DIDDIE, DUMPS, AND TOT
TO MY DEAR FATHER DR. RICHARD CLARKE OF SELMA, ALABAMA MY HERO AND MY BEAU IDEAL OF A GENTLEMAN I DEDICATE THIS BOOK WITH THE LOVE OF HIS DAUGHTER
IN writing this little volume, I had for my primary object the idea of keeping alive many of the old stories, legends, traditions, games, hymns, and superstitions of the Southern slaves, which, with this generation of negroes, will pass away. There are now no more dear old "Mammies" and "Aunties" in our nurseries, no more good old "Uncles" in the workshops, to tell the children those old tales that have been told to our mothers and grandmothers for generations— the stories that kept our fathers and grandfathers quiet at night, and induced them to go early to bed that they might hear them the sooner.
Nor does my little book pretend to be any defence of slavery. I know not whether it was right or wrong (there are many pros and cons on the subject); but it was the law of the land, made by statesmen from the North as well as the South, long before my day, or my father's or grandfather's day; and, born under that law a slave-holder, and the descendant of slave-holders, raised in the heart of the cotton section, surrounded by negroes from my earliest infancy, "I KNOW whereof I do speak"; and it is to tell of the pleasant and happy relations that existed between master and slave that I write this story of Diddie, Dumps, and Tot.
The stories, plantation games, and Hymns are just as I heard them in my childhood. I have learned that Mr. Harris, in Uncle Remus, has already given the "Tar Baby"; but I have not seen his book, and, as our versions are probably different, I shall let mine remain just as "Chris" told it to the "chil'en."
I hope that none of my readers will be shocked at the seeming irreverence of my book, for that intimacy with the "Lord" was characteristic of the negroes. They believed implicitly in a Special Providence and direct punishment or reward, and that faith they religiously tried to impress upon their young charges, white or black; and "heavy, heavy hung over our heads" was the DEVIL!
The least little departure from a marked-out course of morals or manners was sure to be followed by, "Nem' min', de deb'l gwine git yer."
And what the Lord 'lowed and what he didn't 'low was perfectly well known to every darky. For instance, "he didn't 'low no singin' uv week-er-day chunes uv er Sunday," nor "no singin' uv reel chunes" (dance music) at any time; nor did he "'low no sassin' of ole pussons."
The "chu'ch membahs" had their little differences of opinion. Of course they might differ on such minor points as "immersion" and "sprinklin'," "open" or "close" communion; but when it came to such grave matters as "singin' uv reel chunes," or "sassin' uv ole pussons," Baptists and Methodists met on common ground, and stood firm.
Nor did our Mammies and Aunties neglect our manners. To say "yes" or "no" to any person, white or black, older than ourselves was considered very rude; it must always be "yes, mam," "no, mam"; "yes, sir," "no, sir"; and those expressions are still, and I hope ever will be, characteristic of Southerners.
The child-life that I have portrayed is over now; for no hireling can ever be to the children what their Mammies were, and the strong tie between the negroes and "marster's chil'en" is broken forever.
So, hoping that my book (which claims no literary merit) will serve to amuse the little folks, and give them an insight into a childhood peculiar to the South in her palmy days, without further preface I send out my volume of Plantation Child-life.
I. DIDDIE, DUMPS, AND TOT II. CHRISTMAS ON THE OLD PLANTATION III. MAMMY'S STORY IV. OLD BILLY V. DIDDIE'S BOOK VI. UNCLE SNAKE-BIT BOB'S SUNDAY-SCHOOL VII. POOR ANN VIII. UNCLE BOB'S PROPOSITION IX. AUNT EDY'S STORY X. PLANTATION GAMES XI. DIDDIE IN TROUBLE XII. HOW THE WOODPECKER'S HEAD AND THE ROBIN'S BREAST CAME TO BE RED XIII. A PLANTATION MEETING, AND UNCLE DANIEL'S SERMON XIV. DIDDIE AND DUMPS GO VISITING XV. THE FOURTH OF JULY XVI. "'STRUCK'N UV DE CHIL'EN" XVII. WHAT BECAME OF THEM
DIDDIE, DUMPS AND TOT
DIDDIE, DUMPS AND TOT
THEY were three little sisters, daughters of a Southern planter, and they lived in a big white house on a cotton plantation in Mississippi. The house stood in a grove of cedars and live-oaks, and on one side was a flower-garden, with two summer-houses covered with climbing roses and honey-suckles, where the little girls would often have tea-parties in the pleasant spring and summer days. Back of the house was a long avenue of water-oaks leading to the quarters where the negroes lived.
Major Waldron, the father of the children, owned a large number of slaves, and they loved him and his children very dearly. And the little girls loved them, particularly "Mammy," who had nursed their mother, and now had entire charge of the children; and Aunt Milly, a lame yellow woman, who helped Mammy in the nursery; and Aunt Edy, the head laundress, who was never too busy to amuse them. Then there was Aunt Nancy, the "tender," who attended to the children for the field-hands, and old Uncle Snake-bit Bob, who could scarcely walk at all, because he had been bitten by a snake when he was a boy: so now he had a little shop, where he made baskets of white-oak splits for the hands to pick cotton in; and he always had a story ready for the children, and would let them help him weave baskets whenever Mammy would take them to the shop.
Besides these, there were Riar, Chris, and Dilsey, three little negroes, who belonged to the little girls and played with them, and were in training to be their maids by-and-by.
Diddie, the oldest of the children, was nine years of age, and had a governess, Miss Carrie, who had taught her to read quite well, and even to write a letter. She was a quiet, thoughtful little girl, well advanced for her age, and lady-like in her manners.
Dumps, the second sister, was five, full of fun and mischief, and gave Mammy a great deal of trouble on account of her wild tomboyish ways.
Tot, the baby, was a tiny, little blue-eyed child of three, with long light curls, who was always amiable and sweet-tempered, and was petted by everybody who knew her.
Now, you must not think that the little girls had been carried to the font and baptized with such ridiculous names as Diddie, Dumps, and Tot: these were only pet names that Mammy had given them; but they had been called by them so long that many persons forgot that Diddie's name was Madeleine, that Dumps had been baptized Elinor, and that Tot bore her mother's name of Eugenia, for they were known as Diddie, Dumps and Tot to all of their friends.
The little girls were very happy in their plantation home. 'Tis true they lived 'way out in the country, and had no museums nor toy-shops to visit, no fine parks to walk or ride in, nor did they have a very great variety of toys. They had some dolls and books, and a baby-house furnished with little beds and chairs and tables; and they had a big Newfoundland dog, Old Bruno; and Dumps and Tot both had a little kitten apiece; and there was "Old Billy," who once upon a time had been a frisky little lamb, Diddie's special pet; but now he was a vicious old sheep, who amused the children very much by running after them whenever he could catch them out-of-doors. Sometimes, though, he would butt them over and hurt them and Major Waldron had several times had him turned into the pasture; but Diddie would always cry and beg for him to be brought back and so Old Billy was nearly always in the yard.
Then there was Corbin, the little white pony that belonged to all of the children together, and was saddled and bridled every fair day, and tied to the horse-rack, that the little girls might ride him whenever they chose; and 'twas no unusual sight to see two of them on him at once, cantering down the big road or through the grove.
And, besides all these amusements, Mammy or Aunt Milly or Aunt Edy, or some of the negroes, would tell them tales; and once in a while they would slip off and go to the quarters, to Aunt Nancy the tender's cabin, and play with the little quarter children. They particularly liked to go there about dark to hear the little negroes say their prayers.
Aunt Nancy would make them all kneel down in a row, and clasp their hands and shut their eyes: then she would say, "Our Father, who art in heaven," and all the little darkies together would repeat each petition after her; and if they didn't all keep up, and come out together, she would give the delinquent a sharp cut with a long switch that she always kept near her. So the prayer was very much interrupted by the little "nigs" telling on each other, calling out "Granny" (as they all called Aunt Nancy), "Jim didn't say his 'kingdom come.'"
"Yes I did, Granny; don't yer b'lieve dat gal; I said jes' much 'kingdom come' ez she did."
And presently Jim would retaliate by saying,
"Granny, Polly nuber sed nuf'n 'bout her 'cruspusses.'"
"Lord-ee! jes' lis'n at dat nigger," Polly would say. "Granny, don't yer min' 'im; I sed furgib us cruspusses, jes' ez plain ez anybody, and Ginny hyeard me; didn't yer, Ginny?"
At these interruptions Aunt Nancy would stop to investigate the matter, and whoever was found in fault was punished with strict and impartial justice.
Another very interesting time to visit the quarters was in the morning before breakfast, to see Aunt Nancy give the little darkies their "vermifuge." She had great faith in the curative properties of a very nauseous vermifuge that she had made herself by stewing some kind of herbs in molasses, and every morning she would administer a teaspoonful of it to every child under her care; and she used to say,
"Ef'n hit want fur dat furmifuge, den marster wouldn't hab all dem niggers w'at yer see hyear."
Now, I don't know about that; but I do know that the little darkies would rather have had fewer "niggers" and less "furmifuge;" for they acted shamefully every time they were called upon to take a dose. In the first place, whenever Aunt Nancy appeared with the bottle and spoon, as many of the children as could get away would flee for their lives, and hide themselves behind the hen-coops and ash-barrels, and under the cabins, and anywhere they could conceal themselves.
But that precaution was utterly useless, for Aunt Nancy would make them all form in a line, and in that way would soon miss any absentees; but there were always volunteers to hunt out and run down and bring back the shirkers, who, besides having to take the vermifuge, would get a whipping into the bargain.
And even after Aunt Nancy would get them into line and their hands crossed behind their backs, she would have to watch very closely, or some wicked little "nig" would slip into the place of the one just above him, and make a horrible face, and spit, and wipe his mouth as if he had just taken his dose; and thereby the one whose place he had taken would have to swallow a double portion, while he escaped entirely; or else a scuffle would ensue, and a very animated discussion between the parties as to who had taken the last dose; and unless it could be decided satisfactorily, Aunt Nancy would administer a dose to each one; for, in her opinion, "too much furmifuge wuz better'n none."
And so you see the giving of the vermifuge consumed considerable time. After that was through with she would begin again at the head of the line, and making each child open its mouth to its fullest extent, she would examine each throat closely, and, if any of them had their "palates down," she would catch up a little clump of hair right on top of their heads and wrap it around as tightly as she could with a string, and then, catching hold of this "top-knot," she would pull with all her might to bring up the palate. The unlucky little "nig" in the meanwhile kept up the most unearthly yells, for so great was the depravity among them that they had rather have their palates down than up. Keeping their "palate locks" tied was a source of great trouble and worriment to Aunt Nancy.
The winter was always a great season with the children; Mammy would let them have so many candy-stews, and they parched "goobers" in the evenings, and Aunt Milly had to make them so many new doll's clothes, to "keep them quiet," as Dumps said; and such romps and games as they would have in the old nursery!
There were two rooms included in the nursery— one the children's bedroom and the other their playroom, where they kept all their toys and litter; and during the winter bright wood fires were kept up in both rooms, that the children might not take cold, and around both fireplaces were tall brass fenders that were kept polished till they shone like gold. Yet, in spite of this precaution, do you know that once Dilsey, Diddie's little maid, actually caught on fire, and her linsey dress was burned off, and Aunt Milly had to roll her over and over on the floor, and didn't get her put out till her little black neck was badly burned, and her little wooly head all singed. After that she had to be nursed for several days. Diddie carried her her meals, and Dumps gave her "Stella," a china doll that was perfectly good, only she had one leg off and her neck cracked; but, for all that, she was a great favorite in the nursery, and it grieved Dumps very much to part with her; but she thought it was her "Christian juty," as she told Diddie; so Aunt Milly made Stella a new green muslin dress, and she was transferred to Dilsey.
There was no railroad near the plantation, but it was only fifteen miles to the river, and Major Waldron would go down to New Orleans every winter to lay in his year's supplies, which were shipped by steamboats to the landing and hauled from there to the plantation. It was a jolly time for both white and black when the wagons came from the river; there were always boxes of fruits and candies and nuts, besides large trunks which were carried into the store-room till Christmas, and which everybody knew contained Christmas presents for "all hands." One winter evening in 1853, the children were all gathered at the big gate, on the lookout for the wagons. Diddie was perched upon one gate-post and Dumps on the other, while Tot was sitting on the fence, held on by Riar, lest she might fall. Dilsey and Chris were stationed 'way down the road to catch the first glimpse of the wagons. They were all getting very impatient, for they had been out there nearly an hour, and it was now getting so late they knew Mammy would not let them stay much longer.
"I know de reason dey so late, Miss Diddie," said Riar, "dey got dat new mule Sam in de lead in one de wagins, and Unker Bill say he know he gwine cut up, f'um de look in he's eyes."
"Uncle Bill don't know everything," answered Diddie. "There are six mules in the wagon, and Sam's jest only one of 'em; I reckon he can't cut up much by hisself; five's more'n one, ain't it?"
"I do b'lieve we've been out hyear er hun-der-d hours," said Dumps, yawning wearily; and just then Dilsey and Chris came running towards the gate, waving their arms and crying,
"Hyear dey come! hyear dey come!" and, sure enough, the great white-covered wagons came slowly down the road, and Major Waldron on Prince, his black horse, riding in advance.
He quickened his pace when he caught sight of the children; for he was very fond of his little daughters, and had been away from them two weeks, trading in New Orleans. He rode up now to the fence, and lifting Tot to the saddle before him, took her in his arms and kissed her.
Diddie and Dumps scrambled down from the gate-posts and ran along by the side of Prince to the house, where their mamma was waiting on the porch. And oh! such a joyful meeting! such hugging and kissing all around!
Then the wagons came up, and the strong negro men began taking out the boxes and bundles and carrying them to the storeroom.
"Hand me out that covered basket, Nelson," said Major Waldron to one of the men; and taking it carefully to the house, he untied the cover, and there lay two little white woolly puppies— one for Diddie, and one for Dumps.
The little girls clapped their hands and danced with delight.
"Ain't they lovely?" said Dumps, squeezing hers in her arms.
"Lubly," echoed Tot, burying her chubby little hands in the puppy's wool, while Diddie cuddled hers in her arms as tenderly as if it had been a baby.
Mammy made a bed for the doggies in a box in one corner of the nursery, and the children were so excited and so happy that she could hardly get them to bed at all; but after a while Tot's blue eyes began to droop, and she fell asleep in Mammy's arms, murmuring, "De booful itty doggie."
"De booful itty doggies," however, did not behave very well; they cried and howled, and Dumps insisted on taking hers up and rocking him to sleep.
"Hit's er gittin' so late, honey," urged Mammy, "let 'um stay in de box, an' go ter bed now, like good chil'en."
"I know I ain't, Mammy," replied Dumps. "You mus' think I ain't got no feelin's ter go ter bed an' leave 'im hollerin'. I'm er goin' ter rock 'im ter sleep in my little rockin'-cheer, an' you needn't be er fussin' at me nuther."
"I ain't er fussin' at yer, chile; I'm jes' 'visin' uv yer fur yer good; caze hit's yer bed-time, an' dem puppies will likely holler all night."
"Then we will sit up all night," said Diddie, in her determined way. "I'm like Dumps; I'm not going to bed an' leave 'im cryin'."
So Mammy drew her shawl over her head and lay back in her chair for a nap, while Diddie and Dumps took the little dogs in their arms and sat before the fire rocking; and Chris and Dilsey and Riar all squatted on the floor around the fender, very much interested in. the process of getting the puppies quiet.
Presently Dumps began to sing:
"Ef'n 'ligion was er thing that money could buy, O reign, Marse Jesus, er reign; De rich would live, an' de po' would die, O reign, Marse Jesus, er reign. Chorus O reign, reign, reign, er my Lord, O reign, Marse Jesus, er reign: O reign, reign, reign, er my Lord, O reign, Marse Jesus, er reign. But de Lord he 'lowed he wouldn't have it so. O reign, Marse Jesus, er reign; So de rich mus' die jes' same as de po', O reign, Marse Jesus, er reign."
This was one of the plantation hymns with which Mammy often used to sing Tot to sleep, and all the children were familiar with the words and air; so now they all joined in the singing, and very sweet music it was. They had sung it through several times, and the puppies, finding themselves so outdone in the matter of noise, had curled up in the children's laps and were fast asleep, when Diddie interrupted the chorus to ask:
"Dumps, what are you goin' ter name your doggie?"
"I b'lieve I'll name 'im 'Papa,'" replied Dumps, "because he give 'im ter me."
"'Papa,' indeed!" said Diddie, contemptuously; "that's no name for a dog; I'm goin' ter name mine after some great big somebody."
"Lord-ee! I tell yer, Miss Diddie; name 'im Marse Samson, atter de man w'at Mammy wuz tellin' 'bout totin' off de gates," said Dilsey.
"No yer don't, Miss Diddie; don't yer name 'im no sich," said Chris; "le's name im' Marse Whale, w'at swallered de man an' nuber chawed 'im."
"No, I sha'n't name him nothin' out'n the Bible," said Diddie, "because that's wicked, and maybe God wouldn't let him live, just for that; I b'lieve I'll name him Christopher Columbus, 'cause if he hadn't discovered America there wouldn't er been no people hyear, an' I wouldn't er had no father nor mother, nor dog, nor nothin'; an', Dumps, sposin' you name yours Pocahontas, that was er beau-ti-ful Injun girl, an' she throwed her arms 'roun' Mr. Smith an' never let the tomahawks kill 'im."
"I know I ain't goin' to name mine no Injun," said Dumps, decidedly.
"Yer right, Miss Dumps; now yer's er talkin'," said Riar; "I wouldn't name 'im no Injun; have 'im tearin' folks' hyar off, like Miss Diddie reads in de book. I don't want ter hab nuffin 'tall ter do wid no Injuns; no, sar! I don't like' dem folks."
"Now, chil'en de dogs is 'sleep," said Mammy, yawning and rubbing her eyes; "go ter bed, won't yer?"
And the little girls, after laying the puppies in the box and covering them with an old shawl, were soon fast asleep. But there was not much sleep in the nursery that night; the ungrateful little dogs howled and cried all night. Mammy got up three times and gave them warm milk, and tucked them up in the shawl; but no sooner would she put them back in the box than they would begin to cry and howl. And so at the breakfast-table next morning, when Dumps asked her papa to tell her something to name her puppy, Diddie gravely remarked,
"I think, Dumps, we had better name 'um Cherubim an' Seraphim, for they continually do cry."
And her papa was so amused at the idea that he said he thought so too; and thus the puzzling question of the names was decided, and the little wooly poodles were called Cherubim and Seraphim, and became great pets in the household.
CHRISTMAS ON THE OLD PLANTATION
CHRISTMAS morning, 1853, dawned cold and rainy, and scarcely had the first gray streak appeared when the bolt of the nursery was quietly turned, and Dilsey's little black head peered in through the half-open door.
"Chris'mus gif', chil'en!" she called out, and in a twinkling Diddie, Dumps and Tot were all wide awake, and climbing over the side of the bed. Then the three little sisters and Dilsey tip-toed all around to everybody's rooms, catching "Chris'mus gif';" but just as they were creeping down-stairs to papa and mamma two little forms jumped from behind the hall door, and Riar and Chris called out, "Chris'mus gif'!" and laughed and danced to think they had "cotch de white chil'en."
As soon as everybody had been caught they all went into the sitting-room to see what Santa Clause had brought, and there were eight stockings all stuffed full! Three long, white stockings, that looked as if they might be mamma's, were for the little girls, and three coarse woolen stockings were for the little nigs; and now whom do you suppose the others were for? Why, for Mammy and Aunt Milly, to be sure! Oh, such lots of things— candies and nuts, and raisins and fruits in every stocking; then there was a doll baby for each of the children. Diddie's was a big china doll, with kid feet and hands, and dressed in a red frock trimmed with black velvet. Dumps's was a wax baby with eyes that would open and shut; and it had on a long white dress, just like a sure-enough baby, and a little yellow sack, all worked around with white.
Tot was so little, and treated her dollies so badly, that "Old Santa" had brought her an India-rubber baby, dressed in pink tarlatan, with a white sash.
Dilsey, Chris, and Riar each had an alabaster baby, dressed in white Swiss, and they were all just alike, except that they had different colored sashes on.
And Diddie had a book full of beautiful stories, and Dumps had a slate and pencil, and Tot had a "Noah's ark," and Mammy and Aunt Milly had red and yellow head "handkerchiefs," and Mammy had a new pair of "specs" and a nice warm hood, and Aunt Milly had a delaine dress; and 'way down in the toes of their stockings they each found a five-dollar gold piece, for Old Santa had seen how patient and good the two dear old women were to the children, and so he had "thrown in" these gold pieces.
How the little folks laughed and chatted as they pulled the things out of their stockings! But pretty soon Mammy made them put them all away, to get ready for breakfast.
After breakfast the big plantation bell was rung, and the negroes all came up to the house. And then a great box that had been in the store-room ever since the wagons got back from the river, three weeks before, was brought in and opened, and Mrs. Waldron took from it dresses and hats, and bonnets and coats, and vests and all sorts of things, until every pair of black hands had received a present, and every pair of thick lips exclaimed,
"Thankee, mistis! thankee, honey; an' God bless yer!"
And then Chris, who had been looking anxiously every moment or two towards the quarters, cried out,
"Yon' dey is! I see um! Yon' dey come!"
And down the long avenue appeared the funniest sort of a procession. First came Aunt Nancy, the "tender," with her head handkerchief tied in a sharp point that stuck straight up from her head; and behind her, two and two, came the little quarter negroes, dressed in their brightest and newest clothes, All were there— from the boys and girls of fourteen down to the little wee toddlers of two or three, and some even younger than that; for in the arms of several of the larger girls were little bits of black babies, looking all around in their queer kind of way, and wondering what all this was about.
The procession drew up in front of the house, and Diddie, Dumps and Tot went from one end of it to the other distributing candies and apples, and oranges and toys; and how the bright faces did light up with joy as the little darkies laughed and chuckled, and I dare say would have jumped up and clapped their hands but for Aunt Nancy, who was keeping a sharp eye upon them, and who would say, as every present was delivered,
"Min' yer manners, now!"
At which the little nigs would make a comical little "bob-down" courtesy and say, "Thankee, marm."
When the presents were all delivered, Major Waldron told the negroes that their mistress and himself were going to the quarters to take presents to the old negroes and the sick, who could not walk to the house, and after that he would have service in the chapel, and that he hoped as many as could would attend.
Then the crowd dispersed, and the children's mamma filled a basket with "good things," and presents for old Aunt Sally, who was almost blind; and poor Jane, who had been sick a long time; and Daddy Jake, the oldest negro on the place, who never ventured out in bad weather for fear of the "rheumatiz;" and then, accompanied by her husband and children, she carried it to the quarters to wish the old negroes a happy Christmas.
The quarters presented a scene of the greatest excitement. Men and women were bustling about, in and out of the cabins, and the young folks were busily engaged cleaning up the big barn and dressing it with boughs of holly and cedar; for you see Aunt Sukey's Jim was going to be married that very night, and the event had been talked of for weeks, for he was a great favorite on the place.
He was a tall, handsome black fellow, with white teeth and bright eyes, and he could play the fiddle and pick the banjo, and knock the bones and cut the pigeon-wing, and, besides all that, he was the best hoe-hand, and could pick more cotton than any other negro on the plantation. He had amused himself by courting and flirting with all of the negro girls; but at last he had been caught himself by pretty Candace, one of the housemaids, and a merry dance she had led him.
She had kept poor Jim six long months on the rack. First she'd say she'd marry him, and then she'd say she wouldn't (not that she ever really meant that she wouldn't), for she just wanted to torment him; and she succeeded so well that Jim became utterly wretched, and went to his master to know "ef'n he couldn't make dat yaller gal 'have herse'f."
But his master assured him it was a matter that he had nothing on earth to do with, and even told Jim that it was but fair that he, who had enjoyed flirting so long, should now be flirted with.
However, one evening his mistress came upon the poor fellow sitting on the creek bank looking very disconsolate, and overheard him talking to himself,
"Yes, sar!" he was saying, as if arguing with somebody. "Yes, sar, by rights dat nigger gal oughter be beat mos' ter deff, she clean bodder de life out'n me, an' marster, he jes' oughter kill dat nigger. I dunno w'at makes me kyar so much er bout'n her no way; dar's plenty er likelier gals'n her, an' I jes' b'lieve dat's er trick nigger; anyhow she's tricked me, sho's yer born; an' ef'n I didn't b'long ter nobody, I'd jump right inter dis creek an' drown myse'f. But I ain't got no right ter be killin' up marster's niggers dat way; I'm wuff er thousan' dollars, an' marster ain't got no thousan' dollars ter was'e in dis creek, long er dat lazy, shif'less, good-fur-nuffin' yaller nigger."
The poor fellow's dejected countenance and evident distress enlisted the sympathy of his mistress, and thinking that any negro who took such good care of his master's property would make a good husband, she sought an interview with Candace, and so pleaded with her in behalf of poor Jim that the dusky coquette relented, and went down herself to Aunt Sukey's cabin to tell her lover that she did love him all along, and was "jis' er projeckin' wid 'im," and that she would surely marry him Christmas-night.
Their master had had a new cabin built for them, and their mistress had furnished it neatly for the young folks to begin housekeeping, and in mamma's wardrobe was a white dress and a veil and wreath that were to be the bride's Christmas gifts. They were to be married in the parlor at the house, and dance afterwards in the barn, and the wedding supper was to be set in the laundry.
So you see it was a busy day, with so much of cake-baking and icing and trimming to be done; and then the girls had to see about their dresses for the evening, and the young men had their shoes to black, and their best clothes to brush, and their hair to unwrap; but notwithstanding all this, when Major Waldron and his family entered the chapel they found a large congregation assembled; indeed, all were there except the sick; and master and slaves, the white children and black, united their hearts and voices to
"Laurel and magnify His holy name,"
and to return thanks to God for his great Christmas gift of a Saviour to the world.
As they were leaving the chapel after service, Dumps drew close to her mother and whispered,
"Mamma, bein' as this is Chris'mas an' it's rainin', can't we have some of the little quarter niggers to go to the house and play Injuns with us?"
Mamma was about to refuse, for the little girls were not allowed to play with the quarter children; but Dumps looked very wistful, and, besides, Mammy would be with them in the nursery, so she consented, and each of the children were told that they might select one of the little negroes to play with them.
Diddie took a little mulatto girl named Agnes. Dumps had so many favorites that it was hard for her to decide; but finally she selected Frances, a lively little darky, who could dance and pat and sing and shout, and do lots of funny things.
Tot took Polly, a big girl of fourteen, who could, and sometimes did, take the little one on her back and trot around with her. She lifted her now to her shoulders, and, throwing her head up and snorting like a horse, started off in a canter to the house; while Diddie and Dumps, and Chris and Riar, and Agnes and Frances followed on behind, all barking like dogs, and making believe that Tot was going hunting and they were the hounds.
"See, Mammy, here's Agnes and Polly and Frances," said Diddie, as they entered the nursery; "mamma let us have them, and they are to stay here a long time and play Injuns with us."
"Now, Miss Diddie, honey," said Mammy, "Injuns is sich a sackremenchus play, an' makes so much litter and fuss; git yer dolls, an' play like er little lady."
"No, no, no," interrupted Dumps; "we're goin' ter play Injuns! We're goin' ter make out we're travellin' in the big rockin'-cheer, goin' ter New Orleans, an' the little niggers is got ter be Injuns, hid all behin' the trunks an' beds an' door; an' after, we rock an' rock er lo-o-ong time, then we're goin' ter make out it's night, an' stretch mamma's big shawl over two cheers an' make er tent, and be cookin' supper in our little pots an' kittles, an' the little niggers is got ter holler, 'Who-ee, who-eee,' an' jump out on us, an' cut off our heads with er billycrow."
"How silly you do talk, Dumps!" said Diddie; "there ain't any Injuns between here and New Orleans; we've got ter be goin' to California, a far ways f'um here. An' I don't b'lieve there's nothin' in this world named er 'billycrow;' it's er tommyhawk you're thinkin' about: an' Injuns don't cut off people's heads; it was Henry the Eighth. Injuns jes' cut off the hair and call it sculpin', don't they, Mammy?"
"Lor', chile," replied Mammy, "I dunno, honey; I allers hyeard dat Injuns wuz monstrous onstreperous, an' I wouldn't play no sich er game."
But "Injuns, Injuns, Injuns!" persisted all the little folks, and Mammy had to yield.
The big chair was put in the middle of the room, and the little girls got in. Chris sat up on the arms to be the driver, and they started off for California. After travelling some time night set in, and the emigrants got out, and pitched a tent and made preparations for cooking supper; little bits of paper were torn up and put into the miniature pots and kettles, and the children were busy stirring them round with a stick for a spoon, when the terrible war-whoop rang in their ears, and from under the bed and behind the furniture jumped out the five little negroes.
The travellers ran in every direction, and the Injuns after them. Diddie hid in the wardrobe, and Mammy covered Tot up in the middle of the bed; Chris turned the chip-box over and tried to get under it, but the fierce savages dragged her out, and she was soon tied hand and foot; Dumps jumped into the clothes-basket, and Aunt Milly threw a blanket over her, but Frances had such keen little eyes that she soon spied her and captured her at once.
Then a wild yell was sounded, and Polly and Dilsey pounced upon Tot, who had become tired of lying still, and was wriggling about so that she had been discovered; and now all the travellers were captured except Diddie. The injuns looked everywhere for her in vain.
"She mus' er gone up fru de chimbly, like Marse Santion Claws," said Agnes; and Diddie thought that was so funny that she giggled outright, and in a moment the wardrobe was opened and she was also taken prisoner. Then the four little captives were laid on their backs, and Polly scalped them with a clothes-brush for a tomahawk.
As soon as they were all scalped they started over again, and kept up the fun until the big plantation bell sounded, and then the Injuns deserted in a body and ran off pell-mell to the quarters; for that bell was for the Christmas dinner, and they wouldn't miss that for all the scalps that ever were taken.
There were three long tables, supplied with good, well-cooked food, followed by a nice dessert of pudding and cake, and the darkies, one and all, did full justice to it.
Up at the house was a grand dinner, with turkey, mince-pie, and plum-pudding, of course.
When that was through with, mamma told the little girls that the little quarter negroes were to have a candy stew, and that Mammy might take them to witness the pulling. This was a great treat, for there was nothing the children enjoyed so much as going to the quarters to see the little negroes play.
The candy stew had been suggested by Aunt Nancy as a fine device for getting rid of the little darkies for the night. They were to have the frolic only on condition that they would go to bed and not insist on being at the wedding. This they readily agreed to; for they feared they would not be allowed to sit up anyway, and they thought best to make sure of the candy-pulling.
When the little girls reached Aunt Nancy's cabin, two big kettles of molasses were on the fire, and, to judge by the sputtering and simmering, the candy was getting on famously. Uncle Sambo had brought his fiddle in, and some of the children were patting and singing and dancing, while others were shelling goobers and picking out scaly-barks to put in the candy; and when the pulling began, if you could have heard the laughing and joking you would have thought there was no fun like a candy stew.
As a special favor, the little girls were allowed to stay up and see Candace married; and very nice she looked when her mistress had finished dressing her: her white Swiss was fresh and new, and the wreath and veil were very becoming, and she made quite a pretty bride; at least Jim thought so, and that was enough for her.
Jim was dressed in a new pepper-and-salt suit, his Christmas present from his master, and the bridesmaids and groomsmen all looked very fine. Mamma arranged the bridal party in the back parlor, and the folding-doors were thrown open. Both rooms and the large hall were full of negroes. The ceremony was performed by old Uncle Daniel, the negro preacher on the place, and the children's father gave the bride away.
After the marriage, the darkies adjourned to the barn to dance. Diddie and Dumps begged to be allowed to go and look at them "just a little while," but it was their bedtime, and Mammy marched hem off to the nursery.
About twelve o'clock supper was announced, and old and young repaired to the laundry. The room was festooned with wreaths of holly and cedar, and very bright and pretty and tempting the table looked, spread out with meats and breads, and pickles and preserves, and home-made wine, and cakes of all sorts and sizes, iced and plain; large bowls of custard and jelly; and candies, and fruits and nuts.
In the centre of the table was a pyramid, beginning with a large cake at the bottom and ending with a "snowball" on top.
At the head of the table was the bride-cake, containing the "ring" and the "dime;" it was handsomely iced, and had a candy Cupid perched over it, on a holly bough which was stuck in a hole in the middle of the cake. It was to be cut after a while by each of the bridesmaids and groomsmen in turns; and whoever should cut the slice containing the ring would be the next one to get married; but whoever should get the dime was to be an old maid or an old bachelor.
The supper was enjoyed hugely, particularly a big bowl of eggnog, which so enlivened them all that the dancing was entered into with renewed vigor, and kept up till the gray tints in the east warned them that another day had dawned, and that Christmas was over.
But you may be sure that in all Christendom it had been welcomed in and ushered out by no merrier, lighter hearts than those of the happy, contented folks on the old plantation.
ONE cold, rainy night a little group were assembled around a crackling wood fire in the nursery; Mammy was seated in a low chair, with Tot in her arms; Dumps was rocking her doll back and forth, and Diddie was sitting at the table reading; Aunt Milly was knitting, and the three little darkies were nodding by the fire.
"Mammy," said Dumps, "s'posin you tell us a tale." Tot warmly seconded the motion, and Mammy, who was never more delighted than when astonishing the children with her wonderful stories, at once assumed a meditative air. "Lem me see," said the old woman, scratching her head; "I reckon I'll tell yer 'bout de wushin'-stone, ain't neber told yer dat yit. I know yer've maybe hearn on it, leastways Milly has; but den she mayn't have hearn de straight on it, fur 'taint eb'y nigger knows it. Yer see, Milly, my mammy was er 'riginal Guinea nigger, an' she knowed 'bout de wushin'-stone herse'f, an' she told me one Wednesday night on de full er de moon, an' w'at I'm gwine ter tell yer is de truff."
Having thus authenticated her story beyond a doubt, Mammy hugged Tot a little closer and began:
"Once 'pon er time dar wuz a beautiful gyarden wid all kind er nice blossoms, an' trees, an' brooks, an' things, whar all de little chil'en usen ter go and play, an' in dis gyarden de grass wuz allers green, de blossoms allers bright, and de streams allers clar, caze hit b'longed to er little Fraid, named Cheery."
"A 'little Fraid,'" interrupted Diddie, contemptuously. "Why, Mammy, there's no such a thing as a 'Fraid.'"
"Lord, Miss Diddie, 'deed dey is," said Dilsey, with her round eyes stretched to their utmost; "I done seed 'em myse'f, an' our Clubfoot Bill he was er gwine 'long one time—"
"Look er hyear, yer kinky-head nigger, whar's yer manners?" asked Mammy, "'ruptin' uv eld'ly pussons. I'm de one w'at's 'struck'n dese chil'en, done struck dey mother fuss; I'll tell 'em w'at's becomin' fur 'em ter know; I don't want 'em ter hyear nuf'n 'bout sich low cornfiel' niggers ez Club-foot Bill.
"Yes, Miss Diddie, honey," said Mammy, resuming her story, "dar sholy is Fraids; Mammy ain't gwine tell yer nuf'n', honey, w'at she dun know fur er fack; so as I wuz er sayin', dis little Fraid wuz name Cheery, an' she'd go all 'roun' eb'y mornin' an' tech up de grass an' blossoms an' keep 'em fresh, fur she loved ter see chil'en happy, an' w'en dey rolled ober on de grass, an' strung de blossoms, an' waded up an' down de streams, an' peeped roun' de trees, Cheery'd clap 'er han's an' laugh, an' dance roun' an' roun'; an' sometimes dar'd be little po' white chil'en, an' little misfortnit niggers would go dar; an' w'en she'd see de bright look in dey tired eyes, she'd fix things prettier'n eber.
"Now dar wuz er nudder little Fraid name Dreary; an' she wuz sad an' gloomy, an' neber dance, nor play, nor nuf'n; but would jes go off poutin', like to herse'f. Well, one day she seed er big flat stone under a tree. She said ter herse'f, 'I ain't gwine ter be like dat foolish Cheery, dancin' an' laughin' foreber, caze she thinks such things ez flowers an' grass kin make folks happy; but I'm gwine ter do er rael good ter eb'ybody," so she laid er spell on de stone, so dat w'en anybody sot on de stone an' wush anything dey'd hab jes w'at dey wush fur; an' so as ter let er heap er folks wush at once, she made it so dat eb'y wush would make de stone twice ez big ez 'twuz befo'.
"Po' little Cheery was mighty troubled in her min' w'en she foun' out 'bout'n hit, an' she beg Dreary ter tuck de spell off; but no, she wouldn't do it. She 'lowed, do, ef anybody should eber wush anything fur anybody else, dat den de stone might shrink up ergin; fur who, she sez ter herse'f, is gwine ter wush fur things fur tudder folks? An' she tol' de little birds dat stay in de tree de stone wuz under, when anybody sot on de stone dey mus' sing, 'I wush I had,' an' 'I wush I wuz,' so as ter 'min' 'em 'bout'n de wushin'-stone. Well, 'twan't long fo' de gyarden wuz plum crowded wid folks come ter wush on de stone, an' hit wuz er growin' bigger an' bigger all de time, an' mashin' de blossoms an' grass; an' dar wan't no mo' merry chil'en playin' 'mong de trees an' wadin' in de streams; no soun's ob laughin' and joy in de gyarden; eb'ybody wuz er quarlin, 'bout'n who should hab de nex' place, or wuz tryin' ter study up what dey'd wush fur; an' Cheery wuz jes ez mizer'bul as er free nigger, 'bout her gyarden.
"De folks would set on de stone, while de little birds would sing, 'I wush I had," an' dey'd wush dey had money, an' fren's, an' sense, an' happiness, an' 'ligion; an' 'twould all come true jes like dey wush fur. Den de little birds would sing, 'I wush I wuz," an' dey'd wush dey wuz lubly, an' good, an' gran'; un' 'twould all come ter pass jes so.
"But all dat time nobody neber wush nobody else was rich, an' good, an' lubly, an' happy; fur don't yer see de birds neber sung, 'I wush you wuz,' 'I wush dey had," but all de time 'I wush I wuz,' 'I wush I had.' At last, one day dar come inter de gyarden er po' little cripple gal, who lived 'way off in er ole tumble-down house. She wuz er little po' white chile, an' she didn't hab no farder nor mudder, nor niggers ter do fur her, an' she had to do all her own wuck herse'f."
"Bress de Lord!" ejaculated Aunt Milly, who was becoming very much interested in the story, while tears gathered in Dump's blue eyes; and even Diddie was seen to wink a little at the forlorn condition of "de po' white chile."
"Yes, indeed," continued Mammy, "she done all her own wuk herse'f, an' nobody ter say er blessed word ter her, nor he'p her a bit; an' she neber eben hyeard ob de wushin'-stone, but had jes come out fur er little while ter enjoy de birds, an' de fresh air, an' flowers, same as de quality folks; fur she was mos' all de time sick, an, dis wuz jes de same as Christmus ter her. She hobbled erlong on her crutches, an' atter while she got ter de stone; an' hit so happened dar wan't nobody dar, so she sot down ter res'. Well, mun, she hadn't mo'n totch de stone when de little birds began, 'I wush I had,' 'I wush I wuz.'
"'Oh, what er sweet, pretty place!' de little gal said; 'an' what nice little birds! I wush dat po' old sick man what libs next ter us could come out here and see it all.'
"'I wush I had,' 'I wush I wuz,' sung de little birds. 'I wush all de po' chil'en could come an' spen' de day here,' said de little gal; 'what er nice time dey would hab!'
"'I wush I wuz,' 'I wush I had,' sung de birds in er flutter, hoppin' all 'bout 'mong de branches.
"'An' all de lame people, an' sick people, an' ole people,' said de little gal, 'I wush dey could all git well, an' strong, an' lib in er beautiful place jes like dis, an' all be happy.'
"Oh, de little birds! what er bustle dey wuz in to be sho'! Dey sot upon de bery topes' branches, an' dey sung like dey'd split der troats,
"'I wush I had,' 'I wush I wuz.'
"But de little gal neber min' 'em. She was rested, an' hobbled on all by herse'f; but now, sence she done wush fur blessin' fur tudder folks, de spell was loosenin' an' de stone all drawerd up ter a little bit er stone, den sunk away in de groun' clar out o' sight. An' dat wuz de last ob de wushin'-stone."
"Dar now!" exclaimed Aunt Milly.
"De truff, sho'! jes like I ben tellin' yer," said Mammy.
"But, Mammy, what about the little girl? did she ever get well an' strong, an' not be lame any more?" asked Dumps.
"Well, honey, yer see de Lord, he fixes all dat. He sont fur her one night, an' she jes smiled, bright an' happy like, an' laid right back in de angel's arms; an' he tuck her right along up thu de hebenly gates, an' soon as eber he sot her down, an' her foot totch dem golden streets, de lameness, an' sickness, an' po'ness all come right; an' her fader, an' her mudder, an' her niggers wuz all dar, an' she wuz well an' strong, an' good an' happy. Jes like she wush fur de po' folks, an' de sick folks, de Lord he fixed it jes dat way fur her. He fixed all dat hisse'f."
THE gin-house on the plantation was some distance from the house; and in an opposite direction from the quarters. It was out in an open field, but a narrow strip of woods lay between the field and the house, so the gin-house was completely hidden.
Just back of the gin-house was a pile of lumber that Major Waldron had had hauled in build a new pick-room, and which was piled so as to form little squares, large enough to hold three of the children at once. During the last ginning season they had gone down once with Mammy to "ride on the gin," but had soon abandoned that amusement to play housekeeping on the lumber, and have the little squares for rooms. They had often since thought of that evening, and had repeatedly begged Mammy to let them go down to the lumber pile; but she was afraid they would tear their clothes, or hurt themselves in some way, and would never consent.
So one day in the early spring, when Mammy and Aunt Milly were having a great cleaning-up in the nursery, and the children had been sent into the yard to play, Chris suggested that they should all slip off, and go and play on the lumber pile.
"Oh, yes," said Dumps, "that will be the very thing, an' Mammy won't never know it, 'cause we'll be sho' ter come back befo' snack-time."
"But something might happen to us, you know," said Diddie, "like the boy in my blue book, who went off fishin' when his mother told him not to, an' the boat upsetted and drownded him."
"Tain't no boat there," urged Dumps; "tain't no water even, an' I don't b'lieve we'd be drownded; an' tain't no bears roun' this place like them that eat up the bad little Chil'en in the Bible; and tain't no Injuns in this country, an' tain't no snakes nor lizards till summer-time, an' all the cows is out in the pasture; an' tain't no ghos'es in the daytime, an' I don't b'lieve there's nothin' ter happen to us; an' ef there wuz, I reckon God kin take care of us, can't he?"
"He won't do it, though, ef we don't mind our mother," replied Diddie.
"Mammy ain't none of our mother, and tain't none of her business not to be lettin' us play on the lumber, neither. Please come, Diddie, we'll have such a fun, an' nothin' can't hurt us. If you'll come, we'll let you keep the hotel, an' me an' Tot 'll be the boarders."
The idea of keeping the hotel was too much for Diddie's scruples, and she readily agreed to the plan. Dilsey was then despatched to the nursery to bring the dolls, and Chris ran off to the wood-pile to get the wheelbarrow, which was to be the omnibus for carrying passengers to and from the hotel.
These details being satisfactorily arranged, the next thing was to slip off from Cherubim and Seraphim, for they followed the little girls everywhere, and they would be too much trouble on this occasion, since they couldn't climb up on the pile themselves, and would whine piteously if the children left them.
The plan finally decided upon was this: Diddie was to coax them to the kitchen to get some meat, while the other children were to go as fast as they could down the avenue and wait for her where the road turned, and she was to slip off while the puppies were eating, and join them.
They had only waited a few minutes when Diddie came running down the road, and behind her (unknown to her) came Old Billy.
"Oh, what made you bring him?" asked Dumps, as Diddie came up.
"I didn't know he was comin'," replied Diddie, "but he won't hurt: he'll just eat grass all about, and we needn't notice him."
"Yes, he will hurt," said Dumps; "he behaves jus' dreadful, an' I don't want ter go, neither, ef he's got ter be er comin'."
"Well— I know he shall come," retorted Diddie. "You jes don't like him 'cause he's gettin' old. I'd be ashamed to turn against my friends like that. When he was little and white, you always wanted to be er playin' with him; an' now, jes 'cause he ain't pretty, you don't want him to come anywhere, nor have no fun nor nothin'; yes— he shall come; an' ef that's the way you're goin' to do, I'm goin' right back to the house, an' tell Mammy you've all slipped off, an' she'll come right after you, an' then you won't get to play on the lumber."
Diddie having taken this decided stand, there was nothing for it but to let Old Billy be of the party; and peace being thus restored, the children continued their way, and were soon on the lumber-pile. Diddie at once opened her hotel. Chris was the chambermaid, Riar was the waiter, and Dilsey was the man to take the omnibus down for the passengers. Dumps and Tot, who were to be the boarders, withdrew to the gin-house steps, which was to be the depot, to await the arrival of the omnibus.
"I want ter go to the hotel," said Dumps, as Dilsey came up rolling the wheelbarrow— "me an' my three little chil'en."
"Yes, marm, jes git in," said Dilsey, and Dumps, with her wax baby and a rag doll for her little daughters, and a large cotton-stalk for her little boy, took a seat in the omnibus. Dilsey wheeled her up to the hotel, and Diddie met her at the door.
"What is your name, madam?" she inquired.
"My name is Mrs. Dumps," replied the guest, "an' this is my little boy, an' these is my little girls."
"Oh, Dumps, you play so cur'us," said Diddie; "who ever heard of anybody bein' named Mrs. Dumps? there ain't no name like that."
"Well, I don't know nothin' else," said Dumps; "I couldn't think of nothin'."
"Sposin' you be named Mrs. Washington, after General Washington?" said Diddie, who was now studying a child's history of America, and was very much interested in it.
"All right," said Dumps; and Mrs. Washington, with her son and daughters, was assigned apartments, and Chris was sent up with refreshments, composed of pieces of old cotton-bolls and gray moss, served on bits of broken china.
The omnibus now returned with Tot and her family, consisting of an India-rubber baby with a very cracked face, and a rag body that had once sported a china head, and now had no head of any kind; but it was nicely dressed, and there were red shoes on the feet; and it answered Tot's purpose very well.
"Dese my 'itty dirls," said Tot, as Diddie received her, "an' I tome in de bumberbuss."
"What is your name?" asked Diddie.
"I name— I name— I name— Miss Gin-house," said Tot, who had evidently never thought of a name, and had suddenly decided upon gin-house, as her eye fell upon that object.
"No, no, Tot, that's a thing; that ain't no name for folks," said Diddie. "Let's play you're Mrs. Bunker Hill; that's a nice name."
"Yes, I name Miss Unker Bill," said the gentle little girl, who rarely objected to playing just as the others wished. Miss "Unker Bill" was shown to her room; and now Riar came out, shaking her hand up and down, and saying, "Ting-er-ling— ting-er-ling— ting-er-ling!" That was the dinner-bell, and they all assembled around a table that Riar had improvised out of a piece of plank supported on two bricks, and which was temptingly set out with mud pies and cakes and green leaves, and just such delicacies as Riar and Diddie could pick up.
As soon as Mrs. Washington laid eyes on the mud cakes and pies, she exclaimed,
"Oh, Diddie, I'm er goin' ter be the cook, an' make the pies an' things."
"I doin' ter be de took an' make de itty mud takes," said Miss Unker Bill, and the table at once became a scene of confusion.
"No, Dumps," said Diddie, "somebody's got to be stoppin' at the hotel, an' I think the niggers ought to be the cooks."
"But I want ter make the mud cakes," persisted Dumps, an' Tot can be the folks at the hotel— she and the doll-babies."
"No, I doin' ter make de mud takes, too," said Tot, and the hotel seemed in imminent danger of being closed for want of custom, when a happy thought struck Dilsey.
"Lor-dy, chil'en! I tell yer: le's play Ole Billy is er gemman what writ ter Miss Diddie in er letter dat he was er comin' ter de hotel, an' ter git ready fur 'im gins he come."
"Yes," said Diddie, and lets play Dumps an' Tot was two mo' niggers I had ter bring up from the quarters to help cook; an' we'll make out Ole Billy is some great general or somethin', an' we'll have ter make lots of cakes an' puddin's for 'im. Oh, I know; we'll play he's Lord Burgoyne."
All of the little folks were pleased at that idea, and Diddie immediately began to issue her orders.
"You, Dumps, an' Tot an' Dilsey, an' all of yer— I've got er letter from Lord Burgoyne, an' he'll be here to-morrow, an' I want you all to go right into the kitchen an' make pies an' cakes." And so the whole party adjourned to a little ditch where mud and water were plentiful (and which on that account had been selected as the kitchen), and began at once to prepare an elegant dinner.
Dear me! how busy the little housekeepers were! and such beautiful pies they made, and lovely cakes all iced with white sand, and bits of grass laid around the edges for trimming! and all the time laughing and chatting as gayly as could be.
"Ain't we havin' fun?" said Dumps, who, regardless of her nice clothes, was down on her knees in the ditch, with her sleeves rolled up, and her fat little arms muddy to the elbows; "an' ain't you glad we slipped off, Diddie? I tol' yer there wan't nothin' goin' to hurt us."
"And ain't you glad we let Billy come?" said Diddie; "we wouldn't er had nobody to be Lord Burgoyne."
"Yes," replied Dumps; "an' he ain't behaved bad at all; he ain't butted nobody, an' he ain't runned after nobody to-day."
"'Ook at de take," interrupted Tot, holding up a mudball that she had moulded with her own little hands, and which she regarded with great pride,
And now, the plank being as full as it would hold, they all returned to the hotel to arrange the table. But after the table was set the excitement was all over, for there was nobody to be the guest.
"Ef Ole Billy wan't so mean," said Chris, "we could fotch 'im hyear in de omnibus. I wush we'd a let Chubbum an' Suppum come; dey'd been Lord Bugon."
"I b'lieve Billy would let us haul 'im," said Diddie, who was always ready to take up for her pet; "he's rael gentle now, an' he's quit buttin'; the only thing is, he's so big we couldn't get 'im in the wheelbarrer."
"Me 'n Chris kin put 'im in," said Dilsey. "We kin lif' 'im, ef dat's all;" and accordingly the omnibus was dispatched for Lord Burgoyne, who was quietly nibbling grass on the ditch bank at some little distance from the hotel.
He raised his head as the children approached, and regarded them attentively. "Billy! Billy! po' Ole Billy!" soothingly murmured Diddie, who had accompanied Dilsey and Chris with the omnibus, as she had more influence over Old Billy than anybody else. He came now at once to her side, and rubbed his head gently against her; and while she caressed him, Dilsey on one side and Chris on the other lifted him up to put him on the wheelbarrow.
And now the scene changed. Lord Burgoyne, all unmindful of love or gratitude, and with an eye single to avenging this insult to his dignity, struggled from the arms of his captors, and, planting his head full in Diddie's chest, turned her a somersault in the mud. Then, lowering his head and rushing at Chris, he butted her with such force that over she went headforemost into the ditch! and now, spying Dilsey, who was running with all her might to gain the lumber-pile, he took after her, and catching up with her just as she reached the gin-house, placed his head in the middle of her back, and sent her sprawling on her face. Diddie and Chris had by this time regained their feet, both of them very muddy, and Chris with her face all scratched from the roots and briers in the ditch. Seeing Old Billy occupied with Dilsey, they started in a run for the lumber; but the wily old sheep was on the look-out, and, taking after them full tilt, he soon landed them flat on the ground. And now Dilsey had scrambled up, and was wiping the dirt from her eyes, preparatory to making a fresh start. Billy, however, seemed to have made up his mind that nobody had a right to stand up except himself, and, before the poor little darky could get out of his way, once more he had butted her down.
Diddie and Chris were more fortunate this time; they were nearer the lumber than Dilsey, and, not losing a minute, they set out for the pile as soon as Old Billy's back was turned, and made such good time that they both reached it, and Chris had climbed to the top before he saw them; Diddie, however, was only half-way up, so he made a run at her, and butted her feet from under her, and threw her back to the ground. This time he hurt her very much, for her head struck against the lumber, and it cut a gash in her forehead and made the blood come. This alarmed Dumps and Tot, and they both began to cry, though they, with Riar, were safely ensconced on top of the lumber, out of all danger. Diddie, too, was crying bitterly; and as soon as Billy ran back to butt at Dilsey, Chris and Riar caught hold of her hands and drew her up on the pile.
Poor little Dilsey was now in a very sad predicament. Billy, seeing that the other children were out of his reach, devoted his entire time and attention to her, and her only safety was in lying flat on the ground. If she so much as lifted her head to reconnoitre, he would plant a full blow upon it.
The children were at their wit's end. It was long past their dinner-time, and they were getting hungry; their clothes were all muddy, and Diddie's dress almost torn off of her; the blood was trickling down from the gash in her forehead, and Chris was all scratched and dirty, and her eyes smarted from the sand in them. So it was a disconsolate little group that sat huddled together on top of the lumber, while Old Billy stood guard over Dilsey, but with one eye on the pile, ready to make a dash at anybody who should be foolish enough to venture down.
"I tol' yer not to let 'im come," sobbed Dumps, "an' now I spec' we'll hafter stay here all night, an' not have no supper nor nothin'."
"I didn't let 'im come," replied Diddie; "he come himself, an' ef you hadn't made us run away fum Mammy, we wouldn't er happened to all this trouble."
"I never made yer," retorted Dumps, "you come jes ez much ez anybody; an' ef it hadn't er been fur you, Ole Billy would er stayed at home. You're all time pettin' 'im an' feedin' 'im— hateful old thing— tell he thinks he's got ter go ev'rywhere we go. You ought ter be 'shamed er yourse'f. Ef I was you, I'd think myse'f too good ter be always er 'soshatin' with sheeps."
"You're mighty fond of 'im sometimes," said Diddie, "an' you was mighty glad he was here jes now, to be Lord Burgoyne: he's jes doin' this fur fun; an' ef Chris was my nigger, I'd make her git down an' drive 'im away."
Chris belonged to Dumps, and Mammy had taught the children never to give orders to each other's maids, unless with full permission of the owner.
"I ain't gwine hab nuf'n ter do wid 'im," said Chris.
"Yes you are, Chris," replied Dumps, who had eagerly caught at Diddie's suggestion of having him driven away. "Get down this minute, an' drive 'im off; ef yer don't, I'll tell Mammy you wouldn't min' me."
"Mammy 'll hatter whup me, den," said Chris (for Mammy always punished the little negroes for disobedience to their mistresses); "she'll hatter whup me, caze I ain't gwine ter hab nuf'n tall ter do wid dat sheep; I ain't gwine ter meddle long 'im, hab 'im buttin' me in de ditch."
"Riar, you go," said Diddie; "he ain't butted you yet."
"He ain't gwine ter, nuther," said Riar, "caze I gwine ter stay up hyear long o' Miss Tot, like Mammy tell me. I 'longs to her, an' I gwine stay wid 'er myse'f, an' nuss 'er jes like Mammy say."
It was now almost dark, and Old Billy showed no signs of weariness; his vigilance was unabated, and the children were very miserable, when they heard the welcome sound of Mammy's voice calling "Chil'en! O-o-o-o, chil'en!"
"Ma-a-a-m!" answered all of the little folks at once.
"Whar is yer?" called Mammy,
"On top the lumber-pile," answered the children; and soon Mammy appeared coming through the woods.
She had missed the children at snack-time, and had been down to the quarters, and, in fact, all over the place, hunting for them. The children were delighted to see her now, and so, indeed, seemed Old Billy, for, quitting his position at Dilsey's head, he set out at his best speed for Mammy; and Dilsey immediately jumped to her feet, and was soon on the lumber with her companions.
"Now yer gwuf fum yer, gwuf fum yer!" said Mammy, furiously waving a cotton-stalk at Old Billy. "Gwuf fum yer, I tell you! I ain't bodern' you. I jes come fur de chil'en, an' yer bet not fool 'long er me, yer low-life sheep."
But Old Billy, not caring a fig for Mammy's dignity or importance, planted his head in her breast, and over the old lady went backwards. At this the children, who loved Mammy dearly, set up a yell, and Mammy, still waving the cotton-stalk, attempted to rise, but Billy was ready for her, and, with a well-aimed blow, sent her back to the earth.
"Now yer stop dat," said Mammy. "I don't want ter fool wid yer; I lay I'll bus' yer head open mun, ef I git er good lick at yer; yer better gwuf fum yer!" But Billy, being master of the situation, stood his ground, and I dare say Mammy would have been lying there yet, but fortunately Uncle Sambo and Bill, the wagoners, came along the big road, and, hearing the children's cries, they came upon the scene of action, and, taking their whips to Old Billy, soon drove him away.
"Mammy, we won't never run away any more," said Diddie, as Mammy came up; "'twas Dumps's fault, anyhow."
"Nem min', yer ma's gwine whup yer," said Mammy; "yer'd no business at dis gin-house long o' dat sheep, an' I won'er what you kinky-head niggers is fur, ef yer can't keep de chil'en in de yard: come yer ter me!" And, picking up a cotton-stalk, she gave each of the little darkies a sound whipping.
The children were more fortunate. Mamma lectured them on the sin of running away from Mammy; but she put a piece of court-plaster on Diddie's head, and kissed all of the dirty little faces, much to Mammy's disgust, who grumbled a good deal because they were not punished, saying,
"Missis is er spilin' dese chil'en, let'n uv 'em cut up all kind er capers. Yer all better hyear me, mun. Yer better quit dem ways yer got, er runnin' off an' er gwine in de mud, an' er gittin' yer cloes tor'd, an' er gittin' me butted wid sheeps; yer better quit it, I tell yer; ef yer don't, de deb'l gwine git yer, sho's yer born."
But, notwithstanding her remarks, the little girls had a nice hot supper, and went to bed quite happy, while Mammy seated herself in her rocking-chair, and entertained Aunt Milly for some time with the children's evil doings and their mother's leniency.
ONE morning Diddie came into the nursery with a big blank-book and a lead-pencil in her hand.
"What's that, Diddie?" asked Dumps, leaving her paper dolls on the floor where she had been playing with Chris, and coming to her sister's side.
"Now don't you bother me, Dumps," said Diddie; "I'm goin' to write a book."
"Are you?" said Dumps, her eyes opening wide in astonishment. "Who's goin' ter tell yer what ter say?"
"I'm goin' ter make it up out o' my head," said Diddie; "all about little girls and boys and ladies."
"I wouldn't have no boys in it," said Dumps; "they're always so hateful: there's Cousin Frank broke up my tea-set, an' Johnnie Miller tied er string so tight roun' Cherubim's neck till hit nyearly choked 'im. Ef I was writin' er book, I wouldn't have no boys in it."
"There's boun' ter be boys in it, Dumps; you can't write a book without'n boys;" and Diddie seated herself, and opened the book before her, while Dumps, with her elbows on the table and face in her hands, looked on anxiously. "I'm not goin' ter write jes one straight book," said Diddie; "I'm goin' ter have little short stories, an' little pieces of poetry, an' all kin' of things; an' I'll name one of the stories 'Nettie Herbert:' don't you think that's a pretty name, Dumps?"
"Jes' beautiful," replied Dumps; and Diddie wrote the name at the beginning of the book.
"Don't you think two pages on this big paper will be long enough for one story?" asked Diddie.
"Plenty," answered Dumps. So at the bottom of the second page Diddie wrote "The END of Nettie Herbert."
"Now, what would you name the second story?" asked Diddie, biting her pencil thoughtfully.
"I'd name it 'The Bad Little Girl,'" answered Dumps.
"Yes, that will do," said Diddie, and she wrote "The Bad Little Girl" at the top of the third page; and, allowing two pages for the story, she wrote "The END of The Bad Little Girl" at the bottom of the next page.
"And now it's time for some poetry," said Diddie, and she wrote "Poetry" at the top of the fifth page, and so on until she had divided all of her book into places for stories and poetry. She had three stories— "Nettie Herbert," "The Bad Little Girl," and "Annie's Visit to her Grandma." She had one place for poetry, and two places she had marked "History;" for, as she told Dumps, she wasn't going to write anything unless it was useful; she wasn't going to write just trash.
The titles being all decided upon, Dumps and Chris went back to their dolls, and Diddie began to write her first story.
"Nettie Herbert was a poor little girl;" and then she stopped and asked,
"Dumps, would you have Nettie Herbert a po' little girl?"
"No, I wouldn't have nobody er po' little girl," said Dumps, conclusively, and Diddie drew a line through what she had written, and began again.
"Nettie Herbert was a rich little girl, and she lived with her pa and ma in a big house in Nu Orlins; and one time her father give her a gold dollar, and she went down town, and bort a grate big wax doll with open and shet eyes, and a little cooking stove with pots and kittles, and a wuck box, and lots uv peices uv clorf to make doll cloes, and a bu-te-ful gold ring, and a lockit with her pas hare in it, and a big box full uv all kinds uv candy and nuts and razens and ornges and things, and a little git-ar to play chunes on, and two little tubs and some little iuns to wash her doll cloes with; then she bort a little wheelbarrer, and put all the things in it, and started fur home. When she was going a long, presently she herd sumbody cryin and jes a sobbin himself most to deaf; and twas a poor little boy all barefooted and jes as hungry as he could be; and he said his ma was sick, and his pa was dead, and he had nine little sisters and seven little bruthers, and he hadnt had a mouthful to eat in two weeks, and no place to sleep, nor nuthin. So Nettie went to a doctors house, and told him she would give him the gold ring fur some fyssick fur the little boys muther; and the doctor give her some castor-oil and parrygorick, and then she went on tell they got to the house, and Nettie give her the fyssick, and some candy to take the taste out of her mouth, and it done her lots uv good; and she give all her nuts and candy to the poor little chillen. And she went back to the man what sold her the things, and told him all about it; and he took back all the little stoves and tubs and iuns and things she had bort, and give her the money, and she carried it strait to the poor woman, and told her to buy some bread and cloes for her chillen. The poor woman thanked her very much, and Nettie told em good-by, and started fur home."
Here Diddie stopped suddenly and said,
"Come here a little minute, Dumps; I want you to help me wind up this tale." Then, after reading it aloud, she said, "You see, I've only got six mo' lines of paper, an' I haven't got room to tell all that happened to her, an' what become of her. How would you wind up, if you were me?"
"I b'lieve I'd say, she furgive her sisters, an' married the prince, an' lived happy ever afterwards, like 'Cinderilla an' the Little Glass Slipper.'"
"Oh, Dumps, you're such er little goose; that kind of endin' wouldn't suit my story at all," said Diddie; "but I'll have to wind up somehow, for all the little girls who read the book will want to know what become of her, an' there's only six lines to wind up in; an' she's only a little girl, an' she can't get married; besides, there ain't any prince in Nu Orlins. No, somethin' will have to happen to her. I tell you, I b'lieve I'll make a runaway horse run over her goin' home."
"Oh, no, Diddie, please don't," entreated Dumps; "po' little Nettie, don't make the horse run over her."
"I'm obliged to, Dumps; you mustn't be so tender-hearted; she's got ter be wound up somehow, an' I might let the Injuns scalp her, or the bears eat her up, an' I'm sure that's a heap worse than jes er horse runnin' over her; an' then you know she ain't no sho' nuff little girl; she's only made up out of my head."
"I don't care, I don't want the horse to run over her. I think it's bad enough to make her give 'way all her candy an' little tubs an' iuns an' wheelbarrers, without lettin' the horses run over her; an' ef that's the way you're goin' ter do, I sha'n't have nuthin' 'tall ter do with it."
And Dumps, having thus washed her hands of the whole affair, went back to her dolls, and Diddie resumed her writing:
"As she was agoin along, presently she herd sumthin cumin book-er-ty-book, book-er-ty-book, and there was a big horse and a buggy cum tearin down the road, and she ran jes hard as she could; but befo she could git out er the way, the horse ran rite over her, and killed her, and all the people took her up and carried her home, and put flowers all on her, and buried her at the church, and played the organ 'bout her; and that's
the END of Nettie Herbert."
"Oh, dear me!" she sighed, when she had finished, "I am tired of writin' books; Dumps, sposin' you make up 'bout the 'Bad Little Girl,' an' I'll write it down jes like you tell me."
"All right," assented Dumps, once more leaving her dolls, and coming to the table. Then, after thinking for a moment, she began, with great earnestness:
"Once pun er time there was er bad little girl, an' she wouldn't min' nobody, nor do no way nobody wanted her to; and when her mother went ter give her fyssick, you jes ought ter seen her cuttin' up! she skweeled, an' she holler'd, an' she kicked, an' she jes done ev'y bad way she could; an' one time when she was er goin' on like that the spoon slipped down her throat, an' choked her plum ter death; an' not long after that, when she was er playin' one day—"
"Oh, but, Dumps," interrupted Diddie, "you said she was dead."
"No, I nuver said nuthin' 'bout her bein' dead," replied Dumps; "an' ef you wrote down that she's dead, then you wrote a story, 'cause she's livin' as anybody."
"You said the spoon choked her to death," said Diddie.
"Well, hit nuver killed her, anyhow," said Dumps; "hit jes only give her spasums; an' now you've gone and put me all out; what was I sayin'?"
"When she was er playin' one day," prompted Diddie.
"Oh yes," continued Dumps, "when she was er playin' one day on the side uv the creek with her little sister, she got ter fightin' an' pinchin' an' scrougin', an' the fus thing she knowed, she fell kersplash in the creek, and got drownded. An' one time her mammy tol' 'er not nuber ter clim' up on the fender, an' she neber min' 'er, but clum right upon the fender ter git an apple off'n the mantelpiece; an' the fender turned over, an' she fell in the fire an' burnt all up. An' another time, jes er week after that, she was er foolin' 'long—"
"Dumps, what are you talkin' 'bout?" again interrupted Diddie. "She couldn't be er foolin' long o' nothin' ef she's dead."
"But she ain't dead, Diddie," persisted Dumps.
"Well, you said the fire burned her up," retorted Diddie.
"I don't care ef hit did," said Dumps; "she nuver died bout hit; an' ef you're goin' ter keep sayin' she's dead, then I sha'n't tell yer no mo'."
"Go on, then," said Diddie, "an I won't bother you."
"Well, one time," continued Dumps, "when she was er foolin' 'long o' cow, what she had no business, the cow run his horns right thorough her neck, an' throwed her way-ay-ay up yon'er; an' she nuver come down no mo', an' that's all."
"But, Dumps, what become of her?" asked Diddie.
"I dunno what become uv her," said Dumps. "She went ter hebn, I reckon."
"But she couldn't go ter hebn ef she's so bad," said Diddie; "the angel wouldn't let her come in,"
"The cow throwed her in," said Dumps, "an' the angel wan't er lookin', an' he nuver knowed nothin' 'bout it."
"That's er mighty funny story," said Diddie; "but I'll let it stay in the book— only you ain't finished it, Dumps. Hyear's fo' mo' lines of paper ain't written yet."
"That's all I know," replied Dumps. And Diddie, after considering awhile, said she thought it would be very nice to wind it up with a piece of poetry. Dumps was delighted at that suggestion, and the little girls puzzled their brains for rhymes. After thinking for some time, Diddie wrote,
"Once 'twas a little girl, and she was so bad,"
and read it aloud; then said, "Now, Dumps, sposin' you make up the nex' line."
Dumps buried her face in her hands, and remained in deep study for a few moments, and presently said,
"And now she is dead, an' I am so glad."
"Oh, Dumps, that's too wicked," said Diddie. "You mustn't never be glad when anybody's dead; that's too wicked a poetry; I sha'n't write it in the book."
"Well, I nuver knowed nuthin' else," said Dumps. "I couldn't hardly make that up; I jes had ter study all my might; and I'm tired of writin' poetry, anyhow; you make it up all by yourse'f."
Diddie, with her brows drawn together in a frown, and her eyes tight shut, chewed the end of her pencil, and, after a few moments, said,
"Dumps, do you min' ef the cow was to run his horns through her forrid stid of her neck?"
"No, hit don't make no diffrence to me," replied Dumps.
"Well, then," said Diddie, "ef 'twas her forrid, I kin fix it."
So, after a little more study and thought, Diddie wound up the story thus:
"Once 'twas er little girl, so wicked and horrid, Till the cow run his horns right slap through her forrid, And throwed her to hebn all full of her sin, And, the gate bein open, he pitched her right in."
And that was "The END of the Bad Little Girl."
"Now there's jes one mo' tale," said Diddie, "and that's about 'Annie's Visit,' an I'm tired of makin' up books; Chris, can't you make up that?"
"I dunno hit," said Chris, "but I kin tell yer 'bout'n de tar baby, el dat'll do."
"Don't you think that'll do jes as well, Dumps?" asked Diddie.
'Certingly!" replied Dumps. So Diddie drew her pencil through "Annie's Visit," and wrote in its place,
"THE TAR BABY,"
and Chris began:
"Once pun a time, 'twuz er ole Rabbit an' er ole Fox and er ole Coon: an' dey all lived close togedder; an' de ole Fox he had him er mighty fine goober-patch, w'at he nuber 'low nobody ter tech; an' one mornin' atter he git up, an' wuz er walkin' 'bout in his gyarden, he seed tracks, an' he foller de tracks, an' he see wahr sumbody ben er grabhin' uv his goobers. An' ev'y day he see de same thing; an' he watch, an' he watch, an' he couldn't nubber catch nobody! an' he went, he did, ter de Coon, and he sez, sezee, 'Brer Coon, dar's sumbody stealin' uv my goobers.'
"'Well,' sez Brer Coon, sezee, 'I bet yer hit's Brer Rabbit.'
"'I lay I'll fix 'im,' sez Brer Fox; so he goes, he does, and he tuck'n made er man out'n tar, an' he sot 'im, he did, right in de middle uv de goober-patch. Well, sar, soon ez eber de moon riz, Brer Rabbit, he stole out'n his house, and he lit right out fur dem goobers; and by'mby he sees de tar man er stanin' dar, an' he hollers out, 'Who's dat er stanin' dar an' er fixin' ter steal Brer Fox's goobers?' Den he lis'en, and nobody nuver anser, and he 'gin ter git mad, and he sez, sezee, 'Yer brack nigger you, yer better anser me wen I speaks ter yer;' and wid dat he hault off, he did, and hit de tar baby side de head, and his han' stuck fas' in de tar. Now yer better turn me er loose,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee; I got er nuther han' lef',' and 'ker bum' he come wid his udder han', on de tar baby's tuther jaw, an' dat han' stuck.
"'Look er hyear! who yer foolin' wid?' sez Brer Rabbit; 'I got er foot yit.' Den he kick wid all his might, an' his foot stuck. Den he kick wid his udder foot, an' dat stuck. Den Brer Rabbit he 'gun ter git madder'n he wuz, an' sezee, 'Ef yer fool 'long o' me mun I'll butt de life out'n yer," an' he hault off wid his head, an' butt de tar baby right in de chis, an' his head stuck. Dar he wuz! an' dar he had ter stay, till, by'mby, Brer Fox he come er long, an' he seed de Rabbit er stickin' dar, an' he tuck him up, an' he cyard 'im long ter Brer Coon's house, an' he sez, sezee,
"'Brer Coon, hyear's de man wat stole my goobers; now wat mus' I do wid 'im?'
"Brer Coon tuck de Fox off one side, he did, an' he say, 'Le's give 'im his chice, wheder he'd er ruther be tho'd in de fire or de brier-patch; an' ef he say de fire, den we'll fling 'im in de briers; an' ef he say de briers, den we'll fling 'im in de fire.' So dey went back ter de Rabbit, an' ax 'im wheder he'd er ruther be tho'd in de fire or de briers.
"'Oh, Brer Fox,' sezee, 'plee-ee-eeze don't tho me in de briers, an' git me all scratched up; plee-ee-eeze tho me in de fire; fur de Lord's sake,' sezee, 'don't tho me in de briers.'
"And wid dat, Brer Fox he lif' 'im up, an' tho'd 'im way-ay-ay over in de briers. Den Brer Rabbit he kick up his heels, he did, an' he laugh, an' he laugh, an' he holler out,
"'Good-bye, Brer Fox! Far' yer well, Brer Coon! I wuz born an' riz in de briers!' And wid dat he lit right out, he did, an' he nuber stop tell he got clean smack home."
The children were mightily pleased with this story; and Diddie, after carefully writing underneath it,
"The END of The Tar Baby,"
said she could write the poetry and history part some other day; so she closed the book, and gave it to Mammy to put away for her, and she and Dumps went out for a ride on Corbin.
UNCLE SNAKE-BIT BOB'S SUNDAY-SCHOOL
THERE, was no more faithful slave in all the Southland than old Uncle Snake-bit Bob. He had been bitten by a rattlesnake when he was a baby, and the limb had to be amputated, and its place was supplied with a wooden peg. There were three or four other "Bobs" on the plantation, and he was called Snake-bit to distinguish him. Though lame, and sick a good deal of his time, his life had not been wasted, nor had he been a useless slave to his master. He made all of the baskets that were used in the cotton-picking season, and had learned to mend shoes; besides that, he was the great horse-doctor of the neighborhood, and not only cured his master's horses and mules, but was sent for for miles around to see the sick stock; and then too, he could re-bottom chairs, and make buckets and tubs and brooms; and all of the money he made was his own: so the old man had quite a little store of gold and silver sewed up in an old bag and buried somewhere— nobody knew where except himself; for Uncle Snake-bit Bob had never married, and had no family ties; and furthermore, he was old Granny Rachel's only child, and Granny had died long, long ago, ever since the children's mother was a baby, and he had no brothers or sisters. So, having no cause to spend his money, he had laid it up until now he was a miser, and would steal out by himself at night and count his gold and silver, and chuckle over it with great delight.
But he was a very good old man; as Mammy used to say, "he wuz de piuses man dar wuz on de place;" and he had for years led in "de pra'r-meetin's, and called up de mo'ners."
One evening, as he sat on a hog-pen talking to Uncle Daniel, who was a preacher, they began to speak of the wickedness among the young negroes on the plantation.
"Pyears ter me," said Uncle Rob, "ez ef dem niggers done furgot dey got ter die; dey jes er dancin' an' er cavortin' ev'y night, an' dey'll git lef', mun, wheneber dat angel blow his horn. I tell you what I ben er stud'n, Brer Dan'l. I ben er stud'n dat what's de matter wid deze niggers is, dat de chil'en ain't riz right. Yer know de Book hit sez ef yer raise de chil'en, like yer want 'em ter go, den de ole uns dey won't part fum hit; an', sar, ef de Lord spars me tell nex' Sunday, I 'low ter ax marster ter lemme teach er Sunday-school in de gin-house fur de chil'en."
Major Waldron heartily consented to Uncle Bob's proposition, and had the gin-house all swept out for him, and had the carpenter to make him some rough benches. And when the next Sunday evening came around, all of the little darkies, with their heads combed and their Sunday clothes on, assembled for the Sunday-school. The white children begged so hard to go too, that finally Mammy consented to take them. So when Uncle Snake-bit Bob walked into the gin-house, their eager little faces were among those of his pupils. "Niw, you all sot down," said Uncle Rob, "an' 'have yerse'fs till I fix yer in er line."
Having arranged them to his satisfaction, he delivered to them a short address, setting forth the object of the meeting, and his intentions concerning them. "Chil'en," he began, "I fotch yer hyear dis ebenin fur ter raise yer like yer ought ter be riz. De folks deze days is er gwine ter strucshun er dancin' an' er pickin' uv banjers an' er singin' uv reel chunes an' er cuttin' up uv ev'y kin' er dev'lment. I ben er watchin' 'em; an', min' yer, when de horn hit soun' fur de jes' ter rise, half de niggers gwine ter be wid de onjes'. An' I 'low ter myse'f dat I wuz gwine ter try ter save de chil'en. I gwine ter pray fur yer, I gwine ter struc yer, an' I gwine do my bes' ter lan' yer in hebn. Now yer jes pay tenshun ter de strucshun I gwine give yer— dat's all I ax uv yer— an' me an' de Lord we gwine do de res'."
After this exhortation, the old man began at the top of the line, and asked "Gus," a bright-eyed little nig, "Who made you?"
"I dun no, sar," answered Gus, very untruthfully, for Aunt Nancy had told him repeatedly.
"God made yer," said Uncle Bob. "Now, who Inane yer? '
"God," answered Gus.
"Dat's right," said the old man; then proceeded to "Jim," the next in order. "What'd he make yer out'n?" demanded the teacher.
"I dunno, sar," answered Jim, with as little regard for truth as Gus had shown.
"He made yer out'n dut," said Uncle Bob. "Now, what'd he make yer out'n?"
"Dut," answered Jim, promptly, and the old man passed on to the next.
"What'd he make yer fur?"
Again the answer was, "I dunno, sar;" and the old man, after scratching his head and reflecting a moment, said, "Fur ter do de bes' yer kin," which the child repeated after him.
"Who wuz de fus man?" was his next question; and the little nig professing ignorance, as usual, the old man replied, "Marse Adum." And so he went all down the line, explaining that "Marse Cain kilt his brudder;" that "Marse Abel wuz de fus man slewed;" that "Marse Noah built de ark;" that "Marse Thuselum wuz de oldes' man," and so on, until he reached the end of the line, and had almost exhausted his store of information. Then, thinking to see how much the children remembered, he began at the top of the line once more, and asked the child,
"Who made yer?"
"Dut," answered the little negro.
"Who?" demanded Uncle Bob, in astonishment.
"Dut," replied the child.
"Didn' I tell yer God made yer?" asked the old man.
"No, sar," replied the boy; "dat'n wat God made done slip out de do'."
And so it was. As soon as Uncle Bob's back was turned, Gus, who had wearied of the Sunday-school, slipped out, and the old man had not noticed the change.
The confusion resulting from this trifling circumstances was fearful. "Dut" made the first child. The question, "What did he make yer fur?" was promptly answered, "Marse Adum." "Eve wuz de fus man." "Marse Cain wuz de fus 'oman." "Marse Abel kilt his brudder." "Marse Noah wuz de fus one slewed." "Marse Thuselum built de ark." And so on, until the old man had to begin all over again, and give each one a new answer. The catechising through with, Uncle Bob said:
"Now, chil'en, I gwine splain de Scripchurs ter yer. I gwine tell yer boutn Dan'l in de lions' den. Dan'l wuz er good Christyun man wat lived in de Bible; and whedder he wuz er white man or whedder he wuz er brack man I dunno; I ain't nuber hyeard nobody say. But dat's neder hyear no dar; he wuz er good man, and he pray tree times eby day. At de fus peepin' uv de day, Brer Dan'l he usen fur ter hop outn his bed and git down on his knees; and soon's eber de horn hit blowed fur de hans ter come outn de field fur dinner, Brer Dan'l he went in his house, he did, and he flop right back on 'is knees. And wen de sun set, den dar he wuz agin er prayin' and er strivin' wid de Lord.