by Thomas Nelson Page
I had the good fortune to come from the old county of Hanover, as
that particular division of the State of Virginia is affectionately
called by nearly all who are so lucky as to have first seen the light
amid its broom-straw fields and heavy forests; and to this happy
circumstance I owed the honor of a special visit from one of its most
loyal citizens. Indeed, the glories of his native county were so
embalmed in his memory and were so generously and continuously imparted
to all his acquaintances, that he was in the county of his adoption
universally known after an absence of forty years as Old Hanover. I
had not been long in Fwhen I was informed that I might, in right of
the good fortune respecting my birthplace, to which I have referred,
expect a visit from my distinguished fellow-countyman, and thus I was
not surprised, when one afternoon a message was brought in that Ole
Hanover was in the yard, and had called to pay his bes' bespecks to de
gent'raan what hed de honor to come f'om de ole county.
I immediately went out, followed by my host, to find that the visit
was attended with a formality which raised it almost to the dignity of
a ceremonial. Old Hanover was accompanied by his wife, and was
attended by quite a number of other negroes, who had followed him
either out of curiosity excited by the importance he had attached to
the visit, or else in the desire to shine in reflected glory as his
friends. Old Hanover himself stood well out in front of the rest,
like an old African chief in state with his followers behind him about
to receive an embassy. He was arrayed with great care, in a style which
I thought at first glance was indicative of the clerical calling, but
which I soon discovered was intended to be merely symbolical of
approximation to the dignity which was supposed to pertain to that
profession. He wore a very long and baggy coat which had once been
black, but was now tanned by exposure to a reddish brown, a vest which
looked as if it had been velvet before the years had eaten the nap from
it, and changed it into a fabric not unlike leather. His shirt was
obviously newly washed for the occasion, and his high clean collar fell
over an ample and somewhat bulging white cloth, which partook of the
qualities of both stock and necktie. His skin was of that lustrous
black which shines as if freshly oiled, and his face was closely shaved
except for two tufts of short, white hair, one on each side, which
shone like snow against his black cheeks. He wore an old and very
quaint beaver, and a pair of large, old-fashioned, silver-rimmed
spectacles, which gave him an air of portentous dignity.
When I first caught sight of him, he was leaning on a long hickory
stick, which might have been his staff of state, and his face was set
in an expression of superlative importance. As I appeared, however, he
at once removed his hat, and taking a long step forward, made me a
profound bow. I was so much impressed by him, that I failed to catch
the whole of the grandiloquent speech with which he greeted me. I had
evidently secured his approval; for he boldly declared that he would
'a' recognizated me for one of de rail quality ef he had foun' me in a
cuppen. I was immediately conscious of the effect which his
endorsement produced on his companions. They regarded me with new
interest, if any expression so bovine deserved to be thus
I tell dese folks up heah dee don't know nuthin' 'bout rail
quality, he asserted with a contemptuous wave of his arm, which was
manifestly intended to embrace the entire section in its comprehensive
sweep. Dee 'ain' nuver had no 'quaintance wid it, he explained,
condescendingly. His friends accepted this criticism with proper
De Maconses, de Berkeleyses, de Carterses, de Bassettses, de
Wickhamses, de Nelsonses, an' dem!(the final ending es was plainly
supposed to give additional dignity)now dee is sho 'nough
quality. I know all 'bout 'em. He paused long enough to permit this to
I b'longst to Doc' Macon. You know what he wuz?
His emphasis compelled me to acknowledge his exalted position or
abandon forever all hope of retaining my own; so I immediately
assented, and inquired how long he had been in this country, as he
designated his adopted region. He turned with some severity to one of
his companions, a stout and slatternly woman, very black, and many
years his junior.
How long is I been heah, Lucindy?
The woman addressed, by way of answer, turned half away, and gave a
little nervous laugh. I don't know how long you been heah, you been
heah so long; mos' forty years, I reckon. This sally called from her
companions a little ripple of amusement.
Dat's my wife, suh, the old gentleman explained, apologetically.
She's de one I got now; she come f'om up heah in dis ken-try. His
voice expressed all that the words were intended to convey. Lucindy,
who appeared accustomed to such contemptuous reference, merely gave
another little explosion which shook her fat shoulders.
As, however, I was expected to endorse all his views, I changed the
embarrassing subject by inquiring how he had happened to leave the old
Ole marster gi' me to Miss Fanny when she ma'yed Marse William
Fitzhugh, he explained. I wuz ma'yed den to Marth' Ann; she wuz Miss
Fanny's maid, an' when she come up heah wid Miss Fanny, I recompany
her. He would not admit that his removal was a permanent one. I
al'ays layin' out to go back home, but I 'ain' been yit. Dee's mos' all
daid b'fo' dis, suh?
He spoke as if this were a fact, but there was a faint inquiry in
his eyes if not in his tone. I was sorry not to be able to inform him
differently, and, to change the subject, I started to ask him a
question. Martha Ann I began, and then paused irresolute.
She's daid too, he said simply.
How many children have you? I asked.
I 'ain' got but beah one now, suh, ef I got dat one, he replied;
How many have you had?
Well, suh, dat's a partic'lar thing to tell, he said, with a
whimsical look on his face. De Scripturs says you is to multiply an'
replanish de uth; but I s'pecks I's had some several mo'n my relowance;
dar's Jeems, an' Peter, an' Jeremiah, an' Hezekiah, an' Zekyel, Ananias
an' Malachi, Matthew an' Saint Luke, besides de gals. Dee's all gone;
an' now I 'ain' got but jes dat P'laski. He's de wuthlisses one o' de
whole gang. He tecks after his mammy.
The reference to Pulaski appeared to occasion some amusement among
his friends, and I innocently inquired if he was Martha Ann's son.
Nor, suh, dat he warn'! was the vehement and indignant
answer. Ef he had 'a' been, he nuver would 'a' got me into all dat
trouble. Dat wuz de mortification o' my life, suh. He got all dat
meanness fom his mammy. Dat ooman dyah is his mammy. He indicated the
plump Lucindy with his long stick, which he poked at her
contemptuously. Dat's what I git for mar'yin' one o' dese heah
up-kentry niggers! The up-kentry spouse was apparently quite
accustomed to this characterization, for she simply looked away, rather
in embarrassment at my gaze being directed to her than under any
stronger emotion. Her liege continued: Lucindy warn' quality like me
an' Marth' Ann, an' her son tooken after her. What's in de myah will
come out in de colt; an' he is de meanes' chile I uver had. I name de
urrs fom de Scriptur', but he come o' a diff'-ent stock, an' I name him
arter Mr. P'laski Greener, whar Lucindy use' to b'longst to, an' I
reckon maybe dat's de reason he so natchally evil. I had mo' trouble by
recount o' dat boy 'n I hed when I los' Marth' Ann.
The old fellow threw back his head and gave a loud Whew! actually
removing his large spectacles in his desperation at Pulaski's
wickedness. Again there was a suppressed chuckle from his friends; so,
seeing that some mystery attached to the matter, I put a question which
Well, I'll tell you, suh, he began. Hit all growed out of a
tunament, suh. You an' I knows all discerning tunaments, 'cuz we come
f'om de ole county o' Hanover, whar de raise tunaments(he
referred to them as if they had been a species of vegetables)but we
'ain' nuver hearn de modification of a nigger ridin' in a
I admitted this, and, after first laying his hat carefully on the
ground, he proceeded:
Well, you know, suh, dat P'laski got de notionment in he haid dat
he wuz to ride in a tunament. He got dat f'om dat ooman. He turned and
pointed a trembling finger at his uncomplaining spouse; and then slowly
declared, Lord! I wuz outdone dat day.
I suggested that possibly he had not followed Solomon's injunction
as rigidly as Pulaski's peculiar traits of character had demanded; but
he said promptly:
Yes, suh, I did. I whupped him faithful; but he took whuppin' like
a ole steer. Hickory didn' 'pear to have no 'feck on him. He didn' had
no memory; he like a ole steer: got a thick skin an' a short memory; he
wuz what I call one o' dese disorde'ly boys.
He paused long enough to permit this term, taken from the police
court reports, to make a lodgement, and then proceeded:
He wuz so wuthless at home, I hired him out to ole Mis' Twine for
fo' dollars an' a half a mont'an' more'n he wuth, too!to see ef po'
white ooman kin git any wuck out'n him. A po' white ooman kin git wuck
out a nigger ef anybody kin, an' 'twuz down dyah that he got had
foolishness lodgicated in he haid. You see, ole Mis' Twine warn' so fur
f'om Wash'n'n. Nigger think ef he kin git to Wash'n'n, he done got in
heaven. Well, I hire him to ole Mis' Twine, 'cuz I think she'll keep
P'laski straight, an' ef I don' git but one fo' dollars an' a half f'om
him, hit's dat much; but 'pear like he got to runnin' an' consortin'
wid some o' dem urr free-issue niggers roun' dyah, an' dee larne him
mo' foolishness'n I think dee able; 'cuz a full hawg cyarn drink no
The old fellow launched out into diatribes against the free
issues, who, he declared, expected to be better than white folks,
like white folks ain' been free sense de wull begin. He, however,
shortly returned to his theme.
Well, fust thing I knowed, one Sunday I wuz settin' down in my
house, an' heah come P'laski all done fixed up wid a high collar on,
mos' high as ole master's, an' wid a better breeches on 'n I uver wear
in my life, an' wid a creevat! an' a cane! an' wid a seegar! He
comes in de do' an' hol' he seegar in he han', sort o' so
(illustrating), an' he teck off he hat kine o' flourishy 'whurr,' an'
say, 'Good mornin', pa an' ma.' He mammydat shemonsus
pleaged wid dem manners; she ain' know no better; but I ain' nuver like
nobody to gobble roun' me, an' I say, 'Look heah, boy, don' fool
wid me; I ain' feelin' well to-day, an' ef you fool wid me, when I git
done wid you, you oon feel well you'self.' Den he kine o' let he
feathers down; an' presney he say he warn me to len' him three dollars
an' a half. I ax him what he warn do wid it, 'cuz I know I ain' gwine
len' to himjes well len' money to a mus'-rat hole;an' he say he
warn it for a tunament.
'Hi!' I say, 'P'laski, what air a tunament?' I mecked out, you see,
like I ain' recognizated what he meck correspondence to; an' he start
to say, 'A tunament, pa' but I retch for a barrel hoop whar layin' by
kine o' amiable like, an' he stop, like young mule whar see mud-puddle
in de road, an' say, 'A tunamenta tunament is whar you gits 'pon a
hoss wid a pole, an' rides hard as you kin, an' pokes de pole at a
ring, an'' When he gets right dyah, I interrup's him, an' I say,
'P'laski,' says I, 'I's raised wid de fust o' folks, 'cuz I's raised
wid de Ma-conses at Doc' Macon's in Hanover, an' I's spectated fish
fries, an' festibals, an' bobby-cues; but I ain' nuver witness nuttin'
like data nigger ridin' 'pon a hoss hard as he kin stave, an'
nominatin' of it a tunament,' I says. 'You's talkin' 'bout a
hoss-race,' I says, ''cuz dat's de on'yes' thing,' I says, 'a nigger
rides in.' You know, suh, he broke in suddenly, you and I's seen many
a hoss-race, 'cuz we come f'om hoss kentry, right down dyah f'om whar
Marse Torm Doswell live, an' we done see hoss-races whar wuz hoss-races
sho 'nough, at the ole Fyarfiel' race-co'se, whar hosses used to run
could beat buds flyin' an' so I tole him. I tole him I nuver heah
nobody but a po' white folks' nigger call a hoss-race a tunament; an' I
tole him I reckon de pole he talkin' 'bout wuz de hick'ry dee used to
tune de boys' backs wid recasionally when dee didn' ride right. Dat cut
him down might'ly, 'cuz dat ermine him o' de hick'ries I done wyah out
'pon him; but he say, 'Nor, 'tis a long pole whar you punch th'oo a
ring, an' de one whar punch de moes, he crown de queen.' I tole him dat
de on'yes' queen I uver heah 'bout wuz a cow ole master had, whar teck
de fust prize at de State fyah in Richmond one year; but he presist dat
this wuz a tunament queen, and he warn three dollars an' a half to get
him a new shut an' to pay he part ov de supper. Den I tole him ef he
think I gwine give him three dollars an' a half for dat foolishness he
mus' think I big a fool as he wuz. Wid dat he begin to act kine o'
aggervated, which I teck for incidence, 'cuz I nuver could abeah
chillern ner women to be sullen roun' me; an' I gi' him de notification
dat ef I cotch him foolin' wid any tunament I gwine ride him tell he
oon know when he ain't a mule hisself; an' I gwine have hick'ry pole
dyah too. Den I tolt him he better go 'long back to ole Mis' Twine,
whar I done hire him to; an' when he see me pick up de barrel hoop an'
start to roll up my sleeve, he went; an' I heah he jine dat Jim
Sinkfiel', an' dat's what git me into all dat tribilation.
What got you in? I inquired, in some doubt as to his meaning.
Dat tunament, suh. P'laski rid it! An' what's mo,' suh, he won de
queen,one o' ole man Bob Sibley's impident gals,an' when he come to
crown her, he crown her wid ole Mis' Twine's weddin'-ring!
There was a subdued murmur of amusement in the group behind him, and
I could not but inquire how he came to perform so extraordinary a
Dat I don' know, suh; but so 'twair. Fust information I had on it
wuz when I went down to ole Mis' Twine's to get he mont's weges. I
received de ontelligence on de way dat he had done lef dyah, an' dat
ole Mis' Twine gol' ring had lef by de same road at de same time. Dat
correspondence mortify me might'ly' cuz I hadn' raised P'laski no sich
a ways as dat. He was dat ooman's son to be sho' an' I knowed he wuz
wuthless, but still I hadn' respect him to steal ole Mis' Twine
wed-din'-ring, whar she wyah on her finger ev'y day, an' whar wuz gol'
too. I want de intimation 'bout de fo' dollars an' a half, so I went
'long; but soon as ole Mis' Twine see me she began to quoil. I tell her
I just come to git de reasonment o' de matter, an' I 'ain' got nuthin'
'tall to say 'bout P'laski. Dat jes like bresh on fire; she wuss'n
befo'. She so savigrous I tolt her I 'ain' nuver had nobody to
prevaricate nuttin' 'bout me; dat I b'longst to Doc' Macon, o' Hanover,
an' I ax her ef she knowed de Maconses. She say, nor, she 'ain' know
'em, nor she ain' nuver hearn on 'em, an' she wished she hadn' nuver
hearn on me an' my thievin' boydat's P'laski. Well, tell then, I
mighty consarned 'bout P'laski; but when she said she 'ain' nuver hearn
on the Maconses, I ain' altogether b'lieve P'laski done teck her ring,
cause I ain' know whether she got any ring; though I know sence the
tunament he mean enough for anything; an' I tolt her so, an' I tolt her
I wuz raised wid qualitysence she ain' know the Maconses, I ain' tole
her no mo' 'bout dem, 'cuz de Bible say you is not to cast pearls befo'
hawgsan' dat I had tote de corn-house keys many a time, an' Marth'
Ann used to go in ole Mistis' trunks same as ole Mistis herself. Right
dyah she mought 'a' cotch me ef she had knowed that P'laski warn'
Marth' Ann's son; but she ain' know de Maconses, an' in cose she ain'
'quainted wid de servants, so she don' know it. Well, suh, she rar an'
she pitch. Yo' nuver heah a ooman talk so befo' in yo' life; an' fust
thing I knew she gone in de house, she say she gwine git a gun an' run
me off dat lan', But I ain' wait for dat: don nobody have to git gun to
run me off dee lan'. I jes teck my foot in my han' an' come 'long way
by myself, 'cuz I think maybe a ooman 'at could cuss like a man mout
shoot like a man too.
Where did you go and what did you do next? I asked the old fellow
as he paused with a whimsical little nod of satisfaction at his wisdom.
I went home, suh, he said. I heah on de way dat P'laski had sho
'nough done crownt Bob Sibly's gal, Lizzy Susan, wid de ring, an' dat
he wuz gwine to Wash'n'n, but wuz done come home to git some things b'f
o' he went; so I come straight 'long behinst him jes swif' as my foot
could teck me. I didn' was'e much time, he said, with some pride,
'cuz he had done mighty nigh come gittin' me shot. I jes stop long
'nough to cut me a bunch o' right keen hick'ries, an' I jes come 'long
shakin' my foot. When I got to my house I ain' fine nobody dyah but
Lucindydat ve'y ooman dyahpointing his long stick at heran' I
lay my hick'ries on de bed, an' ax her is she see P'laski. Fust she
meek out dat she ain' heah me, she so induschus; I nuver see her so
induschus; but when I meck 'quiration agin she bleeged to answer me,
an' she 'spon' dat she 'ain' see him; 'cuz she see dat my blood wuz up,
an' she know dee wuz trouble 'pendin' for P'laski. Dat worry me
might'ly, an' I say, 'Lucindy, ef you is done meck dat boy resent
hisself f'om heah, you is done act like a po' white folks' nigger,' I
say, 'an' you's got to beah de depravity o' his transgression.' When I
tolt her dat she nuver got mad, 'cuz she know she air not quality like
me an' Marth' Ann; but she 'pear right smartly disturbed, an' she
'clar' she ain' lay her eyes on P'laski. She done 'clar' so partic'lar
I mos' inclin' to b'lieve her; but all on a suddent I heah some 'n'
sneeze, 'Quechew!' De soun' come f om onder de bed, an' I jes retch
over an' gether in my bunch o' hick'ries, an' I say, 'Come out!'
Lucindy say, 'Dat's a cat'; an' I say, 'Yes,' I say, 'hit's a cat I
gwine skin, too.'
I jes stoop down, an' peep onder de bed, an', sho 'nough, dyah wuz
P'laski squinch up onder dyah, cane an' seegar an' all, jes like a ole
hyah in a trap. I ketch him by de leg, an' juck him out, an'don' you
know, suh, dat ooman had done put my shut on dat boy, an' wuz
gettin' ready to precipitate him in flight! I tolt her it wuz p'intedly
oudacious for her an' her son, after he had done stolt ole Mis' Taine
weddin'-ring, to come to my own house an' rob me jes like I wuz a
What reply did she make to that? I asked, to facilitate his
She 'ain' possessed no reply to dat indictment, he said,
pompously. She glad by dat time to remit me to terminate my excitement
on P'laski, an' so I did. He hollered tell dee say you could heah him
two miles; he fyahly lumbered. The old fellow gave a chuckle of
satisfaction at the reminiscence, and began to draw figures in the sand
with his long stick. Suddenly, however, he looked up.
Ef I had a-intimated how much tribilation dat lumberin' wuz gwine
to get me in, he nuver would 'a' hollered. Dat come o' dat
chicken-stealin' nigger Jem Sinkfiel'; he cyahed him off.
He again became reflective, so I asked, Haven't you seen him
Oh, yes, suh, I seen him since, he answered. I seen him after I
come out o' jail; but 'twuz a right close thing. I thought I wuz gone.
Gone! for whipping him? Nor, suh; 'bout de murder.
Yes, suh; murder o' himo' P'laski. But you did not murder him?
Nor, suh; an' dat wuz whar de trouble presisted. Ef I had a-murdered
him I'd 'a' knowed whar he wuz when dee wanted him; but, as 'twair,
when de time arrove, I wair unable to perduce him: and I come mighty
nigh forfeitin' my life.
My exclamation of astonishment manifestly pleased him, and he
proceeded with increased gravity and carefulness of dictation:
You see, suh, 'twair dis way. He laid his stick carefully down,
and spreading open the yellowish palm of one hand, laid the index
finger of the other on it, as if it had been a map. When I waked up
nex' mornin' an' called P'laski, he did not rappear. He had departured;
an' so had my shut! Ef 't hadn' been for de garment, I wouldn' 'a'
keered so much, for I knowed I'd git my han's on him some time: hawgs
mos'ly comes up when de acorns all gone! an' I know hick'ries ain't
gwino stop growin': but I wuz cawnsiderably tossified decernin' my
garment, an' I gin Lucindy a little direction 'bout dat. But I jos wont
on gittin' my sumac, an' whenever I como 'cross a right straight
hick'ry, I geth-orod dat too, an' laid it by, 'cus hick'ries grow
mighty fine in ole fiel's whar growin' up like. An' one day I wuz down
in de bushes, an' Mr. 'Lias Lumpkins, de constable, come rid-in' down
dyah whar I wuz, an' ax me whar P'laski is. Hit come in my mind
torectly dat he warn' P'laski 'bout de ring, an' I tell him I air not
aware whar P'laski is: and den he tell me he got warrant for me, and I
mus' come on wid him. I still reposed, in co'se, 'twuz 'bout de ring,
an' I say I ain' had nuttin' to do wid it. An' he say, 'Wid what?' An'
I say, 'Wid de ring.' Den he say, 'Oh!' an' he say, ''Tain' nuttin'
'bout de ring; 'tis for murder.' Well, I know I ain' murder nobody, an'
I ax him who dee say I done murder; an' he ax me agin, 'Whar air
P'laski?' I tell him I don' know whar P'laski air: I know I ain' murder
him! Well, suh, hit subsequently repeared dat dis wuz de wuss thing I
could 'a' said, 'cus when de trial come on, Major Torm Woods made mo'
o' dat 'n anything else at all; an' hit 'pears like ef you's skused o'
murder er steal-in', you mus'n' say you ain' do it, 'cuz dat's
dangersomer 'n allowing you is do it.
Well, I went 'long wid him. I ax him to le' me go by my house; but
he say, nor, he 'ain' got time, dat he done been dyah. An' he teck me
'long to de cote-house, an' lock me up in de jail! an' lef' me
dyah in de dark on de rock flo'! An' dyah I rejourned all night long.
An' I might 'a' been dyah now, ef 't hadn' been dat de co'te come on.
Nex' mornin' Mr. Landy Wilde come in dyah an' ax me how I gettin' on,
an' ef I warn' anything. I tell him I gettin' on toler'ble, an' I ain'
warn' nuttin' but a little tobacco. I warn' git out, but I knew I cyarn
do dat, 'cuz 'twuz de ambitiouses smellin' place I ever smelt in my
life. I tell you, suh, I is done smell all de smells o' mink an' mus'
an' puffume, but I ain' nuver smell nuttin' like dat jail. Mr. Landy
Wilde had to hole he nose while he in dyah; an' he say he'll git de ole
jedge to come an' ac' as my council. I tell him, 'Nor; Gord put me in
dyah, an' I reckon He'll git me out when He ready.' I tell you, suh, I
wair p'intedly ashamed for de ole jedge, whar wuz a gent'man, to come
in sich a scand'lous smellin' place as dat. But de ole jedge come; an'
he say it wuz a shame to put a humin in sich place, an' he'd git
me bail; which I mus' sayeven ef he is a church membermight be
ixcused ef you jes consider dat smell. But when de cote meet, dee
wouldn' gi' me no bail, 'cuz dee say I done commit murder; an' I heah
Jim Sinkfiel' an' Mr. Lumpkins an' ole Mis' Twine went in an' tole de
gran' jury I sutney had murder P'laski, an' bury him down in de sumac
bushes; an' dee had de gre't bundle o' switches dee fine in my house,
an' dee redite me, an' say ef I 'ain' murder him, why'n't I go 'long
an' pre-duce him. Dat's a curisome thing, suh; dee tell you to go 'long
and fine anybody, an' den lock you up in jail a insec' couldn' get
I agreed with him as to the apparent inconsistency of this, and he
Well, suh, at las' de trial come on; 'twuz April-cote, an' dee had
me in the cote-house, an' set me down in de cheer, wid de jury right in
front o' me, an' de jedge settin' up in he pulpit, lookin' mighty
aggrevated. Dat wuz de fus' time I 'gin to feel maybe I wuz sort o'
forgittin' things, I had done been thinkin' so much lately in jail
'bout de ole doctordat's ole masteran' Marth' Ann, an' all de ole
times in Hanover, I wuz sort o' misty as I wuz settin' dyah in de
cheer, an' I jes heah sort o' buzzin' roun' me, an' I warn' altogether
certified dat I warn' back in ole Hanover. Den I heah 'em say dat de
ole jedge wuz tooken down an' wuz ixpected to die, an' dee ax me don' I
want a continuance. I don' know what dat mean, 'sep dee say I have to
go back to jail, an' sense I smell de fresh air I don' warn' do dat no
mo'; so I tell 'em, 'Nor; I ready to die.' An' den dee made me stan'
up; an' dee read dat long paper to me 'bout how I done murder P'laski;
dee say I had done whup him to death, an' had done shoot him, an' knock
him in de haid, an' kill him mo' ways 'n 'twould 'a' teck to kill him
ef he had been a cat. Lucindy wuz dyah. I had done had her gwine 'bout
right smart meckin' quiration for P'laski. At least she say she
had, he said, with a sudden reservation, and a glance of some
suspicion toward his spouse. An' dee wuz a whole parecel o' niggers
stan'-in' roun' dyah, black as buzzards roun' a ole hoss whar dyin'.
An' don' you know, dat Jim Sinkfiel' say he sutney hope dee would hang
me, an' all jes 'cuz he owe' me two dollars an' seventy-three cents,
whar he ain' warn' pay me!
Did you not have counsel? I inquired.
Oh, nor, suh; dat is, I had council, but not a la'yar, edzactly,
he replied, with careful discrimination. I had a some sort of a
la'yer, but not much of a one. I had ixpected ole Jedge Thomas to git
me off; 'cuz he knowed me; he wuz a gent'man, like we is; but when he
wuz tooken sick so providential I wouldn' had no urrs; I lef' it to
Gord. De jedge ax me at de trial didn' I had no la'yar, and I tell him
nor, not dyah; an' he ax me didn' I had no money to get one; an' I
er-spon' 'Nor, I didn' had none,' although I had at dat time
forty-three dollars an' sixty-eight cents in a ole rag in my waistcoat
linin', whar I had wid me down in de sumac bushes, an' whar I thought I
better hole on to, an' 'ain' made no mention on. So den de jedge ax me
wouldn' I had a young man dyaha right tall young man; an' I enform
him: 'Yes, suh. I didn' reckon 'twould hu't none.' So den he come an'
set by me an' say he wuz my counsel.
There was such a suggestion of contempt in his tone that I inquired
if he had not done very well.
Oh, yes, suh, he drawled, slowly, he done toler'ble
wellconsiderin'. He do de bes' he kin, I reckon. He holler an' mix me
up some right smart; but dee wuz too strong for him; he warn' no mo' to
'em 'n wurrm is to woodpecker. Major Torm Woods' de com-monwealph's
attorney, is a powerful la'yer; he holler so you kin heah him three
mile. An' ole Mis' Twine wuz dyah, whar tell all 'bout de ring, an' how
impident I wuz to her dat day, an' skeer her to death. An' dat Jim
Sinkfiel', he wuz dyah, an' tolt' 'bout how I beat P'laski, an' how he
heah him 'way out in main road, hollerin' 'murder.' An' dee had de
gre't bundle o' hick'ries dyah, whar dee done fine in my house, an' dee
had so much evidence dat presney I 'mos' begin to think maybe I
had done kilt P'laski sho 'nough, an' had disermembered it. An' I
thought 'bout Marth' Ann an' all de urr chil'ern, an' I wondered ef dee
wuz to hang me ef I wouldn' fine her; an' I got so I mos' hoped dee
would sen' me. An den de jury went out, an' stay some time, an' come
back an' say I wuz guilty, an' sen' me to de Pen'tentiy for six years.
I had followed him so closely, and been so satisfied of his
innocence, that I was surprised into an exclamation of astonishment, at
which he was evidently much pleased.
What did your counsel do? I asked.
He put his head on one side. He? He jes lean over an' ax did I
warn' to repeal. I tell him I didn't know. Den he ax me is I got any
money at all. I tell him, nor; ef I had I would 'a' got me a la'yer.
What happened then? I inquired, laughing at his discomfiting
Well, den de jedge tole me to stan' up, an' ax me has I got
anything to say. Well, I know dat my las' chance, an' I tell him, 'Yes,
suh.' An' he inform me to precede wid de relation, an' so I did. I
preceded, an' I tolt 'em dyah in de cote-house ev'y wud jes like I have
explanified it heah. I tolt 'em all 'bout Marth' Ann an' de chillern I
hed had; I reformed 'em all decernin' de Maconses; an' I notified 'em
how P'laski wuz dat urr ooman's son, not Marth' Ann's, an 'bout de
tunament an' how I had demonstrated wid him not to ride dyah, an' how
he had repudiated my admonition, an' had crown de queen wid ole Mis'
Twine weddin'-ring, whar he come nigh git-tin' me shot fur; an' how I
had presented him de hick'ry, an' 'bout how he had departed de premises
while I wuz 'sleep, an' had purloined my garment, an' how I wuz waitin'
for him, an' getherin' de hick'ry crap an' all. An' dee wuz all
laughin', 'cuz dee know I wuz relatin' de gospel truth, an' jes den I
heah some o' de niggers back behine call out, 'Hi! heah he now!' an' I
look roun', an', ef you b'lieve me, suh, dyah wuz P'laski, jes
repeared, all fixed up, wid he cane an' seegar an' all, jes like I had
drawed he resemblance. He had done been to Wash'n'n, an' had done come
back to see de hangin'.
The old fellow broke into such a laugh at the reminiscence that I
asked him, Well, what was the result?
De result, suh, wuz, de jury teck back all dee had say, an' ax me
to go down to de tavern an' have much whiskey as I could stan' up to,
an' dee'd pay for it; an' de jedge distracted 'em to tu'n me loose.
P'laski, he wuz sort o' bothered; he ain' know wherr to be disapp'inted
'bout de hangin' or pleased wid bein' set up so as de centre of
distraction, tell ole Mis' Twine begin to talk 'bout 'restin' of him.
Dat set him back; but I ax 'em, b'fo' dee 'rest him, couldn' I have
jurisdictionment on him for a leetle while. Dee grant my be-ques', 'cuz
dee know I gwine to erward him accordin' to his becessities, an' I jes
nod my head to him an' went out. When we got roun' hine de jail, I
invite him to perject his coat. He nex' garment wuz my own shut, an' I
tolt him to remove dat too; dat I had to get nigh to he backbone, an' I
couldn't 'ford to weah out dat shut no mor'n he had done already weah
it. Somebody had done fetch de bunch o' hick'ries whar dee had done
fine in my house, an' hit jes like Providence. I lay 'em by me while I
put him on de altar, I jes made him wrop he arms roun' a little
locus'-tree, an' I fasten he wris'es wid he own gallowses, 'cuz I didn'
warn' was'e dem hick'ries; an' all de time I bindin' him I tellin' him
'bout he sins. Den, when I had him ready, I begin, an' I rehearse de
motter wid him f'om de time he had ax me 'bout de tunament spang tell
he come to see me hang, an' wid ev'y wud I gin him de admonishment,
tell when I got thoo wid him he wouldn' 'a' tetch a ring ef he had been
in 'em up to he neck; an' as to shuts, he would' a' gone naked in frost
b'fo' he'd 'a' put one on. He back gin out b'fo' my hick'ries did; but
I didn' wholly lors 'em. I receive de valyationo' dem too, 'cuz when I
let up on P'laski, fust man I see wuz dat Jim Sinkfiel', whar had warn'
me hanged 'cuz he didn't warn' pay me two dollars an' seventy-three
cents. He wuz standin' dyah lookin' on, 'joyin' hiself. I jes walk up
to him an' I tolt him dat he could pay it right den, or recommodate me
to teck de res' o' de hick'ries. He try to blunder out o' it, but all
de folks know 'bout it an' dee wuz wid me, an' b'fo' he knowed it some
on 'em had he coat off, an' had stretch him roun' de tree, an' tolt me
to perceed. An' I perceeded.
I hadn't quite wo' out one hick'ry when he holler dat he'd borry de
money an' pay it; but I tolt him, nor; hick'ries had riz; dat I had
three mo', an' I warn' show him a man can meek a boy holler 'murder'
an' yit not kill him. An' dat I did, too: b'f o' I wuz done he hollered
'murder' jes natchel as P'laski.
The old fellow's countenance beamed with satisfaction at the
recollection of his revenge. I rewarded his narrative with a donation
which he evidently considered liberal; for he not only was profuse in
his thanks, but he assured me that the county of Hanover had produced
four people of whom he was duly proudHenry Clay, Doctor Macon,
myself, and himself.