The Conjure Woman by Charles Waddell Chesnutt
THE GRAY WOLF'S
THE GOOPHERED GRAPEVINE
SOME years ago my wife was in poor health, and our family doctor, in
whose skill and honesty I had implicit confidence, advised a change of
climate. I shared, from an unprofessional standpoint, his opinion that
the raw winds, the chill rains, and the violent changes of temperature
that characterized the winters in the region of the Great Lakes tended
to aggravate my wife's difficulty, and would undoubtedly shorten her
life if she remained exposed to them. The doctor's advice was that we
seek, not a temporary place of sojourn, but a permanent residence, in a
warmer and more equable climate. I was engaged at the time in
grape-culture in northern Ohio, and, as I liked the business and had
given it much study, I decided to look for some other locality suitable
for carrying it on. I thought of sunny France, of sleepy Spain, of
Southern California, but there were objections to them all. It occurred
to me that I might find what I wanted in some one of our own Southern
States. It was a sufficient time after the war for conditions in the
South to have become somewhat settled; and I was enough of a pioneer to
start a new industry, if I could not find a place where grape-culture
had been tried. I wrote to a cousin who had gone into the turpentine
business in central North Carolina. He assured me, in response to my
inquiries, that no better place could be found in the South than the
State and neighborhood where he lived; the climate was perfect for
health, land, in conjunction with the soil, ideal for grape-culture;
labor was cheap, and land could be bought for a mere song. He gave us a
cordial invitation to come and visit him while we looked into the
matter. We accepted the invitation, and after several days of leisurely
travel, the last hundred miles of which were up a river on a sidewheel
steamer, we reached our destination, a quaint old town, which I shall
call Patesville, because, for one reason, that is not its name. There
was a red brick market-house in the public square, with a tall tower,
which held a four-faced clock that struck the hours, and from which
there pealed out a curfew at nine o'clock. There were two or three
hotels, a court-house, a jail, stores, offices, and all the
appurtenances of a county seat and a commercial emporium; for while
Patesville numbered only four or five thousand inhabitants, of all
shades of complexion, it was one of the principal towns in North
Carolina, and had a considerable trade in cotton and naval stores. This
business activity was not immediately apparent to my unaccustomed eyes.
Indeed, when I first saw the town, there brooded over it a calm that
seemed almost sabbatic in its restfulness, though I learned later on
that underneath its somnolent exterior the deeper currents of life—
love and hatred, joy and despair, ambition and avarice, faith and
friendship—flowed not less steadily than in livelier latitudes.
We found the weather delightful at that season, the end of summer,
and were hospitably entertained. Our host was a man of means and
evidently regarded our visit as a pleasure, and we were therefore
correspondingly at our ease, and in a position to act with the coolness
of judgment desirable in making so radical a change in our lives. My
cousin placed a horse and buggy at our disposal, and himself acted as
our guide until I became somewhat familiar with the country.
I found that grape-culture, while it had never been carried on to
any great extent, was not entirely unknown in the neighborhood. Several
planters thereabouts had attempted it on a commercial scale, in former
years, with greater or less success; but like most Southern industries,
it had felt the blight of war and had fallen into desuetude.
I went several times to look at a place that I thought might suit
me. It was a plantation of considerable extent, that had formerly
belonged to a wealthy man by the name of McAdoo. The estate had been
for years involved in litigation between disputing heirs, during which
period shiftless cultivation had well-nigh exhausted the soil. There
had been a vineyard of some extent on the place, but it had not been
attended to since the war, and had lapsed into utter neglect. The vines
—here partly supported by decayed and broken-down trellises, there
twining themselves among the branches of the slender saplings which had
sprung up among them—grew in wild and unpruned luxuriance, and the
few scattered grapes they bore were the undisputed prey of the first
comer. The site was admirably adapted to grape- raising; the soil, with
a little attention, could not have been better; and with the native
grape, the luscious scuppernong, as my main reliance in the beginning,
I felt sure that I could introduce and cultivate successfully a number
of other varieties.
One day I went over with my wife to show her the place. We drove out
of the town over a long wooden bridge that spanned a spreading
mill-pond, passed the long whitewashed fence surrounding the county
fair-ground, and struck into a road so sandy that the horse's feet
sank to the fetlocks. Our route lay partly up hill and partly down,
for we were in the sand-hill county; we drove past cultivated farms,
and then by abandoned fields grown up in scrub-oak and short-leaved
pine, and once or twice through the solemn aisles of the virgin forest,
where the tall pines, well-nigh meeting over the narrow road, shut out
the sun, and wrapped us in cloistral solitude. Once, at a cross-roads,
I was in doubt as to the turn to take, and we sat there waiting ten
minutes—we had already caught some of the native infection of
restfulness—for some human being to come along, who could direct us
on our way. At length a little negro girl appeared, walking straight as
an arrow, with a piggin full of water on her head. After a little
patient investigation, necessary to overcome the child's shyness, we
learned what we wished to know, and at the end of about five miles from
the town reached our destination.
We drove between a pair of decayed gateposts—the gate itself had
long since disappeared—and up a straight sandy lane, between two
lines of rotting rail fence, partly concealed by jimson- weeds and
briers, to the open space where a dwelling-house had once stood,
evidently a spacious mansion, if we might judge from the ruined
chimneys that were still standing, and the brick pillars on which the
sills rested. The house itself, we had been informed, had fallen a
victim to the fortunes of war.
We alighted from the buggy, walked about the yard for a while, and
then wandered off into the adjoining vineyard. Upon Annie's complaining
of weariness I led the way back to the yard, where a pine log, lying
under a spreading elm, afforded a shady though somewhat hard seat. One
end of the log was already occupied by a venerable looking colored man.
He held on his
knees a hat full of grapes, over which he was smacking his lips with
great gusto, and a pile of grapeskins near him indicate that the
performance was no new thing. We approached him at an angle from the
rear, and were close to him before he perceived us. He respectfully
rose as we drew near, and was moving away, when I begged him to keep
“Don't let us disturb you,” I said. “There is plenty of room for us
He resumed his seat with somewhat of embarrassment. While he had
been standing, I had observed that he was a tall man, and, though
slightly bowed by the weight of years, apparently quite vigorous. He
was not entirely black, and this fact, together with the quality of his
hair, which was about six inches long and very bushy, except on the top
of his head, where he was quite bald, suggested a slight strain of
other than negro blood. There was a shrewdness in his eyes, too, which
was not altogether African, and which, as we afterwards learned from
experience was indicative of a corresponding shrewdness in his
character. He went on eating the grapes, but did not seem to enjoy
himself quite so well as he had apparently done before he became aware
of our presence.
“Do you live around here?” I asked, anxious to put him at his ease.
“Yas, suh. I lives des ober yander, behine de nex' san'-hill, on de
“Do you know anything about the time when this vineyard was
“Lawd bless you, suh, I knows all about it. Dey ain' na'er a man in
dis settlement w'at won' tell you ole Julius McAdoo 'uz bawn en raise'
on dis yer same plantation. Is you de Norv'n gemman w'at's gwine ter
buy de ole vimya'd?”
“I am looking at it,” I replied; “but I don't know that I shall care
to buy unless I can be reasonably sure of making something out of it.”
“Well, suh, you is a stranger ter me, en I is a stranger ter you, en
we is bofe strangers ter one anudder, but 'f I 'uz in yo' place, I
wouldn' buy dis vim ya'd.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Well, I dunno whe'r you believes in cunj'in'er not,—some er de
w'ite folks don't, er says dey don't,—but de truf er de matter is dat
dis yer ole vimya'd is goophered.”
“Is what?” I asked, not grasping the meaning of this unfamiliar
“Is goophered,—cunju'd, bewitch'.”
He imparted this information with such solemn earnestness, and with
such an air of confidential mystery, that I felt somewhat interested,
while Annie was evidently much impressed, and drew closer to me.
“How do you know it is bewitched?” I asked.
“I wouldn' spec' fer you ter b'lieve me 'less you know all 'bout de
fac's. But ef you en young miss dere doan' min' lis'nin' ter a ole
nigger run on a minute er two w'ile you er restin', I kin 'splain to
you how it all happen'.”
We assured him that we would be glad to hear how it all happened,
and he began to tell us. At first the current of his memory—or
imagination—seemed somewhat sluggish; but as his embarrassment wore
off, his language flowed more freely, and the story acquired
perspective and coherence. As he became more and more absorbed in the
narrative, his eyes assumed a dreamy expression, and he seemed to lose
sight of his auditors, and to be living over again in monologue his
life on the old plantation.
“Ole Mars Dugal' McAdoo,” he began, “bought dis place long many year
befo' de wah, en I 'member well w'en he sot out all dis yer part er de
plantation in scuppernon's. De vimes growed monst'us fas', en Mars
Dugal' made a thousan' gallon er scuppernon' wine eve'y year.
“Now, ef dey's an'thing a nigger lub, nex' ter 'possum, en chick'n,
en watermillyums, it's scuppernon's. Dey ain' nuffin dat kin stan' up
side'n de scuppernon' for sweetness; sugar ain't a suckumstance ter
scuppernon'. W'en de season is nigh 'bout ober, en de grapes begin ter
swivel up des a little wid de wrinkles er ole age,—w'en de skin git
sot' en brown,—den de scuppernon' make you smack yo' lip en roll yo'
eye en wush fer mo'; so I reckon it ain' very 'stonishin' dat niggers
“Dey wuz a sight er niggers in de naberhood er de vimya'd. Dere wuz
ole Mars Henry Brayboy's niggers, en ol Mars Jeems McLean's niggers, en
Mars Dugal's own niggers; den dey wuz a settlement er free niggers en
po' buckrahs down by de Wim'l'ton Road, en Mars Dugal' had de only
vimya'd in de naberhood. I reckon it ain' so much so nowadays, but
befo' de wah, in slab'ry times, a nigger didn' mine goin' fi' er ten
mile in a night, w'en dey wuz sump'n good ter eat at de yuther een'.
“So atter a w'ile Mars Dugal' begin ter miss his scuppernon's. Co'se
he 'cuse' de niggers er it, but dey all 'nied it ter de las'. Mars
Dugal' sot spring guns en steel traps, en he en de oberseah sot up
nights once't er twice't, tel one night Mars Dugal'—he 'uz a monst'us
keerless man—got his leg shot full er cow-peas. But somehow er nudder
dey couldn' nebber ketch none er de niggers. I dunner how it happen,
but it happen des like I tell you, en de grapes kep' on a-goin' des de
“But bimeby ole Mars Dugal' fix' up a plan ter stop it. Dey wuz a
cunjuh 'oman livin' down 'mongs' de free niggers on de Wim'l'ton Road,
en all de darkies fum Rockfish ter Beaver Crick wuz feared er her. She
could wuk de mos' powerfulles' kin' er goopher,—could make people hab
fits, er rheumatiz, er make 'em des dwinel away en die; en dey say she
went out ridin' de niggers at night, fer she wuz a witch 'sides bein' a
cunjuh 'oman. Mars Dugal' hearn 'bout Aun' Peggy's doin's, en begun ter
'flect whe'r er no he couldn' git her ter he'p him keep de niggers
off'n de grapevimes. One day in de spring er de year, ole miss pack' up
a basket er chick'n en poun'-cake, en a bottle er scuppernon' wine, en
Mars Dugal' tuk it in his buggy en driv ober ter Aun' Peggy's cabin. He
tuk de basket in, en had a long talk wid Aun' Peggy.
“De nex' day Aun' Peggy come up ter de vimya'd. De niggers seed her
slippin' 'roun', en dey soon foun' out what she 'uz doin' dere. Mars
Dugal' had hi'ed her ter goopher de grape vimes, She sa'ntered 'roun'
'mongs' de vimes, en tuk a leaf fum dis one, en a grape-hull fum dat
one, en a grape-seed fum anudder one; en den a little twig fum here, en
a little pinch er dirt fum dere,—en put it all in a big black bottle,
wid a snake's toof en a speckle' hen's gall en some ha'rs fum a black
cat's tail, en den fill' de bottle wid scuppernon' wine. W'en she got
de goopher all ready en fix', she tuk'n went out in de woods en buried
it under de root uv a red oak tree, en den come back en tole one er de
niggers she done goopher de grapevimes, en a'er a nigger w'at eat dem
grapes 'ud be sho ter die inside'n twel' mont's.
“Atter dat de niggers let de scuppernon's 'lone, en Mars Dugal'
didn' hab no 'casion ter fine no mo' fault; en de season wuz mos' gone,
w'en a strange gemman stop at de plantation one night ter see Mars
Dugal' on some business; en his coachman, seein' de scuppernon's
growin' so nice en sweet, slip 'roun' behine de smoke-house, en et all
de scuppernon's he could hole. Nobody didn' notice it at de time, but
dat night, on de way home, de gemman's hoss runned away en kill' de
coachman. W'en we hearn de noos, Aun' Lucy, de cook, she up'n say she
seed de strange nigger eat'n' er de scuppernon's behine de smoke-house;
en den we knowed de goopher had b'en er wukkin'. Den one er de nigger
chilluns runned away fum de quarters one day, en got in de
scuppernon's, en died de nex' week. W'ite folks say he die' er de
fevuh, but de niggers knowed it wuz de goopher. So you k'n be sho de
darkies didn' hab much ter do wid dem scuppernon' vimes.
“W'en de scuppernon' season uz ober fer dat year, Mars Dugal' foun'
he had made fifteen hund'ed gallon er wine; en one er de niggers hearn
him laffin wid de oberseah fit ter kill, en sayin dem fifteen hund'ed
gallon er wine wuz monst'us good intrus' on de ten dollars he laid out
on de vimya'd. So I 'low ez he paid Aun' Peggy ten dollars fer to
goopher de grapevimes.
“De goopher didn' wuk no mo' tel de nex' summer, w'en 'long to'ds de
middle er de season one er de fiel' han's died; en ez dat let' Mars
Dugal' sho't er han's, he went off ter town fer ter buy anudder. He
fotch de noo nigger home wid 'im. He wuz er ole nigger, er de color er
a gingy-cake, en ball ez a hoss-apple on de top er his head. He wuz a
peart ole nigger, do', en could do a big day's wuk.
“Now it happen dat one er de niggers on de nex' plantation, one er
old Mars Henry Brayboy's niggers, had runned away de day befo', en tuk
ter de swamp, en ole Mars Dugal' en some er de yuther nabor w'ite folks
had gone out wid dere guns en dere dogs fer ter he'p 'em hunt fer de
nigger; en de han's on our own plantation wuz all so flusterated dat we
fuhgot ter tell de noo han' 'bout de goopher on de scuppernon' vimes.
Co'se he smell de grapes en see de vimes, an atter dahk de fus' thing
he done wuz ter slip off ter de grapevimes 'dout sayin' nuffin ter
nobody. Nex' mawnin' he tole some er de niggers 'bout de fine bait er
scuppernon' he et de night befo'.
“W'en dey tole 'im 'bout de goopher on de grapevimes, he 'uz dat
tarrified dat he turn pale, en look des like he gwine ter die right in
his tracks. De oberseah come up en axed w'at 'uz de matter; en w'en dey
tole 'im Henry be'n eatin' er de scuppernon's, en got de goopher on
'im, he gin Henry a big drink er w'iskey, en 'low dat de nex' rainy day
he take 'im ober ter Aun' Peggy's, en see ef she wouldn' take de
goopher off'n him, seein' ez he didn' know nuffin erbout it tel he done
et de grapes.
“Sho nuff, it rain de nex' day, en de oberseah went ober ter Aun'
Peggy's wid Henry. En Aun' Peggy say dat bein' ez Henry didn' know
'bout de goopher, en et de grapes in ign'ance er de conseq'ences, she
reckon she mought be able fer ter take de goopher off'n him. So she
fotch out er bottle wid some cunjuh medicine in it, en po'd some out in
a go'd for Henry ter drink. He manage ter git it down; he say it tas'e
like whiskey wid sump'n bitter in it. She 'lowed dat 'ud keep de
goopher off'n him tel de spring: but w'en de sap begin ter rise in de
grapevimes he ha' ter come en see her ag'in, en she tell him w'at e's
“Nex' spring, w'en de sap commence' ter rise in de scuppernon' vime,
Henry tuk a ham one night. Whar'd he git de ham? I doan know;
dey wa'n't no hams on de plantation 'cep'n' w'at 'uz in de smoke-house,
but I never see Henry 'bout de smoke-house. But ez I wuz
a-sayin', he tuk de ham ober ter Aun' Peggy's; en Aun' Peggy tole 'im
dat w'en Mars Dugal' begin ter prune de grapevimes, he mus' go en take
'n scrape off de sap whar it ooze out'n de cut een's er de vimes, en
'n'int his ball head wid it; en ef he do dat once't a year de goopher
wouldn' wuk agin 'im long ez he done it. En bein' ez he fotch her de
ham, she fix' it so he kin eat all de scuppernon' he want.
“So Henry 'n'int his head wid de sap out'n de big grapevime des ha'f
way 'twix' de quarters en de big house, en de goopher nebber wuk agin
him dat summer. But de beatenes' thing you eber see happen ter Henry.
Up ter dat time he wuz ez ball ez a sweeten' 'tater, but des ez soon ez
de young leaves begun ter come out on de grapevimes, de ha'r begun ter
grow out on Henry's head, en by de middle er de summer he had de
bigges' head er ha'r on de plantation. Befo' dat, Henry had tol'able
good ha'r 'roun' de aidges, but soon ez de young grapes begun ter come,
Henry's ha'r begun to quirl all up in little balls, de like dis yer
reg'lar grapy ha'r, en by de time de grapes got ripe his head look des
like a bunch er grapes. Combin' it didn' do no good; he wuk at it ha'f
de night wid er Jim Crow, 1 en think he
git it straighten' out, but in de mawnin'
1. A small card, resembling a
currycomb in construction, and used by negroes in the rural districts
instead of a comb.
de grapes 'ud be dere des de same. So he gin it up, en tried ter
keep de grapes down by havin' his hair cut sho't.
“But dat wa'n't de quares' thing 'bout de goopher. When Henry come
ter de plantation, he wuz gittin' a little ole an stiff in de j'ints.
But dat summer he got des ez spry en libely ez any young nigger on de
plantation; fac', he got so biggity dat Mars Jackson, de oberseah, ha'
ter th'eaten ter whip 'im, ef he didn' stop cuttin' up his didos en
behave hisse'f. But de mos' cur'ouses' thing happen' in de fall, when
de sap begin ter go down in de grapevimes. Fus', when de grapes 'uz
gethered, de knots begun ter straighten out'n Henry's ha'r; en w'en de
leaves begin ter fall, Henry's ha'r 'mence' ter drap out; en when de
vimes 'uz bar', Henry's head wuz baller'n it wuz in de spring, en he
begin ter git ole en stiff in de j'ints ag'in, en paid no mo' 'tention
ter de gals dyoin' er de whole winter. En nex' spring, w'en he rub de
sap on ag'in, he got young ag'in, en so soopl en libely dat none er de
young niggers on de plantation couldn' jump, ner dance, ner hoe ez much
cotton ez Henry. But in de fall er de year his grapes 'mence' ter
straighten out, en his j'ints ter git stiff, en his ha'r drap off, en
de rheumatic begin ter wrestle wid 'im.
“Now, ef you'd 'a' knowed ole Mars Dugal' McAdoo, you'd 'a' knowed
dat it ha' ter be a mighty rainy day when he couldn' fine sump'n fer
his niggers ter do, en it ha' ter be a mighty little hole he could n'
crawl thoo, en ha' ter be a monst'us cloudy night when a dollar git by
him in de dahkness; en w'en he see how Henry git young in de spring en
ole in de fall, he 'lowed ter hisse'f ez how he could make mo' money
out'n Henry dan by wukkin' him in de cotton- fiel'. 'Long de nex'
spring, atter de sap 'mence' ter rise, en Henry 'n'int 'is head en
sta'ted fer ter git young en soopl, Mars Dugal' up 'n tuk Henry ter
town, en sole 'im fer fifteen hunder' dollars. Co'se de man w'at bought
Henry didn' know nuffin 'bout de goopher, en Mars Dugal' didn' see no
'casion fer ter tell 'im. Long to'ds de fall, w'en de sap went down,
Henry begin ter git ole akin same ez yuzhal, en his noo marster begin
ter git sheered les'n he gwine ter lose his fifteen-hunder'-dollar
nigger. He sent fer a mighty fine doctor, but de med'cine didn' 'pear
ter do no good; de goopher had a good holt. Henry tole de doctor 'bout
de goopher, but de doctor des laff at 'im.
“One day in de winter Mars Dugal' went ter town, en wuz santerin'
'long de Main Street, when who should he meet but Henry's noo marster.
Dey said 'Hoddy,' en Mars Dugal' ax 'im ter hab a seegyar; en atter dey
run on awhile 'bout de craps en de weather, Mars Dugal' ax 'im, sorter
keerless, like ez ef he des thought of it,—
“ 'How you like de nigger I sole you las' spring?'
“Henry's marster shuck his head en knock de ashes off'n his seegyar.
“ 'Spec' I made a bad bahgin when I bought dat nigger. Henry done
good wuk all de summer, but sence de fall set in he 'pears ter be
sorter pinin' away. Dey ain' nuffin pertickler de matter wid 'im—
leastways de doctor say so—'cep'n' a tech er de rheumatiz; but his
ha'r is all fell out, en ef he don't pick up his strenk mighty soon, I
spec' I'm gwine ter lose 'im.'
“Dey smoked on awhile, en bimeby ole mars say, 'Well, a bahgin's a
bahgin, but you en me is good fren's, en I doan wan' ter see you lose
all de money you paid fer dat nigger; en ef w'at you say is so, en I
ain't 'sputin' it, he ain't wuf much now. I 'spec's you wukked him too
he'd dis summer, er e'se de swamps down here don't agree wid de
san'-hill nigger. So you des lemme know, en ef he gits any wusser I'll
be willin' ter gib yer five hund'ed dollars fer 'im, en take my chances
on his livin'.'
“Sho 'nuff, when Henry begun ter draw up wid de rheumatiz en it look
like he gwine ter die fer sho, his noo marster sen' fer Mars Dugal', en
Mars Dugal' gin him what he promus, en brung Henry home ag'in. He tuk
good keer uv 'im dyoin' er de winter,—give 'im w'iskey ter rub his
rheumatiz, en terbacker ter smoke, en all he want ter eat,—'caze a
nigger w'at he could make a thousan' dollars a year off'n didn' grow on
eve'y huckleberry bush.
“Nex' spring, w'en de sap ris en Henry's ha'r commence' ter sprout,
Mars Dugal' sole 'im ag'in, down in Robeson County dis time; en he kep'
dat sellin' business up fer five year er mo'. Henry nebber say nuffin
'bout de goopher ter his noo marsters, 'caze he know he gwine ter be
tuk good keer uv de nex' winter, w'en Mars Dugal' buy him back. En Mars
Dugal' made 'nuff money off'n Henry ter buy anudder plantation ober on
“But 'long 'bout de een' er dat five year dey come a stranger ter
stop at de plantation. De fus' day he 'uz dere he went out wid Mars
Dugal' en spent all de mawnin' lookin' ober de vimya'd, en atter dinner
dey spent all de evenin' playin' kya'ds. De niggers soon 'skiver' dat
he wuz a Yankee, en dat he come down ter Norf C'lina fer ter l'arn de
w'ite folks how to raise grapes en make wine. He promus Mars Dugal' he
c'd make de grapevimes b'ar twice't ez many grapes, en dat de noo
winepress he wuz a-sellin' would make mo' d'n twice't ez many gallons
er wine. En ole Mars Dugal' des drunk it all in, des 'peared ter be
bewitch' wid dat Yankee. W'en de darkies see dat Yankee runnin' 'roun'
de vimya'd en diggin' under de grapevimes, dey shuk dere heads, en
'lowed dat dey feared Mars Dugal' losin' his min'. Mars Dugal' had all
de dirt dug away fum under de roots er all de scuppernon' vimes, an'
let 'em stan' dat away fer a week er mo'. Den dat Yankee made de
niggers fix up a mixtry er lime en ashes en manyo, en po' it 'roun' de
roots er de grapevimes. Den he 'vise Mars Dugal' fer ter trim de vimes
close't, en Mars Dugal' tuck 'n done eve'ything de Yankee tole him ter
do. Dyoin' all er dis time, mind yer, dis yer Yankee wuz libbin' off'n
de fat er de lan', at de big house, en playin' kya'ds wid Mars Dugal'
eve'y night; en dey say Mars Dugal'los' mo'n a thousan' dollars dyoin'
er de week dat Yankee wuz a-ruinin' de grapevimes.
“W'en de sap ris nex' spring, ole Henry 'n'inted his head ez yuzhal,
en his ha'r 'mence' ter grow des de same ez it done eve'y year. De
scuppernon' vimes growed monst's fas', en de leaves wuz greener en
thicker den dey eber be'n dyoin' my rememb'ance; en Henry's ha'r growed
out thicker den eber, en he 'peared ter git younger 'n younger, en
soopler 'n soopler; en seein' ez he wuz sho't er han's dat spring,
havin' tuk in consid'able noo groun', Mars Dugal' 'cluded he wouldn'
sell Henry 'tel he git de crap in en de cotton chop'. So he kep' Henry
on de plantation.
“But 'long 'bout time fer de grapes ter come on de scuppernon'
vimes, dey 'peared ter come a change ober 'em; de leaves withered en
swivel' up, en de young grapes turn' yaller, en bimeby eve'ybody on de
plantation could see dat de whole vimya'd wuz dyin'. Mars Dugal' tuk'n
water de vimes en done all he could, but 't wa'n' no use: dat Yankee
had done bus' de watermillyum. One time de vimes picked up a bit, en
Mars Dugal' 'lowed dey wuz gwine ter come out ag'in; but dat Yankee
done dug too close under de roots, en prune de branches too close ter
de vime, en all dat lime en ashes done burn' de life out'n de vimes, en
dey des kep' a-with'in' en a-swivelin'.
“All dis time de goopher wuz a-wukkin'. When de vimes sta'ted ter
wither, Henry 'mence' ter complain er his rheumatiz; en when de leaves
begin ter dry up, his ha'r'mence' ter drap out. When de vimes fresh' up
a bit, Henry'd git peart ag'in, en when de vimes wither' ag'in, Henry'd
git ole ag'in, en des kep' gittin' mo' en mo' fitten fer nufffin; he
des pined away, en pined away, en fine'ly tuk ter his cabin; en when de
big vime whar he got de sap ter 'n'int his head withered en turned
yaller en died, Henry died too,—des went out
sorter like a cannel. Dey didn't 'pear ter be nuffin de matter wid
'im, 'cep'n' de rheumatiz, but his strenk des dwinel' away 'tel he
didn' hab ernuff lef' ter draw his bref. De goopher had got de under
bolt, en th'owed Henry dat time fer good en all.
“Mars Dugal' tuk on might'ly 'bout losin' his vimes en his nigger in
de same year; en he swo' dat ef he could git holt er dat Yankee he'd
wear 'im ter a frazzle, en den chaw up de frazzle; en he'd done it,
too, for Mars Dugal' 'uz a monst'us brash man w'en he once git started.
He sot de vimya'd out ober ag'in, but it wuz th'ee er fo' year befo' de
vimes got ter b'arin' any scuppernon's.
“W'en de wah broke out, Mars Dugal' raise' a comp'ny, en went off
ter fight de Yankees. He say he wuz mighty glad dat wah come, en he des
want ter kill a Yankee fer eve'y dollar he los' 'long er dat
grape-raisin' Yankee. En I 'spec' he would 'a' done it, too, ef de
Yankees hadn' s'picioned sump'n en killed him fus'. Atter de s'render
ole miss move' ter town, de niggers all scattered 'way fum de
plantation, en de vimya'd ain' be'n cultervated sence.”
“Is that story true?” asked Annie doubtfully, but seriously, as the
old man concluded his narrative.
“It's des ez true ez I'm a-settin' here, miss. Dey's a easy way ter
prove it: I kin lead de way right ter Henry's grave ober yander in de
plantation buryin'- groun'. En I tell yer w'at, marster, I wouldn'
'vise you to buy dis yer ole vimya'd, 'caze de goopher's on it yit, en
dey ain' no tellin' w'en it's gwine ter crap out.”
“But I thought you said all the old; vines died.”
“Dey did 'pear ter die, but a few un 'em come out ag'in, en is mixed
in 'mongs' de yuthers. I ain' skeered ter eat de grapes, 'caze I knows
de old vimes fum de noo ones; but wid strangers dey ain' no tellin'
w'at mought happen. I wouldn' 'vise yer ter buy dis vimya'd.”
I bought the vineyard, nevertheless, and it has been for a long time
in a thriving condition, and is often referred to by the local press as
a striking illustration of the opportunities open to Northern capital
in the development of Southern industries. The luscious scuppernong
holds first rank among our grapes, though we cultivate a great many
other varieties, and our income from grapes packed and shipped to the
Northern markets is quite considerable. I have not noticed any
developments of the goopher in the vineyard, although I have a mild
suspicion that our colored assistants do not suffer from want of grapes
during the season.
I found, when I bought the vineyard, that Uncle Julius had occupied
a cabin on the place for many years, and derived a respectable revenue
from the product of the neglected grapevines. This, doubtless,
accounted for his advice to me not to buy the vineyard, though whether
it inspired the goopher story I am unable to state. I believe, however,
that the wages I paid him for his services as coachman, for I gave him
employment in that capacity, were more than an equivalent for anything
he lost by the sale of the vineyard.
ON the northeast corner of my vineyard in central North Carolina,
and fronting on the Lumberton plank-road, there stood a small frame
house, of the simplest construction. It was built of pine lumber, and
contained but one room, to which one window gave light and one door
admission. Its weather-beaten sides revealed a virgin innocence of
paint. Against one end of the house, and occupying half its width,
there stood a huge brick chimney: the crumbling mortar had left large
cracks between the bricks; the bricks themselves had begun to scale off
in large flakes, leaving the chimney sprinkled with unsightly blotches.
These evidences of decay were but partially concealed by a creeping
vine, which extended its slender branches hither and thither in an
ambitious but futile attempt to cover the whole chimney. The wooden
shutter, which had once protected the unglazed window, had fallen from
its hinges, and lay rotting in the rank grass and jimson-weeds beneath.
This building, I learned when I bought the place, had been used as a
schoolhouse for several years prior to the breaking out of the war,
since which time it had remained unoccupied, save when some stray cow
or vagrant hog had sought shelter within its walls from the chill rains
and nipping winds of winter.
One day my wife requested me to build her a new kitchen. The house
erected by us, when we first came to live upon the vineyard, contained
a very conveniently arranged kitchen; but for some occult reason my
wife wanted a kitchen in the back yard, apart from the dwelling-house,
after the usual Southern fashion. Of course I had to build it.
To save expense, I decided to tear down the old schoolhouse, and use
the lumber, which was in a good state of preservation, in the
construction of the new kitchen. Before demolishing the old house,
however, I made an estimate of the amount of material contained in it,
and found that I would have to buy several hundred feet of lumber
additional, in order to build the new kitchen according to my wife's
One morning old Julius McAdoo, our colored coachman, harnessed the
gray mare to the rockaway, and drove my wife and me over to the sawmill
from which I meant to order the new lumber. We drove down the long lane
which led from our house to the plank-road; following the plank-road
for about a mile, we turned into a road running through the forest and
across the swamp to the sawmill beyond. Our carriage jolted over the
half-rotted corduroy road which traversed the swamp, and then climbed
the long hill leading to the sawmill. When we reached the mill, the
foreman had gone over to a neighboring farmhouse, probably to smoke or
gossip, and we were compelled to await his return before we could
transact our business. We remained seated in the carriage, a few rods
from the mill, and watched the leisurely movements of the mill-hands.
We had not waited long before a huge pine log was placed in position,
the machinery of the mill was set in motion, and the circular saw began
to eat its way through the log, with a loud whir which resounded
throughout the vicinity of the mill. The sound rose and fell in a sort
of rhythmic cadence, which, heard from where we sat, was not
unpleasing, and not loud enough to prevent conversation. When the saw
started on its second journey through the log, Julius observed, in a
lugubrious tone, and with a perceptible shudder:—
“Ugh! but dat des do cuddle my blood!”
“What 's the matter, Uncle Julius?” inquired my wife, who is of a
very sympathetic turn of mind. “Does the noise affect your nerves?”
“No, Mis' Annie,” replied the old man, with emotion, “I ain'
narvous; but dat saw, a-cuttin' en grindin' thoo dat stick er timber,
en moanin', en groanin,' en sweekin', kyars my 'memb'ance back ter ole
times, en' min's me er po' Sandy.” The pathetic intonation with which
he lengthened out the “po' Sandy” touched a responsive chord in our own
“And who was poor Sandy?” asked my wife, who takes a deep interest
in the stories of plantation life which she hears from the lips of the
older colored people. Some of these stories are quaintly humorous;
others wildly extravagant, revealing the Oriental cast of the negro's
imagination; while others, poured freely into the sympathetic ear of a
Northern-bred woman, disclose many a tragic incident of the darker side
“Sandy,” said Join reply to my wife's question, “was a nigger w'at
useter b'long ter ole Mars Marrabo McSwayne. Mars Marrabo's place wuz
on de yuther side'n de swamp, right nex' ter yo place. Sandy wuz a
monst'us good nigger, en could do so many things erbout a plantation,
en alluz 'ten' ter his wuk so well, dat w'en Mars Marrabo's chilluns
growed up en married off, dey all un 'em wanted dey daddy fer ter gin
em Sandy fer a weddin' present. But Mars Marrabo knowed de res' wouldn'
be satisfied ef he gin Sandy ter a'er one un 'em; so w'en dey wuz all
done married, he fix it by 'lowin' one er his chilluns ter take Sandy
fer a mont' er so, en den ernudder for a mont' er so, en so on dat
erway tel dey had all had 'im de same lenk er time; en den dey would
all take him roun' ag'in, 'cep'n' oncet in a w'ile w'en Mars Marrabo
would len' 'im ter some er his yuther kinfolks 'roun' de country, w'en
dey wuz short er han's; tel bimeby it got so Sandy didn' hardly knowed
whar he wuz gwine ter stay fum one week's een' ter de yuther.
“One time w'en Sandy wuz lent out ez yushal, a spekilater come
erlong wid a lot er niggers, en Mars Marrabo swap' Sandy's wife off fer
a noo 'oman. W'en Sandy come back, Mars Marrabo gin 'im a dollar, en
'lowed he wuz monst'us sorry fer ter break up de fambly, but de
spekilater had gin 'im big boot, en times wuz hard en money skase, en
so he wuz bleedst ter make de trade. Sandy tuk on some 'bout losin' his
wife, but he soon seed dey want no use cryin' ober spilt merlasses; en
bein' ez he lacked de looks er de noo 'oman, he tuk up wid her atter
she'd be'n on de plantation a mont' er so.
“Sandy en his noo wife got on mighty well tergedder, en de niggers
all 'mence' ter talk about how lovin' dey wuz. W'en Tenie wuz tuk sick
oncet, Sandy useter set up all night wid 'er, en den go ter wuk in de
mawnin' des lack he had his reg'lar sleep; en Tenie would 'a' done
anythin' in de worl' for her Sandy.
“Sandy en Tenie hadn' be'n libbin' tergedder fer mo' d'n two mont's
befo' Mars Marrabo's old uncle, w'at libbed down in Robeson County,
sent up ter fin' out ef Mars Marrabo couldn' len' 'im er hire 'im a
good han' fer a mont' er so. Sandy's marster wuz one er dese yer
easy-gwine folks w'at wanter please eve'ybody, en he says yas, he could
len' 'im Sandy. En Mars Marrabo tol' Sandy fer ter git ready ter go
down ter Robeson nex' day, fer ter stay a mont' er so.
“It wuz monst'us hard on Sandy fer ter take 'im 'way fum Tenie. It
wuz so fur down ter Robeson dat he didn' hab no chance er comin' back
ter see her tel de time wuz up; he wouldn' 'a' mine comin' ten er
fifteen mile at night ter see Tenie, but Mars Marrabo's uncle's
plantation wuz mo' d'n forty mile off. Sandy wuz mighty sad en cas'
down atter w'at Mars Marrabo tol' 'im, en he says ter Tenie, sezee:—
“ 'I'm gittin' monst'us ti'ed er dish yer gwine roun' so much. Here
I is lent ter Mars Jeems dis mont', en I got ter do so-en-so; en ter
Mars Archie de nex' mont', en I got ter do so-en-so; den I got ter go
ter Miss Jinnie's: en hit's Sandy dis en Sandy dat, en Sandy yer en
Sandy dere, tel it 'pears ter me I ain' got no home, ner no marster,
ner no mistiss, ner no nuffin. I can't eben keep a wife: my yuther ole
'oman wuz sol' away widout my gittin' a chance fer ter tell her
good-by; en now I got ter go off en leab you, Tenie, en I dunno whe'r
I'm eber gwine ter see you ag'in er no I wisht I wuz a tree, er a
stump, er a rock, er sump'n w'at could stay on de plantation fer a
“Atter Sandy got thoo talkin', Tenie didn' say naer word, but des
sot dere by de fier, studyin' en studyin'. Bimeby she up'n' says:—
“'Sandy, is I eber tol' you I wuz a cunjuh 'oman?'
“Co'se Sandy hadn' nebber dremp' er nuffin lack dat, en he made a
great 'miration w'en he hear w'at Tenie say. Bimeby Tenie went on:—
“ 'I ain' goophered nobody, ner done no cunjuh wuk, fer fifteen year
er mo'; en w'en I got religion I made up my mine I wouldn' wuk no mo'
goopher. But dey is some things I doan b'lieve it's no sin fer ter do;
en ef you doan wanter be sent roun' fum pillar ter pos', en ef you doan
wanter go down ter Robeson, I kin fix things so you won't haf ter. Ef
you'll des say de word, I kin turn you ter w'ateber you wanter be, en
you kin stay right whar you wanter, ez long ez you mineter.'
“Sandy say he dean keer; he 's willin' fer ter do anythin' fer ter
stay close ter Tenie. Den Tenie ax 'im ef he doan wanter be turnt inter
“Sandy say, 'No, de dogs mought git atter me.'
“ 'Shill I turn you ter a wolf?' sez Tenie.
“ 'No, eve'ybody's skeered er a wolf, en I doan want nobody ter be
skeered er me.'
“ 'Shill I turn you ter a mawkin'bird?'
“ 'No, a hawk mought ketch me. I wanter be turnt inter sump'n
w'at'll stay in one place.'
“ 'I kin turn you ter a tree,' sez Tenie. 'You won't hate no mouf
ner years, but I kin turn you back oncet in a w'ile, so you kin git
sump'n ter eat, en hear w'at's gwine on.'
“Well, Sandy say dat'll do. En so Tenie tuk 'im down by de aidge er
de swamp, not fur fum de quarters, en turnt 'im inter a big pine-tree,
en sot 'im out 'mongs' some yuther trees. En de nex' mawnin', ez some
er de fiel' han's wuz gwine long dere, dey seed a tree w'at dey didn'
'member er habbin' seed befo'; it wuz monst'us quare, en dey wuz
bleedst ter 'low dat dey hadn' 'membered right, er e'se one er de
saplin's had be'n growin' monst'us fas'.
“W'en Mars Marrabo 'skiver' dat Sandy wuz gone, he 'lowed Sandy had
runned away. He got de dogs out, but de last place dey could track
Sandy ter wuz de foot er dat pine-tree. En dere de dogs stood en
barked, en bayed, en pawed at de tree, en tried ter climb up on it; en
w'en dey wuz tuk roun' thoo de swamp ter look fer de scent, dey broke
loose en made fer dat tree ag'in. It wuz de beatenis' thing de w'ite
folks eber hearn of, en Mars Marrabo 'lowed dat Sandy must 'a' clim' up
on de tree en jump' off on a mule er sump'n, en rid fur ernuff fer ter
spile de scent. Mars Marrabo wanted ter 'cuse some er de yuther niggers
er heppin' Sandy off, but dey all 'nied it ter de las'; en eve'ybody
knowed Tenie sot too much sto' by Sandy fer ter he'p 'im run away whar
she couldn' nebber see 'im no mo'.
“W'en Sandy had be'n gone long ernuff fer folks ter think he done
got clean away, Tenie useter go down ter de woods at night en turn 'im
back, en den dey'd slip up ter de cabin en set by de fire en talk. But
dey ha' ter be monst'us keerful, er e'se somebody would 'a' seed 'em,
en dat would 'a' spile' de whole thing; so Tenie alluz turns Sandy back
in de mawnin' early, befo' anybody wuz a-stirrin'.
“But Sandy didn' git erlong widout his trials en tribberlations. One
day a woodpecker come erlong en 'mence' ter peck at de tree; en de nex'
time Sandy wuz turns back he had a little roun' hole in his arm, des
lack a sharp stick be'n stuck in it. Atter dat Tenie sot a sparrer-hawk
fer ter watch de tree; en w'en de woodpecker come erlong nex' mawnin'
fer ter finish his nes', he got gobble' up mos'' fo' he stuck his bill
in de bark.
“Nudder time, Mars Marrabo sent a nigger out in de woods fer ter
chop tuppentime boxes. De man chop a box in dish yer tree, en hack' de
bark up two er th'ee feet, fer ter let de tuppentime run. De nex' time
Sandy wuz turnt back he had a big skyar on his lef' leg, des lack it
be'n skunt; en it tuk Tenie nigh 'bout all night fer ter fix a mixtry
ter kyo it up. Atter dat, Tenie sot a hawnet for ter watch de tree; en
w'en de nigger come back ag'in fer ter cut ernudder box on de yuther
side'n de tree, de hawnet stung 'im so hard dat de ax slip en cut his
foot nigh 'bout off.
“W'en Tenie see so many things happenin' ter de tree, she 'cluded
she'd ha' ter turn Sandy ter sump'n e'se; en atter studyin' de matter
ober, en talkin' wid Sandy one ebenin', she made up her mine fer ter
fix up a goopher mixtry w'at would turn herse'f en Sandy ter foxes, er
sump'n, so dey could run away en go some'rs whar dey could be free en
lib lack w'ite folks.
“But dey ain' no tellin' w'at's gwine ter happen in dis worl'. Tenie
had got de night sot fer her en Sandy ter run away, w'en dat ve'y day
one er Mars Marrabo's sons rid up ter de big house in his buggy, en say
his wife wuz monst'us sick, en he want his mammy ter len' 'im a 'oman
fer ter nuss his wife. Tenie's mistiss say sen' Tenie; she wuz a good
nuss. Young mars wuz in a tarrible hurry fer ter git back home. Tenie
wuz washin' at de big house dat day, en her mistiss say she should go
right 'long wid her young marster. Tenie tried ter make some 'scuse fer
ter git away en hide 'tel night, w'en she would have eve'ything fix' up
fer her en Sandy; she say she wanter go ter her cabin fer ter git her
bonnet. Her mistiss say it doan matter 'bout de bonnet; her
head-hankcher wuz good ernuff. Den Tenie say she wanter git her bes'
frock; her mistiss say no, she doan need no mo' frock, en w'en dat one
got dirty she could git a clean one whar she wuz gwine. So Tenie had
ter git in de buggy en go 'long wid young Mars Dunkin ter his
plantation, w'ich wuz mo' d'n twenty mile away; en dey wa'n't no chance
er her seein' Sandy no mo' 'tel she come back home. De po' gal felt
monst'us bad 'bout de way things wuz gwine on, en she knowed Sandy mus'
be a wond'rin' why she didn' come en turn 'im back no mo'.
“W'iles Tenie wuz away nussin' young Mars Dunkin's wife, Mars
Marrabo tuk a notion fer ter buil' 'im a noo kitchen; en bein' ez he
had lots er timber on his place, he begun ter look 'roun' fer a tree
ter hab de lumber sawed out'n. En I dunno how it come to be so, but he
happen fer ter hit on de ve'y tree w'at Sandy wuz turns inter. Tenie
wuz gone, en dey wa'n't nobody ner nuffin fer ter watch de tree.
“De two men w'at cut de tree down say dey nebber had sech a time wid
a tree befo': dey axes would glansh off, en didn' 'pear ter make no
progress thoo de wood; en of all de creakin', en shakin', en wobblin'
you eber see, dat tree done it w'en it commence' ter fall. It wuz de
“W'en dey got de tree all trim' up, dey chain it up ter a timber
waggin, en start fer de sawmill. But dey had a hard time gittin' de log
dere: fus' dey got stuck in de mud w'en dey wuz gwine crosst de swamp,
en it wuz two er th'ee hours befo' dey could git out. W'en dey start'
on ag'in, de chain kep' a-comin' loose, en dey had ter keep a-stoppin'
en a-stoppin' fer ter hitch de log up ag'in. W'en dey commence' ter
climb de hill ter de sawmill, de log broke loose, en roll down de hill
en in 'mongs' de trees, en hit tuk nigh 'bout half a day mo' ter git it
haul' up ter de sawmill.
“De nex' mawnin' atter de day de tree wuz haul' ter de sawmill,
Tenie come home. W'en she got back ter her cabin, de fus' thing she
done wuz ter run down ter de woods en see how Sandy wuz gittin' on.
W'en she seed de stump standin' dere, wid de sap runnin' out'n it, en
de limbs layin' scattered roun', she nigh 'bout went out'n her min'.
She run ter her cabin, en got her goopher mixtry, en den follered de
track er de timber waggin ter de sawmill. She knowed Sandy couldn' lib
mo' d'n a minute er so ef she turns him back, fer he wuz all chop' up
so he 'd 'a' be'n bleedst ter die. But she wanted ter turn 'im back
long ernuff fer ter 'splain ter 'im dat she hadn' went off a-purpose,
en lef' 'im ter be chop' down en sawed up. She didn' want Sandy ter die
wid no hard feelin's to'ds her.
“De han's at de sawmill had des got de big log on de kerridge, en
wuz startin' up de saw, w'en dey seed a 'oman runnin' up de hill, all
out er bref, cryin' en gwine on des lack she wuz plumb 'stracted. It
wuz Tenie; she come right inter de mill, en th'owed herse'f on de log,
right in front er de saw, a-hollerin' en cryin' ter her Sandy ter
fergib her, en not ter think hard er her, fer it wa'n't no fault er
hern. Den Tenie 'membered de tree didn' hab no years, en she wuz
gittin' ready fer ter wuk her goopher mixtry so ez ter turn Sandy back,
w'en de mill-hands kotch holt er her en tied her arms wid a rope, en
fasten' her to one er de posts in de sawmill; en den dey started de saw
up ag'in, en cut de log up inter bo'ds en scantlin's right befo' her
eyes. But it wuz mighty hard wuk; fer of all de sweekin', en moanin',
en groanin', dat log done it w'iles de saw wuz a-cuttin' thoo it. De
saw wuz one er dese yer ole-timey, up-en-down saws, en hit tuk longer
dem days ter saw a log 'en it do now. Dey greased de saw, but dat didn'
stop de fuss; hit kep' right on, tel fin'ly dey got de log all sawed
“W'en de oberseah w'at run de sawmill come fum breakfas', de han's
up en tell him 'bout de crazy 'oman—ez dey s'posed she wuz—w'at had
come runnin' in de sawmill, a-hollerin' en gwine on, en tried ter th'ow
herse'f befo' de saw. En de oberseah sent two er th'ee er de han's fer
ter take Tenie back ter her marster's plantation.
“Tenie 'peared ter be out'n her min' fer a long time, en her marster
ha' ter lock her up in de smoke-'ouse 'tel she got ober her spells.
Mars Marrabo wuz monst'us mad, en hit would 'a' made yo' flesh crawl
fer ter hear him cuss, 'caze he say de spekilater w'at he got Tenie fum
had fooled 'im by wukkin' a crazy 'oman off on him. W'iles Tenie wuz
lock up in de smoke-'ouse, Mars Marrabo tuk 'n' haul de lumber fum de
sawmill, en put up his noo kitchen.
“W'en Tenie got quiet' down, so she could be 'lowed ter go 'roun' de
plantation, she up'n 'tole her marster all erbout Sandy en de
pine-tree; en w'en Mars Marrabo hearn it, he 'lowed she wuz de wuss
'stracted nigger he eber hearn of. He didn' know w'at ter do wid Tenie:
fus' he thought he'd put her in de po'house; but fin'ly, seein' ez she
didn' do no harm ter nobody ner nuffin, but des went 'roun' moanin', en
groanin', en shakin' her head, he 'cluded ter let her stay on de
plantation en nuss de little nigger chilluns w'en dey mammies wuz ter
wuk in de cotton-fiel'.
“De noo kitchen Mars Marrabo buil' wuz n' much use, fer it hadn'
be'n put up long befo' de niggers 'mence' ter notice quare things
erbout it. Dey could hear sump'n moanin' en groanin' 'bout de kitchen
in de night-time, en w'en de win' would blow dey could hear sump'n
a-hollerin' en sweekin' lack it wuz in great pain en sufferin'. En it
got so atter a w'ile dat it wuz all Mars Marrabo's wife could do ter
git a 'oman ter stay in de kitchen in de daytime long ernuff ter do de
cookin'; en dey wa'n't naer nigger on de plantation w'at wouldn' rudder
take forty dan ter go 'bout dat kitchen after dark,—dat is, 'cep'n'
Tenie; she didn' 'pear ter min' de ha'nts. She useter slip 'roun' at
night, en set on de kitchen steps, en lean up agin de do'jamb, en run
on ter herse'f wid some kine er foolishness w'at nobody couldn' make
out; for Mars Marrabo had th'eaten' ter sen' her off'n de plantation ef
she say anythin ter any er de yuther niggers 'bout de pine-tree. But
somehow er 'rudder de niggers foun' out all erbout it, en dey all
knowed de kitchen wuz ha'nted by Sandy's sperrit. En bimeby hit got so
Mars Marrabo's wife herse'f wuz skeered ter go out in de yard after
“W'en it come ter cat, Mars Marrabo tuk en to' de kitchen down, en
use' de lumber fer ter buil' dat ole school'ouse w'at you er talkie'
'bout pullin' down. De school'ouse wuz n' use' 'cep'n' in de daytime,
en on dark nights folks gwine long de road would hear quare soun's en
see quare things. Po' ole Tenie useter go down dere at night, en wander
'roun' de school'ouse; en de niggers all 'lowed she went fer ter talk
wid Sandy's sperrit. En one winter mawnin', w'en one er de boys went
ter school early fer ter start de fire, w'at should he fin' but po' ole
Tenie, layin' on de flo', stiff, en col', en dead. Dere didn' 'pear ter
be nuffin pertickler de matter wid her,—she had des grieve' herse'f
ter def fer her Sandy. Mars Marrabo did'n shed no tears. He thought
Tenie wuz crazy, en dey wa'n't no tellin' w'at she mought do nex'; en
dey ain' much room in dis worl' fer crazy w'ite folks, let 'lone a
“Hit wa'n't long atter dat befo' Mars Marrabo sol' a piece er his
track er lan' ter Mars Dugal' McAdoo,— my ole marster,—en
dat's how de ole school'ouse happen to be on yo' place. W'en de wah
broke out, de school stop', en de ole school'ouse be'n stannin' empty
ever sence,—dat is, 'cep'n' fer de ha'nts. En folks sez dat de ole
school'ouse, er any yuther house w'at got any er dat lumber in it w'at
wuz sawed out'n de tree w'at Sandy wuz turnt inter, is gwine ter be
ha'nted tel de las' piece er plank is rotted en crumble' inter dus'.”
Annie had listened to this gruesome narrative with strained
“What a system it was,” she exclaimed, when Julius had finished,
“under which such things were possible!”
“What things?” I asked, in amazement. “Are you seriously considering
the possibility of a man's being turned into a tree?”
“Oh, no,” she replied quickly, “not that;” and then she murmured
absently, and with a dim look in her fine eyes, “Poor Tenie!”
We ordered the lumber, and returned home. That night, after we had
gone to bed, and my wife had to all appearances been sound asleep for
half an hour, she startled me out of an incipient doze by exclaiming
“John, I don't believe I want my new kitchen built out of the lumber
in that old schoolhouse.”
“You wouldn't for a moment allow yourself,” I replied, with some
asperity, “to be influenced by that absurdly impossible yarn which
Julius was spinning to-day?”
“I know the story is absurd,” she replied dreamily, “and I am not so
silly as to believe it. But I don't think I should ever be able to take
any pleasure in that kitchen if it were built out of that lumber.
Besides, I think the kitchen would look better and last longer if the
lumber were all new.”
Of course she had her way. I bought the new lumber, though not
without grumbling. A week or two later I was called away from home on
business. On my return, after an absence of several days, my wife
remarked to me,—
“John, there has been a split in the Sandy Run Colored Baptist
Church, on the temperance question. About half the members have come
out from the main body, and set up for themselves. Uncle Julius is one
of the seceders, and he came to me yesterday and asked if they might
not hold their meetings in the old schoolhouse for the present.”
“I hope you didn't let the old rascal have it,” I returned, with
some warmth. I had just received a bill for the new lumber I had
“Well,” she replied, “I couldn't refuse him the use of the house for
so good a purpose.”
“And I'll venture to say,” I continued, “that you subscribed
something toward the support of the new church?”
She did not attempt to deny it.
“What are they going to do about the ghost?” I asked, somewhat
curious to know how Julius would get around this obstacle.
“Oh,” replied Annie, “Uncle Julius says that ghosts never disturb
religious worship, but that if Sandy's spirit should happen to
stray into meeting by mistake, no doubt the preaching would do it
MARS JEEMS'S NIGHTMARE
WE found old Julius very useful when we moved to our new residence.
He had a thorough knowledge of the neighborhood, was familiar with the
roads and the watercourses, knew the qualities of the various soils and
what they would produce, and where the best hunting and fishing were to
be had. He was a marvelous hand in the management of horses and dogs,
with whose mental processes he manifested a greater familiarity than
mere use would seem to account for, though it was doubtless due to the
simplicity of a life that had kept him close to nature. Toward my tract
of land and the things that were on it—the creeks, the swamps, the
hills, the meadows, the stones, the trees—he maintained a peculiar
personal attitude, that might be called predial rather than
proprietary. He had been accustomed, until long after middle life, to
look upon himself as the property of another. When this relation was no
longer possible, owing to the war, and to his master's death and the
dispersion of the family, he had been unable to break off entirely the
mental habits of a lifetime, but had attached himself to the old
plantation, of which he seemed to consider himself an appurtenance. We
found him useful in many ways and entertaining in others, and my wife
and I took quite a fancy to him.
Shortly after we became established in our home on the sand-hills,
Julius brought up to the house one day a colored boy of about
seventeen, whom he introduced as his grandson, and for whom he
solicited employment. I was not favorably impressed by the youth's
appearance,—quite the contrary, in fact; but mainly to please the old
man I hired Tom—his name was Tom—to help about the stables, weed
the garden, cut wood and bring water, and in general to make himself
useful about the outdoor work of the household.
My first impression of Tom proved to be correct. He turned out to be
very trifling, and I was much annoyed by his laziness, his
carelessness, and his apparent lack of any sense of responsibility. I
kept him longer than I should, on Julius's account, hoping that he
might improve; but he seemed to grow worse instead of better, and when
I finally reached the limit of my patience, I discharged him.
“I am sorry, Julius,” I said to the old man; “I should have liked to
oblige you by keeping him; but I can't stand Tom any longer. He is
“Yas, suh,” replied Julius, with a deep sigh and a long shake of the
head, “I knows he ain' much account, en dey ain' much 'pen'ence ter be
put on 'im. But I wuz hopin' dat you mought make some 'lowance fuh a'
ign'ant young nigger, suh, en gib 'im one mo' chance.”
But I had hardened my heart. I had always been too easily imposed
upon, and had suffered too much from this weakness. I determined to be
firm as a rock in this instance.
“No, Julius,” I rejoined decidedly, “it is impossible. I gave him
more than a fair trial, and he simply won't do.”
When my wife and I set out for our drive in the cool of the evening,
—afternoon is “evening” in Southern parlance,—one of the servants
put into the rockaway two large earthenware jugs. Our drive was to be
down through the swamp to the mineral spring at the foot of the
sand-hills beyond. The water of this spring was strongly impregnated
with sulphur and iron, and, while not particularly agreeable of smell
or taste, was used by us, in moderation, for sanitary reasons.
When we reached the spring, we found a man engaged in cleaning it
out. In answer to an inquiry he said that if we would wait five or ten
minutes, his task would be finished and the spring in such condition
that we could fill our jugs. We might have driven on, and come back by
way of the spring, but there was a bad stretch of road beyond, and we
concluded to remain where we were until the spring should be ready. We
were in a cool and shady place. It was often necessary to wait awhile
in North Carolina; and our Northern energy had not been entirely proof
against the influences of climate and local custom.
While we sat there, a man came suddenly around a turn of the road
ahead of us. I recognized in him a neighbor with whom I had exchanged
formal calls. He was driving a horse, apparently a high-spirited
creature, possessing, so far as I could see at a glance, the marks of
good temper and good breeding; the gentleman, I had heard it suggested,
was slightly deficient in both. The horse was rearing and plunging, and
the man was beating him furiously with a buggy-whip. When he saw us, he
flushed a fiery red, and, as he passed, held the reins with one hand,
at some risk to his safety, lifted his hat, and bowed somewhat
constrainedly as the horse darted by us, still panting and snorting
“He looks as though he were ashamed of himself,” I observed.
“I'm sure he ought to be,” exclaimed my wife indignantly. “I think
there is no worse sin and no more disgraceful thing than cruelty.”
“I quite agree with you,” I assented.
“A man w'at 'buses his hoss is gwine ter be ha'd on de folks w'at
wuks fer 'im,” remarked Julius. “Ef young Mistah McLean doan min',
he'll hab a bad dream one er dese days, des lack 'is grandaddy had way
back yander, long yeahs befo' de wah.”
“What was it about Mr. McLean's dream, Julius?” I asked. The man had
not yet finished cleaning the spring, and we might as well put in time
listening to Julius as in any other way. We had found some of his
plantation tales quite interesting.
“Mars Jeems McLean,” said Julius, “wuz de grandaddy er dis yer
gent'eman w'at is des gone by us beatin' his hoss. He had a big
plantation en a heap er niggers. Mars Jeems wuz a ha'd man, en monst'us
stric' wid his han's. Eber sence he growed up he nebber 'peared ter hab
no feelin' fer nobody. W'en his daddy, ole Mars John McLean, died, de
plantation en all de niggers fell ter young Mars Jeems. He had be'n bad
'nuff befo', but it wa'n't long atterwa'ds 'tel he got so dey wuz no
use in libbin' at all ef you ha' ter lib roun' Mars Jeems. His niggers
wuz bleedzd ter slabe fum daylight ter da'k, w'iles yuther folks's did
n' hefter wuk 'ceptn' fum sun ter sun; en dey didn' git no mo' ter eat
den dey oughter, en dat de coa'ses' kin'. Dey wa'n't 'lowed ter sing,
ner dance, ner play de banjo w'en Mars Jeems wuz roun' de place; fer
Mars Jeems say he wouldn' hab no sech gwines-on,—said he bought his
han's ter wuk, en not ter play, en w'en night come dey mus' sleep en
res', so dey'd be ready ter git up soon in de mawnin' en go ter dey wuk
fresh en strong.
“Mars Jeems didn' 'low no co'tin' er juneseyin' roun' his
plantation,—said he wanted his niggers ter put dey min's on dey wuk,
en not be wastin' dey time wid no sech foolis'ness. En he wouldn' let
his han's git married,—said he wuz n' raisin' niggers, but wuz
raisin' cotton. En w'eneber any er de boys en gals 'ud 'mence ter git
sweet on one ernudder, he'd sell one er de yuther un 'em, er sen' 'em
way down in Robeson County ter his yuther plantation, whar dey couldn'
nebber see one ernudder.
“Ef any er de niggers eber complained, dey got fo'ty; so co'se dey
didn' many un 'em complain. But dey didn' lack it, des de same, en
nobody couldn' blame 'em, fer dey had a ha'd time. Mars Jeems didn'
make no 'lowance fer nachul bawn laz'ness, ner sickness, ner trouble in
de min', ner nuffin; he wuz des gwine ter git so much wuk outer eve'y
han', er know de reason w'y.
“Dey wuz one time de niggers 'lowed fer a spell, dat Mars Jeems
mought git bettah. He tuk a lackin' ter Mars Marrabo McSwayne's oldes'
gal, Miss Libbie, en useter go ober dere eve'y day er eve'y ebenin', en
folks said dey wuz gwine ter git married sho'. But it 'pears dat Miss
Libbie heared 'bout de gwines-on on Mars Jeems's plantation, en she des
'lowed she couldn' trus' herse'f wid no sech a man; dat he mought git
so useter 'busin' his niggers dat he'd 'mence ter 'buse his wife atter
he got useter habbin' her roun' de house. So she 'clared she wuzn'
gwine ter hab nuffin mo' ter do wid young Mars Jeems.
“De niggers wuz all monst'us sorry w'en de match wuz bust' up, fer
now Mars Jeems got wusser'n he wuz befo' he sta'ted sweethea'tin'. De
time he useter spen' co'tin' Miss Libbie he put in findin' fault wid de
niggers, en all his bad feelin's 'ca'se Miss Libbie th'owed 'im ober
he'peared ter try ter wuk off on de po' niggers.
“W'iles Mars Jeems wuz co'tin' Miss Libbie, two er de han's on de
plantation had got ter settin' a heap er sto' by one ernudder. One un
'em wuz name' Solomon, en de yuther wuz a 'oman w'at wukked in de fiel'
'long er 'im—I fe'git dat 'oman's name, but it doan 'mount ter much
in de tale nohow. Now, whuther 'ca'se Mars Jeems wuz so tuk up wid his
own junesey 1 dat he didn' paid no
'tention fer a w'ile ter w'at wuz gwine on 'twix' Solomon en his
junesey, er whuther his own co'tin' made 'im kin' er easy on de co'tin'
in de qua'ters, dey ain' no tellin'. But dey's one thing sho', dat w'en
Miss Libbie th'owed 'im ober, he foun' out 'bout Solomon en de gal
monst'us quick, en gun Solomon fo'ty, en sont de gal down ter de
Robeson County plantation, en tol' all de niggers ef he ketch 'em at
any mo' sech foolishness, he wuz gwine ter skin 'em alibe en tan dey
hides befo' dey ve'y eyes. Co'se
he wouldn' 'a' done it, but he mought 'a' made things wusser'n dey
wuz. So you kin 'magine dey wa'n't much lub-makin' in de qua'ters fer a
“Mars Jeems useter go down ter de yuther plantation sometimes fer a
week er mo', en so he had ter hate a oberseah ter look atter his wuk
w'iles he 'uz gone. Mars Jeems's oberseah wuz a po' w'ite man name'
Nick Johnson,—de niggers called 'im Mars Johnson ter his face, but
behin' his back dey useter call 'im Ole Nick, en de name suited 'im ter
a T. He wuz wusser'n Mars Jeems ever da'ed ter be. Co'se de darkies
didn' lack de way Mars Jeems used 'em, but he wuz de marster, en had a
right ter do ez he please'; but dis yer Ole Nick wa'n't nuffin but a
po' buckrah, en all de niggers 'spised 'im ez much ez dey hated 'im,
fer he didn' own nobody, en wa'n't no bettah 'n a nigger, fer in dem
days any 'spectable pusson would ruther be a nigger dan a po' w'ite
“Now, atter Solomon's gal had be'n sont away, he kep' feelin' mo' en
mo' bad erbout it, 'tel fin'lly he 'lowed he wuz gwine ter see ef dey
couldn' be sump'n done fer ter git 'er back, en ter make Mars Jeems
treat de darkies bettah. So he tuk a peck er co'n out'n de ba'n one
night, en went ober ter see ole Aun' Peggy, de free-nigger cunjuh 'oman
down by de Wim'l'ton Road.
“Aun' Peggy listen' ter 'is tale, en ax' him some queshtuns, en den
tol' 'im she'd wuk her roots, en see w'at dey'd say 'bout it, en
ter-morrer night he sh'd come back ag'in en fetch ernudder peck er
co'n, en den she'd hab sump'n fer ter tell 'im.
“So Solomon went back de nex' night, en sho' 'nuff, Aun' Peggy tol'
'im w'at ter do. She gun 'im some stuff w'at look' lack it be'n made by
poundin' up some roots en yarbs wid a pestle in a mo'tar.
“ 'Dis yer stuff,' sez she, 'is monst'us pow'ful kin' er goopher.
You take dis home, en gin it ter de cook, ef you kin trus' her, en tell
her fer ter put it in yo' marster's soup de fus' cloudy day he hab okra
soup fer dinnah. Min' you follers de d'rections.'
“ 'It ain' gwineter p'isen 'im, is it?' Solomon, gittin' kin' er
skeered; fer Solomon wuz a good man, en didn' want ter do nobody no
“ 'Oh, no,' sez ole Aun' Peggy, 'it's gwine ter do 'im good, but
he'll hab a monst'us bad dream fus'. A mont' fum now you come down heah
en lemme know how de goopher is wukkin'. Fer I ain' done much er dis
kin' er cunj'in' er late yeahs, en I has ter kinder keep track un it
ter see dat it doan 'complish no mo'd'n I 'lows fer it ter do. En I has
ter be kinder keerful 'bout cunj'in w'ite folks; so be sho' en lemme
know, w'ateber you do, des w'at is gwine on roun' de plantation.'
“So Solomon say all right, en tuk de goopher mixtry up ter de big
house en gun it ter de cook, en tol' her fer ter put it in Mars Jeems's
soup de fus' cloudy day she hab okra soup fer dinnah. It happen' dat de
ve'y nex' day wuz a cloudy day, en so de cook made okra soup fer Mars
Jeems's dinnah, en put de powder Solomon gun her inter de soup, en made
de soup rale good, so Mars Jeems eat a whole lot of it en 'peered ter
“De nex' mawnin' Mars Jeems tol' de oberseah he wuz gwine 'way on
some bizness, en den he wuz gwine ter his yuther plantation, down in
Robeson County, en he didn' 'spec' he'd be back fer a mont' er so.
“ 'But,' sezee, 'I wants you ter run dis yer plantation fer all it's
wuth. Dese yer niggers is gittin' monst'us triflin' en lazy en
keerless, en dey ain' no 'pen'ence ter be put in 'em. I wants dat
stop', en w'iles I'm gone erway I wants de 'spenses cut 'way down en a
heap mo' wuk done. Fac', I wants dis yer plantation ter make a reco'd
dat'll show w'at kinder oberseah you is.'
“Ole Nick didn' said nuffin but 'Yas, suh,' but de way he kinder
grin' ter hisse'f en show' his big yaller teef, en snap' de rawhide he
useter kyar roun' wid 'im, made col' chills run up and down de backbone
er dem niggers w'at heared Mars Jeems a-talkin'. En dat night dey wuz
mo'nin' en groanin' down in de qua'ters, fer de niggers all knowed w'at
“So, sho' 'nuff, Mars Jeems went erway nex' mawnin', en de trouble
begun. Mars Johnson sta'ted off de ve'y fus' day fer ter see w'at he
could hab ter show Mars Jeems w'en he come back. He made de tasks
bigger en de rashuns littler, en w'en de niggers had wukked all day,
he'd fin' sump'n fer 'em ter do roun' de ba'n er som'ers atter da'k,
fer ter keep 'em busy a' hour er so befo' dey went ter sleep.
“About th'ee er fo' days atter Mars Jeems went erway, young Mars
Dunkin McSwayne rode up ter de big house one day wid a nigger settin'
behin' 'im in de buggy, tied ter de seat, en ax' ef Mars Jeems wuz
home. Mars Johnson wuz at de house, and he say no.
“ 'Well,' sez Mars Dunkin, sezee, 'I fotch dis nigger ober ter
Mistah McLean fer ter pay a bet I made wid 'im las' week w'en we wuz
playin' kya'ds te'gedder. I bet 'im a nigger man, en heah's one I
reckon'll fill de bill. He wuz tuk up de yuther day fer a stray nigger,
en he couldn' gib no 'count er hisse'f, en so he wuz sol' at oction, en
I bought 'im. He's kinder brash, but I knows yo' powers, Mistah
Johnson, en I reckon ef anybody kin make 'im toe de ma'k, you is de
“Mars Johnson grin' one er dem grins w'at show' all his snaggle
teef, en make de niggers 'low he look lack de ole debbil, en sezee ter
“ 'I reckon you kin trus' me, Mistah Dunkin, fer ter tame any nigger
wuz eber bawn. De nigger doan lib w'at I can't take down in 'bout fo'
“Well, Ole Nick had 'is han's full long er dat noo nigger; en w'iles
de res' er de darkies wuz sorry fer de po' man, dey 'lowed he kep' Mars
Johnson so busy dat dey got along better'n dey'd 'a' done ef de noo
nigger had nebber come.
“De fus' thing dat happen', Mars Johnson sez ter dis yer noo man:—
“ 'W'at's yo' name, Sambo?'
“ 'My name ain' Sambo,' 'spon' de noo nigger.
“ 'Did I ax you w'at yo' name wa'n't?' sez Mars Johnson. 'You wants
ter be pa'tic'lar how you talks ter me. Now, w'at is yo' name, en whar
did you come fum?'
“ 'I dunno my name,' sez de nigger, 'en I doan 'member whar I come
fum. My head is all kin' er mix' up.'
“ 'Yas,' sez Mars Johnson, 'I reckon I'll ha' ter gib you sump'n fer
ter cl'ar yo' head. At de same time, it'll l'arn you some manners, en
atter dis mebbe you'll say “suh” w'en you speaks ter me.'
“Well, Mars Johnson haul' off wid his rawhide en hit de noo nigger
once. De noo man look' at Mars Johnson fer a minute ez ef he didn' know
w'at ter make er dis yer kin' er l'arnin'. But w'en de oberseah raise'
his w'ip ter hit him ag'in, de noo nigger des haul' off en made fer
Mars Johnson, en ef some er de yuther niggers hadn' stop' 'im, it
'peered ez ef he mought 'a' made it wa'm fer Ole Nick dere fer a w'ile.
But de oberseah made de yuther niggers he'p tie de noo nigger up, en
den gun 'im fo'ty, wid a dozen er so th'owed in fer good measure, fer
Ole Nick wuz nebber stingy wid dem kin' er rashuns. De nigger went on
at a tarrable rate, des lack a wil' man, but co'se he wuz bleedzd ter
take his med'cine, fer he wuz tied up en couldn' he'p hisse'f.
Mars Johnson lock' de noo nigger up in de ba'n, en didn' gib 'im
nuffin ter eat fer a day er so, 'tel he got 'im kin'er quiet' down, en
den he tu'nt 'im loose en put 'im ter wuk. De nigger 'lowed he wa'n't
useter wukkin', en wouldn' wuk, en Mars Johnson gun 'im anudder fo'ty
fer laziness en impidence, en let 'im fas' a day er so mo', en den put
'im ter wuk ag'in. De nigger went ter wuk, but didn' 'pear ter know how
ter han'le a hoe. It tuk des 'bout half de oberseah's time lookin'
atter 'im, en dat po' nigger got mo' lashin's en cussin's en cuffin's
dan any fo'yuthers on de plantation. He didn' mix' wid ner talk much
ter de res' er de niggers, en couldn' 'peer ter git it th'oo his min'
dat he wuz a slabe en had ter wuk en min' de w'ite folks, spite er de
fac' dat Ole Nick gun 'im a lesson eve'y day. En fin'lly Mars Johnson
'lowed dat he couldn' do nuffin wid 'im; dat ef he wuz his nigger, he'd
break his sperrit er break 'is neck, one er de yuther. But co'se he wuz
only sont ober on trial, en ez he didn' gib sat'sfaction, en he had n'
heared fum Mars Jeems 'bout w'en he wuz comin' back; en ez he wuz
feared he'd git mad some time er 'nuther en kill de nigger befo' he
knowed it, he 'lowed he'd better sen' 'im back whar he come fum. So he
tied 'im up en sont 'im back ter Mars Dunkin.
“Now, Mars Dunkin McSwayne wuz one er dese yer easy-gwine gent'emen
w'at didn' lack ter hate no trouble wid niggers er nobody e'se, en he
knowed ef Mars Ole Nick couldn' git 'long wid dis nigger, nobody could.
So he tuk de nigger ter town dat same day, en sol' 'im ter a trader
w'at wuz gittin' up a gang er lackly niggers fer ter ship off on de
steamboat ter go down de ribber ter Wim'l'ton en fum dere ter Noo
“De nex' day atter de noo man had be'n sont away, Solomon wuz
wukkin' in de cotton-fiel', en w'en he got ter de fence nex' ter de
woods, at de een' er de row, who sh'd he see on de yuther side but ole
Aun' Peggy. She beckon' ter 'im,—de oberseah wuz down on de yuther
side er de fiel',—en sez she:—
“ 'W'y ain' you done come en 'po'ted ter me lack I tol' you?'
“ 'W'y, law! Aun' Peggy,' sez Solomon, 'dey ain' nuffin ter 'po't.
Mars Jeems went away de day atter we gun 'im de goopher mixtry, en we
ain' seed hide ner hair un 'im sence, en co'se we doan know nuffin
'bout w'at 'fec' it had on im.'
“ 'I doan keer nuffin 'bout yo' Mars Jeems now; w'at I wants ter
know is w'at is be'n gwine on 'mongs' de niggers. Has you be'n gittin'
'long any better on de plantation?'
“ 'No, Aun' Peggy, we be'n gittin' 'long wusser. Mars Johnson is
stric'er 'n he eber wuz befo', en de po' niggers doan ha'dly git time
ter draw dey bref, en dey 'lows dey mought des ez well be dead ez
“ 'Uh huh!' sez Aun' Peggy, sez she, 'I tol' you dat 'uz monst'us
pow'ful goopher, en its wuk doan 'pear all at once.'
“ 'Long ez we had dat noo nigger heah,' Solomon went on, 'he kep'
Mars Johnson busy pa't er de time; but now he's gone erway, I s'pose de
res' un us'll ketch it wusser'n eber.'
“ 'W'at's gone wid de noo nigger?' sez Aun' Peggy, rale quick,
battin' her eyes en straight'nin' up.
” 'Ole Nick done sont 'im back ter Mars Dunkin, who had fotch 'im
heah fer ter pay a gamblin' debt ter Mars Jeems,' sez Solomon, 'en I
heahs Mars Dunkin has sol' 'im ter a nigger-trader up in Patesville,
w'at's gwine ter ship 'im off wid a gang ter-morrer.'
“Ole Aun' Peggy 'peared ter git rale stirred up w'en Solomon tol'
'er dat, en sez she, shakin' her stick at 'im:—
“ 'W'y didn' you come en tell me 'bout dis noo nigger bein' sol'
erway? Didn' you promus me, ef I'd gib you dat goopher, you'd come en
'po't ter me 'bout all w'at wuz gwine on on dis plantation? Co'se I
could 'a' foun' out fer myse'f, but I'pended on yo' tellin' me, en now
by not doin' it I's feared you gwine spile my cunj'in'. You come down
ter my house ter-night en do w'at I tells you, er I'll put a spell on
you dat'll make yo' ha'r fall out so you'll be bal', en yo' eyes drap
out so you can't see, en yo teef fall out so you can't eat, en yo'
years grow up so you can't heah. W'en you is foolin' wid a cunjuh 'oman
lack me, you got ter min' yo' P's en Q's er dey'll be trouble sho'
“So co'se Solomon went down ter Aun' Peggy's dat night, en she gun
'im a roasted sweet'n' 'tater.
“ 'You take dis yer sweet'n' 'tater,' sez she,—'I done goophered
it 'speshly fer dat noo nigger, so you better not eat it yo'se'f er
you'll wush you hadn',—en slip off ter town, en fin' dat strange man,
en gib 'im dis yer sweet'n' 'tater. He mus' eat it befo' mawnin', sho',
ef he doan wanter be sol' erway ter Noo Orleens.'
“ 'But s'posen de patteroles ketch me, Aun' Peggy, w'at I gwine ter
do?' sez Solomon.
“ 'De patteroles ain' gwine tech you, but ef you doan fin' dat
nigger, I'm gwine git you, en you'll fin' me wusser'n de
patteroles. Des hol' on a minute, en I'll sprinkle you wid some er dis
mixtry out'n dis yer bottle, so de patteroles can't see you, en you kin
rub yo' feet wid some er dis yer grease out'n dis go'd, so you kin run
fas', en rub some un it on yo' eyes so you kin see in de da'k; en den
you mus' fin' dat noo nigger en gib 'im dis yer 'tater, er you gwine
ter hab mo' trouble on yo' han's 'n you eber had befo' in yo' life er
eber will hab sence.'
“So Solomon tuk de sweet'n' 'tater en sta'ted up de road fas' ez he
could go, en befo' long he retch' town. He went right 'long by de
patteroles, en dey didn' 'pear ter notice 'im, en bimeby he foun' whar
de strange nigger was kep', en he walked right pas' de gyard at de do'
en foun' 'im. De nigger couldn' see 'im, ob co'se, en he couldn' 'a'
seed de nigger in de da'k, ef it hadn' be'n fer de stuff Aun' Peggy gun
'im ter rub on 'is eyes. De nigger wuz layin' in a co'nder, 'sleep, en
Solomon des slip' up ter 'im, en hilt dat sweet'n' 'tater' fo' de
nigger's nose, en he des nach'ly retch' up wid his han', en tuk de
'tater en eat it in his sleep, widout knowin' it. W'en Solomon seed
he'd done eat de 'tater, he went back en tol' Aun' Peggy, en den went
home ter his cabin ter sleep, 'way 'long 'bout two o'clock in de
“De nex' day wuz Sunday, en so de niggers had a little time ter
deyse'ves. Solomon wuz kinder 'sturb' in his min' thinkin' 'bout his
junesey w'at 'uz gone away, en wond'rin' w'at Aun' Peggy had ter do wid
dat noo nigger; en he had sa'ntered up in de woods so's ter be by
hisse'f a little, en at de same time ter look atter a rabbit-trap he 'd
sot down in de aidge er de swamp, w'en who sh'd he see stan'in' unner a
tree but a w'ite man.
“Solomon didn' knowed de w'ite man at fus', 'tel de w'ite man spoke
up ter 'im.
“ 'Is dat you, Solomon?' sezee.
“Den Solomon reco'nized de voice.
“ 'Fer de Lawd's sake, Mars Jeems! is dat you?'
“ 'Yes, Solomon,' sez his marster, 'dis is me, er w'at's lef' er
“It wasn't no wonder Solomon hadn' knowed Mars Jeems at fus', fer he
wuz dress' lack a po' w'ite man, en wuz barefooted, en look' monst'us
pale en peaked, ez ef he'd des come th'oo a ha'd spell er sickness.
“ 'You er lookin' kinder po'ly, Mars Jeems,' sez Solomon. 'Is you
be'n sick, suh?'
“ 'No, Solomon,' sez Mars Jeems, shakin' his head, en speakin'
sorter slow en sad, 'I ain' be'n sick, but I's had a monst'us bad
dream,—fac', a reg'lar, nach'ul nightmare. But tell me how things has
be'n gwine on up ter de plantation sence I be'n gone, Solomon.'
“So Solomon up en tol' 'im 'bout de craps, en 'bout de hosses en de
mules, en 'bout de cows en de hawgs. En w'en he 'mence' ter tell 'bout
de noo nigger, Mars Jeems prick' up 'is yeahs en listen', en eve'y now
en den he'd say, 'Uh huh! uh huh!' en nod 'is head. En bimeby, w'en
he'd ax' Solomon some mo' queshtuns, he sez, sezee:—
“ 'Now, Solomon, I doan want you ter say a wo'd ter nobody 'bout
meetin' me heah, but I wants you ter slip up ter de house, en fetch me
some clo's en some shoes,—I fergot ter tell you dat a man rob' me
back yander on de road en swap' clo's wid me widout axin' me whuther er
no,—but you neenter say nuffin 'bout dat, nuther. You go en fetch me
some clo's heah, so nobody won't see you, en keep yo' mouf shet, en
I'll gib you a dollah.'
“Solomon wuz so 'stonish' he lack ter fell ober in his tracks, w'en
Mars Jeems promus' ter gib 'im a dollah. Dey su't'nly wuz a change come
ober Mars Jeems, w'en he offer' one er his niggers dat much money.
Solomon 'mence' ter 'spec' dat Aun' Peggy's cunj'ation had be'n wukkin'
“Solomon fotch Mars Jeems some clo's en shoes, en dat same eb'nin'
Mars Jeems 'peared at de house, en let on lack he des dat minute got
home fum Robeson County. Mars Johnson was all ready ter talk ter'im,
but Mars Jeems sont 'im wo'd he wa'n't feelin've'y well dat night, en
he'd see 'im ter-morrer.
“So nex' mawnin' atter breakfus' Mars Jeems sont fer de oberseah, en
ax' 'im fer ter gib 'count er his styoa'dship. Ole Nick tol' Mars Jeems
how much wuk be'n done, en got de books en showed 'im how much money
be'n save'. Den Mars Jeems ax' 'im how de darkies be'n behabin', en
Mars Johnson say dey be'n behabin' good, most un 'em, en dem w'at didn'
behabe good at fus' change dey conduc' atter he got holt un 'em a time
“ 'All,' sezee, ''cep'n' de noo nigger Mistah Dunkin fotch ober heah
en lef' on trial, w'iles you wuz gone.'
“ 'Oh, yas,' 'lows Mars Jeems, 'tell me all 'bout dat noo nigger. I
heared a little 'bout dat quare noo nigger las' night, en it wuz des
too redik'lus. Tell me all 'bout dat noo nigger.'
“So seein' Mars Jeems so good-nachu'd 'bout it, Mars Johnson up en
tol' 'im how he tied up de noo han' de fus' day en gun 'im fo'ty 'ca'se
he wouldn tell 'im 'is name.
“ 'Ha, ha, ha!' sez Mars Jeems, laffin' fit ter kill, 'but dat is
too funny fer any use. Tell me some mo' 'bout dat noo nigger.'
“So Mars Johnson went on en tol' 'im how he had ter starbe de noo
nigger 'fo' he could make 'im take holt er a hoe.
“ 'Dat wuz de beatinis' notion fer a nigger,' sez Mars Jeems,
'puttin' on airs, des lack he wuz a w'ite man! En I reckon you didn' do
nuffin ter 'im?'
“ 'Oh, no, suh,' sez de oberseah, grinnin' lack a cheesy-cat, 'I
didn' do nuffin but take de hide off'n 'im.'
“Mars Jeems lafft en lafft, 'tel it 'peared lack he wuz des gwine
ter bu'st. 'Tell me some mo' 'bout dat noo nig ger, oh, tell
me some mo'. Dat noo nigger int'rusts me, he do, en dat is a fac'.'
“Mars Johnson didn' quite un'erstan' w'y Mars Jeems sh'd make sich a
great 'miration 'bout de noo nigger, but co'se he want' ter please de
gent'eman w'at hi'ed 'im, en so he 'splain' all 'bout how many times he
had ter cowhide de noo nigger, en how he made 'im do tasks twicet ez
big ez some er de yuther han's, en how he'd chain 'im up in de ba'n at
night en feed 'im on co'n-bread en water.
“ 'Oh! but you is a monst'us good oberseah; you is de bes' oberseah
in dis county, Mistah Johnson,' sez Mars Jeems, w'en de oberseah got
th'oo wid his tale; 'en dey ain' nebber be'n no nigger- breaker lack
you roun' heah befo'. En you desarbes great credit fer sendin' dat
nigger 'way befo' you sp'ilt 'im fer de market. Fac', you is sech a
monst'us good oberseah, en you is got dis yer plantation in sech fine
shape, dat I reckon I doan need you no mo'. You is got dese yer darkies
so well train' dat I 'spec' I kin run em' myse'f fum dis time on. But I
does wush you had 'a' hilt on ter dat noo nigger 'tel I got home, fer
I'd 'a' lack ter 'a' seed 'im, I su't'nly should.'
“De oberseah woz so 'stonish' he didn' ha'dly know w'at ter say, but
fin'lly he ax' Mars Jeems ef he wouldn' gib 'im a riccommen' fer ter
git ernudder place.
“ 'No, suh,' sez Mars Jeems, 'somehow er 'nuther I doan lack yo'
looks sence I come back dis time, en I'd much ruther you wouldn' stay
roun' heah. Fac', I's feared ef I'd meet you alone in de woods some
time, I mought wanter ha'm you. But layin' dat aside, I be'n lookin'
ober dese yer books er yo'n w'at you kep' w'iles I wuz 'way, en fer a
yeah er so back, en dere's some figgers w'at ain' des cl'ar ter me. I
ain' got no time fer ter talk 'bout 'em now, but I 'spec' befo' I
settles wid you fer dis las' mont', you better come up heah ter-morrer,
atter I's look' de books en 'counts ober some mo', en den we 'll
straighten ou' business all up.'
“Mars Jeems 'lowed atterwa'ds dat he wuz des shootin' in de da'k
w'en he said dat 'bout de books, but howsomeber, Mars Nick Johnson lef'
dat naberhood 'twix' de nex' two suns, en nobody roun' dere nebber seed
hide ner hair un 'im sence. En all de darkies t'ank de Lawd, en 'lowed
it wuz a good riddance er bad rubbage.
“But all dem things I done tol' you ain' nuffin 'side'n de change
w'at come ober Mars Jeems fum dat time on. Aun' Peggy's goopher had
made a noo man un 'im enti'ely. De nex' day atter he come back, he tol'
de han's dey neenter wuk on'y fum sun ter sun, en he cut dey tasks down
so dey didn' nobody hate ter stan' ober 'em wid a rawhide er a hick'ry.
En he 'lowed ef de niggers want ter hab a dance in de big ba'n any
Sad'day night, dey mought hab it. En bimeby, w'en Solomon seed how good
Mars Jeems wuz, he ax' 'im ef he would n please sen' down ter de yuther
plantation fer his junesey. Mars Jeems say su't'nly, en gun Solomon a
pass en a note ter de oberseah on de yuther plantation, en sont Solomon
down ter Robeson County wid a hoss en buggy fer ter fetch his junesey
back. W'en de niggers see how fine Mars Jeems gwine treat 'em, dey all
tuk ter sweethea'tin' en juneseyin' en singin' en dancin', en eight er
ten couples got married, en bimeby eve'ybody 'mence' ter say Mars Jeems
McLean got a finer plantation, en slicker-lookin' niggers, en dat he
'uz makin' mo' cotton en co'n, den any yuther gent'eman in de county.
En Mars Jeems's own junesey, Miss Libbie, heared 'bout de noo gwines-on
on Mars Jeems's plantation, en she change' her min' 'bout Mars Jeems en
tuk 'im back ag'in, en 'fo' long dey had a fine weddin', en all de
darkies had a big feas', en dey wuz fiddlin' en dancin' en funnin' en
frolic'in' fum sundown 'tel mawnin'.”
“And they all lived happy ever after,” I said, as the old man
reached a full stop.
“Yas, suh,” he said, interpreting my remarks as a question, “dey
did. Solomon useter say,” he added, “dat Aun' Peggy's goopher had turnt
Mars Jeems ter a nigger, en dat dat noo han' wuz Mars Jeems hisse'f.
But co'se Solomon didn' das' ter let on 'bout w'at he 'spicioned, en
ole Aun' Peggy would 'a' 'nied it ef she had be'n ax', fer she'd 'a'
got in trouble sho', ef it 'uz knowed she'd be'n cunj'in' de w'ite
“Dis yer tale goes ter show,” concluded Julius sententiously, as the
man came up and announced that the spring was ready for us to get
water, “dat w'ite folks w'at is so ha'd en stric', en doan make no
'lowance fer po' ign'ant niggers w'at ain' had no chanst ter l'arn, is
li'ble ter hab bad dreams, ter say de leas', en dat dem w'at is kin' en
good ter po' people is sho' ter prosper en git long in de worl'.”
“That is a very strange story, Uncle Julius,” observed my wife,
smiling, “and Solomon's explanation is quite improbable.”
“Yes, Julius,” said I, “that was powerful goopher. I am glad, too,
that you told us the moral of the story; it might have escaped us
otherwise. By the way, did you make that up all by yourself?”
The old man's face assumed an injured look, expressive more of
sorrow than of anger, and shaking his head he replied:—
“No, suh, I heared dat tale befo' you er Mis' Annie dere wuz bawn,
suh. My mammy tol' me dat tale w'en I wa'n't mo'd'n knee-high ter a
I drove to town next morning, on some business, and did not return
until noon; and after dinner I had to visit a neighbor, and did not get
back until supper-time. I was smoking a cigar on the back piazza in the
early evening, when I saw a familiar figure carrying a bucket of water
to the barn. I called my wife.
“My dear,” I said severely, “what is that rascal doing here? I
thought I discharged him yesterday for good and all.”
“Oh, yes,” she answered, “I forgot to tell you. He was hanging round
the place all the morning, and looking so down in the mouth, that I
told him that if he would try to do better, we would give him one more
chance. He seems so grateful, and so really in earnest in his promises
of amendment, that I'm sure you 'll not regret taking him back.”
I was seriously enough annoyed to let my cigar go out. I did not
share my wife's rose-colored hopes in regard to Tom; but as I did not
wish the servants to think there was any conflict of authority in the
household, I let the boy stay.
THE CONJURER'S REVENGE
SUNDAY was sometimes a rather dull day at our place. In the morning,
when the weather was pleasant, my wife and I would drive to town, a
distance of about five miles, to attend the church of our choice. The
afternoons we spent at home, for the most part, occupying ourselves
with the newspapers and magazines, and the contents of a fairly good
library. We had a piano in the house, on which my wife played with
skill and feeling. I possessed a passable baritone voice, and could
accompany myself indifferently well when my wife was not by to assist
me. When these resources failed us, we were apt to find it a little
One Sunday afternoon in early spring,—the balmy spring of North
Carolina, when the air is in that ideal balance between heat and cold
where one wishes it could always remain,—my wife and I were seated on
the front piazza, she wearily but conscientiously ploughing through a
missionary report, while I followed the impossible career of the blonde
heroine of a rudimentary novel. I had thrown the book aside in disgust,
when I saw Julius coming through the yard, under the spreading elms,
which were already in full leaf. He wore his Sunday clothes, and
advanced with a dignity of movement quite different from his week-day
“Have a seat, Julius,” I said, pointing to an empty rocking-chair.
“No, thanky, boss, I'll des set here on de top step.”
“Oh, no, Uncle Julius,” exclaimed Annie, “take this chair. You will
find it much more comfortable.”
The old man grinned in appreciation of her solicitude, and seated
himself somewhat awkwardly.
“Julius,” I remarked, “I am thinking of setting out scuppernong
vines on that sand-hill where the three persimmon-trees are; and while
I'm working there, I think I'll plant watermelons between the vines,
and get a little something to pay for my first year's work. The new
railroad will be finished by the middle of summer, and I can ship the
melons North, and get a good price for them.”
“Ef you er gwine ter hab any mo' ploughin' ter do,” replied Julius,
“I 'spec' you'll ha' ter buy ernudder creetur, 'ca'se hit's much ez dem
hosses kin do ter 'ten' ter de wuk dey got now.”
“Yes, I had thought of that. I think I'll get a mule; a mule can do
more work, and doesn't require as much attention as a horse.”
“I wouldn' 'vise you ter buy no mule,” remarked Julius, with a shake
of his head.
“Well, you may 'low hit's all foolis'ness, but ef I wuz in yo'
place, I wouldn' buy no mule.”
“But that isn't a reason; what objection have you to a mule?”
“Fac' is,” continued the old man, in a serious tone, “I doan lack
ter dribe a mule. I's alluz afeared I mought be imposin' on some human
creetur; eve'y time I cuts a mule wid a hick'ry, 'pears ter me mos'
lackly I's cuttin' some er my own relations, er somebody e'se w'at
can't he'p deyse'ves.”
“What put such an absurd idea into your head?” I asked.
My question was followed by a short silence, during which Julius
seemed engaged in a mental struggle.
“I dunno ez hit's wuf w'ile ter tell you dis,” he said, at length.
“I doan ha'dly 'spec' fer you ter b'lieve it. Does you 'member dat
club-footed man w'at hilt de hoss fer you de yuther day w'en you was
gittin' out'n de rockaway down ter Mars Archie McMillan's sto'?”
“Yes, I believe I do remember seeing a club-footed man there.”
“Did you eber see a club-footed nigger befo' er sence?”
“No, I can't remember that I ever saw a club-footed colored man,” I
replied, after a moment's reflection.
“You en Mis' Annie wouldn' wanter b'lieve me, ef I wuz ter 'low dat
dat man was oncet a mule?”
“No,” I replied, “I don't think it very likely that you could make
us believe it.”
“Why, Uncle Julius!” said Annie severely, “what ridiculous
This reception of the old man's statement reduced him to silence,
and it required some diplomacy on my part to induce him to vouchsafe an
explanation. The prospect of a long, dull afternoon was not alluring,
and I was glad to have the monotony of Sabbath quiet relieved by a
“W'en I wuz a young man,” began Julius, when I had finally prevailed
upon him to tell us the story, “dat club-footed nigger—his name is
Primus—use' ter b'long ter ole Mars Jim McGee ober on de Lumbe'ton
plank-road. I use' ter go ober dere ter see a 'oman w'at libbed on de
plantation; dat 's how I come ter know all erbout it. Dis yer Primus
wuz de livelies' han' on de place, alluz a-dancin', en drinkin', en
runnin' roun', en singin', en pickin' de banjo; 'cep'n' once in a
w'ile, w'en he'd 'low he wa'n't treated right 'bout sump'n ernudder,
he'd git so sulky en stubborn dat de w'ite folks couldn' ha'dly do
nuffin wid 'im.
“It wuz 'gin' de rules fer any er de han's ter go 'way fum de
plantation at night; but Primus didn' min' de rules, en went w'en he
felt lack it; en de w'ite folks purten' lack dey didn' know it, fer
Primus was dange'ous w'en he got in dem stubborn spells, en dey'd
ruther not fool wid 'im.
“One night in de spring er de year, Primus slip' off fum de
plantation, en went down on de Wim'l'ton Road ter a dance gun by some
er de free niggers down dere. Dey wuz a fiddle, en a banjo, en a jug
gwine roun' on de outside, en Primus sung en dance' 'tel 'long 'bout
two o'clock in de mawnin', w'en he start' fer home. Ez he come erlong
back, he tuk a nigh-cut 'cross de cottonfiel's en 'long by de aidge er
de Min'al Spring Swamp, so ez ter git shet er de patteroles w'at rid up
en down de big road fer ter keep de darkies fum runnin' roun' nights.
Primus was sa'nt'rin' 'long, studyin' 'bout de good time he 'd had wid
de gals, w'en, ez he wuz gwine by a fence co'nder, w'at sh'd he heah
but sump'n grunt. He stopped a minute ter listen, en he heared sump'n
grunt ag'in. Den he went ober ter de fence whar he heard de fuss, en
dere, layin' in de fence co'nder, on a pile er pine straw, he seed a
fine, fat shote.
“Primus look' ha'd at de shote, en den sta'ted home. But somehow er
'rudder he couldn' git away fum dat shote; w'en he tuk one step
for'ards wid one foot, de yuther foot 'peared ter take two steps
back'ards, en so he kep' nachly gittin' closeter en closeter ter de
shote. It was de beatin'es' thing! De shote des 'peared ter cha'm
Primus, en fus' thing you know Primus foun' hisse'f 'way up de road wid
de shote on his back.
“Ef Primus had 'a' knowed whose shote dat wuz, he 'd 'a' manage' ter
git pas' it somehow er 'nudder. Ez it happen', de shote b'long ter a
cunjuh man w'at libbed down in de free-nigger sett'ement. Co'se de
cunjuh man didn' hab ter wuk his roots but a little w'ile 'fo' he foun'
out who tuk his shote, en den de trouble begun. One mawnin', a day er
so later, en befo' he got de shote eat up, Primus didn' go ter wuk w'en
de hawn blow, en w'en de oberseah wen' ter look fer him, dey wa' no
trace er Primus ter be 'skivered nowhar. W'en he didn' come back in a
day er so mo', eve'ybody on de plantation 'lowed he had runned erway.
His marster a'vertise' him in de papers, en offered a big reward fer
'im. De nigger-ketchers fotch out dey dogs, en track' 'im down ter de
aidge er de swamp, en den de scent gun out; en dat was de las' anybody
seed er Primus fer a long, long time.
“Two er th'ee weeks atter Primus disappear', his marster went ter
town one Sad'day. Mars Jim was stan'in' in front er Sandy Campbell's
bar-room, up by de ole wagon-ya'd, w'en a po' w'ite man fum down on de
Wim'l'ton Road come up ter 'im en ax' 'im, kinder keerless lack, ef he
didn' wanter buy a mule.
“ 'I dunno,' says Mars Jim; 'it 'pen's on de mule, en on de price.
Whar is de mule?'
“ 'Des 'roun' heah back er ole Tom McAllister's sto',' says de po'
“ 'I reckon I'll hab a look at de mule,' says Mars Jim, 'en ef he
suit me, I dunno but w'at I mought buy 'im.'
“So de po' w'ite man tuk Mars Jim 'roun' back er de sto', en dere
stood a monst'us fine mule. W'en de mule see Mars Jim, he gun a whinny,
des lack he knowed him befo'. Mars Jim look' at de mule, en de mule
'peared ter be soun' en strong. Mars Jim 'lowed dey 'peared ter be
sump'n fermilyus 'bout de mule's face, 'spesh'ly his eyes; but he hadn'
los' naer mule, en didn' hab no recommemb'ance er habin' seed de mule
befo'. He ax' de po' buckrah whar he got de mule, en de po' buckrah say
his brer raise' de mule down on Rockfish Creek. Mars Jim was a little
s'picious er seein' a po' w'ite man wid sech a fine creetur, but he
fin'lly 'greed ter gib de man fifty dollars fer de mule,—'bout ha'f
w'at a good mule was wuf dem days.
“He tied de mule behin' de buggy w'en he went home, en put 'im ter
ploughin' cotton de nex' day. De mule done mighty well fer th'ee er fo'
days, en den de niggers 'mence' ter notice some quare things erbout
him. Dey wuz a medder on de plantation whar dey use' ter put de hosses
en mules ter pastur'. Hit was fence' off fum de cornfiel' on one side,
but on de yuther side'n de pastur' was a terbacker-patch w'at wa'n't
fence' off, 'ca'se de beastisses doan none un 'em eat terbacker. Dey
doan know w'at's good! Terbacker is lack religion, de good Lawd made it
fer people, en dey ain' no yuther creetur w'at kin 'preciate it. De
darkies notice' dat de fus' thing de new mule done, w'en he was turnt
inter de pastur', wuz ter make fer de terbacker-patch. Co'se dey didn'
think nuffin un it, but nex' mawnin', w'en dey went ter ketch 'im, dey'
skivered dat he had eat up two whole rows er terbacker plants. Atter
dat dey had ter put a halter on 'im, en tie 'im ter a stake, er e'se
dey wouldn' 'a' been naer leaf er terbacker lef' in de patch.
“Ernudder day one er de han's, name' 'Dolphus, hitch' de mule up, en
dribe up here ter dis yer vimya'd,—dat wuz w'en ole Mars Dugal' own'
dis place. Mars Dugal' had kilt a yearlin', en de naber w'ite folks all
sont ober fer ter git some fraish beef, en Mars Jim had sont 'Dolphus
fer some too. Dey wuz a winepress in de ya'd whar 'Dolphus lef' de mule
a-stan'in', en right in front er de press dey wuz a tub er grape-juice,
des pressed out, en a little ter one side a bairl erbout half full er
wine w'at had be'n stan'in' two er th'ee days, en had begun ter git
sorter sha'p ter de tas'e. Dey wuz a couple er bo'ds on top er dis yer
bairl, wid a rock laid on 'em ter hol' 'em down. Ez I wuz a-sayin',
'Dolphus lef' de mule stan'in' in de ya'd, en went inter de smoke-house
fer ter git de beef. Bimeby, w'en he come out, he seed de mule
a-stagg'rin' 'bout de ya'd; en 'fo' 'Dolphus could git dere ter fin'
out w'at wuz de matter, de mule fell right ober on his side, en laid
dere des' lack he was dead.
“All de niggers 'bout de house run out dere fer ter see w'at wuz de
matter. Some say de mule had de colic; some say one thing en some
ernudder; 'tel bimeby one er de han's seed de top wuz off'n de bairl,
en run en looked in.
“ 'Fo' de Lawd!' he say, 'dat mule drunk! he be'n drinkin' de wine.'
En sho' 'nuff, de mule had pas' right by de tub er fraish grapejuice en
push' de kiver off'n de bairl, en drunk two er th'ee gallon er de wine
w'at had been stan'in' long ernough fer ter begin ter git sha'p.
“De darkies all made a great 'miration 'bout de mule gittin' drunk.
Dey never hadn' seed nuffin lack it in dey bawn days. Dey po'd water
ober de mule, en tried ter sober 'im up; but it wa'n't no use, en
'Dolphus had ter take de beef home on his back, en leabe de mule dere,
'tel he slep' off 'is spree.
“I doan 'member whe'r I tol' you er no, but w'en Primus disappear'
fum de plantation, he lef' a wife behin' 'im,—a monst'us good-lookin'
yeller gal, name' Sally. W'en Primus had be'n gone a mont' er so, Sally
'mence' fer ter git lonesome, en tuk up wid ernudder young man name'
Dan, w'at b'long' on de same plantation. One day dis yer Dan tuk de noo
mule out in de cotton-fiel' fer ter plough, en w'en dey wuz gwine 'long
de tu'n-row, who sh'd he meet but dis yer Sally. Dan look' roun' en he
didn' see de oberseah nowhar, so he stop' a minute fer ter run on wid
“ 'Hoddy, honey,' sezee. 'How you feelin' dis mawnin'?'
“ 'Fus rate,' 'spon' Sally.
“Dey wuz lookin' at one ernudder, en dey didn' naer one un 'em pay
no 'tention ter de mule, who had turnt 'is head 'roun' en wuz lookin'
at Sally ez ha'd ez he could, en stretchin' 'is neck en raisin' 'is
years, en whinnyin' kinder sof' ter hisse'f.
“ 'Yas, honey,' 'lows Dan, 'en you gwine ter feel fus' rate long ez
you sticks ter me. Fer I's a better man dan dat low-down runaway nigger
Primus dat you be'n wastin' yo' time wid.'
“Dan had let go de plough-handle, en had put his arm 'roun' Sally,
en wuz des gwine ter kiss her, w'en sump'n ketch' 'im by de scruff er
de neck en flung 'im 'way ober in de cotton-patch. W'en he pick'
'isse'f up, Sally had gone kitin' down de tu'n-row, en de mule wuz
stan'in' dere lookin' ez ca'm en peaceful ez a Sunday mawnin'.
“Fus' Dan had 'lowed it wuz de oberseah w'at had cotch' 'im wastin'
'is time. But dey wa'n't no oberseah in sight, so he 'cluded it must
'a' be'n de mule. So he pitch' inter de mule en lammed 'im ez ha'd ez
he could. De mule tuk it all, en 'peared ter be ez 'umble ez a mule
could be; but w'en dey wuz makin' de turn at de een' er de row, one er
de plough-lines got under de mule's hin' leg. Dan retch' down ter git
de line out, sorter keerless like, w'en de mule haul' off en kick him
clean ober de fence inter a briar-patch on de yuther side.
“Dan wuz mighty so' fum 'is woun's en scratches, en wuz laid up fer
two er th'ee days. One night de noo mule got out'n de pastur', en went
down to de quarters. Dan wuz layin' dere on his pallet, w'en he heard
sump'n bangin' erway at de side er his cabin. He raise' up on one
shoulder en look' roun', w'en w'at should he see but de noo mule's head
stickin' in de winder, wid his lips drawed back over his toofs,
grinnin' en snappin' at Dan des' lack he wanter eat 'im up. Den de mule
went roun' ter de do', en kick' erway lack he wanter break de do' down,
'tel bimeby somebody come 'long en driv him back ter de pastur'. W'en
Sally come in a little later fum de big house, whar she'd be'n waitin'
on de w'ite folks, she foun' po' Dan nigh 'bout dead, he wuz so
skeered. She 'lowed Dan had had de nightmare; but w'en dey look' at de
do', dey seed de marks er de mule's huffs, so dey couldn' be no mistake
'bout w'at had happen'.
“Co'se de niggers tol' dey marster 'bout de mule's gwines-on. Fust
he didn' pay no 'tention ter it, but atter a w'ile he tol' 'em ef dey
didn' stop dey foolis'ness, he gwine tie some un 'em up. So atter dat
dey didn' say nuffin mo' ter dey marster, but dey kep' on noticin' de
mule's quare ways des de same.
“ 'Long 'bout de middle er de summer dey wuz a big camp-meetin'
broke out down on de Wim'l'ton Road, en nigh 'bout all de po' w'ite
folks en free niggers in de settlement got 'ligion, en lo en behol'!
'mongs' 'em wuz de cunjuh man w'at own' de shote w'at cha'med Primus.
“Dis cunjuh man wuz a Guinea nigger, en befo' he wuz sot free had
use' ter b'long ter a gent'eman down in Sampson County. De cunjuh man
say his daddy wuz a king, er a guv'ner, er some sorter
w'at-you-may-call-'em 'way ober yander in Affiky whar de niggers come
fum, befo' he was stored erway en sol' ter de spekilaters. De cunjuh
man had he'ped his marster out'n some trouble ernudder wid his goopher,
en his marster had sot him free, en bought him a trac' er land down on
de Wim'l'ton Road. He purten' ter be a cow-doctor, but eve'ybody knowed
w'at he r'al'y wuz.
“De cunjuh man hadn' mo' d'n come th'oo good, befo' he wuz tuk sick
wid a col' w'at he kotch kneelin' on de groun' so long at de mou'ners'
bench. He kep' gittin' wusser en wusser, en bimeby de rheumatiz tuk
holt er 'im, en drawed him all up, 'tel one day he sont word up ter
Mars Jim McGee's plantation, en ax' Pete, de nigger w'at tuk keer er de
mules, fer ter come down dere dat night en fetch dat mule w'at his
marster had bought fum de po' w'ite man dyoin' er de summer.
“Pete didn' know w'at de cunjuh man wuz dribin' at, but he didn'
daster stay way; en so dat night, w'en he'd done eat his bacon en his
hoe-cake, en drunk his 'lasses-en-water, he put a bridle on de mule, en
rid 'im down ter de cunjuh man's cabin. W'en he got ter de do', he lit
en hitch' de mule, en den knocks at de do'. He felt mighty jubous 'bout
gwine in, but he was bleedst ter do it; he knowed he couldn' he'p
“ 'Pull de string,' sez a weak voice, en w'en Pete lif' de latch en
went in, de cunjuh man was layin' on de bed, lookin' pale en weak, lack
he didn' hab much longer fer ter lib.
“ 'Is you fotch' de mule?' sezee.
“Pete say yas, en de cunjuh man kep' on.
“ 'Brer Pete,' sezee, 'I's be'n a monst'us sinner man, en I's done a
power er wickedness endyoin' er my days; but de good Lawd is wash' my
sins erway, en I feels now dat I's boun' fer de kingdom. En I feels,
too, dat I ain' gwine ter git up fum dis bed no mo' in dis worl', en I
wants ter ondo some er de harm I done. En dat 's de reason, Brer Pete,
I sont fer you ter fetch dat mule down here. You 'member dat shote I
was up ter yo' plantation inquirin' 'bout las' June?'
“ 'Yas,' says Brer Pete, 'I 'member yo' axin' 'bout a shote you had
“ 'I dunno whe'r you eber l'arnt it er no,' says de cunjuh man, 'but
I done knowed yo' marster's Primus had tuk de shote, en I wuz boun' ter
git eben wid 'im. So one night I cotch' 'im down by de swamp on his way
ter a candy-pullin', en I th'owed a goopher mixtry on 'im, en turnt 'im
ter a mule, en got a po' w'ite man ter sell de mule, en we 'vided de
money. But I doan want ter die tel I turn Brer Primus back ag'in.'
“Den de cunjuh man ax' Pete ter take down one er two go'ds off'n a
she'f in de corner, en one er two bottles wid some kin' er mixtry in
'em, en set 'em on a stool by de bed; en den he ax' 'im ter fetch de
“W'en de mule come in de do', he gin a snort, en started fer de bed,
des lack he was gwine ter jump on it.
“ 'Hol' on dere, Brer Primus!' de cunjuh man hollered. 'I's monst'us
weak, en ef you 'mence on me, you won't nebber hab no chance fer ter
git turn' back no mo'.'
“De mule seed de sense er dat, en stood still. Den de cunjuh man tuk
de go'ds en bottles, en 'mence' ter wuk de roots en yarbs, en de mule
'mence' ter turn back ter a man,—fust his years, den de res' er his
head, den his shoulders en arms. All de time de cunjuh man kep' on
wukkin' his roots; en Pete en Primus could see he wuz gittin' weaker en
weaker all de time.
“ 'Brer Pete,' sezee, bimeby, 'gimme a drink er dem bitters out'n
dat green bottle on de she'f yander. I's gwine fas', en it'll gimme
strenk fer ter finish dis wuk.'
“Brer Pete look' up on de mantelpiece, en he seed a bottle in de
corner. It was so da'k in de cabin he couldn' tell whe'r it wuz a green
bottle er no. But he hilt de bottle ter de cunjuh man's mouf, en he tuk
a big mouff'l. He hadn' mo' d'n swallowed it befo' he 'mence' ter
“ 'You gimme de wrong bottle, Brer Pete; dis yer bottle's got pizen
in it, en I's done fer dis time, sho'. Hol' me up, fer de Lawd's sake!
'tel I git th'ee turnin' Brer Primus back.'
“So Pete hilt him up, en he kep' on wukkin' de roots, 'tel he got de
goopher all tuk off'n Brer Primus 'cep'n' one foot. He hadn' got dis
foot mo' d'n half turnt back befo' his strenk gun out enti'ely, en he
drap' de roots en fell back on de bed.
“ 'I can't do no mo' fer you, Brer Primus,' sezee, 'but I hopes you
will fergib me fer w'at harm I done you. I knows de good Lawd done
fergib me, en I hope ter meet you bofe in glory. I sees de good angels
waitin' fer me up yander, wid a long w'ite robe en a starry crown, en
I'm on my way ter jine 'em.' En so de cunjuh man died, en Pete en
Primus went back ter de plantation.
“De darkies all made a great 'miration w'en Primus come back. Mars
Jim let on lack he did n' b'lieve de tale de two niggers tol'; he sez
Primus had runned erway, en stay' 'tel he got ti'ed er de swamps, en
den come back on him ter be fed. He tried ter 'count fer de shape er
Primus' foot by sayin' Primus got his foot smash', er snake-bit, er
sump'n, w'iles he wuz erway, en den stayed out in de woods whar he
couldn' git it kyoed up straight, 'stidder comin' long home whar a
doctor could 'a' 'tended ter it. But de niggers all notice' dey marster
didn' tie Primus up, ner take on much 'ca'se de mule wuz gone. So dey
'lowed dey marster must 'a' had his s'picions 'bout dat cunjuh man.”
My wife had listened to Julius's recital with only a mild interest.
When the old man had finished it she remarked:—
“That story does not appeal to me, Uncle Julius, and is not up to
your usual mark. It isn't pathetic, it has no moral that I can
discover, and I can't see why you should tell it. In fact, it seems to
me like nonsense.”
The old man looked puzzled as well as pained. He had not pleased the
lady, and he did not seem to understand why.
“I'm sorry, ma'm,” he said reproachfully, “ef you doan lack dat
tale. I can't make out w'at you means by some er dem wo'ds you uses,
but I'm tellin' nuffin but de truf. Co'se I didn' see de cunjuh man
tu'n 'im back, fer I wuzn' dere; but I be'n hearin' de tale fer
twenty-five yeahs, en I ain' got no 'casion fer ter 'spute it. Dey's so
many things a body knows is lies, dat dey ain' no use gwine roun'
findin' fault wid tales dat mought des ez well be so ez not. F'
instance, dey's a young nigger gwine ter school in town, en he come out
heah de yuther day en 'lowed dat de sun stood still en de yeath turnt
roun' eve'y day on a kinder axletree. I tol' dat young nigger ef he
didn' take hisse'f 'way wid dem lies, I'd take a buggy-trace ter 'im;
fer I sees de yeath stan'in' still all de time, en I sees de sun gwine
roun' it, en ef a man can't b'lieve w'at 'e sees, I can't see no use in
libbin'—mought's well die en be whar we can't see nuffin. En ernudder
thing w'at proves de tale 'bout dis ole Primus is de way he goes on ef
anybody ax' him how he come by dat club-foot. I axed 'im one day,
mighty perlite en civil, en he call' me a' ole fool, en got so mad he
ain' spoke ter me sence. Hit's monst'us quare. But dis is a quare
worl', anyway yer kin fix it,” concluded the old man, with a weary
“Ef you makes up yo' min' not ter buy dat mule, suh,” he added, as
he rose to go, “I knows a man w'at's got a good hoss he wants ter sell,
—leas'ways dat's w'at I heared. I'm gwine ter pra'rmeetin' ter-night,
en I'm gwine right by de—man's house, en ef you'd lack ter look at de
hoss, I'll ax 'im ter fetch him roun'.”
“Oh, yes,” I said, “you can ask him to stop in, if he is passing.
There will be no harm in looking at the horse, though I rather think I
shall buy a mule.”
Early next morning the man brought the horse up to the vineyard. At
that time I was not a very good judge of horse-flesh. The horse
appeared sound and gentle, and, as the owner assured me, had no bad
habits. The man wanted a large price for the horse, but finally agreed
to accept a much smaller sum, upon payment of which I became possessed
of a very fine-looking animal. But alas for the deceitfulness of
appearances! I soon ascertained that the horse was blind in one eye,
and that the sight of the other was very defective; and not a month
elapsed before my purchase developed most of the diseases that
horse-flesh is heir to, and a more worthless, broken-winded, spavined
quadruped never disgraced the noble name of horse. After worrying
through two or three months of life, he expired one night in a fit of
the colic. I replaced him with a mule, and Julius henceforth had to
take his chances of driving some metamorphosed unfortunate.
Circumstances that afterwards came to my knowIedge created in my
mind a strong suspicion that Julius may have played a more than
unconscious part in this transaction. Among other significant facts was
his appearance, the Sunday following the purchase of the horse, in a
new suit of store clothes, which I had seen displayed in the window of
Mr. Solomon Cohen's store on my last visit to town, and had remarked on
account of their striking originality of cut and pattern. As I had not
recently paid Julius any money, and as he had no property to mortgage,
I was driven to conjecture to account for his possession of the means
to buy the clothes. Of course I would not charge him with duplicity
unless I could prove it, at least to a moral certainty, but for a long
time afterwards I took his advice only in small doses and with great
SIS' BECKY'S PICKANINNY
WE had not lived in North Carolina very long before I was able to
note a marked improvement in my wife's health. The ozone-laden air of
the surrounding piney woods, the mild and equable climate, the peaceful
leisure of country 'life, had brought about in hopeful measure the cure
we had anticipated. Toward the end of our second year, however, 'her
ailment took an unexpected turn for the worse. She became the victim of
a settled melancholy, attended with vague forebodings of impending
“You must keep up her spirits,” said our physician, the best in the
neighboring town. “This melancholy lowers her tone too much, tends to
lessen her strength, and, if it continue too long, may be fraught with
I tried various expedients to cheer her up. I read novels to her. I
had the hands on the place come up in the evening and serenade her with
plantation songs. Friends came in sometimes and talked, and frequent
letters from the North kept her in touch with her former home. But
nothing seemed to rouse her from the depression into which she had
One pleasant afternoon in spring, I placed an armchair in a shaded
portion of the front piazza, and filling it with pillows led my wife
out of the house and seated her where she would have the pleasantest
view of a somewhat monotonous scenery. She was scarcely placed whan old
Julius came through the yard, and, taking off his tattered straw hat,
inquired, somewhat anxiously:—
“How is you feelin' dis atternoon, ma'm?”
“She is not very cheerful, Julius,” I said. My wife was apparently
without energy enough to speak for herself.
The old man did not seem inclined to go away, so I asked him to sit
down. I had noticed, as he came up, that he held some small object in
his hand. When he had taken his seat on the top step, he kept fingering
this object,—what it was I could not quite make out.
“What is that you have there, Julius?” I asked, with mild curiosity.
“Dis is my rabbit foot, suh.”
This was at a time before this curious superstition had attained its
present jocular popularity among white people, and while I had heard of
it before, it had not yet outgrown the charm of novelty.
“What do you do with it?”
“I kyars it wid me fer luck, suh.”
“Julius,” I observed, half to him and half to my wife, “your people
will never rise in the world until they throw off these childish
superstitions and learn to live by the light of reason and common
sense. How absurd to imagine that the fore-foot of a poor dead rabbit,
with which he timorously felt his way along through a life surrounded
by snares and pitfalls, beset by enemies on every hand, can promote
happiness or success, or ward off failure or misfortune!”
“It is ridiculous,” assented my wife, with faint interest.
“Dat's w'at I tells dese niggers roun' heah,” said Julius. “De
fo'-foot ain' got no power. It has ter be de hin'-foot, suh,—de lef'
hin'-foot er a grabeya'd rabbit, killt by a cross-eyed nigger on a da'k
night in de full er de moon.”
“They must be very rare and valuable,” I said.
“Dey is kinder ska'ce, suh, en dey ain' no 'mount er money could buy
mine, suh. I mought len' it ter anybody I sot sto' by, but I wouldn'
sell it, no indeed, suh, I wouldn'.”
“How do you know it brings good luck?” I asked.
“ 'Ca'se I ain' had no bad luck sence I had it, suh, en I's had dis
rabbit foot fer fo'ty yeahs. I had a good marster befo' de wah, en I
wa'n't sol' erway, en I wuz sot free; en dat 'uz all good luck.”
“But that doesn't prove anything,” I rejoined. “Many other people
have gone through a similar experience, and probably more than one of
them had no rabbit's foot.”
“Law, suh! you doan hafter prove 'bout de rabbit foot! Eve'ybody
knows dat; leas'ways eve'ybody roun' heah knows it. But ef it has ter
be prove' ter folks w'at wa'n't bawn en raise' in dis naberhood, dey is
a' easy way ter prove it. Is I eber tol' you de tale er Sis' Becky en
“No,” I said, “let us hear it.” I thought perhaps the story might
interest my wife as much or more than the novel I had meant to read
“Dis yer Becky,” Julius began, “useter b'long ter ole Kunnel
Pen'leton, who owned a plantation down on de Wim'l'ton Road, 'bout ten
miles fum heah, des befo' you gits ter Black Swamp. Dis yer Becky wuz a
fiel'-han', en a monst'us good 'un. She had a husban' oncet, a nigger
w'at b'longed on de nex' plantation, but de man w'at owned her husban'
died, en his lan' en his niggers had ter be sol' fer ter pay his debts.
Kunnel Pentleton 'lowed he'd 'a' bought dis nigger, but he had be'n
bettin' on hoss races, en didn' hab no money, en so Becky's husban' wuz
sol' erway ter Fuhginny.
“Co'se Becky went on some 'bout losin' her man, but she couldn' he'p
herse'f; en 'sides dat, she had her pickaninny fer ter comfo't her. Dis
yer little Mose wuz de cutes', blackes', shiny-eyedes' little nigger
you eber laid eyes on, en he wuz ez fon' er his mammy ez his mammy wuz
er him. Co'se Becky had ter wuk en didn' hab much time ter was'e wid
her baby. Ole Aun' Nancy, de plantation nuss down at de qua'ters,
useter take keer er little Mose in de daytime, en atter de riggers come
in fum de cotton-fiel' Becky 'ud git her chile en kiss 'im en nuss 'im,
en keep 'im 'tel mawnin'; en on Sundays she'd hab 'im in her cabin wid
her all day long.
“Sis' Becky had got sorter useter' gittin' 'long widout her husban',
w'en one day Kunnel Pen'leton went ter de races. Co'se w'en he went ter
de races, he tuk his hosses, en co'se he bet on 'is own hosses, en
co'se he los' his money; fer Kunnel Pen'leton didn' nebber hab no luck
wid his hosses, ef he did keep hisse'f po' projeckin' wid 'em. But dis
time dey wuz a hoss name' Lightnin' Bug, w'at b'longed ter ernudder
man, en dis hoss won de sweep-stakes; en Kunnel Pen'leton tuk a lackin'
ter dat hoss, en ax' his owner w'at he wuz willin' ter take fer 'im.
“ 'I'll take a thousan' dollahs fer dat hoss,' sez dis yer man, who
had a big plantation down to'ds Wim'l'ton, whar he raise' hosses fer
ter race en ter sell.
“Well, Kunnel Pen'leton scratch' 'is head, en wonder whar he wuz
gwine ter raise a thousan' dollahs; en he didn' see des how he could do
it, fer he owed ez much ez he could borry a'ready on de skyo'ity he
could gib. But he wuz des boun' ter hab dat hoss, so sezee:—
“ 'I'll gib you my note fer 'leven hund'ed dollahs fer dat hoss.'
“De yuther man shuck 'is head, en sezee:—
“ 'Yo' note, suh, is better'n gol', I doan doubt; but I is made it a
rule in my bizness not ter take no notes fum nobody. Howsomeber, suh,
ef you is kinder sho't er fun's, mos' lackly we kin make some kin' er
bahg'in. En w'iles we is talkin', I mought's well say dat I needs
ernudder good nigger down on my place. Ef you is got a good one ter
spar', I mought trade wid you.'
“Now, Kunnel Pen'leton didn' r'ally hab no niggers fer ter spar',
but he 'lowed ter hisse'f he wuz des bleedzd ter hab dat hoss, en so he
“ 'Well, I doan lack ter, but I reckon I'll haf ter. You come out
ter my plantation ter-morrer en look ober my niggers, en pick out de
one you wants.'
“So sho' 'nuff nex' day dis yer man come out ter Kunnel Pen'leton's
place en rid roun' de plantation en glanshed at de niggers, en who sh'd
he pick out fum 'em all but Sis' Becky.
“ 'I needs a noo nigger 'oman down ter my place,' sezee, 'fer ter
cook en wash, en so on; en dat young 'oman'll des fill de bill. You
gimme her, en you kin hab Lightnin' Bug.' “
“Now, Kunnel Pen'leton didn' lack ter trade Sis' Becky, 'ca'se she
wuz nigh 'bout de bes' fiel'-han' he had; en 'sides, Mars Kunnel didn'
keer ter take de mammies 'way fum dey chillun w'iles de chillun wuz
little. But dis man say he want Becky, er e'se Kunnel Pen'leton couldn'
hab de race hoss.
“ 'Well,' sez de kunnel, 'you kin hab de 'oman. But I doan lack ter
sen' her 'way fum her baby. W'at'll you gimme fer dat nigger baby?'
“ 'I doan want de baby,' sez de yuther man. 'I ain' got no use fer
“ 'I tell yer w'at I'll do,' 'lows Kunnel Pen'leton, 'I'll th'ow dat
pickaninny in fer good measure.'
“But de yuther man shuck his head. 'No,' sezee, 'I's much erbleedzd,
but I doan raise niggers; I raises hosses, en I doan wanter be
both'rin' wid no nigger babies. Nemmine de baby. I'll keep dat 'oman so
busy she'll fergit de baby; fer niggers is made ter wuk, en dey ain'
got no time fer no sich foolis'ness ez babies.'
“Kunnel Pen'leton didn' wanter hu't Becky's feelin's,—fer Kunnel
Pen'leton wuz a kin'-hea'ted man, en nebber lack' ter make no trouble
fer nobody,—en so he tol' Becky he wuz gwine sen' her down ter
Robeson County fer a day er so, ter he'p out his son-in-law in his wuk;
en bein' ez dis yuther man wuz gwine dat way, he had ax' 'im ter take
her 'long in his buggy.
“ 'Kin I kyar little Mose wid me marster?' ax' Sis' Becky.
“ 'N-o,' sez de kunnel, ez ef he wuz studyin' whuther ter let her
take 'im er no; 'I reckon you better let Aun' Nancy look atter yo' baby
fer de day er two you'll be gone, en she'll see dat he gits ernuff ter
eat 'tel you gits back.'
“So Sis' Becky hug' en kiss' little Mose, en tol' 'im ter be a good
little pickaninny, en take keer er hisse'f, en not fergit his mammy
w'iles she wuz gone. En little Mose put his arms roun' his mammy en
lafft en crowed des lack it wuz monst'us fine fun fer his mammy ter go
'way en leabe 'im.
Well, dis yer hoss trader sta'ted out wid Becky, en bimeby, atter
dey 'd gone down de Lumbe'ton Road fer a few miles er so, dis man tu'nt
roun' in a diffe'nt d'rection, en kep' goin' dat erway, 'tel bimeby
Sis' Becky up'n ax' 'im ef he wuz gwine ter Robeson County by a noo
“ 'No, nigger,' sezee, 'I ain' gwine ter Robeson County at all. I's
gwine ter Bladen County, whar my plantation is, en whar I raises all my
“ 'But how is I gwine ter git ter Mis' Laura's plantation down in
Robeson County?' sez Becky, wid her hea't in her mouf, fer she 'mence'
ter git skeered all er a sudden.
“ 'You ain' gwine ter git dere at all,' sez de man. 'You b'longs ter
me now, fer I done traded my bes' race hoss fer you, wid yo' ole
marster. Ef you is a good gal, I'll treat you right, en ef you doan
behabe yo'se'f,—w'y, w'at e'se happens'll be yo' own fault.'
“Co'se Sis' Becky cried en went on 'bout her pickaninny, bur co'se
it didn' do now good, en bimeby dey got down ter dis yer man's place,
en he put Sis' Becky ter wuk, en fergot all 'bout her habin' a
“Meanw'iles, w'en ebenin' come, de day Sis' Becky wuz tuk 'way,
little Mose 'mence' ter git res'less, en bimeby, w'en his mammy didn'
come, he sta'ted ter cry fer 'er. Aun' Nancy fed 'im en rocked 'im en
rocked 'im, en fin'lly he des cried en cried 'tel he cried hisse'f ter
“De nex' day he didn' 'pear ter be as peart ez yushal, en w'en night
come he fretted en went on wuss'n he did de night befo'. De nex' day
his little eyes 'mence' ter lose dey shine, en he wouldn' eat nuffin,
en he 'mence' ter look so peaked dat Aun' Nancy tuk'n kyared 'im up ter
de big house, en showed 'im ter her ole missis, en her ole missis gun
her some med'cine fer 'im, en 'lowed ef he didn' git no better she sh'd
fetch 'im up ter de big house ag'in, en dey'd hab a doctor, en nuss
little Mose up dere. Fer Aun' Nancy's ole missis 'lowed he wuz a lackly
little nigger en wu'th raisin'.
“But Aun' Nancy had l'arn' ter lack little Mose, en she didn' wanter
hab 'im tuk up ter de big house. En so w'en he didn' git no better, she
gethered a mess er green peas, and tuk de peas en de baby, en went ter
see ole Aun' Peggy, de cunjuh 'oman down by de Wim'l'ton Road. She gun
Aun' Peggy de mess er peas, en tol' her all 'bout Sis' Becky en little
“ 'Dat is a monst'us small mess er peas you is fotch' me,' sez Aun'
Peggy, sez she.
“ 'Yas, I knows,' 'lowed Aun' Nancy, 'but dis yere is a monst'us
“ 'You'll hafter fetch me sump'n mo',' sez Aun' Peggy, 'fer you
can't 'spec' me ter was'e my time diggin' roots en wukkin' cunj'ation
“ 'All right,' sez Aun' Nancy, 'I'll fetch you sump'n mo' nex'
“ 'You bettah,' sez Aun' Peggy, 'er e'se dey'll be trouble. W'at dis
yer little pickaninny needs is ter see his mammy. You leabe 'im heah
'tel ebenin' en I'll show 'im his mammy.'
“So w'en Aun' Nancy had gone 'way, Aun' Peggy tuk'n wukked her
roots, en tu'nt little Mose ter a hummin'-bird, en sont 'im off fer ter
fin' his mammy.
“So little Mose flewed, en flewed, en flewed away, 'tel bimeby he
got ter de place whar Sis' Becky b'longed. He seed his mammy wukkin'
roun' de ya'd, en he could tell fum lookin' at her dat she wuz trouble'
in her min' 'bout sump'n, en feelin' kin' er po'ly. Sis' Becky heared
sump'n hummin' roun'en roun' her, sweet en low. Fus' she 'lowed it wuz
a hummin'-bird; den she thought it sounded lack her little Mose
croonin' on her breas' way back yander on de ole plantation. En she des
'magine' it wuz her little Mose, en it made her feel bettah, en she
went on 'bout her wuk pearter'n she'd done sence she'd be'n down dere.
Little Mose stayed roun' 'tel late in de ebenin', en den flewed back ez
hard ez he could ter Aun' Peggy. Ez fer Sis' Becky, she dremp all dat
night dat she wuz holdin' her pickaninny in her arms, en kissin' him,
en nussin' him, des lack she useter do back on de ole plantation whar
he wuz bawn. En fer th'ee er fo' days Sis' Becky went 'bout her wuk wid
mo' sperrit den she'd showed sence she'd be'n down dere ter dis man's
“De nex' day atter he come back, little Mose wuz mo' pearter en
better'n he had be'n fer a long time. But to'ds de een' er de week he
'mence' ter git res'less ag'in, en stop' eatin', en Aun' Nancy kyared
'im down ter Aun' Peggy once mo', en she tu'nt 'im ter a mawkin'-bird
dis time, en sont 'im off ter see his mammy ag'in.
“It didn' take him long fer ter git dere, en w'en he did, he seed
his mammy standin' in de kitchen, lookin' back in de d'rection little
Mose wuz comin' fum. En dey wuz tears in her eyes, en she look' mo'
po'ly en peaked 'n she had w'en he wuz down dere befo'. So little Mose
sot on a tree in de ya'd en sung, en sung, en sung, des fittin' ter
split his th'oat. Fus' Sis' Becky didn' notice 'im much, but dis
mawkin'-bird kep' stayin' roun' de house all day, en bimeby Sis' Becky
des' magine' dat mawkin'-bird wuz her little Mose crowin' en crowin',
des lack he useter do w'en his mammy would come home at night fum de
cotton-fiel'. De mawkin'-bird stayed roun' dere 'mos' all day, en w'en
Sis' Becky went out in de ya'd one time, dis yer mawkin'-bird lit on
her shoulder en peck' at de piece er bread she wuz eatin', en fluttered
his wings so dey rub' up agin de side er her head. En w'en he flewed
away 'long late in de ebenin', des 'fo' sundown, Sis' Becky felt mo'
better'n she had sence she had heared dat hummin'-bird a week er so
pas'. En dat night she dremp 'bout ole times ag'in, des lack she did
“But dis yer totin' little Mose down ter ole Aun' Peggy, en dis yer
gittin' things fer ter pay de cunjuh 'oman, use' up a lot er Aun'
Nancy's time, en she begun ter git kinder ti'ed. 'Sides dat, w'en Sis'
Becky had be'n on de plantation, she had useter he'p Aun' Nancy wid de
young uns ebenin's en Sundays; en Aun' Nancy 'mence' ter miss 'er
monst'us, 'speshly sence she got a tech er de rheumatiz herse'f, en so
she 'lows ter ole Aun' Peggy one day:—
“ 'Aun' Peggy, ain' dey no way you kin fetch Sis' Becky back home?'
“ 'Huh!' sez Aun' Peggy, 'I dunno 'bout dat. I'll hafter wuk my
roots en fin' out whuther I kin er no. But it'll take a monst'us heap
er wuk, en I can't was'e my time fer nuffin. Ef you'll fetch me sump'n
ter pay me fer my trouble, I reckon we kin fix it.'
“So nex' day Aun' Nancy went down ter see Aun' Peggy ag'in.
“ 'Aun' Peggy,' sez she, 'I is fotch' you my bes' Sunday
head-hankercher. Will dat do?'
“Aun' Peggy look' at de head-hankercher, en run her han' ober it, en
“ 'Yas, dat'll do fus'-rate. I's be'n wukkin' my roots sence you
be'n gone, en I 'lows mos' lackly I kin git Sis' Becky back, but it's
gwine take fig'rin' en studyin' ez well ez cunj'in'. De fus' thing ter
do'll be ter stop fetchin' dat pickaninny down heah, en not sen' 'im
ter see his mammy no mo'. Ef he gits too po'ly, you lemme know, en I'll
gib you some kin' er mixtry fer ter make 'im fergit Sis' Becky fer a
week er so. So 'less'n you comes fer dat, you neenter come back ter see
me no mo' 'tel I sen's fer you.'
“So Aun' Peggy sont Aun' Nancy erway, en de fus' thing she done wuz
ter call a hawnet fum a nes' unner her eaves.
“ 'You go up ter Kunnel Pen'leton's stable, hawnet,' sez she, 'en
sting de knees er de race hoss name' Lightnin' Bug. Be sho' en git de
“So de hawnet flewed up ter Kunnel Pen'leton's stable en stung
Lightnin' Bug roun' de laigs, en de nex' mawnin' Lightnin' Bug's knees
wuz all swoll' up, twice't ez big ez doy oughter be. W'en Kunnel
Pen'leton went out ter de stable en see de hoss's laigs, hit would 'a'
des made you trimble lack a leaf fer ter heah him cuss dat hoss trader.
Howsomeber, he cool' off bimeby en tol' de stable boy fer ter rub
Lightnin' Bug's laigs wid some linimum. De boy done ez his marster tol'
'im, en by de nex' day de swellin' had gone down consid'able. Aun'
Peggy had sont a sparrer, w'at had a nes' in one er de trees close ter
her cabin, fer ter watch w'at wuz gwine on 'roun' de big house, en w'en
dis yer sparrer tol' 'er de hoss wuz gittin' ober de swellin', she sont
de hawnet back fer ter sting 'is knees some mo', en de nex' mawnin'
Lightnin' Bug's laigs wuz swoll' up wuss'n befo'.
“Well, dis time Kunnel Pen'leton wuz mad th'oo en th'oo, en all de
way 'roun', en he cusst dat hoss trader up en down, fum A ter
Izzard. He cusst so he'd dat de stable boy got mos' skeered ter
def, en went off en hid hisse'f in de hay.
“Ez fer Kunnel Pen'leton, he went right up ter de house en got out
his pen en ink, en tuk off his coat en roll' up his sleeves, en writ a
letter ter dis yer hoss trader, en sezee:—
“ 'You is sol' me a hoss w'at is got a ringbone er a spavin er
sump'n, en w'at I paid you fer wuz a soun' hoss. I wants you ter sen'
my nigger 'oman back en take yo' ole hoss, er e'se I'll sue you, sho's
“But dis yer man wa'n't skeered a bit, en he writ back ter Kunnel
Pen'leton dat a bahg'in wuz a bahg'in; dat Lightnin' Bug wuz soun' w'en
he sol' 'im, en ef Kunnel Pen'leton didn' knowed ernuff 'bout hosses
ter take keer er a fine racer, dat wuz his own fune'al. En he say
kunnel Pen'leton kin sue en be cusst fer all he keer, but he ain' gwine
ter gib up de nigger he bought en paid fer.
“W'en Kunnel Pen'leton got dis letter he wuz madder'n he wuz befo',
'speshly 'ca'se dis man 'lowed he didn' know how ter take keer er fine
hosses. But he couldn' do nuffin but fetch a lawsuit, en he knowed, by
his own 'spe'ience, dat lawsuits wuz slow ez de seben-yeah eetch and
cos' mo' d'n dey come ter, en he 'lowed he better go slow en wait
“Aun' Peggy knowed w'at wuz gwine on all dis time, en she fix' up a
little bag wid some roots en one thing en ernudder in it, en gun it ter
dis sparrer er her'n, en tol' 'im ter take it 'way down yander whar
Sis' Becky wuz, en drap it right befo' de do' er her cabin, so she'd be
sho' en fin' it de fus' time she come out'n de do'.
“One night Sis' Becky dremp' her pickaninny wuz dead, en de nex' day
she wuz mo'nin' en groanin' all day. She dremp' de same dream th'ee
nights runnin', en den, de nex' mawnin' atter de las' night, she foun'
dis yer little bag de sparrer had drap' in front her do'; en she 'lowed
she'd be'n cunju'd, en wuz gwine ter die, en ez long ez her pickaninny
wuz dead dey wa'n't no use tryin' ter do nuffin nohow. En so she tuk'n
went ter bed, en tol' her marster she'd be'n cunju'd en wuz gwine ter
“Her marster lafft at her, en argyed wid her, en tried ter 'suade
her out'n dis yer fool notion, ez he called it,—fer he wuz one er
dese yer w'ite folks w'at purten' dey doan b'liebe in cunj'in', but hit
wa'n't no use. Sis' Becky kep' gittin' wusser en wusser, 'tel fin'lly
dis yer man 'lowed Sis' Becky wuz gwine ter die, sho' 'nuff. En ez he
knowed dey hadn' be'n nufffin de matter wid Lightnin' Bug w'en he
traded 'im, he 'lowed mebbe he could kyo' 'im en fetch 'im roun' all
right, leas' ways good 'nuff ter sell ag'in. En anyhow, a lame hoss wuz
better'n a dead nigger. So he sot down en writ Kunnel Pen'leton a
“ 'My conscience,' sezee, 'has be'n troublin' me 'bout dat ringbone'
hoss I sol' you. Some folks 'lows a hoss trader ain' got no conscience,
but dey doan know me, fer dat is my weak spot, en de reason I ain' made
no mo' money hoss tradin'. Fac' is,' sezee, 'I is got so I can't sleep
nights fum studyin' 'bout dat spavin' hoss; en I is made up my min'
dat, w'iles a bahg'in is a bahg'in, en you seed Lightnin' Bug befo' you
traded fer 'im, principle is wuth mo' d'n money er hosses er niggers.
So ef you'll sen' Lightnin' Bug down heah, I'll sen' yo' nigger 'oman
back, en we'll call de trade off, en be ez good frien's ez we eber wuz,
en no ha'd feelin's.'
“So sho' 'nuff, Kunnel Pen'leton sont de hoss back. En w'en de man
w'at come ter bring Lightnin' Bug tol' Sis Becky her pickaninny wa'n't
dead, Sis Becky wuz so glad dat she 'lowed she wuz gwine ter try ter
lib 'tel she got back whar she could see little Mose once mo'. En w'en
she retch' de ole plantation en seed her baby kickin' en crowin' en
holdin' out his little arms to'ds her, she wush' she wuzn' cunju'd en
didn' hafter die. En w'en Aun' Nancy tol' 'er all 'bout Aun' Peggy,
Sis' Becky went down ter see de cunjuh 'oman, en Aun' Peggy tol' her
she had cunju'd her. En den Aun' Peggy tuk de goopher off'n her, en she
got well, en stayed on de plantation, en raise' her pickaninny. En w'en
little Mose growed up, he could sing en whistle des lack a
mawkin'-bird, so dat de w'ite folks useter hab 'im come up ter de big
house at night, en whistle en sing fer 'em, en dey useter gib 'im money
en vittles en one thing er ernudder, w'ich he alluz tuk home ter his
mammy; fer he knowed all 'bout w'at she had gone th'oo. He tu'nt out
ter be a sma't man, en l'arnt de blacksmif trade; en Kunnel Pen'leton
let 'im hire his time. En bimeby he bought his mammy en sot her free,
en den he bought hisse'f, en tuk keer er Sis' Becky ez long ez dey bofe
My wife had listened to this story with greater interest than she
had manifested in any subject for several days. I had watched her
furtively from time to time during the recital, and had observed the
play of her countenance. It had expressed in turn sympathy,
indignation, pity, and at the end lively satisfaction.
“That is a very ingenious fairy tale, Julius,” I said, “and we are
much obliged to you.”
“Why, John!” said my wife severely, “the story bears the stamp of
truth, if ever a story did.”
“Yes,” I replied, “especially the humming-bird episode, and the
mocking-bird digression, to say nothing of the doings of the hornet and
“Oh, well, I don't care,” she rejoined, with delightful animation;
“those are mere ornamental details and not at all essential. The story
is true to nature, and might have happened half a hundred times, and no
doubt did happen, in those horrid days before the war.”
“By the way, Julius,” I remarked, “your story doesn't establish what
you started out to prove,—that a rabbit's foot brings good luck.”
“Hit's plain 'nuff ter me, suh,” replied Julius. “I bet young missis
dere kin 'splain it herse'f.”
“I rather suspect,” replied my wife promptly, “that Sis' Becky had
no rabbit's foot.”
“You is hit de bull's-eye de fus' fire, ma'm,” assented Julius. “Ef
Sis' Becky had had a rabbit foot, she nebber would 'a' went th'oo all
I went into the house for some purpose, and left Julius talking to
my wife. When I came back a moment later, he was gone.
My wife's condition took a turn for the better from this very day,
and she was soon on the way to ultimate recovery. Several weeks later,
after she had resumed her afternoon drives, which had been interrupted
by her illness, Julius brought the rockaway round to the front door one
day, and I assisted my wife into the carriage.
“John,” she said, before I had taken my seat, “I wish you would look
in my room, and bring me my handkerchief.
You will find it in the pocket of my blue dress.”
I went to execute the commission. When I pulled the handkerchief out
of her pocket, something else came with it and fell on the floor. I
picked up the object and looked at it. It was Julius's rabbit's foot.
THE GRAY WOLF'S HA'NT
IT was a rainy day at the vineyard. The morning had dawned bright
and clear. But the sky had soon clouded, and by nine o'clock there was
a light shower, followed by others at brief intervals. By noon the rain
had settled into a dull, steady downpour. The clouds hung low, and
seemed to grow denser instead of lighter as they discharged their
watery burden, and there was now and then a muttering of distant
thunder. Outdoor work was suspended, and I spent most of the day at the
house, looking over my accounts and bringing up some arrears of
Towards four o'clock I went out on the piazza, which was broad and
dry, and less gloomy than the interior of the house, and composed
myself for a quiet smoke. I had lit my cigar and opened the volume I
was reading at that time, when my wife, whom I had left dozing on a
lounge, came out and took a rocking-chair near me.
“I wish you would talk to me, or read to me—or something,” she
exclaimed petulantly. “It's awfully dull here today.”
“I'll read to you with pleasure,” I replied, and began at the point
where I had found my bookmark:—
“ 'The difficulty of dealing with transformations so many-sided as
those which all existences have undergone, or are undergoing, is such
as to make a complete and deductive interpretation almost hopeless. So
to grasp the total process of redistribution of matter and motion as to
see simultaneously its several necessary results in their actual
interdependence is scarcely possible. There is, however, a mode of
rendering the process as a whole tolerably comprehensible. Though the
genesis of the rearrangement of every evolving aggregate is in itself
one, it presents to our intelligence' ”—
“John,” interrupted my wife, “I wish you would stop reading that
nonsense and see who that is coming up the lane.”
I closed my book with a sigh. I had never been able to interest my
wife in the study of philosophy, even when presented in the simplest
and most lucid form.
Some one was coming up the lane; at least, a huge faded cotton
umbrella was making progress toward the house, and beneath it a pair of
nether extremities in trousers was discernible. Any doubt in my mind as
to whose they were was soon resolved when Julius reached the steps and,
putting the umbrella down, got a good dash of the rain as he stepped up
on the porch.
“Why in the world, Julius,” I asked, “didn't you keep the umbrella
up until you got under cover?”
“It's bad luck, suh, ter raise a' umbrella in de house, en w'iles I
dunno whuther it's bad luck ter kyar one inter de piazzer er no, I
'lows it's alluz bes' ter be on de safe side. I didn' s'pose you en
young missis 'u'd be gwine on yo' dribe ter-day, but bein' ez it's my
pa't ter take you ef you does, I 'lowed I'd repo't fer dooty, en let
you say whuther er no you wants ter go.”
“I 'm glad you came, Julius,” I responded. “We don't want to go
driving, of course, in the rain, but I should like to consult you about
another matter. I'm thinking of taking in a piece of new ground. What
do you imagine it would cost to have that neck of woods down by the
swamp cleared up?”
The old man's countenance assumed an expression of unwonted
seriousness, and he shook his head doubtfully.
“I dunno 'bout dat, suh. It mought cos' mo', en it mought cos' less,
ez fuh ez money is consarned. I ain' denyin' you could cl'ar up dat
trac' er fan' fer a hund'ed er a couple er hund'ed dollahs,—ef you
wants ter cl'ar it up. But ef dat 'uz my trac' er lan', I wouldn'
'sturb it, no, suh, I wouldn'; sho's you bawn, I wouldn'.”
“But why not?” I asked.
“It ain' fittin' fer grapes, fer noo groun' nebber is.”
“I know it, but”—
“It ain' no yeathly good fer cotton, 'ca'se it's too low.”
“Perhaps so; but it will raise splendid corn.”
“I dunno,” rejoined Julius deprecatorily. “It's so nigh de swamp dat
de 'coons'll eat up all de cawn.”
“I think I'll risk it,” I answered.
“Well, suh,” said Julius, “I wushes you much joy er yo' job. Ef you
has bad luck er sickness er trouble er any kin', doan blame me.
You can't say ole Julius didn' wa'n you.”
“Warn him of what, Uncle Julius?” asked my wife.
“Er de bad luck w'at follers folks w'at 'sturbs dat trac' er lan'.
Dey is snakes en sco'pions in dem woods. En ef you manages ter 'scape
de p'isen animals, you is des boun' ter hab a ha'nt ter settle wid,—
ef you doan hab two.”
“Whose haunt?” my wife demanded, with growing interest.
“De gray wolf's ha'nt, some folks calls it,—but I knows better.”
“Tell us about it, Uncle Julius,” said my wife. “A story will be a
It was not difficult to induce the old man to tell a story, if he
were in a reminiscent mood. Of tales of the old slavery days he seemed
indeed to possess an exhaustless store,—some weirdly grotesque, some
broadly humorous; some bearing the stamp of truth, faint, perhaps, but
still discernible; others palpable inventions, whether his own or not
we never knew, though his fancy doubtless embellished them. But even
the wildest was not without an element of pathos,—the tragedy, it
might be, of the story itself; the shadow, never absent, of slavery and
of ignorance; the sadness, always, of life as seen by the fading light
of an old man's memory.
“Way back yander befo' de wah,” began Julius, “ole Mars Dugal'
McAdoo useter own a nigger name' Dan. Dan wuz big en strong en hearty
en peaceable en good-nachu'd most er de time, but dangerous ter
aggervate. He alluz done his task, en nebber had no trouble wid de
w'ite folks, but woe be unter de nigger w'at 'lowed he c'd fool wid
Dan, fer he wuz mos' sho' ter git a good lammin'. Soon ez eve'ybody
foun' Dan out, dey didn' many un 'em 'temp' ter 'sturb 'im. De one dat
did would 'a' wush' he hadn', ef he could 'a' libbed long ernuff ter do
“It all happen' dis erway. Dey wuz a cunjuh man w'at libbed ober t'
other side er de Lumbe'ton Road. He had be'n de only cunjuh doctor in
de naberhood fer lo! dese many yeahs, 'tel ole Aun' Peggy sot up in de
bizness down by de Wim'l'ton Road. Dis cunjuh man had a son w'at libbed
wid 'im, en it wuz dis yer son w'at got mix' up wid Dan,—en all 'bout
“Dey wuz a gal on de plantation name' Mahaly. She wuz a monst'us
lackly gal,—tall en soopl', wid big eyes, en a small foot, en a
lively tongue, en w'en Dan tuk ter gwine wid 'er eve'ybody 'lowed dey
wuz well match', en none er de yuther nigger men on de plantation das'
ter go nigh her, fer dey wuz all feared er Dan.
“Now, it happen' dat dis yer cunjuh man's son wuz gwine 'long de
road one day, w'en who sh'd come pas' but Mahaly. En de minute dis man
sot eye on Mahaly, he 'lowed he wuz gwine ter hab her fer hisse'f. He
come up side er her en 'mence' ter talk ter her; but she didn' paid no
'tention ter 'im, fer she wuz studyin' 'bout Dan, en she didn' lack dis
nigger's looks nohow. So w'en she got ter whar she wuz gwine, dis yer
man wa'n't no fu'ther 'long dan he wuz w'en he sta'ted.
“Co'se, atter he had made up his min' fer ter git Mahaly, he 'mence'
ter 'quire 'roun', en soon foun' out all 'bout Dan, en w'at a dange'ous
nigger he wuz. But dis man 'lowed his daddy wuz a cunjuh man, en so
he'd come out all right in de een'; en he kep' right on atter Mahaly.
Meanw'iles Dan's marster had said dey could git married ef dey wanter,
en so Dan en Mahalv had tuk up wid one ernudder, en wuz libbin' in a
cabin by deyse'ves, en wuz des wrop' up in one ernudder.
“But dis yer cunjuh man's son didn' 'pear ter min' Dan's takin' up
wid Mahaly, en he kep' on hangin' 'roun' des de same, 'tel fin'lly one
day Mahaly sez ter Dan, sez she:—
“ 'I wush you'd do sump'n ter stop dat free nigger man fum follerin'
me 'roun'. I doan lack him nohow, en I ain' got no time fer ter was'e
wid no man but you.'
“Co'se Dan got mad w'en he heared 'bout dis man pest'rin' Mahaly, en
de nex' night, w'en he seed dis nigger comin' 'long de road, he up en
ax' 'im w'at he mean by hangin' 'roun' his 'oman. De man didn' 'spon'
ter suit Dan, en one wo'd led ter ernudder, 'tel bimeby dis cunjuh
man's son pull' out a knife en sta'ted ter stick it in Dan; but befo'
he could git it drawed good, Dan haul' off en hit 'im in de head so
he'd dat he nebber got up. Dan 'lowed he'd come to atter a w'ile en go
'long 'bout his bizness, so he went off en lef' 'im layin' dere on de
“De nex' mawnin' de man wuz foun' dead. Dey wuz a great 'miration
made 'bout it, but Dan didn' say nuffin, en none er de yuther niggers
hadn' seed de fight, so dey wa'n't no way ter tell who done de killin'.
En bein' ez it wuz a free nigger, en dey wa'n't no w'ite forks 'speshly
int'rusted, dey wa'n't nuffin done 'bout it, en de cunjuh man come en
tuk his son en kyared 'im 'way en buried 'im.
“Now, Dan hadn' meant ter kill dis nigger, en w'iles he knowed de
man hadn' got no mo' d'n he deserved, Dan 'mence' ter worry mo' er
less. Fer he knowed dis man's daddy would wuk his roots en prob'ly fin'
out who had killt 'is son, en make all de trouble fer'im he could. En
Dan kep' on studyin' 'bout dis 'tel he got so he didn' ha'dly das' ter
eat er drink fer fear dis cunjuh man had p'isen' de vittles er de
water. Fin'lly he 'lowed he'd go ter see Aun' Peggy, de noo cunjuh
'oman w'at had moved down by de Wim'l'ton Road, en ax her fer ter do
sump'n ter pertec' 'im fum dis cunjuh man. So he tuk a peck er 'taters
en went down ter her cabin one night.
“Aun' Peggy heared his tale, en den sez she:—
“ 'Dat cunjuh man is mo' d'n twice't ez ole ez I is, en he kin make
monst'us powe'ful goopher. W'at you needs is a life-cha'm, en I'll make
you one ter-morrer; it's de on'y thing w'at'll do you any good. You
leabe me a couple er ha'rs fum yo' head, en fetch me a pig ter-morrer
night fer ter roas', en w'en you come I'll hab de cha'm all ready fer
“So Dan went down ter Aun' Peggy de nex' night,—wid a young shote,
—en Aun' Peggy gun 'im de cha'm. She had tuk de ha'rs Dan had lef' wid
'er, en a piece er red flannin, en some roots en yarbs, en had put 'em
in a little bag made out'n 'coon-skin.
“ 'You take dis cha'm,' sez she, 'en put it in a bottle er a tin
box, en bury it deep unner de root er a live-oak tree, en ez long ez it
stays dere safe en soun', dey ain' no p'isen kin p'isen you, dey ain'
no rattlesnake kin bite you, dey ain' no sco'pion kin sting you. Dis
yere cunjuh man mought do one thing er 'nudder ter you, but he can't
kill you. So you neenter be at all skeered, but go 'long 'bout yo'
bizness en doan bother yo' min'.'
“So Dan went down by de ribber, en 'way up on de bank he buried de
cha'm deep unner de root er a live-oak tree, en kivered it up en stomp'
de dirt down en scattered leaves ober de spot, en den went home wid his
“Sho' 'nuff, dis yer cunjuh man wukked his roots, des ez Dan had
'spected he would, en soon l'arn' who killt his son. En co'se he made
up his min' fer ter git eben wid Dan. So he sont a rattlesnake fer ter
sting 'im, but de rattlesnake say de nigger's heel wuz so ha'd he
couldn' git his sting in. Den he vent his jay-bird fer ter put p'isen
in Dan's vittles, but de p'isen didn' wuk. Den de cunjuh man 'low' he'd
double Dan all up wid de rheumatiz, so he couldn' git 'is han' ter his
mouf ter eat, en would hafter sta've ter def; but Dan went ter Aun'
Peggy, en she gun 'im a' 'intment ter kyo de rheumatiz. Den de cunjuh
man 'lowed he'd bu'n Dan up wid a fever, but Aun' Peggy tol' 'im how
ter make some yarb tea fer dat. Nuffin dis man tried would kill Dan, so
fin'lly de cunjuh man 'lowed Dan mus' hab a life-cha'm.
“Now, dis yer jay-bird de cunjuh man had wuz a monst'us sma't
creeter,—fac', de niggers 'lowed he wuz de ole Debbil hisse'f, des
settin' roun' waitin' ter kyar dis ole man erway w'en he'd retch' de
een' er his rope. De cunjuh man sont dis jay-bird fer ter watch Dan en
fin' out whar he kep' his cha'm. De jay-bird hung roun' Dan fer a week
er so, en one day he seed Dan go down by de ribber en look at a
live-oak tree; en den de jay-bird went back ter his marster, en tol'
'im he 'spec' de nigger kep' his life-cha'm under dat tree.
“De cunjuh man lafft en lafft, en he put on his bigges' pot, en
fill' it wid his stronges' roots, en b'iled it en b'iled it, 'tel
bimeby de win' blowed en blowed, 'tel it blowed down de live-oak tree.
Den he stirred some more roots in de pot, en it rained en rained 'tel
de water run down de ribber bank en wash' Dan's life-cha'm inter de
ribber, en de bottle went bobbin' down de current des ez onconsarned ez
ef it wa'n't takin' po' Dan's chances all 'long wid it. En den de
cunjuh man lafft some mo', en 'lowed ter hisse'f dat he wuz gwine ter
fix Dan now, sho' 'nuff; he wa'n't gwine ter kill 'im des yet, fer he
could do sump'n ter 'im w'at would hutt wusser 'n killin'.
“So dis cunjuh man 'mence' by gwine up ter Dan's cabin eve'y night,
en takin' Dan out in his sleep en ridin' 'im roun' de roads en fiel's
ober de rough groun'. In de mawnin' Dan would be ez ti'ed ez ef he
hadn' be'n ter sleep. Dis kin' er thing kep' up fer a week er so, en
Dan had des 'bout made up his min' fer ter go en see Aun' Peggy ag'in,
w'en who sh'd he come across, gwine 'long de road one day, to'ds
sundown, but dis yer cunjuh man. Dan felt kinder skeered at fus'; but
den he 'membered 'bout his life-cha'm, w'ich he hadn' be'n ter see fer
a week er so, en'lowed wuz safe en soun' unner de live-oak tree, en so
he hilt up 'is head en walk' 'long, des lack he didn' keer nuffin 'bout
dis man no mo' d'n any yuther nigger. W'en he got close ter de cunjuh
man, dis cunjuh man sez, sezee:—
“ 'Hoddy, Brer Dan? I hopes you er well?'
“W'en Dan seed de cunjuh man wuz in a good humor en didn' 'pear ter
bear no malice, Dan 'lowed mebbe de cunjuh man hadn' foun' out who
killt his son, en so he 'termine' fer ter let on lack he didn' know
nuffin, en so sezee:—
“ 'Hoddy, Unk' Jube?'—dis ole cunjuh man's name wuz Jube. 'I's
p'utty well, I thank you. How is you feelin' dis mawnin'?'
“ 'I's feelin' ez well ez a 'ole nigger could feel w'at had los' his
only son, en his main 'pen'ence in 'is ole age.
“ 'But den my son wuz a bad boy,' sezee, 'en I couldn' 'spec' nuffin
e'se. I tried ter l'arn him de arrer er his ways en make him go ter
chu'ch en pra'r-meetin'; but it wa'n't no use. I dunno who killt 'im,
en I doan wanter know, fer I'd be mos' sho' ter fin' out dat my boy had
sta'ted de fuss. Ef I'd 'a' had a son lack you, Brer Dan, I'd 'a' be'n
a proud nigger; oh, yes, I would, sho's you bawn. But you ain' lookin'
ez well ez you oughter, Brer Dan. Dey's sump'n de matter wid you, en
w'at's mo', I 'spec' you dunno w'at it is.'
“Now, dis yer kin' er talk nach'ly th'owed Dan off'n his gya'd, en
fus' thing he knowed he wuz talkin' ter dis ole cunjuh man des lack he
wuz one er his bes' frien's. He tol' 'im all 'bout not feelin' well in
de mawnin', en ax' 'im ef he could tell w'at wuz de matter wid 'im.
“ 'Yas,' sez de cunjuh man. 'Dey is a witch be'n ridin' you right
'long. I kin see de marks er de bridle on yo' mouf. En I'll des bet yo'
back is raw whar she's be'n beatin' you.'
“ 'Yas,' 'spon' Dan, 'so it is.' He hadn' notice it befo', but now
he felt des lack de hide had be'n tuk off'n 'im.
“ 'En yo' thighs is des raw whar de spurrers has be'n driv' in you,'
sez de cunjuh man. 'You can't see de raw spots, but you kin feel 'em.'
“ 'Oh, yas,' 'lows Dan, 'dey does hu't pow'ful bad.'
“ 'En w'at's mo',' sez de cunjuh man, comin' up close ter Dan en
whusp'in' in his yeah, 'I knows who it is be'n ridin' you.'
“ 'Who is it?' ax' Dan. 'Tell me who it is.'
“ 'It's a' ole nigger 'oman down by Rockfish Crick. She had a pet
rabbit, en you cotch' 'im one day, en she's been squarin' up wid you
eber sence. But you better stop her, er e'se you'll be rid ter def in a
mont' er so.'
“ 'No,' sez Dan, 'she can't kill me, sho'.'
“ 'I dunno how dat is,' said de cunjuh man, 'but she kin make yo'
life mighty mis'able. Ef I wuz in yo' place, I'd stop her right off.'
“ 'But how is I gwine ter stop her?' ax' Dan. 'I dunno nuffin 'bout
“ 'Look a heah, Dan,' sez de yuther; 'you is a good young man. I
lacks you monst'us well. Fac', I feels lack some er dese days I mought
buy you fum yo' marster, ef I could eber make money ernuff at my bizess
dese hard times, en 'dopt you fer my son. I lacks you so well dat I'm
gwine ter he'p you git rid er dis yer witch fer good en all; fer des ez
long ez she libs, you is sho' ter hab trouble, en trouble, en mo'
“ 'You is de bes' frien' I got, Unk' Jube,' sez Dan, 'en I'll
'member yo' kin'ness ter my dyin' day. Tell me how I kin git rid er dis
yer ole witch w'at's be'n ridin' me so ha'd.'
“ 'In de fus' place,' sez de cunjuh man, 'dis ole witch nebber comes
in her own shape, but eve'y night, at ten o'clock, she tu'ns herse'f
inter a black cat, en runs down ter yo' cabin en bridles you, en mounts
you, en dribes you out th'oo de chimbly, en rides you ober de roughes'
places she kin fin'. All you got ter do is ter set fer her in de bushes
'side er yo' cabin, en hit her in de head wid a rock er a lighterd-knot
w'en she goes pas'.'
“ 'But,' sez Dan, 'how kin I see her in de da'k? En s'posen I hits
at her en misses her? Er s'posen I des woun's her, en she gits erway,—
w'at she gwine do ter me den?'
“ 'I is done studied 'bout all dem things,' sez de cunjuh man, 'en
it 'pears ter me de bes' plan fer you ter foller is ter lemme tu'n you
ter some creetur w'at kin see in de da'k, en w'at kin run des ez fas'
ez a cat, en w'at kin bite, en bite fer ter kill; en den you won't
hafter hab no trouble atter de job is done. I dunno whuther you'd lack
dat er no, but dat is de sho'es' way.'
“ 'I doan keer,' 'spon' Dan. 'I'd des ez lief be anything fer a'
hour er so, ef I kin kill dat ole witch. You kin do des w'at you er
“ 'All right, den,' sez de cunjuh man, 'you come down ter my cabin
at half-past nine o'clock ter-night, en I'll fix you up.'
“Now, dis cunjuh man, w'en he had got th'oo talkin' wid Dan, kep' on
down de road 'long de side er de plantation, 'tel he met Mahaly comin'
home fum wuk des atter sundown.
“ 'Hoddy do, ma'm,' sezee; 'is yo' name Sis' Mahaly, w'at b'longs
ter Mars Dugal' McAdoo?'
“ 'Yas,' 'spon' Mahaly, 'dat's my name, en I b'longs ter Mars
“ 'Well,' sezee, 'yo' husban' Dan wuz down by my cabin dis ebenin',
en he got bit by a spider er sump'n, en his foot is swoll' up so he
can't walk. En he ax' me fer ter fin' you en fetch you down dere ter
he'p 'im home.'
“Co'se Mahaly wanter see w'at had happen' ter Dan, en so she sta'ted
down de road wid de cunjuh man. Ez soon ez he got her inter his cabin,
he shet de do', en sprinkle' some goopher mixtry on her, en tu'nt her
ter a black cat. Den he tuk'n put her in a bairl, en put a bo'd on de
bairl, en a rock on de bo'd, en lef' her dere 'tel he got good en ready
fer ter use her.
“'Long 'bout half—pas' nine o'clock Dan come down ter de cunjuh
man's cabin. It wuz a wa'm night, en de do' wuz stan'in' open. De
cunjuh man 'vised Dan ter come in, en pass' de time er day wid 'im. Ez
soon ez Dan 'mence' talkin', he heared a cat miauin' en scratchin' en
gwine on at a tarrable rate.
“ 'W'at's all dat fuss 'bout?' ax' Dan.
“ 'Oh, dat ain' nuffin but my ole gray tomcat,' sez de cunjuh man.
'I has ter shet 'im up sometimes fer ter keep 'im in nights, en co'se
he doan lack it.
“ 'Now,' 'lows de cunjuh man, 'lemme tell you des w'at you is got
ter do. W'en you ketches dis witch, you mus' take her right by de
th'oat en bite her right th'oo de neck. Be sho' yo' teef goes th'oo at
de fus' bite, en den you won't nebber be bothe'd no mo' by dat witch.
En w'en you git done, come back heah en I'll tu'n you ter yo'se'f
ag'in, so you kin go home en git yo' night's res'.'
“Den de cunjuh man gun Dan sump'n nice en sweet ter drink out'n a
new go'd, en in 'bout a minute Dan foun' hisse'f tu'nt ter a gray wolf;
en soon ez he felt all fo' er his noo feet on de groun', he sta'ted off
fas' ez he could fer his own cabin, so he could be sho' en be dere time
ernuff ter ketch de witch, en put a' een' ter her kyarin's-on.
“Ez soon ez Dan wuz gone good, de cunjuh man tuk de rock off'n de
bo'd, en de bo'd off'n de bairl, en out le'p' Mahaly en sta'ted fer ter
go home, des lack a cat er a 'oman er anybody e'se would w'at wuz in
trouble; en it wa'n't many minutes befo' she wuz gwine up de path ter
her own do'.
“Meanw'iles, w'en Dan had retch' de cabin, he had hid hisse'f in a
bunch er jimson weeds in de ya'd. He hadn' wait' long befo' he seed a
black cat run up de path to'ds de do'. Des ez soon ez she got close ter
'im, he le'p' out en ketch' her by de th'oat, en got a grip on her, des
lack de cunjuh man had tol' 'im ter do. En lo en behol'! no sooner had
de blood 'mence' ter flow dan de black cat tu'nt back ter Mahaly, en
Dan seed dat he had killt his own wife. En w'iles her bref wuz gwine
she call' out:
“ 'O Dan! O my husban'! come en he'p me! come en sabe
me fum dis wolf w'at's killin' me!'
“W'en po' Dan sta'ted to'ds her, ez any man nach'ly would, it des
made her holler wuss en wuss; fer she didn' knowed dis yer wolf wuz her
Dan. En Dan des had ter hide in de weeds, en grit his teef en hol'
hisse'f in, 'tel she passed out'n her mis'ry, callin' fer Dan ter de
las', en wond'rin' w'y he didn' come en he'p her. En Dan 'lowed ter
hisse'f he'd ruther' a' be'n killt a dozen times 'n ter 'a' done w'at
he had ter Mahaly.
“Dan wuz mighty nigh 'stracted, but w'en Mahaly wuz dead en he got
his min' straighten' out a little, it didn' take 'im mo' d'n a minute
er so fer ter see th'oo all de cunjuh man's lies, en how de cunjuh man
had fooled 'im en made 'im kill Mahaly, fer ter git eben wid 'im fer
killin' er his son. He kep' gittin' madder en madder, en Mahaly hadn'
much mo' d'n drawed her' las bref befo' he sta'ted back ter de cunjuh
man's cabin ha'd ez he could run.
“W'en he got dere, de do' wuz stan'in' open; a lighterd-knot wuz
flick'rin' on de h'a'th, en de ole cunjuh man wuz settin' dere noddin'
in de corner. Dan le'p' in de do' en jump' fer dis man's th'oat, en got
de same grip on 'im w'at de cunjuh man had tol' 'im 'bout half a' hour
befo'. It wuz ha'd wuk dis time, fer de ole man's neck wuz monst'us
tough en stringy, but Dan hilt on long ernuff ter be sho' his job wuz
done right. En eben den he didn' hol' on long ernuff; fer w'en he tu'nt
de cunjuh man loose en he fell ober on de flo', de cunjuh man rollt his
eyes at Dan, en sezee:—
“ 'I's eben wid you, Brer Dan, en you er eben wid me; you killt my
son en I killt yo' 'oman. En ez I doan want no mo' d'n w'at's fair
'bout dis thing, ef you'll retch up wid yo' paw en take down dat go'd
hangin' on dat peg ober de chimbly, en take a sip er dat mixtry, it'll
tu'n you back ter a nigger ag'in, en I kin die mo' sad'sfied 'n ef I
lef' you lack you is.'
“Dan nebber 'lowed fer a minute dat a man would lie wid his las'
bref, en co'se he seed de sense er gittin' tu'nt back befo' de cunjuh
man died; so he clumb on a chair en retch' fer de go'd, en tuk a sip er
de mixtry. En ez soon ez he'd done dat de cunjuh man lafft his las'
laf, en gapsed out wid 'is las' gaps:—
“ 'Uh huh! I reckon I's square wid you now fer killin' me, too; fer
dat goopher on you is done fix' en sot now fer good, en all de cunj'in'
in de worl' won't nebber take it off.
'Wolf you is en wolf you stays,
All de rest er yo' bawn days.' “Co'se Brer Dan couldn' do nuffin.
He knowed it wa'n't no use, but he clumb up on de chimbly en got down
de go'ds en bottles en yuther cunjuh fixin's, en tried 'em all on
hisse'f, but dey didn' do no good. Den he run down ter ole Aun' Peggy,
but she didn' know de wolf langwidge, en couldn't 'a' tuk off dis
yuther goopher nohow, eben ef she'd 'a' unnerstood w'at Dan wuz sayin'.
So po' Dan wuz bleedgd ter be a wolf all de rest er his bawn days.
“Dey foun' Mahaly down by her own cabin nex' mawnin', en eve'ybody
made a great 'miration 'bout how she'd be'n killt. De niggers 'lowed a
wolf had bit her. De w'ite folks say no, dey ain' be'n no wolves 'roun'
dere fer ten yeahs er mo'; en dey didn' know w'at ter make out'n it. En
w'en dey couldn' fin' Dan nowhar, dey 'lowed he'd quo'lled wid Mahaly
en killt her, en run erway; en dey didn' know w'at ter make er dat, fer
Dan en Mahaly wuz de mos' lovin' couple on de plantation. Dey put de
dawgs on Dan's scent, en track' 'im down ter ole Unk' Jube's cabin, en
foun de ole man dead, en dey didn' know w'at ter make er dat; en den
Dan's scent gun out, en dey didn' know w'at ter make er dat. Mars
Dugal' tuk on a heap 'bout losin' two er his bes' han's in one day, en
ole missis lowed it wuz a jedgment on 'im fer sump'n he'd done. But dat
fall de craps wuz monst'us big, so Mars Dugal' say de Lawd had temper'
de win' ter de sho'n ram, en make up ter 'im fer w'at he had los'.
“Dey buried Mahaly down in dat piece er low groun' you er talkie'
'bout cl'arin up. Ez fer po' Dan, he didn' hab nowhar e'se ter go, so
he des stayed roun' Mahaly's grabe, w'en he wa'n't out in de ynther
woods gittin' sump'n ter eat. En sometimes, w'en night would come, de
niggers useter heah him howlin' en howlin' down dere, des fittin' ter
break his hea't. En den some mo' un 'em said dey seed Mahaly's ha'nt
dere 'bun'ance er times, colloguin' wid dis gray wolf. En eben now,
fifty yeahs sence, long atter ole Dan has died en dried up in de woods,
his ha'nt en Mahaly's hangs 'roun' dat piece er low groun', en eve'body
w'at goes 'bout dere has some bad luck er'nuther; fer ha'nts doan lack
ter be 'sturb' on dey own stompin'-groun'.”
The air had darkened while the old man related this harrowing tale.
The rising wind whistled around the eaves, slammed the loose
window-shutters, and, still increasing, drove the rain in fiercer gusts
into the piazza. As Julius finished his story and we rose to seek
shelter within doors, the blast caught the angle of some chimney or
gable in the rear of the house, and bore to our ears a long, wailing
note, an epitome, as it were, of remorse and hopelessness.
“Dat's des lack po' ole Dan useter howl,” observed Julius, as he
reached for his umbrella, “en w'at I be'n tellin' you is de reason I
doan lack ter see dat neck er woods cl'ared up. Co'se it b'longs ter
you, en a man kin do ez he choose' wid 'is own. But ef you gits
rheumatiz er fever en agur, er ef you er snake-bit er p'isen' wid some
yarb er 'nuther, er ef a tree falls on you, er a ha'nt runs you en
makes you git 'stracted in yo' min', lack some folks I knows w'at went
foolin' 'roun' dat piece er lan', you can't say I neber wa'ned you,
suh, en tol' you w'at you mought look fer en be sho' ter fin'.”
When I cleared up the land in question, which was not until the
following year, I recalled the story Julius had told us, and looked in
vain for a sunken grave or perhaps a few weather-bleached bones of some
denizen of the forest. I cannot say, of course, that some one had not
been buried there; but if so, the hand of time had long since removed
any evidence of the fact. If some lone wolf, the last of his pack, had
once made his den there, his bones had long since crumbled into dust
and gone to fertilize the rank vegetation that formed the undergrowth
of this wild spot. I did find, however, a bee-tree in the woods, with
an ample cavity in its trunk, and an opening through which convenient
access could be had to the stores of honey within. I have reason to
believe that ever since I had bought the place, and for many years
before, Julius had been getting honey from this tree. The gray wolf's
haunt had doubtless proved useful in keeping off too inquisitive
people, who might have interfered with his monopoly.
“I HATE you and despise you! I wish never to see you or speak to you
“Very well; I will take care that henceforth you have no opportunity
to do either.”
These words—the first in the passionately vibrant tones of my
sister-in-law, and the latter in the deeper and more restrained accents
of an angry man—startled me from my nap. I had been dozing in my
hammock on the front piazza, behind the honeysuckle vine. I had been
faintly aware of a buzz of conversation in the parlor, but had not at
all awakened to its import until these sentences fell, or, I might
rather say, were hurled upon my ear. I presume the young people had
either not seen me lying there,—the Venetian blinds opening from the
parlor windows upon the piazza were partly closed on account of the
heat,—or else in their excitement they had forgotten my proximity.
I felt somewhat concerned. The young man, I had remarked, was proud,
firm, jealous of the point of honor, and, from my observation of him,
quite likely to resent to the bitter end what he deemed a slight or an
injustice. The girl, I knew, was quite as high-spirited as young
Murchison. I feared she was not so just, and hoped she would prove more
yielding. I knew that her affections were strong and enduring, but that
her temperament was capricious, and her sunniest moods easily overcast
by some small cloud of jealousy or pique. I had never imagined,
however, that she was capable of such intensity as was revealed by
these few words of hers. As I say, I felt concerned. I had learned to
like Malcolm Murchison, and had heartily consented to his marriage with
my ward; for it was in that capacity that I had stood for a year or two
to my wife's younger sister, Mabel. The match thus rudely broken off
had promised to be another link binding me to the kindly Southern
people among whom I had not long before taken up my residence.
Young Murchison came out of the door, cleared the piazza in two
strides without seeming aware of my presence, and went off down the
lane at a furious pace. A few moments later Mabel began playing the
piano loudly, with a touch that indicated anger and pride and
independence and a dash of exultation, as though she were really glad
that she had driven away forever the young man whom the day before she
had loved with all the ardor of a first passion.
I hoped that time might heal the breach and bring the two young
people together again. I told my wife what I had overheard. In return
she gave me Mabel's version of the affair.
“I do not see how it can ever be settled,” my wife said. “It is
something more than a mere lovers' quarrel. It began, it is true,
because she found fault with him for going to church with that hateful
Branson girl. But before it ended there were things said that no woman
of any spirit could stand. I am afraid it is all over between them.”
I was sorry to hear this. In spite of the very firm attitude taken
by my wife and her sister, I still hoped that the quarrel would be made
up within a day or two. Nevertheless, when a week had passed with no
word from young Murchison, and with no sign of relenting on Mabel's
part, I began to think myself mistaken.
One pleasant afternoon, ,about ten days after the rupture, old
Julius drove the rockaway up to the piazza, and my wife, Mabel, and I
took our seats for a drive to a neighbor's vineyard, over on the
“Which way shall we go,” I asked,—“the short road or the long
“I guess we had better take the short road,” answered my wife. “We
will get there sooner.”
“It's a mighty fine dribe roun' by de big road, Mis' Annie,”
observed Julius, “en it doan take much longer to git dere.”
“No,” said my wife, “I think we will go by the short road. There is
a baytree in blossom near the mineral spring, and I wish to get some of
“I 'spec's you'd fin' some bay-trees 'long de big road, ma'm,”
“But I know about the flowers on the short road, and they are the
ones I want.”
We drove down the lane to the highway, and soon struck into the
short road leading past the mineral spring. Our route lay partly
through a swamp, and on each side the dark, umbrageous foliage,
unbroken by any clearing, lent to the road solemnity, and to the air a
refreshing coolness. About half a mile from the house, and about
half-way to the mineral spring, we stopped at the tree of which my wife
had spoken, and reaching up to the low-hanging boughs, I gathered a
dozen of the fragrant white flowers. When I resumed my seat in the
rockaway, Julius started the mare. She went on for a few rods, until we
had reached the edge of a branch crossing the road, when she stopped
“Why did you stop, Julius?” I asked.
“I didn', suh,” he replied. “'Twuz de mare stop'. G' 'long dere,
Lucy! W'at you mean by dis foolis'ness?”
Julius jerked the reins and applied the whip lightly, but the mare
did not stir.
“Perhaps you had better get down and lead her,” I suggested. “If you
get her started, you can cross on the log and keep your feet dry.”
Julius alighted, took hold of the bridle, and vainly essayed to make
the mare move. She planted her feet with even more evident obstinacy.
“I don't know what to make of this,” I said. “I have never known her
to balk before. Have you, Julius?”
“No, suh,” replied the old man, “I neber has. It's a cu'ous thing
ter me, suh.”
“What's the best way to make her go?”
“I 'spec's, suh, dat ef I'd tu'n her 'roun', she'd go de udder way.”
“But we want her to go this way.”
“Well, suh, I 'low ef we des set heah fo' er fibe minutes, she'll
sta't up by herse'f.”
“All right,” I rejoined; “it is cooler here than any place I have
struck today. We'll let her stand for a while, and see what she does.”
We had sat in silence for a few minutes, when Julius suddenly
ejaculated, “Uh huh! I knows w'y dis mare doan go. It des flash' 'cross
“Why is it, Julius?” I inquired.
“'Ca'se she sees Chloe.”
“Where is Chloe?” I demanded.
“Chloe's done be'n dead dese fo'ty years er mo',” the old man
returned. “Her ha'nt is settin' ober yander on de udder side er de
branch, unner dat willer-tree, dis blessed minute.”
“Why, Julius!” said my wife, “do you see the haunt?”
“No'm,” he answered, shaking his head, “I doan see 'er, but de mare
“How do you know?” I inquired.
“Well, suh, dis yer is a gray hoss, en dis yer is a Friday; en a
gray hoss kin alluz see a ha'nt w'at walks on Friday.”
“Who was Chloe?” said Mabel.
“And why does Chloe's haunt walk?” asked my wife.
“It's all in de tale, ma'm,” Julius replied, with a deep sigh. “It's
all in de tale.”
“Tell us the tale,” I said. “Perhaps, by the time you get through,
the haunt will go away and the mare will cross.”
I was willing to humor the old man's fancy. He had not told us a
story for some time; and the dark and solemn swamp around us; the
amber-colored stream flowing silently and sluggishly at our feet, like
the waters of Lethe; the heavy, aromatic scent of the bays, faintly
suggestive of funeral wreaths,—all made the place an ideal one for a
“Chloe,” Julius began in a subdued tone, “use' ter b'long ter ole
Mars' Dugal' McAdoo,—my ole marster. She wuz a lackly gal en a smart
gal, en ole mis' tuk her up ter de big house, en l'arnt her ter wait on
de w'ite folks, 'tel bimeby she come ter be mis's own maid, en 'peared
ter 'low she run de house herse'f, ter heah her talk erbout it. I wuz a
young boy den, en use' ter wuk 'bout de stables, so I knowed eve'ythin'
dat wuz gwine on 'roun' de plantation.
“Well, one time Mars' Dugal' wanted a house boy, en sont down ter de
qua'ters fer ter hab Jeff en Hannibal come up ter de big house nex'
mawnin'. Ole marster en ole mis' look' de two boys ober, en 'sco'sed
wid deyse'ves fer a little w'ile, en den Mars' Dugal' sez, sezee:—
“ 'We lacks Hannibal de bes', en we gwine ter keep him. Heah,
Hannibal, you'll wuk at de house fum now on. En ef you er a good nigger
en min's yo' bizness, I'll gib you Chloe fer a wife nex' spring. You
other nigger, you Jeff, you kin go back ter de qua'ters. We ain' gwine
ter need you.'
“Now Chloe had be'n stan'in' dere behin' ole mis' dyoin' all er dis
yer talk, en Chloe made up her mint fum de ve'y fus' minute she sot
eyes on dem two dat she didn' lack dat nigger Hannibal, en wa'n't neber
gwine keer fer'im, en she wuz des ez sho' dat she lack' Jeff, en wuz
gwine ter set sto' by 'im, whuther Mars' Dugal' tuk 'im in de big house
er no; en so co'se Chloe wuz monst'us sorry w'en ole Mars' Dugal' tuk
Hannibal en sont Jeff back. So she slip' roun' de house en waylaid Jeff
on de way back ter de qua'ters, en tol' 'im not ter be down-hea'ted,
fer she wuz gwine ter see ef she couldn' fin' some way er 'nuther ter
git rid er dat nigger Hannibal, en git Jeff up ter de house in his
“De noo house boy kotch' on monst'us fas', en it wa'n't no time
ha'dly befo' Mars' Dugal' en ole mis' bofe 'mence' ter'low Hannibal wuz
de bes' house boy dey eber had. He wuz peart en soopl', quick ez
lightnin', en sha'p ez a razor. But Chloe didn' lack his ways. He wuz
so sho' he wuz gwine ter git 'er in de spring, dat he didn' 'pear ter
'low he had ter do any co'tin', en w'en he'd run 'cross Chloe 'bout de
house, he'd swell roun' 'er in a biggity way en say:—
“ 'Come heah en kiss me, honey. You gwine ter be mine in de spring.
You doan 'pear ter be ez fon' er me ez you oughter be.'
“Chloe didn' keer nuffin fer Hannibal, en hadn' keered nuffin fer
'im, en she sot des ez much sto' by Jeff ez she did de day she fus'
laid eyes on 'im. En de mo' fermilyus dis yer Hannibal got, de mo'
Chloe let her min' run on Jeff, en one ebenin' she went down ter de
quatters en watch', 'tel she got a chance fer ter talk wid 'im by
hisse'f. En she tol' Jeff fer ter go down en see ole Aun' Peggy, de
cunjuh 'oman down by de Wim'l'ton Road, en ax her ter gib 'im sump'n
ter he'p git Hannibal out'n de big house, so de w'ite folks 'u'd sen'
fer Jeff ag'in. En bein' ez Jeff didn' hab nuffin ter gib Aun' Peggy,
Chloe gun 'im a silber dollah en a silk han'kercher fer ter pay her
wid, fer Aun' Peggy neber lack ter wuk fer nobody fer nuffin.
“So Jeff slip' off down ter Aun' Peggy's one night, en gun 'er de
present he brung, en tol' 'er all 'bout 'im en Chloe en Hannibal, en
ax' 'er ter he'p 'im out. Aun' Peggy tol' 'im she'd wuk 'er roots, en
fer 'im ter come back de nex' night, en she'd tell 'im w'at she c'd do
“So de nex' night Jeff went back, en Aun' Peggy gun 'im a baby doll,
wid a body made out'n a piece er co'n-stalk, en wid splinters fer a'ms
en laigs, en a head made out'n elderberry peth, en two little red
peppers fer feet.
“ 'Dis yer baby doll,' sez she, 'is Hannibal. Dis yer peth head is
Hannibal's head, en dese yer pepper feet is Hannibal's feet. You take
dis en hide it unner de house, on de sill unner de do', whar
Hannibal'll hafter walk ober it eve'y day. En ez long ez Hannibal comes
anywhar nigh dis baby doll, he'll be des lack it is,—light-headed en
hot-footed; en ef dem two things doan git 'im inter trouble mighty
soon, den I'm no cunjuh 'oman. But w'en you git Hannibal out'n de
house, en git all th'oo wid dis baby doll, you mus' fetch it back ter
me, fer it's monst'us powerful goopher, en is liable ter make mo'
trouble ef you leabe it layin' roun'.'
“Well, Jeff tuk de baby doll, en slip' up ter de big house, en
whistle' ter Chloe, en w'en she come out he tol' 'er w'at ole Aun'
Peggy had said. En Chloe showed 'im how ter git unner de house, en w'en
he had put de cunjuh doll on de sill, he went 'long back ter de
qua'ters—en des waited.
“Nex' day, sho' 'nuff, de goopher mence' ter wuk. Hannibal sta'ted
in de house soon in de mawnin' wid a armful er wood ter make a fire, en
he hadn' mo' d'n got 'cross de do'-sill befo' his feet begun ter bu'n
so dat he drap'de armful er wood on de flo' en woke ole mis' up a' hour
sooner 'n yushal, en co'se ole mis' didn' lack dat, en spoke sha'p
“W'en dinner-time come, en Hannibal wuz help'n' de cook kyar de
dinner f'm de kitchen inter de big house, en wuz gittin' close ter de
do' whar he had ter go in, his feet sta'ted ter bu'n en his head begun
ter swim, en he let de big dish er chicken en dumplin's fall right down
in de dirt, in de middle er de ya'd, en de w'ite folks had ter make dey
dinner dat day off'n col' ham en sweet'n' 'taters.
“De nex' mawnin' he overslep' hisse'f, en got inter mo' trouble.
Atter breakfus', Mars' Dugal' sont 'im ober ter Mars' Marrabo Utley's
fer ter borry a monkey wrench. He oughter be'n back in ha'f a' hour,
but he come pokin' home 'bout dinner-time wid a screwdriver stidder a
monkey wrench. Mars' Dugal' sont ernudder nigger back wid de
screw-driver, en Hannibal didn' git no dinner. 'Long in de atternoon,
ole mis' sot Hannibal ter weedin' de flowers in de front gya'den, en
Hannibal dug up all de bulbs ole mis' had sont erway fer, en paid a lot
er money fer, en tuk 'em down ter de hawg-pen by de ba'nya'd, en fed
'em ter de hawgs. W'en ole mis' come out in de cool er de ebenin', en
seed w'at Hannibal had done, she wuz mos' crazy, en she wrote a note en
sont Hannibal down ter de oberseah wid it.
“But w'at Hannibal got fum de oberseah didn' 'pear ter do no good.
Eve'y now en den 'is feet 'd 'mence ter torment 'im, en 'is min' 'u'd
git all mix' up, en his conduc' kep' gittin' wusser en wusser, 'tel
fin'lly de w'ite folks couldn' stan' it no longer, en Mars' Dugal' tuk
Hannibal back down ter de qua'ters.
“ 'Mr. Smif,' sez Mars' Dugal' ter de oberseah, 'dis yer nigger has
done got so triflin' yer lately dat we can't keep 'im at de house no
mo', en I's fotch' 'im ter you ter be straighten' up. You's had 'casion
ter deal wid tim once, so he knows w'at ter expec'. You des take 'im in
han', en lemme know how he tu'ns out. En w'en de han's comes in fum de
fiel' dis ebenin' you kin sen' dat yaller nigger Jeff up ter de house.
I'll try 'im, en see ef he's any better'n Hannibal.'
“So Jeff went up ter de big house, en pleas' Mars' Dugal' en ole
mis' en de res' er de fambly so well dat dey all got ter lackin' 'im
fus' rate; en dey 'd 'a' fergot all 'bout Hannibal, ef it hadn' be'n
fer de bad repo'ts w'at come up fum de qua'ters 'bout 'im fer a mont'
er so. Fac' is, dat Chloe en Jeff wuz so int'rusted in one ernudder
sence Jeff be'n up ter de house, dat dey fergot all 'bout takin' de
baby doll back ter Aun' Peggy, en it kep' wukkin' fer a w'ile, en
makin' Hannibal's feet bu'n mo' er less, 'tel all de folks on de
plantation got ter callin' 'im Hot-Foot Hannibal. He kep' gittin' mo'
en mo' triflin', 'tel he got de name er bein' de mos' no 'countes'
nigger on de plantation, en Mars' Dugal' had ter th'eaten ter sell 'im
in de spring, w'en bimeby de goopher quit wukkin', en Hannibal 'mence'
ter pick up some en make folks set a little mo' sto' by 'im.
“Now, dis yer Hannibal was a monst'us sma't nigger, en w'en he got
rid er dem so' feet, his min' kep' runnin' on 'is udder troubles. Heah
th'ee er fo' weeks befo' he'd had a' easy job, waitin' on de w'ite
folks, libbin' off'n de fat er de lan', en promus'de fines' gal on de
plantation fer a wife in de spring, en now heah he wuz back in de
co'n-fiel', wid de oberseah a-cussin' en a-r'arin' ef he didn' get a
ha'd tas' done; wid nuffin but co'n bread en bacon en merlasses ter
eat; en all de fiel'-han's makin' rema'ks, en pokin' fun at'im'ca'se
he'd be'n sont back fum de big house ter de fiel'. En de mo' Hannibal
studied 'bout it de mo' madder he got,'tel he fin'lly swo' he wuz gwine
ter git eben wid Jeff en Chloe, ef it wuz de las' ac'.
“So Hannibal slipped 'way fum de qua'ters one Sunday en hid in de
co'n up close ter de big house, 'tel he see Chloe gwine down de road.
He waylaid her, en sezee:—
“ 'Hoddy, Chloe?'
“ 'I ain' got no time fer ter fool wid fiel'-han's,' sez Chloe,
tossin' her head; 'w'at you want wid me, Hot-Foot?'
“ 'I wants ter know how you en Jeff is gittin' 'long.'
“ 'I 'lows dat's none er yo' bizness, nigger. I doan see w'at'casion
any common fiel'-han' has got ter mix in wid de 'fairs er folks w'at
libs in de big house. But ef it'll do you any good ter know, I mought
say dat me en Jeff is gittin' 'long mighty well, en we gwine ter git
married in de spring, en you ain' gwine ter be 'vited ter de weddin'
“ 'No, no!' sezee, 'I wouldn' 'spec' ter be 'vited ter de weddin',—
a common, low-down fiel'-han' lack I is. But I's glad ter heah
you en Jeff is gittin' 'long so well. I didn' knowed but w'at he had
'mence' ter be a little ti'ed.'
“ 'Ti'ed er me? Dat's rediklus!' sez Chloe. 'W'y, dat nigger lutes
me so I b'liebe he'd go th'oo fire en water fer me. Dat nigger is des
wrop' up in me.'
“ 'Uh huh,' sez Hannibal, 'den I reckon it mus' be some udder nigger
w'at meets a 'oman down by de crick in de swamp eve'y Sunday ebenin',
ter say nuffin 'bout two er th'ee times a week.'
“ 'Yas, hit is ernudder nigger, en you is a liah w'en you say it wuz
“ 'Mebbe I is a liah, en mebbe I ain' got good eyes. But 'less'n I
is a liah, en 'less'n I ain' got good eyes, Jeff is gwine
ter meet dat 'oman dis ebenin' 'long 'bout eight o'clock right down
dere by de crick in de swamp 'bout half-way betwix' dis plantation en
Mars' Marrabo Utley's.'
“Well, Chloe tol' Hannibal she didn' b'liebe a wo'd he said, en
call' 'im a lowdown nigger, who wuz tryin' ter slander Jeff 'ca'se he
wuz mo' luckier'n he wuz. But all de same, she couldn' keep her min'
fum runnin' on w'at Hannibal had said. She 'membered she'd heared one
er de niggers say dey wuz a gal ober at Mars' Marrabo Utley's
plantation w'at Jeff use' ter go wid some befo' he got 'quainted wid
Chloe. Den she 'mence' ter figger back, en sho' 'nuff, dey wuz two er
th'ee times in de las' week w'en she'd be'n he'pin' de ladies wid dey
dressin' en udder fixin's in de ebenin', en Jeff mought 'a' gone down
ter de swamp widout her knowin' 'bout it at all. En den she 'mence' ter
'member little things w'at she hadn' tuk no notice of befo', en w'at
'u'd make it 'pear lack Jeff had sump'n on his min'.
“Chloe set a monst'us heap er sto' by Jeff, en would 'a' done mos'
anythin' fer'im, so long ez he stuck ter her. But Chloe wuz a mighty
jealous 'oman, en w'iles she didn' b'liebe w'at Hannibal said, she seed
how it could 'a' be'n so, en she 'termine' fer ter fin' out fer
herse'f whuther it wuz so er no.
“Now, Chloe hadn' seed Jeff all day, fer Mars' Dugal' had sont Jeff
ober ter his daughter's house, young Mis' Ma'g'ret's, w'at libbed 'bout
fo' miles fum Mars' Dugal's, en Jeff wuzn' 'spected home 'tel ebenin'.
But des atter supper wuz ober, en w'iles de ladies wuz settin' out on
de piazzer, Chloe slip' off fum de house en run down de road,—dis yer
same road we come; en w'en she got mos' ter de crickÄdis yer same crick
right befo' us—she kin' er kep' in de bushes at de side er de road,
'tel fin'lly she seed Jeff settin' on de bank on de udder side er de
crick,—right unner dat ole wilier-tree droopin' ober de water yander.
En eve'y now en den he'd git up en look up de road to'ds Mars'
Marrabo's on de udder side er de swamp.
“Fus' Chloe felt lack she'd go right ober de crick en gib Jeff a
piece er her min'. Den she 'lowed she better be sho' befo' she done
anythin'. So she helt herse'f in de bes' she could, gittin' madder en
madder eve'y minute, 'tel bimeby she seed a 'oman comin' down de road
on de udder side fum to'ds Mars' Marrabo Utley's plantation. En w'en
she seed Jeff jump up en run to'ds dat 'oman, en th'ow his a'ms roun'
her neck, po' Chloe didn' stop ter see no mo', but des tu'nt roun' en
run up ter de house, en rush' up on de piazzer, en up en tol' Mars'
Dugal' en ole mis' all 'bout de baby doll, en all 'bout Jeff gittin' de
goopher fum Aun' Peggy, en 'bout w'at de goopher had done ter Hannibal.
“Mars' Dugal' wuz monst'us mad. He didn' let on at fus' lack he
b'liebed Chloe, but w'en she tuk en showed 'im whar ter fin' de baby
doll, Mars' Dugal' tu'nt w'ite ez chalk.
“ 'W'at debil's wuk is dis?' sezee. 'No wonder de po' nigger's feet
eetched. Sump'n got ter be done ter l'arn dat ole witch ter keep her
han's off'n my niggers. En ez fer dis yer Jeff, I 'm gwine ter do des
w'at I promus', so de darkies on dis plantation'll know I means w'at I
“Fer Mars' Dugal' had warned de han's befo' 'bout foolin'wid
cunju'ation; fac', he had los' one er two niggers hisse'f fum dey bein'
goophered, en he would 'a' had ole Aun' Peggy whip' long ago, on'y Aun'
Peggy wuz a free 'oman, en he wuz 'feard she'd cunjuh him. En w'iles
Mars' Dugal' say he didn' b'liebe in cunj'in' en sich, he 'peared ter
'low it wuz bes' ter be on de safe side, en let Aun' Peggy alone.
“So Mars' Dugal' done des ez he say. Ef ole mis' had ple'd fer Jeff,
he mought 'a' kep' 'im. But ole mis' hadn' got ober losin' dem bulbs
yit, en she neber said a wo'd. Mars' Dugal' tuk Jeff ter town nex' day
en' sol' 'im ter a spekilater, who sta'ted down de ribber wid 'im nex'
mawnin' on a steamboat, fer ter take 'im ter Alabama.
“Now, w'en Chloe tol' ole Mars' Dugal' 'bout dis yer baby doll en
dis udder goopher, she hadn' ha'dly 'lowed Mars Dugal' would sell Jeff
down Souf. How someber, she wuz so mad wid Jeff dat she 'suaded herse'f
she didn' keer; en so she hilt her head up en went roun' lookin' lack
she wuz rale glad 'bout it. But one day she wuz walkin' down de road,
w'en who sh'd come 'long but dis yer Hannibal.
“W'en Hannibal seed 'er, he bus' out laffin' fittin' fer ter kill:
'Yah, yah, yah! ho, ho, ho! ha, ha, ha! Oh, hol' me, honey, hol' me, er
I'll laf myse'f ter def. I ain' nebber laf' so much sence I be'n bawn.'
“ 'W'at you laffin' at, Hot-Foot?'
“ 'Yah, yah, yah! W'at I laffin' at? W'y, I's laffin' at myse'f,
tooby sho',—laffin' ter think w'at a fine 'oman I made.'
“Chloe tu'nt pale, en her hea't come up in her mouf.
“ 'W'at you mean, nigger?' sez she, ketchin' holt er a bush by de
road fer ter stiddy herse'f. 'W'at you mean by de kin' er 'oman you
“ 'W'at do I mean? I means dat I got squared up wid you fer treatin'
me de way you done, en I got eben wid dat yaller nigger Jeff fer
cuttin' me out. Now, he's gwine ter know w'at it is ter eat co'n bread
en merlasses once mo', en wuk fum daylight ter da'k, en ter hab a
oberseah dribin' 'im fum one day's een' ter de udder. I means dat I
sont wo'd ter Jeff dat Sunday dat you wuz gwine ter be ober ter Mars'
Marrabo's visitin' dat ebenin', en you want 'im ter meet you down by de
crick on de way home en go de rest er de road wid you. En den I put on
a frock en a sun bonnet, en fix' myse'f up ter look lack a 'oman; en
w'en Jeff seed me comin', he run ter meet me, en you seed 'im,—fer
I'd be'n watchin' in de bushes befo' en 'skivered you comin' down de
road. En now I reckon you en Jeff bofe knows w'at it means ter mess wid
a nigger lack me.'
“Po' Chloe hadn' heared mo' d'n half er de las' part er w'at
Hannibal said, but she had heared 'nuff to l'arn dat dis nigger had
fooled her en Jeff, en dat po' Jeff hadn' done nuffin, en dat fer
lovin' her too much en goin' ter meet her she had cause' 'im ter be
sol' erway whar she'd neber, neber see 'im no mo'. De sun mought shine
by day, de moon by night, de flowers mought bloom, en de mawkin'-birds
mought sing, but po' Jeff wuz done los' ter her fereber en fereber.
“Hannibal hadn' mo' d'n finish' w'at he had ter say, w'en Chloe's
knees gun 'way unner her, en she fell down in de road, en lay dere half
a' hour er so befo' she come to. W'en she did, she crep' up ter de
house des ez pale ez a ghos'. En fer a mont' er so she crawled roun' de
house, en 'peared ter be so po'ly dat Mars' Dugal' sont fer a doctor;
en de doctor kep' on axin' her questions 'tel he foun' she woz des
pinin' erway fer Jeff.
“W'en he tol' Mars' Dugal', Mars' Dugal' lafft, en said he'd fix
dat. She could hab de noo house boy fer a husban'. But ole mis' say,
no, Chloe ain' dat kin'er gal, en dat Mars' Dugal' sh'd buy Jeff back.
“So Mars' Dugal' writ a letter ter dis yer spekilater down ter
Wim'l'ton, en tol' ef he ain' done sol' dat nigger Souf w'at he bought
fum 'im, he'd lack ter buy 'im back ag'in. Chloe 'mence' ter pick up a
little w'en ole mis' tol' her 'bout dis letter. Howsomeber, bimeby
Mars' Dugal' got a' answer fum de spekilater, who said he wuz monst'us
sorry, but Jeff had fell ove'boa'd er jumped off'n de steamboat on de
way ter Wim'l'ton, en got drownded, en co'se he could n' sell 'im back,
much ez he'd lack ter 'bleedge Mars' Dugal'.
“Well, atter Chloe heared dis, she wa'n't much mo' use ter nobody.
She pu'tended ter do her wuk, en ole mis' put up wid her, en had de
doctor gib her medicine, en let 'er go ter de circus, en all so'ts er
things fer ter take her min' off'n her troubles. But dey didn' none un
'em do no good. Chloe got ter slippin' down here in de ebenin' des lack
she 'uz comin' ter meet Jeff, en she'd set dere unner dat willer-tree
on de udder side, en wait fer'im, night atter night. Bimeby she got so
bad de w'ite folks sont her ober ter young Mis' Ma'g'ret's fer ter gib
her a change; but she runned erway de fus' night, en w'en dey looked
fer 'er nex' mawnin', dey foun' her co'pse layin' in de branch yander,
right 'cross fum whar we're settin now.
“Eber sence den,” said Julius in conclusion, “Chloe's ha'nt comes
eve'y ebenin' en sets down unner dat willer-tree en waits fer Jeff er
e'se walks up en down de road yander, lookin' en lookin', en waitin' en
waitin', fer her sweethea't w'at ain' neber, eber come back ter her no
There was silence when the old man had finished, and I am sure I saw
a tear in my wife's eye, and more than one in Mabel's.
“I think, Julius,” said my wife, after a moment, “that you may turn
the mare around and go by the long road.”
The old man obeyed with alacrity, and I noticed no reluctance on the
“You are not afraid of Chloe's haunt, are you?” I asked jocularly.
My mood was not responded to, and neither of the ladies smiled.
“Oh, no,” said Annie, “but I've changed my mind. I prefer the other
When we had reached the main road and had proceeded along it for a
short distance, we met a cart driven by a young negro, and on the cart
were a trunk and a valise. We recognized the man as Malcolm Murchison's
servant, and drew up a moment to speak to him.
“Who's going away, Marshall?” I inquired.
“Young Mistah Ma'colm gwine 'way on de boat ter Noo Yo'k dis
ebenin', suh, en I'm takin' his things down ter de wharf, suh.”
This was news to me, and I heard it with regret. My wife looked
sorry, too, and I could see that Mabel was trying hard to hide her
“He 's comin' 'long behin', suh, en I 'spec's you'll meet 'im up de
road a piece. He's gwine ter walk down ez fur ez Mistah Jim Williams's,
en take de buggy fum dere ter town. He 'spec's ter be gone a long time,
suh, en say prob'ly he ain' neber comin' back.”
The man drove on. There were few words exchanged in an undertone
between my wife and Mabel, which I did not catch. Then Annie said:
“Julius, you may stop the rockaway a moment. There are some
trumpet-flowers by the road there that I want. Will you get them for
I sprang into the underbrush, and soon returned with a great bunch
of scarlet blossoms.
“Where is Mabel?” I asked, noting her absence.
“She has walked on ahead. We shall overtake her in a few minutes.”
The carriage had gone only a short distance when my wife discovered
that she had dropped her fan.
“I had it where we were stopping. Julius, will you go back and get
it for me?”
Julius got down and went back for the fan. He was an unconscionably
long time finding it. After we got started again we had gone only a
little way, when we saw Mabel and young Murchison coming toward us.
They were walking arm in arm, and their faces were aglow with the light
I do not know whether or not Julius had a previous understanding
with Malcolm Murchison by which he was to drive us round by the long
road that day, nor do I know exactly what motive influenced the old
man's exertions in the matter. He was fond of Mabel, but I was old
enough, and knew Julius well enough, to be skeptical of his motives. It
is certain that a most excellent understanding existed between him and
Murchison after the reconciliation, and that when the young people set
up housekeeping over at the old Murchison place, Julius had an
opportunity to enter their service. For some reason or other, however,
he preferred to remain with us. The mare, I might add, was never known
to balk again.