Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Sjaani and PG Distributed Proofreaders
THE CONJURE WOMAN
CHARLES W. CHESNUTT
First published in 1899 by Houghton, Mifflin & Co.
THE GOOPHERED GRAPEVINE
MARS JEEMS'S NIGHTMARE
THE CONJURER'S REVENGE
SIS' BECKY'S PICKANINNY
THE GRAY WOLF'S HA'NT
"The Conjurer's Revenge" is reprinted from _The Overland Monthly_ by
permission of the publishers.
Uncollected Uncle Julius Stories
Dave's Neckliss (1889)
A Deep Sleeper (1893)
Lonesome Ben (1900)
Superstitions and Folk-Lore of the South (1901)
THE CONJURE WOMAN
* * * * *
THE GOOPHERED GRAPEVINE
Some years ago my wife was in poor health, and our family doctor, in
whose skill and honesty I had implicit confidence, advised a change of
climate. I shared, from an unprofessional standpoint, his opinion that
the raw winds, the chill rains, and the violent changes of temperature
that characterized the winters in the region of the Great Lakes tended
to aggravate my wife's difficulty, and would undoubtedly shorten her
life if she remained exposed to them. The doctor's advice was that we
seek, not a temporary place of sojourn, but a permanent residence, in a
warmer and more equable climate. I was engaged at the time in
grape-culture in northern Ohio, and, as I liked the business and had
given it much study, I decided to look for some other locality suitable
for carrying it on. I thought of sunny France, of sleepy Spain, of
Southern California, but there were objections to them all. It occurred
to me that I might find what I wanted in some one of our own Southern
States. It was a sufficient time after the war for conditions in the
South to have become somewhat settled; and I was enough of a pioneer to
start a new industry, if I could not find a place where grape-culture
had been tried. I wrote to a cousin who had gone into the turpentine
business in central North Carolina. He assured me, in response to my
inquiries, that no better place could be found in the South than the
State and neighborhood where he lived; the climate was perfect for
health, and, in conjunction with the soil, ideal for grape-culture;
labor was cheap, and land could be bought for a mere song. He gave us a
cordial invitation to come and visit him while we looked into the
matter. We accepted the invitation, and after several days of leisurely
travel, the last hundred miles of which were up a river on a sidewheel
steamer, we reached our destination, a quaint old town, which I shall
call Patesville, because, for one reason, that is not its name. There
was a red brick market-house in the public square, with a tall tower,
which held a four-faced clock that struck the hours, and from which
there pealed out a curfew at nine o'clock. There were two or three
hotels, a court-house, a jail, stores, offices, and all the
appurtenances of a county seat and a commercial emporium; for while
Patesville numbered only four or five thousand inhabitants, of all
shades of complexion, it was one of the principal towns in North
Carolina, and had a considerable trade in cotton and naval stores. This
business activity was not immediately apparent to my unaccustomed eyes.
Indeed, when I first saw the town, there brooded over it a calm that
seemed almost sabbatic in its restfulness, though I learned later on
that underneath its somnolent exterior the deeper currents of life--love
and hatred, joy and despair, ambition and avarice, faith and
friendship--flowed not less steadily than in livelier latitudes.
We found the weather delightful at that season, the end of summer, and
were hospitably entertained. Our host was a man of means and evidently
regarded our visit as a pleasure, and we were therefore correspondingly
at our ease, and in a position to act with the coolness of judgment
desirable in making so radical a change in our lives. My cousin placed a
horse and buggy at our disposal, and himself acted as our guide until I
became somewhat familiar with the country.
I found that grape-culture, while it had never been carried on to any
great extent, was not entirely unknown in the neighborhood. Several
planters thereabouts had attempted it on a commercial scale, in former
years, with greater or less success; but like most Southern industries,
it had felt the blight of war and had fallen into desuetude.
I went several times to look at a place that I thought might suit me. It
was a plantation of considerable extent, that had formerly belonged to a
wealthy man by the name of McAdoo. The estate had been for years
involved in litigation between disputing heirs, during which period
shiftless cultivation had well-nigh exhausted the soil. There had been a
vineyard of some extent on the place, but it had not been attended to
since the war, and had lapsed into utter neglect. The vines--here
partly supported by decayed and broken-down trellises, there twining
themselves among the branches of the slender saplings which had sprung
up among them--grew in wild and unpruned luxuriance, and the few
scattered grapes they bore were the undisputed prey of the first comer.
The site was admirably adapted to grape-raising; the soil, with a little
attention, could not have been better; and with the native grape, the
luscious scuppernong, as my main reliance in the beginning, I felt sure
that I could introduce and cultivate successfully a number of other
One day I went over with my wife to show her the place. We drove out of
the town over a long wooden bridge that spanned a spreading mill-pond,
passed the long whitewashed fence surrounding the county fair-ground,
and struck into a road so sandy that the horse's feet sank to the
fetlocks. Our route lay partly up hill and partly down, for we were in
the sand-hill county; we drove past cultivated farms, and then by
abandoned fields grown up in scrub-oak and short-leaved pine, and once
or twice through the solemn aisles of the virgin forest, where the tall
pines, well-nigh meeting over the narrow road, shut out the sun, and
wrapped us in cloistral solitude. Once, at a cross-roads, I was in doubt
as to the turn to take, and we sat there waiting ten minutes--we had
already caught some of the native infection of restfulness--for some
human being to come along, who could direct us on our way. At length a
little negro girl appeared, walking straight as an arrow, with a piggin
full of water on her head. After a little patient investigation,
necessary to overcome the child's shyness, we learned what we wished to
know, and at the end of about five miles from the town reached our
We drove between a pair of decayed gateposts--the gate itself had long
since disappeared--and up a straight sandy lane, between two lines of
rotting rail fence, partly concealed by jimson-weeds and briers, to the
open space where a dwelling-house had once stood, evidently a spacious
mansion, if we might judge from the ruined chimneys that were still
standing, and the brick pillars on which the sills rested. The house
itself, we had been informed, had fallen a victim to the fortunes of
We alighted from the buggy, walked about the yard for a while, and then
wandered off into the adjoining vineyard. Upon Annie's complaining of
weariness I led the way back to the yard, where a pine log, lying under
a spreading elm, afforded a shady though somewhat hard seat. One end of
the log was already occupied by a venerable-looking colored man. He held
on his knees a hat full of grapes, over which he was smacking his lips
with great gusto, and a pile of grapeskins near him indicated that the
performance was no new thing. We approached him at an angle from the
rear, and were close to him before he perceived us. He respectfully rose
as we drew near, and was moving away, when I begged him to keep his
"Don't let us disturb you," I said. "There is plenty of room for us
He resumed his seat with somewhat of embarrassment. While he had been
standing, I had observed that he was a tall man, and, though slightly
bowed by the weight of years, apparently quite vigorous. He was not
entirely black, and this fact, together with the quality of his hair,
which was about six inches long and very bushy, except on the top of his
head, where he was quite bald, suggested a slight strain of other than
negro blood. There was a shrewdness in his eyes, too, which was not
altogether African, and which, as we afterwards learned from experience,
was indicative of a corresponding shrewdness in his character. He went
on eating the grapes, but did not seem to enjoy himself quite so well as
he had apparently done before he became aware of our presence.
"Do you live around here?" I asked, anxious to put him at his ease.
"Yas, suh. I lives des ober yander, behine de nex' san'-hill, on de
"Do you know anything about the time when this vineyard was cultivated?"
"Lawd bless you, suh, I knows all about it. Dey ain' na'er a man in dis
settlement w'at won' tell you ole Julius McAdoo 'uz bawn en raise' on
dis yer same plantation. Is you de Norv'n gemman w'at's gwine ter buy
de ole vimya'd?"
"I am looking at it," I replied; "but I don't know that I shall care to
buy unless I can be reasonably sure of making something out of it."
"Well, suh, you is a stranger ter me, en I is a stranger ter you, en we
is bofe strangers ter one anudder, but 'f I 'uz in yo' place, I wouldn'
buy dis vimya'd."
"Why not?" I asked.
"Well, I dunno whe'r you b'lieves in cunj'in' er not,--some er de w'ite
folks don't, er says dey don't,--but de truf er de matter is dat dis yer
ole vimya'd is goophered."
"Is what?" I asked, not grasping the meaning of this unfamiliar word.
"Is goophered,--cunju'd, bewitch'."
He imparted this information with such solemn earnestness, and with such
an air of confidential mystery, that I felt somewhat interested, while
Annie was evidently much impressed, and drew closer to me.
"How do you know it is bewitched?" I asked.
"I wouldn' spec' fer you ter b'lieve me 'less you know all 'bout de
fac's. But ef you en young miss dere doan' min' lis'nin' ter a ole
nigger run on a minute er two w'ile you er restin', I kin 'splain to you
how it all happen'."
We assured him that we would be glad to hear how it all happened, and he
began to tell us. At first the current of his memory--or
imagination--seemed somewhat sluggish; but as his embarrassment wore
off, his language flowed more freely, and the story acquired perspective
and coherence. As he became more and more absorbed in the narrative, his
eyes assumed a dreamy expression, and he seemed to lose sight of his
auditors, and to be living over again in monologue his life on the old
"Ole Mars Dugal' McAdoo," he began, "bought dis place long many years
befo' de wah, en I'member well w'en he sot out all dis yer part er de
plantation in scuppernon's. De vimes growed monst'us fas', en Mars
Dugal' made a thousan' gallon er scuppernon' wine eve'y year.
"Now, ef dey's an'thing a nigger lub, nex' ter 'possum, en chick'n, en
watermillyums, it's scuppernon's. Dey ain' nuffin dat kin stan' up
side'n de scuppernon' fer sweetness; sugar ain't a suckumstance ter
scuppernon'. W'en de season is nigh 'bout ober, en de grapes begin ter
swivel up des a little wid de wrinkles er ole age,--w'en de skin git
sof' en brown,--den de scuppernon' make you smack yo' lip en roll yo'
eye en wush fer mo'; so I reckon it ain' very 'stonishin' dat niggers
"Dey wuz a sight er niggers in de naberhood er de vimya'd. Dere wuz ole
Mars Henry Brayboy's niggers, en ole Mars Jeems McLean's niggers, en
Mars Dugal's own niggers; den dey wuz a settlement er free niggers en
po' buckrahs down by de Wim'l'ton Road, en Mars Dugal' had de only
vimya'd in de naberhood. I reckon it ain' so much so nowadays, but befo'
de wah, in slab'ry times, a nigger did n' mine goin' fi' er ten mile in
a night, w'en dey wuz sump'n good ter eat at de yuther een'.
"So atter a w'ile Mars Dugal' begin ter miss his scuppernon's. Co'se he
'cuse' de niggers er it, but dey all 'nied it ter de las'. Mars Dugal'
sot spring guns en steel traps, en he en de oberseah sot up nights
once't er twice't, tel one night Mars Dugal'--he 'uz a monst'us keerless
man--got his leg shot full er cow-peas. But somehow er nudder dey could
n' nebber ketch none er de niggers. I dunner how it happen, but it
happen des like I tell you, en de grapes kep' on a-goin' des de same.
"But bimeby ole Mars Dugal' fix' up a plan ter stop it. Dey wuz a cunjuh
'oman livin' down 'mongs' de free niggers on de Wim'l'ton Road, en all
de darkies fum Rockfish ter Beaver Crick wuz feared er her. She could
wuk de mos' powerfulles' kin' er goopher,--could make people hab fits,
er rheumatiz, er make 'em des dwinel away en die; en dey say she went
out ridin' de niggers at night, fer she wuz a witch 'sides bein' a
cunjuh 'oman. Mars Dugal' hearn 'bout Aun' Peggy's doin's, en begun ter
'flect whe'r er no he could n' git her ter he'p him keep de niggers
off'n de grapevimes. One day in de spring er de year, ole miss pack' up
a basket er chick'n en poun'-cake, en a bottle er scuppernon' wine, en
Mars Dugal' tuk it in his buggy en driv ober ter Aun' Peggy's cabin. He
tuk de basket in, en had a long talk wid Aun' Peggy.
"De nex' day Aun' Peggy come up ter de vimya'd. De niggers seed her
slippin' 'roun', en dey soon foun' out what she 'uz doin' dere. Mars
Dugal' had hi'ed her ter goopher de grapevimes. She sa'ntered 'roun'
'mongs' de vimes, en tuk a leaf fum dis one, en a grape-hull fum dat
one, en a grape-seed fum anudder one; en den a little twig fum here, en
a little pinch er dirt fum dere,--en put it all in a big black bottle,
wid a snake's toof en a speckle' hen's gall en some ha'rs fum a black
cat's tail, en den fill' de bottle wid scuppernon' wine. Wen she got de
goopher all ready en fix', she tuk 'n went out in de woods en buried it
under de root uv a red oak tree, en den come back en tole one er de
niggers she done goopher de grapevimes, en a'er a nigger w'at eat dem
grapes 'ud be sho ter die inside'n twel' mont's.
"Atter dat de niggers let de scuppernon's 'lone, en Mars Dugal' did n'
hab no 'casion ter fine no mo' fault; en de season wuz mos' gone, w'en a
strange gemman stop at de plantation one night ter see Mars Dugal' on
some business; en his coachman, seein' de scuppernon's growin' so nice
en sweet, slip 'roun' behine de smoke-house, en et all de scuppernon's
he could hole. Nobody did n' notice it at de time, but dat night, on de
way home, de gemman's hoss runned away en kill' de coachman. W'en we
hearn de noos, Aun' Lucy, de cook, she up 'n say she seed de strange
nigger eat'n' er de scuppernon's behine de smoke-house; en den we knowed
de goopher had b'en er wukkin'. Den one er de nigger chilluns runned
away fum de quarters one day, en got in de scuppernon's, en died de nex'
week. W'ite folks say he die' er de fevuh, but de niggers knowed it wuz
de goopher. So you k'n be sho de darkies did n' hab much ter do wid dem
"W'en de scuppernon' season 'uz ober fer dat year, Mars Dugal' foun' he
had made fifteen hund'ed gallon er wine; en one er de niggers hearn him
laffin' wid de oberseah fit ter kill, en sayin' dem fifteen hund'ed
gallon er wine wuz monst'us good intrus' on de ten dollars he laid out
on de vimya'd. So I 'low ez he paid Aun' Peggy ten dollars fer to
goopher de grapevimes.
"De goopher did n' wuk no mo' tel de nex' summer, w'en 'long to'ds de
middle er de season one er de fiel' han's died; en ez dat lef' Mars
Dugal' sho't er han's, he went off ter town fer ter buy anudder. He
fotch de noo nigger home wid 'im. He wuz er ole nigger, er de color er a
gingy-cake, en ball ez a hoss-apple on de top er his head. He wuz a
peart ole nigger, do', en could do a big day's wuk.
"Now it happen dat one er de niggers on de nex' plantation, one er ole
Mars Henry Brayboy's niggers, had runned away de day befo', en tuk ter
de swamp, en ole Mars Dugal' en some er de yuther nabor w'ite folks had
gone out wid dere guns en dere dogs fer ter he'p 'em hunt fer de nigger;
en de han's on our own plantation wuz all so flusterated dat we fuhgot
ter tell de noo han' 'bout de goopher on de scuppernon' vimes. Co'se he
smell de grapes en see de vimes, an atter dahk de fus' thing he done wuz
ter slip off ter de grapevimes 'dout sayin' nuffin ter nobody. Nex'
mawnin' he tole some er de niggers 'bout de fine bait er scuppernon' he
et de night befo'.
"Wen dey tole 'im 'bout de goopher on de grapevimes, he 'uz dat
tarrified dat he turn pale, en look des like he gwine ter die right in
his tracks. De oberseah come up en axed w'at 'uz de matter; en w'en dey
tole 'im Henry be'n eatin' er de scuppernon's, en got de goopher on 'im,
he gin Henry a big drink er w'iskey, en 'low dat de nex' rainy day he
take 'im ober ter Aun' Peggy's, en see ef she would n' take de goopher
off'n him, seein' ez he did n' know nuffin erbout it tel he done et de
"Sho nuff, it rain de nex' day, en de oberseah went ober ter Aun'
Peggy's wid Henry. En Aun' Peggy say dat bein' ez Henry did n' know
'bout de goopher, en et de grapes in ign'ance er de conseq'ences, she
reckon she mought be able fer ter take de goopher off'n him. So she
fotch out er bottle wid some cunjuh medicine in it, en po'd some out in
a go'd fer Henry ter drink. He manage ter git it down; he say it tas'e
like whiskey wid sump'n bitter in it. She 'lowed dat 'ud keep de goopher
off'n him tel de spring; but w'en de sap begin ter rise in de
grapevimes he ha' ter come en see her ag'in, en she tell him w'at e's
"Nex' spring, w'en de sap commence' ter rise in de scuppernon' vime,
Henry tuk a ham one night. Whar'd he git de ham? _I_ doan know; dey
wa'n't no hams on de plantation 'cep'n' w'at 'uz in de smoke-house, but
_I_ never see Henry 'bout de smoke-house. But ez I wuz a-sayin', he tuk
de ham ober ter Aun' Peggy's; en Aun' Peggy tole 'im dat w'en Mars
Dugal' begin ter prune de grapevimes, he mus' go en take 'n scrape off
de sap whar it ooze out'n de cut een's er de vimes, en 'n'int his ball
head wid it; en ef he do dat once't a year de goopher would n' wuk agin
'im long ez he done it. En bein' ez he fotch her de ham, she fix' it so
he kin eat all de scuppernon' he want.
"So Henry 'n'int his head wid de sap out'n de big grapevime des ha'f way
'twix' de quarters en de big house, en de goopher nebber wuk agin him
dat summer. But de beatenes' thing you eber see happen ter Henry. Up ter
dat time he wuz ez ball ez a sweeten' 'tater, but des ez soon ez de
young leaves begun ter come out on de grapevimes, de ha'r begun ter grow
out on Henry's head, en by de middle er de summer he had de bigges' head
er ha'r on de plantation. Befo' dat, Henry had tol'able good ha'r 'roun'
de aidges, but soon ez de young grapes begun ter come, Henry's ha'r
begun to quirl all up in little balls, des like dis yer reg'lar grapy
ha'r, en by de time de grapes got ripe his head look des like a bunch er
grapes. Combin' it did n' do no good; he wuk at it ha'f de night wid er
Jim Crow, en think he git it straighten' out, but in de mawnin' de
grapes 'ud be dere des de same. So he gin it up, en tried ter keep de
grapes down by havin' his ha'r cut sho't.
[Footnote 1: A small card, resembling a currycomb in construction, and
used by negroes in the rural districts instead of a comb.]
"But dat wa'n't de quares' thing 'bout de goopher. When Henry come ter
de plantation, he wuz gittin' a little ole an stiff in de j'ints. But
dat summer he got des ez spry en libely ez any young nigger on de
plantation; fac', he got so biggity dat Mars Jackson, de oberseah, ha'
ter th'eaten ter whip 'im, ef he did n' stop cuttin' up his didos en
behave hisse'f. But de mos' cur'ouses' thing happen' in de fall, when de
sap begin ter go down in de grapevimes. Fus', when de grapes 'uz
gethered, de knots begun ter straighten out'n Henry's ha'r; en w'en de
leaves begin ter fall, Henry's ha'r 'mence' ter drap out; en when de
vimes 'uz bar', Henry's head wuz baller 'n it wuz in de spring, en he
begin ter git ole en stiff in de j'ints ag'in, en paid no mo' 'tention
ter de gals dyoin' er de whole winter. En nex' spring, w'en he rub de
sap on ag'in, he got young ag'in, en so soopl en libely dat none er de
young niggers on de plantation could n' jump, ner dance, ner hoe ez much
cotton ez Henry. But in de fall er de year his grapes 'mence' ter
straighten out, en his j'ints ter git stiff, en his ha'r drap off, en de
rheumatiz begin ter wrastle wid 'im.
"Now, ef you 'd 'a' knowed ole Mars Dugal' McAdoo, you 'd 'a' knowed dat
it ha' ter be a mighty rainy day when he could n' fine sump'n fer his
niggers ter do, en it ha' ter be a mighty little hole he could n' crawl
thoo, en ha' ter be a monst'us cloudy night when a dollar git by him in
de dahkness; en w'en he see how Henry git young in de spring en ole in
de fall, he 'lowed ter hisse'f ez how he could make mo' money out'n
Henry dan by wukkin' him in de cotton-fiel'. 'Long de nex' spring, atter
de sap 'mence' ter rise, en Henry 'n'int 'is head en sta'ted fer ter
git young en soopl, Mars Dugal' up 'n tuk Henry ter town, en sole 'im
fer fifteen hunder' dollars. Co'se de man w'at bought Henry did n' know
nuffin 'bout de goopher, en Mars Dugal' did n' see no 'casion fer ter
tell 'im. Long to'ds de fall, w'en de sap went down, Henry begin ter git
ole ag'in same ez yuzhal, en his noo marster begin ter git skeered les'n
he gwine ter lose his fifteen-hunder'-dollar nigger. He sent fer a
mighty fine doctor, but de med'cine did n' 'pear ter do no good; de
goopher had a good holt. Henry tole de doctor 'bout de goopher, but de
doctor des laff at 'im.
"One day in de winter Mars Dugal' went ter town, en wuz santerin' 'long
de Main Street, when who should he meet but Henry's noo marster. Dey
said 'Hoddy,' en Mars Dugal' ax 'im ter hab a seegyar; en atter dey run
on awhile 'bout de craps en de weather, Mars Dugal' ax 'im, sorter
keerless, like ez ef he des thought of it,--
"'How you like de nigger I sole you las' spring?'
"Henry's marster shuck his head en knock de ashes off'n his seegyar.
"'Spec' I made a bad bahgin when I bought dat nigger. Henry done good
wuk all de summer, but sence de fall set in he 'pears ter be sorter
pinin' away. Dey ain' nuffin pertickler de matter wid 'im--leastways de
doctor say so--'cep'n' a tech er de rheumatiz; but his ha'r is all fell
out, en ef he don't pick up his strenk mighty soon, I spec' I'm gwine
ter lose 'im.'
"Dey smoked on awhile, en bimeby ole mars say, 'Well, a bahgin 's a
bahgin, but you en me is good fren's, en I doan wan' ter see you lose
all de money you paid fer dat nigger; en ef w'at you say is so, en I
ain't 'sputin' it, he ain't wuf much now. I 'spec's you wukked him too
ha'd dis summer, er e'se de swamps down here don't agree wid de
san'-hill nigger. So you des lemme know, en ef he gits any wusser I'll
be willin' ter gib yer five hund'ed dollars fer 'im, en take my chances
on his livin'.'
"Sho 'nuff, when Henry begun ter draw up wid de rheumatiz en it look
like he gwine ter die fer sho, his noo marster sen' fer Mars Dugal', en
Mars Dugal' gin him what he promus, en brung Henry home ag'in. He tuk
good keer uv 'im dyoin' er de winter,--give 'im w'iskey ter rub his
rheumatiz, en terbacker ter smoke, en all he want ter eat,--'caze a
nigger w'at he could make a thousan' dollars a year off'n did n' grow on
eve'y huckleberry bush.
"Nex' spring, w'en de sap ris en Henry's ha'r commence' ter sprout, Mars
Dugal' sole 'im ag'in, down in Robeson County dis time; en he kep' dat
sellin' business up fer five year er mo'. Henry nebber say nuffin 'bout
de goopher ter his noo marsters, 'caze he know he gwine ter be tuk good
keer uv de nex' winter, w'en Mars Dugal' buy him back. En Mars Dugal'
made 'nuff money off'n Henry ter buy anudder plantation ober on Beaver
"But 'long 'bout de een' er dat five year dey come a stranger ter stop
at de plantation. De fus' day he 'uz dere he went out wid Mars Dugal' en
spent all de mawnin' lookin' ober de vimya'd, en atter dinner dey spent
all de evenin' playin' kya'ds. De niggers soon 'skiver' dat he wuz a
Yankee, en dat he come down ter Norf C'lina fer ter l'arn de w'ite folks
how to raise grapes en make wine. He promus Mars Dugal' he c'd make de
grapevimes b'ar twice't ez many grapes, en dat de noo winepress he wuz
a-sellin' would make mo' d'n twice't ez many gallons er wine. En ole
Mars Dugal' des drunk it all in, des 'peared ter be bewitch' wid dat
Yankee. Wen de darkies see dat Yankee runnin' 'roun' de vimya'd en
diggin' under de grapevimes, dey shuk dere heads, en 'lowed dat dey
feared Mars Dugal' losin' his min'. Mars Dugal' had all de dirt dug away
fum under de roots er all de scuppernon' vimes, an' let 'em stan' dat
away fer a week er mo'. Den dat Yankee made de niggers fix up a mixtry
er lime en ashes en manyo, en po' it 'roun' de roots er de grapevimes.
Den he 'vise Mars Dugal' fer ter trim de vimes close't, en Mars Dugal'
tuck 'n done eve'ything de Yankee tole him ter do. Dyoin' all er dis
time, mind yer, dis yer Yankee wuz libbin' off'n de fat er de lan', at
de big house, en playin' kya'ds wid Mars Dugal' eve'y night; en dey say
Mars Dugal' los' mo'n a thousan' dollars dyoin' er de week dat Yankee
wuz a-ruinin' de grapevimes.
"Wen de sap ris nex' spring, ole Henry 'n'inted his head ez yuzhal, en
his ha'r 'mence' ter grow des de same ez it done eve'y year. De
scuppernon' vimes growed monst's fas', en de leaves wuz greener en
thicker dan dey eber be'n dyoin' my rememb'ance; en Henry's ha'r growed
out thicker dan eber, en he 'peared ter git younger 'n younger, en
soopler 'n soopler; en seein' ez he wuz sho't er ban's dat spring,
havin' tuk in consid'able noo groun', Mars Dugal' 'eluded he would n'
sell Henry 'tel he git de crap in en de cotton chop'. So he kep' Henry
on de plantation.
"But 'long 'bout time fer de grapes ter come on de scuppernon' vimes,
dey 'peared ter come a change ober 'em; de leaves withered en swivel'
up, en de young grapes turn' yaller, en bimeby eve'ybody on de
plantation could see dat de whole vimya'd wuz dyin'. Mars Dugal' tuk'n
water de vimes en done all he could, but 't wa'n' no use: dat Yankee
had done bus' de watermillyum. One time de vimes picked up a bit, en
Mars Dugal' 'lowed dey wuz gwine ter come out ag'in; but dat Yankee done
dug too close under de roots, en prune de branches too close ter de
vime, en all dat lime en ashes done burn' de life out'n de vimes, en dey
des kep' a-with'in' en a-swivelin'.
"All dis time de goopher wuz a-wukkin'. When de vimes sta'ted ter
wither, Henry 'mence' ter complain er his rheumatiz; en when de leaves
begin ter dry up, his ha'r 'mence' ter drap out. When de vimes fresh' up
a bit, Henry 'd git peart ag'in, en when de vimes wither' ag'in, Henry
'd git ole ag'in, en des kep' gittin' mo' en mo' fitten fer nuffin; he
des pined away, en pined away, en fine'ly tuk ter his cabin; en when de
big vime whar he got de sap ter 'n'int his head withered en turned
yaller en died, Henry died too,--des went out sorter like a cannel. Dey
didn't 'pear ter be nuffin de matter wid 'im, 'cep'n' de rheumatiz, but
his strenk des dwinel' away 'tel he did n' hab ernuff lef ter draw his
bref. De goopher had got de under holt, en th'owed Henry dat time fer
good en all.
"Mars Dugal' tuk on might'ly 'bout losin' his vimes en his nigger in de
same year; en he swo' dat ef he could git holt er dat Yankee he 'd wear
'im ter a frazzle, en den chaw up de frazzle; en he'd done it, too, for
Mars Dugal' 'uz a monst'us brash man w'en he once git started. He sot de
vimya'd out ober ag'in, but it wuz th'ee er fo' year befo' de vimes got
ter b'arin' any scuppernon's.
"W'en de wah broke out, Mars Dugal' raise' a comp'ny, en went off ter
fight de Yankees. He say he wuz mighty glad dat wah come, en he des want
ter kill a Yankee fer eve'y dollar he los' 'long er dat grape-raisin'
Yankee. En I 'spec' he would 'a' done it, too, ef de Yankees had n'
s'picioned sump'n, en killed him fus'. Atter de s'render ole miss move'
ter town, de niggers all scattered 'way fum de plantation, en de vimya'd
ain' be'n cultervated sence."
"Is that story true?" asked Annie doubtfully, but seriously, as the old
man concluded his narrative.
"It's des ez true ez I'm a-settin' here, miss. Dey's a easy way ter
prove it: I kin lead de way right ter Henry's grave ober yander in de
plantation buryin'-groun'. En I tell yer w'at, marster, I would n' 'vise
you to buy dis yer ole vimya'd, 'caze de goopher 's on it yit, en dey
ain' no tellin' w'en it's gwine ter crap out."
"But I thought you said all the old vines died."
"Dey did 'pear ter die, but a few un 'em come out ag'in, en is mixed in
'mongs' de yuthers. I ain' skeered ter eat de grapes, 'caze I knows de
old vimes fum de noo ones; but wid strangers dey ain' no tellin' w'at
mought happen. I would n' 'vise yer ter buy dis vimya'd."
I bought the vineyard, nevertheless, and it has been for a long time in
a thriving condition, and is often referred to by the local press as a
striking illustration of the opportunities open to Northern capital in
the development of Southern industries. The luscious scuppernong holds
first rank among our grapes, though we cultivate a great many other
varieties, and our income from grapes packed and shipped to the Northern
markets is quite considerable. I have not noticed any developments of
the goopher in the vineyard, although I have a mild suspicion that our
colored assistants do not suffer from want of grapes during the season.
I found, when I bought the vineyard, that Uncle Julius had occupied a
cabin on the place for many years, and derived a respectable revenue
from the product of the neglected grapevines. This, doubtless, accounted
for his advice to me not to buy the vineyard, though whether it inspired
the goopher story I am unable to state. I believe, however, that the
wages I paid him for his services as coachman, for I gave him employment
in that capacity, were more than an equivalent for anything he lost by
the sale of the vineyard.
On the northeast corner of my vineyard in central North Carolina, and
fronting on the Lumberton plank-road, there stood a small frame house,
of the simplest construction. It was built of pine lumber, and contained
but one room, to which one window gave light and one door admission. Its
weatherbeaten sides revealed a virgin innocence of paint. Against one
end of the house, and occupying half its width, there stood a huge brick
chimney: the crumbling mortar had left large cracks between the bricks;
the bricks themselves had begun to scale off in large flakes, leaving
the chimney sprinkled with unsightly blotches. These evidences of decay
were but partially concealed by a creeping vine, which extended its
slender branches hither and thither in an ambitious but futile attempt
to cover the whole chimney. The wooden shutter, which had once protected
the unglazed window, had fallen from its hinges, and lay rotting in the
rank grass and jimson-weeds beneath. This building, I learned when I
bought the place, had been used as a schoolhouse for several years prior
to the breaking out of the war, since which time it had remained
unoccupied, save when some stray cow or vagrant hog had sought shelter
within its walls from the chill rains and nipping winds of winter.
One day my wife requested me to build her a new kitchen. The house
erected by us, when we first came to live upon the vineyard, contained a
very conveniently arranged kitchen; but for some occult reason my wife
wanted a kitchen in the back yard, apart from the dwelling-house, after
the usual Southern fashion. Of course I had to build it.
To save expense, I decided to tear down the old schoolhouse, and use the
lumber, which was in a good state of preservation, in the construction
of the new kitchen. Before demolishing the old house, however, I made an
estimate of the amount of material contained in it, and found that I
would have to buy several hundred feet of lumber additional, in order to
build the new kitchen according to my wife's plan.
One morning old Julius McAdoo, our colored coachman, harnessed the gray
mare to the rockaway, and drove my wife and me over to the sawmill from
which I meant to order the new lumber. We drove down the long lane which
led from our house to the plank-road; following the plank-road for about
a mile, we turned into a road running through the forest and across the
swamp to the sawmill beyond. Our carriage jolted over the half-rotted
corduroy road which traversed the swamp, and then climbed the long hill
leading to the sawmill. When we reached the mill, the foreman had gone
over to a neighboring farmhouse, probably to smoke or gossip, and we
were compelled to await his return before we could transact our
business. We remained seated in the carriage, a few rods from the mill,
and watched the leisurely movements of the mill-hands. We had not waited
long before a huge pine log was placed in position, the machinery of the
mill was set in motion, and the circular saw began to eat its way
through the log, with a loud whir which resounded throughout the
vicinity of the mill. The sound rose and fell in a sort of rhythmic
cadence, which, heard from where we sat, was not unpleasing, and not
loud enough to prevent conversation. When the saw started on its second
journey through the log, Julius observed, in a lugubrious tone, and with
a perceptible shudder:--
"Ugh! but dat des do cuddle my blood!"
"What's the matter, Uncle Julius?" inquired my wife, who is of a very
sympathetic turn of mind. "Does the noise affect your nerves?"
"No, Mis' Annie," replied the old man, with emotion, "I ain' narvous;
but dat saw, a-cuttin' en grindin' thoo dat stick er timber, en moanin',
en groanin,' en sweekin', kyars my 'memb'ance back ter ole times, en
'min's me er po' Sandy." The pathetic intonation with which he
lengthened out the "po' Sandy" touched a responsive chord in our own
"And who was poor Sandy?" asked my wife, who takes a deep interest in
the stories of plantation life which she hears from the lips of the
older colored people. Some of these stories are quaintly humorous;
others wildly extravagant, revealing the Oriental cast of the negro's
imagination; while others, poured freely into the sympathetic ear of a
Northern-bred woman, disclose many a tragic incident of the darker side
"Sandy," said Julius, in reply to my wife's question, "was a nigger w'at
useter b'long ter ole Mars Marrabo McSwayne. Mars Marrabo's place wuz on
de yuther side'n de swamp, right nex' ter yo' place. Sandy wuz a
monst'us good nigger, en could do so many things erbout a plantation, en
alluz 'ten' ter his wuk so well, dat w'en Mars Marrabo's chilluns growed
up en married off, dey all un 'em wanted dey daddy fer ter gin 'em Sandy
fer a weddin' present. But Mars Marrabo knowed de res' would n' be
satisfied ef he gin Sandy ter a'er one un 'em; so w'en dey wuz all done
married, he fix it by 'lowin' one er his chilluns ter take Sandy fer a
mont' er so, en den ernudder for a mont' er so, en so on dat erway tel
dey had all had 'im de same lenk er time; en den dey would all take him
roun' ag'in, 'cep'n' oncet in a w'ile w'en Mars Marrabo would len' 'im
ter some er his yuther kinfolks 'roun' de country, w'en dey wuz short er
han's; tel bimeby it got so Sandy did n' hardly knowed whar he wuz gwine
ter stay fum one week's een' ter de yuther.
"One time w'en Sandy wuz lent out ez yushal, a spekilater come erlong
wid a lot er niggers, en Mars Marrabo swap' Sandy's wife off fer a noo
'oman. W'en Sandy come back, Mars Marrabo gin 'im a dollar, en 'lowed he
wuz monst'us sorry fer ter break up de fambly, but de spekilater had gin
'im big boot, en times wuz hard en money skase, en so he wuz bleedst ter
make de trade. Sandy tuk on some 'bout losin' his wife, but he soon seed
dey want no use cryin' ober spilt merlasses; en bein' ez he lacked de
looks er de noo 'oman, he tuk up wid her atter she'd be'n on de
plantation a mont' er so.
"Sandy en his noo wife got on mighty well tergedder, en de niggers all
'mence' ter talk about how lovin' dey wuz. Wen Tenie wuz tuk sick oncet,
Sandy useter set up all night wid 'er, en den go ter wuk in de mawnin'
des lack he had his reg'lar sleep; en Tenie would 'a' done anythin' in
de worl' for her Sandy.
"Sandy en Tenie had n' be'n libbin' tergedder fer mo' d'n two mont's
befo' Mars Marrabo's old uncle, w'at libbed down in Robeson County, sent
up ter fin' out ef Mars Marrabo could n' len' 'im er hire 'im a good
ban' fer a mont' er so. Sandy's marster wuz one er dese yer easy-gwine
folks w'at wanter please eve'ybody, en he says yas, he could len' 'im
Sandy. En Mars Marrabo tol' Sandy fer ter git ready ter go down ter
Robeson nex' day, fer ter stay a mont' er so.
"It wuz monst'us hard on Sandy fer ter take 'im 'way fum Tenie. It wuz
so fur down ter Robeson dat he did n' hab no chance er comin' back ter
see her tel de time wuz up; he would n' 'a' mine comin' ten er fifteen
mile at night ter see Tenie, but Mars Marrabo's uncle's plantation wuz
mo' d'n forty mile off. Sandy wuz mighty sad en cas' down atter w'at
Mars Marrabo tol' 'im, en he says ter Tenie, sezee:--
"'I'm gittin' monst'us ti'ed er dish yer gwine roun' so much. Here I is
lent ter Mars Jeems dis mont', en I got ter do so-en-so; en ter Mars
Archie de nex' mont', en I got ter do so-en-so; den I got ter go ter
Miss Jinnie's: en hit's Sandy dis en Sandy dat, en Sandy yer en Sandy
dere, tel it 'pears ter me I ain' got no home, ner no marster, ner no
mistiss, ner no nuffin. I can't eben keep a wife: my yuther ole 'oman
wuz sol' away widout my gittin' a chance fer ter tell her good-by; en
now I got ter go off en leab you, Tenie, en I dunno whe'r I'm eber
gwine ter see you ag'in er no. I wisht I wuz a tree, er a stump, er a
rock, er sump'n w'at could stay on de plantation fer a w'ile.'
"Atter Sandy got thoo talkin', Tenie didn' say naer word, but des sot
dere by de fier, studyin' en studyin'. Bimeby she up 'n' says:--
"'Sandy, is I eber tol' you I wuz a cunjuh 'oman?'
"Co'se Sandy had n' nebber dremp' er nuffin lack dat, en he made a great
'miration w'en he hear w'at Tenie say. Bimeby Tenie went on:--
"'I ain' goophered nobody, ner done no cunjuh wuk, fer fifteen year er
mo'; en w'en I got religion I made up my mine I would n' wuk no mo'
goopher. But dey is some things I doan b'lieve it's no sin fer ter do;
en ef you doan wanter be sent roun' fum pillar ter pos', en ef you doan
wanter go down ter Robeson, I kin fix things so you won't haf ter. Ef
you'll des say de word, I kin turn you ter w'ateber you wanter be, en
you kin stay right whar you wanter, ez long ez you mineter.'
"Sandy say he doan keer; he's will-in' fer ter do anythin' fer ter stay
close ter Tenie. Den Tenie ax 'im ef he doan wanter be turnt inter a
"Sandy say, 'No, de dogs mought git atter me.'
"'Shill I turn you ter a wolf?' sez Tenie.
"'No, eve'ybody 's skeered er a wolf, en I doan want nobody ter be
skeered er me.'
"'Shill I turn you ter a mawkin'-bird?'
"'No, a hawk mought ketch me. I wanter be turnt inter sump'n w'at'll
stay in one place.'
"'I kin turn you ter a tree,' sez Tenie. 'You won't hab no mouf ner
years, but I kin turn you back oncet in a w'ile, so you kin git sump'n
ter eat, en hear w'at 's gwine on.'
"Well, Sandy say dat'll do. En so Tenie tuk 'im down by de aidge er de
swamp, not fur fum de quarters, en turnt 'im inter a big pine-tree, en
sot 'im out 'mongs' some yuther trees. En de nex' mawnin', ez some er de
fiel' han's wuz gwine long dere, dey seed a tree w'at dey did n' 'member
er habbin' seed befo'; it wuz monst'us quare, en dey wuz bleedst ter
'low dat dey had n' 'membered right, er e'se one er de saplin's had be'n
growin' monst'us fas'.
"W'en Mars Marrabo 'skiver' dat Sandy wuz gone, he 'lowed Sandy had
runned away. He got de dogs out, but de las' place dey could track Sandy
ter wuz de foot er dat pine-tree. En dere de dogs stood en barked, en
bayed, en pawed at de tree, en tried ter climb up on it; en w'en dey
wuz tuk roun' thoo de swamp ter look fer de scent, dey broke loose en
made fer dat tree ag'in. It wuz de beatenis' thing de w'ite folks eber
hearn of, en Mars Marrabo 'lowed dat Sandy must 'a' clim' up on de tree
en jump' off on a mule er sump'n, en rid fur ernuff fer ter spile de
scent. Mars Marrabo wanted ter 'cuse some er de yuther niggers er
heppin' Sandy off, but dey all 'nied it ter de las'; en eve'ybody knowed
Tenie sot too much sto' by Sandy fer ter he'p 'im run away whar she
could n' nebber see 'im no mo'.
"W'en Sandy had be'n gone long ernuff fer folks ter think he done got
clean away, Tenie useter go down ter de woods at night en turn 'im back,
en den dey 'd slip up ter de cabin en set by de fire en talk. But dey
ha' ter be monst'us keerful, er e'se somebody would 'a' seed 'em, en dat
would 'a' spile' de whole thing; so Tenie alluz turnt Sandy back in de
mawnin' early, befo' anybody wuz a-stirrin'.
"But Sandy did n' git erlong widout his trials en tribberlations. One
day a woodpecker come erlong en 'mence' ter peck at de tree; en de nex'
time Sandy wuz turnt back he had a little roun' hole in his arm, des
lack a sharp stick be'n stuck in it. Atter dat Tenie sot a sparrer-hawk
fer ter watch de tree; en w'en de woodpecker come erlong nex' mawnin'
fer ter finish his nes', he got gobble' up mos' 'fo' he stuck his bill
in de bark.
"Nudder time, Mars Marrabo sent a nigger out in de woods fer ter chop
tuppentime boxes. De man chop a box in dish yer tree, en hack' de bark
up two er th'ee feet, fer ter let de tuppentime run. De nex' time Sandy
wuz turnt back he had a big skyar on his lef' leg, des lack it be'n
skunt; en it tuk Tenie nigh 'bout all night fer ter fix a mixtry ter
kyo it up. Atter dat, Tenie sot a hawnet fer ter watch de tree; en w'en
de nigger come back ag'in fer ter cut ernudder box on de yuther side'n
de tree, de hawnet stung 'im so hard dat de ax slip en cut his foot nigh
"W'en Tenie see so many things happenin' ter de tree, she 'eluded she 'd
ha' ter turn Sandy ter sump'n e'se; en atter studyin' de matter ober, en
talkin' wid Sandy one ebenin', she made up her mine fer ter fix up a
goopher mixtry w'at would turn herse'f en Sandy ter foxes, er sump'n, so
dey could run away en go some'rs whar dey could be free en lib lack
"But dey ain' no tellin' w'at's gwine ter happen in dis worl'. Tenie had
got de night sot fer her en Sandy ter run away, w'en dat ve'y day one er
Mars Marrabo's sons rid up ter de big house in his buggy, en say his
wife wuz monst'us sick, en he want his mammy ter len' 'im a 'oman fer
ter nuss his wife. Tenie's mistiss say sen' Tenie; she wuz a good nuss.
Young mars wuz in a tarrible hurry fer ter git back home. Tenie wuz
washin' at de big house dat day, en her mistiss say she should go right
'long wid her young marster. Tenie tried ter make some 'scuse fer ter
git away en hide 'tel night, w'en she would have eve'ything fix' up fer
her en Sandy; she say she wanter go ter her cabin fer ter git her
bonnet. Her mistiss say it doan matter 'bout de bonnet; her
head-hank-cher wuz good ernuff. Den Tenie say she wanter git her bes'
frock; her mistiss say no, she doan need no mo' frock, en w'en dat one
got dirty she could git a clean one whar she wuz gwine. So Tenie had ter
git in de buggy en go 'long wid young Mars Dunkin ter his plantation,
w'ich wuz mo' d'n twenty mile away; en dey wa'n't no chance er her
seein' Sandy no mo' 'tel she come back home. De po' gal felt monst'us
bad 'bout de way things wuz gwine on, en she knowed Sandy mus' be a
wond'rin' why she didn' come en turn 'im back no mo'.
"Wiles Tenie wuz away nussin' young Mars Dunkin's wife, Mars Marrabo tuk
a notion fer ter buil' 'im a noo kitchen; en bein' ez he had lots er
timber on his place, he begun ter look 'roun' fer a tree ter hab de
lumber sawed out'n. En I dunno how it come to be so, but he happen fer
ter hit on de ve'y tree w'at Sandy wuz turnt inter. Tenie wuz gone, en
dey wa'n't nobody ner nuffin fer ter watch de tree.
"De two men w'at cut de tree down say dey nebber had sech a time wid a
tree befo': dey axes would glansh off, en did n' 'pear ter make no
progress thoo de wood; en of all de creakin', en shakin', en wobblin'
you eber see, dat tree done it w'en it commence' ter fall. It wuz de
"W'en dey got de tree all trim' up, dey chain it up ter a timber waggin,
en start fer de sawmill. But dey had a hard time gittin' de log dere:
fus' dey got stuck in de mud w'en dey wuz gwine crosst de swamp, en it
wuz two er th'ee hours befo' dey could git out. W'en dey start' on
ag'in, de chain kep' a-comin' loose, en dey had ter keep a-stoppin' en
a-stoppin' fer ter hitch de log up ag'in. W'en dey commence' ter climb
de hill ter de sawmill, de log broke loose, en roll down de hill en in
'mongs' de trees, en hit tuk nigh 'bout half a day mo' ter git it haul'
up ter de sawmill.
"De nex' mawnin' atter de day de tree wuz haul' ter de sawmill, Tenie
come home. W'en she got back ter her cabin, de fus' thing she done wuz
ter run down ter de woods en see how Sandy wuz gittin' on. Wen she seed
de stump standin' dere, wid de sap runnin' out'n it, en de limbs layin'
scattered roun', she nigh 'bout went out'n her min'. She run ter her
cabin, en got her goopher mixtry, en den follered de track er de timber
waggin ter de sawmill. She knowed Sandy could n' lib mo' d'n a minute er
so ef she turnt him back, fer he wuz all chop' up so he 'd 'a' be'n
bleedst ter die. But she wanted ter turn 'im back long ernuff fer ter
'splain ter 'im dat she had n' went off a-purpose, en lef 'im ter be
chop' down en sawed up. She did n' want Sandy ter die wid no hard
feelin's to'ds her.
"De han's at de sawmill had des got de big log on de kerridge, en wuz
start-in' up de saw, w'en dey seed a 'oman runnin' up de hill, all out
er bref, cryin' en gwine on des lack she wuz plumb 'stracted. It wuz
Tenie; she come right inter de mill, en th'owed herse'f on de log,
right in front er de saw, a-hollerin' en cryin' ter her Sandy ter fergib
her, en not ter think hard er her, fer it wa'n't no fault er hern. Den
Tenie 'membered de tree did n' hab no years, en she wuz gittin' ready
fer ter wuk her goopher mixtry so ez ter turn Sandy back, w'en de
mill-hands kotch holt er her en tied her arms wid a rope, en fasten' her
to one er de posts in de sawmill; en den dey started de saw up ag'in, en
cut de log up inter bo'ds en scantlin's right befo' her eyes. But it wuz
mighty hard wuk; fer of all de sweekin', en moanin', en groanin', dat
log done it w'iles de saw wuz a-cuttin' thoo it. De saw wuz one er dese
yer ole-timey, up-en-down saws, en hit tuk longer dem days ter saw a log
'en it do now. Dey greased de saw, but dat did n' stop de fuss; hit kep'
right on, tel fin'ly dey got de log all sawed up.
"W'en de oberseah w'at run de sawmill come fum breakfas', de han's up
en tell him 'bout de crazy 'oman--ez dey s'posed she wuz--w'at had come
runnin' in de sawmill, a-hollerin' en gwine on, en tried ter th'ow
herse'f befo' de saw. En de oberseah sent two er th'ee er de han's fer
ter take Tenie back ter her marster's plantation.
"Tenie 'peared ter be out'n her min' fer a long time, en her marster ha'
ter lock her up in de smoke-'ouse 'tel she got ober her spells. Mars
Marrabo wuz monst'us mad, en hit would 'a' made yo' flesh crawl fer ter
hear him cuss, 'caze he say de spekilater w'at he got Tenie fum had
fooled 'im by wukkin' a crazy 'oman off on him. Wiles Tenie wuz lock up
in de smoke-'ouse, Mars Marrabo tuk 'n' haul de lumber fum de sawmill,
en put up his noo kitchen.
"Wen Tenie got quiet' down, so she could be 'lowed ter go 'roun' de
plantation, she up'n' tole her marster all erbout Sandy en de
pine-tree; en w'en Mars Marrabo hearn it, he 'lowed she wuz de wuss
'stracted nigger he eber hearn of. He did n' know w'at ter do wid Tenie:
fus' he thought he 'd put her in de po'house; but fin'ly, seein' ez she
did n' do no harm ter nobody ner nuffin, but des went 'roun' moanin', en
groanin', en shakin' her head, he 'cluded ter let her stay on de
plantation en nuss de little nigger chilluns w'en dey mammies wuz ter
wuk in de cotton-fiel'.
"De noo kitchen Mars Marrabo buil' wuz n' much use, fer it had n' be'n
put up long befo' de niggers 'mence' ter notice quare things erbout it.
Dey could hear sump'n moanin' en groanin' 'bout de kitchen in de
night-time, en w'en de win' would blow dey could hear sump'n a-hollerin'
en sweekin' lack it wuz in great pain en sufferin'. En it got so atter a
w'ile dat it wuz all Mars Marrabo's wife could do ter git a 'oman ter
stay in de kitchen in de daytime long ernuff ter do de cookin'; en dey
wa'n't naer nigger on de plantation w'at would n' rudder take forty dan
ter go 'bout dat kitchen atter dark,--dat is, 'cep'n' Tenie; she did n'
'pear ter min' de ha'nts. She useter slip 'roun' at night, en set on de
kitchen steps, en lean up agin de do'-jamb, en run on ter herse'f wid
some kine er foolishness w'at nobody could n' make out; fer Mars Marrabo
had th'eaten' ter sen' her off'n de plantation ef she say anything ter
any er de yuther niggers 'bout de pine-tree. But somehow er 'nudder de
niggers foun' out all erbout it, en dey all knowed de kitchen wuz
ha'nted by Sandy's sperrit. En bimeby hit got so Mars Marrabo's wife
herse'f wuz skeered ter go out in de yard atter dark.
"Wen it come ter dat, Mars Marrabo tuk en to' de kitchen down, en use'
de lumber fer ter buil' dat ole school'ouse w'at you er talkin' 'bout
pullin' down. De school'ouse wuz n' use' 'cep'n' in de daytime, en on
dark nights folks gwine 'long de road would hear quare soun's en see
quare things. Po' ole Tenie useter go down dere at night, en wander
'roun' de school'ouse; en de niggers all 'lowed she went fer ter talk
wid Sandy's sperrit. En one winter mawnin', w'en one er de boys went ter
school early fer ter start de fire, w'at should he fin' but po' ole
Tenie, layin' on de flo', stiff, en col', en dead. Dere did n' 'pear ter
be nuffin pertickler de matter wid her,--she had des grieve' herse'f ter
def fer her Sandy. Mars Marrabo didn' shed no tears. He thought Tenie
wuz crazy, en dey wa'n't no tellin' w'at she mought do nex'; en dey ain'
much room in dis worl' fer crazy w'ite folks, let 'lone a crazy nigger.
"Hit wa'n't long atter dat befo' Mars Marrabo sol' a piece er his track
er lan' ter Mars Dugal' McAdoo,--_my_ ole marster,--en dat 's how de
ole school'ouse happen to be on yo' place. Wen de wah broke out, de
school stop', en de ole school'ouse be'n stannin' empty ever sence,--dat
is, 'cep'n' fer de ha'nts. En folks sez dat de ole school'ouse, er any
yuther house w'at got any er dat lumber in it w'at wuz sawed out'n de
tree w'at Sandy wuz turnt inter, is gwine ter be ha'nted tel de las'
piece er plank is rotted en crumble' inter dus'."
Annie had listened to this gruesome narrative with strained attention.
"What a system it was," she exclaimed, when Julius had finished, "under
which such things were possible!"
"What things?" I asked, in amazement. "Are you seriously considering the
possibility of a man's being turned into a tree?"
"Oh, no," she replied quickly, "not that;" and then she murmured
absently, and with a dim look in her fine eyes, "Poor Tenie!"
We ordered the lumber, and returned home. That night, after we had gone
to bed, and my wife had to all appearances been sound asleep for half an
hour, she startled me out of an incipient doze by exclaiming suddenly,--
"John, I don't believe I want my new kitchen built out of the lumber in
that old schoolhouse."
"You wouldn't for a moment allow yourself," I replied, with some
asperity, "to be influenced by that absurdly impossible yarn which
Julius was spinning to-day?"
"I know the story is absurd," she replied dreamily, "and I am not so
silly as to believe it. But I don't think I should ever be able to take
any pleasure in that kitchen if it were built out of that lumber.
Besides, I think the kitchen would look better and last longer if the
lumber were all new."
Of course she had her way. I bought the new lumber, though not without
grumbling. A week or two later I was called away from home on business.
On my return, after an absence of several days, my wife remarked to
"John, there has been a split in the Sandy Run Colored Baptist Church,
on the temperance question. About half the members have come out from
the main body, and set up for themselves. Uncle Julius is one of the
seceders, and he came to me yesterday and asked if they might not hold
their meetings in the old schoolhouse for the present."
"I hope you didn't let the old rascal have it," I returned, with some
warmth. I had just received a bill for the new lumber I had bought.
"Well," she replied, "I couldn't refuse him the use of the house for so
good a purpose."
"And I'll venture to say," I continued, "that you subscribed something
toward the support of the new church?"
She did not attempt to deny it.
"What are they going to do about the ghost?" I asked, somewhat curious
to know how Julius would get around this obstacle.
"Oh," replied Annie, "Uncle Julius says that ghosts never disturb
religious worship, but that if Sandy's spirit _should_ happen to stray
into meeting by mistake, no doubt the preaching would do it good."
MARS JEEMS'S NIGHTMARE
We found old Julius very useful when we moved to our new residence. He
had a thorough knowledge of the neighborhood, was familiar with the
roads and the watercourses, knew the qualities of the various soils and
what they would produce, and where the best hunting and fishing were to
be had. He was a marvelous hand in the management of horses and dogs,
with whose mental processes he manifested a greater familiarity than
mere use would seem to account for, though it was doubtless due to the
simplicity of a life that had kept him close to nature. Toward my tract
of land and the things that were on it--the creeks, the swamps, the
hills, the meadows, the stones, the trees--he maintained a peculiar
personal attitude, that might be called predial rather than proprietary.
He had been accustomed, until long after middle life, to look upon
himself as the property of another. When this relation was no longer
possible, owing to the war, and to his master's death and the dispersion
of the family, he had been unable to break off entirely the mental
habits of a lifetime, but had attached himself to the old plantation, of
which he seemed to consider himself an appurtenance. We found him useful
in many ways and entertaining in others, and my wife and I took quite a
fancy to him.
Shortly after we became established in our home on the sand-hills,
Julius brought up to the house one day a colored boy of about seventeen,
whom he introduced as his grandson, and for whom he solicited
employment. I was not favorably impressed by the youth's
appearance,--quite the contrary, in fact; but mainly to please the old
man I hired Tom--his name was Tom--to help about the stables, weed the
garden, cut wood and bring water, and in general to make himself useful
about the outdoor work of the household.
My first impression of Tom proved to be correct. He turned out to be
very trifling, and I was much annoyed by his laziness, his carelessness,
and his apparent lack of any sense of responsibility. I kept him longer
than I should, on Julius's account, hoping that he might improve; but he
seemed to grow worse instead of better, and when I finally reached the
limit of my patience, I discharged him.
"I am sorry, Julius," I said to the old man; "I should have liked to
oblige you by keeping him; but I can't stand Tom any longer. He is
"Yas, suh," replied Julius, with a deep sigh and a long shake of the
head, "I knows he ain' much account, en dey ain' much 'pen'ence ter be
put on 'im. But I wuz hopin' dat you mought make some 'lowance fuh a'
ign'ant young nigger, suh, en gib 'im one mo' chance."
But I had hardened my heart. I had always been too easily imposed upon,
and had suffered too much from this weakness. I determined to be firm as
a rock in this instance.
"No, Julius," I rejoined decidedly, "it is impossible. I gave him more
than a fair trial, and he simply won't do."
When my wife and I set out for our drive in the cool of the
evening,--afternoon is "evening" in Southern parlance,--one of the
servants put into the rock-away two large earthenware jugs. Our drive
was to be down through the swamp to the mineral spring at the foot of
the sand-hills beyond. The water of this spring was strongly
impregnated with sulphur and iron, and, while not particularly agreeable
of smell or taste, was used by us, in moderation, for sanitary reasons.
When we reached the spring, we found a man engaged in cleaning it out.
In answer to an inquiry he said that if we would wait five or ten
minutes, his task would be finished and the spring in such condition
that we could fill our jugs. We might have driven on, and come back by
way of the spring, but there was a bad stretch of road beyond, and we
concluded to remain where we were until the spring should be ready. We
were in a cool and shady place. It was often necessary to wait awhile in
North Carolina; and our Northern energy had not been entirely proof
against the influences of climate and local custom.
While we sat there, a man came suddenly around a turn of the road ahead
of us. I recognized in him a neighbor with whom I had exchanged formal
calls. He was driving a horse, apparently a high-spirited creature,
possessing, so far as I could see at a glance, the marks of good temper
and good breeding; the gentleman, I had heard it suggested, was slightly
deficient in both. The horse was rearing and plunging, and the man was
beating him furiously with a buggy-whip. When he saw us, he flushed a
fiery red, and, as he passed, held the reins with one hand, at some risk
to his safety, lifted his hat, and bowed somewhat constrainedly as the
horse darted by us, still panting and snorting with fear.
"He looks as though he were ashamed of himself," I observed.
"I'm sure he ought to be," exclaimed my wife indignantly. "I think
there is no worse sin and no more disgraceful thing than cruelty."
"I quite agree with you," I assented.
"A man w'at 'buses his hoss is gwine ter be ha'd on de folks w'at wuks
fer 'im," remarked Julius. "Ef young Mistah McLean doan min', he'll hab
a bad dream one er dese days, des lack 'is grandaddy had way back
yander, long yeahs befo' de wah."
"What was it about Mr. McLean's dream, Julius?" I asked. The man had not
yet finished cleaning the spring, and we might as well put in time
listening to Julius as in any other way. We had found some of his
plantation tales quite interesting.
"Mars Jeems McLean," said Julius, "wuz de grandaddy er dis yer gent'eman
w'at is des gone by us beatin' his hoss. He had a big plantation en a
heap er niggers. Mars Jeems wuz a ha'd man, en monst'us stric' wid his
han's. Eber sence he growed up he nebber 'peared ter hab no feelin' fer
nobody. W'en his daddy, ole Mars John McLean, died, de plantation en
all de niggers fell ter young Mars Jeems. He had be'n bad 'nuff befo',
but it wa'n't long atterwa'ds 'tel he got so dey wuz no use in libbin'
at all ef you ha' ter lib roun' Mars Jeems. His niggers wuz bleedzd ter
slabe fum daylight ter da'k, w'iles yuther folks's did n' hafter wuk
'cep'n' fum sun ter sun; en dey did n' git no mo' ter eat dan dey
oughter, en dat de coa'ses' kin'. Dey wa'n't 'lowed ter sing, ner dance,
ner play de banjo w'en Mars Jeems wuz roun' de place; fer Mars Jeems say
he would n' hab no sech gwines-on,--said he bought his han's ter wuk, en
not ter play, en w'en night come dey mus' sleep en res', so dey 'd be
ready ter git up soon in de mawnin' en go ter dey wuk fresh en strong.
"Mars Jeems did n' 'low no co'tin' er juneseyin' roun' his
plantation,--said he wanted his niggers ter put dey min's on dey wuk,
en not be wastin' dey time wid no sech foolis'ness. En he would n' let
his han's git married,--said he wuz n' raisin' niggers, but wuz raisin'
cotton. En w'eneber any er de boys en gals 'ud 'mence ter git sweet on
one ernudder, he 'd sell one er de yuther un 'em, er sen' 'em way down
in Robeson County ter his yuther plantation, whar dey could n' nebber
see one ernudder.
"Ef any er de niggers eber complained, dey got fo'ty; so co'se dey did
n' many un 'em complain. But dey did n' lack it, des de same, en nobody
could n' blame 'em, fer dey had a ha'd time. Mars Jeems did n' make no
'lowance fer nachul bawn laz'ness, ner sickness, ner trouble in de min',
ner nuffin; he wuz des gwine ter git so much wuk outer eve'y han', er
know de reason w'y.
"Dey wuz one time de niggers 'lowed, fer a spell, dat Mars Jeems mought
git bettah. He tuk a lackin' ter Mars Marrabo McSwayne's oldes' gal,
Miss Libbie, en useter go ober dere eve'y day er eve'y ebenin', en folks
said dey wuz gwine ter git married sho'. But it 'pears dat Miss Libbie
heared 'bout de gwineson on Mars Jeems's plantation, en she des 'lowed
she could n' trus' herse'f wid no sech a man; dat he mought git so
useter 'busin' his niggers dat he 'd 'mence ter 'buse his wife atter he
got useter habbin' her roun' de house. So she 'clared she wuz n' gwine
ter hab nuffin mo' ter do wid young Mars Jeems.
"De niggers wuz all monst'us sorry w'en de match wuz bust' up, fer now
Mars Jeems got wusser 'n he wuz befo' he sta'ted sweethea'tin'. De time
he useter spen' co'tin' Miss Libbie he put in findin' fault wid de
niggers, en all his bad feelin's 'ca'se Miss Libbie th'owed 'im ober he
'peared ter try ter wuk off on de po' niggers.
"W'iles Mars Jeems wuz co'tin' Miss Libbie, two er de han's on de
plantation had got ter settin' a heap er sto' by one ernudder. One un
'em wuz name' Solomon, en de yuther wuz a 'oman w'at wukked in de fiel'
'long er 'im--I fe'git dat 'oman's name, but it doan 'mount ter much in
de tale nohow. Now, whuther 'ca'se Mars Jeems wuz so tuk up wid his own
junesey dat he did n' paid no 'tention fer a w'ile ter w'at wuz gwine
on 'twix' Solomon en his junesey, er whuther his own co'tin' made 'im
kin' er easy on de co'tin' in de qua'ters, dey ain' no tellin'. But
dey's one thing sho', dat w'en Miss Libbie th'owed 'im ober, he foun'
out 'bout Solomon en de gal monst'us quick, en gun Solomon fo'ty, en
sont de gal down ter de Robeson County plantation, en tol' all de
niggers ef he ketch 'em at any mo' sech foolishness, he wuz gwine ter
skin 'em alibe en tan dey hides befo' dey ve'y eyes. Co'se he would n'
'a' done it, but he mought 'a' made things wusser 'n dey wuz. So you kin
'magine dey wa'n't much lub-makin' in de qua'ters fer a long time.
[Footnote 2: Sweetheart.]
"Mars Jeems useter go down ter de yuther plantation sometimes fer a week
er mo', en so he had ter hab a oberseah ter look atter his wuk w'iles he
'uz gone. Mars Jeems's oberseah wuz a po' w'ite man name' Nick
Johnson,--de niggers called 'im Mars Johnson ter his face, but behin'
his back dey useter call 'im Ole Nick, en de name suited 'im ter a T. He
wuz wusser 'n Mars Jeems ever da'ed ter be. Co'se de darkies did n' lack
de way Mars Jeems used 'em, but he wuz de marster, en had a right ter do
ez he please'; but dis yer Ole Nick wa'n't nuffin but a po' buckrah, en
all de niggers 'spised 'im ez much ez dey hated 'im, fer he did n' own
nobody, en wa'n't no bettah 'n a nigger, fer in dem days any 'spectable
pusson would ruther be a nigger dan a po' w'ite man.
"Now, atter Solomon's gal had be'n sont away, he kep' feelin' mo' en
mo' bad erbout it, 'tel fin'lly he 'lowed he wuz gwine ter see ef dey
could n' be sump'n done fer ter git 'er back, en ter make Mars Jeems
treat de darkies bettah. So he tuk a peck er co'n out'n de ba'n one
night, en went ober ter see ole Aun' Peggy, de free-nigger cunjuh 'oman
down by de Wim'l'ton Road.
"Aun' Peggy listen' ter 'is tale, en ax' him some queshtuns, en den tol'
'im she 'd wuk her roots, en see w'at dey 'd say 'bout it, en ter-morrer
night he sh'd come back ag'in en fetch ernudder peck er co'n, en den she
'd hab sump'n fer ter tell 'im.
"So Solomon went back de nex' night, en sho' 'nuff, Aun' Peggy tol' 'im
w'at ter do. She gun 'im some stuff w'at look' lack it be'n made by
poundin' up some roots en yarbs wid a pestle in a mo'tar.
"'Dis yer stuff,' sez she, 'is monst'us pow'ful kin' er goopher. You
take dis home, en gin it ter de cook, ef you kin trus' her, en tell her
fer ter put it in yo' marster's soup de fus' cloudy day he hab okra soup
fer dinnah. Min' you follers de d'rections.'
"'It ain' gwineter p'isen 'im, is it?' ax' Solomon, gittin' kin' er
skeered; fer Solomon wuz a good man, en did n' want ter do nobody no
"'Oh, no,' sez ole Aun' Peggy, 'it's gwine ter do 'im good, but he'll
hab a monst'us bad dream fus'. A mont' fum now you come down heah en
lemme know how de goopher is wukkin'. Fer I ain' done much er dis kin'
er cunj'in' er late yeahs, en I has ter kinder keep track un it ter see
dat it doan 'complish no mo' d'n I 'lows fer it ter do. En I has ter be
kinder keerful 'bout cunj'in' w'ite folks; so be sho' en lemme know,
w'ateber you do, des w'at is gwine on roun' de plantation.'
"So Solomon say all right, en tuk de goopher mixtry up ter de big house
en gun it ter de cook, en tol' her fer ter put it in Mars Jeems's soup
de fus' cloudy day she hab okra soup fer dinnah. It happen' dat de ve'y
nex' day wuz a cloudy day, en so de cook made okra soup fer Mars Jeems's
dinnah, en put de powder Solomon gun her inter de soup, en made de soup
rale good, so Mars Jeems eat a whole lot of it en 'peared ter enjoy it.
"De nex' mawnin' Mars Jeems tol' de oberseah he wuz gwine 'way on some
bizness, en den he wuz gwine ter his yuther plantation, down in Robeson
County, en he did n' 'spec' he 'd be back fer a mont' er so.
"But,' sezee, 'I wants you ter run dis yer plantation fer all it's wuth.
Dese yer niggers is gittin' monst'us triflin' en lazy en keerless, en
dey ain' no 'pen'ence ter be put in 'em. I wants dat stop', en w'iles I
'm gone erway I wants de 'spenses cut 'way down en a heap mo' wuk done.
Fac', I wants dis yer plantation ter make a reco'd dat'll show w'at
kinder oberseah you is.'
"Ole Nick did n' said nuffin but 'Yas, suh,' but de way he kinder grin'
ter hisse'f en show' his big yaller teef, en snap' de rawhide he useter
kyar roun' wid 'im, made col' chills run up and down de backbone er dem
niggers w'at heared Mars Jeems a-talkin'. En dat night dey wuz mo'nin'
en groanin' down in de qua'ters, fer de niggers all knowed w'at wuz
"So, sho' 'nuff, Mars Jeems went erway nex' mawnin', en de trouble
begun. Mars Johnson sta'ted off de ve'y fus' day fer ter see w'at he
could hab ter show Mars Jeems w'en he come back. He made de tasks bigger
en de rashuns littler, en w'en de niggers had wukked all day, he 'd fin'
sump'n fer 'em ter do roun' de ba'n er som'ers atter da'k, fer ter keep
'em busy a' hour er so befo' dey went ter sleep.
"About th'ee er fo' days atter Mars Jeems went erway, young Mars Dunkin
McSwayne rode up ter de big house one day wid a nigger settin' behin'
'im in de buggy, tied ter de seat, en ax' ef Mars Jeems wuz home. Mars
Johnson wuz at de house, and he say no.
"'Well,' sez Mars Dunkin, sezee, 'I fotch dis nigger ober ter Mistah
McLean fer ter pay a bet I made wid 'im las' week w'en we wuz playin'
kya'ds te'gedder. I bet 'im a nigger man, en heah 's one I reckon'll
fill de bill. He wuz tuk up de yuther day fer a stray nigger, en he
could n' gib no 'count er hisse'f, en so he wuz sol' at oction, en I
bought 'im. He's kinder brash, but I knows yo' powers, Mistah Johnson,
en I reckon ef anybody kin make 'im toe de ma'k, you is de man.'
"Mars Johnson grin' one er dem grins w'at show' all his snaggle teef,
en make de niggers 'low he look lack de ole debbil, en sezee ter Mars
"'I reckon you kin trus' me, Mistah Dunkin, fer ter tame any nigger wuz
eber bawn. De nigger doan lib w'at I can't take down in 'bout fo' days.'
"Well, Ole Nick had 'is han's full long er dat noo nigger; en w'iles de
res' er de darkies wuz sorry fer de po' man, dey 'lowed he kep' Mars
Johnson so busy dat dey got along better 'n dey 'd 'a' done ef de noo
nigger had nebber come.
"De fus' thing dat happen', Mars Johnson sez ter dis yer noo man:--
"'W'at 's yo' name, Sambo?'
"'My name ain' Sambo,' 'spon' de noo nigger.
"'Did I ax you w'at yo' name wa'n't?' sez Mars Johnson. 'You wants ter
be pa'tic'lar how you talks ter me. Now, w'at is yo' name, en whar did
you come fum?'
"'I dunno my name,' sez de nigger, 'en I doan 'member whar I come fum.
My head is all kin' er mix' up.'
"'Yas,' sez Mars Johnson, 'I reckon I'll ha' ter gib you sump'n fer ter
cl'ar yo' head. At de same time, it'll l'arn you some manners, en atter
dis mebbe you'll say "suh" w'en you speaks ter me.'
"Well, Mars Johnson haul' off wid his rawhide en hit de noo nigger once.
De noo man look' at Mars Johnson fer a minute ez ef he did n' know w'at
ter make er dis yer kin' er l'arnin'. But w'en de oberseah raise' his
w'ip ter hit him ag'in, de noo nigger des haul' off en made fer Mars
Johnson, en ef some er de yuther niggers had n' stop' 'im, it 'peared ez
ef he mought 'a' made it wa'm fer Ole Nick dere fer a w'ile. But de
oberseah made de yuther niggers he'p tie de noo nigger up, en den gun
'im fo'ty, wid a dozen er so th'owed in fer good measure, fer Ole Nick
wuz nebber stingy wid dem kin' er rashuns. De nigger went on at a
tarrable rate, des lack a wil' man, but co'se he wuz bleedzd ter take
his med'cine, fer he wuz tied up en could n' he'p his-se'f.
"Mars Johnson lock' de noo nigger up in de ba'n, en did n' gib 'im
nuffin ter eat fer a day er so, 'tel he got 'im kin'er quiet' down, en
den he tu'nt 'im loose en put 'im ter wuk. De nigger 'lowed he wa'n't
useter wukkin', en would n' wuk, en Mars Johnson gun 'im anudder fo'ty
fer laziness en impidence, en let 'im fas' a day er so mo', en den put
'im ter wuk ag'in. De nigger went ter wuk, but did n' 'pear ter know how
ter han'le a hoe. It tuk des 'bout half de oberseah's time lookin' atter
'im, en dat po' nigger got mo' lashin's en cussin's en cuffin's dan any
fo' yuthers on de plantation. He did n' mix' wid ner talk much ter de
res' er de niggers, en could n' 'pear ter git it th'oo his min' dat he
wuz a slabe en had ter wuk en min' de w'ite folks, spite er de fac' dat
Ole Nick gun 'im a lesson eve'y day. En fin'lly Mars Johnson 'lowed dat
he could n' do nuffin wid 'im; dat ef he wuz his nigger, he 'd break his
sperrit er break 'is neck, one er de yuther. But co'se he wuz only sont
ober on trial, en ez he did n' gib sat'sfaction, en he had n' heared fum
Mars Jeems 'bout w'en he wuz comin' back; en ez he wuz feared he 'd git
mad some time er 'nuther en kill de nigger befo' he knowed it, he 'lowed
he 'd better sen' 'im back whar he come fum. So he tied 'im up en sont
'im back ter Mars Dunkin.
"Now, Mars Dunkin McSwayne wuz one er dese yer easy-gwine gent'emen w'at
did n' lack ter hab no trouble wid niggers er nobody e'se, en he knowed
ef Mars Ole Nick could n' git 'long wid dis nigger, nobody could. So he
tuk de nigger ter town dat same day, en sol' 'im ter a trader w'at wuz
gittin' up a gang er lackly niggers fer ter ship off on de steamboat ter
go down de ribber ter Wim'l'ton en fum dere ter Noo Orleens.
"De nex' day atter de noo man had be'n sont away, Solomon wuz wukkin' in
de cotton-fiel', en w'en he got ter de fence nex' ter de woods, at de
een' er de row, who sh'd he see on de yuther side but ole Aun' Peggy.
She beckon' ter 'im,--de oberseah wuz down on de yuther side er de
fiel',--en sez she:--
"'W'y ain' you done come en 'po'ted ter me lack I tol' you?'
"'W'y, law! Aun' Peggy,' sez Solomon, 'dey ain' nuffin ter 'po't. Mars
Jeems went away de day atter we gun 'im de goopher mixtry, en we ain'
seed hide ner hair un 'im sence, en co'se we doan know nuffin 'bout w'at
'fec' it had on 'im.'
"'I doan keer nuffin 'bout yo' Mars Jeems now; w'at I wants ter know is
w'at is be'n gwine on 'mongs' de niggers. Has you be'n gittin' 'long any
better on de plantation?'
"'No, Aun' Peggy, we be'n gittin' 'long wusser. Mars Johnson is stric'er
'n he eber wuz befo', en de po' niggers doan ha'dly git time ter draw
dey bref, en dey 'lows dey mought des ez well be dead ez alibe.'
"' Uh huh!' sez Aun' Peggy, sez she, 'I tol' you dat 'uz monst'us
pow'ful goopher, en its wuk doan 'pear all at once.'
"'Long ez we had dat noo nigger heah,' Solomon went on, 'he kep' Mars
Johnson busy pa't er de time; but now he 's gone erway, I s'pose de res'
un us'll ketch it wusser 'n eber.'
"'W'at's gone wid de noo nigger?' sez Aun' Peggy, rale quick, battin'
her eyes en straight'nin' up.
"'Ole Nick done sont 'im back ter Mars Dunkin, who had fotch 'im heah
fer ter pay a gamblin' debt ter Mars Jeems,' sez Solomon, 'en I heahs
Mars Dunkin has sol' 'im ter a nigger-trader up in Patesville, w'at 's
gwine ter ship 'im off wid a gang ter-morrer.'
"Ole Aun' Peggy 'peared ter git rale stirred up w'en Solomon tol' 'er
dat, en sez she, shakin' her stick at 'im:--
"'W'y did n' you come en tell me 'bout dis noo nigger bein' sol' erway?
Did n' you promus me, ef I 'd gib you dat goopher, you 'd come en 'po't
ter me 'bout all w'at wuz gwine on on dis plantation Co'se I could 'a'
foun' out fer myse'f, but I 'pended on yo' tellin' me, en now by not
doin' it I's feared you gwine spile my cunj'in'. You come down ter my
house ter-night en do w'at I tells you, er I'll put a spell on you dat
'll make yo' ha'r fall out so you'll be bal', en yo' eyes drap out so
you can't see, en yo teef fall out so you can't eat, en yo' years grow
up so you can't heah. Wen you is foolin' wid a cunjuh 'oman lack me, you
got ter min' yo' P's en Q's er dey'll be trouble sho' 'nuff.'
"So co'se Solomon went down ter Aun' Peggy's dat night, en she gun 'im a
roasted sweet'n' 'tater.
"'You take dis yer sweet'n' 'tater,' sez she,--'I done goophered it
'speshly fer dat noo nigger, so you better not eat it yo'se'f er you'll
wush you had n',--en slip off ter town, en fin' dat strange man, en gib
'im dis yer sweet'n' 'tater. He mus' eat it befo' mawnin', sho', ef he
doan wanter be sol' erway ter Noo Orleens.'
"'But s'posen de patteroles ketch me, Aun' Peggy, w'at I gwine ter do?'
"'De patteroles ain' gwine tech you, but ef you doan fin' dat nigger, _I
'm_ gwine git you, en you'll fin' me wusser 'n de patteroles. Des hol'
on a minute, en I'll sprinkle you wid some er dis mixtry out'n dis yer
bottle, so de patteroles can't see you, en you kin rub yo' feet wid some
er dis yer grease out'n dis go'd, so you kin run fas', en rub some un it
on yo' eyes so you kin see in de da'k; en den you mus' fin' dat noo
nigger en gib 'im dis yer 'tater, er you gwine ter hab mo' trouble on
yo' ban's 'n you eber had befo' in yo' life er eber will hab sence.'
"So Solomon tuk de sweet'n' 'tater en sta'ted up de road fas' ez he
could go, en befo' long he retch' town. He went right 'long by de
patteroles, en dey did n' 'pear ter notice 'im, en bimeby he foun' whar
de strange nigger was kep', en he walked right pas' de gyard at de do'
en foun' 'im. De nigger could n' see 'im, ob co'se, en he could n' 'a'
seed de nigger in de da'k, ef it had n' be'n fer de stuff Aun' Peggy gun
'im ter rub on 'is eyes. De nigger wuz layin' in a co'nder, 'sleep, en
Solomon des slip' up ter 'im, en hilt dat sweet'n' 'tater 'fo' de
nigger's nose, en he des nach'ly retch' up wid his han', en tuk de
'tater en eat it in his sleep, widout knowin' it. Wen Solomon seed he 'd
done eat de 'tater, he went back en tol' Aun' Peggy, en den went home
ter his cabin ter sleep, 'way 'long 'bout two o'clock in de mawnin'.
"De nex' day wuz Sunday, en so de niggers had a little time ter
deyse'ves. Solomon wuz kinder 'sturb' in his min' thinkin' 'bout his
junesey w'at 'uz gone away, en wond'rin' w'at Aun' Peggy had ter do wid
dat noo nigger; en he had sa'ntered up in de woods so 's ter be by
hisse'f a little, en at de same time ter look atter a rabbit-trap he'd
sot down in de aidge er de swamp, w'en who sh'd he see stan'in' unner a
tree but a w'ite man.
"Solomon did n' knowed de w'ite man at fus', 'tel de w'ite man spoke up
"'Is dat you, Solomon?' sezee.
"Den Solomon reco'nized de voice.
"'Fer de Lawd's sake, Mars Jeems! is dat you?'
"'Yas, Solomon,' sez his marster, 'dis is me, er w'at's lef er me.'
"It wa'n't no wonder Solomon had n' knowed Mars Jeems at fus', fer he
wuz dress' lack a po' w'ite man, en wuz barefooted, en look' monst'us
pale en peaked, ez ef he'd des come th'oo a ha'd spell er sickness.
"'You er lookin' kinder po'ly, Mars Jeems,' sez Solomon. 'Is you be'n
"'No, Solomon,' sez Mars Jeems, shakin' his head, en speakin' sorter
slow en sad, 'I ain' be'n sick, but I's had a monst'us bad dream,--fac',
a reg'lar, nach'ul nightmare. But tell me how things has be'n gwine on
up ter de plantation sence I be'n gone, Solomon.'
"So Solomon up en tol' 'im 'bout de craps, en 'bout de hosses en de
mules, en 'bout de cows en de hawgs. En w'en he 'mence' ter tell 'bout
de noo nigger, Mars Jeems prick' up 'is yeahs en listen', en eve'y now
en den he 'd say, 'Uh huh! uh huh!' en nod 'is head. En bimeby, w'en
he'd ax' Solomon some mo' queshtuns, he sez, sezee:--
"'Now, Solomon, I doan want you ter say a wo'd ter nobody 'bout meetin'
me heah, but I wants you ter slip up ter de house, en fetch me some
clo's en some shoes,--I fergot ter tell you dat a man rob' me back
yander on de road en swap' clo's wid me widout axin' me whuther er
no,--but you neenter say nuffin 'bout dat, nuther. You go en fetch me
some clo's heah, so nobody won't see you, en keep yo' mouf shet, en I
'll gib you a dollah.'
"Solomon wuz so 'stonish' he lack ter fell ober in his tracks, w'en Mars
Jeems promus' ter gib 'im a dollah. Dey su't'nly wuz a change come ober
Mars Jeems, w'en he offer' one er his niggers dat much money. Solomon
'mence' ter 'spec' dat Aun' Peggy's cunj'ation had be'n wukkin' monst'us
"Solomon fotch Mars Jeems some clo's en shoes, en dat same eb'nin' Mars
Jeems 'peared at de house, en let on lack he des dat minute got home fum
Robeson County. Mars Johnson was all ready ter talk ter 'im, but Mars
Jeems sont 'im wo'd he wa'n't feelin' ve'y well dat night, en he'd see
"So nex' mawnin' atter breakfus' Mars Jeems sont fer de oberseah, en ax'
'im fer ter gib 'count er his styoa'dship. Ole Nick tol' Mars Jeems how
much wuk be'n done, en got de books en showed 'im how much money be'n
save'. Den Mars Jeems ax' 'im how de darkies be'n behabin', en Mars
Johnson say dey be'n behabin' good, most un 'em, en dem w'at did n'
behabe good at fus' change dey conduc' atter he got holt un 'em a time
"'All,' sezee, ''cep'n' de noo nigger Mistah Dunkin fotch ober heah en
lef on trial, w'iles you wuz gone.'
"'Oh, yas,' 'lows Mars Jeems, 'tell me all 'bout dat noo nigger. I
heared a little 'bout dat quare noo nigger las' night, en it wuz des too
rediklus. Tell me all 'bout dat noo nigger.'
"So seein' Mars Jeems so good-na-chu'd 'bout it, Mars Johnson up en tol'
'im how he tied up de noo ban' de fus' day en gun 'im fo'ty 'ca'se he
would n' tell 'im 'is name.
"'Ha, ha, ha!' sez Mars Jeems, laffin' fit ter kill, 'but dat is too
funny fer any use. Tell me some mo' 'bout dat noo nigger.'
"So Mars Johnson went on en tol' 'im how he had ter starbe de noo nigger
'fo' he could make 'im take holt er a hoe.
"'Dat wuz de beatinis' notion fer a nigger,' sez Mars Jeems, 'puttin'
on airs, des lack he wuz a w'ite man! En I reckon you did n' do nuffin
"'Oh, no, suh,' sez de oberseah, grinnin' lack a chessy-cat, 'I did n'
do nuffin but take de hide off'n 'im.'
"Mars Jeems lafft en lafft, 'tel it 'peared lack he wuz des gwine ter
bu'st. '_Tell_ me some mo' 'bout dat noo nigger, oh, _tell_ me some mo'.
Dat noo nigger int'rusts me, he do, en dat is a fac'.'
"Mars Johnson did n' quite un'erstan' w'y Mars Jeems sh'd make sich a
great 'miration 'bout de noo nigger, but co'se he want' ter please de
gent'eman w'at hi'ed 'im, en so he 'splain' all 'bout how many times he
had ter cowhide de noo nigger, en how he made 'im do tasks twicet ez big
ez some er de yuther han's, en how he 'd chain 'im up in de ba'n at
night en feed 'im on co'n-bread en water.
"'Oh! but you is a monst'us good oberseah; you is de bes' oberseah in
dis county, Mistah Johnson,' sez Mars Jeems, w'en de oberseah got th'oo
wid his tale; 'en dey ain' nebber be'n no nigger-breaker lack you roun'
heah befo'. En you desarbes great credit fer sendin' dat nigger 'way
befo' you sp'ilt 'im fer de market. Fac', you is sech a monst'us good
oberseah, en you is got dis yer plantation in sech fine shape, dat I
reckon I doan need you no mo'. You is got dese yer darkies so well
train' dat I 'spec' I kin run 'em myse'f fum dis time on. But I does
wush you had 'a' hilt on ter dat noo nigger 'tel I got home, fer I 'd
'a' lack ter 'a' seed 'im, I su't'nly should.'
"De oberseah wuz so 'stonish' he did n' ha'dly know w'at ter say, but
fin'lly he ax' Mars Jeems ef he would n' gib'im a riccommen' fer ter git
"'No, suh,' sez Mars Jeems, 'somehow er 'nuther I doan lack yo' looks
sence I come back dis time, en I'd much ruther you would n' stay roun'
heah. Fac', I's feared ef I 'd meet you alone in de woods some time, I
mought wanter ha'm you. But layin' dat aside, I be'n lookin' ober dese
yer books er yo'n w'at you kep' w'iles I wuz 'way, en fer a yeah er so
back, en dere's some figgers w'at ain' des cl'ar ter me. I ain' got no
time fer ter talk 'bout 'em now, but I 'spec' befo' I settles wid you
fer dis las' mont', you better come up heah ter-morrer, atter I's look'
de books en 'counts ober some mo', en den we'll straighten ou' business
"Mars Jeems 'lowed atterwa'ds dat he wuz des shootin' in de da'k w'en he
said dat 'bout de books, but howsomeber, Mars Nick Johnson lef dat
naberhood 'twix' de nex' two suns, en nobody roun' dere nebber seed hide
ner hair un 'im sence. En all de darkies t'ank de Lawd, en 'lowed it
wuz a good riddance er bad rubbage.
"But all dem things I done tol' you ain' nuffin 'side'n de change w'at
come ober Mars Jeems fum dat time on. Aun' Peggy's goopher had made a
noo man un 'im enti'ely. De nex' day atter he come back, he tol' de
han's dey neenter wuk on'y fum sun ter sun, en he cut dey tasks down so
dey did n' nobody hab ter stan' ober 'em wid a rawhide er a hick'ry. En
he 'lowed ef de niggers want ter hab a dance in de big ba'n any Sad'day
night, dey mought hab it. En bimeby, w'en Solomon seed how good Mars
Jeems wuz, he ax' 'im ef he would n' please sen' down ter de yuther
plantation fer his junesey. Mars Jeems say su't'nly, en gun Solomon a
pass en a note ter de oberseah on de yuther plantation, en sont Solomon
down ter Robeson County wid a hoss en buggy fer ter fetch his junesey
back. Wen de niggers see how fine Mars Jeems gwine treat 'em, dey all
tuk ter sweethea'tin' en juneseyin' en singin' en dancin', en eight er
ten couples got married, en bimeby eve'ybody 'mence' ter say Mars Jeems
McLean got a finer plantation, en slicker-lookin' niggers, en dat he 'uz
makin' mo' cotton en co'n, dan any yuther gent'eman in de county. En
Mars Jeems's own junesey, Miss Libbie, heared 'bout de noo gwines-on on
Mars Jeems's plantation, en she change' her min' 'bout Mars Jeems en tuk
'im back ag'in, en 'fo' long dey had a fine weddin', en all de darkies
had a big feas', en dey wuz fiddlin' en dancin' en funnin' en frolic'in'
fum sundown 'tel mawnin'."
"And they all lived happy ever after," I said, as the old man reached a
"Yas, suh," he said, interpreting my remarks as a question, "dey did.
Solomon useter say," he added, "dat Aun' Peggy's goopher had turnt Mars
Jeems ter a nigger, en dat dat noo ban' wuz Mars Jeems hisse'f. But
co'se Solomon did n' das' ter let on 'bout w'at he 'spicioned, en ole
Aun' Peggy would 'a' 'nied it ef she had be'n ax', fer she 'd 'a' got in
trouble sho', ef it 'uz knowed she 'd be'n cunj'in' de w'ite folks.
"Dis yer tale goes ter show," concluded Julius sententiously, as the man
came up and announced that the spring was ready for us to get water,
"dat w'ite folks w'at is so ha'd en stric', en doan make no 'lowance fer
po' ign'ant niggers w'at ain' had no chanst ter l'arn, is li'ble ter hab
bad dreams, ter say de leas', en dat dem w'at is kin' en good ter po'
people is sho' ter prosper en git 'long in de worl'."
"That is a very strange story, Uncle Julius," observed my wife, smiling,
"and Solomon's explanation is quite improbable."
"Yes, Julius," said I, "that was powerful goopher. I am glad, too, that
you told us the moral of the story; it might have escaped us otherwise.
By the way, did you make that up all by yourself?"
The old man's face assumed an injured look, expressive more of sorrow
than of anger, and shaking his head he replied:--
"No, suh, I heared dat tale befo' you er Mis' Annie dere wuz bawn, suh.
My mammy tol' me dat tale w'en I wa'n't mo' d'n knee-high ter a
I drove to town next morning, on some business, and did not return until
noon; and after dinner I had to visit a neighbor, and did not get back
until supper-time. I was smoking a cigar on the back piazza in the early
evening, when I saw a familiar figure carrying a bucket of water to the
barn. I called my wife.
"My dear," I said severely, "what is that rascal doing here? I thought
I discharged him yesterday for good and all."
"Oh, yes," she answered, "I forgot to tell you. He was hanging round the
place all the morning, and looking so down in the mouth, that I told him
that if he would try to do better, we would give him one more chance. He
seems so grateful, and so really in earnest in his promises of
amendment, that I'm sure you'll not regret taking him back."
I was seriously enough annoyed to let my cigar go out. I did not share
my wife's rose-colored hopes in regard to Tom; but as I did not wish the
servants to think there was any conflict of authority in the household,
I let the boy stay.
THE CONJURER'S REVENGE
Sunday was sometimes a rather dull day at our place. In the morning,
when the weather was pleasant, my wife and I would drive to town, a
distance of about five miles, to attend the church of our choice. The
afternoons we spent at home, for the most part, occupying ourselves with
the newspapers and magazines, and the contents of a fairly good library.
We had a piano in the house, on which my wife played with skill and
feeling. I possessed a passable baritone voice, and could accompany
myself indifferently well when my wife was not by to assist me. When
these resources failed us, we were apt to find it a little dull.
One Sunday afternoon in early spring,--the balmy spring of North
Carolina, when the air is in that ideal balance between heat and cold
where one wishes it could always remain,--my wife and I were seated on
the front piazza, she wearily but conscientiously ploughing through a
missionary report, while I followed the impossible career of the blonde
heroine of a rudimentary novel. I had thrown the book aside in disgust,
when I saw Julius coming through the yard, under the spreading elms,
which were already in full leaf. He wore his Sunday clothes, and
advanced with a dignity of movement quite different from his week-day
"Have a seat, Julius," I said, pointing to an empty rocking-chair.
"No, thanky, boss, I'll des set here on de top step."
"Oh, no, Uncle Julius," exclaimed Annie, "take this chair. You will find
it much more comfortable."
The old man grinned in appreciation of her solicitude, and seated
himself somewhat awkwardly.
"Julius," I remarked, "I am thinking of setting out scuppernong vines on
that sand-hill where the three persimmon-trees are; and while I'm
working there, I think I'll plant watermelons between the vines, and
get a little something to pay for my first year's work. The new railroad
will be finished by the middle of summer, and I can ship the melons
North, and get a good price for them."
"Ef you er gwine ter hab any mo' ploughin' ter do," replied Julius, "I
'spec' you'll ha' ter buy ernudder creetur, 'ca'se hit's much ez dem
hosses kin do ter 'ten' ter de wuk dey got now."
"Yes, I had thought of that. I think I'll get a mule; a mule can do
more work, and doesn't require as much attention as a horse."
"I would n' 'vise you ter buy no mule," remarked Julius, with a shake
of his head.
"Well, you may 'low hit's all foolis'ness, but ef I wuz in yo' place, I
would n' buy no mule."
"But that isn't a reason; what objection have you to a mule?"
"Fac' is," continued the old man, in a serious tone, "I doan lack ter
dribe a mule. I 's alluz afeared I mought be imposin' on some human
creetur; eve'y time I cuts a mule wid a hick'ry, 'pears ter me mos'
lackly I's cuttin' some er my own relations, er somebody e'se w'at can't
"What put such an absurd idea into your head?" I asked.
My question was followed by a short silence, during which Julius seemed
engaged in a mental struggle.
"I dunno ez hit's wuf w'ile ter tell you dis," he said, at length. "I
doan ha'dly 'spec' fer you ter b'lieve it. Does you 'member dat
club-footed man w'at hilt de hoss fer you de yuther day w'en you was
gittin' out'n de rockaway down ter Mars Archie McMillan's sto'?"
"Yes, I believe I do remember seeing a club-footed man there."
"Did you eber see a club-footed nigger befo' er sence?"
"No, I can't remember that I ever saw a club-footed colored man," I
replied, after a moment's reflection.
"You en Mis' Annie would n' wanter b'lieve me, ef I wuz ter 'low dat dat
man was oncet a mule?"
"No," I replied, "I don't think it very likely that you could make us
"Why, Uncle Julius!" said Annie severely, "what ridiculous nonsense!"
This reception of the old man's statement reduced him to silence, and it
required some diplomacy on my part to induce him to vouchsafe an
explanation. The prospect of a long, dull afternoon was not alluring,
and I was glad to have the monotony of Sabbath quiet relieved by a
"W'en I wuz a young man," began Julius, when I had finally prevailed
upon him to tell us the story, "dat club-footed nigger--his name is
Primus--use' ter b'long ter ole Mars Jim McGee ober on de Lumbe'ton
plank-road. I use' ter go ober dere ter see a 'oman w'at libbed on de
plantation; dat 's how I come ter know all erbout it. Dis yer Primus wuz
de livelies' han' on de place, alluz a-dancin', en drinkin', en runnin'
roun', en singin', en pickin' de banjo; 'cep'n' once in a w'ile, w'en he
'd 'low he wa'n't treated right 'bout sump'n ernudder, he'd git so sulky
en stubborn dat de w'ite folks could n' ha'dly do nuffin wid 'im.
"It wuz 'gin' de rules fer any er de han's ter go 'way fum de
plantation at night; but Primus did n' min' de rules, en went w'en he
felt lack it; en de w'ite folks purten' lack dey did n' know it, fer
Primus was dange'ous w'en he got in dem stubborn spells, en dey 'd
ruther not fool wid 'im.
"One night in de spring er de year, Primus slip' off fum de plantation,
en went down on de Wim'l'ton Road ter a dance gun by some er de free
niggers down dere. Dey wuz a fiddle, en a banjo, en a jug gwine roun' on
de outside, en Primus sung en dance' 'tel 'long 'bout two o'clock in de
mawnin', w'en he start' fer home. Ez he come erlong back, he tuk a
nigh-cut 'cross de cottonfiel's en 'long by de aidge er de Min'al Spring
Swamp, so ez ter git shet er de patteroles w'at rid up en down de big
road fer ter keep de darkies fum runnin' roun' nights. Primus was
sa'nt'rin' 'long, studyin' 'bout de good time he 'd had wid de gals,
w'en, ez he wuz gwine by a fence co'nder, w'at sh'd he heah but sump'n
grunt. He stopped a minute ter listen, en he heared sump'n grunt ag'in.
Den he went ober ter de fence whar he heard de fuss, en dere, layin' in
de fence co'nder, on a pile er pine straw, he seed a fine, fat shote.
"Primus look' ha'd at de shote, en den sta'ted home. But somehow er
'nudder he could n' git away fum dat shote; w'en he tuk one step
for'ards wid one foot, de yuther foot 'peared ter take two steps
back'ards, en so he kep' nachly gittin' closeter en closeter ter de
shote. It was de beatin'es' thing! De shote des 'peared ter cha'm
Primus, en fus' thing you know Primus foun' hisse'f 'way up de road wid
de shote on his back.
"Ef Primus had 'a' knowed whose shote dat wuz, he 'd 'a' manage' ter git
pas' it somehow er 'nudder. Ez it happen', de shote b'long ter a cunjuh
man w'at libbed down in de free-nigger sett'ement. Co'se de cunjuh man
did n' hab ter wuk his roots but a little w'ile 'fo' he foun' out who
tuk his shote, en den de trouble begun. One mawnin', a day er so later,
en befo' he got de shote eat up, Primus did n' go ter wuk w'en de hawn
blow, en w'en de oberseah wen' ter look fer him, dey wa' no trace er
Primus ter be 'skivered nowhar. W'en he did n' come back in a day er so
mo', eve'ybody on de plantation 'lowed he had runned erway. His marster
a'vertise' him in de papers, en offered a big reward fer 'im. De
nigger-ketchers fotch out dey dogs, en track' 'im down ter de aidge er
de swamp, en den de scent gun out; en dat was de las' anybody seed er
Primus fer a long, long time.
"Two er th'ee weeks atter Primus disappear', his marster went ter town
one Sad'day. Mars Jim was stan'in' in front er Sandy Campbell's
bar-room, up by de ole wagon-ya'd, w'en a po' w'ite man fum down on de
Wim'l'ton Road come up ter 'im en ax' 'im, kinder keerless lack, ef he
did n' wanter buy a mule.
"'I dunno,' says Mars Jim; 'it 'pen's on de mule, en on de price. Whar
is de mule?'
"'Des 'roun' heah back er ole Tom McAllister's sto',' says de po' w'ite
"'I reckon I'll hab a look at de mule,' says Mars Jim, 'en ef he suit
me, I dunno but w'at I mought buy 'im.'
"So de po' w'ite man tuk Mars Jim 'roun' back er de sto', en dere stood
a monst'us fine mule. W'en de mule see Mars Jim, he gun a whinny, des
lack he knowed him befo'. Mars Jim look' at de mule, en de mule 'peared
ter be soun' en strong. Mars Jim 'lowed dey 'peared ter be sump'n
fermilyus 'bout de mule's face, 'spesh'ly his eyes; but he had n' los'
naer mule, en did n' hab no recommemb'ance er habin' seed de mule befo'.
He ax' de po' buckrah whar he got de mule, en de po' buckrah say his
brer raise' de mule down on Rockfish Creek. Mars Jim was a little
s'picious er seein' a po' w'ite man wid sech a fine creetur, but he
fin'lly 'greed ter gib de man fifty dollars fer de mule,--'bout ha'f
w'at a good mule was wuf dem days.
"He tied de mule behin' de buggy w'en he went home, en put 'im ter
ploughin' cotton de nex' day. De mule done mighty well fer th'ee er fo'
days, en den de niggers 'mence' ter notice some quare things erbout him.
Dey wuz a medder on de plantation whar dey use' ter put de hosses en
mules ter pastur'. Hit was fence' off fum de cornfiel' on one side, but
on de yuther side'n de pastur' was a terbacker-patch w'at wa'n't fence'
off, 'ca'se de beastisses doan none un 'em eat terbacker. Dey doan know
w'at 's good! Terbacker is lack religion, de good Lawd made it fer
people, en dey ain' no yuther creetur w'at kin 'preciate it. De darkies
notice' dat de fus' thing de new mule done, w'en he was turnt inter de
pastur', wuz ter make fer de terbacker-patch. Co'se dey didn' think
nuffin un it, but nex' mawnin', w'en dey went ter ketch 'im, dey
'skivered dat he had eat up two whole rows er terbacker plants. Atter
dat dey had ter put a halter on 'im, en tie 'im ter a stake, er e'se dey
would n' 'a' been naer leaf er terbacker lef' in de patch.
"Ernudder day one er de han's, name' 'Dolphus, hitch' de mule up, en
dribe up here ter dis yer vimya'd,--dat wuz w'en ole Mars Dugal' own'
dis place. Mars Dugal' had kilt a yearlin', en de naber w'ite folks all
sont ober fer ter git some fraish beef, en Mars Jim had sont 'Dolphus
fer some too. Dey wuz a winepress in de ya'd whar 'Dolphus lef' de mule
a-stan'in', en right in front er de press dey wuz a tub er grape-juice,
des pressed out, en a little ter one side a bairl erbout half full er
wine w'at had be'n stan'in' two er th'ee days, en had begun ter git
sorter sha'p ter de tas'e. Dey wuz a couple er bo'ds on top er dis yer
bairl, wid a rock laid on 'em ter hol' 'em down. Ez I wuz a-sayin',
'Dolphus lef' de mule stan'in' in de ya'd, en went inter de smoke-house
fer ter git de beef. Bimeby, w'en he come out, he seed de mule
a-stagg'rin' 'bout de ya'd; en 'fo' 'Dolphus could git dere ter fin' out
w'at wuz de matter, de mule fell right ober on his side, en laid dere
des' lack he was dead.
"All de niggers 'bout de house run out dere fer ter see w'at wuz de
matter. Some say de mule had de colic; some say one thing en some
ernudder; 'tel bimeby one er de han's seed de top wuz off'n de bairl, en
run en looked in.
"'Fo' de Lawd!' he say, 'dat mule drunk! he be'n drinkin' de wine.' En
sho' 'nuff, de mule had pas' right by de tub er fraish grape-juice en
push' de kiver off'n de bairl, en drunk two er th'ee gallon er de wine
w'at had been stan'in' long ernough fer ter begin ter git sha'p.
"De darkies all made a great 'miration 'bout de mule gittin' drunk. Dey
never had n' seed nuffin lack it in dey bawn days. Dey po'd water ober
de mule, en tried ter sober 'im up; but it wa'n't no use, en 'Dolphus
had ter take de beef home on his back, en leabe de mule dere, 'tel he
slep' off 'is spree.
"I doan 'member whe'r I tol' you er no, but w'en Primus disappear' fum
de plantation, he lef' a wife behin' 'im,--a monst'us good-lookin'
yaller gal, name' Sally. W'en Primus had be'n gone a mont' er so, Sally
'mence' fer ter git lonesome, en tuk up wid ernudder young man name'
Dan, w'at b'long' on de same plantation. One day dis yer Dan tuk de noo
mule out in de cotton-fiel' fer ter plough, en w'en dey wuz gwine 'long
de tu'n-row, who sh'd he meet but dis yer Sally. Dan look' 'roun' en he
did n' see de oberseah nowhar, so he stop' a minute fer ter run on wid
"'Hoddy, honey,' sezee. 'How you feelin' dis mawnin'?'
"'Fus' rate,' 'spon' Sally.
"Dey wuz lookin' at one ernudder, en dey did n' naer one un 'em pay no
'tention ter de mule, who had turnt 'is head 'roun' en wuz lookin' at
Sally ez ha'd ez he could, en stretchin' 'is neck en raisin' 'is years,
en whinnyin' kinder sof' ter hisse'f.
"'Yas, honey,' 'lows Dan, 'en you gwine ter feel fus' rate long ez you
sticks ter me. Fer I's a better man dan dat low-down runaway nigger
Primus dat you be'n wastin' yo' time wid.'
"Dan had let go de plough-handle, en had put his arm 'roun' Sally, en
wuz des gwine ter kiss her, w'en sump'n ketch' 'im by de scruff er de
neck en flung 'im 'way ober in de cotton-patch. W'en he pick' 'isse'f
up, Sally had gone kitin' down de tu'n-row, en de mule wuz stan'in' dere
lookin' ez ca'm en peaceful ez a Sunday mawnin'.
"Fus' Dan had 'lowed it wuz de oberseah w'at had cotch' 'im wastin' 'is
time. But dey wa'n't no oberseah in sight, so he 'cluded it must 'a'
be'n de mule. So he pitch' inter de mule en lammed 'im ez ha'd ez he
could. De mule tuk it all, en 'peared ter be ez 'umble ez a mule could
be; but w'en dey wuz makin' de turn at de een' er de row, one er de
plough-lines got under de mule's hin' leg. Dan retch' down ter git de
line out, sorter keerless like, w'en de mule haul' off en kick him clean
ober de fence inter a brier-patch on de yuther side.
"Dan wuz mighty so' fum 'is woun's en scratches, en wuz laid up fer two
er th'ee days. One night de noo mule got out'n de pastur', en went down
to de quarters. Dan wuz layin' dere on his pallet, w'en he heard sump'n
bangin' erway at de side er his cabin. He raise' up on one shoulder en
look' roun', w'en w'at should he see but de noo mule's head stickin' in
de winder, wid his lips drawed back over his toofs, grinnin' en snappin'
at Dan des' lack he wanter eat 'im up. Den de mule went roun' ter de
do', en kick' erway lack he wanter break de do' down, 'tel bimeby
somebody come 'long en driv him back ter de pastur'. W'en Sally come in
a little later fum de big house, whar she 'd be'n waitin' on de w'ite
folks, she foun' po' Dan nigh 'bout dead, he wuz so skeered. She 'lowed
Dan had had de nightmare; but w'en dey look' at de do', dey seed de
marks er de mule's huffs, so dey could n' be no mistake 'bout w'at had
"Co'se de niggers tol' dey marster 'bout de mule's gwines-on. Fust he
did n' pay no 'tention ter it, but atter a w'ile he tol' 'em ef dey did
n' stop dey foolis'ness, he gwine tie some un 'em up. So atter dat dey
did n' say nuffin mo' ter dey marster, but dey kep' on noticin' de
mule's quare ways des de same.
"'Long 'bout de middle er de summer dey wuz a big camp-meetin' broke out
down on de Wim'l'ton Road, en nigh 'bout all de po' w'ite folks en free
niggers in de settlement got 'ligion, en lo en behol'! 'mongs' 'em wuz
de cunjuh man w'at own' de shote w'at cha'med Primus.
"Dis cunjuh man wuz a Guinea nigger, en befo' he wuz sot free had use'
ter b'long ter a gent'eman down in Sampson County. De cunjuh man say his
daddy wuz a king, er a guv'ner, er some sorter w'at-you-may-call-'em
'way ober yander in Affiky whar de niggers come fum, befo' he was
stoled erway en sol' ter de spekilaters. De cunjuh man had he'ped his
marster out'n some trouble ernudder wid his goopher, en his marster had
sot him free, en bought him a trac' er land down on de Wim'l'ton Road.
He purten' ter be a cow-doctor, but eve'ybody knowed w'at he r'al'y wuz.
"De cunjuh man had n' mo' d'n come th'oo good, befo' he wuz tuk sick wid
a col' w'at he kotch kneelin' on de groun' so long at de mou'ners'
bench. He kep' gittin' wusser en wusser, en bimeby de rheumatiz tuk holt
er 'im, en drawed him all up, 'tel one day he sont word up ter Mars Jim
McGee's plantation, en ax' Pete, de nigger w'at tuk keer er de mules,
fer ter come down dere dat night en fetch dat mule w'at his marster had
bought fum de po' w'ite man dyoin' er de summer.
"Pete did n' know w'at de cunjuh man wuz dribin' at, but he did n'
daster stay way; en so dat night, w'en he 'd done eat his bacon en his
hoe-cake, en drunk his 'lasses-en-water, he put a bridle on de mule, en
rid 'im down ter de cunjuh man's cabin. W'en he got ter de do', he lit
en hitch' de mule, en den knock' at de do'. He felt mighty jubous 'bout
gwine in, but he was bleedst ter do it; he knowed he could n' he'p
"'Pull de string,' sez a weak voice, en w'en Pete lif de latch en went
in, de cunjuh man was layin' on de bed, lookin' pale en weak, lack he
did n' hab much longer fer ter lib.
"'Is you fotch' de mule?' sezee.
"Pete say yas, en de cunjuh man kep' on.
"'Brer Pete,' sezee, 'I's be'n a monst'us sinner man, en I's done a
power er wickedness endyoin' er my days; but de good Lawd is wash' my
sins erway, en I feels now dat I's boun' fer de kingdom. En I feels,
too, dat I ain' gwine ter git up fum dis bed no mo' in dis worl', en I
wants ter ondo some er de harm I done. En dat's de reason, Brer Pete, I
sont fer you ter fetch dat mule down here. You 'member dat shote I was
up ter yo' plantation inquirin' 'bout las' June?'
"'Yas,' says Brer Pete, 'I'member yo' axin' 'bout a shote you had
"'I dunno whe'r you eber l'arnt it er no,' says de cunjuh man, 'but I
done knowed yo' marster's Primus had tuk de shote, en I wuz boun' ter
git eben wid 'im. So one night I cotch' 'im down by de swamp on his way
ter a candy-pullin', en I th'owed a goopher mixtry on 'im, en turnt 'im
ter a mule, en got a po' w'ite man ter sell de mule, en we 'vided de
money. But I doan want ter die 'tel I turn Brer Primus back ag'in.'
"Den de cunjuh man ax' Pete ter take down one er two go'ds off'n a
she'f in de corner, en one er two bottles wid some kin' er mixtry in
'em, en set 'em on a stool by de bed; en den he ax' 'im ter fetch de
"W'en de mule come in de do', he gin a snort, en started fer de bed, des
lack he was gwine ter jump on it.
"'Hol' on dere, Brer Primus!' de cunjuh man hollered. 'I's monst'us
weak, en ef you 'mence on me, you won't nebber hab no chance fer ter git
turn' back no mo'.'
"De mule seed de sense er dat, en stood still. Den de cunjuh man tuk de
go'ds en bottles, en 'mence' ter wuk de roots en yarbs, en de mule
'mence' ter turn back ter a man,--fust his years, den de res' er his
head, den his shoulders en arms. All de time de cunjuh man kep' on
wukkin' his roots; en Pete en Primus could see he wuz gittin' weaker en
weaker all de time.
"'Brer Pete,' sezee, bimeby, 'gimme a drink er dem bitters out'n dat
green bottle on de she'f yander. I's gwine fas', en it'll gimme strenk
fer ter finish dis wuk.'
"Brer Pete look' up on de mantelpiece, en he seed a bottle in de corner.
It was so da'k in de cabin he could n' tell whe'r it wuz a green bottle
er no. But he hilt de bottle ter de cunjuh man's mouf, en he tuk a big
mouff'l. He had n' mo' d'n swallowed it befo' he 'mence' ter holler.
"'You gimme de wrong bottle, Brer Pete; dis yer bottle 's got pizen in
it, en I's done fer dis time, sho'. Hol' me up, fer de Lawd's sake! 'tel
I git th'oo turnin' Brer Primus back.'
"So Pete hilt him up, en he kep' on wukkin' de roots, 'tel he got de
goopher all tuk off'n Brer Primus 'cep'n' one foot. He had n' got dis
foot mo' d'n half turnt back befo' his strenk gun out enti'ely, en he
drap' de roots en fell back on de bed.
"'I can't do no mo' fer you, Brer Primus,' sezee, 'but I hopes you will
fergib me fer w'at harm I done you. I knows de good Lawd done fergib me,
en I hope ter meet you bofe in glory. I sees de good angels waitin' fer
me up yander, wid a long w'ite robe en a starry crown, en I'm on my way
ter jine 'em.' En so de cunjuh man died, en Pete en Primus went back ter
"De darkies all made a great 'miration w'en Primus come back. Mars Jim
let on lack he did n' b'lieve de tale de two niggers tol'; he sez Primus
had runned erway, en stay' 'tel he got ti'ed er de swamps, en den come
back on him ter be fed. He tried ter 'count fer de shape er Primus' foot
by sayin' Primus got his foot smash', er snake-bit, er sump'n, w'iles he
wuz erway, en den stayed out in de woods whar he could n' git it kyoed
up straight, 'stidder comin' long home whar a doctor could 'a' 'tended
ter it. But de niggers all notice' dey marster did n' tie Primus up, ner
take on much 'ca'se de mule wuz gone. So dey 'lowed dey marster must 'a'
had his s'picions 'bout dat cunjuh man."
My wife had listened to Julius's recital with only a mild interest. When
the old man had finished it she remarked:--
"That story does not appeal to me, Uncle Julius, and is not up to your
usual mark. It isn't pathetic, it has no moral that I can discover, and
I can't see why you should tell it. In fact, it seems to me like