The next morning Diddie and Dumps were very much perplexed to know how to get off to the gin-house without being seen. There was no difficulty about obtaining the provisions; their mother always let them have whatever they wanted to have tea-parties with, and this was their excuse for procuring some slices of pie and cake, while Aunt Mary gave them bread and meat, and Douglass gave them some cold buttered biscuit with ham between.
They wrapped it all up carefully in a bundle, and then, watching their chances, they slipped off from Tot and the little darkies, as well as from Mammy, and carried it to their guest in the pick-room. He was truly glad to see them, and to get the nice breakfast they had brought; and the little girls, having now lost all fear of him, sat down on a pile of cotton to have a talk with him.
"Did you always b'long to Mr. Tight-fis' Smith?" asked Diddie.
"No, honey; he bought me fum de Powell 'state, an' I ain't b'longst ter him no mo'n 'boutn fo' years."
"Is he got any little girls?" asked Dumps.
"No, missy; his wife an' two chil'en wuz bu'nt up on de steamboat gwine ter New 'Leans, some twenty years ergo; an' de folks sez dat's wat makes 'im sich er kintankrus man. Dey sez fo' dat he usen ter hab meetin' on his place, an' he wuz er Christyun man hisse'f; but he got mad 'long er de Lord caze de steamboat bu'nt up, an' eber sence dat he's been er mighty wicked man; an' he won't let none er his folks sarve de Lord; an' he don't 'pyear ter cyar fur nuffin' 'cep'n hit's money. But den, honey, he ain't no born gemmun, nohow; he's jes only er oberseer wat made 'im er little money, an' bought 'im er few niggers; an', I tells yer, he makes 'em wuck, too; we'se got ter be in de fiel' long fo' day; an' I oberslep' mysef tudder mornin' an' he wuz cussin' an' er gwine on, an' 'lowed he wuz er gwine ter whup me, an' so I des up an' runned erway fum 'im, an' now I'se skyeert ter go back; an', let erlone dat, I'se skyeert ter stay; caze, efn he gits Mr. Upson's dogs, dey'll trace me plum hyear; an' wat I is ter do I dunno; I jes prays constunt ter de Lord. He'll he'p me, I reckon, caze I prays tree times eby day, an' den in 'tween times."
"Is your name Brer Dan'l?" asked Dumps, who remembered Uncle Bob's story of Daniel's praying three times a day.
"No, honey, my name's Pomp; but den I'm er prayin' man, des same ez Dan'l wuz."
"Well, Uncle Pomp," said Diddie, "you stay here just as long as you can, an' I'll ask papa to see Mr. Tight-fis' Smith, an' he'll get—"
"Lor', chile," interrupted Uncle Pomp, "don't tell yer pa nuf'n 'boutn it; he'll sho' ter sen' me back, an' dat man'll beat me half ter def: caze I'se mos' loss er week's time now, an' hit's er mighty 'tickler time in de crap."
"But, s'posin' the dogs might come?" said Dumps.
"Well, honey, dey ain't come yit; an' wen dey duz come, den hit'll be time fur ter tell yer pa."
"Anyhow, we'll bring you something to eat," said Diddie, "and try and help you all we can; but we must go back now, befo' Mammy hunts for us; so good-bye;" and again they left him to himself.
As they neared the house, Dumps asked Diddie how far it was to Mr. "Tight-fis' Smith's."
"I don't know exactly," said Diddie; "'bout three miles, I think."
"Couldn't we walk there, an' ask him not to whup Uncle Pomp? Maybe he wouldn't, ef we was ter beg him right hard."
"Yes, that's jest what we'll do, Dumps; and we'll get Dilsey to go with us, 'cause she knows the way."
Dilsey was soon found, and was very willing to accompany them, but was puzzled to know why they wanted to go. The children, however, would not gratify her curiosity, and they started at once, so as to be back in time for dinner.
It was all of three miles to Mr. Smith's plantation, and the little girls were very tired long before they got there. Dumps, indeed, almost gave out, and once began to cry, and only stopped with Diddie's reminding her of poor Uncle Pomp, and with Dilsey's carrying her a little way.
At last, about two o'clock, they reached Mr. Smith's place. The hands had just gone out into the field after dinner, and of course their master, who was only a small planter and kept no overseer, was with them. The children found the doors all open, and went in.
The house was a double log-cabin, with a hall between, and they entered the room on the right, which seemed to be the principal living-room. There was a shabby old bed in one corner, with the cover all disarranged, as if its occupant had just left it. A table, littered with unwashed dishes, stood in the middle of the floor, and one or two rude split-bottomed chairs completed the furniture.
The little girls were frightened at the unusual silence about the place, as well as the dirt and disorder, but, being very tired, they sat down to rest.
"Diddie," asked Dumps, after a little time, "ain't yer scared?"
"I don't think I'm scared, Dumps," replied Diddie; "but I'm not right comfor'ble."
"I'm scared," said Dumps. "I'm jes ez fraid of Mr. Tight-fis' Smith!"
"Dat's hit!" said Dilsey. "Now yer talkin', Miss Dumps; dat's er mean wite man, an' he mighter git mad erlong us, an' take us all fur his niggers."
"But we ain't black, Diddie an' me," said Dumps.
"Dat don't make no diffunce ter him; he des soon hab wite niggers ez black uns," remarked Dilsey, consolingly; and Dumps, being now thoroughly frightened, said,
"Well, I'm er goin' ter put my pen'ence in de Lord. I'm er goin' ter pray."
Diddie and Dilsey thought this a wise move, and, the three children kneeling down, Dumps began,
"Now, I lay me down to sleep."
And just at this moment Mr. Smith, returning from the field, was surprised to hear a voice proceeding from the house, and, stepping lightly to the window, beheld, to his amazement, the three children on their knees, with their eyes tightly closed and their hands clasped, while Dumps was saying, with great fervor,
"If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take; An' this I ask for Jesus' sake."
"Amen!" reverently responded Diddie and Dilsey; and they all rose from their knees much comforted.
"I ain't 'fraid uv him now," said Dumps, "'cause I b'lieve the Lord'll he'p us, an' not let Mr. Tight-fis' Smith git us."
"I b'lieve so too," said Diddie; and, turning to the window, she found Mr. Smith watching them.
"Are you Mr. Tight-fis' Smith?" asked Diddie, timidly.
"I am Mr. Smith, and I have heard that I am called 'tight-fisted' in the neighborhood," he replied, with a smile.
"Well, we are Major Waldron's little girls, Diddie and Dumps, an' this is my maid, Dilsey, an' we've come ter see yer on business."
"On business, eh?" replied Mr. Smith, stepping in at the low window. "Well, what's the business, little ones?" and he took a seat on the side of the bed, and regarded them curiously. But here Diddie stopped, for she felt it was a delicate matter to speak to this genial, pleasant-faced old man of cruelty to his own slaves. Dumps, however, was troubled with no such scruples; and, finding that Mr. Smith was not so terrible as she had feared, she approached him boldly, and, standing by his side, she laid one hand on his gray head, and said:
"Mr. Smith, we've come ter beg you please not ter whup Uncle Pomp if he comes back. He is runned erway, an' me an' Diddie know where he is, an' we've ben feedin' him, an' we don't want you ter whup him; will you please don't?" and Dumps's arm slipped down from the old man's head, until it rested around his neck; and Mr. Smith, looking into her eager, childish face, and seeing the blue eyes filled with tears, thought of the little faces that long years ago had looked up to his; and, bending his head, he kissed the rosy mouth.
"You won't whup him, will you?" urged Dumps.
"Don't you think he ought to be punished for running away and staying all this time, when I needed him in the crop?" asked Mr. Smith, gently.
"But, indeed, he is punished," said Diddie; "he was almost starved to death when me and Dumps carried him the picnic; and then he is so scared, he's been punished, Mr. Smith; so please let him come home, and don't whup him."
"Yes, PLE-EE-ASE promise," said Dumps, tightening her hold on his neck; and Mr. Smith, in memory of the little arms that once clung round him, and the little fingers that in other days clasped his, said:
"Well, I'll promise, little ones. Pomp may come home, and I'll not whip or punish him in any way;" and then he kissed them both, and said they must have a lunch with him, and then he would take them home and bring Pomp back; for he was astonished to learn that they had walked so long a distance, and would not hear of their walking back, though Diddie persisted that they must go, as they had stolen off, and nobody knew where they were.
He made the cook bake them some hot corn hoe-cakes and boil them some eggs; and while she was fixing it, and getting the fresh butter and buttermilk to add to the meal, Mr. Smith took them to the June apple-tree, and gave them just as many red apples as they wanted to eat, and some to take home to Tot. And Dumps told him all about "Old Billy" and Cherubim and Seraphim, and the old man laughed, and enjoyed it all, for he had no relatives or friends, and lived entirely alone—a stern, cold man, whose life had been embittered by the sudden loss of his loved ones, and it had been many weary years since he had heard children's voices chatting and laughing under the apple-tree.
After the lunch, which his guests enjoyed very much, Mr. Smith had a little donkey brought out for Dilsey to ride, and, taking Diddie behind him on his horse, and Dumps in his arms, he started with them for home.
There was but one saddle, so Dilsey was riding "bareback," and had to sit astride of the donkey to keep from falling off, which so amused the children that merry peals of laughter rang out from time to time; indeed, Dumps laughed so much, that, if Mr. Smith had not held her tightly, she certainly would have fallen off. But it was not very funny to Dilsey; she held on with all her might to the donkey's short mane, and even then could scarcely keep her seat. She was highly indignant with the children for laughing at her, and said.
"I dunno wat yer kill'n yerse'f laffin' 'bout, got me er settin' on dis hyear beas'; I ain't gwine wid yer no mo'."
Major Waldron was sitting on the veranda as the cavalcade came up, and was surprised to see his little daughters with Mr. Smith, and still more so to learn that they had walked all the way to his house on a mission of mercy; but being a kind man, and not wishing to check the germs of love and sympathy in their young hearts, he forbore to scold them, and went with them and Mr. Smith to the gin-house for the runaway.
On reaching the pick-room, the children went in alone, and told Uncle Pomp that his master had come for him, and had promised not to punish him; but still the old man was afraid to go out, and stood there in alarm till Mr. Smith called:
"Come out, Pomp! I'll keep my promise to the little ones; you shall not be punished in any way. Come out, and let's go home."
And Uncle Pomp emerged from his hiding-place, presenting a very ludicrous spectacle, with his unwashed face and uncombed hair, and the dirty cotton sticking to his clothes.
"Ef'n yer'll furgib de ole nigger dis time, marster, he ain't neber gwine run erway no mo'; an', mo'n dat, he gwine ter make speshul 'spress 'rangemunce fur ter git up sooner in de mornin'; he is dat, jes sho's yer born!" said the old negro, as he came before his master.
"Don't make too many promises, Pomp," kindly replied Mr. Smith; "we will both try to do better; at any rate, you shall not be punished this time. Now take your leave of your kind little friends, and let's get towards home; we are losing lots of time this fine day."
"Good-bye, little misses," said Uncle Pomp, grasping Diddie's hand in one of his and Dumps's in the other; "good-bye; I gwine pray fur yer bof ev'y night wat de Lord sen'; an', mo'n dat, I gwine fotch yer some pattridge aigs de fus' nes' wat I fin's."
And Uncle Pomp mounted the donkey that Dilsey had ridden, and rode off with his master, while Diddie and Dumps climbed on top of the fence to catch the last glimpse of them, waving their sun-bonnets and calling out,
"Good-bye, Mr. Tight-fis' Smith and Uncle Pomp."
THE FOURTH OF JULY.
"The glorious Fourth" was always a holiday on every Southern plantation, and, of course, Major Waldron's was no exception to the rule. His negroes not only had holiday, but a barbecue, and it was a day of general mirth and festivity.
On this particular "Fourth" the barbecue was to be on the banks of the creek formed by the back-waters of the river, and was to be a "fish-fry" as well as a barbecue.
All hands on the plantation were up by daylight, and preparing for the frolic. Some of the negro men, indeed, had been down to the creek all night setting out their fish-baskets and getting the "pit" ready for the meats. The pit was a large hole, in which a fire was kindled to roast the animals, which were suspended over it; and they must commence the barbecuing very early in the morning, in order to get everything ready by dinner-time. The children were as much excited over it as the negroes were, and Mammy could hardly keep them still enough to dress them, they were so eager to be off. Major and Mrs. Waldron were to go in the light carriage, but the little folks were to go with Mammy and Aunt Milly in the spring-wagon, along with the baskets of provisions for the "white folks' tables;" the bread and vegetables and cakes and pastry for the negroes' tables had been sent off in a large wagon, and were at the place for the barbecue long before the white family started from home. The negroes, too, had all gone. Those who were not able to walk had gone in wagons, but most of them had walked, for it was only about three miles from the house.
Despite all their efforts to hurry up Mammy, it was nearly nine o'clock before the children could get her off; and even then she didn't want to let Cherubim and Seraphim go, and Uncle Snake-bit Bob, who was driving the wagon, had to add his entreaties to those of the little folks before she would consent at all; and after that matter had been decided, and the baskets all packed in, and the children all comfortably seated, and Dilsey and Chris and Riar squeezed into the back of the wagon between the ice-cream freezer and the lemonade buckets, and Cherubim and Seraphim in the children's laps, and Mammy and Aunt Milly on two split-bottomed chairs, just back of the driver's seat, and Uncle Snake-bit Bob, with the reins in his hands, just ready to drive off—whom should they see but Old Daddy Jake coming down the avenue, and waving his hat for them to wait for him.
"Dar now!" said Mammy; "de folks done gone an' lef Ole Daddy, an' we got ter stuff 'im in hyear somewhar."
"They ain't no room in hyear," said Dumps, tightening her grasp on Cherubim, for she strongly suspected that Mammy would insist on leaving the puppies to make room for Daddy.
"Well, he ain't got ter be lef'," said Mammy; "I wuz allers larnt ter 'spect ole folks myse'f, an' ef'n dis wagin goes, why den Daddy Jake's got ter go in it;" and, Major and Mrs. Waldron having gone, Mammy was the next highest in command, and from her decision there was no appeal.
"How come yer ter git lef, Daddy?" asked Uncle Snake-bit Bob, as the old man came up hobbling on his stick.
"Well, yer see, chile, I wuz er lightin' uv my pipe, an' er fixin' uv er new stim in it, an' I nuber notus wen de wagins went off. Yer see I'm er gittin' er little deef in deze ole yurs uv mine: dey ben er fasten't on ter dis ole nigger's head er long time, uperds uv er hunderd years or mo'; an' de time hez ben wen dey could hyear de leaves fall uv er nights; but dey gittin' out'n fix somehow; dey ain't wuckin' like dey oughter; an' dey jes sot up dar, an' let de wagins drive off, an' leave de ole nigger er lightin' uv his pipe; an' wen I got thu, an' went ter de do', den I hyeard er mighty stillness in de quarters, an', bless yer heart, de folks wuz gone; an' I lookt up dis way, an' I seed de wagin hyear, an' I 'lowed yer'd all gimme er lif' some way."
"Dem little niggers'll hatter stay at home," said Mammy, sharply, eying the little darkies, "or else dey'll hatter walk, caze Daddy's got ter come in dis wagin. Now, you git out, you little niggers."
At this, Dilsey and Chris and Riar began to unpack themselves, crying bitterly the while, because they were afraid to walk by themselves, and they knew they couldn't walk fast enough to keep up with the wagon; but here Diddie came to the rescue, and persuaded Uncle Bob to go to the stable and saddle Corbin, and all three of the little negroes mounted him, and rode on behind the wagon, while Daddy Jake was comfortably fixed in the space they had occupied; and now they were fairly off.
"Mammy, what does folks have Fourf of Julys for?" asked Dumps, after a little while.
"I dunno, honey," answered Mammy; "I hyearn 'em say hit wuz 'long o' some fightin' or nuther wat de wite folks fit one time; but whedder dat wuz de time wat Brer David fit Goliar or not, I dunno; I ain't hyeard 'em say 'bout dat: it mout er ben dat time, an' den ergin it mout er ben de time wat Brer Samson kilt up de folks wid de jawbone. I ain't right sho' wat time hit wuz; but den I knows hit wuz some fightin' or nuther."
"It was the 'Declination of Independence,'" said Diddie. "It's in the little history; and it wasn't any fightin', it was a writin'; and there's the picture of it in the book; and all the men are settin' roun', and one of 'em is writin'."
"Yes, dat's jes wat I hyearn," said Uncle Bob. "I hyearn 'em say dat dey had de fuss' Defemation uv Ondepen'ence on de fourf uv July, an' eber sence den de folks ben er habin' holerday an' barbecues on dat day."
"What's er Defemation, Uncle Bob?" asked Dumps, who possessed an inquiring mind.
"Well, I mos' furgits de zack meanin'," said the old man, scratching his head; "hit's some kin' er writin', do, jes like Miss Diddie say; but, let erlone dat, hit's in de squshionary, an' yer ma kin fin' hit fur yer, an' 'splain de zack meanin' uv de word; but de Defemation uv Ondepen'ence, hit happened on de fuss fourf uv July, an' hit happens ev'y fourf uv July sence den; an' dat's 'cordin' ter my onderstandin' uv hit," said Uncle Bob, whipping up his horses.
"What's dat, Brer Bob?" asked Daddy Jake; and as soon as Uncle Bob had yelled at him Dumps's query and his answer to it, the old man said:
"Yer wrong, Brer Bob; I 'members well de fus' fourf uv July; hit wuz er man, honey. Marse Fofer July wuz er man, an' de day wuz name atter him. He wuz er pow'ful fightin' man; but den who it wuz he fit I mos' furgot, hit's ben so long ergo; but I 'members, do, I wuz er right smart slip uv er boy, an' I went wid my ole marster, yer pa's gran'pa, to er big dinner wat dey had on de Jeems Riber, in ole Furginny; an' dat day, sar, Marse Fofer July wuz dar; an' he made er big speech ter de wite folks, caze I hyeard 'em clappin' uv dey han's. I nuber seed 'im, but I hyeard he wuz dar, do, an' I knows he wuz dar, caze I sho'ly hyeard 'em clappin' uv dey han's; an', 'cordin' ter de way I 'members bout'n it, dis is his birfday, wat de folks keeps plum till yet, caze dey ain't no men nowerdays like Marse Fofer July. He wuz er gre't man, an' he had sense, too; an' den, 'sides dat, he wuz some er de fus' famblys in dem days. Wy, his folks usen ter visit our wite folks. I helt his horse fur 'im de many er time; an', let erlone dat, I knowed some uv his niggers; but den dat's ben er long time ergo."
"But what was he writin' about, Daddy?" asked Diddie, who remembered the picture too well to give up the "writing part."
"He wuz jes signin' some kin' er deeds or sump'n," said Daddy. "I dunno wat he wuz writin' erbout; but den he wuz er man, caze he lived in my recommembrunce, an' I done seed 'im myse'f."
That settled the whole matter, though Diddie was not entirely satisfied; but, as the wagon drove up to the creek bank just then, she was too much interested in the barbecue to care very much for "Marse Fofer July."
The children all had their fishing-lines and hooks, and as soon as they were on the ground started to find a good place to fish. Dilsey got some bait from the negro boys, and baited the hooks; and it was a comical sight to see all of the children, white and black, perched upon the roots of trees or seated flat on the ground, watching intently their hooks, which they kept bobbing up and down so fast that the fish must have been very quick indeed to catch them.
They soon wearied of such dull sport, and began to set their wits to work to know what to do next.
"Le's go 'possum-huntin'," suggested Dilsey.
"There ain't any 'possums in the daytime," said Diddie.
"Yes dey is, Miss Diddie, lots uv 'em; folks jes goes at night fur ter save time. I knows how ter hunt fur 'possums; I kin tree 'em jes same ez er dog."
And the children, delighted at the novelty of the thing, all started off "'possum-hunting," for Mammy was helping unpack the dinner-baskets, and was not watching them just then. They wandered off some distance, climbing over logs and falling into mud-puddles, for they all had their heads thrown back and their faces turned up to the trees, looking for the 'possums, and thereby missed seeing the impediments in the way.
At length Dilsey called out, "Hyear he is! Hyear de 'possum!" and they all came to a dead halt under a large oak-tree, which Dilsey and Chris, and even Diddie and Dumps, I regret to say, prepared to climb. But the climbing consisted mostly in active and fruitless endeavors to make a start, for Dilsey was the only one of the party who got as much as three feet from the ground; but she actually did climb up until she reached the first limb, and then crawled along it until she got near enough to shake off the 'possum, which proved to be a big chunk of wood that had lodged up there from a falling branch, probably; and when Dilsey shook the limb it fell down right upon Riar's upturned face, and made her nose bleed.
"Wat you doin', you nigger you?" demanded Riar, angrily, as she wiped the blood from her face. "I dar' yer ter come down out'n dat tree, an' I'll beat de life out'n yer; I'll larn yer who ter be shakin' chunks on."
"In vain did Dilsey apologize, and say she thought it was a "'possum;" Riar would listen to no excuse; and as soon as Dilsey reached the ground they had a rough-and-tumble fight, in which both parties got considerably worsted in the way of losing valuable hair, and of having their eyes filled with dirt and their clean dresses all muddied; but Tot was so much afraid Riar, her little nurse and maid, would get hurt that she screamed and cried, and refused to be comforted until the combatants suspended active hostilities, though they kept up quarrelling for some time, even after they had recommenced their search for 'possums.
"Dilsey don't know how to tree no 'possums," said Riar, contemptuously, after they had walked for some time, and anxiously looked up into every tree they passed.
"Yes I kin," retorted Dilsey; "I kin tree 'em jes ez same ez er dog, ef'n dar's any 'possums fur ter tree; but I can't make 'possums, do; an' ef dey ain't no 'possums, den I can't tree 'em, dat's all."
"Maybe they don't come out on the Fourf uv July," said Dumps. "Maybe 'possums keeps it same as peoples."
"Now, maybe dey duz," said Dilsey, who was glad to have some excuse for her profitless 'possum-hunting; and the children, being fairly tired out, started back to the creek bank, when they came upon Uncle Snake-bit Bob, wandering through the woods, and looking intently on the ground.
"What are you looking for, Uncle Bob?" asked Diddie.
"Des er few buckeyes, honey," answered the old man.
"What you goin' ter do with 'em?" asked Dumps, as the little girls joined him in his search.
"Well, I don't want ter die no drunkard, myse'f," said Uncle Bob, whose besetting sin was love of whiskey.
"Does buckeyes keep folks from dying drunkards?" asked Dumps.
"Dat's wat dey sez; an' I 'lowed I'd lay me in er few, caze I've allers hyearn dat dem folks wat totes a buckeye in dey lef britches pocket, an' den ernudder in de right-han' coat pocket, dat dey ain't gwine die no drunkards."
"But if they would stop drinkin' whiskey they wouldn't die drunkards anyhow, would they, Uncle Bob?"
"Well, I dunno, honey; yer pinnin' de ole nigger mighty close; de whiskey mout hab sump'n ter do wid it; I ain't sputin' dat—but wat I stan's on is dis: dem folks wat I seed die drunk, dey nuber had no buckeyes in dey pockets; caze I 'members dat oberseer wat Marse Brunson had, he died wid delirums treums, an' he runned, he did, fur ter git 'way fum de things wat he seed atter him; an' he jumped into de riber, an' he got drownded; an' I wuz dar wen dey pulled 'im out; an' I sez ter Brer John Small, who wuz er standin' dar, sez I, now I lay yer he ain't got no buckeyes in his pockets; and wid dat me 'n Brer John we tuck'n turnt his pockets wrong side outerds; an', less yer soul, chile, hit wuz jes like I say; DAR WA'N'T NO BUCKEYES DAR! Well, I'd b'lieved in de ole sayin' befo', but dat jes kinter sot me on it fas'er 'n eber; an' I don't cyare wat de wedder is, nor wat de hurry is; hit may rain an' hit may shine, an' de time may be er pressin', but ole Bob he don't stir out'n his house mornin's 'cep'n he's got buckeyes in his pockets. But I seed 'em gittin' ready fur dinner as I comed erlong, an' you chil'en better be er gittin' toerds de table."
That was enough for the little folks, and they hurried back to the creek. The table was formed by driving posts into the ground, and laying planks across them, and had been fixed up the day before by some of the men. The dinner was excellent—barbecued mutton and shote and lamb and squirrels, and very fine "gumbo," and plenty of vegetables and watermelons and fruits, and fresh fish which the negroes had caught in the seine, for none of the anglers had been successful.
Everybody was hungry, for they had had very early breakfast, and, besides, it had been a fatiguing day, for most of the negroes had walked the three miles, and then had danced and played games nearly all the morning, and so they were ready for dinner. And everybody seemed very happy and gay except Mammy; she had been so upset at the children's torn dresses and dirty faces that she could not regain her good-humor all at once; and then, too, Dumps had lost her sun-bonnet, and there were some unmistakable freckles across her little nose, and so Mammy looked very cross, and grumbled a good deal, though her appetite seemed good, and she did full justice to the barbecue.
Now Mammy had some peculiar ideas of her own as to the right and proper way for ladies to conduct themselves, and one of her theories was that no white lady should ever eat heartily in company; she might eat between meals, if desired, or even go back after the meal was over and satisfy her appetite; but to sit down with a party of ladies and gentlemen and make a good "square" meal, Mammy considered very ungenteel indeed. This idea she was always trying to impress upon the little girls, so as to render them as ladylike as possible in the years to come; and on this occasion, as there were quite a number of the families from the adjacent plantations present, she was horrified to see Dumps eating as heartily, and with as evident satisfaction, as if she had been alone in the nursery at home. Diddie, too, had taken her second piece of barbecued squirrel, and seemed to be enjoying it very much, when a shake of Mammy's head reminded her of the impropriety of such a proceeding; so she laid aside the squirrel, and minced delicately over some less substantial food. The frowns and nods, however, were thrown away upon Dumps; she ate of everything she wanted until she was fully satisfied, and I grieve to say that her papa encouraged her in such unladylike behavior by helping her liberally to whatever she asked for.
But after the dinner was over, and after the darkies had played and danced until quite late, and after the ladies and gentlemen had had several very interesting games of euchre and whist, and after the little folks had wandered about as much as they pleased—swinging on grape-vines and riding on "saplings," and playing "base" and "stealing goods," and tiring themselves out generally—and after they had been all duly stowed away in the spring-wagon and had started for home, then Mammy began at Dumps about her unpardonable appetite.
"But I was hungry, Mammy," apologized the little girl.
"I don't cyar ef'n yer wuz," replied Mammy; "dat ain't no reason fur yer furgittin' yer manners, an' stuffin' yerse'f right fo' all de gemmuns. Miss Diddie dar, she burhavt like er little lady, jes kinter foolin' wid her knife an' fork, an' nuber eatin nuffin' hardly; an' dar you wuz jes er pilin' in shotes an' lams an' squ'ls, an' roas'n yurs, an' pickles an' puddin's an' cakes an' watermillions, tell I wuz dat shame fur ter call yer marster's darter!"
And poor little Dumps, now that the enormity of her sin was brought home to her, and the articles eaten so carefully enumerated, began to feel very much like a boa-constrictor, and the tears fell from her eyes as Mammy continued:
"I done nust er heap er chil'en in my time, but I ain't nuber seed no wite chile eat fo de gemmuns like you duz. It pyears like I can't nuber larn you no manners, nohow."
"Let de chile erlone, Sis Rachel," interposed Uncle Bob; "she ain't no grown lady, an' I seed marster he'p'n uv her plate hisse'f; she nuber eat none too much, consid'n hit wuz de Fourf uv July."
"Didn't I eat no shotes an' lambs, Uncle Bob?" asked Dumps, wiping her eyes.
"I don't b'lieve yer did," said Uncle Bob. "I seed yer eat er squ'l or two, an' er few fish, likely, an' dem, wid er sprinklin' uv roas'n yurs an' cakes, wuz de mos' wat I seed yer eat."
"An' dat wuz too much," said Mammy, "right befo' de gemmuns."
But Dumps was comforted at Uncle Bob's moderate statement of the case, and so Mammy's lecture lost much of its intended severity.
As they were driving through the grove before reaching the house it was quite dark, and they heard an owl hooting in one of the trees.
"I see yer keep on sayin' yer sass," said Daddy Jake, addressing the owl. "Ef'n I'd er done happen ter all you is 'bout'n hit, I'd let hit erlone myse'f."
"What's he sayin'?" asked Diddie.
"Wy, don't yer hyear him, honey, er sayin,
"Who cooks fur you-oo-a? Who cooks fur you-oo-a? Ef you'll cook for my folks, Den I'll cook fur y' all-l-lll?"
"Well, hit wuz 'long er dat very chune wat he los' his eyes, an' can't see no mo' in de daytime; an' ef'n I wuz him, I'd let folks' cookin' erlone."
"Can't you tell us about it, Daddy?" asked Dumps.
"I ain't got de time now," said the old man, "caze hyear's de wagin almos' at de do'; an', let erlone dat, I ain't nuber hyeard 'twus good luck ter be tellin' no tales on de Fourf uv July; but ef'n yer kin come ter my cabin some ebenin' wen yer's er airin' uv yerse'fs, den I'll tell yer jes wat I hyearn 'bout'n de owl, an' 'struck yer in er many er thing wat yer don't know now."
And now the wagon stopped at the back gate, and the little girls and Mammy and the little darkies got out, and Mammy made the children say good-night to Daddy Jake and Uncle Bob, and they all went into the house very tired and very sleepy, and very dirty, with their celebration of "Marse Fofer July's burfday."
"'STRUCK'N UV DE CHIL'EN."
It was several days before the children could get off to Daddy Jake's cabin to hear about the owl; but on Saturday evening, after dinner, Mammy said they might go; and, having promised to go straight to Daddy Jake's house, and to come home before dark, they all started off.
Daddy Jake was the oldest negro on the plantation—perhaps the oldest in the State. He had been raised by Major Waldron's grandfather in Virginia, and remembered well the Revolutionary War; and then he had been brought to Mississippi by Major Waldron's father, and remembered all about the War of 1812 and the troubles with the Indians. It had been thirty years or more since Daddy Jake had done any work. He had a very comfortable cabin; and although his wives (for the old man had been married several times) were all dead, and many of his children were now old and infirm, he had a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren who attended to his wants; and then, too, his master cared very particularly for his comfort, and saw that Daddy Jake had good fires, and that his clothes were kept clean and mended, and his food nicely cooked; so the old man passed his days in peace and quiet.
The children found him now lying stretched out on a bench in front of his cabin, while Polly, his great-granddaughter, was scratching and "looking" his head.
"We've come for you to tell us about the Owl, Daddy," said Diddie, after she had given the old man some cake and a bottle of muscadine wine that her mother had sent to him.
"All right, little misses," replied Daddy; and, sitting up on the bench, he lifted Tot beside him, while Diddie and Dumps sat on the door-sill, and Dilsey and Chris and Riar and Polly sat flat on the ground.
"Well, yer see de Owl," began Daddy Jake, "he usen fur ter see in de daytime des same ez he do now in de night; an' one time he wuz in his kitchen er cookin' uv his dinner, wen hyear come de Peafowl er struttin' by. Well, in dem days de Peafowl he nuber had none er dem eyes on his tail wat he got now; his tail wuz des er clean blue."
"Did you see him, Daddy?" interrupted Dumps.
"No, honey, I ain't seed 'im wen he wuz dat way; dat wuz fo' my time; but den I know hit's de truf, do'; his tail wuz er clar blue dout'n no eyes on it; an' he wuz er pow'ful proud bird, an', 'stid er him 'ten'in ter his bizness, he des prumeraded de streets an' de roads, an' he felt hisse'f too big fur ter ten' ter his wuck. Well, de Owl knowed dat, an' so wen he seed de Peafowl walkin' by so big, an' him in de kitchen er cookin', it kinter hu't his feelin's, so he tuck'n holler'd at de Peafowl,
"'Whooo cooks fur you-oo-a? Whooo cooks fur you-oo-a? I cooks fur my folks, But who cooks fur y'all-ll-l?'
"Now he jes done dat out'n pyo' sass'ness, caze he knowed de Peafowl felt hisse'f 'bove cookin'; an' wen de Peafowl hyeard dat, he 'gun ter git mad; an' he 'lowed dat ef'n de Owl said dat ter him ergin dey'd be er fuss on his han's. Well, de nex' day de Owl seed him comin', an' he 'gun fur ter scrape out'n his pots an' skillets, an' ez he scrope 'em he holler'd out,
"'Whoo cooks fur you-oo-a? Whoo cooks fur you-oo-a? Ef you'll cook fur my folks, Den I'll cook fur y'all-ll.'
"An' wid dat de Peafowl tuck'n bounct him; an' dar dey had it, er scrougin' an' er peckin' an' er clawin' uv one nudder; an' somehow, in de skrummidge, de Owl's eyes dey got skwushed on ter de Peafowl's tail, an' fur er long time he couldn't see nuffin' 'tall; but de rattlesnake doctored on him."
"The rattlesnake?" asked Diddie, in horror.
"Hit's true, des like I'm tellin' yer," said Daddy; "hit wuz de rattlesnake; an' dey's de bes' doctors dey is 'mongst all de beases. Yer may see him creepin' 'long thu de grass like he don't know nuffin', but he kin doctor den."
"How does he doctor, Daddy?" asked Dumps.
"Now you chil'en look er hyear," said the old man; "I ain't gwine ter tell yer all I know 'bout'n de rattlesnake; dar's some things fur ter tell, and den ergin dar's some things fur ter keep ter yerse'f; an' wat dey is twix' me an' de rattlesnake, hit's des twix' me'n him; an' you ain't de fust ones wat want ter know an' couldn't. Yer may ax, but axin' ain't findin' out den; an', mo'n dat, ef'n I'm got ter be bothered wid axin' uv questions, den I ain't gwine obstruck yer, dat's all."
The children begged his pardon, and promised not to interrupt again, and Daddy Jake continued his story.
"Yes, de rattlesnake doctored on him, an' atter er wile he got so he could see some uv nights; but he can't see much in de daytime, do; an' ez fur de Peafowl, he shuck an' he shuck his tail, but dem spots is dar tell yit! An' wen he foun' he couldn't git 'em off, den he 'gun ter 'ten like he wuz glad uv 'em on dar, and dat wat makes him spread his tail and ac' so foolish in de spring uv de year.
"Dey's er heap uv de beases done ruint deyse'fs wid dey cuttin's up an' gwines on," continued Daddy Jake "Now dar's de Beaver, he usen fur ter hab er smoove roun' tail des like er 'possum's, wat wuz er heap handier fur him ter tote dan dat flat tail wat he got now; but den he wouldn't let de frogs erlone: he des tored down dey houses an' devilled 'em, till dey 'lowed dey wouldn't stan' it; an' so, one moonshiny night, wen he wuz er stan'in on de bank uv er mighty swif'-runnin' creek, ole Brer Bullfrog he hollered at him,
"'Come over! come over!'
"He knowed de water wuz too swiff fur de beaver, but den he 'lowed ter pay him back fur tearin' down his house. Well, de Beaver he stood dar er lookin' at de creek, an' by'mby he axes,
"'How deep is it?'
"'Knee-deep, knee-deep,' answered the little frogs. An' de Bullfrogs, dey kep' er sayin, 'Come over, come over;' an' de little frogs kep' er hollin,' 'Jus' knee-keep; jus' knee-deep,' tell de Beaver he pitched in fur ter swim 'cross; an', gemmun, de creek wuz so deep, an de water so swiff, tell hit put 'im up ter all he knowed. He had ter strain an' ter wrestle wid dat water tell hit flattent his tail out same ez er shobel, an' er little mo'n he'd er los' his life; but hit larnt him er lesson. I ain't nuber hyeard uv his meddlin' wid nuffin' fum dat time ter dis; but, I tell yer, in de hot summer nights, wen he hatter drag dat flat tail uv his'n atter him ev'ywhar he go, 'stid er havin' er nice handy tail wat he kin turn ober his back like er squ'l, I lay yer, mun, he's wusht er many er time he'd er kep' his dev'lment ter hisse'f, an' let dem frogs erlone."
Here Daddy Jake happened to look down, and he caught Polly nodding.
"Oh yes!" said the old man, "yer may nod; dat's des wat's de matter wid de niggers now, dem sleepy-head ways wat dey got is de cazhun uv dey hyar bein' kunkt up an' dey skins bein' black."
"Is that what makes it, Daddy?" asked Diddie, much interested.
"Ub cose hit is," replied Daddy. "Ef'n de nigger hadn't ben so sleepy-headed, he'd er ben wite, an' his hyar'd er ben straight des like yourn. Yer see, atter de Lord made 'im, den he lont him up 'gins de fence-corner in de sun fur ter dry; an' no sooner wuz de Lord's back turnt, an' de sun 'gun ter come out kin'er hot, dan de nigger he 'gun ter nod, an' er little mo'n he wuz fas' ter sleep. Well, wen de Lord sont atter 'im fur ter finish uv 'im up, de angel couldn't fin' 'im, caze he didn't know de zack spot whar de Lord sot 'im; an' so he hollered an' called, an' de nigger he wuz 'sleep, an' he nuber hyeard 'im; so de angel tuck de wite man, an' cyard him 'long, an' de Lord polished uv 'im off. Well, by'mby de nigger he waked up; but, dar now! he wuz bu'nt black, an' his hyar wuz all swuv'llt up right kinky.
"De Lord, seein' he wuz spilte, he didn't 'low fur ter finish 'im, an' wuz des 'bout'n ter thow 'im 'way, wen de wite man axt fur 'im; so de Lord he finished 'im up des like he wuz, wid his skin black an' his hyar kunkt up, an' he gun 'im ter de wite man, an' I see he's got 'im plum tell yit."
"Was it you, Daddy?" asked Dumps.
"Wy, no, honey, hit wan't me, hit wuz my forecisters."
"What's a forecister, Daddy?" asked Diddie, rather curious about the relationship.
"Yer forecisters," explained Daddy, "is dem uv yer way back folks, wat's born'd fo' you is yerse'f, an' fo' yer pa is. Now, like my ole marster, yer pa's gran'pa, wat riz me in ole Furginny, he's you chil'en's forecister; an' dis nigger wat I'm tellin' yer 'bout'n, he waz my fuss forecister; an' dats' de way dat I've allers hyearn dat he come ter be black, an' his hyar kinky; an' I b'lieves hit, too, caze er nigger's de sleepies'-headed critter dey is; an' den, 'sides dat, I've seed er heap er niggers in my time, but I ain't nuber seed dat nigger yit wat's wite, an' got straight hyar on his head.
"Now I ain't er talkin' 'bout'n murlatters, caze dey ain't no reg'lar folks 'tall; dey's des er mixtry. Dey ain't wite, an' dey ain't black, an' dey ain't nuffin'; dey's des de same kin' er folks ez de muel is er horse!
"An' den dar's Injuns; dey's ergin ernudder kin' er folks.
"I usen ter hyear 'em say dat de deb'l made de fuss Injun. He seed de Lord er makin' folks, an' he 'lowed he'd make him some; so he got up his dut and his water, an' all his 'grejunces, an' he went ter wuck; an' wedder he cooked him too long, or wedder he put in too much red clay fur de water wat he had, wy, I ain't nuber hyeard; but den I knows de deb'l made 'im, caze I allers hyearn so; an', mo'n dat, I done seed 'em fo' now, an' dey got mighty dev'lish ways. I wuz wid yer gran'pa at Fort Mimms, down erbout Mobile, an' I seed 'em killin' folks an' sculpin' uv 'em; an, mo'n dat, ef'n I hadn't er crope under er log, an' flattent myse'f out like er allergator, dey'd er got me; an' den, ergin, dey don't talk like no folks. I met er Injun one time in de road, an' I axed 'im wuz he de man wat kilt an' sculpt Sis Leah, wat usen ter b'longst ter yer gran'pa, an' wat de Injuns kilt. I axt 'im 'ticklur, caze I had my axe erlong, an' ef'n he wuz de man, I 'lowed fur ter lay him out. But, bless yer life, chile, he went on fur ter say,
"'Ump, ump, kinterlosha wannycoola tusky noba, inickskymuncha fluxkerscenuck kintergunter skoop.'
"An' wen he sed dat, I tuck'n lef' him, caze I seed hit wouldn't do fur ter fool 'long him; an', mo'n dat, he 'gun fur ter shine his eyes out, an' so I des off wid my hat, an' scrope my lef' foot, an' said, 'Good ebenin', marster, same ez ef he wuz er wite man; an' den I tuck thu de woods tell I come ter de fork-han' een' er de road, an' I eberlastin' dusted fum dar! I put deze feets in motion, yer hyeard me! an' I kep' 'em er gwine, too, tell I come ter de outskwirts uv de quarters; an' eber sence den I ain't stopped no Injun wat I sees in de road, an' I ain't meddled 'long o' who kilt Sis Leah, nudder, caze she's ben in glory deze fifty years or mo', an' hit's all one to her now who sculpt her."
But now, as it was getting late, Daddy said he was afraid to stay out in the night air, as it sometimes "gun him de rheumatiz," and wound up his remarks by saying,
"Tell yer ma I'm mighty 'bleeged fur de cake an' drinkin's, an' weneber yer gits de time, an' kin come down hyear any ebenin', de ole man he'll 'struck yer, caze he's gwine erway fo' long, an' dem things wat he knows is onbeknownst ter de mos' uv folks."
"Where are you going, Daddy," asked Diddie.
"I gwine ter de 'kingdum,' honey, an' de Lord knows hit's time; I ben hyear long ernuff; but hit's 'bout time fur me ter be er startin' now, caze las' Sat'dy wuz er week gone I wuz er stretchin' my ole legs in de fiel', an' er rabbit run right ercross de road foreninst me, an' I knowed 'twuz er sho' sign uv er death; an' den, night fo' las', de scritch-owls wuz er talkin' ter one ernudder right close ter my do', an' I knowed de time wuz come fur de ole nigger ter take dat trip; so, ef'n yer wants him ter 'struck yer, yer'd better be er ten'in' ter it, caze wen de Lord sen's fur 'im he's er gwine."
The children were very much awed at Daddy's forebodings, and Dumps insisted on shaking hands with him, as she felt that she would probably never see him again, and they all bade him good-night, and started for the house.
"Miss Diddie, did you know ole Daddy wuz er trick nigger?" asked Dilsey, as they left the old man's cabin.
"What's er trick nigger?" asked Dumps.
"Wy, don't yer know, Miss Dumps? Trick niggers dey ties up snakes' toofs an' frogs' eyes an' birds' claws, an' all kineter charms; an' den, wen dey gits mad 'long o' folks, dey puts dem little bags under dey do's, or in de road somewhar, whar dey'll hatter pass, an' dem folks wat steps ober 'em den dey's tricked; an' dey gits sick, an' dey can't sleep uv nights, an' dey chickens all dies, an' dey can't nuber hab no luck nor nuf'n tell de tricks is tuck off. Didn't yer hyear wat he said 'bout'n de snakes? an' de folks all sez ez how ole Daddy is er trick nigger, an' dat's wat makes him don't die."
"Well, I wish I was a trick nigger, then," remarked Dumps, gravely.
"Lordy, Miss Dumps, yer'd better not be er talkin' like dat," said Dilsey, her eyes open wide in horror. "Hit's pow'ful wicked ter be trick niggers."
"I don't know what's the matter with Dumps," said Diddie; "she's gettin' ter be so sinful; an' ef she don't stop it, I sha'n't sleep with her. She'll be er breakin' out with the measles or sump'n some uv these days, jes fur er judgment on her; an' I don't want ter be catchin' no judgments just on account of her badness."
"Well, I'll take it back, Diddie," humbly answered Dumps. "I didn't know it was wicked; and won't you sleep with me now?"
Diddie having promised to consider the matter, the little folks walked slowly on to the house, Dilsey and Chris and Riar all taking turns in telling them the wonderful spells and cures and troubles that Daddy Jake had wrought with his "trick-bags."
WHAT BECAME OF THEM.
Well, of course, I can't tell you all that happened to these little girls. I have tried to give you some idea of how they lived in their Mississippi home, and I hope you have been amused and entertained; and now, as "Diddie" said about her book, I've got to "wind up," and tell you what became of them.
The family lived happily on the plantation until the war broke out in 1861.
Then Major Waldron clasped his wife to his heart, kissed his daughters, shook hands with his faithful slaves, and went as a soldier to Virginia; and he is sleeping now on the slope of Malvern Hill, where he
"Nobly died for Dixie."
The old house was burned during the war, and on the old plantation where that happy home once stood there are now three or four chimneys and an old tumbled-down gin-house. That is all.
The agony of those terrible days of war, together with the loss of her husband and home, broke the heart and sickened the brain of Mrs. Waldron; and in the State Lunatic Asylum is an old white-haired woman, with a weary, patient look in her eyes, and this gentle old woman, who sits day after day just looking out at the sunshine and the flowers, is the once beautiful "mamma" of Diddie, Dumps, and Tot.
Diddie grew up to be a very pretty, graceful woman, and when the war began was in her eighteenth year. She was engaged to one of the young men in the neighborhood; and, though she was so young, her father consented to the marriage, as her lover was going into the army, and wanted to make her his wife before leaving. So, early in '61, before Major Waldron went to Virginia, there was a quiet wedding in the parlor one night; and not many days afterwards the young Confederate soldier donned his gray coat, and rode away with Forrest's Cavalry.
"And ere long a messenger came, Bringing the sad, sad story— A riderless horse: a funeral march: Dead on the field of glory!"
After his death her baby came to gladden the young widow's desolate life; and he is now almost grown, handsome and noble, and the idol of his mother.
Diddie is a widow still. She was young and pretty when the war ended, and has had many offers of marriage; but a vision of a cold white face, with its fair hair dabbled in blood, is ever in her heart. So Diddie lives for her boy. Their home is in Natchez now; for of course they could never live in the old place any more. When the slaves were free, they had no money to rebuild the houses, and the plantation has never been worked since the war.
The land is just lying there useless, worthless; and the squirrels play in and out among the trees, and the mocking-birds sing in the honeysuckles and magnolias and rose-bushes where the front yard used to be.
And at the quarters, where the happy slave-voices used to sing "Monkey Motions," and the merry feet used to dance to "Cotton-eyed Joe," weeds and thick underbrush have all grown up, and partridges build their nests there; and sometimes, at dusk, a wild-cat or a fox may be seen stealing across the old play-ground.
Tot, long years ago, before the war even, when she was yet a pure, sinless little girl, was added to that bright band of angel children who hover around the throne of God; and so she was already there, you see, to meet and welcome her "papa" when his stainless soul went up from Malvern Hill.
Well, for "Mammy" and "Daddy Jake" and "Aunt Milly" and "Uncle Dan'l," "dat angel" has long since "blowed de horn," and I hope and believe they are happily walking "dem golden streets" in which they had such implicit faith, and of which they never wearied of telling.
And the rest of the negroes are all scattered; some doing well, some badly; some living, some dead. Aunt Sukey's Jim, who married Candace that Christmas-night, is a politician. He has been in the Legislature, and spends his time in making long and exciting speeches to the loyal leaguers against the Southern whites, all unmindful of his happy childhood, and of the kind and generous master who strove in every way to render his bondage (for which that master was in no way to blame) a light and happy one.
Uncle Snake-bit Bob is living still. He has a little candy-store in a country town. He does not meddle with politics. He says, "I don't cas' my suffrins fur de Dimercracks, nur yit fur de 'Publicans. I can't go 'ginst my color by votin' de Dimercrack papers; an' ez fur dem 'Publicans! Well, ole Bob he done hyearn wat de Book say 'boutn publicans an' sinners, an' dat's ernuff fur him. He's er gittin' uperds in years now; pretty soon he'll hatter shove off fur dat 'heb'nly sho';' an' wen de Lord sen' atter him, he don't want dat angel ter cotch him in no kinwunshuns 'long wid 'publicans an' sinners.'" And so Uncle Bob attends to his store, and mends chairs and tubs, and deals extensively in chickens and eggs; and perhaps he is doing just as well as if he were in Congress.
Dilsey and Chris and Riar are all women now, and are all married and have children of their own; and nothing delights them more than to tell to their little ones what "us an' de wite chil'en usen ter do."
And the last I heard of Aunt Nancy, the "tender," she was going to school, but not progressing very rapidly. She did learn her letters once, but, having to stop school to make a living, she soon forgot them, and she explained it by saying:
"Yer see, honey, dat man wat larnt me dem readin's, he wuz sich er onstedfus' man, an' gittin' drunk, an' votin' an' sich, tell I furgittin' wat he larnt me; but dey's er colored gemman fum de Norf wat's tuck him up er pay-school ober hyear in de 'catermy, an' ef'n I kin git him fur ter take out'n his pay in dat furmifuge wat I makes, I 'low ter go ter him er time er two, caze he's er membah ub de Zion Chu'ch, an' er mighty stedfus' man, an' dat wat he larns me den I'll stay larnt."
And Dumps? Well, the merry, light-hearted little girl is an "old maid" now; and if Mammy could see her, she would think she was "steady" enough at last.
Somebody, you know, must attend to the wants and comfort of the gray-haired woman in the asylum; and Diddie had her boy to support and educate, so Dumps teaches school and takes care of her mother, and is doing what Uncle Snake-bit Bob told the Sunday-school children that God had made them to do; for
Dumps is doing "DE BES' SHE KIN."