Puslapio vaizdai

although his attentions were accepted with indifference, nor too little for his mortal enemy. The result was mutual hatred and a limited race war.

Upon the morning succeeding the arrival of the military contingent the whole negro population of Woodhaven, in response to a summons from the major, assembled in the spacious back yard. It was a strange scene. Gazing down upon them from the porch were the two uniformed privates of the vast army that had set the negro free. The hands were all dressed in their best, and wore looks of curiosity or anxiety; and behind many a mother's gown were the little piccaninnies staring in awe at the sojers,» as Major Worthington delivered his first and last speech to his former slaves. He told them that the war was over, and that they were free; that freedom meant less for them,-less than they dreamed, and much for him; that he too was free now,-free of providing for three hundred people,-and had only himself and family to look after; that, however often they had been assured to the contrary, the Government would never support people in idleness, and that they must still work for their living. With those who desired to remain he would make an agreement and pay them wages, and he had brought these two soldiers representing the Government to see that justice was done. They would remain as long as necessary. He did not want any man, woman, or child to stay who wished to go; they were all free, and the world was large.

When the major finished, Captain Sneifleheimer stepped promptly to the front, and waved his hand with a freedom born of natural dignity and a mint julep.

«Yah," he said, straightening up and thrusting forward the buckle of his broad belt; «das vas all righdt, ain't it? Mejjer Verdingdon sprechen de trooth sometime already. Das vas so, Capt'n Sprintz, don't eet?» There was a deep silence of more than a minute's duration. Captain Sprintz was standing at «carry arms» and reflecting upon the proposition. He made a military salute.

«Yah, laties und shenteelmen; das vas all righdt-all righdt,» he said.

Most of the hands remained. Many of the older ones came forward with hats off, and shook hands with their late owner. Old Peter voiced the sentiments of these when he said: «You stood by us, Mas' Craffud, an' we stood by you an' yourn too long to split off now. For the first time in their lives they saw the old gentleman turn away, unable for a moment to speak.

But in so large a crowd there are always the turbulent and unruly, and before many days, pushed forward by their preachers and foolish women, these made trouble, and to test their new-found freedom began to loaf in the fields. Hamp Washington stopped his plow in the shade of a persimmon-tree one day, and dropped down upon the ground.

«Look hyah, boy; what you doin'?»> inquired an indignant old negro.

"I'm free, an' I ain' goin' ter work 'cep'n I want ter.» This produced a laugh, and a half dozen others joined him.

«You ain' no freer 'n me,» said one; and so the little group swelled in numbers and importance until it grew to be a large group, and the work languished.

When from the porch the major saw this rebellion he almost danced. He approached the rotund form of Sneifleheimer, and handing him a fresh cigar, said carelessly:

«I trust, sir, you have enjoyed the julep.>> A grunt expressed a satisfaction for which the captain could not find English. «Now, captain,» continued his host, «we Southern people have an enormous problem to contend with; and unless you Old World people, sir, who have been through these experiences, come to our rescue with your assistance and advice, I don't know what we are going to do. For instance, sir, look out yonder. I am paying those hands wages,-large wages, sir,-and they sleep in the shade of a tree during work hours. Now what can I do? I ask you, sir, as a business man, a man of travel and experience, how can any system of farming survive such evils? »

Sneifleheimer struggled to his feet. A string of transatlantic gutturals issued from between his lips, his bosom heaved, and his cheeks flushed. He drew around him his loosened belt, seized his carbine, and was about to let himself down the steps when the major checked him.

«No violence, captain; no violence, sir. I would prefer to lose my crop." The soldier was indignant and irrepressible. «I think,» added the major, presently, "if you will take my horse and ride out there, your remonstrance will have a good effect.» The horse was ordered; but before mounting, to quiet the anxiety of his host, Captain Sneifleheimer promised not to shoot anybody. When he dashed into the startled group and cocked his gun there was consternation and a panic sufficient for a volley.

«Vadt for you tek Mejjer Verdingdon's money und sleep mid de day? Gainse sur la vork puddy quvick, und be een a hurry mid

eet, or I'll pblow oud your prains mid de gun! Hoof!» This is about what the Africans caught from the medley; but his gestures with the gun were eloquent, and conscience has but a light task to make cowards of the newly enfranchised. In thirty seconds every plow was running.

"Oom hoo,» said the old negro who had rebuked the first mutineer-«oom hoo! You fool wid dat Yankee, nigger, an' you git er bullet in your skin! Keep erway f'om dem sort er folks, an' don't you put faith in nobody what talks down dey throats. When you hyah er man rumble 'way down yonder in es throat, hits des de same as thunder down behind er cloud. Fus' news you git, lightning 'll be er-reachin' out fer you."

And so it happened that the boys in blue rode the fields by day, and whenever indolence sought freedom a cocked carbine stirred energy into play; and energy at play meant a negro at work. For this slight service they received the deferential courtesy of Major Worthington, cigars and spirits, and the best efforts of the culinary department. All this time Woodhaven held a spirit that laughed in silence and enjoyed life as never before. The crops were never in a more splendid condition, cotton promised to bring an enormous price in the fall, and never did slave labor toil as did the freemen under the new system. «Begad! sir," said the major one day to a neighbor who was having a hard time with his labor, «keep a standing army, sir; keep a standing army. I am going to stay here and raise cotton, sir, if I have to buy some second-hand gunboats and start me a navy on the river.» Only Isam was unhappy. Poor Isam! Twice had he met the heavy boot of Captain Sneifleheimer, or, to be perfectly correct, twice had the heavy boot of the captain overtaken him, and once the angry soldier had thrown a stool at his head. To wait upon such a man was agonizing to the negro; but the major only laughed when Isam complained, and advised him to resign.

So wore the times away. The soldiers received their military discharge, but their civil appointment continued at Woodhaven with good wages. The place now had two overseers where in ante-bellum days only one had reigned. And these two in effect had the United States government behind them. The uniforms grew old and faded, but they were carefully patched and finally replaced. In place of the arms and accoutrements surrendered the major had bought others. Martial law still prevailed at Woodhaven, although it was now 1869 and peace reigned everywhere else; but between

Isam and Captain Sneifleheimer there was open war.

Captain Sprintz no longer answered to rollcall. He had received a foreign letter one day, had grunted for a week, drawn his money, and disappeared.

As the major grew to be a rich man again he became tired of his system. The presence of his officious and impatient supervisor had become almost unbearable. He was weary of military occupation, and willing to get back to a peace basis even upon smaller profits. Besides, he could no longer maintain his counterfeit deference. One day Isam came up and stood by the major's chair in silence awhile, and then he said pleadingly:

«Mas' Craffud, somep'n' sorter weighin' on my mind.»>

«Stealing? >>

«No, sah; ain't stole nothin'. But dis hyah Cap'n Yallerhammer->>

« Well? »

«Sorter looks ter me like no man got any business hittin' er child es good as little Mas' Craffud, even if he is er sojer->

<< Hitting a child? Whose child?»

«Miss Helen's. Little Mas' Craffud. Seen 'im do it wid my own eyes. Little Mas' Craffud des come up an' tech he nose wid er straw when he sleepin' out hyah yestiddy, an' he up an' slap 'im des es hard. 'Fo' Gord, I thought he done broke de po' chile's neck. But dat boy es game; he did 'n' cry ner holler ner nothin'; he des pick up es little wagin an' let fly at dat white man, an' den back en de door, darin' 'im wid es eyes des ter come inside an' tech 'im erg'in!»>

«You saw him strike the boy? »

«Yes, sah; wid my own eyes. An' I'd er bounced 'im den and deir merse'f, but he had on es barkers, an' er nigger don't stan' no chance wid barkers.» The major, who had grown pale and red in an instant, reflected for a moment or two. He knew Isam, however, and the old twinkle of good humor returned to his eyes.

<< Isam, he said softly, « do you reckon you could whip him?»

« Who-me? Des lemme try him, Mas' Craffud; des lemme try him one time.»

<«<Well, so you shall. You go out yonder while we are at dinner, and get that bucket, and sit down by the well like you had gone to sleep. I'll get up the fight, and give you five dollars if you don't get whipped.>>

"How 'bout dem barkers, Mas' Craffud? I don't wanter git mixed up wid dem, ner wid de United States nuther.»

«You sha'n't; fair fight, fist and skull, and

I'll keep the Government quiet. How are you going to take him, Isam?»

« Under holt, ef I c'n git hit. Ef I can't git dat, I'm goin' ter tek what 's lef'.»

«He'll get you if you do. He is too heavy to throw. What you should do is to butt him; butt him between his eyes first, then on the belt, and when his head comes down throw your weight upon his neck. That'll get him.»

«Den des gimme time-des gimme time.» "I'll give you all the time you want; I'll sit right here until the army calls for reinforcement, and I'll be slow getting there then.»

Isam reflected a moment.

« Mas' Craffud,» he said, scratching behind one ear a little, «I'm goin' ter settle er heap er things dis hyah day-some er yourn an' some er mine an' all of little Mas' Craffud's; but sometimes things sorter don't work out 'zactly right, an' ef hit so happen ter-day you c'n come right erlong an' break up de fight.» The major's laugh had so much of the old-time heartiness in it that Isam more than smiled as he moved off.

Now no greater injustice could be done to Isam than to accuse him of being brave: he was not; but he was knowing. He depended upon his enemy's surprise, corpulence, and shortness of wind for the victory. Moreover, by a little here and a little there and close observation he had formed a very nearly correct estimate of the man he was to fight, and he was no longer afraid of him when the terms were anything like equal.

Captain Sneifleheimer was a man of habit. When he entered the dining-room he always unbuckled his belt and dropped it, pistols and all, upon the hall table, to be resumed only after he had dined and smoked.

Dinner was over, and the captain was just drawing his cigar when he was startled by a vigorous exclamation from the major, who had laboriously sunk into his chair, the very

manner of his sinking suggesting the cruelty of any necessity that compelled him to rise again. The captain glanced out into the yard to the well-house; there sat Isam asleep, the empty bucket by his side.

«That,» said the major, «is what comes of freedom. That negro has n't been worth his salt since '65. I wish to the Lord somebody would thrash him. He needs it.>>

Sneifleheimer scrambled down the steps, picking up a buggy-whip as he went, and hurried, if such corpulency could be said to hurry, across the yard. He gave Isam one blow, which, asleep though he seemed to be, he shrunk from in advance, and which acted as a fine stimulant to the negro's ebbing resolution.

«Gid oud, gid oud mid your schleep up!»> shouted the assailant, and lifted the whip again. But it did not descend; with one leap Isam had him by both ears, and was soon jumping up in the air, butting him between the eyes. The third time Isam butted, the major's heels went over the balustrade, and he literally wallowed with mirth in his chair. Isam lost no time; the enemy was now stunned and almost unconscious, and suddenly Isam backed, lowered his head, and rammed him about the waist-band with terrific force. He did not have to jump on the enemy's neck; Sneifleheimer fell like a decayed pine. In an instant the negro was upon him, full of the memory of insults and oppressions and the mad excess of victory. He gouged and beat and clawed and pulled until the major scrambled out and drew him away.

It was known at once that the captain would have to resign; any one that Isam could whip would have but small influence. Even Sneifleheimer himself grasped the situation correctly. And so it was that one summer day the slanting rays of the setting sun gilded the patches upon a worn and faded uniform the back of which was toward Woodhaven. The United States army was retiring from Georgia.

Harry Stillwell Edwards.




VOL. LII.-12.

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Author of The Led-Horse Claim,» «John Bodewin's Testimony,» etc.


WONDER Charles Lamb did not include in costs nothing to be polite.» My dear, I am paying the price at this moment of one of my own imprudences in that line-a chance phrase with which I tried to round off a rather chilly leave-taking neatly, and cheaply, I flattered myself. But now, listen to the sequel!

I am to have a bride on my hands, or a bride-elect, for she is n't married yet. Her intended has been rustling for a home out here in the wilds of Idaho, while she has been waiting in the old country for success to crown his efforts. How much success in her case is demanded I don't know. She is a little English girl, upper middle-class, which Mrs. Percifer assures me is the class to belong to in England at the present day (it is her class, I infer), and the interesting reunion is to take place at our house. She sailed, poor thing, this day week, and will be forwarded to us

by her confiding friends in New York as soon

us, but I suppose she will hear of us from the Percifers. That is something-enough for some persons, it seems.

The Percifers were really very nice to us in New York last winter, though one must not flatter one's self too much; it is all in the day's work for those commission men to be nice to a good shipper and his wife when they come out of the West. There was a rather impersonal note to her politeness, which made it difficult when we parted for me to speak of the possibility, to say nothing of the pleasure, of a visit from her. My natural gush » was strangled in my throat. But one must say something, so I put it off on any friends or fellow-Britishers of theirs who might care to command us in the West; we should be so happy, and so forth. And, my dear, she writes me, quite as a matter of course (she's not im

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