him well, and who had seen him the month previous at Georgetown. He was at that time pursuing his usual avocations, and was as much respected and trusted, as when I met him.
A few days after the tidings of the fall of Sumter were received in New York, and when I had witnessed the spontaneous and universal uprising of the North, which followed that event, I dispatched letters to several of my Southern friends, giving them as near as I could an account of the true state of feeling here, and representing the utter madness of the course the South was pursuing. One of these letters went to my Union acquaintance whom I have called, in the preceding pages, "Andy Jones."
He promptly replied, and a pretty regular correspondence ensued between us, which has continued, at intervals, even since the suspension of intercourse between the North and the South.
Andy has stood firmly and nobly by the old flag. At the risk of every thing, he has boldly expressed his sentiments everywhere. With his life in his hand, and—a revolver in each of his breeches-pockets, he walked the streets of Wilmington when the secession fever was at its height, openly proclaiming his undying loyalty to the Union, and "no man dared gainsay him."
But with all his patriotism, Andy keeps a bright eye on the "main chance." Like his brother, the Northern Yankee, whom he somewhat resembles and greatly admires, he never omits an opportunity of "turning an honest penny." In defiance of custom-house regulations, and of our strict blockade, he has carried on a more or less regular traffic with New York and Boston (via Halifax and other neutral ports), ever since North Carolina seceded. His turpentine—while it was still his property—has been sold in the New York market, under the very eyes of the government officials—and, honest reader, I have known of it.
By various roundabout means, I have recently received letters from him. His last, dated in April, and brought to a neutral port by a shipmaster whom he implicitly trusts, has reached me since the previous chapters were written. It covers six pages of foolscap, and is written in defiance of all grammatical and orthographical principles; but as it conveys important intelligence, in regard to some of the persons mentioned in this narrative, I will transcribe a portion of it.
It gave me the melancholy tidings of the death of Colonel J——. He had joined the Confederate army, and fell, bravely meeting a charge of the Massachusetts troops, at Roanoke.
On receiving the news of his friend's death, Andy rode over to the plantation, and found Madam P—— plunged in the deepest grief. While he was there a letter arrived from Charleston, with intelligence of the dangerous illness of her son. This second blow crushed her. For several days she was delirious, and her life despaired of; but throughout the whole the noble corn-cracker, neglecting every thing, remained beside her.
When she returned to herself, and had in a measure recovered her strength, she learned that the Colonel had left no will; that she was still a slave; and soon to be sold, with the rest of the Colonel's personal property, according to law.
This is what Andy writes about the affair. I give the letter as he wrote it, merely correcting the punctuation, and enough of the spelling, to make it intelligible.
"W'en I hard thet th' Cunel hadent leff no wil, I was hard put what ter dew; but arter thinkin' on it over a spell, I knowed shede har on it sumhow; so I 'cluded to tel har miseff. She tuk on d——d hard at fust, but arter a bit, grew more calm like, and then she sed it war God's wil, an' she wudent komplane. Ye nows I've got a wife, but wen the ma'am sed thet, she luk'd so like an angel, thet d——d eff I cud help puttin' my arms round har, an' hugin' on har, till she a'moste screeched. Wal, I toled har, Id stan' by har eff evrithing went ter h—l—an I wil, by ——.
"I made up mi minde to onst, what ter dew. It war darned harde work tur bee'way from hum jess then, but I war in fur it; soe I put ter Charleston, ter see th' Cunel's 'oman. Wal, I seed har, an' I toled har how th' ma'am felte, an' how mutch shede dun at makein' th' Cunel's money—(she made nigh th' hul on it, 'case he war alers keerles, an' tuk no 'count uv things; eff tadent ben fur thet, hede made a wil,) an' I axed har ter see thet the ma'am had free papers ter onst. An' whot der ye 'spoze she sed? Nuthin, by —— 'cept she dident no nuthin' 'bout bisniss, an' leff all uv sech things ter har loryer. Wal, then I went ter him—he ar one on them slick, ily, seceshun houn's, who'd sell thar soles fur a kountterfit dollar—an' he toled me, th' 'ministratur hadent sot yit, an' he cudent dew nuthin til he hed. Ses I: 'ye mean th' 'ooman's got ter gwo ter th' hi'est bider?' 'Yas,' he sed, 'the Cunel's got dets, an' the've got ter bee pade, an' th' persoonel prop'ty muste bee sold ter dew it.' Then I sed, 'twud bee sum time fore thet war dun, an' the 'ooman's 'most ded an' uv no use now; 'what'll ye hire har tur me fur.' He sed a hun'red for sicks months. I planked down the money ter onst, an' put off.
"I war bilin' over, but it sumhow cum inter my hed thet the Cunnel's 'ooman cudn't bee all stun; so I gose thar agin; an' I toled har what the loryer sed, an' made a reg'lar stump-'peal tew har bettar natur. I axed har eff she'd leff the 'ooman who'd made har husban's fortun, who war the muther ov his chil'ren, who fur twenty yar, hed nussed him in sickness, an' cheered him in healtf; ef shede let thet 'ooman, bee auckyund off ter th' hi'est bider. I axed al thet, an' what der ye think she sed, Why jest this. 'I doant no nuthin' bout it, Mister Jones. Ye raily must talke ter mi loryer; them maters I leaves 'tirely ter him.' Then, I sed, I 'spozed the niggers war ter bee advertist. 'O, yas!' she sed, (an' ye see, she know'd a d——d site 'bout thet), 'all on 'em muss be solde, 'case, ye knows, I never did luv the kuntry,—'sides I cud'ent karry on the plantashun, no how.' Then, sed I: 'the Orlean's traders 'ill be thar—an' she wunt sell fur but one use, fur she's hansum yit; an' ma'am, ye wunt leff a 'ooman as white as you is, who fur twenty yar, hes ben a tru an' fatheful wife tar yer own ded husban,' (I shudn't hev put thet in, but d——d ef I cud help it,) ye wunt put har up on the block, an' hev har struck down ter the hi'est bider, ter bee made a d—— d—— on?'
"Wal, I s'pose she hadent forgot thet, fur more'n twelve yar, the Cunnel hed luv'd t'other 'ooman, an' onely liked har; fur w'en I sed thet, har ize snapped like h—l, an' she screetched eout thet she dident 'low no sech wurds in har hous', an' ordurd me ter leave. Mi'tey sqeemish thet, warn't it? bein' as shede ben fur so mony yar the Cunnel's ——, an' th' tuther one his raal wife.
"Wal, I did leav'; but I left a piece of mi mind a-hind. I toled har I'de buy that ar 'ooman ef she cost all I war wuth and I had ter pawne my sole ter git the money; an' I added, jess by way ov sweet'nin' the pill, thet I ow'd all I hed ter har husband, an' dident furget my debts ef she did her'n, an' ef his own wife disgraced him, I'd be d——d ef I wud.
"Wal, I've got th' ma'am an' har boy ter hum, an' my 'ooman hes tuk ter har a heep. I doant no w'en the sale's ter cum off, but ye may bet hi' on my beein' thar; an' I'll buy har ef I hev ter go my hull pile on har, an' borrer th' money fur ole Pomp. But he'll go cheap, 'case the Cunnel's deth nigh dun him up. It clean killed Ante Lucey. She never held her hed up arter she heerd 'Masser Davy' war dead, fur she sot har vary life on him. Don't ye fele consarned 'bout the ma'am—I knows ye sot hi' on har—I'll buy har, shore. Thet an' deth ar th' onely things thet I knows on, in this wurld, jess now, that ar SARTIN."
Such is Andy's letter. Mis-spelled and profane though it be, I would not alter a word or a syllable of it. It deserves to be written in characters of gold, and hung up in the sky, where it might be read by all the world. And it is written in the sky—in the great record-book—and it will be read when you and I, reader, meet the assembled universe, to give account of what we have done and written. God grant that our record may show some such deed as that!