by Margaret Devereux
PRIVATELY PRINTED AT The Riverside Press, Cambridge MDCCCCVI
COPYRIGHT 1906 BY MARGARET DEVEREUX
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
GOING TO THE
MY OWN EARLY
TWO BOB WHITES
The descriptions of Southern life in this little book, as well as
the accompanying stories, were written by Mrs. Devereux during the past
fifteen years, in large part after she had passed her sixty-fifth year.
They are essentially reminiscent, and were prepared originally with no
thought of publication, but merely to be read to her grandchildren, so
that there might be preserved in their minds some conception of the
old-time lives of their grandparents. The sketches thus came to be read
by me to my own children, who are of the third generation. They brought
to my mind so simply, yet so vividly and in so attractive a manner, a
picture of the old plantation life, they showed such remarkable memory
of interesting details, that they seemed to me to merit publication.
The charm of the descriptions will impress all readers, and the
truthfulness of the illustrations of negro character and habits will be
recognized by all who are familiar with the South. The sketches are
simple, homely little tales prepared for children, and they must be
read with this fact in mind; but they have nevertheless an interest and
a lesson for maturer readers, to whom they are now offered.
18 Chestnut St., Boston, Mass.
April 27, 1906
TO MY GRANDCHILDREN
As the New South, with all its changes and improvements, rises
above the horizon, those whose hearts still cling to the Old South
look sadly backward and sigh to see it fade away into dimness, to be
soon lost to sight and to live only in the memory of the few. Hoping to
rescue from oblivion a few of the habits, thoughts, and feelings of the
people who made our South what it was, I have drawn from memory a few
pen sketches of plantation life, based upon actual events, in which are
recorded some of the good and even noble traits of character which were
brought forth under the yoke of slavery.
For you, my dear grandchildren, I have tried to fix, before they
fade entirely, these already faint reflections from the light of other
Raleigh, North Carolina.
I am going to try to describe to you something of the lives and
homes of your dear grandfather and of your great-grandfather, because I
want you to know something of them, because their mode of life was one
of which scarcely a vestige is left now, and because, finally, I don't
want you to be led into the misconception held by some that Southern
planters and slaveholders were cruel despots, and that the life of the
negro slaves on the plantation was one of misery and sorrow.
Before I enter upon my brief narrative I want you to realize that it
is all strictly true, being based upon my knowledge of facts; very
simple and homely in its details, but with the merit of entire
Your great-grandfather, Thomas Pollock Devereux, and your
grandfather, John Devereux, were planters upon an unusually large scale
in North Carolina; together they owned eight large plantations and
between fifteen and sixteen hundred negroes. Their lands, situated in
the rich river bottoms of Halifax and Bertie counties, were very
fertile, the sale crops being corn, cotton, and droves of hogs, which
were sent to Southampton county, Virginia, for sale.
The names of your great-grandfather's plantations were Conacanarra,
Feltons, Looking Glass, Montrose, Polenta, and Barrows, besides a large
body of land in the counties of Jones and Hyde. His residence was at
Conacanarra, where the dwelling stood upon a bluff commanding a fine
view of the Roanoke river, and, with the pretty house of the head
overseer, the small church, and other minor buildings, looked like a
small village beneath the great elms and oaks.
Your grandfather's principal plantation, and our winter home, was
Runiroi, in Bertie county. The others were The Lower Plantation and
Over the Swamp. At Runiroi we lived and called ourselves at home, and
of it I have preserved the clearest recollection and the fondest
From Kehukee bluff, which we usually visited while waiting for the
ferryman on our return journey after the summer's absence, the
plantation could be seen stretching away into the distance, hemmed in
by the flat-topped cypresses. From there we had a view of our distant
dwelling, gleaming white in the sunlight and standing in a green oasis
of trees and grass, all looking wonderfully small amid the expanse of
flat fields around it. Apart as I now am from the restless,
never-ending push of life, when neither men nor women have time for
leisure, when even pleasure and amusement are reduced to a business
calculation as to how much may be squeezed into a given time, I think
it might perhaps calm down some of the nervous restlessness that I
perceive in my dear children and grandchildren if they could, for once,
stand there in the soft November sunshine. The splendor of the light is
veiled in a golden haze, the brown fields bask in the soft radiance and
seem to quiver in the heat, while the ceaseless murmur of the great
river is like a cradle song to a sleepy child; the rattle of the old
ferryman's chain and the drowsy squeak of his long sweeps seem even to
augment the stillness. The trees along the banks appear to lack the
energy to hang out the brilliant reds and purples of autumn, but tint
their leaves with the soft shades of palest yellow, and these keep
dropping and floating away, while the long gray moss waves dreamily in
The house at Runiroi was a comfortable, old, rambling structure, in
a green yard and flower garden, not ugly, but quite innocent of any
pretensions at comeliness. Neither was there, to many, a bit of
picturesque beauty in the flat surroundings; and yet this very flatness
did lend a charm peculiar to itself. My eyes ever found a delight
in its purple distances and in the great, broad-armed trees marking the
graceful curves of the river. The approach from the public road, which
followed the bank of the river, was through the willow lane, between
deep-cut ditches, which kept the roadway well drained unless the river
overspread its banks, when the lane was often impassable for days. In
the springtime, when the tender green boughs of the willows were swayed
by the breeze, it was a lovely spot, and a favorite resort of the
I was so young a bride, only seventeen, when I was taken to our
winter home, and so inexperienced, that I felt no dread whatever of my
new duties as mistress. The household comforts of my childhood's home
had seemed to come so spontaneously that I never thought of
processes, and naturally felt rather nonplussed when brought into
contact with realities. The place had for years been merely a sort of
camping-out place for your great-grandfather, who liked to spend a part
of the winter there; so the house was given over to servants who made
him comfortable, but who took little heed of anything else.
I recollect my antipathy to a certain old press which stood in the
back hall. The upper part was filled with books. In the under cupboard,
Minerva kept pies, gingerbread, plates of butter, etc. The outside
looked very dim and dusty. I could not bear to look at it, but knew not
how to remedy its defects. I know now that it was a handsome old piece,
which a furniture-lover would delight in. However, my youthful appetite
did not scorn Minerva's gingerbread, and, as I had many lonely hours to
get through with as best I could, I would mount the highest chair that
I could find, and ransack the old musty volumes in search of amusement.
The collection consisted chiefly of antiquated medical works, some
tracts, etc., but once, to my delight, I unearthed two of Mrs.
Radcliffe's novels, which were indeed a treasure trove; one of them was
Gaston de Blondeville, which I thought beautiful. I have regretted
that I did not take care of it, for I have never seen another copy.
Minerva was a woman of pretty good sense, but of slatternly habits.
She had been so long without a lady to guide her that her original
training was either forgotten or entirely disregarded. Once, when
starting to Conacanarra for Christmas, I charged her to take advantage
of the fine weather to give the passage floors a thorough scrubbing;
they were bare and showed every footprint of black mud from the
outside. When it came time to return, in spite of our pleasant
Christmas week, we were glad to think of our own home and were rather
dismayed when the morning fixed for our departure broke dark and very
cold, with little spits of snow beginning to fall. I was much afraid
that we should be compelled to yield to the hospitable objections to
our going, but at last we succeeded in getting off. We crossed at
Pollock's (your great-grandfather's ferry), so that should the storm
increase we need not leave our comfortable carriage until we should be
at home. It was a lonely drive; the snow fell steadily but so gently
that I enjoyed seeing the earth and the trees, the fences and the few
lonely houses that we passed all draped in white; though we were warmly
wrapped, the anticipation of the crackling fires in our great old
fireplaces was delightful. When we got home, the first sound that
greeted our ears, as we stepped upon the piazza, was a mournful,
long-drawn hymn. Shivering and damp from our walk up the yard, we
opened the door, to see Minerva, with kilted skirts, standing in an
expanse of frozen slush and singing at the top of her voice, while she
sluiced fresh deluges of water from her shuck brush. I was too
disgusted for words, but resolved that this should not occur again. As
soon as I could communicate with the outside world I had the hall
floors covered with oilcloth (then the fashionable covering). Also,
Minerva was displaced, and Phyllis reigned in her stead, but Minerva,
nevertheless, always indulged in the belief that she was indispensable
to our happiness and comfort.
In honor of my advent as mistress, the floors had been freshly
carpeted with very pretty bright carpets, which were in danger of being
utterly ruined by the muddy shoes of the raw plantation servants,
recently brought in to be trained for the house. Although the soil
generally was a soft, sandy loam, I observed in my horseback rides
numbers of round stones scattered about in the fields. They were
curious stones, and looked perfectly accidental and quite out of place.
Their presence excited my interest, and aroused my curiosity as to
their origin, which has never been gratified. They seemed so out of
place in those flat fields! However, I determined to utilize them and
had a number collected and brought into the yard, and with them I had a
pretty paved walk made from the house to the kitchen.
Our house stood upon what was known as the Second Land, which
meant a slight rise above the wide, low grounds, which were formerly, I
believe, the bed of the sluggish stream now known as the Roanoke. All
along the edge of these Second Lands, just where they joined the low
grounds, there was a bed of beautiful small gravel. I was delighted
when I discovered this and at once interested myself in having a gravel
walk made up to the front of the house, and this was, when completed,
all that I had hoped, and served as a perfect protection against the
There was one evil, though, which I could not guard against, and
this was the clumsy though well-meaning stupidity of a plantation
negro. One afternoon the house became offensive with the odor of
burning wool. I followed up the scent and, after opening several doors,
I finally traced it to the dining-room. It was filled with smoke, and
there, in front of an enormous fire, squatted Abby. In a fit of most
unaccountable industry she had undertaken to clean the brass andirons,
and had drawn them red hot from the fire and placed them upon the
carpet. Of course, four great holes were the result and, as the carpets
had been made in New York, there were no pieces with which the holes
could be mended. As I had already decided her to be too stupid to be
worth the trouble of training, I felt no desire to find fault with her,
so I merely told her to put them back, or rather stood by to see it
done. I did not keep her in the house after that, but do not suppose
that she ever at all realized the mischief that she had done.
One of my amusements was to watch the birds; they were so numerous,
and appeared to be so tame. I set traps for them. This was childish,
but I was very young and often rather at a loss to find something to
do; so I used to take with me my small house boy, Minor, whom I was
training to be a grand butler; he would carry the trap and, after it
had been set and baited, I would make him guide me to the trees where
the sweetest persimmons grew; there I would while away the morning and
on the next we would find one or more birds fluttering in the trap,
which, to Minor's silent disgust, I would set free.
The squirrels, too, were a pleasure to me in my horseback rides
toward Vine Ridge, especially. Your grandfather and I would pause to
watch them playing hide and seek just like children, scampering round
and round, their pretty gray tails waving, until some noise would send
them out of sight, and the silent forest would seem as if no living
thing were near. It was upon one of these rides that your grandfather
told me how, when he was about twelve years old, and spending his
Christmas holidays at Runiroi with his grandfather, he once said that
he could shoot one hundred squirrels between sunrise and sunset. His
uncle, George Pollock Devereux, happened to hear him and rebuked him
sharply for so idle a boast, and when your dear grandfather manfully
stood his ground, saying that it was not an idle boast, his uncle
called him a vain braggart, which so offended your grandfather that he
told his uncle that he would prove the truth of his assertion. And so,
upon the following morning, he rose early and was at Vine Ridge gun in
hand, ready to make his first shot, as soon as the sun should appear.
The squirrels were very numerous at first, and he made great havoc
among them. Many a mile he tramped that day, scanning with eager eyes
the trees above him, in search of the little gray noses, hidden behind
the branches, and thus it happened that he got many a fall and tumble
among the cypress knees; but what did that matter to his young limbs?
he had only to pick himself up again and tramp on. As the day advanced,
fewer little bright eyes peeped from the tree-tops and his number was
not made up; he was getting tired too, and very hungry, for he had
eaten nothing since his early breakfast. He stumbled wearily on,
however, determined not to fail, for he dreaded his uncle's triumphant
sarcasm should he do so. A few more shots brought his number to
ninety-nine, but where was the one-hundredth to be found? The sun was
sinking to the horizon; he had come out from the swamp and was tramping
homeward; the gun, so light in the morning, now weighed like lead upon
his shoulder. As he looked into every tree for that hundredth squirrel
which could not be found, the sun's disk was resting upon the horizon
when he turned into the willow lane leading to the house. Just at the
entrance there stood a great chestnut oak. This was his last chance. He
paused to take one hopeless look, when, to his unspeakable joy, he
beheld a fox squirrel seated up among the branches. Now he knew that
the fox squirrel was the slyest, as well as the shyest of all his kind;
no creature so expert as he in slipping out of range; there would be no
chance for a second shot, for now only a rim of the sun was left. With
a wildly beating heart he raised his gun, took time to aim
well,fired,and down came his hundredth squirrel. His wager was won;
fatigue and hunger all gone, he hastened gayly home and with pride
emptied his bag before his uncle and his delighted old grandfather, who
loved him above everything, and who finally made him his heir, so that
your grandfather was quite independent of his own father.
When I first became acquainted with the plantation, the sale crop
was taken down to Plymouth in a great old scow, but this was afterward
superseded by the introduction of freight steamers, which took the
produce direct to Norfolk. These steamers proved to be a great comfort
and convenience to us. By them we might receive anything that we
desired from Norfolk, of which the things most enjoyed were packages of
books,Vickry and Griffiths, booksellers, having standing orders to
send at their discretion what they thought desirable, besides the
special orders for what we wished to see.
The advent of a steamer at the landing would cause much pleasurable
excitement. If anything of special interest was expected, the first
puff of steam from down the river would be eagerly examined through the
spy-glass. Then would follow several days of busy life down at the
different barns from which the corn was to be shipped. Before the
introduction of the corn-sheller, the corn was beaten from the cob by
men wielding great sticks, or flails; others raked the grain into an
immense pile; from this pile it was measured by select hands and put
into bags, which were carried to the steamer lying at the landing. The
men who measured and kept the tally maintained a constant song or
chant, and designated the tally, or fifth bushel, by a sort of
yell. The overseer stood by with pencil and book and scored down each
tally by a peculiar mark. The constant stream of men running back and
forth, with bags empty or full, made a very busy scene.
After the corn had been shipped, the boat had steamed down the
river, and the place, lately so full of busy life, had returned to its
accustomed quiet seclusion, the redbirds came to peck up the corn left
upon the ground. I remember how once, upon a cold, gray afternoon, I
put on my wraps and ran down to the Sycamore Barn, on purpose to watch
the shy, beautiful things. Snowflakes were beginning to fall and
whisper about the great bamboo vines; twisted around the trees upon the
river banks, the long gray moss hung motionless and a thick grayness
seemed to shut out the whole world; all about me was gray,earth, sky,
trees, barn, everything, except the redbirds and the red berries of a
great holly tree under whose shelter I stood, listening to the
The Sycamore Barn derived its name from a great sycamore tree near
which it stood. This tree was by far the largest that I ever saw; a
wagon with a four-horse team might be on one side, and quite concealed
from any one standing upon the other. When I knew it, it was a ruin,
the great trunk a mere shell, though the two giant forks,themselves
immense in girthstill had life in them. In one side of the trunk was
an opening, about as large as an ordinary door; through this we used to
enter, and I have danced a quadrille of eight within with perfect ease.
This tree gave its name to the field in which it grew, which formed
part of the tract known as the Silver Wedge. It was about the Silver
Wedge that an acrimonious lawsuit was carried on during the lives of
your great-great-grandparents, John and Frances Devereux. She was a
Pollock, and the dispute arose through a Mr. Williams, the son or
grandson of a certain Widow Pollock, who had, after the death of her
first husband, Major Pollock, married a Mr. Williams. She may possibly
have dowered in this Silver Wedge tract. At any rate, her Williams
descendants set up a claim to it, although it was in possession of the
real Pollock descendant, Frances Devereux. It was a large body of very
rich land, and intersected the plantation in the form of a wedge,
beginning near the Sycamore Barn, and running up far into the Second
Lands, widening and embracing the dwelling-house and plantation
buildings. I have heard your great-great-grandfather laugh and tell how
Williams once came to the house, and, with a sweeping bow and great
assumption of courtesy, made your great-great-grandmother welcome to
remain in his house. After the suit had been settled, Williams
had occasion to come again to the house, feeling, no doubt, rather
crestfallen. Mrs. Devereux met him at the door and, making him a
sweeping curtsy, quoted his exact words, making him welcome to her
One of my pleasant memories is connected with our fishing porch.
This was a porch, or balcony, built upon piles driven into the river
upon one side, and the other resting upon the banks. It was raised some
eight or ten feet above the water and protected by a strong railing or
balustrade and shaded by the overhanging branches of a large and
beautiful hackberry tree. It made an ideal lounging-place, upon a soft
spring afternoon, when all the river banks were a mass of tender green,
and the soft cooing of doves filled the air. We usually took Minor with
us to bait our hooks and assist generally, and often went home by
starlight with a glorious string of fish.
The drawback to the plantations upon the lower Roanoke lay in their
liability to being flooded by the freshets to which the Roanoke was
exposed. These were especially to be dreaded in early spring, when the
snow in the mountains was melting. I have known freshets in March to
inundate the country for miles. At one time there was not a foot of dry
land upon one of the Runiroi plantations. It was upon a mild night in
that month that I sat upon the porch nearly all through the night,
feeling too anxious to sleep, for your grandfather, the overseer, and
every man on the plantation were at the river, working upon the
embankments. The back waters from the swamp had already spread over
everything. This gentle and slow submersion did no great damage, when
there was no growing crop to be injured; the thing to be guarded
against was the breaking of the river dam and the consequent rushing in
of such a flood as would wash the land into enormous holes, or
breakovers, of several acres in extent in some places, or make great
sand ledges in others, to say nothing of the destruction of fences, the
drowning of stock, etc. On the night that I speak of, the moon was at
its full and glittered upon the water, rippling all around where dry
land should have been. I sat listening anxiously and occasionally
shuddering at a sharp cracking noise, like a pistol shot, and,
following upon it, the rushing of water into some plantation up the
river. Once in the night I heard a noise and, upon my calling to know
who it was, a man replied that they had come up in a canoe to get some
water. I could not help laughing; it struck me that water was rather
too plentiful just then. They worked upon the dam until there was no
more material to work with, water being level with the top on both
sides and only a foot of standing-room at the top, so, having done all
that they could, all hands took to canoes and went to their homes. That
March freshet did incalculable damage to the whole region, but still
fine crops were made that season. Your grandfather was indefatigable
while anything could be done, but, having done all that human energy
could, he would resign himself cheerfully to the inevitable, and his
family never were saddened by depression on his part. This wonderful
elasticity was most noticeable at the fearful period of the surrender
and, indeed, through all the succeeding years, when this power of his,
despite all of our losses and anxieties, made our life one of great
When, during the winter months, a moderate freshet meant nothing
more serious than the flooding of the low grounds, it was considered
rather a benefit, owing to the rich deposit left upon the land, besides
the advantages gained in floating out lumber from the swamps. This
March freshet caused great pecuniary loss; new dams had to be
constructed at a heavy expense, and many miles of repairing had to be
done to those left standing. The few days before the water had reached
its height were most trying to the nerves (that is, my nerves). I
believe my fears culminated upon the night that I saw the water
rippling over our own doorstep and realized that there was not a foot
of dry land visible for miles; by morning, though, the river was at a
stand, and by evening little spots of green were showing themselves in
the yard and garden.
The word garden recalls to my memory our pretty garden, a most
beautiful continuation of the smooth green yard, its many alleys
bordered with flowers and flowering shrubs. It was, I own, laid out in
a stiff, old-fashioned manner, very different from the present and far
more picturesque style; still, it was charming,the profusion of
flowers, fed by that wonderful river loam, exceeded anything that I
have ever seen elsewhere. In the springtime, what with the flowers, the
beautiful butterflies, and the humming-birds, the sunny air would
actually seem to quiver with color and life.
Every plantation had a set of buildings which included generally the
overseer's house, ginhouse, screw, barn, stable, porkhouse, smokehouse,
storehouse, carpenter's shop, blacksmith shop, and loomhouse, where the
material for clothing for each plantation was woven,white cloth for
the underclothes, and very pretty striped or checked for outer
garments. At Runiroi, the weaver, Scip, was a first-class workman, and
very proud of his work. I often had sets of very pretty towels woven in
a damask pattern of mixed flax and cotton. The winter clothing was of
wool, taken from our own sheep.
The carpenters at Runiroi were Jim, the head carpenter, Austin, and
Bill, who were all good workmen. Frank, Boat Frank, as he was called,
from having formerly served as captain of the old flat-bottomed scow
which carried the sale crop to Plymouth, was also in the shop and did
beautiful work. I was fond of visiting Jim's shop and ordering all
sorts of wooden ware, pails, piggins, trays, etc.; these last, dug out
of bowl-gum, were so white that they looked like ivory. Boat Frank was
very proud of the smoothness and polish of his trays. Our children,
with their mammy, were fond of visiting Uncle Jim's shop and playing
with such tools as he considered safe for them to handle, while Mammy,
seated upon a box by the small fire, would indulge in long talks about
religion or plantation gossip. That shop was indeed a typical spot; its
sides were lined to the eaves with choice lumber, arranged
systematically so that the green was out of reach, while that which was
seasoned was close at hand. Uncle Jim would have felt disgraced had a
piece of work made of unseasoned wood left his shop. The smoke from the
small fire which burned in the middle of the big shop, upon the dirt
floor, escaped in faint blue wreaths through the roof, leaving behind
it a sweet, pungent odor. The sun streamed in at the wide-open door,
while Jim and Frank tinkered away leisurely upon plough handles and
other implements or household articles.
Uncle Jim was a preacher as well as a carpenter. He was quite
superior to most of his race, both in sense and principle and was
highly thought of by both white and black. Upon two Sundays in each
month he preached in the church and his sermons were quite remarkable,
teaching in his homely way the necessity of honesty and obedience. His
companion in the shop, Boat Frank, was of a more worldly nature, and
wore great golden hoops in his ears and a red woolen cap upon his head,
and resembled an elderly and crafty ape, as he sat chipping away at his
Next came the blacksmith shop, where Bob wielded the great hammer
and grinned with childish delight at seeing the children's enjoyment
when the sparks flew.
After the blacksmith's shop came the loomhouse, where Scip, the
little fat weaver, threw the shuttles and beat up the homespun cloth
from morning till night; there, too, were the warping-bars, the
winding-blades, and the little quilling-wheel, at which a boy or girl
would fill the quills to be in readiness for the shuttles. Scip was an
odd figure, with his short legs, and his woolly hair combed out until
his head looked as big as a bushel.
The dwellings of the negroes were quite a distance from the Great
House, as that of the master was called, and were built in two or more
long rows with a street between. This was the plan upon every
plantation. Each house had a front and back piazza, and a garden, which
was cultivated or allowed to run wild according to the thrift of the
residents. It generally was stocked with peach and apple trees, and
presented a pretty picture in spring, when the blue smoke from the
houses curled up to the sky amid the pink blossoms, while the drowsy
hum of a spinning-wheel seemed to enhance the quiet of the peaceful
The church at Runiroi was large and comfortably furnished with
seats; colored texts were upon the walls, and the bell, which summoned
the people on Sunday mornings, swung amid the branches of a giant oak.
Both your great-grandfather and grandfather employed a chaplain. At
Runiroi, he officiated only upon alternate Sundays, as the people liked
best to listen to Carpenter Jim. It used to be a pretty sight upon a
Sunday morning to see the people, all dressed in their clean homespun
clothes, trooping to church, laughing and chattering until they reached
the door, when they immediately would assume the deepest gravity and
proceed at once to groan and shake themselves more and more at every
prayer. The singing would often sound very sweet at a distance,
although I must confess that I never sympathized in the admiration of
the negro's voice.
Of course, like all other laboring classes, the negroes had to work,
and of course, as they had not the incentive of poverty, discipline was
necessary. They knew that they would be housed, clothed and well fed
whether they earned these comforts or not; so, in order to insure
diligence, reliable men were chosen from among them as assistants to
the white overseers; these were called foremen, and were looked up to
with respect by their fellows. Upon every large plantation there was
also a Foreman Plower, his business being to take the lead and see that
the plowing was well done and that the plow horses were not maltreated.
With the settled men this was unnecessary, but it was very needful with
the younger hands. These colored foremen were, in their turn, subject
to the overseers, who, in turn, if not found to be temperate and
reliable, were dismissed. Upon well-ordered plantations punishments
were rare, I may say unknown, except to the half-grown youths. Negroes,
being somewhat lacking in moral sense or fixed principles, are
singularly open to the influence of example; and thus it was that a few
well-ordered elders would give a tone to the whole plantation, while
the evil influences of one ill-disposed character would be equally
The plantations of which I am speaking were singularly remote, being
so surrounded by other large plantations that they were exempt from all
outside and pernicious influences. The one or two country stores at
which the negroes traded might have furnished whiskey, had not those
who kept them stood too much in awe of the planters to incur the risk
of their displeasure. As the town of Halifax could boast of several
little stores, and was the trading post of Feltons, Conacanara, and
Montrose, your great-grandfather, in order to prevent the evils of
promiscuous trading, caused certain coins to be struck off, of no value
except to the one merchant with whom his people were allowed to trade.
Perhaps you will be surprised to know how important to the country
merchants was the trade of a plantation, so I will explain to you of
what it consisted. Of course, a few of the careless, content with the
abundance provided for them, did not care to accumulate, while others,
naturally thrifty, amassed a good deal from the sale of otter, coon,
mink, and other skins of animals trapped. Then, some owned as many as
thirty beehives. One old woman, known as Honey Beck, once hauled
thirty or more gallons of honey to Halifax and back again, the whole
distance (twenty-five miles), rather than take a low price for it.
Besides skins, honey, and beeswax, eggs and poultry were always
salable. One of my necessities in housekeeping was a bag of small
change, and, as I never refused to take what was brought to me, my
pantry was often so overstocked with eggs and my coops with ducks and
chickens, that it was a hard matter to know how to consume them.
The beautiful white shad, now so highly prized in our markets, were
then a drug. It was the prettiest sight in the early dawn of a spring
morning to see the fishermen skimming down the broad river with their
dip-nets poised for a catch. My opportunities for seeing them at that
early hour were from my bedroom window, when I happened to be visiting
the family at Conacanara. Our home at Runiroi stood some distance from
the river, but the dwelling at Conacanara was upon a bluff just over
Beside the sale crops of cotton and corn, sweet potatoes were raised
in large quantities for the negroes, to which they were allowed to help
themselves without stint, also a summer patch of coarse vegetables such
as they liked.
The regular food furnished consisted of corn meal, bacon or pickled
pork, varied with beef in the autumn, when the beeves were fat, salt
fish with less meat when desired, molasses, dried peas and pumpkins
without stint (I mean the peas and pumpkins). I don't suppose any
laboring class ever lived in such plenty.
A woman with a family of children always had the use of a cow, the
only proviso being that she should look after the calf and see that it
did not suffer, for your grandfather was particular about his ox teams;
they were the finest that I ever saw, and were well blooded,Holstein
for size and Devon for speed and activity.
Our dairy was very pretty; it was built of immense square logs, with
a paved brick floor, and great broad shelves all around. The roof was
shaded by hackberry trees, and the grass around it was like velvet, so
thick and green. Old Aunt Betty, who was the dairy woman until she grew
too infirm, was the neatest creature imaginable; she wore the highest
of turbans, and her clothes were spotless. She took the greatest pride
in her dairy; for milk vessels she used great calibashes with wooden
covers, and, as they naturally were absorbent, it was necessary to sun
one set while another was in use. She kept them beautifully, and the
milk and butter were delicious.
There was a man upon the plantation called Shoe Joe, or Gentleman
Joe. He had, when a young man, been body-servant to his young master
George, your great-grandfather's brother. I never in my life have seen
finer manners than Joe's, so deeply respectful, and so full of
courtesy. Notwithstanding his really fine deportment, Joe's nature was
low and mean, and something that he did so offended his young master
that, to Joe's great disgust, he was remanded back to the plantation
and field work. In consequence of this, he always bore his young master
a grudge, which, of course, he kept to himself. Once, however, he made
some disrespectful speech before old Betty, who was devoted to her
Master George, and this so offended her that she never again spoke to
Joe, nor allowed him to make her shoes, though this last was more from
fear than vindictiveness. For Shoe Joe was suspected of being a trick
negro, and of possessing the power so to trick his work as to cause the
death of any one wearing his products. Nothing was productive of more
evil upon a plantation than was the existence upon it of a Trick or
Goomer negro; and so insidious was their influence, and so secret
their machinations, that, though suspected, it was impossible to prove
anything, for, although detested by their fellows, fear kept the latter
silent. Nothing would cause such abject terror as the discovery of an
odd-looking bundle, wrapped and wrapped with strands of horse-hair,
secreted beneath the steps, or laid in an accustomed path. Instantly
after such a discovery the person for whom it was meant would begin to
pine away, and, unless some counter spell were discovered, death would
ensue. These occurrences, fortunately, were rare, but if the thing once
took root upon a plantation, it wrought much evil in various ways. Joe
was suspected of these evil practices, and, though a wonderfully
capable man at all kinds of work, and a most accomplished courtier, was
always looked upon with suspicion. His death was sudden, and the people
firmly believed that he had made a compact with the devil, that the
term had expired, and that Satan had met him in the woods and broken
his neck. He was a tall, finely formed man, as black as ebony, and his
movements always reminded me of a serpent.
Negroes, even in these days of school education, retain many of
their superstitions, though ashamed to own it. One of their beliefs was
that the word you meant the devil's wife, and it was insulting
to address any one by that word. To one another it was always yinna. So marked was this custom that the negroes of that section were known
as the yinna negroes. This word, though, was never used toward their
superiors, who were invariably addressed in the third person. Manuel
was rather a common name among them; there were always two or three
Manuels upon every plantation, and one was always called Hoodie
Manuel. No one could ever discover what this meant; perhaps they did
not know themselves, though I am rather inclined to think that it was a
superstitious observance, understood, perhaps, only by a select few. I
think it must have had some sort of significance, as it was never
omitted. As soon as one Hoodie Manuel died, another Manuel assumed the
title, though not always the oldest.
It was not required of a woman with a large family to do field work.
Such women had their regular tasks of spinning allotted to them,
sufficiently light to allow ample time to take care of their houses and
children. The younger women (unless delicate) left their children in a
day nursery in charge of an elderly woman who was caretaker. Usually
they preferred field work, as being more lively; but if one disliked
it, she usually soon contrived to be classed among the spinners.
When, occasionally, I happened to go to any of the houses, often
quite unexpectedly, I can assert truthfully that I never, in a single
instance, saw dirt or squalor in one of them. The floors were clean,
the beds comfortable, with white and wonderfully clean blankets.
Everything, though very homely, with clumsy benches and tables, looked
white and thoroughly clean. I remember hearing your grandfather speak
of once going at breakfast time to a house to visit a sick child. The
man of the house was seated at a small table while his wife served him.
The table was covered with an immaculately clean homespun cloth, and
coffee, in a tin pot shining with scrubbing, either sugar or molasses,
I forget which, a dish of beautifully fried bacon and hoe-cakes, fresh
from the fire, constituted his plain but most abundant meal.
Separation of families has ever been a favorite plea for the
abolition of slavery, and I admit that in theory it was a plausible
argument; and justice compels me to say that such instances, though
rare, were not unknown. As a rule, however, family ties were respected,
and when, through the settlement of an estate, such separations seemed
impending, they were usually prevented by some agreement between the
parties; for instance, if a negro man had married a woman belonging to
another planter, a compromise was generally effected by the purchase of
one of the parties, regardless of self-interest on the part of the
owners. Thus families were kept together without regard to any
pecuniary loss. Public sentiment was against the severing of family
Before I close this little sketch I will tell you as well as I can
the outline of plantation work.
With the beginning of a new year, the crop being all housed, the
sale corn being stored in large barns or cribs on the river banks, and
the cotton either being sold or kept for better prices, the plowing,
ditching, and, when the swamps were full, the floating out of timber,
were all carried on with great diligence. At Christmas, when all the
clothing, shoes, and Kilmarnock caps had been given out to the
ditchers, high waterproof boots were distributed. It was the custom to
allow to every man who desired it a bit of land, upon which, in his
spare time, to cultivate a small crop, for which he was paid the market
price. Christmas was the usual day chosen for settling these accounts,
and the broad piazza was full of happy, grinning black faces gathered
around the table at which the master sat, with his account-book and
bags of specie. A deep obeisance and a scrape of the foot accompanied
each payment, and many a giggle was given to the lazy one whose small
payment testified to his indolence. What a contrast between those
happy, sleek, laughing faces and the sullen, careworn, ill-fed ones of
now! In the early springtime, what was known as the trash-gang, that
is, boys and girls who had never worked, were set to clearing up
fences, knocking down cotton stalks, and burning small trash piles.
I pause here to say that, the woodlands being a long distance from
the quarters, the supply of fuel was a serious question, and when there
was a threat of snow or increasing cold, every man would be employed in
cutting or hauling a supply of fuel to the houses.
Planting time began with the middle of March. In August the crops
were laid by. The three days' holiday began with the slaughter of
pigs and beeves, in preparation for the annual dinner upon every
plantation. After holiday came the fodder-pulling, a job hated by all,
especially by overseer and master, as the drenching dews and the hot
sun combined to make much sickness. This work was never begun until
late in the morning, but even after the sun had shone upon the fields,
the people would be drenched in dew to their waists. Next, the
whitening fields told that cotton-picking must begin, and, later on, a
killing frost upon the already browning shucks sent the great wagons to
the fields, where the corn-gatherers, with sharp needles tied to their
wrists, ripped open the tough shucks and let loose the well-hardened
ears of grain. As each field became stripped, stock would be turned in
to feast upon the peas and pumpkins.
With winter came that period of bliss to the soul of Cuffee, namely,
the hog-killing, when even the smallest urchin might revel in grease
and fresh meat.
If eyesight permitted, I might tell you some tales of plantation
doings which might perhaps amuse you, but I have said enough to give
you some idea of the old Southern life. All that I have said is within
bounds, but, after all, I fear I have not been able to give you an
adequate idea of the peacefulness and abundance of life upon a great
GOING TO THE PLANTATION
Summer is over; the nights grow chill, and the autumnal tints,
beginning to glow upon the hillsides, tell the low-country folk that
the time draws near for the yearly flitting to their plantation homes.
The planter, who passes the hot season amid the breezy uplands, begins
to think of his whitening cotton fields, and grows impatient for the
frost, which must fall ere the family may venture into the land of
swamps and agues. He looks out upon the flower-beds, glowing with life
and quivering in the sunshine, and listens to the incessant
shrill-voiced cicada piping from the tree-tops, while the insect-drone,
in the heated, languid air, seems to speak of an unending summer; but
as all things come to him who waits, so at length come the frosts to
The week preceding the departure is a busy one, embracing, along
with the numberless good-byes, many important afterthoughts in the way
of providing the necessities required in the isolated home, where shops
are unknown. At length, however, the great boxes are closed, and stand
ready for the daylight start of the wagon; the bird-cage, the basket of
kittens, and the puppy are also committed by the children to Ung
Jack, the teamster, who, with the broadest of smiles, promises little
missis and the little masters to take the best of care of them.
Giving the baggage a day's start, the family's departure takes place
on the day following. After an early breakfast, Mammy and the younger
children bundle into the big carriage, mother and the rest of the
little mob follow in the barouche, while papa, who abhors the
confinement of a carriage, follows on horseback. Although the animal
which he bestrides is a noble specimen of his kind, still it must be
confessed that papa does not present a jaunty appearance as he jogs
soberly along; and yet, as he sits easily swaying in the saddle, there
is about him a careless grace which marks the natural horseman.
Three days are consumed upon the journey. It might be made in less
time; but the party prefer to take it easily, and at midday make a halt
by a running stream, where, seated upon a fallen log or mossy bank,
they open their well-stored baskets, and dine. The horses utter
impatient whinnies as their drivers dip their buckets into the
sparkling water of the little stream, and, when these are lifted to
their heads, thirstily thrust their muzzles into the cool depths, and
drink long and deeply of the refreshing draughts.
At sunset, the tired little ones begin to look out for the white
chimneys of old John Tayler's wayside inn, where they are to pass the
night. This house has, for generations, been the halting-place for
planters' families. Tayler's grandfather and his father have
entertained bygone generations; and so it is not strange that when the
little cortège draw up before the old piazza, and the red light from
the pine blaze streams out from the open door, not only old John, but
his wife and two elderly daughters stand with beaming faces to give the
travelers a hearty greeting, kindly to usher them into the carpetless
room and seat them upon the stiff split-bottomed chairs. While the
women busy themselves in getting supper, old John talks crops and
politics to his guests, who, on their part, calmly accept the
discomforts of the little inn as one of the unalterable laws of nature,
without any idea of the possibility of improvement, swallow without
complaint the nauseous coffee, and rest philosophically under the
home-made sheets and blankets, feebly wondering that so much weight
should contain so little warmth.
When supper is over, the women throw a fresh torch upon the fire,
and, as it crackles up the wide chimney, and sends its red light and
sweet odors over the room, they set themselves to their tasks of
picking the seeds from the raw cotton, for, being famous spinners and
weavers, they disdain that which has had its staples torn by the teeth
of the gin.
Upon the second day, the party leave the hills, now gorgeous in
their autumnal brilliancy, the rocky roads, and the swiftly running
streams of the up-country, and enter the lonely region where the great
turpentine trees rear their lofty crests, and interminable sandy roads
stretch away into dimness between columns of stately pines whose lofty
tops make solemn music to the sighing wind.
The third day finds them in The Slashes, a desolate region
inhabited by squatters. As they jolt over corduroy roads between pools
of stagnant waters, the travelers look out wearily upon a sparse growth
of gallberry and scrub-pine. Now and then they pass the solitary hut of
a charcoal-burner, surrounded by its little patch of meagre corn; a
pack of cur dogs rush out and bark fiercely, within the safe limits of
the wattle fence surrounding the premises; white-headed children gaze
from the doorways at the passing carriages.
At the last settlement which they pass, a woman and a small,
pale-faced boy are gathering in their corn crop. They are the wife and
son of Bolin Brazle, an idle but good-natured vagabond, who spends his
days scraping upon his fiddle up at the store, or occasionally, upon
the promise of a drink, lending a hand in rafting tar-barrels. In
consequence of the presentation of a worn-out mule, Bolin swears by the
planter, wants to run him for the presidency, and obstinately refuses
to receive pay for his charcoal. The matter is finally arranged by a
barrel of corn being sent as a present whenever a load of charcoal is
Soon after leaving the Slashes, a huddle of houses standing
irregularly in a grove of magnificent oaks comes into view. In passing
the one which does double duty as store and post-office, the travellers
look at it with the realization that it is the connecting link with the
outside world, as from it the bi-weekly mail is dispensed. Inside, some
one (Brazle, no doubt) is scraping a lively jig upon his fiddle; on the
long piazza men, lounging in chairs tilted against the wall, take off
their hats to the carriages as they roll by. The planter draws his rein
for a little friendly greeting, and the men, squirting tobacco juice,
stand around and lazily report the country-side news as to the opening
of the cotton, the state of the river, etc. Even the screech of the
fiddle has died away.
The long descents of the ferry hill commence, and the carriages roll
pleasantly between deeply wooded banks. The approach to the river is
marked by long rows of tar-barrels awaiting shipment, or rather
rafting. From this point the road has become a sort of concrete from
years of leakage from the tar-barrels. The children shriek with joy as
the carriages come to a stop, and, craning their heads out, they behold
the great tawny river in all its majesty. The repeated hallooings for
the ferryman are at length responded to from far upstream. The old
scamp is off fishing, and the party seek the shade, where a spring of
clear water bubbles from a bank. While the children are drinking
copious draughts, the parents stroll off and take a woodland path,
which, after many a twist and turn amid thickets of sweet myrtle and
purple-berried Bermuda Shrub, brings them to the summit of The Bluff.
Standing there, they look down upon the river, two hundred feet
below. Upon the further side lie fields, all brown and golden in the
sunshine, level and limitless; they stretch into the purple dimness
where cypress trees loom upon the horizon, their flat tops mingling
dreamily with the soft autumnal hazes. Far away, amid the sun-bathed
fields, stand the trees which shelter the plantation home, whose
chimneys and white gables are scarce visible save where a stray sunbeam
falls upon them.
So to the Jews fair Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between,
murmured the mother, as she glanced at her husband, to whom she knew
the lands spread before them were, by inheritance and long association,
far dearer than could be measured by the mere money value.
Descending again to the ferry, they find the carriage already in the
flat, and the children scarce restrained by Mammy from crossing without
their elders. They draw deep breaths of delight as they watch old
Bartley, with active limp, loosen the chain, and, planting his
iron-shod pole deep into the grating sands, send the flat upstream;
then, at a given point, they watch with intense admiration his skill in
taking the sweeps and shooting swiftly to the other side.
The horses know that they are near home, and prick up their ears,
and go briskly onward. Scarcely a quarter of a mile is gone before the
buildings of the lower plantation come into view,a row of cabins
built irregularly upon the highest points straggle along the river
banks. Each cabin has its little garden with its row of coleworts and
its beehives, or perhaps a pumpkin or two shows its yellow sides amid
the withered vines. Outside the cabins, fish-nets are hung to dry, and
from within comes the sleepy drone of a spinning-wheel; about the
doorstep hens are scratching, while from around the corner a cluster of
little woolly heads peep out shyly.
Standing in the mellow sunlight, amid fields of ripening corn, with
the river gently flowing between levees of such strength as to set
floods at defiance, these cabins seem the very embodiment of peaceful
security; the high piles, though, upon which they stand, are rather
suggestive, and give a hint of what the now peacefully flowing stream
is capable of when roused.
A story is told of an old negro who obstinately refused to leave his
house at a time when the unusually high water made it necessary to
remove the people to a place of greater security. The rafts were ready,
and the people, scared and anxious, had left their houses, and now only
wailed for old Todge, who, with mulish persistence, refused to be
moved. At length, unable to persuade him, and afraid to wait longer,
they poled the rafts away. For the first few hours Todge got on very
well. He had plenty of provisions, and, as for the isolation, he did
not care for it. By and by the water began to make its appearance upon
his hearth, and, before long, his little bank of coal, upon which his
bread was baking, began to sizzle, and soon became a moist and
blackened heap. Todge, however, was not imaginative, and when night
fell, he lay down upon his bed and slept without fear; that is, he
slept until his bed began to float, then he awoke and groped his way
neck deep in water until he found his ladder and managed by it to climb
up into his loft, where he sat shivering, till suddenly he felt the
cabin give a lurch, and the water rushed in. It had been lifted clear
off the piles, and when it should settle down poor Todge would be
caught like a rat in a hole. It was settling fast, and the water was
gurgling into poor Todge's ears, when, in desperation, he made a bolt
at the roof, and, using his head as a battering ram, succeeded in
knocking a hole in it, through which he contrived to creep out.
Luckily, the point of the chimney was not quite submerged, and Todge
was rescued in the course of the following day.
The road, following the winding of the river, is bordered by giant
trees from whose branches the gray moss waves dreamily, while leaves of
palest yellow drop and silently float through the still air until they
fall into the stream. In the fields, the corn-gatherers pause to doff
their hats and smile their welcome. Ere long the barns and workshops of
the upper plantation become visible. The tall gables and chimneys of
the great house glisten in the sunlight. They pass the little church,
with its bell half hidden amid the brown leaves of the great oak from
which it dangles; from cabin chimneys, half hidden in trees, thin
columns of smoke ascend and mingle with the soft blue sky.
At the open gate, a broadly smiling dusky group stands with welcome
depicted upon every face. Hearty handshakes of real affection are
exchanged, while the children are being hugged, caressed, laughed over,
and extolled for their growth and beauty. The master and mistress pass
under the trees, whose long shadows rest upon the soft, green grass
between streams of sunshine. The old piazza, gilded into brightness,
smiles a welcome home.
MY OWN EARLY HOME
I was born at the old home in Raleigh, upon the land originally held
by my great-grandfather, Colonel Lane, from the Crown. It had been the
home of my grandfather, Harry Lane, and of his wife, Mary, and it was
there that their children and grandchildren were born. When my oldest
brother attained his majority, he took possession of this place, while
my mother settled at Wills Forest, which was also part of the Lane
land. This, Wills Forest, became our beloved summer home, which I
inherited at the death of my dear mother. At the breaking out of the
war between the states, your grandfather left to his subordinates his
plantation interests in the eastern part of the state, and Wills Forest
became our permanent home. Although you never saw this place in its
palmy days, still, you are too well acquainted with its situation to
need a description. In spite of neglect, Wills Forest is still
beautiful; to it my heart is ever turning with regret and longing for
that which can never return. It was for many years the brightest and
happiest of homes, and as such it is still remembered by many besides
its former inmates.
Hospitality has ever been a marked characteristic of the Lane blood.
Colonel Lane's doors were ever open, not only to his friends, but to
every wayfarer, and as the small settlement, originally called
Bloomsbury, became Raleigh, and the state capital, he found it
necessary to build an ornery for the accommodation of strangers; this
building stood upon Hillsborough Street, and was torn down only a short
time ago. These orneries were a very common adjunct to gentlemen's
residences in country neighborhoods, where there were no inns for the
accommodation of travelers. We once stopped at one belonging to the
Littles, near Littleton. It was kept by two servants, a man and his
wife, belonging to the family, and they made us very comfortable.
My grandfather, Harry Lane, inherited his father's liberal and
open-hearted nature, and the old home, even since the death of my
brother, still maintains its character for genial hospitality. Nor was
Wills Forest inferior to it in that respect. My mother, accustomed from
earliest youth to lavish housekeeping, kept it up after her removal to
Wills Forest, and, so long as her health permitted, ever took delight
in making her home all that a kindly, open-handed hospitality could.
Nor do I think its character deteriorated after your grandfather became
its master. Both he and I were fond of society, and few strangers ever
came to town who were not entertained at Wills Forest. This could not
be possible now, but previous to the war it was not at all impossible,
and, during the war, at times, we received whole families of refugees.
I do not mention these facts in a boastful spirit, but only as a sample
of the old customs of the South.
During the winter of 1865, we had the pleasure of entertaining the
family of Colonel Norris of Baltimore, and early in March we had an
unexpected visit from a large party of South Carolinians, who had been
wounded in an attack made by General Kilpatrick upon Gen. Joseph E.
Johnston's command at Fayetteville. Your grandfather met them in the
street seeking for shelter; and, compassionating their forlorn
condition, he directed them to Wills Forest. When we first caught sight
of the cortège surrounding two ambulances, we were alarmed, thinking
that it must be the Yankees coming to deprive us of house and home. You
may, perhaps, imagine the relief when I saw the dear Confederate gray.
I met the cavalcade at the front steps, and bade them welcome; the
wounded were brought in and laid upon beds in the nursery, after which
I directed one of our men, Frank, the carriage-driver, I think it was,
to conduct the horsemen to the stable, to give the horses a plentiful
feed, and then to bring the men up to the house to get their dinners.
In ordinary times, this unlooked-for addition of more than twenty
guests would, no doubt, have been an unwelcome tax, but in those days
preceding the sad termination of the war there were so many poor,
half-starved stragglers from the different commands passing to and fro,
that we were never unprepared to feed as many as called upon us. At
this time, two cooks were kept continually at work in the kitchen
preparing such plain food as we could command: such as boiled hams,
biscuit, loaf bread, corn bread, and wheat coffee. The milk and butter,
all that we had, were joyfully given to our soldiers. The gray jacket
was, indeed, a passport to every Southern heart. I have fed many a
poor, footsore boy in gray, but never in a single instance heard a
despondent word from one of them. Most grateful they were for their
good, abundant meals, but often too modest to carry any away in their
In times of peace, both before and after the war, the social life at
the table, with family and always welcome friends, was a source of much
pleasure. For a dinner of ten or twelve persons, including ourselves,
there would be a ham at the head, a large roast turkey at the foot, a
quarter of boiled mutton, a round of beef à la mode, and a
boiled turkey stuffed with oysters. In the middle of the table would be
celery in tall cut-glass stands, on the sides cranberries in moulds and
various kinds of pickles. With these would be served either four or six
dishes of vegetables and scalloped oysters, handed hot from the
plate-warmer. The dessert would be a plum pudding, clear stewed apples
with cream, with a waiter in the centre filled with calf's-foot jelly,
syllabub in glasses, and cocoanut or cheesecake puddings at the
corners. The first cloth was removed with the meats. For a larger
entertainment a roast pig would be added, ice-cream would take the
place of stewed apples. The dessert cloth would be removed with the
dessert, and the decanters and fruit set upon the bare mahogany, with
the decanters in coasters; cigars would follow, after the ladies had
left, of course.
At the time of the surrender, General Logan borrowed, or asked to
borrow, my tables and cut-glass tumblers and wine-glasses; as such a
request meant an order, I, of course, allowed them to be taken; to my
surprise all were returned. Generals Grant and Sherman were entertained
by Logan at this time, the tables being set before his tent in the
When my two little girls went to day school at St. Mary's, their
dinners were sent to them by a negro boy or man. He carried the basket
of hot dinner, while another carried the ice for their water, while
another often walked behind bearing a large watermelon. As the other
day-pupils dined in a similar way, the road at this time of day would
be full of negroes carrying dinners.
Since these bygone days, knowledge has increased, and men go to and
fro with ease between the far corners of the earth; but I do not think
that either virtue or happiness has kept pace with this increase of
knowledge, nor has there ever been or will there ever be again such a
country as the Old South, nor a people so good, so brave, or so
true-hearted as the dear, primitive people of that good old time.
TWO BOB WHITES
Two Bob Whites were standing beneath the old thorn-bush at the far
end of the orchard; indeed, they had been standing there for some time,
with their heads held close, just as though they were talking together.
In fact, that is just what they were doing. They were talking about the
nest that they were going to build. And it was high time, for already
there was a nice little brood in that nest beyond the brook. But our
Bob Whites were a prudent couple; they did not approve of those early
broods which came off barely in time to miss the chilly May rains. But
the May spell was over now, the sun shone hot upon the waving wheat,
and over the fence, there in the old field, the dewberries were ripe.
Already the little boys who live in the house over yonder had been
after the berries, regardless of briers and bare feet. Yes, it was high
time that nest was built; but, somehow, they could not fix upon an
altogether suitable location. True, the old thorn-bush, with its
wide-spreading branches, was most attractive; but there the cart tracks
ran too close by. As they stood thus in the clover, all undecided, they
were startled by a loud cry from Robin Redbreast, whose nest was high
up in that apple tree. Turning to ascertain the cause of the outcry,
they espied a great, evil-looking, yellow cat, creeping through the
long grass. This decided them, and without waiting another moment, they
abandoned the thorn-bush and flew away to seek a safer abode. This they
finally found over toward the wheat field, far away from cats and all
the nuisances which attend the abodes of men.
The nest was built back of the old gray, lichen-covered fence, just
above the brook where the hazels and alders grow. All around was a
blackberry thicket, and a great tussock of brown sedges sheltered the
nest like a roof. Just beyond the fence was the wheat field. No one
ever came there, excepting that now and then on a Saturday the little
boys who lived over yonder would pass by with their fishing-poles, jump
the fence, and disappear in the hazel thickets. The Bob Whites didn't
mind the boys, unless Nip happened to be along, nosing about in search
of some mischief to get into. But as yet no little white egg lay in the
nest, and when Nip cocked his impudent little ears at them, they were
off with a whirr that sent him, scampering, startled and scared, after
the boys. From the trees to which they had flown, the Bob Whites
watched the movements of the boys with some anxiety. They might, you
know, whispered Mrs. Bob, be after that brood of our cousin's beyond
the brook; but no, they've stoppedthey are throwing something into
the water, and there's that good-for-nothing Nip with them, so we may
go back to the nest. But they did not go, for there was that pert
Jennie Wren fluttering about, as bold as anything, actually peeping
into the bait gourd, and, goodness gracious! she has stolen a worm and
flown off with it; what impudence! And listen, there's Cardinal
Grosbeak singing to them,
Boys, boys, boys,
Do, do, do
Fish a little deeper.
There he is, just a little above them, upon the hackberry; now he's
flown to that willow; he looks like a coal of fire, there among the
green leaves. Now he begins again with his
Boys, boys, boys,
Do, do, do.
The song may do well enough, but we don't approve of such forward
ways, sighed Mrs. Bob. No, chimed in Mrs. Mate Hare, limping from
her home in the broom sedge. It's not safe, with that horrid little
Nip so near; to be sure, they've got wings, but as for me, he just
frightens the life out of me, with his nosing and sniffing; forever
nosing and sniffing after some mischief. And she wiggled her nose and
ears and looked so funny that the Bob Whites almost laughed in her
Before long there was a little white egg in the nest, and Bob White
was so proud of it that he just stood upon the fences and called, Bob
White, Bob White, Bob White, all day long. And the boys who lived over
yonder at the farmhouse said, Listen to the Bob White, he's got a nest
over there in the wheat. Let him alone, said the farmer; there'll
be good shooting over there by and by. But Bob White had no thoughts
to spare for by-and-bys. The blue June sky and the rustling wheat, the
wild roses, and that little egg lying there in the nest were enough for
him. So he just turned his round breast to the sunshine, and called
Bob White louder than ever.
After a while, when the nest was full of eggs, the Bob Whites would
creep through the wheat and whisper of the little ones that would soon
be coming. They'll be here by the time the wheat is ripe, says Bob.
It'll be fine feeding for them, replies Mrs. Bob. They never thought
of the reapers with their sharp scythes, and of the noise and tramping,
where all was now so peaceful.
While Mrs. Bob sat upon her eggs, it amused her to see the Mate
Hares come limping out at sunset, very timidly at first, pausing,
startled, at every sound. Soon, however, they forgot their fears and
began their dances, hopping and running round and round like mad, and
cutting such capers as quite scandalized the Bob Whites.
How very odd! said Mrs. Bob, as she settled herself over her eggs.
I have heard that the March Hares have a Bee in their bonnets. Same
family, Bob White replied drowsily. Then Mrs. Bob, pressing her soft
feathers gently upon her eggs, tucked her head under her wing and
Their dance over, the Mate Hares skipped down to the meadow, where
the dew lay thick upon the clover. How good! they said, as they
nibbled and munched. So sweet and tender, with the dew upon it! Who
would eat dry seeds like the Bob Whites? said one. And go to sleep at
dusk! snickered another. And whistle all day! said a third. As much
as to say to all men and dogs, 'Here I am, come and shoot me;' so
silly! Oh, there's no family like the Mate Hares for sense; come, let's
have another dance. So they skipped and hopped and munched clover
until the dawn sent them scudding away to their homes.
Well, at last, upon a sunny June morning, the lonely field was no
longer lonely, neither was it quiet; for the grain was ripe and the
reapers had come. Yes, the reapers had come, and with them came Nip.
Yes, there he was, showing that ugly little red tongue of his, and
poking his black nose into every hole and bush; no place was safe from
those inquisitive eyes and sharp little cruel teeth. Mr. Bob watched
him with a fluttering heart, as he ran sniffing about; suddenly, there
came a sharp yelp, and then Mrs. Mate Hare's cotton tail went flying
over rock and brier, followed by Nip, with his short, inadequate legs.
Soon, however, he tired of this fun, and, trotting back, cocked his
ears at the brier patch, sniffed about it, and crept in. Bob White,
with an anxious call, flew into a tree.
He's got a nest somewhere about there, said one of the reapers. I
bet it's full of eggs, he added. Yes, but the boss has give orders
that they ain't to be tetched, said another. Then there came from the
thicket a growl and a yelp, and Mrs. Bob, with a loud whirr, flew to
her mate. Nip's got 'em! cried one of the men, and, picking up a
stone, he ran to the thicket, from whence now issued yelps of anguish.
He'll not trouble them again, I reckon, the man said, with a grin, as
he picked up his scythe.
Nip trotted home with a crestfallen and dejected air, but the Bob
Whites, still agitated, remained in the tree, with necks craned
anxiously toward the nest. When, at length, Mrs. Bob found courage to
return, the melancholy sight met her eyes of three broken eggs, some
more scattered ones, and a generally disordered nest. Bob now came to
her assistance, the scattered eggs were put back, the nest repaired,
and Mrs. Bob contentedly seated herself upon it.
The hatching time was drawing near, and it was a most exciting
period. Mrs. Bob sat very still, but, as for Bob, he just fidgeted from
nest to tree and back again, stopping around and asking questions. Yes,
one egg is pipped; they'll all be out by to-morrow. And so they
were,thirteen little puff-balls, upon tiny coral feet. There would
have been sixteen, but for that horrid Nip, sighed Mrs. Bob. But she
was very proud and happy, as she led the little brood through the
brush, showed them how to pick up ants' eggs, and tore up the soft
mould for grubs and other dainties. When the nimble little feet grew
tired, she took them to the alder thicket, where, hidden away beneath
her feathers, they piped themselves to rest. It was very quiet now: the
reapers had gone; there was no rustling of waving wheat, only the
shocks stood up silent; there was only the soft clang, clang from the
bell-cow, as the herd went home. Then the sun went down, and grayness
followed, and from the thicket came the sad cry of the Chuck Will's
widow. But the Bob Whites were fast asleep. At dawn, Bob White stood
upon the topmost rail, and whistled and whistled as loud as he could;
he felt so happy that he had to repeat, Bob White, Bob White to
everything that he saw,to the bell-cow, as she passed by on her way
to the meadow; then to the boy, who popped his whip and whistled back;
then to the trees, which nodded in return. When the sun came glinting
through the leaves and set the dewdrops to glistening and the whole
world to laughing, he whistled louder than ever, just for joy. But
presently the reapers came again. Then Bob White slipped away and hid
himself far down amid the alders, where Mrs. Bob was showing the
puff-balls how to pick up grubs and how to use their little nimble legs
in running after gnats and other good things. Don't try to catch that
great bee, but come and pick up these ants' eggs, she called, as she
threw aside the earth with her strong claws. You must attend to what I
say, for you are very ignorant little things, and if you are not
careful to mind what I say you may be caught up by a hawk at any
moment. So, listen: when I say 'Tuk,' you must hide yourselves
immediately; don't try to run away, but just get under a rock, or even
a leaf, or just flatten yourselves upon the ground, if you can't do
better; you are so nearly the color of the ground that a boy will never
see you, and you can even escape a hawk's keen eye.
After a while, mother and brood left the alder thicket, and, as the
reapers were now in a distant part of the field. Mrs. Bob led them all
to a sunny spot where they might pick upon the fallen grains and wallow
in the dry, hot sand. It was very nice to do this, and they were having
a charming time, when suddenly voices were heard, and at once two boys
were upon them. But not so much as one little brown head or one little
pink toe was visible; the sign had been given, and now only a poor,
wounded Bob White lay in the path before them. She's dead, said one
of the boys. No, she ain't, her wing's broke, cried the other, as he
made a dive at her. But somehow, Mrs. Bob continued to flop the broken
wing, and to elude them. Another futile dive, and the two tin buckets
containing the reapers' dinners were thrown down and forgotten in the
keen interest of chasing the wounded Bob White, who managed to flop and
flutter just beyond their reach until she had led them quite across the
field,then, with a whirr, she bounded into the air and safely perched
herself upon a distant tree. The astonished small boys gazed blankly
after her, wiped their hot faces upon their sleeves, and turned,
reluctantly, to pick up their buckets. As they went along, hot and
crestfallen, one of them suddenly exclaimed: She's got young ones hid
yonder, I bet, and with that they set off at a run. Mrs. Bob White,
who knew boy-nature well, craned her neck to watch, and fluttered
nearer. Then Bob White came, and both continued to watch with anxiously
beating hearts, for those little boys were evidently bent upon
mischief. Would the poor little puff-balls outwit them? One little
piping cry, one brown head raised, and all would be lost. But, as they
watched, their fears began to subside. The boys are again wiping their
hot faces, they look discouraged, they have evidently found nothing;
yes, certainly not, for, see, they are picking up their buckets, and
now they are going across the field to where the reapers are calling
them to hurry along with their dinners.
Such daily annoyances as this now determined the Bob Whites to take
refuge in the alder thicket, in whose deep seclusion they soon regained
tranquillity of spirits. The dampness of the situation, however,
proving most unfavorable to their brood, they anxiously awaited the
time when the departure of the reapers would restore quiet and enable
them to return to their haunts. At length the wished-for time arrived;
from the topmost boughs of the big maple Bob White could see neither
man, boy, or dog, in the whole length and breadth of the field.
Summoning the family together, they joyfully crept through the brush to
bask in the broad stretches of sunshine and to pick up the scattered
grain amid the stubble. Here they remained through all the long summer
days, their solitude broken only by the yellow butterflies and by the
big brown grasshoppers bumping about in the stubble, the silence broken
only by the occasional jangle from the bell-cow, as she shook the
deerflies from her sleek sides.
By and by, when the goldenrod was yellow upon the hillside, the
young ones, in their new brown coats, began to try their wings, and
felt very proud if they could make them whirr, when they rose to the
fence or to a low brush. Had they been boys, they would have been
called hobbledehoys; but, being Bob Whites, they were known as
squealers, and as such they felt very mannish and ambitious to be
independent; but, nevertheless, they still liked to huddle together at
nightfall and talk over the day's doings, close to, if not under, the
By and by, again, when goldenrod stood brown and sere upon the
hillside and the sumach glowed red in the fence corners and thickets,
when the fall crickets were chiming their dirge down amid the grass
roots and the air was growing frosty at nights, then the Bob Whites
grew restless and took flight for a far-off pea field, noted as a
feeding-ground. Here they met other families of kinsfolks, and then
began a right royal time, running nimbly through the rich pea vines or
scratching in sassafras or sumach thickets for insects, growing fat and
growing lazy all the time. The gourmand of the autumn was in manner
quite a contrast to the Bob Whites of the days of young wheat and wild
roses. No blithe, good music now issued from that throat so intent upon
good cheer. True, some unpleasant rumors are afloat. The Mate Hares,
scudding frantically away, reported an advance of men, with guns and
dogs; but the Mate Hares were always silly and unreliable. So our Bob
Whites just keep on eating and making merry. Fortune may favor
them,who knows? Let us hope, and listen out next year for the cheery
Bob White, Bob White, from the old nesting-place.
The cool fogginess of an August morning has melted under the fierce
sun. The level fields, like a waveless ocean, stretch away into the
dim, green distance. The hot air quivers above cotton-fields, heavy
with bolls and gay with blossoms, which give out a half-sickening
fragrance. A languid air rustles low amid the corn, from whose dense
growth arises a damp, hot breath. Out in the pasture, work-horses
leisurely crop the sunburnt grass, or stand under the trees, lazily
switching away the swarming gnats.
A restful quiet broods over the big plantation, for the plow and the
hoe have finished their task; sun and showers must do the rest. The
crop is laid by, and the summer holidays have begun. Three days of
rest before the gathering in begins.
Over at the quarter, the young people fill the long, lazy day with
patting and dancing, banjo-playing and watermelon-eating. The elders,
for the most part, are absorbed in preparations for the big holiday
dinner. By dawn, holes have been dug in the ground and heated for the
barbecuing of various meats, and those who hold the honorable posts of
cooks are busily engaged in basting, tasting, and sending the small
urchins after fuel. Some of the women are kneading flour hoe-cakes;
others, gathered about a table under a great mulberry tree, are peeling
fruit for pies, while now and then they raise their voices with
blood-curdling threats to hasten the lagging steps of a little gang,
which, looking like a string of black beetles, troop slowly along from
the orchard, each holding in the skirt of his solitary garment the
small store of fruit which he has not been able to eat. A row of tables
spread in the shade stands ready for the feast, and, along the pathway,
the guests from neighboring plantations are already approaching.
Up at the great house an unnatural quiet prevails, for upon this day
all work is laid aside and all are off to the barbecue; even old Aunt
Sylvie has forgotten the misery in her back, has donned her Sunday
garments, and stepped briskly off to the quarter; cook, too, has closed
the ever-open kitchen door and departed, along with nurse, over whose
toilet her little charges have presided with so much zeal that they
have emptied their mother's cologne flask in order to bedew their
mammy's pocket-handkerchief to their satisfaction.
Tiny curly-headed Jack feels rather disconsolate without his mammy,
but is partially consoled by flattering visions of what her pockets
will bring home at the end of the day.
Away down upon the creek the little gristmill stands silent; the old
mossy wheel has for to-day ceased its splash and clatter, and, like all
else upon the plantation, is resting from its labor; to-day no sacks
stand open-mouthed, awaiting their turn; no little creaking carts, no
mill boys mounted astride their grists are seen upon the path, and Wat,
the miller, in the lazy content of dirt and idleness, lies basking in
the sun. Within the wattle fence on the other side of the path, his
three children, little Dave, Emma Jane, and a fat baby, are sprawling
upon the ground, along with the house pig, two puppies, and the
chickens. Little Dave, who is perhaps somewhat dwarfed by toting first
Emma Jane in her infancy, and now the fat baby, looks not unlike a
careworn little ape, as he sits flat upon the ground, spreading his
bony toes for the baby to claw at.
Emma Jane, with her stout little body buttoned into a homespun
frock, is also seated in the sand, solemnly munching upon a hunk of
corn bread, while the chickens, with easy familiarity, peck at the
crumbs which fall upon her black shins. Within the cabin, Polly, the
miller's wife, has tied a string of beads about her sleek black throat,
and now, in all the bravery of her flowered calico, is ready to set off
for the quarter; first, though, she pauses at the gate to speak to
When de chile git hongry, you git dat sweeten water off de shelf
and gie it to him long wid his bread; then adds, with a suspicion of
tenderness upon her comely face; I gwine fetch you some pie. Then,
calling to Wat, that he had better fix his sef and come along, ef he
speck to git any of de dinner, she steps briskly along the narrow
pathway, mounts the zigzag fence, and disappears amid the high corn.
Some miles below, where the little creek which turns the mill-wheel
steals from out the swamp to join the river, a clumsy, flat-bottomed
scow lies grounded upon a sand-bar. This is no evil to Boat Jim, who,
sprawled upon the deck, snores away the hours, regardless of the
blistering sun beating down upon his uncovered head, and all
unconscious of the departure of his chance passenger, an itinerant
organ-grinder. This fellow, having had the ill luck to lose the
respectable member of the firm, his monkey, and finding difficulty
without the aid of his little partner to attract an audience, had,
while idling about the docks, encountered Boat Jim, and persuaded the
latter to give him a lift up the river, the condition being that he was
to grind as much music as Jim should desire. But, disgusted with three
days of slow progress upon the boat, he had, after viciously kicking
the unconscious Jim, stolen the small boat and put himself ashore.
Following the windings of the creek, he came to the little mill, where,
attracted by the shade, he seated himself close to the wattle fence of
Polly's little yard. Hearing voices, he peeped through the fence, and
his eyes were soon fixed upon little Dave, who, with the fat baby and
Emma Jane for spectators, is performing various tricks with infinite
delight to himself. He stands upon his head, he turns somersaults, he
dances, he pats, and finally he swings himself into a tree, where he
skips about with the agility of a monkey. A thought comes into the
organ-grinder's head; he glances at the silent mill and at the cabin:
evidently both are deserted; here is a chance to replace the dead
The sun is sending long shafts of crimson light into the swamp and
glinting upon the millhouse; the high corn, awakening from its midday
torpor, rustles softly to the evening breeze, as Wat and Polly wend
their way homeward. A bucket, lightly poised upon Polly's head, holds
scraps of barbecue and little Dave's promised pie, and, as she draws
near the wattle fence, she thinks, with a pleased smile, of how she
will set it before de chilluns, when a prolonged howl falls upon her
ears. Recognizing the voice of Emma Jane, she says to herself: She
hongry, I spek, and trudges on, in nowise disturbed by this familiar
sound. But, when they enter the yard, there is only Emma Jane, bawling,
open-mouthed, beside the baby, who, with the house pig, lies asleep on
the warm sand. The chickens are daintily picking their way to the
house, the old muscovy duck has tucked her head under her wing for the
night, Old Keep, the stump-tailed coon dog, crawls from under the cabin
to greet them. But where is Dave?
The miller carries the sleeping child indoors, followed by the still
bawling Emma Jane, while the wrathful Polly goes to the back of the
house. Stripping the twigs from a switch, she mutters: I knows what
you's arter; you tuck yoursef to dat watermillion patch, dat whar you
gone; but ne' mine, boy, you jest le' me git hold o' you. Then, after
a time given to unsuccessful search, calls of Da-a-vieoh, oh, Dave!
fall upon the stillness, to be answered only by weird echo from the
lonely swamp. Returning from her search, she finds Wat seated upon the
Dave done took hissel off to de quarter, he says; but no mind, I
gwine fill him full o' licks in de mornin'.
But, when morning comes and brings no little Dave, wrath gives place
to fear. The plantation is aroused; finally the mill-pond is dragged,
and, although the body is not found, the conclusion is that the boy has
After a time Polly's smile beams as broadly as ever, but her heart
still yearns for her boy, and amid the sleepy drone of her
spinning-wheel, she pauses to listen; or, standing in her door, she
looks ever wistfully along the crooked path. Across the way, the little
mill clatters on as merrily as of yore; Wat heaves the great sacks upon
his brawny shoulder, metes out the grist, and faithfully feeds the
hopper; but, when a chance shadow falls athwart the sunny doorway, he
looks up with a gleam of hope upon his stupid, honest face, then
brushes his hand across his eyes, and goes on in stolid patience with
his work. So the summer and the autumn pass, without change, save that
Emma Jane substitutes sweet potatoes for corn bread, and the fat baby
has learned to balance himself upon his bowlegs.
Upon a winter evening Wat enters the cabin at the usual hour. Polly
has laid a bit of clean homespun upon the table; his bowl of coffee,
his fried meat, and his hoe-cake stand ready; but, instead of falling
to, as his custom is, he sits silent and despondent, with his face
buried in his hands, until Polly asks:
What de matter; is you po'ly?
I dunno as I 'se, to say, po'ly, Wat replies, but dat boy's been
a-pesterin' me dis livelong day, a-callin' 'Daddy, Daddy!' jes' like I
talkin' now, till seem like I 'se most beat out along o' him.
Dat mighty curous, Polly answered, 'cause Ole Keep, he's been
a-howlin' dis blessed day. I 'lowed dat Ung Silas were gwine be tuck.
'T ain't dat, the miller interrupted. Ung Silas, he done got
better; he howlin' arter sompen nother, but 't ain't arter Ung Silas.
Upon that identical winter's day, in a back alley of New York, a
small crowd of idlers had gathered to witness the performance of the
Man Monkey. A little creature, dressed in tinsel, leaped and capered,
keeping time to the grinding of an organ. When the spectators were
silent, he would glance timidly at his ill-favored keeper, but when
they cheered, the poor little figure would strive to outdo itself, in
spite of laboring breath and trembling limbs. Then a rope was
stretched, and The Man Monkey, seizing an end, swung himself up, and,
amid the acclamations of the admiring mob, began a new act of his
performance. The day was cold, and at that dizzy height the wind struck
bitterly through the starved little overtaxed body; he lost his
footing, caught wildly at the rope, missed it, andfell.
In that brief second did he see the old mill and the little cabin
standing in the sunshine? Did he hear his mother's voice? God knows.
When a pitying hand gently turned the little heap of quivering
humanity, a happy smile lit up the pinched face, and the dying lips
 Little Jack is now a grave and reverend bishop, but I doubt if
he has altogether forgotten the deliciousness of the flabby pie, eaten
with such content at the close that day.
THE HOG-FEEDER'S DAY
The cold gray light of early dawn had given place to saffron, and
the first drowsy challenge from the henroost had been shrilly answered
from far and near, when old man Jerry awoke from his nap in the chimney
corner, and, finding himself chilled through all his old, rheumatic
bones, bent over the dying embers, pushed together the blackened and
half-burned chunks, and blew them until they glowed. Then, hitching
his stool close into the ashes, he spread his horny palms to the blaze,
and basked in its genial warmth as it crackled up the wide chimney.
Reaching his pipe from its nook, he filled it, dipped it skillfully in
the coals so as to ignite without wasting the precious weed, and drew a
long whiff by way of a start; then, bending still closer to the blaze,
he pulled away, now and then rubbing his shins in slow content, as
though to emphasize his comfort.
All things, though, must come to an end. The chunks became a heap
of white ashes, the pipe was finished, and broad shafts of light
stealing down the chimney and under the door told Ung Jerry that it
was time to be stirring.
He had, according to his usual custom, risen from his bed long
before cockcrow, and, having cooked and eaten his morning bread, had
unlatched his door in order to throw a morsel to his old hog-hound,
Drive, who had already crept from under the house, and stood wagging
his stump of a tail in eager expectancy. The morsel being thrown, the
old man had cast a knowing look towards the heavens, and, judging by
the seven stars that it yet lacked an hour to dawn, had returned to the
smoky warmth and comfort of his hovel, where, seated in the chimney
nook, he had nodded till roused by the crowings from all the
neighboring henroostsfor his cabin was one of many.
The pipe being smoked, Ung Jerry rose stiffly, and, shuffling to his
bed, fumbled underneath it, and, taking care not to disturb the setting
hen, brought out two bits of old blanket, with which he proceeded to
wrap his feet before putting on his shoes.
The hog-horn was now slung over the old coat, a bucket of cold
victuals was reached from the shelf, and the old hog-feeder, equipped
for his day's work, lifted the latch, and, stepping out into the sharp
frostiness of the November morning, plodded with heavy steps toward the
barnyard, Drive following closely at his heels.
The frosty fields were glittering in the slant rays of the newly
risen sun, and sounds of busy life came floating through the crisp air,
telling the old man that the day's labor had begun. The sharp crack of
the teamster's whip told that the great ox wagons were already afield.
The plow-boys whistled as they led out their mules; men and
short-skirted, heavily shod women went trooping to the cotton fields;
the milkwomen stepped briskly by, with the foaming pails balanced upon
their well-poised heads. Then came the cowboys, with noisy whoop,
driving before them the crowding, clumsy, sweet-breathed herd, while,
fearlessly amid all, pigeons fluttered, greedily picking up the refuse
grain, heedless of the hoofs among which they pecked and fluttered.
One small, grizzled mule, of great age and much cunning, had
contrived to slip into the feedroom, and was there enjoying a stolen
bait of oats when Ung Jerry found her.
You 'speck I wan't gwine fine you, I reckon, but you 'se wrong dis
time, he said, taking her by one of the long ears and leading her off
to the barnyard, where the little cart awaited her.
Drive, meanwhile, had crept under the barn, where, nosing about, he
had come upon a hen's nest, and was feasting upon the warm, fresh eggs.
The hitching-up was done with great deliberation. Ung Jerry plodded
to and from the harness-room many times, bringing out first a chuck
collar, then a bit of leather, finally, after a long search, an end of
rope. At length, when all seemed to be adjusted, the old man again
retired to the harness-room, where he remained so long that Drive was
contemplating another raid upon the hens, when he reappeared, bringing
with him an old piece of bagging, with which he proceeded with careful
adjustment to protect the old mule's back from the friction of the
cart-saddle. She, meanwhile, had stood with closed eyes and flopped
ears, immovable save for an occasional twitching of her small, rat-like
tail; but when the loading began, her manner changed from its quiescent
indifference; watchful glances followed each basketful that was dumped
in, and an ominous backing of the ears gave warning of what would
happen should the load be heavier than she liked.
At length, all being ready for the start, Ung Jerry climbed slowly
to his perch on the cart's edge, gave a jerk to the rope bridle, and
Rachel moved off, closely followed by Drive, who, conscious of
egg-sucking and fearful of its consequences, had prudently ensconced
himself beneath the cart, from whence he eyed, suspiciously, all
Slowly the little cart crept along the narrow plantation lanes,
crept past the level cornfields and into the wide pasture, where
sunburnt mares were grazing with their wild-eyed, unkempt colts; crept
past the marsh, where the heron, disturbed in her solitary vigil, rose
upon silent wing and sought some more secluded haunt amid the dim
recesses of the swamp.
Turning at length into the forest, where the gray moss hanging from
the trees almost obscured the deep blue autumnal sky, the cart slowly
creaked through the rustling leaves until it came upon a cross fence
which barred the way. Here, as Rachel came to a full stop, Ung Jerry
awoke from his nap, descended from his perch, and, unslinging his horn,
blew one long blast.
One was enough. In a moment the deep stillness of the forest was
broken by the pattering of many little feet; from the thickets the hogs
came; each hurrying with might and main to be foremost, they rushed,
grunting, squealing, crowding to the fence, where, standing with
upturned faces and small covetous eyes, they awaited the feast of
golden grain which the old man hastened to scatter amongst them. Then,
leaning upon the fence, he noted each greedy grunter as he wriggled his
small tail in keenest enjoyment and cracked the sweet corn.
No need was there to count; to the hog-feeder each animal possessed
an individuality so marked that in all the drove the absence of the
most insignificant was at once detected. So now, as he leaned upon the
fence, he cast anxious glances into the dimness beyond. Evidently some
Drive, too, divining his master's thoughts, stood with look intent
and anxious yelp, impatient for the search to begin.
Then the word came, Seek, boy!
Scrambling through the fence, he dashed into every covert or tangle
wherein a hog might lurk, but without result; there came no rush of
feet, no shaking of the brown leaves, no startled grunt. All was still,
save for the quick panting of the old hound.
The old man then turned his eyes again upon the greedy mob, still
hoping to discover the missing ones amongst them. 'T was all in vain.
De listed sow, she done gone, an' de big white hogue,
he done gone, an' seben head o' shotes! he at length murmured,
still, however, casting expectant glances toward the thickets, in which
Drive was still sniffing with uneasy yelpings.
Seem like dem creturs is clean gone, sho' nuf, he exclaimed, with
an air of unwilling conviction; then adding, well, ef dey's gone, I
'se got 'em to fine, dat's de trufe.
He called in the dog, and, taking his dinner bucket, climbed the
fence and struck off into the woods. Now and again he would pause, put
his horn to his lips, and give a long blast, then stand listening with
anxious expectancy. Every thicket was searched. It was a weary
tramp,through bogs and sloshes, where the cypress knees stood up like
sugar-loaves in the shallow water, or sometimes his steps were bent to
some open glade, where the great oaks dropped sweet mast among the
The day was no longer young when a low fence came into view; beyond
it stretched a levee, and at its base a glint of water showed itself
through the great trees, which stretched their mighty arms as though
they would embrace it.
Ung Jerry, after climbing the fence, mounted the levee and stood
upon the brink of a wide and muddy river. Taking off his hat, the old
man wiped the sweat from his face, then turned an observant eye upon
the river, whose muddy waters were already lapping the boughs of the
overhanging trees, and with a long-drawn breath exclaimed, Bank an'
Then, as his experienced eye noted the angry swirls near the shore
and the débris borne rapidly upon the turbid current, An' still on de
rise. She gwine be out in de low groun's befo' mornin', bless de Lord;
I's been 'spectin' she gwine play dis trick eber since de win' set like
Then, looking at the field of standing corn upon the further shore,
protected by a low levee, and seeming to be upon a lower level than the
red waters of the flood, he soliloquized:
I's skeared de fresh gwine 'stroy a sight o' Mars Jones's corn. It
raly do 'pear like dat corn mout a been housed befo' now.
The old man's thoughts were interrupted at this point by loud and
animated barkings from Drive, and, hurrying to the spot whence they
proceeded, he discovered the old hound standing in a broken gap in the
fence, in a state of excitement over the numerous footprints which told
that the truants had broken through and made for the river, evidently
with designs upon Mars Jones's cornfield.
Here's wha' dey tuck de watah, the old man remarked to the dog, as
together they followed the footprints to the water's edge. Dat 'ere
listed sow, she got mo' sense un folks! She know 'bout Mars Jones's
corn, an' dey ain't no fence gwine stop dat cretur when she take a
notion for to go.
Well, well, well, de listed sow, an' de big white hogue, an' seben
head o' shotes done tore down de fence, an' took deyselves 'cross de
riber for to steal Mars Jones's corn; I 'clare 't is a disgrace. I
reckon Mars Jones gwine cuss a plenty when he fine it out. It certinly
is a pity for master's creturs to do sich a low-life trick as dat. But
bless de Lord, and a look of crafty triumph came into his face, dey's
got dey bellies full, anyhow.
With this pleasing reflection, and the conviction that nothing more
could be done for the present, the old man seated himself upon a log,
opened his bucket, took out his jack-knife, and proceeded to eat his
dinner, while Drive sat by, in eager readiness to snatch the morsels
flung to him, ere they could reach the ground.
When the meal was finished, dog and man each took comfort in his own
way. The dog stretched himself in the sunshine. The old man sat with
bent head a-studyin', then nodded, then fell into a deep sleep,
soothed by the silence, which reigned unbroken save for the distant
cawing of a crow.
The long gray moss swayed dreamily upon the motionless boughs of the
giant trees. Where the sycamore lifted its gaunt, white arms, the great
bald eagle sat immovable, watching with fierce, intent gaze for its
prey in the waters below.
The shadows were growing long upon wood and river when the light dip
of a paddle broke upon the stillness, and old Jerry, rousing from his
nap, spied a canoe gliding down stream, guided by two youths who, with
their guns lying crosswise upon their knees, were making for the bank.
Mars Harry an' Mars Phil, he murmured, eying them with lazy
curiosity, as they brought their little craft to land, and after making
it fast, picked up their guns, crossed the levee, and struck off into
Dey's after turkey, I 'speck; Mars Harry an' me, we's killed many a
varmint in dese here woods. Dey want no Mars Phil 'bout here in dem
days befo' ole Mars were tuck down.
Thus soliloquizing, the old man continued to gaze wistfully after
the retreating figures; for their appearance had seemed to bring a
disturbing element into his peaceful dreams, and a look of helpless
trouble overspread his face as, taking off his hat and slowly
scratching his head, he murmured:
Seem like it mos' a pity Mars Phil trouble hisself for to come
here, anyhow. Well, well, well! we folks all gwine be 'vided up 'twix
Mars Harry an' Mars Phil, 'cause ole Mars, he not long for dis world!
Bless de Lord, whinsoever it please Him for to teck ole Mars to
hisself, I trus' he gwine 'vide off Jerry to Mars Harry's shere, 'cause
I nachally ain't got no use for t'other onehe too outlondesh.
So saying, he rose and reached his bucket from the bough where it
hung. Drive, who had for some moments been watching him out of the
corner of one red eye, rose also, and the two set out upon their tramp
back to the cart.
The old man had climbed the fence, the dog had scrambled through,
and both were threading their way across the swamp, when the report of
a gun close by caused the dog to beat a retreat from the thicket into
which he had thrust his nose, and, with tail tucked in, to creep to his
master's side; while the old man, exclaiming, Good Gor-a-mighty! whot
dat? pushed aside the bushes in order to see what game the boys had
The sight that met his eyes froze him with horror. Philip's lifeless
body lay upon the ground, while Harry, with scared white face, bent
For a brief space the old man stood as if petrified, then muttered:
Jerry ain't gwine know nothin' bout dis here. When ole Mars say,
'Jerry, what you seen in de Vine Ridge Swash?' Jerry, he gwine say,
'Nothin', Marster, fo' de Lord. I seen nothin' 't all!' An' I ain't
gwine tell no lie, nuther, 'cause I ain't gwine look!
Thus thinking, he cautiously drew back, and, with ashen face and
limbs that through trembling almost failed to support him, he
stealthily crept away until out of earshot; then took to his heels and
fled. When, however, he was forced to pause for breath, he considered
if he had done well to desert his young master, and turned reluctantly
to retrace his steps, when, as he did so, the air was suddenly rent
with ear-piercing shrieks for half a second, and Jerry's heart quailed.
It's boun' to be de debil, he whispered. Then, a light seeming to
break upon him, he exclaimed: Bless God! 't ain't nothin' but de ole
The Chieftain, a small freight steamer, had recently taken the place
of the old flat-bottomed scows, and, as the steam whistle was still a
novelty, it is not surprising that Ung Jerry, in his terror, should for
the moment have mistaken it for some unearthly sound.
After many irresolute pauses, the old man at length reached the
scene of the disaster, and with shaking hands thrust aside the bushes.
Except for the small birds silently flitting to their roosts, the place
was utterly deserted. The level sunbeams glinted through the gray moss,
gilded the tree trunks, and glowed crimson upon the brown leaves; the
solitary peace of nature seemed unbroken; only the pool of blood at Ung
Jerry's feet told him that what he had witnessed had not been a vision.
After a moment's survey he was turning away, when his eyes fell upon
the two guns: here, at least, was something tangible, and the old man
proceeded to secrete them in the fallen leaves. Squatted upon the
ground, he was too busily engaged to note the sound of approaching
footsteps, and started violently when a rough voice accosted him. He
mustered courage, however, to quaver:
Dat you, Mars Jones?
Me? of course it's me! Who did you reckon it was?
I dunno, Mars Jones.
Well, you'll know next time, if you don't keep them hogs o' yourn
out of my corn. Why, that confounded old sow can destroy more corn in
one night than you are worth.
Yes, Mars Jones, dat de trufe, meekly assented the old man.
Mars Jones, warming to the subject, now waxed more and more eloquent
over his grievances, until, having exhausted his pent up wrath, he had
leisure to observe old Jerry's ashen face and shaking limbs, and he
Why, what's the matter with you? are you sick?
Yes, Mars Jones, I's been po'ly dis liblong day, an' I's gittin'
sassifrax for to make me a little drap o' tea, I's got sich a mis'ry.
Sassafras! here broke in Mars Jones; and, good-natured, despite
his roughness, he took from his pocket a tickler, and handing
Jerry a dram, said:
Drink this, you old blockhead. Sassifrax, indeed!what good
you reckon sassifrax goin' do you?
With a scrape and a bow and a Thank ye, Marster, the old man
gulped down the dram, and Mars Jones, replacing his tickler, was
turning away, when his foot slipped in something, and looking down he
saw that it was blood.
The dram had put so much heart into the old man that he was able to
reply glibly to Mars Jones's questions.
Its jes' wha' I's been markin' hogs, Marster.
I don't believe you; I believe you've been killin' one of your
master's hogsthat's what you've been at.
But as this did not concern him, he did not wait to inquire further,
and so, turning on his heel, he strode off.
The hog-feeder, too, hastening away, took the shortest path back to
The deserted barnyard lay silent in the white moonlight when the
little cart creaked through the gate; but up at the great house there
were lights and movements where the family watched the coming of the
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday passed without tidings, and the hope
that they had been caught by the rising water and imprisoned upon some
isolated knoll had been abandoned after the swamps had been searched in
every direction. To add to the grief of the household, the master,
already enfeebled, now lay prostrated in a condition that almost
Upon Sunday the waters began to abate, fences again appeared, and
patches of drowned corn showed themselves above the wastes of water, to
the no small joy of the flocks of blackbirds which chattered and
fluttered amongst them.
Mr. Jones, tired of the loneliness of his water-girt home, made his
way to the meeting-house, more for the sake of a gossip with some of
the neighbors than for the day's preaching, and it was there that he
first heard the startling news of the unaccountable disappearance of
Squire Brace's nephews.
In the excitement, each man was eager to advance his own theory. The
discussion ended, however, in the general opinion that their canoe had
been swamped in the freshet and the boys drowned, until a newcomer
asserted that the canoe, with Phil's overcoat still in it, had been
found tied up at the Vine Ridge landing, and that their guns had been
discovered hidden in the leaves at no great distance in the swamp.
Upon hearing this, Mr. Jones could but call to mind his meeting with
the hog-feeder, his strange behavior, and the blood upon the ground,
and he at once jumped to the conclusion that old Jerry had been at
least a party to some foul deed. His suspicions, once made known,
became certainties, and the whole party, hastily mounting their horses,
rode off to the nearest justice, their convictions gaining ground so
rapidly that, ere the house of the justice was reached, poor, simple
old Jerry, the most harmless of God's creatures, had become in their
estimation a villain of the deepest dye.
Upon this identical Sunday morning the old hog-feeder betook himself
to the little plantation church, whose bell, with cracked clamor, gave
warning that preaching was about to begin.
The frosty brightness of the past week had given place to a soft
mist, through whose dimness the pale sunbeams looked sadly upon the
autumnal world; and as the old man, dressed in his Sunday clothes,
plodded along the path, the tiny crickets from beneath the grass sent
up their sad, perpetual dirge.
Men and women, all shining with Sabbath cleanness, came straggling
toward the church, silently and soberly, without the usual
light-hearted laughter, for the trouble at the great house was felt
by all the little band. Yet their feelings were not without a mixture
of pleasurable excitement, for all were anticipating with gloomy
satisfaction the lengthy prayers, the groanings, and the head-shakings
upon this mournful day.
The congregation had taken their seats, old Jethro had taken his
place in the pulpit, the long-drawn cadence of the funeral hymn had
floated sadly up to the great house, when a noise at the door
startled the congregation, who, turning, beheld standing in the door a
group of white men. Among them was the overseer, who, coming forward,
announced that hog-feeder Jerry was to be arrested upon a charge of
murder. Not that I believe it, men, he said, but the law must take
In the meantime two others had approached the old man, who had
already stumbled to his feet, and, while bowing in a dazed kind of way,
kept murmuring, Sarvent, Marsters.
Handcuffs were put upon him, and amid a profound silence he was led
forth and lifted into a cart. The two sheriffs took their places upon
each side of him, and the cortège moved off.
The people, having sufficiently recovered from their shock to jostle
one another out of the building, stood huddled together like a flock of
frightened sheep; but when the cavalcade had driven off, a subdued
clamor of voices arose, all unanimous in contempt for dese here po'
white, who'd ha' knowed better 'n to come meddlin' long o' Marster's
folks ef Marster wan't down on de bed an' mos' like to die!
That the dull and simple brain of the old man should have been
capable of any formulated plan is not to be imagined, and when upon the
following day he was taken before the justice for examination, he
merely acted from an instinct of affection in shielding his young
master, even at the risk of his own life. When questioned, he preserved
an obstinate silence; then, when forced to speak, denied having seen
either of the boys upon the day of their disappearance, but, when
cross-questioned, admitted that he had seen Mars Phil in the Vine Ridge
woods; and finally, when taxed with the blood upon the ground and with
having hidden the guns, he reluctantly admitted that ef Mars Phil had
been hurted he had done it.
What did you do with the body? questioned the justice; throw it
in the river?
A murmur from the prisoner, which passed for assent, concluded the
examination, and the justice, sorely puzzled, committed him to jail to
await his trial.
With the early morning, the country people had begun to gather
around the courthouse, and when told that the old miscreant had
actually confessed to the murder, their innate love of justice gave
place to fierce anger; and when the prisoner, gray with terror, bent
and tottering, was led forth, he was surrounded by a silent but
determined crowd, who, thrusting the sheriffs aside, seized and drove
him before them, and had already slipped the noose about his neck, when
an inarticulate shout caused the crowd to sway,a horseman dashed into
their midst and proclaimed that both boys were alive. Their
disappearance had been explained on that morning by a letter forwarded
by hand, which ran as follows:
On Board the Chieftain.
Dear Uncle,This afternoon, while hunting in the Vine Ridge woods,
Phil's gun went off and wounded him in the side. I was at my wit's end
what to do, when I heard the Chieftain blow up the river; so I tore off
to the levee, where I was lucky enough to succeed in attracting Captain
Smith's attention, who sent off a boat, and we managed to get Phil on
board. I wanted Smith to put back to our landing, but he thought the
current too strong; and on the whole, I believe it is better for Phil
to keep on to Hilton, as it would be impossible to get a doctor at home
in this high water. Phil's hurt is not very serious, I hope.
Your dutiful nephew,
* * * * *
On the day succeeding Harry's homecoming, he entered the room
designated the study, in which the Squire was usually to be found
The room probably owed the name of study to a set of Farmer's
Magazines which, in all the dignity of expensive bindings, divided
the shelf with a rather damaged edition of The Turf Register, a
Farrier's Manual, a brace of antiquated medical works, and a stack of
newspapers. Fishing tackle, a cupping apparatus, a set of engineering
instruments, half a dozen ears of extra fine seed corn, medicine
scales, and a huge cotton stock filled the rest of the bookcase.
The Squire, seated before a blazing fire, in the lazy comforts of
convalescence, with pipe and tobacco at his elbow, presented a not
unenviable picture when contrasted with the wintry grayness outside.
Harry, who had been greatly touched by the old hog-feeder's
affectionate fidelity, now sought his uncle in order to beg that as a
recompense he might be given his freedom.
Freedom! exclaimed the Squire; why, confound it, my dear boy,
what would he do with freedom, if he had it?
I think he would like it, Harry murmured, a little sheepishly.
Why, he's as free as air now; a deuced sight freer than I am.
Nevertheless Harry gained his point, and though the Squire growled,
You young jackanapes, you've robbed me of the best hog-feeder on the
river, still he was evidently pleased, and in the evening old Jerry
was sent for.
When, in answer to the summons, Jerry presented himself at the study
door, his master said to him, with a stateliness fitted to the
Jerry, I have sent for you to tell you that your young master here,
as a reward for your fidelity, desires to give you your freedom.
Here the Squire paused, and Jerry, not knowing what else to say,
said, Yes, Marster.
Harry, standing by, was feeling rather wrought up, while the Squire,
also somewhat excited, continued:
I will give you a house in the free settlement, out in the slashes,
and your young master will always take care of you.
Another rather disconcerting pause was broken by a second Yes,
Marster; and the old man, picking up his hat, shuffled out.
The Squire glanced at Harry with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes,
but the boy's face expressed such blank disappointment that he took
pity upon him, and, picking up a newspaper, dismissed the matter.
Upon the following evening a low knock was heard at the study door,
then a fumbling at the latch, and old Jerry once more stood upon the
Well, old man, what is it now? his master asked kindly. Come, out
with it! he repeated, as the old man, with a feeble grin, stood
helplessly fingering his hat. What's the matter?
And old Jerry, slowly scratching his head, made answer:
Thank, Marster; I's come to ax Marster what I done to 'splease
Displease me! Why, what has put that notion into your head?
I dunno, Mars, what I's done, but I's skeared Mars mout be set agin
me, 'cause he say he gwine sen' me offen de plantation.
Then Harry explained that he was to be set free, and eagerly
enlarged upon the delights of liberty. The hog-feeder listened, but was
unmoved: he obstinately declined to accept his freedom, his plea being
that the varments would 'stroy up his creeturs if he were not there
to look after them.
De black sow, she got a fine litter o' pigs now, an' de foxes is
a'ter 'em de blessed time.
After this no more could be urged, and Jerry, scraping his foot,
went out with a mind full of content.
 As this is a true tale of an old-time plantation negro, I think
it but fair to state that he had a chist full of good clothes; but,
with a parsimony not uncommon among his race, he preferred to protect
his feet with old bits of blanket, instead of using the excellent
home-knit woollen socks which lay snugly hidden away in his chist;
and it was the same feeling which caused him to wrap himself now into
an old garment made up of patches, although three good ones lay snugly
folded away in the same chest.
THE JUNIOR RESERVE
It was in the early summer of 1864 that the family at Swan Manor was
thrown off its balance by the calling out of The Junior Reserves.
That unfledged boys, and among them their own little smooth-cheeked
Billy, should be called upon to fill up the thinned and broken ranks of
the Southern army filled their hearts with dismay. The old Squire, with
bushy brows beetling over his eyes, sat in grief too deep for words, a
prey to the darkest forebodings. Miss Jemima had wept until her eyes
were mere nothings, while her nose, coming gallantly to the front, had
assumed an undue prominence. Kate, with her pretty lips drawn to keep
down the rising sobs, tried all in vain to bestow upon her twin brother
bright looks and smiles, ever before so ready and spontaneous. In the
early secession days it had seemed such fun to ride to dress parade and
toss bouquets to the laughing boys in gray, while all the world
Away down South in Dixie.
How she and Billy had whispered and plotted, and how great the
triumph when together they climbed the gate-post and, after much toil,
successfully planted their little red and white flag! But now, alas!
all was changed,they were fast getting to be grown-up people, and now
her own dear Billy must go to help drive the Yankees out of Dixie.
As for Billy himself, a suppressed but exultant grin shone upon his
face, a trifle deprecating when in the presence of his grandfather or
his tearful Aunt Jemima, but very jubilant despite these drawbacks. In
truth this junior reserve was only too pleased to exchange the Latin
grammar for the musket, and little cared he for prospective hardships,
provided school were not among them.
In the few busy days before the departure, Kate followed Billy's
footsteps, trying in vain to share his elation. Good gracious, Kate,
he would exclaim, when he discovered her furtively wiping her eyes with
her little damp ball of a pocket handkerchief, don't be such a little
goose; why, what would you have a fellow do? I had no idea that you
were that sort of a girl. Then, as between laughing and crying her
face contorted itself into a sort of spasmodic grin, he would say: Now
that's right, that's the way to do, if you'll just cheer up, I'll be
all right; the Yankees'll not bother me much, you bet.
At the request of Serena (Billy's former nurse) her boy Cy was
chosen to accompany his young master as body servant, one of his chief
recommendations being that, naturally skeary, he would be a safe
companion; also, as his mother proudly averred, he was the fastest
runner upon the plantation.
It was upon a golden evening in June that little Billy bade farewell
to his home, Miss Jemima and Kate going with him to the little wayside
station. Cy, gotten up in great style, followed, while the rear was
brought up by a motley procession,all eager for the honor of carrying
some of the belongings. The Squire, with Don the old Irish setter,
stood in the doorway until Billy passed out of sight; then the two
together, the old man and the old dog, went back into the silent house.
The path to the station wound its way through a field of ripening
wheat, from whence the clear whistle of a partridge smote sharply
though the fervid air. Billy paused, and, pointing to a tangle of
blackberry, exclaimed: There's a nest there as sure as shooting, and
I'll go there to-mor A quick catching of the breath cut short the
unfinished words, and the boy, with lips slightly drawn, quickened his
pace. Kate, choking down her sobs, held his hand in her tight clasp, as
she kept pace with his hurried step. Miss Jemima, steadying her voice,
remarked with a sprightly air that there would be fine shooting when he
should come back in the autumn. Then the little station came into view,
looking very empty and deserted; two men loading a flat car were the
only living objects to be seen. They paused in their work to greet
Billy, and ask where he was off to. It seemed so strange a thing to
Kate that all the world did not know.
The train was not on time, and the waiting became so painful that it
was almost with gladness that they heard the warning whistle far down
the track. A small crowd had gradually collected, and some one
remarked: She's blowin' for the bridge. It'll be ten minutes before
she's here. To the tumultuously throbbing hearts of the little party
it was a positive relief when a puff of smoke was seen and the engine
came rushing around the bend. Then there were hurried kisses; the bell
clanged, a voice called out, All aboard, and the train was off.
Gone, gone, gone, Kate repeated over and over to herself, as she
gazed with tearless eyes into the dim distance of the now silent track.
As the party retraced their steps homeward the partridge was still
calling his cheerful Bob White from amid the wheat, while from the
shadowy depth of a laurel thicket came the sweet gurgle of the
In the late summer, newsglorious newscame that the foe had been
driven back, and their boy was unhurt.
Later, a man from the front at home on furlough was heard to say
that Billy Swan was a regular trump, and had borne himself like a
veteran. Kate walked elate, saying the words over and over, with a
proud smile, A hero, a regular trump,he, her own dear Billy. The
old Squire, too, with ill-concealed pride in his boy, was once more
like his former self.
Happy daysbrief, hopeful days! Alas, alas! Many Junes have come
and gone since little Billy was laid to rest in the old burying-ground,
close to the wheat-field where the partridge calls, calls, the long day
through. June roses scatter their leaves above him, and when the sun
drops low, with long golden shafts upon the green mound which covers
him, from far down in the laurel thicket comes the liquid gurgle of the
wood-thrush. Kate looks into faces, once frank and bright, and full of
youth and hope, now grown old and seamed with care, and she tells
herself that whom the gods love, die young.
Two little snub noses were flattening themselves against the nursery
window pane, while the four eager eyes watched the soft flakes whirling
through the air and silently descending upon the whitening earth.
Sposen we was to steal out, whispered the boy, an' hide, so Mammy
couldn't never find us no more.
An excited chuckle interrupted the further development of this
deliciously lawless scheme; but, though the little sister caught the
infection, she prudently turned from the tempting prospect, saying,
No, Sed, I's 'fraid you might git the croups an' die.
The other occupants of the room were a little roly-poly cherub of a
girl, seated in a tiny chair, holding in her arms a rag baby, which she
rocked and dangled in servile imitation of her mammy, who, with
bumpings peculiar to the nursery chair, was rocking to sleep a still
younger babe. A fair little maiden, curled up comfortably upon a
cushion, the firelight glistening upon her yellow locks, bent over a
book, from which she read, in high-pitched, childish voice, to her
mammy, the story of Ellen Lynn. Mammy was very proud that her
nursling could read, and would cast admiring looks upon the child as
she bent over her book, with finger pointing to each word. Both were
absorbed in the story, and every picture was examined with scrupulous
Another occupant of the nursery was Chany, the under nursemaid.
Gawky, sleek, and black, she sat flat upon the floor, her large,
well-shod feet turned to the fire, a picture of lazy, vacant content.
Ch-Ch-Chany, stuttered Mammy, look in de top drawer an' git a
hankcher and blow dat chile's nose. Go on wid yo book, honey; Mammy
ain't goin' 'sturb you no mo.
Mr. Lynn left the sleigh, and turning from the islandpiped
little Caroline. Then there came another prolonged snuffle from Sedley.
You Ch-Ch-Chany, why'n't you git dat hankcher? caused that languid
maiden to bestir herself. Having fumbled in the drawer for the
handkerchief, she approached the window, but no sooner did the little
boy become aware of her intention than, with a rebellious shake of his
curly head, he buried his nose in his little chapped fists, and,
regardless of Sibyl's advice, that he had better be good, he firmly
stood his ground, determined to resist Chany to the death.
He ain't gwine let me tetch him, said Chany, feebly dabbing at him
with the handkerchief.
Do, pray, gal, don't be so no-'count, Mammy answered. Then Chany,
stung by the imputation, made another helpless dive; a scuffle ensued,
in which she was utterly routed, and the victorious Sedley threw
himself upon Mammy's lap.
Gi' me de hankcher, said Mammy, with an air of withering contempt.
There, now, you done woke up your little brother, she said, when, the
nose being blown, she again returned to trying to jolt baby Joe to
sleep. He jest had drapped off into a doze.
Oh, chilluns, le's pop some corn! Chany now exclaimed. Here's a
whole sight of it, she went on, as she searched a basket, which she
had unearthed from the closet.
Oh! pop corn! shouted Sedley and Sibyl, running, and each seizing
Oh! pop torn! echoed the cherub, throwing down her rag baby. So
the shovel was run into the ashes, and Chany and the three little ones
set to work to shell the corn.
Quiet was again restored, and Caroline, who, all through the hubbub,
had kept her finger faithfully upon island, continued her reading.
Mammy now substituted a sideways movement of the knees for the more
vigorous bumping of the chair, and baby Joelying luxuriously upon her
wide lapgazed dreamily into the glowing coals upon the hearth, until
gradually the white lids drooped over the blue eyes, and he slept. The
nursery was very quiet now. The corn-poppers were intent upon their
work, and Mammy, soothed by the unwonted stillness, listened drowsily
to the little reader until fresh interest was excited by the following
The men were now still more alarmed, read Caroline. Farmer Lynn
said that he would go with them and see what had become of Mr. Lynn and
Annie. The whole party accordingly went back to the river. After
searching about for some time, one of the men espied something black on
the surface of the snow, at a great distance down the river. They all
proceeded to the spot, and were dreadfully shocked on arriving there to
find that the black spot was a part of Mr. Lynn's arm and that his body
was beneath, frozen, and buried up in the snow.
When Mammy heard these words, she threw up her arms, and exclaimed,
Lord, have mercy 'pon my soul! What! Mr. Lynn hisself?
To her imagination Mr. Lynn was a most real person. The book was now
brought to her and she, with little Caroline, looked with deep and
mournful interest at the picture of the empty sleigh.
It certainly is a awful country to live in; seem like it ain't
fitten for a dog, much less white folks. To think o' Mr. Lynn hisself
bein' froze to death. Well! well! well! It certainly was onexpected.
The children's story books furnished Mammy with many thoughts. Among
them was a set of German nursery tales, full of quaint colored
pictures, in which she took especial pleasure. Seated by the nursery
fire, the baby asleep in his crib and the others out at play, she would
turn the leaves feeling that each picture was a living portrait.
Slovenly Peter, Rocking Phillip, and Greedy Jacob were her favorites.
Once when shown a pretzel, she exclaimed, Ef it ain't the very thing
what Jacob had in his hand when he busted, and, taking the pretzel in
her hand, she contemplated it with a thoughtful and sentimental air.
The nursery door was now burst open, and in rushed Harry, bringing
with him a blast of fresh cold air; black Ned came too, and both
brought upon their feet enough snow to cover the carpet with moist
You Ne-Ne-Ned, ain't you got no mo' manners than to be a-tracking
up de house dis way? Go 'long out and clean your feet; but the hubbub
was too great for Mammy's words to be heeded; pig-tails were being
brandished aloft, and the children all clustered round Harry and Ned,
asking questions and clamoring for pig-tails.
Look! said Harry. Here's somefin better'n pig-tails, and he drew
from his pocket the mangled remains of a dozen or more snow-birds.
A scramble now ensued, and Sibylhaving secured as many as she
wantedretired to a corner, and silently fell to plucking them, while
Sedley, who was as vainglorious as a Comanche, capered about on his
short legs, and boasted of imaginary exploits with trap and dead-fall.
Caroline looked on, half pleased and half disgusted, keeping herself
clear of contact.
Miss Calline she too proud to tetch pig-tails, grinned Chany.
'F cose she is, Mammy answered, bridling. She was very vain of
Miss Caroline's daintiness.
The baby was now laid in his crib. Chany was dispatched for salt and
pepper; the shovel was again run into the ashes, pig-tails were placed
delicately upon the coals, and the nursery, pervaded with the various
odors of wet shoes, burnt corn, fried grease, etc., was given up to
disorder and cooking, into which Mammy threw herself with as much zest
as did the children. The pig-tails were broiled to a turn, and the
small birds were frizzling away upon the shovel, when Sedley, taking
advantage of his opportunity, made a rush for the door, opened it, and
was outside, with mouth and hands full of snow. Before Mammy's vigilant
eye had noted his escape, he was flying back in triumph, with a big
ball in his fist, when she met him and, with dexterous grasp, wrenched
it from him.
Di-di-did anybody ever see your match! she exclaimed as she hurled
the ball into the fire. I clar I's got a good mind to take you right
straight to your ma.
But Sedley knew the value of such threats and soon wiggled himself
out of her grasp.
Da now, go 'long an' 'have yourself, she said, with admiring
fondness, as he laughed and capered away from her.
Honey, what is you a-doin'? she now inquired of Sibyl, who, with
hot cheeks, was bending over a pile of coals. Cookin' a bird? Let me
do it,you's a-burnin' your little face clean to a cracklin'.
No, Mammy, I'm cookin' my bird for grandma, the child answered,
rejecting all help, an' I'm goin' to do it all by myself.
Wh', baby honey, your gran'ma ain't comin' before Christmas eve,
an' dat's a week off. Your bird ain't goin' keep all dat time, but ne'
mine, I'll make Ned ketch you another one.
* * * * *
Upon Christmas Eve, the children might have been seen at the big
gate, straining their eyes down the road, each hoping to be the first
to see their grandmother's carriage. Visions of waxen dolls,
sugar-plums, and other vague delights imparted a double zest to her
arrival,to say nothing of Uncle Robin (the driver) who, in the
estimation of the little boys, was of far greater importance than was
their grandmother. To them he was an oracle of wisdom, and their
delight was to follow him about the stable lot or to sit in the
sunshine and hang upon his words; for his imagination was fertile, and
the boys would listen with wonder to the tales of his prowess and skill
with horses. Something was now observed to be moving far down the road,
which soon proved to be the carriage. Yes, there were Phoenix and
Peacock, which no one but Uncle Robin could handle, and there sat
Uncle Robin upon the box, and there was grandma inside, smiling and
waving her handkerchief, and there, too, sat Aunt Polly, grandma's
The carriage stopped, and Uncle Robin, bowing and smiling, descended
and opened the door, and they all scrambled in and were hugged and
kissed, and Polly admired their beauty and exclaimed at their growth.
Then the door was clapped to again, but not before Harry had managed to
slip out and clamber to the box beside Uncle Robin, who, having driven
through the gate, handed him the reins, with a caution to keep his eye
upon Peacock. In the estimation of the boy, this sleek and overfed
Peacock seemed little less than a raging lion whom only Uncle Robin
He'll run in a minute, if he gits a chance, said the guileful
Uncle Robin. So Harry clutched the reins and drove proudly past the
lot, in full view of some of the men, turned in at the yard gate, and
drew up before the door.
Grandma could not wait for the hanging of the Christmas stockings,
but insisted upon opening her trunk at once, and displaying her gifts
to the children's delighted eyes. The wax babies exceeded their wildest
hopes. The house was made horrible with horns and drums. Mammy laughed
and showed her dimples and courtesied over her own gorgeous present,
and all felt that Christmas had really come.
For several days, indeed, throughout the holidays, Harry felt that
he had left childhood far behind him, and, as he strutted about the
stable yard, he now and then expectorated, in imitation of Uncle Robin,
as though he had a quid in his mouth.
Aunt Polly, though far inferior to Uncle Robin in the children's
estimation, was yet a person of distinction, and no naughtiness was
ever displayed when she was by to witness it.
Mammy usually enjoyed a gossip with Aunt Polly over the nursery
fire. But, sometimes feelings of coolness would arise. Polly belonged
to the family of the mother of the children, while Mammy came from that
of the father, and between the two a slight rivalry had always existed
as to the superiority of her own white children.
'T is a pity Miss Calline's back's so round, said Polly one night
as the children were being undressed.
Now, if there was a feature in which Mammy took a pride, it was in
the straightness of the children's limbs and the flatness of their
backs, above all the limbs and backs in the other branches of the
family; so, firing up at once, she replied that she would like to see a
flatter back than this here one, laying her hand upon Caroline's.
Miss Emmaline's is a sight flatter, Polly stoutly maintained.
She's got as pretty shape as ever I see,all our people's got good
shapes from old Missis down. I reckon this chile's got her back from
her pa's fambly. When Polly said this, Mammy felt that the gauntlet
had been flung down, and, at once, with an eloquence all her own, so
defended the shapes of her fambly that Polly was fairly beaten in
the war of words, and was forced to admit, with many apologies, that
Miss Caroline's back was as flat as Miss Emmaline's.
Mammy accepted the apology with some hauteur, and it was several
days before entire cordiality was reëstablished; in fact, in all her
after life, Mammy would, when in certain moods, hark back to dat time
when dat long-mouthed Polly had de imperdence to say dat our folks'
backs weren't as straight as hern.
Full of peaceful content were the lives of both whites and blacks.
Merrily the Christmas went by, to be followed by others as merry, and
the winters and summers came and went, turning childhood into maturity
and maturity into old age. Mammy's glory reached its zenith when, at
Miss Calline's grand wedding, she herself rustled about in all the
grandeur of a new black silk and Polly was forever squelched. The whole
world seemed full of prosperity, abundance, and careless happiness,
when suddenly, like a thunderbolt, the war came.
The plantation home was abandoned very carelessly, and with light
hearts the family drove away, expecting nothing but to return with the
frosts of winter. They refugeed to a farmhouse upon the outskirts of a
little up-country village.
Sedley, though still a beardless youth, shouldered his musket, and
took his place in the ranks. Sibyl and her mother, in the little rude
farmhouse, thought not of their lost splendor, but cheerfully looked
for the good days sure to come when, the war over, the dear ones would
come back, and the old times. Every Southern woman knows how it was
when the great battles were fought and a trembling, white-lipped group
of women and aged men would stand huddled together to hear what the
midnight dispatches might have in store for them.
In the little upland village the refugees were closely knit together
by hopes and fears in common. When sorrow fell upon one household the
little community all mourned. But if the wires brought glad words that
all at the front were unharmed, there would come a period of happy
reaction; the little society would be wildly gay, especially if one or
more young heroes from the front had come home with a slight
wound,just enough to make a demigod of him.
Such was Sedley's happy fate one never-to-be-forgotten summer, when
every girl in the village fell madly in love with his blue eyes and his
gray coat and his mustache and his lovely voice, as he strummed the
guitar in the moonlight,and most of all with his merry laugh. Did
time permit, I might tell of such odd costumes, such make-ups of
homespun and lace, fine old silks and calicoes, in which the Dixie
girls danced so merrily.
It was just upon the heels of one of these happy seasons that a
rumor was whispered that the army was about to fall back and that the
offices and stores would be removed in consequence. At first the rumor
was rejected,no good Confederate would listen to such treason; but
finally the croakers were proved to be right. The government stores
were hastily removed. The office-holders took a sad farewell of those
whom they left behind them, and the little town was abandoned to its
fate, outside the Confederate lines.
Sibyl and her mother were among the tearful group who watched the
little band of departing friends, as it passed out of the town, waved a
last adieu, and strained their dimmed eyes for a last sight of the
Confederate gray, ere they went sadly back to their homes.
When Sibyl and her mother reached home, they found Mammy already at
work. She had ripped open a feather bed, and amid its downy depths she
was burying whatever she could lay her hands upon. Clothing, jewelry,
even a china ornament or two,all went in. It was a day or two after
that Rita complained of a great knot in her bed, which had bruised her
back and prevented her sleeping. Mammy heard her, but, waiting until
they were alone, said in a half whisper, Honey, I knows what dat knot
is, 't ain't nothin' but your brother's cavalry boots that I hid in the
bed. I reckon the feathers has got shuck down. Don't say nothin', an'
I'll turn your bed over, and then you won't feel 'em. An', honey, do
pray be kereful how you talks before Jim. I ain't got no 'pinion o'
Jim, an' it'll never do in de world to let him speck where the things
No one knew how soon the Yankees might come, and all were busily
engaged in concealing whatever they had of value. People may smile now
at some of the recollections of that day, but they were earnest enough
then, and as much importance was attached to the concealment of a ham
or a pound of black sugar as to that of a casket of diamonds. Clothing
and provisions were hidden in various strange and out-of-the-way
places, and, when night came, Mammy and her mistress were glad to rest
their tired bodies, although too much excited to sleep. At last,
however, a deep sleep fell upon them, from which they were awakened by
the distant roar of cannon. The village, though no longer a depot for
Confederate stores, was not to be given up without a struggle. It now
became a sort of debatable ground, and cannonading, more or less
distant, told the anxious listeners of almost daily skirmishes.
Awakened by the cannon's roar, Sibyl opened the window and listened.
A pale glory to the eastward, a low rustle of leaves, a drowsy chirp
from tiny nests, all merging into one inarticulate murmur of awakening
nature, told that night was over. Sibyl and her mother hastily dressed
themselves, called Rita from her fearless young sleep, roused up the
baby, as they still called little Joe; then asked themselves why they
did it. There was nothing to do but to sit on the porch or to wander
aimlessly, listening with beating hearts to the faint and more faint
boom of the artillery. And the roses glowed in the May sunshine, and
the honeysuckle wafted its perfume in at the open windows, and the bees
droned among the flowers, and all was so peaceful, but for the
incessant dull roar of the battle.
The Confederates were finally driven back, the Federals entered the
town, and then the bummers came streaming through the country, leaving
desolation behind them. Cattle, poultry, everything eatable was driven
off or carried away in the great army wagons that came crashing along,
regardless of all obstacles in their cruel course. Cut off from all
news from the army, Sibyl and her mother dragged wearily through the
long, sad summer, and the two children grew gaunt for want of
It was a morning in the early autumn that Sibyl, sitting at work by
an open window, became suddenly conscious of an unusual presence near
her, and, looking up, beheld a man gazing fixedly upon her. A party of
Federals had that very morning visited the house upon a pretended
search for concealed weapons, and the girl, with nerves still vibrating
with terror, uttered a little shriek, and, starting up, was about to
close the window, when the figure leaped over the low sill, a pair of
strong arms encircled her, kisses fell upon her lips, and, ere the
shriek of terror could find voice, she recognized, under the rough
countryman's hat, the laughing eyes of her brother Sedley.
Such meetings can be better imagined than described; seconds had
become minutes ere Sibyl or her mother could begin to realize their
joy, which, in its first intensity, was almost pain. Then came the
breathless questionings as to the well-being of the other dear ones,
then the deep sigh of thankfulness from the long-burdened hearts.
At the sound of a strange voice. Mammy, peeping in at the open door,
had fallen prostrate with joy, and, while hugging her boy to her
faithful bosom, had called upon her Maker to testify that upon this
very morning the scissors had stuck up twice.
An' I knowed when dey done dat, dat somebody was a-comin'.
Then Dinah, the cook, came in, courtesying and laughing and loyal as
though no emancipating army had set foot in Dixie.
When the joyful tidings had reached the children, Rita's thin legs
might have been seen flying through the high grass. The more practical
Joe toiled behind, bending under the burden of (their treasure trove) a
big pumpkin, a basket of persimmons, and a few stalks of sorghum, for,
like the Scriptural colts of the wild ass, they passed their time in
searching after every green thing.
In the magnetism of the bright presence of the young soldier, all
the sad forebodings seemed to vanish into thin air. While listening to
his brave words of hope, they forgot that the sunny hours of this most
happy day were hastening by. Already the shadows lay long upon the
grass, and there remained yet so much to be said and so little time
wherein to say it! By set of sun Sedley must be on his way to rejoin
his command. His brief and daring visit had been achieved by his
assuming a disguise before venturing inside the enemy's lines.
How did you ever manage it? asked the mother. I tremble when I
think of it.
Oh, he answered, it was easy enough. I came in with a fellow who
was driving cattle into town.
Oh, Sed! his sister whispered; you ran an awful risk; how will
you manage to get back without being discovered?
There'll be no trouble about that, he answered. Don't you and
mother go and worry yourselves about me. I'll be all right, so cheer up
and don't look so doleful.
Urged on by fear, they now almost hurried him away, and Mammy, while
filling his haversack with provisions, entreated him to be careful.
De ain't no tellin' what dem Yankees would do ef dey once clapt
hands on you.
Sedley might guess shrewdly enough what his fate would be in such
case, but he replied, with his old boyish laugh, that it was his trade
to outrun the Yankees.
Never fear, Mammy, he said at parting. Trust me to beat 'em at
Then the sad good-byes were said, and manfully he strode down the
little path, turning only once to wave a last good-by to the sorrowful
group on the broad front porch, who watched till he passed out of
The night was spent in anxious watching, but confidence returned
with the morning, and all again settled back to their employments and
amusements. Sybil wandered into the parlor, and, sitting down to the
piano, sang in a low, sweet voice some of the pathetic war melodies.
The colts of the wild ass seeking after every green thing had sought
the sorghum patch, and Mammy had taken a basket into the garden for a
final gathering of sage leaves. The day was dreamy, as only an October
day of the South can be. The tempered sunlight, streaming softly
through the filmy autumnal mist, threw a veil of loveliness over the
homeliest objects; the old gray fences, the russet fields, the lonely
pastures, where from beneath the grass roots the tiny crickets chanted
their low, sweet dirge the long day through, the cawing of the crows
from a distant tree-top, all told in notes of most harmonious pathos
that the fashion of this world passeth away.
As Mammy, with back stiffened from stooping, raised herself for a
moment's rest, she saw Jim lounge into the backyard and speak to Dinah.
Mammy had but little use for Jim in general, but now she felt anxious
to know what had been going on in the village, and for that reason she
left her basket among the sage and went near to hear what he was
saying. As she drew near, Dinah suddenly threw up her hands, and,
starting from the hencoop on which she had been leaning, came towards
her, stuttering and stammering in a manner so excited as to be
What's dat you say? For Gods sake, ooman, say what yere got to say,
an' be done wid it! said Mammy, too frightened to be patient. Jim then
drew near to her and, glancing cautiously towards the not very distant
piazza, upon which his mistress happened at the moment to be standing,
he whispered, Dey's done ketched him.
K-k-ketched who? stammered Mammy fiercely.
Mas' Sedley, dat's who, Jim answered doggedly.
How you know? I don't b'lieve a word on it.
Anyhow, dey's done done it.
Ho' come you know so much 'bout it?
'Cause I seen 'em when dey done it.
Y-y-you have de face to stan' da an' tell me dat you seen 'em
a-troublin' dat chile an' you not lif' a han' to help him?
How I gwine help him? G'long, you don't know what you talkin'
Whar'bouts did dey come across him? Mammy inquired.
Right down yonder at de mill, Jim answered, nodding his head in
Good Lord, exclaimed Mammy, dey must 'a' ketched him directly
after he went away!
This conversation was carried on in such low murmurings that even a
listener at a short distance could not have distinguished what was
said; the three were very intent, but did not omit occasional cautious
glances in the direction of the house.
Dat's so, Jim replied; an' den dey shet him up in de mill house,
and den I never seed no mo', 'cause I was skeered an' runned away.
Then, after an uneasy pause, he added, I come 'long dat-a-way soon
dis mornin', and here he murmured so low into Mammy's ear that Dinah,
though she stretched her neck, could not catch the word, which turned
Mammy's brown face to ashen gray. She stood for a minute like one
turned to stone, then staggered to her own doorstep. Sitting down, she
buried her head in her apron, and so sat motionless for half an hour,
while Jim and Dinah continued their guarded murmurings by the hencoop.
At the end of half an hour she rose, took a bunch of keys from her
pocket, went into her house and, closing the door behind her, unlocked
her chest. Drawing from it a little workbox, which had, in years gone
by, been one of Caroline's cherished Christmas gifts, she opened it.
From beneath her Sunday pocket handkerchief, and a few other articles
of special value, she produced another and smaller box which she
opened, and, taking from it a gold coin, looked at it tenderly.
Po' little fellow! God bless him! he give me this that fus' time he
come home from school. I never 'spected to part with it, but ef it's de
Lord's will, it may help him now.
With these thoughts, Mammy quickly replaced the things in her chest,
put the coin into her pocket, and, taking up the man's hat, which upon
week days she always wore, she strode off towards the mill.
As she passed by the piazza, she paused one moment irresolute, but
murmuring to herself, 'T ain't no use upsettin' Mistis, po' cretur,
and I can do it better by myself anyhow, she walked briskly forward,
revolving in her mind her plan.
The mill house consisted of two rooms, and in the one in which Jim
had reported Sedley to be confined there was a small trap-door. It had
been used for regulating the working of the machinery, and led from
beneath the house directly to the creek, which ran close to the walls
of the house. This trap Mammy had once happened to see opened, and in
that way knew of its existence, otherwise she would never have
suspected it, as, from its infrequent use, it was usually covered with
dust and dirt and could not be distinguished from the rest of the
floor. Her plan was to endeavor to get speech with Sedley, tell him of
the trap-door, and leave the rest to him. Her great fear had been that
she might be refused admittance to him, and hence it was that she had
thought of her gold piece, as she hoped by its potent influence to be
given a few minutes alone with the prisoner.
There would be no great difficulty for Sedley to lift the trap
without noise and, when it was lifted, to swing himself through to the
ground, to creep until he came to the thick tangle upon the creek
banks, then to swim across and escape into the shelter of the woods
beyond. That would be simple enough, and Mammy, full of hopeful
thoughts, was walking briskly forward, when suddenly a turn in the path
brought into view a small body of Federals, all mounted, and evidently
coming from the direction of the mill. They seemed in haste, and she
could hear the rattle of their sabres as they cantered by.
Standing amid the broom-sedge, Mammy watched them, casting eager,
anxious looks upon them, fearing, dreading to see her boy in their
midst, a poor, defenseless captive. Finally, as the last horseman
disappeared, she heaved a sigh of infinite relief. Bless de good Lord,
dey ain't took de po' chile wid 'em, and so went on her way.
At length the gray gables of the little mill house came into view,
and Mammy, feeling in her pocket to assure herself that the gold piece
was safe at hand, went boldly forward, telling herself that, if she
spoke politely, the Yankee guard would not shoot her. So she went on
until the little mill came into full view, but with no guard or any
other object to inspire fear. All seemed quiet, and the place quite
deserted. There were footprints about the door, and broken bushes
showed the trampling of both men and horses, but now all was very
quiet. The old mill house looked very peaceful, with the yellow
autumnal sun shining upon its moss-grown roof, with no sound to break
the deep silence, save the low, continuous warbling of a solitary
mockingbird which, perched upon an overhanging bough, seemed to review
its past joys in low, sweet notes of retrospection.
Upon seeing that the place was quite deserted, Mammy paused, and,
after looking around to satisfy herself that this was really the case,
ascended the steps and, lifting the latch of the door, looked into the
Thank God! she murmured, upon finding it empty. Thank God! dey's
all took deyselves off to town an' lef' him here, locked up by hisself.
It raly is 'stonishin' to think how foolish dem creturs is; dey mout
ha' knowed as someon' would ha' come an' let him loose.
While thus thinking, she had crossed the room, and was now
endeavoring to open the door, which gave admittance to the inner and
larger apartment. Finding, as she had anticipated, that this door was
fastened, she first called to the prisoner within, and, when no answer
was returned, she shook the door until at length the crazy old lock
gave way and the door creaked slowly back upon its rusty hinges.
Honey, whar'bouts is you? Mammy questioned, as, pausing upon the
threshold, she peered into the obscurity beyond. The windowless room
was dark, and Mammy, after again calling, groped her way in, straining
her eyes into the gloom, but unable to discern any object. Then,
suddenly, the deep silence and the gloom smote upon her senses, and a
great horror came over her. She turned to rush from the room, when her
eyes, grown more accustomed to the darkness, fell upon an object which
froze the lifeblood in her veins. It lay almost at her feet. She
stooped and bent over it, with thick, laboring breath. Very still it
lay, with set white face and wide-open, unseeing eyes.
I remember when Wheeler's cavalry passed through town that the men,
when halted, just dropped in the streets and slept, so that passers-by
were forced to step over them, but in spite of starvation and weariness
the old indomitable spirit would assert itself. One of the poor
fellows, while the column was passing by Christ Church, looked up at
the weathercock and remarked to a comrade that it was the first and
only instance of Wheeler's boys seeing a chicken which they could not
We were singularly fortunate in the neighborhood of Raleigh in
having no lack of wholesome food, and in being able to send boxes of
provisions to the army around Petersburg. We, in particular, were
plentifully supplied from the plantation, a four-horse wagon being
constantly engaged in hauling supplies.
One of the greatest taxes upon our resources, and the event that
brought the war very closely home to us, was the advent of the
cavalcade and ambulances referred to in my notes concerning My Own
Most of the horsemen who had come with the ambulances returned to
the front the next morning, leaving behind them six or more sick and
wounded, with their surgeon and friends to look after them.
Fortunately, the office in the yard (a house with two comfortable
rooms) was easily made ready and the wounded men were installed in the
quarters which they kept for a month. The wound which afterwards
deprived one of the wounded, a young man by the name of Nat Butler, of
his arm, was by far the most serious. The attempt to save the arm came
very near costing him his life. Instead of healing, the wound
constantly sloughed, with great loss of blood. As the wound was between
the elbow and the shoulder, the danger attending amputation increased
with each sloughing, but the poor boy was deaf to all that his doctor
could urge, positively refusing to have the arm amputated, and he grew
weaker and weaker with every hemorrhage. Meantime several of the sick
and wounded were so far cured as to be able to return to duty. Captain
Butler (an older brother of Nat Butler), Dr. Thompson, Mr. Taylor, and
several others whose names I have forgotten, and the bugler, named
Glanton, still remained. One morning, while I was in the mealroom
getting out dinner, I heard Captain Butler's voice calling loudly that
young Butler was bleeding to death. I just took time to call out to my
daughters, Annie and Kate, who were just starting to town, to drive as
quickly as they could to Dr. Johnson's and to ask him to come. Then I
ran down to the office, where I found the poor old captain frantic with
terror and quite unable to do anything for the patient, who lay
senseless and bleeding upon the bed. I can never forget his ghastly
appearance; I never saw so bloodless a face. The mouth, partly open,
showed a tongue bluish like new flannel. I went to the bedside and
pressed the arm above the wound, as hard as I could, and I held it so
until the arrival of Dr. Johnson. I had thus succeeded in partially
arresting the hemorrhage, and possibly may have saved young Butler's
life. I started to leave as soon as the doctor came, and when I arose
from my knees, I realized for the first time that I was covered with
blood. The amputation could no longer be deferred, and the operation
took place as soon as the patient's strength permitted, which was, I
think, two days after the hemorrhage. There was then barely a chance
that he could survive in his weak condition. I shall never forget how
the girls and I sat upon the front steps and watched the silent men
standing before the office,it seemed as though the suspense would
never end. After the amputation, Butler lay for twenty-four hours like
one dead. Finally, when he did rally sufficiently to be given
something, I sent our excellent nurse, Caroline, to take care of him,
for I could not trust him to the ignorant though kindly meant
attentions of his friends. At this time General Galbraith Butler was
our guest, and, as the Norrises had now left for Richmond, I gave him a
room in the house. He was quite ill there for several days, during
which time the house was thronged with messengers from the front. It
gives me pleasure to say that they conducted themselves like polished
gentlemen, who appreciated the comforts which they received.
Under Caroline's devoted nursing Nat Butler slowly returned to life
and to a degree of strength. When it became evident that Raleigh would
soon be in possession of the enemy, Nat Butler declared that he
preferred the risk of dying by exposure to that of being captured. It
was with the saddest forebodings that we prepared for his departure.
The ambulance was made comfortable with pillows, blankets, etc., and
nothing was omitted that could contribute to the well-being of the poor
sufferer. It was a painful parting, as we all knew that we were on the
eve of horrors that we dared not contemplate. The moon shone upon the
sorrowful little cortège, as it passed beneath the trees, and we were
too sad for tears, as we watched it go slowly out of sight. Nat Butler
lived, and visited us a year later, but his life was a brief one.
We were up late that night, bidding adieu to many friends. Indeed,
the past few days had been days of varied and intense excitement.
People who under ordinary circumstances would have scarcely recognized
each other as acquaintances now met and parted as old and dear friends.
Mounted officers would come cantering up just for a handshake and a
God-keep-you. We were admonished to take off rings or any little bits
of jewelry which we might wear. A gentleman sitting by me had concealed
my watch in my ball of knitting cotton. People everywhere were wildly
seeking places wherein to conceal their valuables. We had no reason to
imagine that our house was safer than others, but we could not refuse
to receive the trunks and boxes brought to us in desperation, by
refugees chiefly, who were leaving town in a panic, and going they knew
not whither. All that we could promise was that they should be as well
cared for as were our own; and so the garret was packed with all sorts
of trunks and boxes, many of which were not claimed until the next
I cannot pretend to give you an idea of the excitement and turmoil
of that last week of the Confederacy. Every minute of your
grandfather's time was taken up with his duties as a state officer,
until he, in company with Governor Graham and Dr. Warren, were
despatched by Governor Vance to meet Sherman with a flag of truce and
to surrender the town. He was absent upon this mission upon a night
that I happened to go into the dining-room and found several
rough-looking men, whom I took to be Confederates, seated at supper.
Robert was waiting upon them, and Adelaide talking, while one of my
little children was seated cosily upon the knee of a particularly
dirty-looking man. This did not please me, for there was a freedom of
manner about them which I had never seen in one of our men before.
Still, I had no suspicion that they were not what they seemed, and,
being called off, I left them, although a certain uncomfortable feeling
caused me to do so unwillingly. Just as I left, a clatter of horses'
feet was heard outside, and Adelaide (always loquacious), exclaimed,
Here comes the General and his staff! The words were scarcely uttered
before the men jumped from their seats and dashed from the room. We
were afterwards convinced that they were some of the scum of Sherman's
army, and while we (myself and daughters) were sitting quite
unsuspectingly, they were lurking near us.
I omitted to mention that, at our urgent invitation, our dear
friends the Burgwyns had come to us, and, in the midst of other
distractions, I was occupied in disposing of their numerous boxes,
barrels, and pictures. There was a universal feeling that there would
be a degree of safety in numbers, and we could not possibly have
enjoyed more congenial companionship than that of our cousins, the
Burgwyns. Upon that day we prepared twenty lunches, which were most
thankfully received. I recollect that towards evening some hot tea was
made for our old friend, Mr. John Robinson. He had been at work all
day, shipping freight and provisions, and transferring engines to
Greensboro, to which place he was now going. He had had nothing to eat,
and was, as you may imagine, very tired, and so hungry that his lunch
of cold ham, bread, and butter, with many cups of tea, was so much
enjoyed that in after life he often spoke of it with real gratitude.
When he said good-by, he gave into my keeping a little box of trinkets,
requesting me to keep them for him, as he had no idea what his
destination might be. I, of course, said that I would try to keep them
safely; and I did, returning them just as I had received them, some
Upon that day, our dinner was but a meagre one, consisting chiefly
of soup, and, as the very last of the silver had been hidden out of
sight, we were compelled to take it from teacups. Upon that night,
after the stir and bustle of the day had subsided, after the last
good-by had been uttered, and the last horseman had galloped away, a
most intense stillness followed, which, if possible, increased our
melancholy, and magnified our fearful apprehensions of what was to
On the following morning, I saw three odd, rough-looking men come
galloping up from the barn. They were mounted upon mules, were seated
far forward upon the withers, and had their knees drawn up after a most
ungainly fashion. I saw at a glance that they were not our countrymen.
They rode furiously into the yard, where they halted abruptly. The
servants stood gaping at them in stupid bewilderment. I went forward
and asked them the meaning of this intrusion. Their reply was an
insolent demand for my keys. Then I knew that they were bummers. During
the whole of this period your grandfather had had more than his hands
full at his office, taking care of and sending off government stores,
and doing a thousand other things, so that all the domestic offices
rested with me. I told the bummers, with a great show of courage, that
I had no idea of giving them my keys, and as I walked off, feeling
quite triumphant, I had the mortification of seeing them dismount and
swagger to the doors of the mealroom, smokehouse, and storeroom, slip
their miserable, dastardly swords into the locks, and open the doors,
with the most perfect ease. Conscious now of my own weakness, I would
not condescend to parley with them, and watched them at their insolent
and thievish game, until their mules were almost hidden beneath the
load of hams, sausages, and other plunder. Then they remounted, and
dashed off at the same furious pace as they had come. In a little time
after others came and played the same game, only adding to their
abominable thievishness by driving off our mules and all our cattle.
Our horses, I am glad to say, had been sent away.
It was towards noon upon that fatal day that we espied a long blue
line crawling serpent-like around a distant hill. Silently we watched,
as it uncoiled itself, ever drawing nearer and still nearer, until the
one great reptile developed into many reptiles and took the form of
men. Men in blue tramping everywhere, horsemen careering about us with
no apparent object, wagons crashing through fences as though they had
been made of paper. The negroes stood like dumb things, in stupid
dismay. It was at a later period that their time of joy came (in many
instances it never came); then the only feeling was one of awe.
In an incredibly short time tents were pitched, the flag run up, and
the Yankees were here. The crowd grew more dense. A large column was
passing through the grove at almost a run, when, to my horror, I saw
Adelaide and Lizzie, each with one of my little girls in her arms,
rushing along in their midst in a state of such wild excitement that
they had almost lost their reason. Almost in despair, I rushed after
them, sometimes seeing them, only to lose them again in the moving
mass. As I passed a soldier I signed to him for help; I do not think I
could have spoken. He saw the danger that threatened my children, and,
overtaking the two nurses, took the children and brought them to me.
The women had meant no harm, and did not realize the risk.
As I before remarked, every one during this period of panic
entertained an idea that he must commit his valuables to the keeping of
some one else; for instance, my sister gave her set of pearls to her
maid Sally for safe keeping, and Sally, in her turn, brought them to
Caroline (her mother). Caroline, not knowing a safe place of
concealment, lifted a stone from her hearth, placed the casket in the
cavity, and replaced the stone; this, however, caused the stone to fit
loosely in the hole from which it had been displaced, and Caroline, in
her fear lest this should lead to the discovery of the pearls, sat all
night with her feet resting upon it. She came to me in the morning,
looking perfectly haggard, and told me that she had never before passed
through such a night of horror, for her house had been crowded with
Federals, prying into every corner and taking whatever they fancied.
With my sister's casket, she handed me a red cotton handkerchief tied
up and full of silver coins, belonging to herself and her husband. She
had no place in which to keep it, and asked me to take care of it. I,
of course, took charge of it and kept it for her until the last
bluecoat had left the place, which was not until August; for, after the
departure of the army, a regiment was left in our grove.
One day General Logan came to the door and said that he had reason
to believe that a Confederate officer was concealed in the house, and,
if I kept his presence a secret, he threatened me with the
consequences. The Federals, while searching for buried treasure, had
discovered the amputated arm of poor young Butler, and had jumped to
the conclusion that he was concealed in the house. At all events, it
served as a plea for them to claim that he was there. When I assured
him that this rumor was quite false, his manner was so utterly
incredulous that I requested him to satisfy himself of the truth of my
assertion by making a search of the entire house and outbuildings. I
entreated him to do this, for his threats had so alarmed me that I felt
that in that alone lay our preservation. His reply, with an insolent,
jeering laugh, was: I will not take that trouble, for my boys will
settle that question.
The safeguards stationed both at the back and front protected the
house. For, whatever might have been their feelings, they dared not
relax in their vigilance. The discipline in that army was perfect.
Not long after the above-mentioned interview with Logan, we were
told (by a servant, I think), that the whole division was going to
leave that night. This was true. It was before the articles of the
surrender had been signed, and Logan was in pursuit of General
Johnston. It was a night of such commotion that not one of the family
retired to rest. It was discovered, when too late for redress, that
Logan had withdrawn our safeguards, taken every commanding officer with
him, and had left us to the mercy of his wagon train of bummers and of
negroes. That night of terror terminated in a violent storm, in the
midst of which your grandfather set out for the headquarters in town
for the purpose of demanding a safeguard. With daylight came a greater
feeling of safety, so we separated, the girls going to their rooms, and
I to mine, in order to refresh ourselves and make a fresh toilet. While
so engaged, I kept hearing the bells ringing and tinkling incessantly,
and, while I was hurrying to put on my dress in order to inquire the
meaning of this, Caroline and Adelaide rushed in, exclaiming that men
were climbing the walls of the house, and the tinkling of the bells was
caused by their twisting them off the wires. These women, whose natural
color was bright mulatto, now looked ashy. I do not think that I spoke
a word, but just flew into the nursery, took the children, and ran up
the stairs. As I passed by the sitting, room, I met Kate, all
disheveled, running out and saying that men were climbing into her
window. I just took time to lock the door between her room and the
sitting-room, and then we all ran upstairs, where the Burgwyns and my
other girls were quietly dressing, in entire ignorance of what was
taking place. It seems strange that I should recollect every trifle so
vividly; I remember, even now, that, as I ran up the stair, my throat
and mouth became so dry that I could not speak. From the window at the
head of the stair nothing was visible but a sea of upturned faces; not
just by the house, but away down the slope, as far as the eye could
reach, were men's upturned faces. I can never forget the look upon Mrs.
Burgwyn's face as she whispered, We can throw ourselves from the
window. My poor, craven heart might have failed me, but I am convinced
that she could have done it. While we thus stood, a poor, cowering,
terror-stricken group, steps were heard approaching, and a tall figure
slowly ascended the stairs, and a grim, saturnine-faced man stood
before us, and said, I don't know that I can save you, but for the
sake of my mother and sisters I will do all that I can do. I do not
remember whether any one made a reply or not, I only recollect that he
went as deliberately as he had come. When your grandfather returned,
having with difficulty succeeded in procuring the permit for a
safeguard, the mob had begun to disperse. Our deliverer was a man named
Fort. He was division quartermaster, and had been left in charge of the
wagon trains. He was from one of the Western States, Iowa, I believe.
He was a good man, and was God's instrument to save us from
destruction. He remained near the house all through the day, and at
first said that he would sleep that night inside the dwelling, but
afterwards told your grandfather that, upon further consideration, he
thought it best that he should stay outside, so his tent was pitched
close to the house, and there he remained until his command left. He
was forbidding in manner, and would accept no thanks. I think that he
hated us as Southerners, but acted from humanity.
Mr. Burgwyn was suffering from an apoplectic stroke, and was lying
insensible. My son had not returned from Appomattox. Had any man been
with us, he would have been utterly helpless, and would probably have
One day, either immediately preceding or following the incident just
related, our ever-faithful man, Frank, stealthily entered the house. He
was evidently afraid of being observed, for he slipped in, and, closing
the door after him, asked to speak a word to his master. When your
grandfather came, Frank almost whispered his communication, as though
afraid of being overheard. Master, he said, I come to ask you,
please, sir, don't go out of the house to-day; he would not say why he
gave this warning, and it was not until afterwards that we found that
the Federals had intended to hang your grandfather up until he told
them where our silver was hidden. I rejoice to say that they did not
get one piece of it, although a part of it was buried in the branch
that runs at the foot of the grove, and, in digging out a place for
watering their horses, they had actually thrown the sand upon the box,
thus burying it deeper.
I could relate many other incidents of this period, some of them
rather amusing; but it is time to bring my reminiscences to a close.
But before doing so, I must say a word about our last safeguard,
Monhagan. He was Irish, and possessed all of the best attributes of the
Irish character. After the departure of Logan's division, with the rest
of Sherman's army, this man was deputed to guard the place, as a
regiment was still quartered in the grove. He stayed until August, and,
besides faithfully discharging his duties, he exerted himself in other
and various ways to ameliorate the inconveniences to which we were
subjected. Our servants, lounging in idleness, contented themselves
with professions as idle. Frank, acting upon his master's advice, had
taken his family to the plantation. Adelaide was ill the greater part
of the summer with brain fever. Monhagan worked the garden, gathered
fruit and vegetables, and performed many other services. I felt a
little amused when he one day brought me all his money and asked me to
take care of it for him. At first I positively refused to take upon
myself this responsibility, but yielded at last, and made him count it,
and kept it as long as he remained. Every Saturday afternoon he would
come and ask me to let him have one dollar and allow him to go to town
for a little while. He left with the regiment in August, and he wrote
once to your uncle Tom from New York, but omitted to give his address,
which we regretted, as we would have liked to have him as a gardener.