DOES the reader ask what paper it was Frank handed Mr. L. at the sale? Let him recall the conversation in the boat between the uncle and nephew. Well, that was not without good effects on Mr. Wardloe. Perhaps it did not wholly satisfy him as to Frank's innocence and heroism; it impressed, however, a soft spot in that worthy planter's bosom, which he affected to call his "weak part," but which others, with more propriety, considered his noblest part. Mr. W. did many unexpected things in the way of generosity, and where his friends looked for indignation, he, to their surprise, expressed pity. He even gave a picayune where he at first determined to give a pickling.
After the rebellion Mr. W. became chairman of
the Vigilance Committee. Here he suggested and advocated stringent and summary measures; and volunteered to serve in the extemporary police, although exempted by the wishes, and even requests of his neighbors. Still it was happy not only for the negroes, but the owners, that a man with a weak spot in his heart, should be executioner as well as law maker and judge.
As a specimen of his violent measures, behold Mr. W. once among the patrol! He is well armed, pistols in his belt! dirk in vest! and cowskin in hand! Aye! let him catch a "nigger out that night without a pass!"
Look out, Sambo! here comes the patrol! Quick, into that bush! You silly ostrich, hide both ends! Too late!—now you'll get it.
"Let fly!" exclaimed a young policeman, "there's one——"
"Hold!—I say!—don't fire!" cries Captain Wardloe; who thus calls to the negro:
"Come here, you scoundrel, you! Where's your pass?"
"Oh! Massa Wardloe, don't let 'em go for to kill me! oh don't! I'm Sambo!"
"Well! well! I know you're Sambo, but where's your pass? What's your master let you go out for on Sunday night without a pass?"
"Lor bless Massa Wardloe, I's bin down to
meetin', and I tinks I'd git back to massa Chambers 'fore time——"
Here police interposed:
"That's the old game, Captain! He ought to have at least two dozen, to teach him to pray a little faster. Captain, indeed, it will never do to take such excuses——"
"By no means, gentlemen! So come along, Sambo—I'll give you a couple of dozen myself."
"That's right, Captain! Pay it into him well, let him finish up meeting quicker next time. We'll push on to Hedge's corner, there's always something along there," and away rode the patrol.
Now Uncle Wardloe hated to flog a negro; then what made him volunteer? Well, let us listen!
"Sambo, you are a most silly fool of a nigger! You must at all events have two little whacks to teach you sense and show at home; but mark you, jackass, after that, I shall pay away into this gatepost; and mind, I tell you, if you don't then roar out to make the patrol hear, why then if I don't make you roar, this is no cowhide. So strip off!"
Sambo performed that operation gracefully enough,
saying, "Lor' bless you, Master Wardloe—I'll holler
like the very old scratch for sartin; but, massah,
please do the little cracks very lilly bit—indeed,
massah, I no tell lie, dis time." And there stood
ebony, shirt in hand, and back bare; on which
exposed part Mr. W. inflicted two lilliputian stripes, yet done rather harder than Sambo conceived was in the compact; for, squirming about and twisting his mouth into whistling shape, he cried out, much surprised, and a little vexed:
"Oh! graminee! grashis! massah! I'se whipped for sartin!"
"Let out, you black rascal, then!" replied Mr. W. in a low voice, while he administered to the innocent and unsuspecting gate-post a whack with a vengeance, pealing wood and leather, on which Sambo performed the let out!
"Oh—ooh! Lord bless you, massah!—don't kill me."
Whack!—"Holler right!"—whack!—"you rascal!"
"Oh! let me go!—I'll never pray no more!— Oho! good massah! Oho-o!"
"Louder and right, you black fool! pray as much as you like!"—Whack! whack!
Sambo did not do it quite naturally, nor up to
agony point; and so Uncle W., half in fun and half in
vexation, gave darkee himself the next two whacks;
which, of course, did not sound so horribly as on the
gate-post, but they brought the real roar out of Sambo,
and kept it up to high scream point during the remaining
punishment of the gate. Indeed, the fellow
squealed now so very like piggy himself, that when the captain overtook his party, they said:
"Captain, save us from your cow-skin! Why, you have spoiled Chamber's negro for a month—you cut the poor rascal as if you were chopping down a tree!"
It was fortunately dark; and they could not see the captain's face, when at the hazard of betraying matters with a laugh, he answered—"I shall charge the vigilance committee the price of a cow-hide."
Reader! I well know that there are many Uncle Wardloe's in the South. I heard one thus answer Mr. Greenin from the North:—"You are a slanderer, sir! Hundreds and hundreds of negroes here never had a lash on their backs! Come down, sir, to my plantation; call up all my negroes; strip off their clothes; examine for yourself; if you find the smallest sign of a stripe, I'll pay you any sum!"
But Mr. Greenin went home prejudiced! He helped to kindle the fire of indignation meetings till sham saints, and mock patriots, and false philanthropists, were ready, for love's sake, to do nothing but hate! and for freedom's sake to overthrow a free country!
However, Mr. Wardloe was nearly as inconsistent
the opposite way—and he would help at a pinch.
He still had some lurking suspicions about Frank's
share in the rebellion; because the following had
happened at the execution of the sixty negroes:—When Woburn was about to be hung, he had said to Mr. Jenkins, his counsel—"I am about to die for my brethren in bondage; but I see a man that will at some time lead them to liberty in my place!"
Here Woburn had looked towards where Frank was standing; on which Mr. Jenkins asked—"You do not mean Frank Freeman?" And then Woburn replied, "I will betray no one by name; the man, however, did not actually join us this time—he cannot avoid it the next."
Jenkins was a humane man. He consulted with Mr. Wardloe; but not long after he was drowned by the upsetting of a boat; and so the matter had remained in Mr. Wardloe's mind, filling him with suspicions and misgivings. Yet at the sale, when he looked on poor Frank and his mother, and then at his nephew standing alone in his moral grandeur, and noticed the anguish of his mind; when he recalled his strange fainting, and thought that to be in some way connected with his interest in Frank, and that Mr. L. honestly believed he owed Frank a great sacrifice—half-blinded with tears he stepped from his place, and tearing a blank page from his pocket-book, with his pencil he wrote hurriedly:
"Can't stand it!—bid more!—bid a ——." At
that "article" the uncle heard Edward's tremulous
voice, in the expiring of hope, say—"all my library!
my wife's——;" when he dashed down after "a"— $1,000! Mere chance made a one before the zeros; for Wardloe let the pencil take its own way now. Had it trembled into a 5, Wardloe would scarce have known the difference.
The dealers having witnessed Frank's movements, were after that last bid, $4,000, convinced the contest was hopeless; and therefore it was, as has been seen, abandoned. And hence our folks in due time all separated and went home to prepare for Christmas.
We old school people can remember as far back as the ancient holiday doggerel—
"Christmas comes but once a year,
but the negroes of our parish fully illustrated its meaning; and Mr. Wardloe was one of the few that knew how to set forth a proper Christmas table.
Christmas is the grand saturnalia in the South.
From three to four days and nights are given as
holiday, during which every indulgence and license
consistent with any subordination and safety are allowed.
The land swarms with peregrinating blacks;
as if the great black ants of the western Gopher hills
had visited the island world to look at the crabs and
craw-fish. The world lives out of doors, everybody
being turned into charcoal and done up in fantasticals.
Each island turns into a vast dance house. It is the era of the Africantische—a genus of the poetry of motion—out-leaping all other polkas and hammer-the-floor affairs imported by the modern long-beards. It includes all sorts of single, double, compound, complex, implex, riggle and twist, forward and stop-short, back-again and go-a-head dances; in which floors are heeled into hollows—thick soles kicked against ebony shins—legs are here, arms there, heads down and feet up; while corn-stalk fiddles are scraped into agony, and calabashes emerge into banjos; and all and everything is a joyous uproar of jolly and unmeaning laughter—wild refrain—silly song—absurd brag—jack-daw gabble—mill-clatter rai[illegible] day and night—and night and day—all society seems resolved into chaos—the darkness only being visible!
The Maine spirits go South then; for Sambo and
Congo, and Loango, do something then besides
smelling at a cork! Ah! white man! the "nigger"
gets as drunk as you! Rum is an ultra-democrat—it
levels down! Glorious liberty, however, of the
free North! the white has the right to be drunk
every day, to turn swine and roll in a gutter; but
the poor negro slave has license to do this only once
in the year! Go—Northman! give Darkee the right to be a hog every day!
The present Christmas in our parish was to be a special time. The year had been prosperous; cotton was a fine "blow;" negroes had behaved well; planters had made money; and Mr. Leamington had redeemed Frank. The dealers—a sort of vagrants with Cain's brand on their hateful brows—had been defeated; and, hated and cursed in secret, they had gone away with their chains, and cuffs, and gags! Oh, planters! how joyous would be your Christmas, if ye would make laws to keep your negroes ever at home!
Many dinner parties were given to day; but the dinner was at Mr. Wardloe's. Here, of course, were Parson L. and his wife, and Dinah, and Carrie, and the children—not that the colored folks were to dine a la abolitione, but that they went to Eaglet Isle by express invitation. The darkies were to have a special "kick-up" to themselves.
Behold a saloon fit for a prince. The table runs
through its longitude, perhaps, forty feet! The
guests are seated, each with his shadow behind the
chair—two dozen other waiters at a distance. That
looks like business: every guest has something to
do to-day, and will need his own helper; and, indeed,
each guest, before he was let off to-day, felt in
need of two or three mouths, and the loan of some patent digester!
Being limited in the number of pages, we cannot, in imitation of modern ways, give the whole bill of fare; but the first course was, of course, soup. Then came the feathered part of creation, but without any feathers:—not vulgar barn-house creatures, but turkeys, pheasants, and ducks, with several sorts of backs, canvass included: and these roasted, boiled, fricasseed, with and without oysters and with proper gravies. And beef, if not a la mode, yet in every other mode. And hams, tongues, oysters fried, boiled, stewed. And other meats concealed in dresses as effectually as if done by M. Parlez, and served under hard names. And vegetables:—leeks, onions, squash, kershaw, (no pumpkin)—sweet potatoe in all its glory—rice in all its forms—pickles of all sorts, sizes and colors, and in bottles and plates. But time would fail to tell how many other edibles crowded the table till plate touched plate! Dish chimed against dish! Spoon jostled fork! and knife pushed spoon!
Now began the war! It was eating, eating moistened
with a little drinking!—and interrupted
by talking!—and mingled with the clatter of china!—the
ring of glasses!—the rattle of the cerealia arma!—the
popping of corks!—the bubbling forth of rosy
spirits and the loud foaming of barley-corn froths!
All which continued one good hour—and then came recess! And while the guests stopped to blow: off went plates, viands, liquors as by magic, and then table cloth No. 1 being removed, revealed cloth No. 2, and ready for
Second Course.—And this was tempting as a baker's show-window, where urchins stand on a cellar-door, and look affectionately on all the pies, tarts, puddings, jellies, and innumerable flour doings, frescoed, iced, bronzed, and in every mode of ancient and modern architecture! And now the spirits mocked at Temperance! The alcoholic legion was there in full force; they stood, rank and file, sixteen in number and name! This was before the birth of Teetotalism. Still, water was there. It was in bowls, however, where floated orange leaves, and into that odorous water folks from time to time dipped finger-tips, which were wiped on scented towels hanging from ebony holders! Water was like silver in the days of Solomon—not much estimated! Another hour was consumed!
And now cloth No. 3 was ready for the fruits.
Here the tropics emptied their horns of plenty, to
allure the sated guests with flavor, fragrance and
beauty—but man cannot eat forever. Yet orange,
and pine-apple, and pomegranate, and fig, and
marmalades, and grapes, and guava jelly, and preserved
limes, and almonds, and peccans, and filberts, and
cocoas—and other such, were tasted, or looked on with approving smiles, which said—"we would if we could!" Away then went the half-honored dessert, and No. 3 being removed, stood in its polish—
The naked table! For what? Aye, for what? Why for wines and cordials and elixirs of life! The drinking was to be done. And sure enough that battle began as if there had been no war before.
But what of the parson and his wife? They had disappeared, my dear Mr. Waters, with the last table cloth. And, although they had done nothing but nibble the last hour, and sipped the least possible at every toast and compliment, they were crammed and had a little headache, and faces slightly flushed. The fact is, a southern Christmas Dinner is a dinner; and when the host is Mr. Wardloe, and the occasion the rescue of Frank, you will need nothing more in the way of eating and drinking, that day and the day after!
The conversation was not more edifying than northern affairs of the sort; yet the Parson was toasted and congratulated till more than once he rubbed his eye hastily, as if a gnat was on the lid or lash. But when the ladies had gone, Mr. L. rose and spoke as follows:
THE SOUTH:—That happy time is
near, when science and art shall render the inter-
course between the South and the North daily and hourly. We shall be more than neighborhoods—we shall be vicinities; we shall shake hands and talk orally, every day. Then we shall not take our reciprocal views from books and papers, from prejudiced persons, from cliques and parties. From the first I felt at home here; if I had ice in my blood, your kindness long since dissolved it. The too great heat in yours, would temper into a generous warmth—but less inflaming. Hence the union of our excellencies would form a character to preserve the blessed Union of our states, forever. (Applause.)
"I felt our hearts were one that day! I am no soldier, gentlemen, but then and now, I felt—I feel—if fight I must—my sword must be drawn for our whole country (Great applause.)
"Now, gentlemen, may I, pleading my cloth, and my well-known and frequently avowed views on social habits, be allowed to join the ladies."
"Aye! aye!"—with three cheers for Mr. L., was unanimously responded. Upon the Parson's withdrawal, Mr. Wetherel, the auctioneer, arose:
"Gentlemen! I have knocked down many a black fellow in my way—but bless my soul, if I ever knocked down any poor fellow with a heartier whack than Frank!"
"Wetherel," cried Col. Hilson, "why the dickens didn't you knock down that insolent dealer?"
"I would, if you'll buy him."
"Aye! I'd buy him for the pleasure of tossing the scamp over to my negroes. The fellows would like such a hunt."
Mr. Wardloe regarded this as rather commonplace, perhaps; or he wished, maybe, to keep within bounds and please Edward; but he here arose and proposed:
"Gentlemen! let us drink good afternoon, and join the ladies." And so the company concluded the session.
The reader will naturally ask if the negroes had no dinner? Yes, verily. Except a few house servants who were to have a dinner to themselves, and who were, in fact, too tonish for field and common darkies, the others had a time of cramming, truly awful. Their affair came off at the "Quarters"; where they stuffed and drank, and sang and danced, as if Slavery was the Life of Lives. Sentences in whole, or in part, were now and then caught by the white folks in parlors and saloons, which were indices how the tide of fun was setting: thus—
"Two bale bid—only two—gwine—gwine."
"Massah, buy Frank for nigger parsin—"
"I's de niggah to cut shine round Carrie—"
"Oh! gosh! Ole Diner promis Frank hab um gal; you black crow—"
"Den I gwine to leave dis quiet place—too much religin here!"
This allusion to the disappointed dealers, was followed by three times three, and brought a smile over the white faces.
"He de slave chainer! gib um cow-skin—how de gemman make track when Massah Parsin holler out 4000 dollar!"
"Hurraw! for Massa Parsin—"
"Hurraw! for Massah Wardloe! He flog Sambo! Sambo, he cry—'I'se whipped for sartin'—"
Much of this delicate flattery was doubtless owing to the state of the stomach. The half-starved, ill-clad, idle free negro of the North cannot flatter. He can only cringe! And what can we expect? He is virtually a slave, and without an owner! A few men of genius and talent and morals (melancholy pyramids, alone in a desert) stand grandly up—Black Men among White Men! But why fight indignant against Destiny, when they can be Rulers of Destiny! Go, ye black men of talent and morals and knowledge —go! Make a deathless name in abolishing heathenism and slavery in your own land!
But the boats are ready; and now away homeward
glide our happy parties. The merry laugh and
the boat song are still heard when the crews disappear in the haze and behind the waving grass, till faint, and yet fainter, and then like a moan, die away the voices in the distance.