A Sketch in Black and White

I

I AM growing old and gray. My friend from Massachusetts, to whom I take off my hat as I think of her, is neither the one nor the other. Or, to be exact, she is not at all old, and only ornamentally gray. I am a Southerner of the Southerners. My friend from Massachusetts is a Northerner of the Northerners. Nevertheless, she is a very delightful person. We have friendly tilts. She is generally the aggressor, and, as I am an old soldier, and stiff from much campaigning, she is quicker than I, and as a rule gets the best of me in the mere matter of argument, though I know all the while that I am right.

She asks me many questions about life in the South “ before the war.” Some of them I can answer. Some of them I am surprised to find that I cannot. The light of memory is a little hazy after forty years. The other day she asked me whether the descriptions of Virginia country homes which she had read in certain works of fiction could be really accurate; whether they were not colored by the natural love of the writers for the dear old times. The pictures seemed to her to be too ideal in their beauty, “too good to be true,” so to speak. I told her I could not answer the question from personal knowledge. I had not the good fortune to be born in Virginia, though I had known many charming people from that state, especially among the women, and also some very lovely homes. “Oh, well, well,” she said, with characteristic feminine impatience, “I don’t care particularly about Virginia. What I wish is to get a correct notion of life in the South in the days of slavery, of which we hear so much, and I thought perhaps a plain, old, everyday Southern man, like you, could give it to me.”

I replied that to do what she wished was not so easy as it seemed, but that I myself might be taken as a fair specimen of the average Southern man, of the middle Southern states, of a family of moderate means and good social standing, and of that generation which came into manhood in time to answer the call to arms of 1861. It occurred to me, therefore, that a narrative based upon my own life, surroundings, and doings, if I could accurately recall them, might be something to the purpose.

“I might write” — I began unguardedly.

“Oh, yes. Do, please,” — broke in my Massachusetts friend in her strenuous fashion, — “do, please, write it for me, and if it is good enough, you might sell it and make some money.”

I replied that it would be work, and that I did not like to work.

“But you ought to love to work.”

“ By no means,” I answered, getting the better of her for once. “The necessity for labor was laid upon us as a curse. We should submit to it with patience and resignation to the Divine will; but to say that we love it is extremely irreligious. It is a flying in the face of Providence. It is as though we told our Heavenly Father that we did not mind his curse; that it was a good thing; that we rather enjoyed it than otherwise.”

But women, such women, at least, as men like to obey, are apt to have their way. Hence this little history.

The home in which I was born, and in which the happy years of my earlier boyhood were passed, was in an old Carolina town. Old, that is, as American towns go. There were old houses, with reminiscences of the Revolution; tales of Cornwallis and Lafayette, and other worthies of that day. It was rather a pretty town, with wide, well-shaded streets. A river ran near it, and a pretty creek wound its devious way through it, into the river, with sundry bridges here and there. There was a cemetery, with mossy marbles, and epitaphs of a hundred years ago, in which Gray’s Elegy might have been written, — at least, the poetic inspiration would not have been wanting. There were walks in its environs, dark with the shade of magnolias and cedars, sweet with the perfume of pine and jessamine, and musical with the song of the mocking bird, and the ripple of running water just below. Nor was there lacking in these bowers of Eden the loveliness of the daughters of Eve, who were wont to wander here with the sons of Adam, as the day went down.

I had some experiences of my own, when, visiting the dear old town some years later, I found the walks by the water side as lovely as ever, and the daughters of Eve, whom I remembered as children, grown up, and capable of as much mischief as their primeval mother, more by token that one of them made me a promise under the pines, that turned out to be like piecrust, according to the proverb. Poor thing! she married a better man, but the gallant fellow sleeps under the sod of Gettysburg, —

. . . While I sit here,
Alone and merry at forty year,
Dipping my nose in the Gascon wine.

I wonder if it ever occurs to her in her widowhood that a living captain might be better than a dead colonel. Battered old bachelor as I am, I have sometimes a mind to ask her.

Thackeray’s lines seemed to come handy, and I used them; but it is due to the truth of history to say that I have n’t any Gascon wine. Instead thereof, a punch simmers in front of my hickory fire, concocted out of some very bad whiskey, of which the lemon and spices serve to disguise the taste; for all of which uncivilized condition of things I have to thank the prohibitionist, who is just now vexing the earth, and compelling every man of correct habits to obtain this necessary of life by means more or less lawful. I constantly thank Mr. Justice Blackstone for his comforting distinction between mala prohibita and mala in se.

My friend from Massachusetts, who does me the honor to read these pages as I write them, here admonishes me by the glance of her eye that I am getting into a vein not in keeping with my gray beard, nor with my character as a vestryman of the Church. I say to her that she is right, and that I had best turn my mind from these vanities, and, like the dear old reprobate Falstaff, “begin to patch up mine old body for Heaven.” She replies, but with a look that conveys more humor than reproof, that I am only adding irreverence to folly, and that I had better proceed with my work.

The old town never grew any bigger, and I believe it was never any smaller. It seemed to have been created just so; even as you have seen some men and women whom you cannot imagine ever to have been babies. It was not a dead town, — very much the contrary. There was plenty of business and trade to support its population. Nobody was very rich, and I remember but few very poor people, and these were systematically looked after. There were some families who lived in finer houses and drove finer carriages than others, but the others did not call them “swells.” One man of good blood, respectable education, and the instincts of a companionable gentleman, was as welcome everywhere as another of the same qualifications. Nobody seemed very busy, and nobody seemed in a hurry to get rich.

They allowed themselves a leisure that seems not to be known in these days. They took time to hunt deer, and shoot ducks and partridges. They loved music, and serenades under ladies’ windows, and little impromptu dances. They exchanged little suppers and whist parties, whereat, it must be confessed, they sometimes drank a little more punch than the Blessed Apostle St. Paul would have allowed to Timothy. But there was no malice in it, and the liquor was good and pure, and very little harm resulted. It seems to me, in the retrospect, a very delightful society, and I have no doubt that it was so. But I must keep faith with my friend, and be careful to keep to the truth, as nearly as I can, without rose color. It must be remembered, therefore, that the people of whom I have written were those with whom my own household mingled: physicians, lawyers, merchants, business men, who, of course, worked for a living, but did not fail to remember that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” There was, of necessity, a substratum of less lovable folk, of the kind who make the wretched maxims of Mr. Benjamin Franklin their gospel, and the adding of one dollar to another their chief aim. My memory especially recalls one or two such men, — one, in particular, whose face,little as I was when I saw it, is unpleasant now to think of. They told me he was a “ note shaver,” in a tone which conveyed, even to my childish intelligence, the idea that the calling was held in small esteem.

It goes without saying, also, that these kindly folks had their share of griefs and troubles: children who died or went astray, fortunes wrecked, sorrows of one sort or another. It is well for us that, in looking back over the land through which we have traveled, we see most plainly the pretty, green, wooded hills and sunlit slopes. “The valleys that lie between ” are there, too, but they are in shadow.

My Massachusetts friend will not think much of these men. She will object to them, in her energetic way, that they were not “strenuous,” I grant it. The abominable word was not even known, I think, in those days. But I believe that they were better. They were, for the most part, kindly, charitable, honest, honorable, and brave. They reverenced women and children. They feared God, and were not much given to fearing anybody else; and later on they showed the world that an easy-going gentleman can be strenuous enough when he sees his duty before him and knows it must be done.

I have tried not to overdraw the picture, or do more than justice to a race of men whom I remember with so much love. I can say this for them, and perhaps this alone will account for the attractiveness of that society: that there was nothing like the intense hunt after money that exists now, and that there was absolutely no aristocracy of wealth. Doubtless the love of money was there, as in the days of Solomon, but the sordid thing did not lift its head above the surface. Doubtless there were match-making mothers then, as now, but the worship of the Golden Calf was not flagrant in the sight of all Israel.

At this point, my friend reminds me that I have not said a word about the negro, whereas the colored brother, as she understood, was to be a leading character in this story. I was thinking of that myself, and was surprised to find that I had gotten so far in a sketch of Southern life, without Cuffee putting in his woolly head. But the reason is apparent. I have been writing so far of life in my town home, in which the darky cuts less figure. Only wait, ma’am, till my story carries me among them, and you shall have negroes enough, I promise you. There were, of course, plenty of them about the town, but they were mostly domestic servants, not much more necessary to an outline of the manner of life than the white servants of the North. The main difference was that there were more of them. We had, indeed, too many servants. They were in each other’s way. A man would own perhaps one, or two, or three families of negroes; and a farm or plantation. The negroes increased, the land did not. The result was that the man would find himself with more “hands” than he could work. What was he to do with them ? Grown hands could be “hired out,” but good homes could not be easily found for the youngsters. And so they increased and multiplied, and tumbled over one another about the premises. They could easily have been sold to the negro traders who were continually going through the country buying them up to carry to the cotton and sugar plantations of the Southwest,— the difference in price in the two markets yielding the dealer a fine profit. But the negroes stood in terror of these slave merchants, and in good truth they were a hard-hearted lot, as any man must have been who followed such a calling. A humane master was exceedingly reluctant to sell his people to these men; so he kept them, a source of embarrassment to him, eating their heads off, representing a good deal of money, but expensive to keep and unprofitable. So it frequently happened that every young lady of a large family would have a separate maid, every child or grand-child a separate nurse. A man would be nominally rich, in negroes, but continually having to go to the bank for money.

As for the town negro himself, he led for the most part an easy life enough. He knew nothing of the chimera of freedom, and cared nothing for it. Indeed, the slave, especially if he belonged to a family of standing, was disposed to look down upon those of his race who had been freed, and to speak of them disparagingly as “free niggers.” There were, nevertheless some highly respectable families of free negroes. I remember one especially, — the father and mother of which had been set free in early life, and given a start in the world by their master, — who were people of substance and standing, and all, by the way, devout members of the Episcopal Church. It was curious, too, that these people themselves were owners of slaves,— negroes owning negroes.

The older negroes were generally a staid and contented sort of people, frequently much given, like some white folks, to a kind of emotional, shouting religion, — albeit consummate liars, but not malicious ones; and paying as little heed to the eighth commandment as to that which immediately precedes it. I have in mind a man belonging to my father, one of the hands upon his plantation near the town, who was not a bad type of many of the characteristics of this class. His name was Alexander, commonly called “Ellick.” He was an intelligent fellow, perfectly black, of powerful build, excellent temper, and a firstrate hand in the field, but an incorrigible thief and liar. My old mammy, who, by the way, was his aunt, spoke of him with strong disapproval as a “gay lutherian.” Where the dear old thing had ever heard of Lothario, I don’t know. He was understood to have at least two wives among the neighboring plantations. Although my father seldom allowed the lash to be used among the grown hands, Ellick’s continual thefts brought him a semi-occasional thrashing, from which he always emerged with unimpaired cheerfulness after the first smarting was over. He would long ago have been sold, but that he was the son of his mother, an old family servant who had been my mother’s nurse. One spring day, my father had information that Ellick had stolen a pig. The evidence not being quite complete, he did not immediately move in the matter. It is necessary here to say that each negro head of a family was allowed a little bit of land around his cabin, where he might raise vegetables, chickens, etc., having Saturday afternoon given him for his own work; and my father was accustomed to tell them that if they should have poultry, eggs, or other such stuff to sell, he expected them to “give him the preference” at the market price. This was so well understood among them that it came to be a saying that “marster had de pref’rence.” The day following the discovery of the theft, Ellick presented himself at the back veranda, bright and smiling, with a dressed pig to sell.

My father was a quick-tempered man, and at this piece of outrageous impudence he boiled over. “You d—d scoundrel!” said he, forgetting his usual decorum of speech. “What do you mean, bringing me my own pig to sell! ” And he reached for his “rawhide” hanging on the wall.

“No, marster,” Ellick began, “I traded wid Cato, over to Colonel Elliott’s, for dis pig” —

“You are lying, as usual,” said my father; “I have the proof on you. Your stealing is a common matter, and whipping seems to do you no good. I might not even have you whipped for that; but that you should have the effrontery to come here with my own pig” —

Ellick saw his chance, and put in at once. “ Well, marster,” he said, with a deprecating look, and with all the seriousness of a legitimate defense, “you know you tole us for to always gib you de pref’rence.”

The fellow’s retort was too much for my father’s sense of humor. He looked at him with changing face, and the muscles of his mouth began to twitch. “Get out, you dog,” he said; “I can’t whip you now, but the overseer shall dress you off properly to-morrow.”

Ellick knew he was safe, and slipped off. The rascal could scarcely keep his own face straight. I had witnessed the interview, and, being a very little boy at the time, saw the termination with great satisfaction. Ellick was a prime favorite of mine.

The young negro about town — stable boy, house servant, barber’s apprentice, or what not — was a good-natured, lazy, whistling, singing creature, cheerfully obeying the Scriptural command to take no thought for the morrow, and, having food and raiment, to be therewith content. Also, and in particular, he made it his constant study to give the least possible labor for the food and raiment. The easy monotony of his existence was broken by occasional thrashings, varying in frequency and severity according to the nature of his offenses and the temper and disposition of the master.

It occurs to me that I have referred more than once to this matter of the use of the whip; and as this is, so far as it goes, a history of the times, I think it as well to say that in the part of the country in which I lived, and, so far as I know, throughout the middle and eastern slave states, there was but little whipping, except of boys, whom the owner thrashed for misconduct, as he would his own children, — though,of course, I do not mean to say always in the same spirit. Except on the large plantations, on the lower waters of the rivers, the slave property of any one man usually consisted of one or two, or, perhaps, three families. It frequently happened that one family came with the husband; another was brought to him by his wife at their marriage. This being the case, even my Massachusetts friend will readily understand that there might exist, and did exist in most cases, something of a patriarchal condition. The older men were generally of sufficient character to do as they were told, and many of them, very many, possessed the regard, and what might be called the respect, of their owners, and reciprocated it; and they assisted them in the government of their own children. My father’s slaves, for instance, were of two families, coming through the channels suggested above, with the addition of a few whom it had fallen into his way to buy for one consideration or another. Except in the case of my friend Ellick, I do not remember that a grown negro was ever whipped on our plantation. Of course, there were patriarchs and patriarchs, and it was not possible that a power so nearly arbitrary as that of the master should not be sometimes abused. But extreme severity was of very rare occurrence. A public opinion strongly against cruelty was a powerful check, and another safeguard lay in the general character of the men of the country I am describing, in which, whatever may have been their faults, a disposition to oppress the weak was never a trait.

There was a condition sometimes occurring, which may be worth mentioning, and which, in one case that I recall, led to a result which may affect the reader’s risibles, or arouse his indignation, according to the point of view. Unmarried women, as widows or maiden ladies, who were not able, or did not choose, to chastise a misbehaving servant, sometimes turned him over to the town constable for correction. Miss Ellen—, an excellent and elderly maiden lady, who would not care to have her name in print, although she was in Paradise long ago, had about her well-kept house a sharp, mischievous, rascally black boy named Malachi, who gave her a great deal of trouble with his pranks. All sorts of misdeeds were charged against him, of which I may give, as a fair sample, the well-attested fact that he had been baptized seven times, under different names and with different sponsors, the good rector, to whom all young negroes looked alike, not recognizing him. Good Miss Ellen had many times threatened to send him to the constable, but her heart always failed her when the time came.

At last Malachi committed some offense which was as the feather to the camel’s back, and the good old lady nerved herself to do her duty. The constable owned a hardware store, and in the back yard thereof was accustomed to execute his office upon the backs of such dusky offenders as were sent to him with instructions to that effect. Miss Ellen artfully called Malachi, in a voice that gave no hint of trouble, and gave him a note to Mr. Bowie, the constable, leading him to suppose that it was an order, such as she frequently sent, for some article of merchandise. Malachi took the note, but regarded it with suspicion, conscious of his deserts. The more he thought about it, the stronger his misgivings grew, the fact that the note was sealed especially exciting his mistrust. Finally his fears, and his spirit of mischief, prompted him to call old Billy, beloved of Miss Ellen, and her gardener and factotum, and to give him the note, telling him to take it to Mr. Bowie and get the things ordered, and be quick about it, as Miss Ellen was in a hurry. Billy trotted down as fast as his ancient legs could carry him, and delivered the note. Mr. Bowie opened it, and looked seriously at Billy.

“Uncle Billy,” he said, “I never expected to have this to do.”

“What de matter, Marse Peter? ” said Billy.

The constable read him the note, which bade him give the bearer a, whipping, not too severe, but sufficient to serve him as a lesson for some time to come. In vain Billy protested, and told the story of Malachi’s treachery. The constable had heard many such pleas. “ Come along, Uncle Billy, and take off your coat, and let’s have it over with.” And he proceeded to administer upon the old man, according to his instructions.

Billy put on his coat, and returned in fierce wrath, to avenge himself upon Malachi, but that young scoundrel had run away, and did not come out of the woods till the frosty nights of November drove him in. Mr. Bowie lost a customer, and the story went that Miss Ellen put her faithful old gardener to bed, and kept him there for a week, tending him with her own hands.

The negro, on the whole, was well enough off. He was not allowed to be off his premises after nine o’clock at night without a pass from his master, which was a wholesome restriction. He was not a competent witness against a white man, a rule of law which might have been modified to advantage, and probably would have been later on. His marriage was not recognized by the state, and had no legal standing whatever. This, together with its kindred evil, the occasional and often unavoidable separation of husband and wife, parent and child, was the most evil consequence of the institution of slavery, and the one which most engaged the attention of thoughtful slave-owners as far back as I can remember. A discussion of it would scarcely be within the range of this narrative, but I may say that proprietors naturally, and for their own interest as well, encouraged marriage and decent living among their slaves, and generally did all in their power to make the tie permanent. I have known very many slave couples to live faithfully together till death parted them; and some of the prettiest pictures in my memory are the weddings of female servants of our own, mulattoes and blacks, solemnized in our own parlors by the rector of the parish. My sister took great interest in the dressing of the brides on these occasions. I don’t remember whether the rector used the full service, but there was a ring, and my sister used to play the wedding march.

These matrimonial alliances had a humorous side, as well. One Sunday morning a negro from an adjoining plantation called on my father to ask permission to marry one of our girls. The interview took place on our back porch, my father sitting, and the would-be groom standing on the ground outside. The fellow was a preacher. Now my father had a general distrust and dislike of negro preachers, and of this one in particular. Accordingly he squelched the matrimonial proposition with a prompt and decided negative. “No, I don’t want you nor any of your blood on my place. You get no wife here. Take yourself off.”

The reverend gentleman, a fat, sleeklooking rascal, stood, hat in hand, and looked with solemn sadness at my father. “I dunno as you’ve thought of it, Mr. Clayton,” he said; “but this will be a great disappintment to the young ’oman.”

This unexpected and unique plea, and the perfect seriousness with which the negro offered it, greatly amused my father. He laughed heartily, and so far relented as to say that he would ascertain the girl’s feelings in the matter, and talk to her suitor later. It turned out that the dusky belle did not take the “disappintment” much to heart, and there was no wedding.

From the beginning, when I undertook the not unwelcome task of writing these disjointed reminiscences, I have foreseen that my retrospect would carry me over a part of the ground which, considering the raison d’être of these pages, I have half a mind to pass over and go on my way. But if I did so, it would be at once apparent to the intelligent reader that I was not giving even a fair outline of the relation of the negro to the Southern life of those days. I will, therefore, deal with it as frankly and as briefly as may be.

It may have been noticed that, in my rough sketch of the young negro about town, I used the singular masculine pronoun. The same description might have answered as well for the ordinary negro girl or woman of the plantation, with woolly head, and the other unattractive physical peculiarities of the pure black race. But, unfortunately, there were other female slaves whose presence everywhere in the South gave sorrowful evidence that the “sons of God,” the princely race of Adam, though they had not, as the Book of Genesis expresses it, taken unto themselves wives of the daughters of men (the inferior race), had mingled more or less freely with them. We had black and tan, mulattoes, quadroons, octoroons galore. No man can deny the demoralizing influence of this state of things; but, on the other hand, no man who was not reared in the South can have any correct idea of the situation from all its points of view. I have no inclination to dwell upon this unattractive part of my retrospect, and shall content myself with a rough outline of the peculiarities of these people. They present a study for the philosopher.

Some of these women were ugly and slatternly; some were comely and neat; some were handsome and intelligent; and here and there one might have been called beautiful. Many of them, to whose bringing up some care had been given, married men servants of their own set, and lived respectably. Others, again, were of the circumspect and quasi-upright sort; and a numerous class, good-natured, careless, idle, light-hearted, were the easy prey of dissolute white men, of whom we had our full share, possibly more than our share. It must not be forgotten, however, that these men were, as a rule,and, of course, with exceptions, “lewd fellows of the baser sort,” the Southern gentleman generally conducting himself toward his slaves as might be expected of a person of his birth and antecedents. There was quite enough that was bad, however, in this apparently unavoidable consequence of the presence of the inferior race, just as there is at this day, although the negro has been free for forty years.

But there was one fact which every man familiar with the life of that day will recognize at once, which it is a great comfort to think of, and which has always seemed to me a special dispensation in behalf of these poor creatures. It was this, and every Southern man of that day will vouch for it: that a lapse of the kind we are considering never seemed to degrade the slave woman, any more than the birth of Ishmael degraded Hagar. It not only did not lower her in the eyes of anybody, white or black, but it had no degrading effect upon her whatever. If she had been gentle and good-tempered, and in general terms “a good servant” before, she continued to be so afterwards. If she had been your nurse, you need not have feared to leave your children with her. They would learn no evil. She was not rendered coarse or obscene. Her womanly instincts remained the same. She was the same kindly body, and went on her cheerful way as if nothing serious had happened. I know a number of them still living, old mulatto women, many of them in the odor of sanctity, and esteemed by white and black neighbors, who in their youth had led lives which I will not here describe more particularly. My own old “ mammy ” had three daughters: the oldest was a bright mulatto, and my own much-loved nurse; the two younger were as black as old Isaac, her husband, who took her to wife years after the birth of her first child. I am sure the good old creature is in the land of the blest. Think for a moment. What would a white woman have been who had passed through experiences like these?

I take it that no philosophical mind will doubt that the existence in any country of an inferior female class, to whom virtue in its ordinary sense is not an essential, will tend to the exaltation of the upper class of women. It will make of them an aristocracy. It will create for them an atmosphere of their own, into which the libertine will not seek to enter. The Southern lady was held as a kind of queen in those ante bellum days, and kept her state accordingly. All men did her homage. No man looked upon her but with respect and honor. It followed that scandals and scandalous troubles were much less common than in these days. For this comparative immunity we were indebted, as I think, not alone to the naturally high character of our women, and to their careful training, but also to the peculiar conditions of our society; that is to say, to the institution of slavery.

I willingly return from this sombre byway into the cheerful presence of my friend.

I have said that the town I have described as my home lay near a river. As to the sanitary effect of this situation during the hot months, the people differed. Many, even well-to-do folks, spent their summers in the town, and suffered no ill result. Some went off to the seashore or other resorts. Many families, again, had summer residences in the rolling, sandy country back of the town. My own family was one of these. Our country house, which was a fair example, was an unpretentious frame building, erected upon our own plantation, and consequently having the negro quarters adjacent to it. It was comfortable and commodious enough, according to the simple tastes of those days, which did not approach our own in the luxury of living. It had been intended as a summer home only, but was provided with chimneys and fireplaces in case of need, and I remember that we passed a number of winters there pleasantly enough in our mild climate, renting the town house, partly from considerations of economy, partly to avoid the trouble and inconvenience of moving.

The distance from town was a scant four miles, and the sandy roads were good in winter. The water for drinking was excellent; the climate delightful; a stream ran near by in which homunculus could disport himself and learn to swim. We had grapes and apples and peaches and cherries and melons, and plenty of “little niggers” to play with, under our mother’s eye. We had a big cider press of the primitive sort, under a big tree, where a fellow could lie down flat on his little stomach, and suck cider through an oat straw. We roasted sweet potatoes in the ashes, out in the negro cabins, and ears of green corn at their fires. Not that we had not plenty of these on our own table, but we could not have the little niggers there; and then, it was good to cook for ourselves. I remember, when I was very small, begging that I might have one little boy, as black as your hat, to sleep with me, and being much exasperated and distressed at my mother’s peremptory refusal. We compromised by her consenting to let the little darky come in and say his prayers (taught by her) at the side of my bed. I had some sort of infantile idea that this was an entering wedge, and that I might, by gradual approaches, accomplish the desire of my heart.

The woods were full of blackhaws and chinquapins and fox-grapes and muscadines, and the air was full of sunshine. I was allowed to go barefoot in the clean white sand, and occasionally was turned loose, clad in one long garment, that being the customary summer costume of the young male African. I thought it was very delightful and becoming, being disposed to imitate everything the little negroes did. This is a curious childish trait, by the way, and affords occasion for any amount of philosophizing about the tendency of the human race to deteriorate, and the like. All I know about it is that I would at any time leave the fried chicken and rice and okra and egg plant of the home table, to say nothing of the pudding, to eat greens and pot liquor (I wonder if my friend from Massachusetts knows what that is) and corn dumplings in Mammy’s cabin.

How far, far, far away it all seems, with the thunder of bloody war, and the black days of “reconstruction” intervening. It is as if one were another person. And indeed, he who was born in the early forties, served four years in the Confederate army,and passed through the neverto-be-forgotten times that immediately followed, has lived three separate existences.

But while homunculus was kicking up his heels and having a good time out of doors in this primitive fashion, the grown folks in the house were, I think, leading a reasonably happy, though quiet life. I have not hesitated to go into these details of my life with which the negro was associated, even at the risk of being a little tedious, because they make up the distinctly Southern views which I think my friend wanted to see. I am not so sure about the home life inside, which may not interest her, not having the charm of novelty; one American home being essentially like another. I shall, therefore, make this part of my sketch brief.

The furnishings of the house were simple and inexpensive, and but little attention was paid to ornamentation of the grounds. A whitewashed paling, with a plain gate, a straight walk leading to the front entrance, with a circular drive for carriages, racks for the hitching of horses outside, a lane leading around to the stables in the rear, — these were typical features. Here and there in front of the house were posts driven into the ground, with a sort of platform of boards nailed on the top, and covered with earth. On each of these, in summer, a quantity of rosin was laid, and set on fire at night, making the darkness bright with its red flame, and filling the air with its wholesome odor. It was thought to be conducive to health. Also it kept insects away, and was useful to any guest driving up in the darkness. It was a turpentine country. My father was interested in some distilleries, and rosin was cheap.

Within, there was an atmosphere of music and books; a fairly good library, and always a good piano; also my father’s violin. Besides my father, my mother, and myself, there was my sister, of whom I have spoken, — some fifteen years older than I, there having been two children between us who died early. She was a handsome, graceful, bright, woman, had been carefully educated, especially in music, and possessed a noble mezzo soprano voice, inclining to contralto, which, to me, is the sweetest of all voices. She attracted all men toward her, especially all who loved music, and it was my delight to lie on a sofa, in the evenings, and hear them sing. I don’t know just how old I was when, one evening, I heard three young men give the fine trio of Sir Henry Bishop: —

“ To Greece we give our shining blades ;
And our hearts to you, young Zean maids.”

I cannot tell how the music affected me, how the mingling of war and knightly love stirred my young heart. It was a new sensation. Perhaps it was prophetic. I suppose I showed it in my face, for my sister came to my sofa and kissed me. “Did you like it, Frank?” she said; “I must teach you to sing.” Accordingly she taught me, in an irregular way, and would commend and praise me when I showed some sign of a talent for music. One memorable day, after one of my “lessons,” she called to my father, who was passing down the hall: “Come here, father, and hear this boy. He is going to have a voice.” My father came to the piano where she sat, a page of Mendelssohn’s St. Paul open before her. “Now, then, Frank,” she said, striking the chord, “you sing the recitative, and I’ll sing the aria; ” and I chanted in my childish treble: —

“ And they journeyed with companions towards Damascus, having authority and commandment from the High Priest to bring them bound, men and women, unto Jerusalem. ”

And then her glorious voice in the aria:

“ But the Lord is mindful of his own ;
He remembereth his children.”

She fairly took me in her arms at the close, in her love and delight. “I will make a great tenor of him,"she said. “The audience shall rise at him.”

How often, in the years that were to follow, lying in my blanket in the rain, in the weariness of the long march, in the dropping fire of the skirmish line, yea, even in the tumult of battle, have the sweet tones come into my mind,—

“ But the Lord is mindful of his own,
He remembereth his children.”

It did not please Him to remember us, in our sense. I try to think it is for the best.

(To be concluded in June.)