Part 2 out of 8
accurately. Indeed, it called for a man much darker than myself,
and close examination of it would have caused my arrest at the
In order to avoid this fatal scrutiny on the part of railroad
officials, I arranged with Isaac Rolls, a Baltimore hackman, to
bring my baggage to the Philadelphia train just on the moment of
starting, and jumped upon the car myself when the train was in
motion. Had I gone into the station and offered to purchase a
ticket, I should have been instantly and carefully examined, and
undoubtedly arrested. In choosing this plan I considered the
jostle of the train, and the natural haste of the conductor, in a
train crowded with passengers, and relied upon my skill and
address in playing the sailor, as described in my protection, to
do the rest. One element in my favor was the kind feeling which
prevailed in Baltimore and other sea-ports at the time, toward
"those who go down to the sea in ships." "Free trade and sailors'
rights" just then expressed the sentiment of the country. In my
clothing I was rigged out in sailor style. I had on a red shirt
and a tarpaulin hat, and a black cravat tied in sailor fashion
carelessly and loosely about my neck. My knowledge of ships and
sailor's talk came much to my assistance, for I knew a ship from
stem to stern, and from keelson to cross-trees, and could talk
sailor like an "old salt." I was well on the way to Havre de
Grace before the conductor came into the negro car to collect
tickets and examine the papers of his black passengers. This was
a critical moment in the drama. My whole future depended upon the
decision of this conductor. Agitated though I was while this
ceremony was proceeding, still, externally, at least, I was
apparently calm and self-possessed. He went on with his duty--
examining several colored passengers before reaching me. He was
somewhat harsh in tome and peremptory in manner until he reached
me, when, strange enough, and to my surprise and relief, his whole
manner changed. Seeing that I did not readily produce my free
papers, as the other colored persons in the car had done, he said
to me, in friendly contrast with his bearing toward the others:
"I suppose you have your free papers?"
To which I answered:
"No sir; I never carry my free papers to sea with me."
"But you have something to show that you are a freeman, haven't
"Yes, sir," I answered; "I have a paper with the American Eagle on
it, and that will carry me around the world."
With this I drew from my deep sailor's pocket my seaman's
protection, as before described. The merest glance at the paper
satisfied him, and he took my fare and went on about his business.
This moment of time was one of the most anxious I ever
experienced. Had the conductor looked closely at the paper, he
could not have failed to discover that it called for a very
different-looking person from myself, and in that case it would
have been his duty to arrest me on the instant, and send me back
to Baltimore from the first station. When he left me with the
assurance that I was all right, though much relieved, I realized
that I was still in great danger: I was still in Maryland, and
subject to arrest at any moment. I saw on the train several
persons who would have known me in any other clothes, and I feared
they might recognize me, even in my sailor "rig," and report me to
the conductor, who would then subject me to a closer examination,
which I knew well would be fatal to me.
Though I was not a murderer fleeing from justice, I felt perhaps
quite as miserable as such a criminal. The train was moving at a
very high rate of speed for that epoch of railroad travel, but to
my anxious mind it was moving far too slowly. Minutes were hours,
and hours were days during this part of my flight. After
Maryland, I was to pass through Delaware--another slave State,
where slave-catchers generally awaited their prey, for it was not
in the interior of the State, but on its borders, that these human
hounds were most vigilant and active. The border lines between
slavery and freedom were the dangerous ones for the fugitives.
The heart of no fox or deer, with hungry hounds on his trail in
full chase, could have beaten more anxiously or noisily than did
mine from the time I left Baltimore till I reached Philadelphia.
The passage of the Susquehanna River at Havre de Grace was at that
time made by ferry-boat, on board of which I met a young colored
man by the name of Nichols, who came very near betraying me. He
was a "hand" on the boat, but, instead of minding his business, he
insisted upon knowing me, and asking me dangerous questions as to
where I was going, when I was coming back, etc. I got away from
my old and inconvenient acquaintance as soon as I could decently
do so, and went to another part of the boat. Once across the
river, I encountered a new danger. Only a few days before, I had
been at work on a revenue cutter, in Mr. Price's ship-yard in
Baltimore, under the care of Captain McGowan. On the meeting at
this point of the two trains, the one going south stopped on the
track just opposite to the one going north, and it so happened
that this Captain McGowan sat at a window where he could see me
very distinctly, and would certainly have recognized me had he
looked at me but for a second. Fortunately, in the hurry of the
moment, he did not see me; and the trains soon passed each other
on their respective ways. But this was not my only hair-breadth
escape. A German blacksmith whom I knew well was on the train
with me, and looked at me very intently, as if he thought he had
seen me somewhere before in his travels. I really believe he knew
me, but had no heart to betray me. At any rate, he saw me
escaping and held his peace.
The last point of imminent danger, and the one I dreaded most, was
Wilmington. Here we left the train and took the steam-boat for
Philadelphia. In making the change here I again apprehended
arrest, but no one disturbed me, and I was soon on the broad and
beautiful Delaware, speeding away to the Quaker City. On reaching
Philadelphia in the afternoon, I inquired of a colored man how I
could get on to New York. He directed me to the William-street
depot, and thither I went, taking the train that night. I reached
New York Tuesday morning, having completed the journey in less
than twenty-four hours.
My free life began on the third of September, 1838. On the
morning of the fourth of that month, after an anxious and most
perilous but safe journey, I found myself in the big city of New
York, a FREE MAN--one more added to the mighty throng which, like
the confused waves of the troubled sea, surged to and fro between
the lofty walls of Broadway. Though dazzled with the wonders
which met me on every hand, my thoughts could not be much
withdrawn from my strange situation. For the moment, the dreams
of my youth and the hopes of my manhood were completely fulfilled.
The bonds that had held me to "old master" were broken. No man
now had a right to call me his slave or assert mastery over me. I
was in the rough and tumble of an outdoor world, to take my chance
with the rest of its busy number. I have often been asked how I
felt when first I found myself on free soil. There is scarcely
anything in my experience about which I could not give a more
satisfactory answer. A new world had opened upon me. If life is
more than breath and the "quick round of blood," I lived more in
that one day than in a year of my slave life. It was a time of
joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe. In a
letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said:
"I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions."
Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted; but
gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or
pencil. During ten or fifteen years I had been, as it were,
dragging a heavy chain which no strength of mine could break; I
was not only a slave, but a slave for life. I might become a
husband, a father, an aged man, but through all, from birth to
death, from the cradle to the grave, I had felt myself doomed.
All efforts I had previously made to secure my freedom had not
only failed, but had seemed only to rivet my fetters the more
firmly, and to render my escape more difficult. Baffled,
entangled, and discouraged, I had at times asked myself the
question, May not my condition after all be God's work, and
ordered for a wise purpose, and if so, Is not submission my duty?
A contest had in fact been going on in my mind for a long time,
between the clear consciousness of right and the plausible make-
shifts of theology and superstition. The one held me an abject
slave--a prisoner for life, punished for some transgression in
which I had no lot nor part; and the other counseled me to manly
endeavor to secure my freedom. This contest was now ended; my
chains were broken, and the victory brought me unspeakable joy.
But my gladness was short-lived, for I was not yet out of the
reach and power of the slave-holders. I soon found that New York
was not quite so free or so safe a refuge as I had supposed, and a
sense of loneliness and insecurity again oppressed me most sadly.
I chanced to meet on the street, a few hours after my landing, a
fugitive slave whom I had once known well in slavery. The
information received from him alarmed me. The fugitive in
question was known in Baltimore as "Allender's Jake," but in New
York he wore the more respectable name of "William Dixon." Jake,
in law, was the property of Doctor Allender, and Tolly Allender,
the son of the doctor, had once made an effort to recapture MR.
DIXON, but had failed for want of evidence to support his claim.
Jake told me the circumstances of this attempt, and how narrowly
he escaped being sent back to slavery and torture. He told me
that New York was then full of Southerners returning from the
Northern watering-places; that the colored people of New York
were not to be trusted; that there were hired men of my own color
who would betray me for a few dollars; that there were hired men
ever on the lookout for fugitives; that I must trust no man with
my secret; that I must not think of going either upon the wharves
or into any colored boarding-house, for all such places were
closely watched; that he was himself unable to help me; and, in
fact, he seemed while speaking to me to fear lest I myself might
be a spy and a betrayer. Under this apprehension, as I suppose,
he showed signs of wishing to be rid of me, and with whitewash
brush in hand, in search of work, he soon disappeared.
This picture, given by poor "Jake," of New York, was a damper to
my enthusiasm. My little store of money would soon be exhausted,
and since it would be unsafe for me to go on the wharves for work,
and I had no introductions elsewhere, the prospect for me was far
from cheerful. I saw the wisdom of keeping away from the ship-
yards, for, if pursued, as I felt certain I should be, Mr. Auld,
my "master," would naturally seek me there among the calkers.
Every door seemed closed against me. I was in the midst of an
ocean of my fellow-men, and yet a perfect stranger to every one.
I was without home, without acquaintance, without money, without
credit, without work, and without any definite knowledge as to
what course to take, or where to look for succor. In such an
extremity, a man had something besides his new-born freedom to
think of. While wandering about the streets of New York, and
lodging at least one night among the barrels on one of the
wharves, I was indeed free--from slavery, but free from food and
shelter as well. I kept my secret to myself as long as I could,
but I was compelled at last to seek some one who would befriend me
without taking advantage of my destitution to betray me. Such a
person I found in a sailor named Stuart, a warm-hearted and
generous fellow, who, from his humble home on Centre street, saw
me standing on the opposite sidewalk, near the Tombs prison. As
he approached me, I ventured a remark to him which at once
enlisted his interest in me. He took me to his home to spend the
night, and in the morning went with me to Mr. David Ruggles, the
secretary of the New York Vigilance Committee, a co-worker with
Isaac T. Hopper, Lewis and Arthur Tappan, Theodore S. Wright,
Samuel Cornish, Thomas Downing, Philip A. Bell, and other true men
of their time. All these (save Mr. Bell, who still lives, and is
editor and publisher of a paper called the "Elevator," in San
Francisco) have finished their work on earth. Once in the hands
of these brave and wise men, I felt comparatively safe. With Mr.
Ruggles, on the corner of Lispenard and Church streets, I was
hidden several days, during which time my intended wife came on
from Baltimore at my call, to share the burdens of life with me.
She was a free woman, and came at once on getting the good news of
my safety. We were married by Rev. J. W. C. Pennington, then a
well-known and respected Presbyterian minister. I had no money
with which to pay the marriage fee, but he seemed well pleased
with our thanks.
Mr. Ruggles was the first officer on the "Underground Railroad"
whom I met after coming North, and was, indeed, the only one with
whom I had anything to do till I became such an officer myself.
Learning that my trade was that of a calker, he promptly decided
that the best place for me was in New Bedford, Mass. He told me
that many ships for whaling voyages were fitted out there, and
that I might there find work at my trade and make a good living.
So, on the day of the marriage ceremony, we took our little
luggage to the steamer JOHN W. RICHMOND, which, at that time, was
one of the line running between New York and Newport, R. I.
Forty-three years ago colored travelers were not permitted in the
cabin, nor allowed abaft the paddle-wheels of a steam vessel.
They were compelled, whatever the weather might be,--whether cold
or hot, wet or dry,--to spend the night on deck. Unjust as this
regulation was, it did not trouble us much; we had fared much
harder before. We arrived at Newport the next morning, and soon
after an old fashioned stage-coach, with "New Bedford" in large
yellow letters on its sides, came down to the wharf. I had not
money enough to pay our fare, and stood hesitating what to do.
Fortunately for us, there were two Quaker gentlemen who were about
to take passage on the stage,--Friends William C. Taber and Joseph
Ricketson,--who at once discerned our true situation, and, in a
peculiarly quiet way, addressing me, Mr. Taber said: "Thee get
in." I never obeyed an order with more alacrity, and we were soon
on our way to our new home. When we reached "Stone Bridge" the
passengers alighted for breakfast, and paid their fares to the
driver. We took no breakfast, and, when asked for our fares, I
told the driver I would make it right with him when we reached New
Bedford. I expected some objection to this on his part, but he
made none. When, however, we reached New Bedford, he took our
baggage, including three music-books,--two of them collections by
Dyer, and one by Shaw,--and held them until I was able to redeem
them by paying to him the amount due for our rides. This was soon
done, for Mr. Nathan Johnson not only received me kindly and
hospitably, but, on being informed about our baggage, at once
loaned me the two dollars with which to square accounts with the
stage-driver. Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Johnson reached a good old age,
and now rest from their labors. I am under many grateful
obligations to them. They not only "took me in when a stranger"
and "fed me when hungry," but taught me how to make an honest
living. Thus, in a fortnight after my flight from Maryland, I was
safe in New Bedford, a citizen of the grand old commonwealth of
Once initiated into my new life of freedom and assured by Mr.
Johnson that I need not fear recapture in that city, a
comparatively unimportant question arose as to the name by which I
should be known thereafter in my new relation as a free man. The
name given me by my dear mother was no less pretentious and long
than Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. I had, however, while
living in Maryland, dispensed with the Augustus Washington, and
retained only Frederick Bailey. Between Baltimore and New
Bedford, the better to conceal myself from the slave-hunters, I
had parted with Bailey and called myself Johnson; but in New
Bedford I found that the Johnson family was already so numerous as
to cause some confusion in distinguishing them, hence a change in
this name seemed desirable. Nathan Johnson, mine host, placed
great emphasis upon this necessity, and wished me to allow him to
select a name for me. I consented, and he called me by my present
name--the one by which I have been known for three and forty
years--Frederick Douglass. Mr. Johnson had just been reading the
"Lady of the Lake," and so pleased was he with its great character
that he wished me to bear his name. Since reading that charming
poem myself, I have often thought that, considering the noble
hospitality and manly character of Nathan Johnson--black man
though he was--he, far more than I, illustrated the virtues of the
Douglas of Scotland. Sure am I that, if any slave-catcher had
entered his domicile with a view to my recapture, Johnson would
have shown himself like him of the "stalwart hand."
The reader may be surprised at the impressions I had in some way
conceived of the social and material condition of the people at
the North. I had no proper idea of the wealth, refinement,
enterprise, and high civilization of this section of the country.
My "Columbian Orator," almost my only book, had done nothing to
enlighten me concerning Northern society. I had been taught that
slavery was the bottom fact of all wealth. With this foundation
idea, I came naturally to the conclusion that poverty must be the
general condition of the people of the free States. In the
country from which I came, a white man holding no slaves was
usually an ignorant and poverty-stricken man, and men of this
class were contemptuously called "poor white trash." Hence I
supposed that, since the non-slave-holders at the South were
ignorant, poor, and degraded as a class, the non-slave-holders at
the North must be in a similar condition. I could have landed in
no part of the United States where I should have found a more
striking and gratifying contrast, not only to life generally in
the South, but in the condition of the colored people there, than
in New Bedford. I was amazed when Mr. Johnson told me that there
was nothing in the laws or constitution of Massachusetts that
would prevent a colored man from being governor of the State, if
the people should see fit to elect him. There, too, the black
man's children attended the public schools with the white man's
children, and apparently without objection from any quarter. To
impress me with my security from recapture and return to slavery,
Mr. Johnson assured me that no slave-holder could take a slave out
of New Bedford; that there were men there who would lay down their
lives to save me from such a fate.
The fifth day after my arrival, I put on the clothes of a common
laborer, and went upon the wharves in search of work. On my way
down Union street I saw a large pile of coal in front of the house
of Rev. Ephraim Peabody, the Unitarian minister. I went to the
kitchen door and asked the privilege of bringing in and putting
away this coal. "What will you charge?" said the lady. "I will
leave that to you, madam." "You may put it away," she said. I
was not long in accomplishing the job, when the dear lady put into
my hand TWO SILVER HALF-DOLLARS. To understand the emotion which
swelled my heart as I clasped this money, realizing that I had no
master who could take it from me,--THAT IT WAS MINE--THAT MY HANDS
WERE MY OWN, and could earn more of the precious coin,--one must
have been in some sense himself a slave. My next job was stowing
a sloop at Uncle Gid. Howland's wharf with a cargo of oil for New
York. I was not only a freeman, but a free working-man, and no
"master" stood ready at the end of the week to seize my hard
The season was growing late and work was plenty. Ships were being
fitted out for whaling, and much wood was used in storing them.
The sawing this wood was considered a good job. With the help of
old Friend Johnson (blessings on his memory) I got a saw and
"buck," and went at it. When I went into a store to buy a cord
with which to brace up my saw in the frame, I asked for a "fip's"
worth of cord. The man behind the counter looked rather sharply
at me, and said with equal sharpness, "You don't belong about
here." I was alarmed, and thought I had betrayed myself. A fip
in Maryland was six and a quarter cents, called fourpence in
Massachusetts. But no harm came from the "fi'penny-bit" blunder,
and I confidently and cheerfully went to work with my saw and
buck. It was new business to me, but I never did better work, or
more of it, in the same space of time on the plantation for Covey,
the negro-breaker, than I did for myself in these earliest years
of my freedom.
Notwithstanding the just and humane sentiment of New Bedford three
and forty years ago, the place was not entirely free from race and
color prejudice. The good influence of the Roaches, Rodmans,
Arnolds, Grinnells, and Robesons did not pervade all classes of
its people. The test of the real civilization of the community
came when I applied for work at my trade, and then my repulse was
emphatic and decisive. It so happened that Mr. Rodney French, a
wealthy and enterprising citizen, distinguished as an anti-slavery
man, was fitting out a vessel for a whaling voyage, upon which
there was a heavy job of calking and coppering to be done. I had
some skill in both branches, and applied to Mr. French for work.
He, generous man that he was, told me he would employ me, and I
might go at once to the vessel. I obeyed him, but upon reaching
the float-stage, where others [sic] calkers were at work, I was
told that every white man would leave the ship, in her unfinished
condition, if I struck a blow at my trade upon her. This uncivil,
inhuman, and selfish treatment was not so shocking and scandalous
in my eyes at the time as it now appears to me. Slavery had
inured me to hardships that made ordinary trouble sit lightly upon
me. Could I have worked at my trade I could have earned two
dollars a day, but as a common laborer I received but one dollar.
The difference was of great importance to me, but if I could not
get two dollars, I was glad to get one; and so I went to work for
Mr. French as a common laborer. The consciousness that I was
free--no longer a slave--kept me cheerful under this, and many
similar proscriptions, which I was destined to meet in New Bedford
and elsewhere on the free soil of Massachusetts. For instance,
though colored children attended the schools, and were treated
kindly by their teachers, the New Bedford Lyceum refused, till
several years after my residence in that city, to allow any
colored person to attend the lectures delivered in its hall. Not
until such men as Charles Sumner, Theodore Parker, Ralph Waldo
Emerson, and Horace Mann refused to lecture in their course while
there was such a restriction, was it abandoned.
Becoming satisfied that I could not rely on my trade in New
Bedford to give me a living, I prepared myself to do any kind of
work that came to hand. I sawed wood, shoveled coal, dug cellars,
moved rubbish from back yards, worked on the wharves, loaded and
unloaded vessels, and scoured their cabins.
I afterward got steady work at the brass-foundry owned by Mr.
Richmond. My duty here was to blow the bellows, swing the crane,
and empty the flasks in which castings were made; and at times
this was hot and heavy work. The articles produced here were
mostly for ship work, and in the busy season the foundry was in
operation night and day. I have often worked two nights and every
working day of the week. My foreman, Mr. Cobb, was a good man,
and more than once protected me from abuse that one or more of the
hands was disposed to throw upon me. While in this situation I
had little time for mental improvement. Hard work, night and day,
over a furnace hot enough to keep the metal running like water,
was more favorable to action than thought; yet here I often nailed
a newspaper to the post near my bellows, and read while I was
performing the up and down motion of the heavy beam by which the
bellows was inflated and discharged. It was the pursuit of
knowledge under difficulties, and I look back to it now, after so
many years, with some complacency and a little wonder that I could
have been so earnest and persevering in any pursuit other than for
my daily bread. I certainly saw nothing in the conduct of those
around to inspire me with such interest: they were all devoted
exclusively to what their hands found to do. I am glad to be able
to say that, during my engagement in this foundry, no complaint
was ever made against me that I did not do my work, and do it
well. The bellows which I worked by main strength was, after I
left, moved by a steam-engine.
THE GOOPHERED GRAPEVINE
by Charles W. Chesnutt
About ten 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 was engaged in grape-culture in
northern Ohio, and decided to look for a locality suitable for
carrying on the same business in some Southern State. I wrote to
a cousin who had gone into the turpentine business in central
North Carolina, and he assured me that no better place could be
found in the South than the State and neighborhood in which he
lived: climate and soil were all that could be asked for, and land
could be bought for a mere song. A cordial invitation to visit
him while I looked into the matter was accepted. We found the
weather delightful at that season, the end of the summer, and were
most hospitably entertained. Our host placed a horse and buggy at
our disposal, and himself acted as guide until I got somewhat
familiar with the country.
I went several times to look at a place which I thought might suit
me. It had been at one time a thriving plantation, but shiftless
cultivation had well-night 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 fallen into utter neglect. The vines--
here partly supported by decayed and broken-down arbors, 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 scanty grapes which 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, mainly to rely upon, I felt sure that I could
introduce and cultivate successfully a number of other varieties.
One day I went over with my wife, to show her the place. We drove
between the decayed gate-posts--the gate itself had long since
disappeared--and up the straight, sandy lane to the open space
where a dwelling-house had once stood. But the house had fallen a
victim to the fortunes of war, and nothing remained of it except
the brick pillars upon which the sills had rested. We alighted,
and walked about the place for a while; but on Annie's complaining
of weariness I led the way back to the yard, where a pine log,
lying under a spreading elm, formed 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 grape-skins near him indicated that the performance was no new
thing. He respectfully rose as we approached, and was moving
away, when I begged him to keep his seat.
"Don't let us disturb you," I said. "There's plenty of room for
He resumed his seat with somewhat of embarrassment.
"Do you live around here?" I asked, anxious to put him at his
"Yas, suh. I lives des ober yander, behine de nex' san'-hill, on
de Lumberton plank-road."
"Do you know anything about the time when this vineyard was
"Lawd bless yer, suh, I knows all about it. Dey ain' na'er a man
in dis settlement w'at won' tell yer ole Julius McAdoo 'uz bawn
an' 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 dunner 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
"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'n'in' ter
a ole nigger run on a minute er two w'ile you er restin', I kin
'splain to yer how it all happen'."
We assured him that we would be glad to hear how it all happened,
and he began to tell us. At first the current of his memory--or
imagination--seemed somewhat sluggish; but as his embarrassment
wore off, his language flowed more freely, and the story acquired
perspective and coherence. As he became more and more absorbed in
the narrative, his eyes assumed a dreamy expression, and he seemed
to lose sight of his auditors, and to be living over again in
monologue his life on the old plantation.
"Ole Mars Dugal' McAdoo 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 lub scuppernon'.
"Dey wuz a sight er niggers in de naberhood er de vimya'd. Dere
wuz ole Mars Henry Brayboy's niggers, en ole Mars Dunkin 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, er nigger
didn' mine goin' fi' er ten mile in a night, w'en dey wuz sump'n
good ter eat at de yuther een.
"So atter a w'ile Mars Dugal' begin ter miss his scuppernon's.
Co'se he 'cuse' de niggers er it, but dey all 'nied it ter de
las'. Mars Dugal' sot spring guns en steel traps, en he en de
oberseah sot up nights once't er twice't, tel one night Mars
Dugal'--he 'uz a monst'us keerless man--got his leg shot full er
cow-peas. But somehow er nudder dey couldn' nebber ketch none er
de niggers. I dunner how it happen, but it happen des like I tell
yer, en de grapes kep' on a-goin des de same.
"But bimeby ole Mars Dugal' fix' up a plan ter stop it. Dey 'uz a
cunjuh 'ooman livin' down mongs' de free niggers on de Wim'l'ton
Road, en all de darkies fum Rockfish ter Beaver Crick wuz feared
uv her. She could wuk de mos' powerfulles' kind 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,
for she wuz a witch 'sides bein' a cunjuh 'ooman. Mars Dugal'
hearn 'bout Aun' Peggy's doin's, en begun ter 'flect whe'r er no
he couldn' git her ter he'p him keep de niggers off'n de
grapevimes. One day in de spring er de year, ole miss pack' up a
basket er chick'n en poun'-cake, en a bottle er scuppernon' wine,
en Mars Dugal' tuk it in his buggy en driv ober ter Aun' Peggy's
cabin. He tuk de basket in, en had a long talk wid Aun' Peggy.
De nex' day Aun' Peggy come up ter de vimya'd. De niggers seed
her slippin' 'roun', en dey soon foun' out what she 'uz doin'
dere. Mars Dugal' had hi'ed her ter goopher de 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. W'en she got de goopher all ready en
fix', she tuk 'n went out in de woods en buried it under de root
uv a red oak tree, en den come back en tole one er de niggers she
done goopher de grapevimes, en a'er a nigger w'at eat dem grapes
'ud be sho ter die inside'n twel' mont's.
"Atter dat de niggers let de scuppernon's 'lone, en Mars Dugal'
didn' hab no 'casion ter fine no mo' fault; en de season wuz mos'
gone, w'en a strange gemman stop at de plantation one night ter
see Mars Dugal' on some business; en his coachman, seein' de
scuppernon's growin' so nice en sweet, slip 'roun' behine de
smoke-house, en et all de scuppernon's he could hole. Nobody
didn' notice it at de time, but dat night, on de way home, de
gemman's hoss runned away en kill' de coachman. W'en we hearn de
noos, Aun' Lucy, de cook, she up 'n say she seed de strange nigger
eat'n' er de scuppernon's behine de smoke-house; en den we knowed
de goopher had b'en er wukkin. Den one er de nigger chilluns
runned away fum de quarters one day, en got in de scuppernon's, en
died de nex' week. W'ite folks say he die' er de fevuh, but de
niggers knowed it wuz de goopher. So you k'n be sho de darkies
didn' hab much ter do wid dem scuppernon' vimes.
"W'en de scuppernon' season 'uz ober fer dat year, Mars Dugal'
foun' he had made fifteen hund'ed gallon er wine; en one er de
niggers hearn him laffin' wid de oberseah fit ter kill, en sayin'
dem fifteen hund'ed gallon er wine wuz monst'us good intrus' on de
ten dollars he laid out on de vimya'd. So I 'low ez he paid Aun'
Peggy ten dollars fer to goopher de grapevimes.
"De goopher didn' wuk no mo' tel de nex' summer, w'en 'long to'ds
de middle er de season one er de fiel' han's died; en ez dat 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
"W'en dey tole 'im 'bout de goopher on de grapevimes, he 'uz dat
tarrified dat he turn pale, en look des like he gwine ter die
right in his tracks. De oberseah come up en axed w'at 'uz de
matter; en w'en dey tole 'im Henry be'n eatin' er de scuppernon's,
en got de goopher on 'im, he gin Henry a big drink er w'iskey, en
'low dat de nex' rainy day he take 'im ober ter Aun' Peggy's, en
see ef she wouldn' take de goopher off'n him, seein' ez he didn'
know nuffin erbout it tel he done et de grapes.
"Sho nuff, it rain de nex' day, en de oberseah went ober ter Aun'
Peggy's wid Henry. En Aun' Peggy say dat bein' ez Henry didn'
know 'bout de goopher, en et de grapes in ign'ance er de
quinseconces, 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 agin, en she tell him w'at e's ter do.
"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'nt 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 prume de grapevimes, he
mus' go en take 'n scrape off de sap whar it ooze out'n de cut
een's er de vimes, en 'n'int his ball head wid it; en ef he do dat
once't a year de goopher wouldn' wuk agin 'im long ez he done it.
En bein' ez he fotch her de ham, she fix' it so he kin eat all de
scuppernon' he want.
"So Henry 'n'int his head wid de sap out'n de big grapevime des
ha'f way 'twix' de quarters en de big house, en de goopher nebber
wuk agin him dat summer. But de beatenes' thing you eber see
happen ter Henry. Up ter dat time he wuz ez ball ez a sweeten'
'tater, but des ez soon ez de young leaves begun ter come out on
de grapevimes de ha'r begun ter grow out on Henry's head, en by de
middle er de summer he had de bigges' head er ha'r on de
plantation. Befo' dat, Henry had tol'able good ha'r 'roun de
aidges, but soon ez de young grapes begun ter come Henry's ha'r
begun ter 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 didn' 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
 A small card, resembling a curry-comb in construction, and
used by negroes in the rural districts instead of a comb.
"But dat wa'nt de quares' thing 'bout de goopher. When Henry come
ter de plantation, he wuz gittin' a little ole an stiff in de
j'ints. But dat summer he got des ez spry en libely ez any young
nigger on de plantation; fac' he got so biggity dat Mars Jackson,
de oberseah, ha' ter th'eaten ter whip 'im, ef he didn' stop
cuttin' up his didos en behave hisse'f. But de mos' cur'ouses'
thing happen' in de fall, when de sap begin ter go down in de
grapevimes. Fus', when de grapes 'uz gethered, de knots begun ter
straighten out'n Henry's h'ar; en w'en de leaves begin ter fall,
Henry's ha'r begin ter drap out; en w'en de vimes 'uz b'ar,
Henry's head wuz baller 'n it wuz in de spring, en he begin ter
git ole en stiff in de j'ints ag'in, en paid no mo' tention ter de
gals dyoin' er de whole winter. En nex' spring, w'en he rub de
sap on ag'in, he got young ag'in, en so soopl en libely dat none
er de young niggers on de plantation couldn' jump, ner dance, ner
hoe ez much cotton ez Henry. But in de fall er de year his grapes
begun 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 couldn' fine sump'n fer
his niggers ter do, en it ha' ter be a mighty little hole he
couldn' crawl thoo, en ha' ter be a monst'us cloudy night w'en 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 outen Henry dan by wukkin' him in de
cotton fiel'. 'Long de nex' spring, atter de sap commence' ter
rise, en Henry 'n'int 'is head en commence fer ter git young en
soopl, Mars Dugal' up 'n tuk Henry ter town, en sole 'im fer
fifteen hunder' dollars. Co'se de man w'at bought Henry didn'
know nuffin 'bout de goopher, en Mars Dugal' didn' see no 'casion
fer ter tell 'im. Long to'ds de fall, w'en de sap went down,
Henry begin ter git ole again 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
didn' 'pear ter do no good; de goopher had a good holt. Henry
tole de doctor 'bout de goopher, but de doctor des laff at 'im.
"One day in de winter Mars Dugal' went ter town, en wuz santerin'
'long de Main Street, when who should he meet but Henry's noo
marster. Dey said 'Hoddy,' en Mars Dugal' ax 'im ter hab a
seegyar; en atter dey run on awhile 'bout de craps en de weather,
Mars Dugal' ax 'im, sorter keerless, like ez ef he des thought of
"'How you like de nigger I sole you las' spring?'
"Henry's marster shuck his head en knock de ashes off'n his
"'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 digger [sic]; 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 didn' grow on eve'y huckleberry bush.
"Nex' spring, w'en de sap ris en Henry's ha'r commence' ter
sprout, Mars Dugal' sole 'im ag'in, down in Robeson County dis
time; en he kep' dat sellin' business up fer five year er mo'.
Henry nebber say nuffin 'bout de goopher ter his noo marsters,
'caze he know he gwine ter be tuk good keer uv de nex' winter,
w'en Mars Dugal' buy him back. En Mars Dugal' made 'nuff money
off'n Henry ter buy anudder plantation ober on Beaver Crick.
"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 learn de w'ite folks how to raise grapes en make
wine. He promus Mars Dugal' he cud make de grapevimes b'ar
twice't ez many grapes, en dat de noo wine-press 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 bewitched wit dat
Yankee. W'en de darkies see dat Yankee runnin' 'roun de vimya'd
en diggin' under de grapevimes, dey shuk dere heads, en 'lowed dat
dey feared Mars Dugal' losin' his min'. Mars Dugal' had all de
dirt dug away fum under de roots er all de scuppernon' vimes, an'
let 'em stan' dat away fer a week er mo'. Den dat Yankee made de
niggers fix up a mixtry er lime en ashes en manyo, en po' it roun'
de roots er de grapevimes. Den he 'vise' Mars Dugal' fer ter trim
de vimes close't, en Mars Dugal' tuck 'n done eve'ything de Yankee
tole him ter do. Dyoin' all er dis time, mind yer, 'e wuz libbin'
off'n de fat er de lan', at de big house, en playin' kyards 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 runnin' de
"W'en de sap ris nex' spring, ole Henry 'n'inted his head ez
yuzhal, en his ha'r commence' 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 dyowin 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 han's dat spring, havin' tuk in
consid'able noo groun', Mars Dugal' 'cluded he wouldn' sell Henry
'tel he git de crap in en de cotton chop'. So he kep' Henry on de
"But 'long 'bout time fer de grapes ter come on de scuppernon'
vimes, dey 'peared ter come a change ober dem; de leaves wivered
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' tuck 'n water de vimes en done all he could,
but 't wan' no use: dat Yankee done bus' de watermillyum. One
time de vimes picked up a bit, en Mars Dugal' thought dey wuz
gwine ter come out ag'in; but dat Yankee done dug too close unde'
de roots, en prune de branches too close ter de vime, en all dat
lime en ashes done burn' de life outen de vimes, en dey des kep' a
with'in' en a swivelin'.
"All dis time de goopher wuz a-wukkin'. W'en de vimes commence'
ter wither, Henry commence' ter complain er his rheumatiz, en when
de leaves begin ter dry up his ha'r commence' ter drap out. When
de vimes fresh up a bit Henry 'ud git peart agin, en when de vimes
wither agin Henry 'ud git ole agin, en des kep' gittin' mo' en mo'
fitten fer nuffin; he des pined away, en fine'ly tuk ter his
cabin; en when de big vime whar he got de sap ter 'n'int his head
withered en turned yaller en died, Henry died too,--des went out
sorter like a cannel. Dey didn't 'pear ter be nuffin de matter
wid 'im, 'cep'n de rheumatiz, but his strenk des dwinel' away 'tel
he didn' hab ernuff lef' ter draw his bref. De goopher had got de
under holt, en th'owed Henry fer good en all dat time.
"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 hold 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 agin, 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 saw he wuz mighty glad dat wah come, en
he des want ter kill a Yankee fer eve'y dollar he los' 'long er
dat grape-raisin' Yankee. En I 'spec' he would a done it, too, ef
de Yankees hadn' s'picioned sump'n, en killed him fus'. Atter de
s'render ole miss move' ter town, de niggers all scattered 'way
fum de plantation, en de vimya'd ain' be'n cultervated sence."
"Is that story true?" asked Annie, doubtfully, but seriously, as
the old man concluded his narrative.
"It's des ez true ez I'm a-settin' here, miss. Dey's a easy way
ter prove it: I kin lead de way right ter Henry's grave ober
yander in de plantation buryin'-groun'. En I tell yer w'at,
marster, I wouldn' 'vise yer 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
"But I thought you said all the old vines died."
"Dey did 'pear ter die, but a few ov '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 might happen. I wouldn' 'vise yer ter buy
I bought the vineyard, nevertheless, and it has been for a long
time in a thriving condition, and is 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 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 pay him for his services are
more than an equivalent for anything he lost by the sale of the
by Charles W. Chesnutt
On the northeast corner of my vineyard in central North Carolina,
and fronting on the Lumberton plank-road, there stood a small
frame house, of the simplest construction. It was built of pine
lumber, and contained but one room, to which one window gave light
and one door admission. Its weather-beaten sides revealed a
virgin innocence of paint. Against one end of the house, and
occupying half its width, there stood a huge brick chimney: the
crumbling mortar had left large cracks between the bricks; the
bricks themselves had begun to scale off in large flakes, leaving
the chimney sprinkled with unsightly blotches. These evidences of
decay were but partially concealed by a creeping vine, which
extended its slender branches hither and thither in an ambitious
but futile attempt to cover the whole chimney. The wooden
shutter, which had once protected the unglazed window, had fallen
from its hinges, and lay rotting in the rank grass and jimson-
weeds beneath. This building, I learned when I bought the place,
had been used as a school-house 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
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 school-house, 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 new lumber 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
saw-mill 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 saw-mill. When we reached the mill, the foreman had gone
over to a neighboring farm-house, 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 whirr 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
"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
"No, Miss 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 hearts."
"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 of slavery.
"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' wouldn' be satisfied ef he gin
Sandy ter a'er one un 'em; so w'en dey wuz all done married, he
fix it by 'lowin' one er his chilluns ter take Sandy fer a mont'
er so, en den ernudder for a mont' er so, en so on dat erway tel
dey had all had 'im de same lenk er time; en den dey would all
take him roun' ag'in, 'cep'n oncet in a w'ile w'en Mars Marrabo
would len' 'im ter some er his yuther kinfolks 'roun' de country,
w'en dey wuz short er han's; tel bimeby it go so Sandy didn'
hardly knowed whar he wuz gwine ter stay fum one week's een ter de
"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 'ooman, he tuk up wid her atter she b'n on de plantation a
mont' er so.
"Sandy en his noo wife got on mighty well tergedder, en de niggers
all 'mence' ter talk about how lovin' dey wuz. W'en Tenie wuz tuk
sick oncet, Sandy useter set up all night wid 'er, en den go ter
wuk in de mawnin' des lack he had his reg'lar sleep; en Tenie
would 'a done anythin' in de worl' for her Sandy.
"Sandy en Tenie hadn' b'en 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 fine out ef Mars Marrabo couldn' len' 'im er
hire 'im a good han' fer a mont' er so. Sandy's marster wuz one
er dese yer easy-gwine folks w'at wanter please eve'ybody, en he
says yas, he could len' 'im Sandy. En Mars Marrabo tole Sandy fer
ter git ready ter go down ter Robeson nex' day, fer ter stay a
mont' er so.
"Hit wuz monst'us hard on Sandy fer ter take 'im 'way fum Tenie.
Hit wuz so fur down ter Robeson dat he didn' hab no chance er
comin' back ter see her tel de time wuz up; he wouldn' a' mine
comin' ten er fifteen mile at night ter see Tenie, but Mars
Marrabo's uncle's plantation wuz mo' d'n forty mile off. Sandy
wuz mighty sad en cas' down atter w'at Mars Marrabo tole 'im, en
he says ter Tenie, sezee:--
"'I'm gittin monstus 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 sole 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 yer 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 tole you I wuz a cunjuh-'ooman?'
"Co'se Sandy hadn' nebber dremp' er nuffin lack dat, en he made a
great miration w'en he hear w'at Tenie say. Bimeby Tenie went
"'I ain' goophered nobody, ner done no cunjuh-wuk fer fifteen yer
er mo; en w'en I got religion I made up my mine I wouldn' wuk no
mo' goopher. But dey is some things I doan b'lieve it's no sin
fer ter do; en ef you doan wanter be sent roun' fum pillar ter
pos', en ef you doan wanter go down ter Robeson, I kin fix things
so yer won't haf ter. Ef you'll des say de word, I kin turn yer
ter w'ateber yer wanter be, en yer kin stay right whar yer wanter,
ez long ez yer mineter.'
"Sandy say he doan keer; he's willin' fer ter do anythin' fer ter
stay close ter Tenie. Den Tenie ax 'im ef he doan wanter be turnt
inter a rabbit.
"Sandy say, 'No, de dogs mout git atter me.'
"'Shill I turn yer 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 yer ter a mawkin'-bird?'
"'No, a hawk mout ketch me. I wanter be turnt inter sump'n
w'at'll stay in one place.'
"'I kin turn yer ter a tree,' sez Tenie. 'You won't hab no mouf
ner years, but I kin turn yer back oncet in a w'ile, so yer kin
git sump'n ter eat, en hear w'at's gwine on.'
"Well, Sandy say dat'll do. En so Tenie tuk 'im down by de aidge
er de swamp, not fur fum de quarters, en turnt 'im inter a big
pine-tree, en sot 'im out mongs' some yuther trees. En de nex'
mawnin', ez some er de fiel' han's wuz gwine long dere, dey seed a
tree w'at dey didn' 'member er habbin' seed befo; it wuz monst'us
quare, en dey wuz bleedst ter 'low dat dey hadn' 'membered right,
er e'se one er de saplin's had be'n growin' monst'us fas'.
"W'en Mars Marrabo 'skiver' dat Sandy wuz gone, he 'lowed Sandy
had runned away. He got de dogs out, but de 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 'nuff 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 by Sandy fer ter he'p 'im run away whar she couldn'
nebber see 'im no mo'.
"W'en Sandy had be'n gone long 'nuff 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
"But Sandy didn' git erlong widout his trials en tribberlations.
One day a woodpecker come erlong en 'mence' ter peck at de tree;
en de nex' time Sandy wuz 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 'bout off.
"W'en Tenie see so many things happenin' ter de tree, she 'cluded
she'd ha' ter turn Sandy ter sump'n e'se; en atter studyin' de
matter ober, en talkin' wid Sandy one ebenin', she made up her
mine fer ter fix up a goopher mixtry w'at would turn herse'f en
Sandy ter foxes, er sump'n, so dey could run away en go some'rs
whar dey could be free en lib lack w'ite folks.
"But dey ain' no tellin' w'at's gwine ter happen in dis worl'.
Tenie had got de night sot fer her en Sandy ter run away, w'en dat
ve'y day one er Mars Marrabo's sons rid up ter de big house in his
buggy, en say his wife wuz monst'us sick, en he want his mammy ter
len' 'im a 'ooman fer ter nuss his wife. Tenie's mistiss say sen
Tenie; she wuz a good nuss. Young mars wuz in a tarrible hurry
fer ter git back home. Tenie wuz washin' at de big house dat day,
en her mistiss say she should go right 'long wid her young
marster. Tenie tried ter make some 'scuse fer ter git away en
hide tel night, w'en she would have eve'ything fix' up fer her en
Sandy; she say she wanter go ter her cabin fer ter git her bonnet.
Her mistiss say it doan matter 'bout de bonnet; her head-hankcher
wuz good 'nuff. 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 want no
chance er her seein' Sandy no mo' tel she come back home. De po'
gal felt monst'us bad erbout de way things wuz gwine on, en she
knowed Sandy mus' be a wond'rin' why she didn' come en turn 'im
back no mo'.
"W'iles Tenie wuz away nussin' young Mars Dunkin's wife, Mars
Marrabo tuk a notion fer ter buil' 'im a noo kitchen; en bein' ez
he had lots er timber on his place, he begun ter look 'roun' fer a
tree ter hab de lumber sawed out'n. En I dunno how it come to be
so, but he happen fer ter hit on de ve'y tree w'at Sandy wuz 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 didn' 'pear ter
make no progress thoo de wood; en of all de creakin', en shakin',
en wobblin' you eber see, dat tree done it w'en it commence' ter
fall. It wuz de beatenis' thing!
"W'en dey got de tree all trim' up, dey chain it up ter a timber
waggin, en start fer de saw-mill. 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 saw-mill, 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 saw-
"De nex' mawnin' atter de day de tree wuz haul' ter de saw-mill,
Tenie come home. W'en she got back ter her cabin, de fus' thing
she done wuz ter run down ter de woods en see how Sandy wuz
gittin' on. W'en she seed de stump standin' dere, wid de sap
runnin' out'n it, en de limbs layin' scattered roun', she nigh
'bout went out'n her mine. She run ter her cabin, en got her
goopher mixtry, en den foller de track er de timber waggin ter de
saw-mill. She knowed Sandy couldn' lib mo' d'n a minute er so ef
she turn' him back, fer he wuz all chop' up so he'd a be'n bleedst
ter die. But she wanted ter turn 'im back long ernuff fer ter
'splain ter 'im dat she hadn' went off a-purpose, en lef' 'im ter
be chop' down en sawed up. She didn' want Sandy ter die wid no
hard feelin's to'ds her.
"De han's at de saw-mill had des got de big log on de kerridge, en
wuz startin' up de saw, w'en dey seed a 'oman runnin up de hill,
all out er bref, cryin' en gwine on des lack she wuz plumb
'stracted. It wuz Tenie; she come right inter de mill, en th'owed
herse'f on de log, right in front er de saw, a-hollerin' en cryin'
ter her Sandy ter fergib her, en not ter think hard er her, fer it
wa'n't no fault er hern. Den Tenie 'membered de tree didn' hab no
years, en she wuz gittin' ready fer ter wuk her goopher mixtry so
ez ter turn Sandy back, w'en de mill-hands kotch holt er her en
tied her arms wid a rope, en fasten' her to one er de posts in de
saw-mill; en den dey started de saw up ag'in, en cut de log up
inter bo'ds en scantlin's right befo' her eyes. But it wuz mighty
hard wuk; fer of all de sweekin', en moanin', en groanin', dat log
done it w'iles de saw wuz a-cuttin' thoo it. De saw wuz one er
dese yer ole-timey, up-en-down saws, en hit tuk longer dem days
ter saw a log 'en it do now. Dey greased de saw, but dat didn'
stop de fuss; hit kep' right on, tel finely dey got de log all
"W'en de oberseah w'at run de saw-mill come fum brekfas', de han's
up en tell him 'bout de crazy 'ooman--ez dey s'posed she wuz--
w'at had come runnin' in de saw-mill, 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
"Tenie 'peared ter be out'n her mine 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 saw-mill, en put up his noo kitchen.
"W'en Tenie got quiet' down, so she could be 'lowed ter go 'roun'
de plantation, she up'n tole her marster all erbout Sandy en de
pine-tree; en w'en Mars Marrabo hearn it, he 'lowed she wuz de
wuss 'stracted nigger he eber hearn of. He didn' know w'at ter do
wid Tenie: fus' he thought he'd put her in de po'-house; but
finely, seein' ez she didn' do no harm ter nobody ner nuffin', but
des went roun' moanin', en groanin', en shakin' her head, he
'cluded ter let her stay on de plantation en nuss de little nigger
chilluns w'en dey mammies wuz ter wuk in de cotton-fiel'.
"De noo kitchen Mars Marrabo buil' wuzn' much use, fer it hadn'
be'n put up long befo' de niggers 'mence' ter notice quare things
erbout it. Dey could hear sump'n moanin' en groanin' 'bout de
kitchen in de night-time, en w'en de win' would blow dey could
hear sump'n a-hollerin' en sweekin' lack hit wuz in great pain en
sufferin'. En hit got so atter a w'ile dat hit wuz all Mars
Marrabo's wife could do ter git a 'ooman ter stay in de kitchen in
de daytime long ernuff ter do de cookin'; en dey wa'n't naer
nigger on de plantation w'at wouldn' rudder take forty dan ter go
'bout dat kitchen atter dark,--dat is, 'cep'n Tenie; she didn'
pear ter mine de ha'nts. She useter slip 'roun' at night, en set
on de kitchen steps, en lean up agin de do'-jamb, en run on ter
herse'f wid some kine er foolishness w'at nobody couldn' make out;
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 'bout it, en dey
knowed de kitchen wuz ha'anted 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.
"W'en it come ter dat, Mars Marrabo tuk 'n' to' de kitchen down,
en use' de lumber fer ter buil' dat ole school-'ouse w'at youer
talkin' 'bout pullin' down. De school-'ouse wuzn' 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 fine but po' ole Tenie, layin' on de flo',
stiff, en cole, en dead. Dere didn' 'pear ter be nuffin'
pertickler de matter wid her,--she had des grieve' herse'f ter def
fer her Sandy. Mars Marrabo didn' shed no tears. He thought
Tenie wuz crazy, en dey wa'n't no tellin' w'at she mout 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 sole a piece er his
track er lan' ter Mars Dugal' McAdoo,--MY ole marster,--en dat's
how de ole school-house happen to be on yo' place. W'en de wah
broke out, de school stop', en de ole school-'ouse be'n stannin'
empty ever sence,--dat is, 'cep'n' fer de ha'nts. En folks sez
dat de ole school-'ouse, er any yuther house w'at got any er dat
lumber in it w'at wuz sawed out'n de tree w'at Sandy wuz turnt
inter, is gwine ter be ha'nted tel de las' piece er plank is
rotted en crumble' inter dus'."
Annie had listened to this gruesome narrative with strained
"What a system it was," she exclaimed, when Julius had finished,
"under which such things were possible!"
"What things?" I asked, in amazement. "Are you seriously
considering the possibility of a man's being turned into a tree?"
"Oh, no," she replied quickly, "not that;" and then she added
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 school-house."
"You wouldn't for a moment allow yourself," I replied, with some
asperity, "to be influenced by that absurdly impossible yarn which
Julius was spinning to-day?"
"I know the story is absurd," she replied dreamily, "and I am not
so silly as to believe it. But I don't think I should ever be
able to take any pleasure in that kitchen if it were built out of
that lumber. Besides, I think the kitchen would look better and
last longer if the lumber were all new."
Of course she had her way. I bought the new lumber, though not
without grumbling. A week or two later I was called away from
home on business. On my return, after an absence of several days,
my wife remarked to me,--
"John, there has been a split in the Sandy Run Colored Baptist
Church, on the temperance question. About half the members have
come out from the main body, and set up for themselves. Uncle
Julius is one of the seceders, and he came to me yesterday and
asked if they might not hold their meetings in the old school-
house for the present."
"I hope you didn't let the old rascal have it," I returned, with
some warmth. I had just received a bill for the new lumber I had
"Well," she replied, "I could not 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
by Charles W. Chesnutt
"Have some dinner, Uncle Julius?" said my wife.
It was a Sunday afternoon in early autumn. Our two women-
servants had gone to a camp-meeting some miles away, and would not
return until evening. My wife had served the dinner, and we were
just rising from the table, when Julius came up the lane, and,
taking off his hat, seated himself on the piazza.
The old man glanced through the open door at the dinner-table, and
his eyes rested lovingly upon a large sugar-cured ham, from which
several slices had been cut, exposing a rich pink expanse that
would have appealed strongly to the appetite of any hungry
"Thanky, Miss Annie," he said, after a momentary hesitation, "I
dunno ez I keers ef I does tas'e a piece er dat ham, ef yer'll cut
me off a slice un it."
"No," said Annie, "I won't. Just sit down to the table and help
yourself; eat all you want, and don't be bashful."
Julius drew a chair up to the table, while my wife and I went out
on the piazza. Julius was in my employment; he took his meals
with his own family, but when he happened to be about our house at
meal-times, my wife never let him go away hungry.
I threw myself into a hammock, from which I could see Julius
through an open window. He ate with evident relish, devoting his
attention chiefly to the ham, slice after slice of which
disappeared in the spacious cavity of his mouth. At first the old
man ate rapidly, but after the edge of his appetite had been taken
off he proceeded in a more leisurely manner. When he had cut the
sixth slice of ham (I kept count of them from a lazy curiosity to
see how much he COULD eat) I saw him lay it on his plate; as he
adjusted the knife and fork to cut it into smaller pieces, he
paused, as if struck by a sudden thought, and a tear rolled down
his rugged cheek and fell upon the slice of ham before him. But
the emotion, whatever the thought that caused it, was transitory,
and in a moment he continued his dinner. When he was through
eating, he came out on the porch, and resumed his seat with the
satisfied expression of countenance that usually follows a good
"Julius," I said, "you seemed to be affected by something, a
moment ago. Was the mustard so strong that it moved you to
"No, suh, it wa'n't de mustard; I wuz studyin' 'bout Dave."
"Who was Dave, and what about him?" I asked.
The conditions were all favorable to story-telling. There was an
autumnal languor in the air, and a dreamy haze softened the dark
green of the distant pines and the deep blue of the Southern sky.
The generous meal he had made had put the old man in a very good
humor. He was not always so, for his curiously undeveloped nature
was subject to moods which were almost childish in their
variableness. It was only now and then that we were able to
study, through the medium of his recollection, the simple but
intensely human inner life of slavery. His way of looking at the
past seemed very strange to us; his view of certain sides of life
was essentially different from ours. He never indulged in any
regrets for the Arcadian joyousness and irresponsibility which was
a somewhat popular conception of slavery; his had not been the lot
of the petted house-servant, but that of the toiling field-hand.
While he mentioned with a warm appreciation the acts of kindness
which those in authority had shown to him and his people, he would
speak of a cruel deed, not with the indignation of one accustomed
to quick feeling and spontaneous expression, but with a furtive
disapproval which suggested to us a doubt in his own mind as to
whether he had a right to think or to feel, and presented to us
the curious psychological spectacle of a mind enslaved long after
the shackles had been struck off from the limbs of its possessor.
Whether the sacred name of liberty ever set his soul aglow with a
generous fire; whether he had more than the most elementary ideas
of love, friendship, patriotism, religion,--things which are half,
and the better half, of life to us; whether he even realized,
except in a vague, uncertain way, his own degradation, I do not
know. I fear not; and if not, then centuries of repression had
borne their legitimate fruit. But in the simple human feeling,
and still more in the undertone of sadness, which pervaded his
stories, I thought I could see a spark which, fanned by favoring
breezes and fed by the memories of the past, might become in his
children's children a glowing flame of sensibility, alive to every
thrill of human happiness or human woe.
"Dave use' ter b'long ter my ole marster," said Julius; "he wuz
raise' on dis yer plantation, en I kin 'member all erbout 'im, fer
I wuz ole 'nuff ter chop cotton w'en it all happen'. Dave wuz a
tall man, en monst'us strong: he could do mo' wuk in a day dan any
yuther two niggers on de plantation. He wuz one er dese yer
solemn kine er men, en nebber run on wid much foolishness, like de
yuther darkies. He use' ter go out in de woods en pray; en w'en
he hear de han's on de plantation cussin' en gwine on wid dere
dancin' en foolishness, he use' ter tell 'em 'bout religion en
jedgmen'-day, w'en dey would haf ter gin account fer eve'y idle
word en all dey yuther sinful kyarin's-on.
"Dave had l'arn' how ter read de Bible. Dey wuz a free nigger boy
in de settlement w'at wuz monst'us smart, en could write en
cipher, en wuz alluz readin' books er papers. En Dave had hi'ed
dis free boy fer ter l'arn 'im how ter read. Hit wuz 'g'in de
law, but co'se none er de niggers didn' say nuffin ter de w'ite
folks 'bout it. Howsomedever, one day Mars Walker--he wuz de
oberseah--foun' out Dave could read. Mars Walker wa'n't nuffin
but a po' bockrah, en folks said he couldn' read ner write
hisse'f, en co'se he didn' lack ter see a nigger w'at knowed mo'
d'n he did; so he went en tole Mars Dugal'. Mars Dugal' sont fer
Dave, en ax' 'im 'bout it.
"Dave didn't hardly knowed w'at ter do; but he couldn' tell no
lie, so he 'fessed he could read de Bible a little by spellin' out
de words. Mars Dugal' look' mighty solemn.
"'Dis yer is a se'ious matter,' sezee; 'it's 'g'in de law ter
l'arn niggers how ter read, er 'low 'em ter hab books. But w'at
yer l'arn out'n dat Bible, Dave?'
"Dave wa'n't no fool, ef he wuz a nigger, en sezee:--
"'Marster, I l'arns dat it's a sin fer ter steal, er ter lie, er
fer ter want w'at doan b'long ter yer; en I l'arns fer ter love de
Lawd en ter 'bey my marster.'
"Mars Dugal' sorter smile' en laf' ter hisse'f, like he 'uz
might'ly tickle' 'bout sump'n, en sezee:--
"'Doan 'pear ter me lack readin' de Bible done yer much harm,
Dave. Dat's w'at I wants all my niggers fer ter know. Yer keep
right on readin', en tell de yuther han's w'at yer be'n tellin'
me. How would yer lack fer ter preach ter de niggers on Sunday?'
"Dave say he'd be glad fer ter do w'at he could. So Mars Dugal'
tole de oberseah fer ter let Dave preach ter de niggers, en tell
'em w'at wuz in de Bible, en it would he'p ter keep 'em fum
stealin' er runnin' erway.
"So Dave 'mence' ter preach, en done de han's on de plantation a
heap er good, en most un 'em lef' off dey wicked ways, en 'mence'
ter love ter hear 'bout God, en religion, en de Bible; en dey done
dey wuk better, en didn' gib de oberseah but mighty little trouble
fer ter manage 'em.
"Dave wuz one er dese yer men w'at didn' keer much fer de gals,--
leastways he didn' tel Dilsey come ter de plantation. Dilsey wuz
a monst'us peart, good-lookin', gingybread-colored gal,--one er
dese yer high-steppin' gals w'at hol's dey heads up, en won' stan'
no foolishness fum no man. She had b'long' ter a gemman over on
Rockfish, w'at died, en whose 'state ha' ter be sol' fer ter pay
his debts. En Mars Dugal' had b'en ter de oction, en w'en he seed
dis gal a-cryin' en gwine on 'bout bein' sol' erway fum her ole
mammy, Aun' Mahaly, Mars Dugal' bid 'em bofe in, en fotch 'em ober
ter our plantation.
"De young nigger men on de plantation wuz des wil' atter Dilsey,
but it didn' do no good, en none un 'em couldn' git Dilsey fer dey
junesey, 'tel Dave 'mence' fer ter go roun' Aun' Mahaly's
cabin. Dey wuz a fine-lookin' couple, Dave en Dilsey wuz, bofe
tall, en well-shape', en soopl'. En dey sot a heap by one
ernudder. Mars Dugal' seed 'em tergedder one Sunday, en de nex'
time he seed Dave atter dat, sezee:--
"Dave, w'en yer en Dilsey gits ready fer ter git married, I ain'
got no rejections. Dey's a poun' er so er chawin'-terbacker up at
de house, en I reckon yo' mist'iss kin fine a frock en a ribbin er
two fer Dilsey. Youer bofe good niggers, en yer neenter be feared
er bein' sol' 'way fum one ernudder long ez I owns dis plantation;
en I 'spec's ter own it fer a long time yit.'
"But dere wuz one man on de plantation w'at didn' lack ter see
Dave en Dilsey tergedder ez much ez ole marster did. W'en Mars
Dugal' went ter de sale whar he got Dilsey en Mahaly, he bought
ernudder han', by de name er Wiley. Wiley wuz one er dese yer
shiny-eyed, double-headed little niggers, sha'p ez a steel trap,
en sly ez de fox w'at keep out'n it. Dis yer Wiley had be'n
pesterin' Dilsey 'fo' she come ter our plantation, en had nigh
'bout worried de life out'n her. She didn' keer nuffin fer 'im,
but he pestered her so she ha' ter th'eaten ter tell her marster
fer ter make Wiley let her 'lone. W'en he come ober to our place
it wuz des ez bad, 'tel bimeby Wiley seed dat Dilsey had got ter
thinkin' a heap 'bout Dave, en den he sorter hilt off aw'ile, en
purten' lack he gin Dilsey up. But he wuz one er dese yer
'ceitful niggers, en w'ile he wuz laffin' en jokin' wid de yuther
han's 'bout Dave en Dilsey, he wuz settin' a trap fer ter ketch
Dave en git Dilsey back fer hisse'f.
"Dave en Dilsey made up dere min's fer ter git married long 'bout
Christmas time, w'en dey'd hab mo' time fer a weddin'. But 'long
'bout two weeks befo' dat time ole mars 'mence' ter lose a heap er
bacon. Eve'y night er so somebody 'ud steal a side er bacon, er a
ham, er a shoulder, er sump'n, fum one er de smoke-'ouses. De
smoke-'ouses wuz lock', but somebody had a key, en manage' ter git
in some way er 'nudder. Dey's mo' ways 'n one ter skin a cat, en
dey's mo' d'n one way ter git in a smoke-'ouse,--leastways dat's
w'at I hearn say. Folks w'at had bacon fer ter sell didn' hab no
trouble 'bout gittin' rid un it. Hit wuz 'g'in' de law fer ter
buy things fum slabes; but Lawd! dat law didn' 'mount ter a hill
er peas. Eve'y week er so one er dese yer big covered waggins
would come 'long de road, peddlin' terbacker en w'iskey. Dey wuz
a sight er room in one er dem big waggins, en it wuz monst'us easy
fer ter swop off bacon fer sump'n ter chaw er ter wa'm yer up in
de winter-time. I s'pose de peddlers didn' knowed dey wuz
breakin' de law, caze de niggers alluz went at night, en stayed on
de dark side er de waggin; en it wuz mighty hard fer ter tell W'AT
kine er folks dey wuz.
"Atter two er th'ee hund'ed er meat had be'n stole', Mars Walker
call all de niggers up one ebenin', en tol' 'em dat de fus' nigger
he cot stealin' bacon on dat plantation would git sump'n fer ter
'member it by long ez he lib'. En he say he'd gin fi' dollars ter
de nigger w'at 'skiver' de rogue. Mars Walker say he s'picion'
one er two er de niggers, but he couldn' tell fer sho, en co'se
dey all 'nied it w'en he 'cuse em un it.
"Dey wa'n't no bacon stole' fer a week er so, 'tel one dark night
w'en somebody tuk a ham fum one er de smoke-'ouses. Mars Walker
des cusst awful w'en he foun' out de ham wuz gone, en say he gwine
ter sarch all de niggers' cabins; w'en dis yer Wiley I wuz tellin'
yer 'bout up'n say he s'picion' who tuk de ham, fer he seed Dave
comin' 'cross de plantation fum to'ds de smoke-'ouse de night
befo'. W'en Mars Walker hearn dis fum Wiley, he went en sarch'
Dave's cabin, en foun' de ham hid under de flo'.
"Eve'ybody wuz 'stonish'; but dere wuz de ham. Co'se Dave 'nied
it ter de las', but dere wuz de ham. Mars Walker say it wuz des
ez he 'spected: he didn' b'lieve in dese yer readin' en prayin'
niggers; it wuz all 'pocrisy, en sarve' Mars Dugal' right fer
'lowin' Dave ter be readin' books w'en it wuz 'g'in de law.
"W'en Mars Dugal' hearn 'bout de ham, he say he wuz might'ly
'ceived en disapp'inted in Dave. He say he wouldn' nebber hab no
mo' conferdence in no nigger, en Mars Walker could do des ez he
wuz a mineter wid Dave er any er de res' er de niggers. So Mars
Walker tuk'n tied Dave up en gin 'im forty; en den he got some er
dis yer wire clof w'at dey uses fer ter make sifters out'n, en
tuk'n wrap' it roun' de ham en fasten it tergedder at de little
een'. Den he tuk Dave down ter de blacksmif-shop, en had Unker
Silas, de plantation black-smif, fasten a chain ter de ham, en den
fasten de yuther een' er de chain roun' Dave's neck. En den he
says ter Dave, sezee:--
"'Now, suh, yer'll wear dat neckliss fer de nex' six mont's; en I
'spec's yer ner none er de yuther niggers on dis plantation won'
steal no mo' bacon dyoin' er dat time.'
"Well, it des 'peared ez if fum dat time Dave didn' hab nuffin but
trouble. De niggers all turnt ag'in' 'im, caze he be'n de 'casion
er Mars Dugal' turnin' 'em all ober ter Mars Walker. Mars Dugal'
wa'n't a bad marster hisse'f, but Mars Walker wuz hard ez a rock.
Dave kep' on sayin' he didn' take de ham, but none un 'em didn'
"Dilsey wa'n't on de plantation w'en Dave wuz 'cused er stealin'
de bacon. Ole mist'iss had sont her ter town fer a week er so fer
ter wait on one er her darters w'at had a young baby, en she didn'
fine out nuffin 'bout Dave's trouble 'tel she got back ter de
plantation. Dave had patien'ly endyoed de finger er scawn, en all
de hard words w'at de niggers pile' on 'im, caze he wuz sho'
Dilsey would stan' by 'im, en wouldn' b'lieve he wuz a rogue, ner
none er de yuther tales de darkies wuz tellin' 'bout 'im.
"W'en Dilsey come back fum town, en got down fum behine de buggy
whar she be'n ridin' wid ole mars, de fus' nigger 'ooman she met
says ter her,--
"'Is yer seed Dave, Dilsey?'
"No, I ain' seed Dave,' says Dilsey.
"'Yer des oughter look at dat nigger; reckon yer wouldn' want 'im
fer yo' junesey no mo'. Mars Walker cotch 'im stealin' bacon, en
gone en fasten' a ham roun' his neck, so he can't git it off'n
hisse'f. He sut'nly do look quare.' En den de 'ooman bus' out
laffin' fit ter kill herse'f. W'en she got thoo laffin' she up'n
tole Dilsey all 'bout de ham, en all de yuther lies w'at de
niggers be'n tellin' on Dave.
"W'en Dilsey started down ter de quarters, who should she meet but
Dave, comin' in fum de cotton-fiel'. She turnt her head ter one
side, en purten' lack she didn' seed Dave.
"Dilsey walk' right on, en didn' notice 'im.
"Dilsey didn' paid no 'tention ter 'im, en den Dave knowed some er
de niggers be'n tellin' her 'bout de ham. He felt monst'us bad,
but he 'lowed ef he could des git Dilsey fer ter listen ter 'im
fer a minute er so, he could make her b'lieve he didn' stole de
bacon. It wuz a week er two befo' he could git a chance ter speak
ter her ag'in; but fine'ly he cotch her down by de spring one day,
"'Dilsey, w'at fer yer won' speak ter me, en purten' lack yer doan
see me? Dilsey, yer knows me too well fer ter b'lieve I'd steal,
er do dis yuther wick'ness de niggers is all layin' ter me,--yer
KNOWS I wouldn' do dat, Dilsey. Yer ain' gwine back on yo' Dave,
"But w'at Dave say didn' hab no 'fec' on Dilsey. Dem lies folks
b'en tellin' her had p'isen' her min' 'g'in' Dave.
"'I doan wanter talk ter no nigger,' says she, 'w'at be'n whip'
fer stealin', en w'at gwine roun' wid sich a lookin' thing ez dat
hung roun' his neck. I's a 'spectable gal, I is. W'at yer call
dat, Dave? Is dat a cha'm fer ter keep off witches, er is it a
noo kine er neckliss yer got?'
"Po' Dave didn' knowed w'at ter do. De las' one he had 'pended on
fer ter stan' by 'im had gone back on 'im, en dey didn' 'pear ter
be nuffin mo' wuf libbin' fer. He couldn' hol' no mo' pra'r-
meetin's, fer Mars Walker wouldn' 'low 'im ter preach, en de
darkies wouldn' 'a' listen' ter 'im ef he had preach'. He didn'
eben hab his Bible fer ter comfort hisse'f wid, fer Mars Walker
had tuk it erway fum 'im en burnt it up, en say ef he ketch any
mo' niggers wid Bibles on de plantation he'd do 'em wuss'n he done
"En ter make it still harder fer Dave, Dilsey tuk up wid Wiley.
Dave could see him gwine up ter Aun' Mahaly's cabin, en settin'
out on de bench in de moonlight wid Dilsey, en singin' sinful
songs en playin' de banjer. Dave use' ter scrouch down behine de
bushes, en wonder w'at de Lawd sen' 'im all dem tribberlations
"But all er Dave's yuther troubles wa'n't nuffin side er dat ham.
He had wrap' de chain roun' wid a rag, so it didn' hurt his neck;
but w'eneber he went ter wuk, dat ham would be in his way; he had
ter do his task, howsomedever, des de same ez ef he didn' hab de
ham. W'eneber he went ter lay down, dat ham would be in de way.
Ef he turn ober in his sleep, dat ham would be tuggin' at his
neck. It wuz de las' thing he seed at night, en de fus' thing he
seed in de mawnin'. W'eneber he met a stranger, de ham would be
de fus' thing de stranger would see. Most un 'em would 'mence'
ter laf, en whareber Dave went he could see folks p'intin' at him,
en year 'em sayin:--
"'W'at kine er collar dat nigger got roun' his neck?' er, ef dey
knowed 'im, 'Is yer stole any mo' hams lately?' er 'W'at yer take
fer yo' neckliss, Dave?' er some joke er 'nuther 'bout dat ham.
"Fus' Dave didn' mine it so much, caze he knowed he hadn' done
nuffin. But bimeby he got so he couldn' stan' it no longer, en
he'd hide hisse'f in de bushes w'eneber he seed anybody comin', en
alluz kep' hisse'f shet up in his cabin atter he come in fum wuk.
"It wuz monst'us hard on Dave, en bimeby, w'at wid dat ham
eberlastin' en etarnally draggin' roun' his neck, he 'mence' fer
ter do en say quare things, en make de niggers wonder ef he wa'n't
gittin' out'n his mine. He got ter gwine roun' talkin' ter
hisse'f, en singin' corn-shuckin' songs, en laffin' fit ter kill
'bout nuffin. En one day he tole one er de niggers he had
'skivered a noo way fer ter raise hams,--gwine ter pick 'em off'n
trees, en save de expense er smoke-'ouses by kyoin' 'em in de sun.
En one day he up'n tole Mars Walker he got sump'n pertickler fer
ter say ter 'im; en he tuk Mars Walker off ter one side, en tole
'im he wuz gwine ter show 'im a place in de swamp whar dey wuz a
whole trac' er lan' covered wid ham-trees.
"W'en Mars Walker hearn Dave talkin' dis kine er fool-talk, en
w'en he seed how Dave wuz 'mencin' ter git behine in his wuk, en
w'en he ax' de niggers en dey tole 'im how Dave be'n gwine on, he
'lowed he reckon' he'd punish' Dave ernuff, en it mou't do mo'
harm dan good fer ter keep de ham on his neck any longer. So he
sont Dave down ter de blacksmif-shop en had de ham tak off. Dey
wa'n't much er de ham lef' by dat time, fer de sun had melt all de
fat, en de lean had all swivel' up, so dey wa'n't but th'ee er fo'
"W'en de ham had be'n tuk off'n Dave, folks kinder stopped talkin'
'bout 'im so much. But de ham had be'n on his neck so long dat
Dave had sorter got use' ter it. He look des lack he'd los'
sump'n fer a day er so atter de ham wuz tuk off, en didn' 'pear
ter know w'at ter do wid hisse'f; en fine'ly he up'n tuk'n tied a
lightered-knot ter a string, en hid it under de flo' er his cabin,
en w'en nobody wuzn' lookin' he'd take it out en hang it roun' his
neck, en go off in de woods en holler en sing; en he allus tied it
roun' his neck w'en he went ter sleep. Fac', it 'peared lack Dave
done gone clean out'n his mine. En atter a w'ile he got one er de
quarest notions you eber hearn tell un. It wuz 'bout dat time dat
I come back ter de plantation fer ter wuk,--I had be'n out ter
Mars Dugal's yuther place on Beaver Crick for a mont' er so. I
had hearn 'bout Dave en de bacon, en 'bout w'at wuz gwine on on de
plantation; but I didn' b'lieve w'at dey all say 'bout Dave, fer I
knowed Dave wa'n't dat kine er man. One day atter I come back,
me'n Dave wuz choppin' cotton tergedder, w'en Dave lean' on his
hoe, en motion' fer me ter come ober close ter 'im; en den he
retch' ober en w'ispered ter me.
"'Julius', [sic] sezee, 'did yer knowed yer wuz wukkin' long yer
wid a ham?'
"I couldn 'magine w'at he meant. 'G'way fum yer, Dave,' says I.
'Yer ain' wearin' no ham no mo'; try en fergit 'bout dat; 't ain'
gwine ter do yer no good fer ter 'member it.'
"Look a-yer, Julius,' sezee, 'kin yer keep a secret?'
"'Co'se I kin, Dave,' says I. 'I doan go roun' tellin' people
w'at yuther folks says ter me.'
"'Kin I trus' yer, Julius? Will yer cross yo' heart?'
"I cross' my heart. 'Wush I may die ef I tells a soul,' says I.
"Dave look' at me des lack he wuz lookin' thoo me en 'way on de
yuther side er me, en sezee:--
"'Did yer knowed I wuz turnin' ter a ham, Julius?'
"I tried ter 'suade Dave dat dat wuz all foolishness, en dat he
oughtn't ter be talkin' dat-a-way,--hit wa'n't right. En I tole
'im ef he'd des be patien', de time would sho'ly come w'en
eve'ything would be straighten' out, en folks would fine out who
de rale rogue wuz w'at stole de bacon. Dave 'peared ter listen
ter w'at I say, en promise' ter do better, en stop gwine on dat-a-
way; en it seem lack he pick' up a bit w'en he seed dey wuz one
pusson didn' b'lieve dem tales 'bout 'im.
"Hit wa'n't long atter dat befo' Mars Archie McIntyre, ober on de
Wimbleton road, 'mence' ter complain 'bout somebody stealin'
chickens fum his hen-'ouse. De chickens kip' on gwine, en at las'
Mars Archie tole de han's on his plantation dat he gwine ter shoot
de fus' man he ketch in his hen-'ouse. In less'n a week atter he
gin dis warnin', he cotch a nigger in de hen-'ouse, en fill' 'im
full er squir'l-shot. W'en he got a light, he 'skivered it wuz a
strange nigger; en w'en he call' one er his own sarven's, de
nigger tole 'im it wuz our Wiley. W'en Mars Archie foun' dat out,
he sont ober ter our plantation fer ter tell Mars Dugal' he had
shot one er his niggers, en dat he could sen' ober dere en git
w'at wuz lef' un 'im.
"Mars Dugal' wuz mad at fus'; but w'en he got ober dere en hearn
how it all happen', he didn' hab much ter say. Wiley wuz shot so
bad he wuz sho' he wuz gwine ter die, so he up'n says ter ole
"'Mars Dugal',' sezee, 'I knows I's be'n a monst'us bad nigger,
but befo' I go I wanter git sump'n off'n my mine. Dave didn'
steal dat bacon w'at wuz tuk out'n de smoke-'ouse. I stole it
all, en I hid de ham under Dave's cabin fer ter th'ow de blame on
him--en may de good Lawd fergib me fer it.'
"Mars Dugal' had Wiley tuk back ter de plantation, en sont fer a
doctor fer ter pick de shot out'n 'im. En de ve'y nex' mawnin'
Mars Dugal' sont fer Dave ter come up ter de big house; he felt
kinder sorry fer de way Dave had be'n treated. Co'se it wa'n't no
fault er Mars Dugal's, but he wuz gwine ter do w'at he could fer
ter make up fer it. So he sont word down ter de quarters fer Dave
en all de yuther han's ter 'semble up in de yard befo' de big
house at sun-up nex' mawnin'.
"yearly in de mawnin' de niggers all swarm' up in de yard. Mars
Dugal' wuz feelin' so kine dat he had brung up a bairl er cider,
en tole de niggers all fer ter he'p deyselves.
"All dey han's on de plantation come but Dave; en bimeby, w'en it
seem lack he wa'n't comin', Mars Dugal' sont a nigger down ter de
quarters ter look fer 'im. De sun wuz gittin' up, en dey wuz a
heap er wuk ter be done, en Mars Dugal' sorter got ti'ed waitin';
so he up'n says:--
"'Well, boys en gals, I sont fer yer all up yer fer ter tell yer
dat all dat 'bout Dave's stealin' er de bacon wuz a mistake, ez I
s'pose yer all done hearn befo' now, en I's mighty sorry it
happen'. I wants ter treat all my niggers right, en I wants yer
all ter know dat I sets a heap by all er my han's w'at is hones'
en smart. En I want yer all ter treat Dave des lack yer did befo'
dis thing happen', en mine w'at he preach ter yer; fer Dave is a
good nigger, en has had a hard row ter hoe. En de fus' one I
ketch sayin' anythin' 'g'in Dave, I'll tell Mister Walker ter gin
'im forty. Now take ernudder drink er cider all roun', en den git
at dat cotton, fer I wanter git dat Persimmon Hill trac' all pick'
"W'en de niggers wuz gwine 'way, Mars Dugal' tole me fer ter go en
hunt up Dave, en bring 'im up ter de house. I went down ter
Dave's cabin, but couldn' fine 'im dere. Den I look' roun' de
plantation, en in de aidge er de woods, en 'long de road; but I
couldn' fine no sign er Dave. I wuz 'bout ter gin up de sarch,
w'en I happen' fer ter run 'cross a foot-track w'at look' lack
Dave's. I had wukked 'long wid Dave so much dat I knowed his
tracks: he had a monst'us long foot, wid a holler instep, w'ich
wuz sump'n skase 'mongs' black folks. So I follered dat track
'cross de fiel' fum de quarters 'tel I got ter de smoke-'ouse. De
fus' thing I notice' wuz smoke comin' out'n de cracks: it wuz
cu'ous, caze dey hadn' be'n no hogs kill' on de plantation fer six
mont' er so, en all de bacon in de smoke-'ouse wuz done kyoed. I
couldn' 'magine fer ter sabe my life w'at Dave wuz doin' in dat
smoke-'ouse. I went up ter de do' en hollered:--
"Dey didn' nobody answer. I didn' wanter open de do', fer w'ite
folks is monst'us pertickler 'bout dey smoke-'ouses; en ef de
oberseah had a-come up en cotch me in dere, he mou't not wanter
b'lieve I wuz des lookin' fer Dave. So I sorter knock at de do'
en call' out ag'in:--
"'O Dave, hit's me--Julius! Doan be skeered. Mars Dugal' wants
yer ter come up ter de big house,--he done 'skivered who stole de
"But Dave didn' answer. En w'en I look' roun' ag'in en didn' seed
none er his tracks gwine way fum de smoke-'ouse, I knowed he wuz
in dere yit, en I wuz 'termine' fer ter fetch 'im out; so I push
de do' open en look in.
"Dey wuz a pile er bark burnin' in de middle er de flo', en right
ober de fier, hangin' fum one er de rafters, wuz Dave; dey wuz a
rope roun' his neck, en I didn' haf ter look at his face mo' d'n
once fer ter see he wuz dead.
"Den I knowed how it all happen'. Dave had kep' on gittin' wusser
en wusser in his mine, 'tel he des got ter b'lievin' he wuz all
done turnt ter a ham; en den he had gone en built a fier, en tied
a rope roun' his neck, des lack de hams wuz tied, en had hung
hisse'f up in de smoke-'ouse fer ter kyo.
"Dave wuz buried down by de swamp, in de plantation buryin'-
groun'. Wiley didn' died fum de woun' he got in Mars McIntyre's
hen-'ouse; he got well atter a w'ile, but Dilsey wouldn' hab
nuffin mo' ter do wid 'im, en 't wa'n't long 'fo' Mars Dugal' sol'
'im ter a spekilater on his way souf,--he say he didn' want no
sich a nigger on de plantation, ner in de county, ef he could he'p
it. En w'en de een' er de year come, Mars Dugal' turnt Mars
Walker off, en run de plantation hisse'f atter dat.
"Eber sence den," said Julius in conclusion, "w'eneber I eats ham,
it min's me er Dave. I lacks ham, but I nebber kin eat mo' d'n
two er th'ee poun's befo' I gits ter studyin' 'bout Dave, en den I
has ter stop en leab de res' fer ernudder time."
There was a short silence after the old man had finished his
story, and then my wife began to talk to him about the weather, on
which subject he was an authority. I went into the house. When I
came out, half an hour later, I saw Julius disappearing down the
lane, with a basket on his arm.
At breakfast, next morning, it occurred to me that I should like a
slice of ham. I said as much to my wife.
"Oh, no, John," she responded, "you shouldn't eat anything so
heavy for breakfast."
"The fact is," she said, pensively, "I couldn't have eaten any
more of that ham, and so I gave it to Julius."
THE AWAKENING OF THE NEGRO
by Booker T. Washington
When a mere boy, I saw a young colored man, who had spent several
years in school, sitting in a common cabin in the South, studying
a French grammar. I noted the poverty, the untidiness, the want
of system and thrift, that existed about the cabin,
notwithstanding his knowledge of French and other academic
subjects. Another time, when riding on the outer edges of a town
in the South, I heard the sound of a piano coming from a cabin of
the same kind. Contriving some excuse, I entered, and began a
conversation with the young colored woman who was playing, and who
had recently returned from a boarding-school, where she had been
studying instrumental music among other things. Despite the fact
that her parents were living in a rented cabin, eating poorly
cooked food, surrounded with poverty, and having almost none of
the conveniences of life, she had persuaded them to rent a piano
for four or five dollars per month. Many such instances as these,
in connection with my own struggles, impressed upon me the
importance of making a study of our needs as a race, and applying
the remedy accordingly.
Some one may be tempted to ask, Has not the negro boy or girl as
good a right to study a French grammar and instrumental music as
the white youth? I answer, Yes, but in the present condition of
the negro race in this country there is need of something more.
Perhaps I may be forgiven for the seeming egotism if I mention the
expansion of my own life partly as an example of what I mean. My
earliest recollection is of a small one-room log hut on a large
slave plantation in Virginia. After the close of the war, while
working in the coal-mines of West Virginia for the support of my
mother, I heart in some accidental way of the Hampton Institute.
When I learned that it was an institution where a black boy could
study, could have a chance to work for his board, and at the same
time be taught how to work and to realize the dignity of labor, I
resolved to go there. Bidding my mother good-by, I started out
one morning to find my way to Hampton, though I was almost
penniless and had no definite idea where Hampton was. By walking,
begging rides, and paying for a portion of the journey on the
steam-cars, I finally succeeded in reaching the city of Richmond,
Virginia. I was without money or friends. I slept under a
sidewalk, and by working on a vessel next day I earned money to
continue my way to the institute, where I arrived with a surplus
of fifty cents. At Hampton I found the opportunity--in the way of
buildings, teachers, and industries provided by the generous--to
get training in the class-room and by practical touch with
industrial life, to learn thrift, economy, and push. I was
surrounded by an atmosphere of business, Christian influence, and
a spirit of self-help that seemed to have awakened every faculty
in me, and caused me for the first time to realize what it meant
to be a man instead of a piece of property.
While there I resolved that when I had finished the course of
training I would go into the far South, into the Black Belt of the
South, and give my life to providing the same kind of opportunity
for self-reliance and self-awakening that I had found provided for
me at Hampton. My work began at Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1881, in a
small shanty and church, with one teacher and thirty students,
without a dollar's worth of property. The spirit of work and of
industrial thrift, with aid from the State and generosity from the
North, has enabled us to develop an institution of eight hundred
students gathered from nineteen States, with seventy-nine
instructors, fourteen hundred acres of land, and thirty buildings,
including large and small; in all, property valued at $280,000.
Twenty-five industries have been organized, and the whole work is
carried on at an annual cost of about $80,000 in cash; two fifths
of the annual expense so far has gone into permanent plant.
What is the object of all this outlay? First, it must be borne in
mind that we have in the South a peculiar and unprecedented state
of things. It is of the utmost importance that our energy be
given to meeting conditions that exist right about us rather than
conditions that existed centuries ago or that exist in countries a
thousand miles away. What are the cardinal needs among the seven
millions of colored people in the South, most of whom are to be
found on the plantations? Roughly, these needs may be stated as
food, clothing, shelter, education, proper habits, and a
settlement of race relations. The seven millions of colored
people of the South cannot be reached directly by any missionary
agency, but they can be reached by sending out among them strong
selected young men and women, with the proper training of head,
hand, and heart, who will live among these masses and show them
how to lift themselves up.
The problem that the Tuskegee Institute keeps before itself
constantly is how to prepare these leaders. From the outset, in
connection with religious and academic training, it has emphasized
industrial or hand training as a means of finding the way out of
present conditions. First, we have found the industrial teaching
useful in giving the student a chance to work out a portion of his
expenses while in school. Second, the school furnishes labor that