The Conjure Woman
Charles W. Chesnutt
Part 2 out of 3
The old man looked puzzled as well as pained. He had not pleased the
lady, and he did not seem to understand why.
"I'm sorry, ma'm," he said reproachfully, "ef you doan lack dat tale. I
can't make out w'at you means by some er dem wo'ds you uses, but I'm
tellin' nuffin but de truf. Co'se I did n' see de cunjuh man tu'n 'im
back, fer I wuz n' dere; but I be'n hearin' de tale fer twenty-five
yeahs, en I ain' got no 'casion fer ter 'spute it. Dey 's so many things
a body knows is lies, dat dey ain' no use gwine roun' findin' fault wid
tales dat mought des ez well be so ez not. F' instance, dey's a young
nigger gwine ter school in town, en he come out heah de yuther day en
'lowed dat de sun stood still en de yeath turnt roun' eve'y day on a
kinder axletree. I tol' dat young nigger ef he didn' take hisse'f 'way
wid dem lies, I 'd take a buggy-trace ter 'im; fer I sees de yeath
stan'in' still all de time, en I sees de sun gwine roun' it, en ef a man
can't b'lieve w'at 'e sees, I can't see no use in libbin'--mought's well
die en be whar we can't see nuffin. En ernudder thing w'at proves de
tale 'bout dis ole Primus is de way he goes on ef anybody ax' him how he
come by dat club-foot. I axed 'im one day, mighty perlite en civil, en
he call' me a' ole fool, en got so mad he ain' spoke ter me sence. Hit's
monst'us quare. But dis is a quare worl', anyway yer kin fix it,"
concluded the old man, with a weary sigh.
"Ef you makes up yo' min' not ter buy dat mule, suh," he added, as he
rose to go, "I knows a man w'at 's got a good hoss he wants ter
sell,--leas'ways dat's w'at I heared. I'm gwine ter pra'rmeetin'
ter-night, en I'm gwine right by de man's house, en ef you 'd lack ter
look at de hoss, I'll ax 'im ter fetch him roun'."
"Oh, yes," I said, "you can ask him to stop in, if he is passing. There
will be no harm in looking at the horse, though I rather think I shall
buy a mule."
Early next morning the man brought the horse up to the vineyard. At that
time I was not a very good judge of horseflesh. The horse appeared
sound and gentle, and, as the owner assured me, had no bad habits. The
man wanted a large price for the horse, but finally agreed to accept a
much smaller sum, upon payment of which I became possessed of a very
fine-looking animal. But alas for the deceitfulness of appearances! I
soon ascertained that the horse was blind in one eye, and that the sight
of the other was very defective; and not a month elapsed before my
purchase developed most of the diseases that horse-flesh is heir to, and
a more worthless, broken-winded, spavined quadruped never disgraced the
noble name of horse. After worrying through two or three months of life,
he expired one night in a fit of the colic. I replaced him with a mule,
and Julius henceforth had to take his chances of driving some
Circumstances that afterwards came to my knowledge created in my mind a
strong suspicion that Julius may have played a more than unconscious
part in this transaction. Among other significant facts was his
appearance, the Sunday following the purchase of the horse, in a new
suit of store clothes, which I had seen displayed in the window of Mr.
Solomon Cohen's store on my last visit to town, and had remarked on
account of their striking originality of cut and pattern. As I had not
recently paid Julius any money, and as he had no property to mortgage, I
was driven to conjecture to account for his possession of the means to
buy the clothes. Of course I would not charge him with duplicity unless
I could prove it, at least to a moral certainty, but for a long time
afterwards I took his advice only in small doses and with great
SIS' BECKY'S PICKANINNY
We had not lived in North Carolina very long before I was able to note a
marked improvement in my wife's health. The ozone-laden air of the
surrounding piney woods, the mild and equable climate, the peaceful
leisure of country life, had brought about in hopeful measure the cure
we had anticipated. Toward the end of our second year, however, her
ailment took an unexpected turn for the worse. She became the victim of
a settled melancholy, attended with vague forebodings of impending
"You must keep up her spirits," said our physician, the best in the
neighboring town. "This melancholy lowers her tone too much, tends to
lessen her strength, and, if it continue too long, may be fraught with
I tried various expedients to cheer her up. I read novels to her. I had
the hands on the place come up in the evening and serenade her with
plantation songs. Friends came in sometimes and talked, and frequent
letters from the North kept her in touch with her former home. But
nothing seemed to rouse her from the depression into which she had
One pleasant afternoon in spring, I placed an armchair in a shaded
portion of the front piazza, and filling it with pillows led my wife out
of the house and seated her where she would have the pleasantest view of
a somewhat monotonous scenery. She was scarcely placed when old Julius
came through the yard, and, taking off his tattered straw hat, inquired,
"How is you feelin' dis atternoon, ma'm?"
"She is not very cheerful, Julius," I said. My wife was apparently
without energy enough to speak for herself.
The old man did not seem inclined to go away, so I asked him to sit
down. I had noticed, as he came up, that he held some small object in
his hand. When he had taken his seat on the top step, he kept fingering
this object,--what it was I could not quite make out.
"What is that you have there, Julius?" I asked, with mild curiosity.
"Dis is my rabbit foot, suh."
This was at a time before this curious superstition had attained its
present jocular popularity among white people, and while I had heard of
it before, it had not yet outgrown the charm of novelty.
"What do you do with it?"
"I kyars it wid me fer luck, suh."
"Julius," I observed, half to him and half to my wife, "your people
will never rise in the world until they throw off these childish
superstitions and learn to live by the light of reason and common sense.
How absurd to imagine that the fore-foot of a poor dead rabbit, with
which he timorously felt his way along through a life surrounded by
snares and pitfalls, beset by enemies on every hand, can promote
happiness or success, or ward off failure or misfortune!"
"It is ridiculous," assented my wife, with faint interest.
"Dat 's w'at I tells dese niggers roun' heah," said Julius. "De fo'-foot
ain' got no power. It has ter be de hin'-foot, suh,--de lef hin'-foot er
a grabe-ya'd rabbit, killt by a cross-eyed nigger on a da'k night in de
full er de moon."
"They must be very rare and valuable," I said.
"Dey is kinder ska'ce, suh, en dey ain' no 'mount er money could buy
mine, suh. I mought len' it ter anybody I sot sto' by, but I would n'
sell it, no indeed, suh, I would n'."
"How do you know it brings good luck?" I asked.
"'Ca'se I ain' had no bad luck sence I had it, suh, en I's had dis
rabbit foot fer fo'ty yeahs. I had a good marster befo' de wah, en I
wa'n't sol' erway, en I wuz sot free; en dat 'uz all good luck."
"But that doesn't prove anything," I rejoined. "Many other people have
gone through a similar experience, and probably more than one of them
had no rabbit's foot."
"Law, suh! you doan hafter prove 'bout de rabbit foot! Eve'ybody knows
dat; leas'ways eve'ybody roun' heah knows it. But ef it has ter be
prove' ter folks w'at wa'n't bawn en raise' in dis naberhood, dey is a'
easy way ter prove it. Is I eber tol' you de tale er Sis' Becky en her
"No," I said, "let us hear it." I thought perhaps the story might
interest my wife as much or more than the novel I had meant to read
"Dis yer Becky," Julius began, "useter b'long ter ole Kunnel Pen'leton,
who owned a plantation down on de Wim'l'ton Road, 'bout ten miles fum
heah, des befo' you gits ter Black Swamp. Dis yer Becky wuz a
fiel'-han', en a monst'us good 'un. She had a husban' oncet, a nigger
w'at b'longed on de nex' plantation, but de man w'at owned her husban'
died, en his lan' en his niggers had ter be sol' fer ter pay his debts.
Kunnel Pen'leton 'lowed he'd 'a' bought dis nigger, but he had be'n
bettin' on hoss races, en did n' hab no money, en so Becky's husban' wuz
sol' erway ter Fuhginny.
"Co'se Becky went on some 'bout losin' her man, but she could n' he'p
herse'f; en 'sides dat, she had her pickaninny fer ter comfo't her. Dis
yer little Mose wuz de cutes', blackes', shiny-eyedes' little nigger you
eber laid eyes on, en he wuz ez fon' er his mammy ez his mammy wuz er
him. Co'se Becky had ter wuk en did n' hab much time ter was'e wid her
baby. Ole Aun' Nancy, de plantation nuss down at de qua'ters, useter
take keer er little Mose in de daytime, en atter de niggers come in fum
de cotton-fiel' Becky 'ud git her chile en kiss 'im en nuss 'im, en keep
'im 'tel mawnin'; en on Sundays she 'd hab 'im in her cabin wid her all
"Sis' Becky had got sorter useter gittin' 'long widout her husban', w'en
one day Kunnel Pen'leton went ter de races. Co'se w'en he went ter de
races, he tuk his hosses, en co'se he bet on 'is own hosses, en co'se he
los' his money; fer Kunnel Pen'leton did n' nebber hab no luck wid his
hosses, ef he did keep hisse'f po' projeckin' wid 'em. But dis time dey
wuz a hoss name' Lightnin' Bug, w'at b'longed ter ernudder man, en dis
hoss won de sweep-stakes; en Kunnel Pen'leton tuk a lackin' ter dat
hoss, en ax' his owner w'at he wuz willin' ter take fer 'im.
"'I'll take a thousan' dollahs fer dat hoss,' sez dis yer man, who had
a big plantation down to'ds Wim'l'ton, whar he raise' hosses fer ter
race en ter sell.
"Well, Kunnel Pen'leton scratch' 'is head, en wonder whar he wuz gwine
ter raise a thousan' dollahs; en he did n' see des how he could do it,
fer he owed ez much ez he could borry a'ready on de skyo'ity he could
gib. But he wuz des boun' ter hab dat hoss, so sezee:--
"'I'll gib you my note fer' 'leven hund'ed dollahs fer dat hoss.'
"De yuther man shuck 'is head, en sezee:--
"'Yo' note, suh, is better 'n gol', I doan doubt; but I is made it a
rule in my bizness not ter take no notes fum nobody. Howsomeber, suh, ef
you is kinder sho't er fun's, mos' lackly we kin make some kin' er
bahg'in. En w'iles we is talkin', I mought 's well say dat I needs
ernudder good nigger down on my place. Ef you is got a good one ter
spar', I mought trade wid you.'
"Now, Kunnel Pen'leton did n' r'ally hab no niggers fer ter spar', but
he 'lowed ter hisse'f he wuz des bleedzd ter hab dat hoss, en so he sez,
"'Well, I doan lack ter, but I reckon I'll haf ter. You come out ter my
plantation ter-morrer en look ober my niggers, en pick out de one you
"So sho' 'nuff nex' day dis yer man come out ter Kunnel Pen'leton's
place en rid roun' de plantation en glanshed at de niggers, en who sh'd
he pick out fum 'em all but Sis' Becky.
"'I needs a noo nigger 'oman down ter my place,' sezee, 'fer ter cook
en wash, en so on; en dat young 'oman'll des fill de bill. You gimme
her, en you kin hab Lightnin' Bug.'"
"Now, Kunnel Pen'leton did n' lack ter trade Sis' Becky, 'ca'se she wuz
nigh 'bout de bes' fiel'-han' he had; en 'sides, Mars Kunnel did n' keer
ter take de mammies 'way fum dey chillun w'iles de chillun wuz little.
But dis man say he want Becky, er e'se Kunnel Pen'leton could n' hab de
"'Well,' sez de kunnel, 'you kin hab de 'oman. But I doan lack ter sen'
her 'way fum her baby. W'at'll you gimme fer dat nigger baby?'
"'I doan want de baby,' sez de yuther man. 'I ain' got no use fer de
"'I tell yer w'at I'll do,' 'lows Kunnel Pen'leton, 'I'll th'ow dat
pickaninny in fer good measure.'
"But de yuther man shuck his head. 'No,' sezee, 'I's much erbleedzd, but
I doan raise niggers; I raises hosses, en I doan wanter be both'rin'
wid no nigger babies. Nemmine de baby. I'll keep dat 'oman so busy she
'll fergit de baby; fer niggers is made ter wuk, en dey ain' got no time
fer no sich foolis'ness ez babies.'
"Kunnel Pen'leton did n' wanter hu't Becky's feelin's,--fer Kunnel
Pen'leton wuz a kin'-hea'ted man, en nebber lack' ter make no trouble
fer nobody,--en so he tol' Becky he wuz gwine sen' her down ter Robeson
County fer a day er so, ter he'p out his son-in-law in his wuk; en bein'
ez dis yuther man wuz gwine dat way, he had ax' 'im ter take her 'long
in his buggy.
"'Kin I kyar little Mose wid me, marster?' ax' Sis' Becky.
"'N-o,' sez de kunnel, ez ef he wuz studyin' whuther ter let her take
'im er no;' I reckon you better let Aun' Nancy look atter yo' baby fer
de day er two you'll be gone, en she'll see dat he gits ernuff ter eat
'tel you gits back.'
"So Sis' Becky hug' en kiss' little Mose, en tol' 'im ter be a good
little pickaninny, en take keer er hisse'f, en not fergit his mammy
w'iles she wuz gone. En little Mose put his arms roun' his mammy en
lafft en crowed des lack it wuz monst'us fine fun fer his mammy ter go
'way en leabe 'im.
"Well, dis yer hoss trader sta'ted out wid Becky, en bimeby, atter dey
'd gone down de Lumbe'ton Road fer a few miles er so, dis man tu'nt
roun' in a diffe'nt d'rection, en kep' goin' dat erway, 'tel bimeby Sis'
Becky up 'n ax' 'im ef he wuz gwine' ter Robeson County by a noo road.
"'No, nigger,' sezee, 'I ain' gwine ter Robeson County at all. I's gwine
ter Bladen County, whar my plantation is, en whar I raises all my
"'But how is I gwine ter git ter Mis' Laura's plantation down in
Robeson County?' sez Becky, wid her hea't in her mouf, fer she 'mence'
ter git skeered all er a sudden.
"'You ain' gwine ter git dere at all,' sez de man. 'You b'longs ter me
now, fer I done traded my bes' race hoss fer you, wid yo' ole marster.
Ef you is a good gal, I'll treat you right, en ef you doan behabe
yo'se'f,--w'y, w'at e'se happens'll be yo' own fault.'
"Co'se Sis' Becky cried en went on 'bout her pickaninny, but co'se it
did n' do no good, en bimeby dey got down ter dis yer man's place, en he
put Sis' Becky ter wuk, en fergot all 'bout her habin' a pickaninny.
"Meanw'iles, w'en ebenin' come, de day Sis' Becky wuz tuk 'way, little
Mose mence' ter git res'less, en bimeby, w'en his mammy did n' come, he
sta'ted ter cry fer 'er. Aun' Nancy fed 'im en rocked 'im en rocked 'im,
en fin'lly he des cried en cried 'tel he cried hisse'f ter sleep.
"De nex' day he did n' 'pear ter be as peart ez yushal, en w'en night
come he fretted en went on wuss 'n he did de night befo'. De nex' day
his little eyes 'mence' ter lose dey shine, en he would n' eat nuffin,
en he 'mence' ter look so peaked dat Aun' Nancy tuk 'n kyared 'im up ter
de big house, en showed 'im ter her ole missis, en her ole missis gun
her some med'cine fer 'im, en 'lowed ef he did n' git no better she sh'd
fetch 'im up ter de big house ag'in, en dey 'd hab a doctor, en nuss
little Mose up dere. Fer Aun' Nancy's ole missis 'lowed he wuz a lackly
little nigger en wu'th raisin'.
"But Aun' Nancy had l'arn' ter lack little Mose, en she did n' wanter
hab 'im tuk up ter de big house. En so w'en he did n' git no better, she
gethered a mess er green peas, and tuk de peas en de baby, en went ter
see ole Aun' Peggy, de cunjuh 'oman down by de Wim'l'ton Road. She gun
Aun' Peggy de mess er peas, en tol' her all 'bout Sis' Becky en little
"'Dat is a monst'us small mess er peas you is fotch' me,' sez Aun'
Peggy, sez she.
"'Yas, I knows,' 'lowed Aun' Nancy, 'but dis yere is a monst'us small
"'You'll hafter fetch me sump'n mo',' sez Aun' Peggy, 'fer you can't
'spec' me ter was'e my time diggin' roots en wukkin' cunj'ation fer
"'All right,' sez Aun' Nancy, 'I'll fetch you sump'n mo' nex' time.'
"'You bettah,' sez Aun' Peggy, 'er e'se dey'll be trouble. Wat dis yer
little pickaninny needs is ter see his mammy. You leabe 'im heah 'tel
ebenin' en I'll show 'im his mammy.'
"So w'en Aun' Nancy had gone 'way, Aun' Peggy tuk 'n wukked her roots,
en tu'nt little Mose ter a hummin'-bird, en sont 'im off fer ter fin'
"So little Mose flewed, en flewed, en flewed away, 'tel bimeby he got
ter de place whar Sis' Becky b'longed. He seed his mammy wukkin' roun'
de ya'd, en he could tell fum lookin' at her dat she wuz trouble' in her
min' 'bout sump'n, en feelin' kin' er po'ly. Sis' Becky heared sump'n
hummin' roun' en roun' her, sweet en low. Fus' she 'lowed it wuz a
hummin'-bird; den she thought it sounded lack her little Mose croonin'
on her breas' way back yander on de ole plantation. En she des 'magine'
it wuz her little Mose, en it made her feel bettah, en she went on 'bout
her wuk pearter 'n she'd done sence she 'd be'n down dere. Little Mose
stayed roun' 'tel late in de ebenin', en den flewed back ez hard ez he
could ter Aun' Peggy. Ez fer Sis' Becky, she dremp all dat night dat she
wuz holdin' her pickaninny in her arms, en kissin' him, en nussin' him,
des lack she useter do back on de ole plantation whar he wuz bawn. En
fer th'ee er fo' days Sis' Becky went 'bout her wuk wid mo' sperrit dan
she 'd showed sence she 'd be'n down dere ter dis man's plantation.
"De nex' day atter he come back, little Mose wuz mo' pearter en better
'n he had be'n fer a long time. But to'ds de een' er de week he 'mence'
ter git res'less ag'in, en stop' eatin', en Aun' Nancy kyared 'im down
ter Aun' Peggy once mo', en she tu'nt 'im ter a mawkin'-bird dis time,
en sont 'im off ter see his mammy ag'in.
"It didn' take him long fer ter git dere, en w'en he did, he seed his
mammy standin' in de kitchen, lookin' back in de d'rection little Mose
wuz comin' fum. En dey wuz tears in her eyes, en she look' mo' po'ly en
peaked 'n she had w'en he wuz down dere befo'. So little Mose sot on a
tree in de ya'd en sung, en sung, en sung, des fittin' ter split his
th'oat. Fus' Sis' Becky did n' notice 'im much, but dis mawkin'-bird
kep' stayin' roun' de house all day, en bimeby Sis' Becky des 'magine'
dat mawkin'-bird wuz her little Mose crowin' en crowin', des lack he
useter do w'en his mammy would come home at night fum de cotton-fiel'.
De mawkin'-bird stayed roun' dere 'mos' all day, en w'en Sis' Becky went
out in de ya'd one time, dis yer mawkin'-bird lit on her shoulder en
peck' at de piece er bread she wuz eatin', en fluttered his wings so dey
rub' up agin de side er her head. En w'en he flewed away 'long late in
de ebenin', des 'fo' sundown, Sis' Becky felt mo' better 'n she had
sence she had heared dat hummin'-bird a week er so pas'. En dat night
she dremp 'bout ole times ag'in, des lack she did befo'.
"But dis yer totin' little Mose down ter ole Aun' Peggy, en dis yer
gittin' things fer ter pay de cunjuh 'oman, use' up a lot er Aun'
Nancy's time, en she begun ter git kinder ti'ed. 'Sides dat, w'en Sis'
Becky had be'n on de plantation, she had useter he'p Aun' Nancy wid de
young uns ebenin's en Sundays; en Aun' Nancy 'mence' ter miss 'er
monst'us, 'speshly sence she got a tech er de rheumatiz herse'f, en so
she 'lows ter ole Aun' Peggy one day:--
"'Aun' Peggy, ain' dey no way you kin fetch Sis' Becky back home?'
"'Huh!' sez Aun' Peggy, 'I dunno 'bout dat. I'll hafter wuk my roots en
fin' out whuther I kin er no. But it'll take a monst'us heap er wuk, en
I can't was'e my time fer nuffin. Ef you'll fetch me sump'n ter pay me
fer my trouble, I reckon we kin fix it.'
"So nex' day Aun' Nancy went down ter see Aun' Peggy ag'in.
"'Aun' Peggy,' sez she, 'I is fotch' you my bes' Sunday head-hankercher.
Will dat do?'
"Aun' Peggy look' at de head-hankercher, en run her han' ober it, en
"'Yas, dat'll do fus'-rate. I's be'n wukkin' my roots sence you be'n
gone, en I 'lows mos' lackly I kin git Sis' Becky back, but it 's gwine
take fig'rin' en studyin' ez well ez cunj'in'. De fus' thing ter do'll
be ter stop fetchin' dat pickaninny down heah, en not sen' 'im ter see
his mammy no mo'. Ef he gits too po'ly, you lemme know, en I'll gib you
some kin' er mixtry fer ter make 'im fergit Sis' Becky fer a week er so.
So 'less'n you comes fer dat, you neenter come back ter see me no mo'
'tel I sen's fer you.'
"So Aun' Peggy sont Aun' Nancy erway, en de fus' thing she done wuz ter
call a hawnet fum a nes' unner her eaves.
"You go up ter Kunnel Pen'leton's stable, hawnet,' sez she, 'en sting de
knees er de race hoss name' Lightnin' Bug. Be sho' en git de right
"So de hawnet flewed up ter Kunnel Pen'leton's stable en stung Lightnin'
Bug roun' de laigs, en de nex' mawnin' Lightnin' Bug's knees wuz all
swoll' up, twice't ez big ez dey oughter be. W'en Kunnel Pen'leton went
out ter de stable en see de hoss's laigs, hit would 'a' des made you
trimble lack a leaf fer ter heah him cuss dat hoss trader. Howsomeber,
he cool' off bimeby en tol' de stable boy fer ter rub Lightnin' Bug's
laigs wid some linimum. De boy done ez his marster tol' 'im, en by de
nex' day de swellin' had gone down consid'able. Aun' Peggy had sont a
sparrer, w'at had a nes' in one er de trees close ter her cabin, fer ter
watch w'at wuz gwine on 'roun' de big house, en w'en dis yer sparrer
tol' 'er de hoss wuz gittin' ober de swellin', she sont de hawnet back
fer ter sting 'is knees some mo', en de nex' mawnin' Lightnin' Bug's
laigs wuz swoll' up wuss 'n befo'.
"Well, dis time Kunnel Pen'leton wuz mad th'oo en th'oo, en all de way
'roun', en he cusst dat hoss trader up en down, fum _A_ ter _Izzard_. He
cusst so ha'd dat de stable boy got mos' skeered ter def, en went off en
hid hisse'f in de hay.
"Ez fer Kunnel Pen'leton, he went right up ter de house en got out his
pen en ink, en tuk off his coat en roll' up his sleeves, en writ a
letter ter dis yer hoss trader, en sezee:--
"'You is sol' me a hoss w'at is got a ringbone er a spavin er sump'n, en
w'at I paid you fer wuz a soun' hoss. I wants you ter sen' my nigger
'oman back en take yo' ole hoss, er e'se I'll sue you, sho 's you
"But dis yer man wa'n't skeered a bit, en he writ back ter Kunnel
Pen'leton dat a bahg'in wuz a bahg'in; dat Lightnin' Bug wuz soun' w'en
he sol' 'im, en ef Kunnel Pen'leton did n' knowed ernuff 'bout hosses
ter take keer er a fine racer, dat wuz his own fune'al. En he say Kunnel
Pen'leton kin sue en be cusst fer all he keer, but he ain' gwine ter gib
up de nigger he bought en paid fer.
"W'en Kunnel Pen'leton got dis letter he wuz madder 'n he wuz befo',
'speshly 'ca'se dis man 'lowed he did n' know how ter take keer er fine
hosses. But he could n' do nuffin but fetch a lawsuit, en he knowed, by
his own 'spe'ience, dat lawsuits wuz slow ez de seben-yeah eetch and
cos' mo' d'n dey come ter, en he 'lowed he better go slow en wait
"Aun' Peggy knowed w'at wuz gwine on all dis time, en she fix' up a
little bag wid some roots en one thing en ernudder in it, en gun it ter
dis sparrer er her'n, en tol' 'im ter take it 'way down yander whar
Sis' Becky wuz, en drap it right befo' de do' er her cabin, so she 'd be
sho' en fin' it de fus' time she come out'n de do'.
"One night Sis' Becky dremp' her pickaninny wuz dead, en de nex' day she
wuz mo'nin' en groanin' all day. She dremp' de same dream th'ee nights
runnin', en den, de nex' mawnin' atter de las' night, she foun' dis yer
little bag de sparrer had drap' in front her do'; en she 'lowed she'd
be'n cunju'd, en wuz gwine ter die, en ez long ez her pickaninny wuz
dead dey wa'n't no use tryin' ter do nuffin nohow. En so she tuk 'n went
ter bed, en tol' her marster she 'd be'n cunju'd en wuz gwine ter die.
"Her marster lafft at her, en argyed wid her, en tried ter 'suade her
out'n dis yer fool notion, ez he called it,--fer he wuz one er dese yer
w'ite folks w'at purten' dey doan b'liebe in cunj'in',--but hit wa'n't
no use. Sis' Becky kep' gittin' wusser en wusser, 'tel fin'lly dis yer
man 'lowed Sis' Becky wuz gwine ter die, sho' 'nuff. En ez he knowed dey
had n' be'n nuffin de matter wid Lightnin' Bug w'en he traded 'im, he
'lowed mebbe he could kyo' 'im en fetch 'im roun' all right, leas'ways
good 'nuff ter sell ag'in. En anyhow, a lame hoss wuz better 'n a dead
nigger. So he sot down en writ Kunnel Pen'leton a letter.
"'My conscience,' sezee, 'has be'n troublin' me 'bout dat ringbone' hoss
I sol' you. Some folks 'lows a hoss trader ain' got no conscience, but
dey doan know me, fer dat is my weak spot, en de reason I ain' made no
mo' money hoss tradin'. Fac' is,' sezee, 'I is got so I can't sleep
nights fum studyin' 'bout dat spavin' hoss; en I is made up my min' dat,
w'iles a bahg'in is a bahg'in, en you seed Lightnin' Bug befo' you
traded fer 'im, principle is wuth mo' d'n money er hosses er niggers. So
ef you'll sen' Lightnin' Bug down heah, I'll sen' yo' nigger 'oman
back, en we'll call de trade off, en be ez good frien's ez we eber wuz,
en no ha'd feelin's.'
"So sho' 'nuff, Kunnel Pen'leton sont de hoss back. En w'en de man w'at
come ter bring Lightnin' Bug tol' Sis' Becky her pickaninny wa'n't dead,
Sis' Becky wuz so glad dat she 'lowed she wuz gwine ter try ter lib 'tel
she got back whar she could see little Mose once mo'. En w'en she retch'
de ole plantation en seed her baby kickin' en crowin' en holdin' out his
little arms to'ds her, she wush' she wuz n' cunju'd en did n' hafter
die. En w'en Aun' Nancy tol' 'er all 'bout Aun' Peggy, Sis' Becky went
down ter see de cunjuh 'oman, en Aun' Peggy tol' her she had cunju'd
her. En den Aun' Peggy tuk de goopher off'n her, en she got well, en
stayed on de plantation, en raise' her pickaninny. En w'en little Mose
growed up, he could sing en whistle des lack a mawkin'-bird, so dat de
w'ite folks useter hab 'im come up ter de big house at night, en whistle
en sing fer 'em, en dey useter gib 'im money en vittles en one thing er
ernudder, w'ich he alluz tuk home ter his mammy; fer he knowed all 'bout
w'at she had gone th'oo. He tu'nt out ter be a sma't man, en l'arnt de
blacksmif trade; en Kunnel Pen'leton let 'im hire his time. En bimeby he
bought his mammy en sot her free, en den he bought hisse'f, en tuk keer
er Sis' Becky ez long ez dey bofe libbed."
My wife had listened to this story with greater interest than she had
manifested in any subject for several days. I had watched her furtively
from time to time during the recital, and had observed the play of her
countenance. It had expressed in turn sympathy, indignation, pity, and
at the end lively satisfaction.
"That is a very ingenious fairy tale, Julius," I said, "and we are much
obliged to you."
"Why, John!" said my wife severely, "the story bears the stamp of truth,
if ever a story did."
"Yes," I replied, "especially the humming-bird episode, and the
mocking-bird digression, to say nothing of the doings of the hornet and
"Oh, well, I don't care," she rejoined, with delightful animation;
"those are mere ornamental details and not at all essential. The story
is true to nature, and might have happened half a hundred times, and no
doubt did happen, in those horrid days before the war."
"By the way, Julius," I remarked, "your story doesn't establish what
you started out to prove,--that a rabbit's foot brings good luck."
"Hit's plain 'nuff ter me, suh," replied Julius. "I bet young missis
dere kin 'splain it herse'f."
"I rather suspect," replied my wife promptly, "that Sis' Becky had no
"You is hit de bull's-eye de fus' fire, ma'm," assented Julius. "Ef Sis'
Becky had had a rabbit foot, she nebber would 'a' went th'oo all dis
I went into the house for some purpose, and left Julius talking to my
wife. When I came back a moment later, he was gone.
My wife's condition took a turn for the better from this very day, and
she was soon on the way to ultimate recovery. Several weeks later, after
she had resumed her afternoon drives, which had been interrupted by her
illness, Julius brought the rockaway round to the front door one day,
and I assisted my wife into the carriage.
"John," she said, before I had taken my seat, "I wish you would look in
my room, and bring me my handkerchief. You will find it in the pocket
of my blue dress."
I went to execute the commission. When I pulled the handkerchief out of
her pocket, something else came with it and fell on the floor. I picked
up the object and looked at it. It was Julius's rabbit's foot.
THE GRAY WOLFS HA'NT
It was a rainy day at the vineyard. The morning had dawned bright and
clear. But the sky had soon clouded, and by nine o'clock there was a
light shower, followed by others at brief intervals. By noon the rain
had settled into a dull, steady downpour. The clouds hung low, and
seemed to grow denser instead of lighter as they discharged their watery
burden, and there was now and then a muttering of distant thunder.
Outdoor work was suspended, and I spent most of the day at the house,
looking over my accounts and bringing up some arrears of correspondence.
Towards four o'clock I went out on the piazza, which was broad and dry,
and less gloomy than the interior of the house, and composed myself for
a quiet smoke. I had lit my cigar and opened the volume I was reading at
that time, when my wife, whom I had left dozing on a lounge, came out
and took a rocking-chair near me.
"I wish you would talk to me, or read to me--or something," she
exclaimed petulantly. "It's awfully dull here today."
"I'll read to you with pleasure," I replied, and began at the point
where I had found my bookmark:--
"'The difficulty of dealing with transformations so many-sided as those
which all existences have undergone, or are undergoing, is such as to
make a complete and deductive interpretation almost hopeless. So to
grasp the total process of redistribution of matter and motion as to see
simultaneously its several necessary results in their actual
interdependence is scarcely possible. There is, however, a mode of
rendering the process as a whole tolerably comprehensible. Though the
genesis of the rearrangement of every evolving aggregate is in itself
one, it presents to our intelligence'"--
"John," interrupted my wife, "I wish you would stop reading that
nonsense and see who that is coming up the lane."
I closed my book with a sigh. I had never been able to interest my wife
in the study of philosophy, even when presented in the simplest and most
Some one was coming up the lane; at least, a huge faded cotton umbrella
was making progress toward the house, and beneath it a pair of nether
extremities in trousers was discernible. Any doubt in my mind as to
whose they were was soon resolved when Julius reached the steps and,
putting the umbrella down, got a good dash of the rain as he stepped up
on the porch.
"Why in the world, Julius," I asked, "didn't you keep the umbrella up
until you got under cover?"
"It's bad luck, suh, ter raise a' umbrella in de house, en w'iles I
dunno whuther it's bad luck ter kyar one inter de piazzer er no, I 'lows
it's alluz bes' ter be on de safe side. I did n' s'pose you en young
missis 'u'd be gwine on yo' dribe ter-day, but bein' ez it's my pa't ter
take you ef you does, I 'lowed I 'd repo't fer dooty, en let you say
whuther er no you wants ter go."
"I'm glad you came, Julius," I responded. "We don't want to go driving,
of course, in the rain, but I should like to consult you about another
matter. I'm thinking of taking in a piece of new ground. What do you
imagine it would cost to have that neck of woods down by the swamp
The old man's countenance assumed an expression of unwonted seriousness,
and he shook his head doubtfully.
"I dunno 'bout dat, suh. It mought cos' mo', en it mought cos' less, ez
fuh ez money is consarned. I ain' denyin' you could cl'ar up dat trac'
er Ian' fer a hund'ed er a couple er hund'ed dollahs,--ef you wants ter
cl'ar it up. But ef dat 'uz my trac' er Ian', I would n' 'sturb it, no,
suh, I would n'; sho 's you bawn, I would n'."
"But why not?" I asked.
"It ain' fittin' fer grapes, fer noo groun' nebber is."
"I know it, but"--
"It ain' no yeathly good fer cotton, 'ca'se it's top low."
"Perhaps so; but it will raise splendid corn."
"I dunno," rejoined Julius deprecatorily. "It's so nigh de swamp dat de
'coons'll eat up all de cawn."
"I think I'll risk it," I answered.
"Well, suh," said Julius, "I wushes you much joy er yo' job. Ef you has
bad luck er sickness er trouble er any kin', doan blame _me_. You can't
say ole Julius did n' wa'n you."
"Warn him of what, Uncle Julius?" asked my wife.
"Er de bad luck w'at follers folks w'at 'sturbs dat trac' er Ian'. Dey
is snakes en sco'pions in dem woods. En ef you manages ter 'scape de
p'isen animals, you is des boun' ter hab a ha'nt ter settle wid,--ef you
doan hab two."
"Whose haunt?" my wife demanded, with growing interest.
"De gray wolf's ha'nt, some folks calls it,--but I knows better."
"Tell us about it, Uncle Julius," said my wife. "A story will be a
It was not difficult to induce the old man to tell a story, if he were
in a reminiscent mood. Of tales of the old slavery days he seemed indeed
to possess an exhaustless store,--some weirdly grotesque, some broadly
humorous; some bearing the stamp of truth, faint, perhaps, but still
discernible; others palpable inventions, whether his own or not we never
knew, though his fancy doubtless embellished them. But even the wildest
was not without an element of pathos,--the tragedy, it might be, of the
story itself; the shadow, never absent, of slavery and of ignorance; the
sadness, always, of life as seen by the fading light of an old man's
"Way back yander befo' de wah," began Julius, "ole Mars Dugal' McAdoo
useter own a nigger name' Dan. Dan wuz big en strong en hearty en
peaceable en good-nachu'd most er de time, but dange'ous ter aggervate.
He alluz done his task, en nebber had no trouble wid de w'ite folks, but
woe be unter de nigger w'at 'lowed he c'd fool wid Dan, fer he wuz mos'
sho' ter git a good lammin'. Soon ez eve'ybody foun' Dan out, dey did
n' many un 'em 'temp' ter 'sturb 'im. De one dat did would 'a' wush' he
had n', ef he could 'a' libbed long ernuff ter do any wushin'.
"It all happen' dis erway. Dey wuz a cunjuh man w'at libbed ober t'
other side er de Lumbe'ton Road. He had be'n de only cunjuh doctor in de
naberhood fer lo! dese many yeahs, 'tel ole Aun' Peggy sot up in de
bizness down by de Wim'l'ton Road. Dis cunjuh man had a son w'at libbed
wid 'im, en it wuz dis yer son w'at got mix' up wid Dan,--en all 'bout a
"Dey wuz a gal on de plantation name' Mahaly. She wuz a monst'us lackly
gal,--tall en soopl', wid big eyes, en a small foot, en a lively tongue,
en w'en Dan tuk ter gwine wid 'er eve'ybody 'lowed dey wuz well match',
en none er de yuther nigger men on de plantation das' ter go nigh her,
fer dey wuz all feared er Dan.
"Now, it happen' dat dis yer cunjuh man's son wuz gwine 'long de road
one day, w'en who sh'd come pas' but Mahaly. En de minute dis man sot
eyes on Mahaly, he 'lowed he wuz gwine ter hab her fer hisse'f. He come
up side er her en 'mence' ter talk ter her; but she didn' paid no
'tention ter 'im, fer she wuz studyin' 'bout Dan, en she did n' lack dis
nigger's looks nohow. So w'en she got ter whar she wuz gwine, dis yer
man wa'n't no fu'ther 'long dan he wuz w'en he sta'ted.
"Co'se, atter he had made up his min' fer ter git Mahaly, he 'mence' ter
'quire 'roun', en soon foun' out all 'bout Dan, en w'at a dange'ous
nigger he wuz. But dis man 'lowed his daddy wuz a cunjuh man, en so he
'd come out all right in de een'; en he kep' right on atter Mahaly.
Meanw'iles Dan's marster had said dey could git married ef dey wanter,
en so Dan en Mahaly had tuk up wid one ernudder, en wuz libbin' in a
cabin by deyse'ves, en wuz des wrop' up in one ernudder.
"But dis yer cunjuh man's son did n' 'pear ter min' Dan's takin' up wid
Mahaly, en he kep' on hangin' 'roun' des de same, 'tel fin'lly one day
Mahaly sez ter Dan, sez she:--
"'I wush you 'd do sump'n ter stop dat free nigger man fum follerin' me
'roun'. I doan lack him nohow, en I ain' got no time fer ter was'e wid
no man but you.'
"Co'se Dan got mad w'en he heared 'bout dis man pest'rin' Mahaly, en de
nex' night, w'en he seed dis nigger comin' 'long de road, he up en ax'
'im w'at he mean by hangin' 'roun' his 'oman. De man did n' 'spon' ter
suit Dan, en one wo'd led ter ernudder, 'tel bimeby dis cunjuh man's son
pull' out a knife en sta'ted ter stick it in Dan; but befo' he could git
it drawed good, Dan haul' off en hit 'im in de head so ha'd dat he
nebber got up. Dan 'lowed he 'd come to atter a w'ile en go 'long 'bout
his bizness, so he went off en lef 'im layin' dere on de groun'.
"De nex' mawnin' de man wuz foun' dead. Dey wuz a great 'miration made
'bout it, but Dan did n' say nuffin, en none er de yuther niggers had n'
seed de fight, so dey wa'n't no way ter tell who done de killin'. En
bein' ez it wuz a free nigger, en dey wa'n't no w'ite folks 'speshly
int'rusted, dey wa'n't nuffin done 'bout it, en de cunjuh man come en
tuk his son en kyared 'im 'way en buried 'im.
"Now, Dan had n' meant ter kill dis nigger, en w'iles he knowed de man
had n'' got no mo' d'n he desarved, Dan 'mence' ter worry mo' er less.
Fer he knowed dis man's daddy would wuk his roots en prob'ly fin' out
who had killt 'is son, en make all de trouble fer 'im he could. En Dan
kep' on studyin' 'bout dis 'tel he got so he did n' ha'dly das' ter eat
er drink fer fear dis cunjuh man had p'isen' de vittles er de water.
Fin'lly he 'lowed he 'd go ter see Aun' Peggy, de noo cunjuh 'oman w'at
had moved down by de Wim'l'ton Road, en ax her fer ter do sump'n ter
pertec' 'im fum dis cunjuh man. So he tuk a peck er 'taters en went down
ter her cabin one night.
"Aun' Peggy heared his tale, en den sez she:--
"'Dat cunjuh man is mo' d'n twice't ez ole ez I is, en he kin make
monst'us powe'ful goopher. W'at you needs is a life-cha'm, en I'll make
you one ter-morrer; it's de on'y thing w'at'll do you any good. You
leabe me a couple er ha'rs fum yo' head, en fetch me a pig ter-morrer
night fer ter roas', en w'en you come I'll hab de cha'm all ready fer
"So Dan went down ter Aun' Peggy de nex' night,--wid a young shote,--en
Aun' Peggy gun 'im de cha'm. She had tuk de ha'rs Dan had lef wid 'er,
en a piece er red flannin, en some roots en yarbs, en had put 'em in a
little bag made out'n 'coon-skin.
"'You take dis cha'm,' sez she, 'en put it in a bottle er a tin box, en
bury it deep unner de root er a live-oak tree, en ez long ez it stays
dere safe en soun', dey ain' no p'isen kin p'isen you, dey ain' no
rattlesnake kin bite you, dey ain' no sco'pion kin sting you. Dis yere
cunjuh man mought do one thing er 'nudder ter you, but he can't kill
you. So you neenter be at all skeered, but go 'long 'bout yo' bizness en
doan bother yo' min'.'
"So Dan went down by de ribber, en 'way up on de bank he buried de cha'm
deep unner de root er a live-oak tree, en kivered it up en stomp' de
dirt down en scattered leaves ober de spot, en den went home wid his
"Sho' 'nuff, dis yer cunjuh man wukked his roots, des ez Dan had
'spected he would, en soon l'arn' who killt his son. En co'se he made up
his min' fer ter git eben wid Dan. So he sont a rattlesnake fer ter
sting 'im, but de rattlesnake say de nigger's heel wuz so ha'd he could
n' git his sting in. Den he sont his jay-bird fer ter put p'isen in
Dan's vittles, but de p'isen did n' wuk. Den de cunjuh man 'low' he'd
double Dan all up wid de rheumatiz, so he could n' git 'is ban' ter his
mouf ter eat, en would hafter sta've ter def; but Dan went ter Aun'
Peggy, en she gun 'im a' 'intment ter kyo de rheumatiz. Den de cunjuh
man 'lowed he 'd bu'n Dan up wid a fever, but Aun' Peggy tol' 'im how
ter make some yarb tea fer dat. Nuffin dis man tried would kill Dan, so
fin'lly de cunjuh man 'lowed Dan mus' hab a life-cha'm.
"Now, dis yer jay-bird de cunjuh man had wuz a monst'us sma't
creeter,--fac', de niggers 'lowed he wuz de ole Debbil hisse'f, des
settin' roun' waitin' ter kyar dis ole man erway w'en he 'd retch' de
een' er his rope. De cunjuh man sont dis jay-bird fer ter watch Dan en
fin' out whar he kep' his cha'm. De jay-bird hung roun' Dan fer a week
er so, en one day he seed Dan go down by de ribber en look at a live-oak
tree; en den de jay-bird went back ter his marster, en tol' 'im he
'spec' de nigger kep' his life-cha'm under dat tree.
"De cunjuh man lafft en lafft, en he put on his bigges' pot, en fill' it
wid his stronges' roots, en b'iled it en b'iled it, 'tel bimeby de win'
blowed en blowed, 'tel it blowed down de live-oak tree. Den he stirred
some more roots in de pot, en it rained en rained 'tel de water run down
de ribber bank en wash' Dan's life-cha'm inter de ribber, en de bottle
went bobbin' down de current des ez onconsarned ez ef it wa'n't takin'
po' Dan's chances all 'long wid it. En den de cunjuh man lafft some mo',
en 'lowed ter hisse'f dat he wuz gwine ter fix Dan now, sho' 'nuff; he
wa'n't gwine ter kill 'im des yet, fer he could do sump'n ter 'im w'at
would hu't wusser 'n killin'.
"So dis cunjuh man 'mence' by gwine up ter Dan's cabin eve'y night, en
takin' Dan out in his sleep en ridin' 'im roun' de roads en fiel's ober
de rough groun'. In de mawnin' Dan would be ez ti'ed ez ef he had n'
be'n ter sleep. Dis kin' er thing kep' up fer a week er so, en Dan had
des 'bout made up his min' fer ter go en see Aun' Peggy ag'in, w'en who
sh'd he come across, gwine 'long de road one day, to'ds sundown, but dis
yer cunjuh man. Dan felt kinder skeered at fus'; but den he 'membered
'bout his life-cha'm, w'ich he had n' be'n ter see fer a week er so, en
'lowed wuz safe en soun' unner de live-oak tree, en so he hilt up 'is
head en walk' 'long, des lack he did n' keer nuffin 'bout dis man no mo'
d'n any yuther nigger. Wen he got close ter de cunjuh man, dis cunjuh
man sez, sezee:--
"'Hoddy, Brer Dan? I hopes you er well?'
"Wen Dan seed de cunjuh man wuz in a good humor en did n' 'pear ter bear
no malice, Dan 'lowed mebbe de cunjuh man had n' foun' out who killt his
son, en so he 'termine' fer ter let on lack he did n' know nuffin, en so
"'Hoddy, Unk' Jube?'--dis ole cunjuh man's name wuz Jube. 'I 's p'utty
well, I thank you. How is you feelin' dis mawnin'?'
"'I's feelin' ez well ez a' ole nigger could feel w'at had los' his only
son, en his main 'pen'ence in 'is ole age.
"'But den my son wuz a bad boy,' sezee, 'en I could n' 'spec' nuffin
e'se. I tried ter l'arn him de arrer er his ways en make him go ter
chu'ch en pra'r-meetin'; but it wa'n't no use. I dunno who killt 'im, en
I doan wanter know, fer I 'd be mos' sho' ter fin' out dat my boy had
sta'ted de fuss. Ef I 'd 'a' had a son lack you, Brer Dan, I 'd 'a' be'n
a proud nigger; oh, yas, I would, sho's you bawn. But you ain' lookin'
ez well ez you oughter, Brer Dan. Dey's sump'n de matter wid you, en
w'at 's mo', I 'spec' you dunno w'at it is.'
"Now, dis yer kin' er talk nach'ly th'owed Dan off'n his gya'd, en fus'
thing he knowed he wuz talkin' ter dis ole cunjuh man des lack he wuz
one er his bes' frien's. He tol' 'im all 'bout not feelin' well in de
mawnin', en ax' 'im ef he could tell w'at wuz de matter wid 'im.
"'Yas,' sez de cunjuh man. 'Dey is a witch be'n ridin' you right 'long.
I kin see de marks er de bridle on yo' mouf. En I'll des bet yo' back
is raw whar she 's be'n beatin' you.'
"'Yas,' 'spon' Dan, 'so it is.' He had n' notice it befo', but now he
felt des lack de hide had be'n tuk off'n 'im.
"'En yo' thighs is des raw whar de spurrers has be'n driv' in you,' sez
de cunjuh man. 'You can't see de raw spots, but you kin feel 'em.'
"'Oh, yas,' 'lows Dan, 'dey does hu't pow'ful bad.'
"'En w'at's mo',' sez de cunjuh man, comin' up close ter Dan en
whusp'in' in his yeah, 'I knows who it is be'n ridin' you.'
"'Who is it?' ax' Dan. 'Tell me who it is.'
"'It's a' ole nigger 'oman down by Rockfish Crick. She had a pet rabbit,
en you cotch' 'im one day, en she's been squarin' up wid you eber sence.
But you better stop her, er e'se you'll be rid ter def in a mont' er
"'No,' sez Dan, 'she can't kill me, sho'.'
"'I dunno how dat is,' said de cunjuh man, 'but she kin make yo' life
mighty mis'able. Ef I wuz in yo' place, I 'd stop her right off.'
"'But how is I gwine ter stop her?' ax' Dan. 'I dunno nuffin 'bout
"'Look a heah, Dan,'sez de yuther; 'you is a goad young man. I lacks you
monst'us well. Fac', I feels lack some er dese days I mought buy you fum
yo' marster, ef I could eber make money ernuff at my bizness dese hard
times, en 'dop' you fer my son. I lacks you so well dat I'm gwine ter
he'p you git rid er dis yer witch fer good en all; fer des ez long ez
she libs, you is sho' ter hab trouble, en trouble, en mo' trouble.'
"'You is de bes' frien' I got, Unk' Jube,' sez Dan, 'en I'll 'member
yo' kin'ness ter my dyin' day. Tell me how I kin git rid er dis yer ole
witch w'at 's be'n ridin' me so ha'd.'
"'In de fus' place,' sez de cunjuh man, 'dis ole witch nebber comes in
her own shape, but eve'y night, at ten o'clock, she tu'ns herse'f inter
a black cat, en runs down ter yo' cabin en bridles you, en mounts you,
en dribes you out th'oo de chimbly, en rides you ober de roughes' places
she kin fin'. All you got ter do is ter set fer her in de bushes 'side
er yo' cabin, en hit her in de head wid a rock er a lighterd-knot w'en
she goes pas'.'
"'But,' sez Dan, 'how kin I see her in de da'k? En s'posen I hits at her
en misses her? Er s'posen I des woun's her, en she gits erway,--w'at she
gwine do ter me den?'
"'I is done studied 'bout all dem things,' sez de cunjuh man, 'en it
'pears ter me de bes' plan fer you ter foller is ter lemme tu'n you ter
some creetur w'at kin see in de da'k, en w'at kin run des ez fas' ez a
cat, en w'at kin bite, en bite fer ter kill; en den you won't hafter hab
no trouble atter de job is done. I dunno whuther you 'd lack dat er no,
but dat is de sho'es' way.'
"'I doan keer,' 'spon' Dan. 'I'd des ez lief be anything fer a' hour er
so, ef I kin kill dat ole witch. You kin do des w'at you er mineter.'
"'All right, den,' sez de cunjuh man, 'you come down ter my cabin at
half-past nine o'clock ter-night, en I'll fix you up.'
"Now, dis cunjuh man, w'en he had got th'oo talkin' wid Dan, kep' on
down de road 'long de side er de plantation, 'tel he met Mahaly comin'
home fum wuk des atter sundown.
"'Hoddy do, ma'm,' sezee; 'is yo' name Sis' Mahaly, w'at b'longs ter
Mars Dugal' McAdoo?'
"'Yas,' 'spon' Mahaly, 'dat's my name, en I b'longs ter Mars Dugal'.'
"'Well,' sezee, 'yo' husban' Dan wuz down by my cabin dis ebenin', en
he got bit by a spider er sump'n, en his foot is swoll' up so he can't
walk. En he ax' me fer ter fin' you en fetch you down dere ter he'p 'im
"Co'se Mahaly wanter see w'at had happen' ter Dan, en so she sta'ted
down de road wid de cunjuh man. Ez soon ez he got her inter his cabin,
he shet de do', en sprinkle' some goopher mixtry on her, en tu'nt her
ter a black cat. Den he tuk 'n put her in a bairl, en put a bo'd on de
bairl, en a rock on de bo'd, en lef her dere 'tel he got good en ready
fer ter use her.
"'Long 'bout half-pas' nine o'clock Dan come down ter de cunjuh man's
cabin. It wuz a wa'm night, en de do' wuz stan'in' open. De cunjuh man
'vited Dan ter come in, en pass' de time er day wid 'im. Ez soon ez Dan
'mence' talkin', he heared a cat miauin' en scratchin' en gwine on at a
"'Wat's all dat fuss 'bout?' ax' Dan.
"'Oh, dat ain' nuffin but my ole gray tomcat,' sez de cunjuh man. 'I has
ter shet 'im up sometimes fer ter keep 'im in nights, en co'se he doan
"'Now,' 'lows de cunjuh man, 'lemme tell you des w'at you is got ter do.
Wen you ketches dis witch, you mus' take her right by de th'oat en bite
her right th'oo de neck. Be sho' yo' teef goes th'oo at de fus' bite, en
den you won't nebber be bothe'd no mo' by dat witch. En w'en you git
done, come back heah en I'll tu'n you ter yo'se'f ag'in, so you kin go
home en git yo' night's res'.'
"Den de cunjuh man gun Dan sump'n nice en sweet ter drink out'n a new
go'd, en in 'bout a minute Dan foun' hisse'f tu'nt ter a gray wolf; en
soon ez he felt all fo' er his noo feet on de groun', he sta'ted off
fas' ez he could fer his own cabin, so he could be sho' en be dere time
ernuff ter ketch de witch, en put a' een' ter her kyarin's-on.
"Ez soon ez Dan wuz gone good, de cunjuh man tuk de rock off'n de bo'd,
en de bo'd off'n de bairl, en out le'p' Mahaly en sta'ted fer ter go
home, des lack a cat er a 'oman er anybody e'se would w'at wuz in
trouble; en it wa'n't many minutes befo' she wuz gwine up de path ter
her own do'.
"Meanw'iles, w'en Dan had retch' de cabin, he had hid hisse'f in a bunch
er jimson weeds in de ya'd. He had n' wait' long befo' he seed a black
cat run up de path to'ds de do'. Des ez soon ez she got close ter 'im,
he le'p' out en ketch' her by de th'oat, en got a grip on her, des lack
de cunjuh man had tol' 'im ter do. En lo en behol'! no sooner had de
blood 'mence' ter flow dan de black cat tu'nt back ter Mahaly, en Dan
seed dat he had killt his own wife. En w'iles her bref wuz gwine she
"'O Dan! O my husban'! come en he'p me! come en sabe me fum dis wolf
w'at 's killin' me!'
"Wen po' Dan sta'ted to'ds her, ez any man nach'ly would, it des made
her holler wuss en wuss; fer she did n' knowed dis yer wolf wuz her Dan.
En Dan des had ter hide in de weeds, en grit his teef en hoi' hisse'f
in, 'tel she passed out'n her mis'ry, callin' fer Dan ter de las', en
wond'rin' w'y he did n' come en he'p her. En Dan 'lowed ter hisse'f he
'd ruther 'a' be'n killt a dozen times 'n ter 'a' done w'at he had ter
"Dan wuz mighty nigh 'stracted, but w'en Mahaly wuz dead en he got his
min' straighten' out a little, it did n' take 'im mo' d'n a minute er so
fer ter see th'oo all de cunjuh man's lies, en how de cunjuh man had
fooled 'im en made 'im kill Mahaly, fer ter git eben wid 'im fer
killin' er his son. He kep' gittin' madder en madder, en Mahaly had n'
much mo' d'n drawed her' las bref befo' he sta'ted back ter de cunjuh
man's cabin ha'd ez he could run.
"Wen he got dere, de do' wuz stan'in' open; a lighterd-knot wuz
flick'rin' on de h'a'th, en de ole cunjuh man wuz settin' dere noddin'
in de corner. Dan le'p' in de do' en jump' fer dis man's th'oat, en got
de same grip on 'im w'at de cunjuh man had tol' 'im 'bout half a' hour
befo'. It wuz ha'd wuk dis time, fer de ole man's neck wuz monst'us
tough en stringy, but Dan hilt on long ernuff ter be sho' his job wuz
done right. En eben den he did n' hol' on long ernuff; fer w'en he tu'nt
de cunjuh man loose en he fell ober on de flo', de cunjuh man rollt his
eyes at Dan, en sezee:--
"'I's eben wid you, Brer Dan, en you er eben wid me; you killt my son
en I killt yo' 'oman. En ez I doan want no mo' d'n w'at 's fair 'bout
dis thing, ef you'll retch up wid yo' paw en take down dat go'd hangin'
on dat peg ober de chimbly, en take a sip er dat mixtry, it'll tu'n you
back ter a nigger ag'in, en I kin die mo' sad'sfied 'n ef I lef you lack
"Dan nebber 'lowed fer a minute dat a man would lie wid his las' bref,
en co'se he seed de sense er gittin' tu'nt back befo' de cunjuh man
died; so he dumb on a chair en retch' fer de go'd, en tuk a sip er de
mixtry. En ez soon ez he 'd done dat de cunjuh man lafft his las' laf,
en gapsed out wid 'is las' gaps:--
"'Uh huh! I reckon I's square wid you now fer killin' me, too; fer dat
goopher on you is done fix' en sot now fer good, en all de cunj'in' in
de worl' won't nebber take it off.
_'Wolf you is en wolf you stays,
All de rest er yo' bawn days_.'
"Co'se Brer Dan could n' do nuffin. He knowed it wa'n't no use, but he
dumb up on de chimbly en got down de go'ds en bottles en yuther cunjuh
fixin's, en tried 'em all on hisse'f, but dey didn' do no good. Den he
run down ter ole Aun' Peggy, but she did n' know de wolf langwidge, en
couldn't 'a' tuk off dis yuther goopher nohow, eben ef she 'd 'a'
unnerstood w'at Dan wuz sayin'. So po' Dan wuz bleedgd ter be a wolf all
de rest er his bawn days.
"Dey foun' Mahaly down by her own cabin nex' mawnin', en eve'ybody made
a great 'miration 'bout how she 'd be'n killt. De niggers 'lowed a wolf
had bit her. De w'ite folks say no, dey ain' be'n no wolves 'roun' dere
fer ten yeahs er mo'; en dey did n' know w'at ter make out'n it. En w'en
dey could n' fin' Dan nowhar, dey 'lowed he'd quo'lled wid Mahaly en
killt her, en run erway; en dey did n' know w'at ter make er dat, fer
Dan en Mahaly wuz de mos' lovin' couple on de plantation. Dey put de
dawgs on Dan's scent, en track' 'im down ter ole Unk' Jube's cabin, en
foun' de ole man dead, en dey did n' know w'at ter make er dat; en den
Dan's scent gun out, en dey didn' know w'at ter make er dat. Mars Dugal'
tuk on a heap 'bout losin' two er his bes' han's in one day, en ole
missis 'lowed it wuz a jedgment on 'im fer sump'n he 'd done. But dat
fall de craps wuz monst'us big, so Mars Dugal' say de Lawd had temper'
de win' ter de sho'n ram, en make up ter 'im fer w'at he had los'.
"Dey buried Mahaly down in dat piece er low groun' you er talkin' 'bout
cl'arin' up. Ez fer po' Dan, he did n' hab nowhar e'se ter go, so he des
stayed 'roun' Mahaly's grabe, w'en he wa'n't out in de yuther woods
gittin' sump'n ter eat. En sometimes, w'en night would come, de niggers
useter heah him howlin' en howlin' down dere, des fittin' ter break his
hea't. En den some mo' un 'em said dey seed Mahaly's ha'nt dere
'bun'ance er times, colloguin' wid dis gray wolf. En eben now, fifty
yeahs sence, long atter ole Dan has died en dried up in de woods, his
ha'nt en Mahaly's hangs 'roun' dat piece er low groun', en eve'body w'at
goes 'bout dere has some bad luck er 'nuther; fer ha'nts doan lack ter
be 'sturb' on dey own stompin'-groun'."
The air had darkened while the old man related this harrowing tale. The
rising wind whistled around the eaves, slammed the loose
window-shutters, and, still increasing, drove the rain in fiercer gusts
into the piazza. As Julius finished his story and we rose to seek
shelter within doors, the blast caught the angle of some chimney or
gable in the rear of the house, and bore to our ears a long, wailing
note, an epitome, as it were, of remorse and hopelessness.
"Dat 's des lack po' ole Dan useter howl," observed Julius, as he
reached for his umbrella, "en w'at I be'n tellin' you is de reason I
doan lack ter see dat neck er woods cl'ared up. Co'se it b'longs ter
you, en a man kin do ez he choose' wid 'is own. But ef you gits
rheumatiz er fever en agur, er ef you er snake-bit er p'isen' wid some
yarb er 'nuther, er ef a tree falls on you, er a ha'nt runs you en makes
you git 'stracted in yo' min', lack some folks I knows w'at went foolin'
'roun' dat piece er lan', you can't say I neber wa'ned you, suh, en tol'
you w'at you mought look fer en be sho' ter fin'."
When I cleared up the land in question, which was not until the
following year, I recalled the story Julius had told us, and looked in
vain for a sunken grave or perhaps a few weather-bleached bones of some
denizen of the forest. I cannot say, of course, that some one had not
been buried there; but if so, the hand of time had long since removed
any evidence of the fact. If some lone wolf, the last of his pack, had
once made his den there, his bones had long since crumbled into dust and
gone to fertilize the rank vegetation that formed the undergrowth of
this wild spot. I did find, however, a bee-tree in the woods, with an
ample cavity in its trunk, and an opening through which convenient
access could be had to the stores of honey within. I have reason to
believe that ever since I had bought the place, and for many years
before, Julius had been getting honey from this tree. The gray wolf's
haunt had doubtless proved useful in keeping off too inquisitive people,
who might have interfered with his monopoly.
"I hate you and despise you! I wish never to see you or speak to you
"Very well; I will take care that henceforth you have no opportunity to
These words--the first in the passionately vibrant tones of my
sister-in-law, and the latter in the deeper and more restrained accents
of an angry man--startled me from my nap. I had been dozing in my
hammock on the front piazza, behind the honeysuckle vine. I had been
faintly aware of a buzz of conversation in the parlor, but had not at
all awakened to its import until these sentences fell, or, I might
rather say, were hurled upon my ear. I presume the young people had
either not seen me lying there,--the Venetian blinds opening from the
parlor windows upon the piazza were partly closed on account of the
heat,--or else in their excitement they had forgotten my proximity.
I felt somewhat concerned. The young man, I had remarked, was proud,
firm, jealous of the point of honor, and, from my observation of him,
quite likely to resent to the bitter end what he deemed a slight or an
injustice. The girl, I knew, was quite as high-spirited as young
Murchison. I feared she was not so just, and hoped she would prove more
yielding. I knew that her affections were strong and enduring, but that
her temperament was capricious, and her sunniest moods easily overcast
by some small cloud of jealousy or pique. I had never imagined, however,
that she was capable of such intensity as was revealed by these few
words of hers. As I say, I felt concerned. I had learned to like
Malcolm Murchison, and had heartily consented to his marriage with my
ward; for it was in that capacity that I had stood for a year or two to
my wife's younger sister, Mabel. The match thus rudely broken off had
promised to be another link binding me to the kindly Southern people
among whom I had not long before taken up my residence.
Young Murchison came out of the door, cleared the piazza in two strides
without seeming aware of my presence, and went off down the lane at a
furious pace. A few moments later Mabel began playing the piano loudly,
with a touch that indicated anger and pride and independence and a dash
of exultation, as though she were really glad that she had driven away
forever the young man whom the day before she had loved with all the
ardor of a first passion.
I hoped that time might heal the breach and bring the two young people
together again. I told my wife what I had overheard. In return she gave
me Mabel's version of the affair.
"I do not see how it can ever be settled," my wife said. "It is
something more than a mere lovers' quarrel. It began, it is true,
because she found fault with him for going to church with that hateful
Branson girl. But before it ended there were things said that no woman
of any spirit could stand. I am afraid it is all over between them."
I was sorry to hear this. In spite of the very firm attitude taken by my
wife and her sister, I still hoped that the quarrel would be made up
within a day or two. Nevertheless, when a week had passed with no word
from young Murchison, and with no sign of relenting on Mabel's part, I
began to think myself mistaken.
One pleasant afternoon, about ten days after the rupture, old Julius
drove the rockaway up to the piazza, and my wife, Mabel, and I took our
seats for a drive to a neighbor's vineyard, over on the Lumberton
"Which way shall we go," I asked,--"the short road or the long one?"
"I guess we had better take the short road," answered my wife. "We will
get there sooner."
"It's a mighty fine dribe roun' by de big road, Mis' Annie," observed
Julius, "en it doan take much longer to git dere."
"No," said my wife, "I think we will go by the short road. There is a
bay-tree in blossom near the mineral spring, and I wish to get some of
"I 'spec's you 'd fin' some bay-trees 'long de big road, ma'm,"
"But I know about the flowers on the short road, and they are the ones
We drove down the lane to the highway, and soon struck into the short
road leading past the mineral spring. Our route lay partly through a
swamp, and on each side the dark, umbrageous foliage, unbroken by any
clearing, lent to the road solemnity, and to the air a refreshing
coolness. About half a mile from the house, and about half-way to the
mineral spring, we stopped at the tree of which my wife had spoken, and
reaching up to the low-hanging boughs, I gathered a dozen of the
fragrant white flowers. When I resumed my seat in the rockaway, Julius
started the mare. She went on for a few rods, until we had reached the
edge of a branch crossing the road, when she stopped short.
"Why did you stop, Julius?" I asked.
"I did n', suh," he replied. "'T wuz de mare stop'. G' 'long dere,
Lucy! Wat you mean by dis foolis'ness?"
Julius jerked the reins and applied the whip lightly, but the mare did
"Perhaps you had better get down and lead her," I suggested. "If you get
her started, you can cross on the log and keep your feet dry."
Julius alighted, took hold of the bridle, and vainly essayed to make the
mare move. She planted her feet with even more evident obstinacy.
"I don't know what to make of this," I said. "I have never known her to
balk before. Have you, Julius?"
"No, suh," replied the old man, "I neber has. It's a cu'ous thing ter
"What's the best way to make her go?"
"I 'spec's, suh, dat ef I'd tu'n her 'roun', she'd go de udder way."
"But we want her to go this way."
"Well, suh, I 'low ef we des set heah fo' er fibe minutes, she'll
sta't up by herse'f."
"All right," I rejoined; "it is cooler here than any place I have struck
today. We'll let her stand for a while, and see what she does."
We had sat in silence for a few minutes, when Julius suddenly
ejaculated, "Uh huh! I knows w'y dis mare doan go. It des flash' 'cross
"Why is it, Julius?" I inquired.
"'Ca'se she sees Chloe."
"Where is Chloe?" I demanded.
"Chloe's done be'n dead dese fo'ty years er mo'," the old man returned.
"Her ha'nt is settin' ober yander on de udder side er de branch, unner
dat wilier-tree, dis blessed minute."
"Why, Julius!" said my wife, "do you see the haunt?"
"No'm," he answered, shaking his head, "I doan see 'er, but de mare
"How do you know?" I inquired.
"Well, suh, dis yer is a gray hoss, en dis yer is a Friday; en a gray
hoss kin alluz see a ha'nt w'at walks on Friday."
"Who was Chloe?" said Mabel.
"And why does Chloe's haunt walk?" asked my wife.
"It's all in de tale, ma'm," Julius replied, with a deep sigh. "It's all
in de tale."
"Tell us the tale," I said. "Perhaps, by the time you get through, the
haunt will go away and the mare will cross."
I was willing to humor the old man's fancy. He had not told us a story
for some time; and the dark and solemn swamp around us; the
amber-colored stream flowing silently and sluggishly at our feet, like
the waters of Lethe; the heavy, aromatic scent of the bays, faintly
suggestive of funeral wreaths, all made the place an ideal one for a
"Chloe," Julius began in a subdued tone, "use' ter b'long ter ole Mars'
Dugal' McAdoo,--my ole marster. She wuz a lackly gal en a smart gal, en
ole mis' tuk her up ter de big house, en l'arnt her ter wait on de w'ite
folks, 'tel bimeby she come ter be mis's own maid, en 'peared ter 'low
she run de house herse'f, ter heah her talk erbout it. I wuz a young boy
den, en use' ter wuk 'bout de stables, so I knowed eve'ythin' dat wuz
gwine on 'roun' de plantation.
"Well, one time Mars' Dugal' wanted a house boy, en sont down ter de
qua'ters fer ter hab Jeff en Hannibal come up ter de big house nex'
mawnin'. Ole marster en ole mis' look' de two boys ober, en 'sco'sed wid
deyse'ves fer a little w'ile, en den Mars' Dugal' sez, sezee:--
"'We lacks Hannibal de bes', en we gwine ter keep him. Heah, Hannibal,
you'll wuk at de house fum now on. En ef you er a good nigger en min's
yo' bizness, I'll gib you Chloe fer a wife nex' spring. You other
nigger, you Jeff, you kin go back ter de qua'ters. We ain' gwine ter
"Now Chloe had be'n stan'in' dere behin' ole mis' dyoin' all er dis yer
talk, en Chloe made up her min' fum de ve'y fus' minute she sot eyes on
dem two dat she did n' lack dat nigger Hannibal, en wa'n't neber gwine
keer fer 'im, en she wuz des ez sho' dat she lack' Jeff, en wuz gwine
ter set sto' by 'im, whuther Mars' Dugal' tuk 'im in de big house er no;
en so co'se Chloe wuz monst'us sorry w'en ole Mars' Dugal' tuk Hannibal
en sont Jeff back. So she slip' roun' de house en waylaid Jeff on de way
back ter de qua'ters, en tol' 'im not ter be down-hea'ted, fer she wuz
gwine ter see ef she could n' fin' some way er 'nuther ter git rid er
dat nigger Hannibal, en git Jeff up ter de house in his place.
"De noo house boy kotch' on monst'us fas', en it wa'n't no time ha'dly
befo' Mars' Dugal' en ole mis' bofe 'mence' ter 'low Hannibal wuz de
bes' house boy dey eber had. He wuz peart en soopl', quick ez lightnin',
en sha'p ez a razor. But Chloe did n' lack his ways. He wuz so sho' he
wuz gwine ter git 'er in de spring, dat he did n' 'pear ter 'low he had
ter do any co'tin', en w'en he 'd run 'cross Chloe 'bout de house, he 'd
swell roun' 'er in a biggity way en say:--
"'Come heah en kiss me, honey. You gwine ter be mine in de spring. You
doan 'pear ter be ez fon' er me ez you oughter be.'
"Chloe did n' keer nuffin fer Hannibal, en had n' keered nuffin fer 'im,
en she sot des ez much sto' by Jeff ez she did de day she fus' laid eyes
on 'im. En de mo' fermilyus dis yer Hannibal got, de mo' Chloe let her
min' run on Jeff, en one ebenin' she went down ter de qua'ters en
watch', 'tel she got a chance fer ter talk wid 'im by hisse'f. En she
tol' Jeff fer ter go down en see ole Aun' Peggy, de cunjuh 'oman down by
de Wim'l'ton Road, en ax her ter gib 'im sump'n ter he'p git Hannibal
out'n de big house, so de w'ite folks u'd sen' fer Jeff ag'in. En bein'
ez Jeff did n' hab nuffin ter gib Aun' Peggy, Chloe gun 'im a silber
dollah en a silk han'kercher fer ter pay her wid, fer Aun' Peggy neber
lack ter wuk fer nobody fer nuffin.
"So Jeff slip' off down ter Aun' Peggy's one night, en gun 'er de
present he brung, en tol' 'er all 'bout 'im en Chloe en Hannibal, en ax'
'er ter he'p 'im out. Aun' Peggy tol' 'im she 'd wuk 'er roots, en fer
'im ter come back de nex' night, en she 'd tell 'im w'at she c'd do fer
"So de nex' night Jeff went back, en Aun' Peggy gun 'im a baby doll, wid
a body made out'n a piece er co'n-stalk, en wid splinters fer a'ms en
laigs, en a head made out'n elderberry peth, en two little red peppers
"'Dis yer baby doll,' sez she, 'is Hannibal. Dis yer peth head is
Hannibal's head, en dese yer pepper feet is Hannibal's feet. You take
dis en hide it unner de house, on de sill unner de do', whar Hannibal
'll hafter walk ober it eve'y day. En ez long ez Hannibal comes anywhar
nigh dis baby doll, he'll be des lack it is,--light-headed en
hot-footed; en ef dem two things doan git 'im inter trouble mighty soon,
den I'm no cunjuh 'oman. But w'en you git Hannibal out'n de house, en
git all th'oo wid dis baby doll, you mus' fetch it back ter me, fer it's
monst'us powerful goopher, en is liable ter make mo' trouble ef you
leabe it layin' roun'.'
"Well, Jeff tuk de baby doll, en slip' up ter de big house, en whistle'
ter Chloe, en w'en she come out he tol' 'er w'at ole Aun' Peggy had
said. En Chloe showed 'im how ter git unner de house, en w'en he had put
de cunjuh doll on de sill, he went 'long back ter de qua'ters--en des
"Nex' day, sho' 'nuff, de goopher 'mence' ter wuk. Hannibal sta'ted in
de house soon in de mawnin' wid a armful er wood ter make a fire, en he
had n' mo' d'n got 'cross de do'-sill befo' his feet begun ter bu'n so
dat he drap' de armful er wood on de flo' en woke ole mis' up a' hour
sooner 'n yushal, en co'se ole mis' did n' lack dat, en spoke sha'p
"W'en dinner-time come, en Hannibal wuz help'n' de cook kyar de dinner
f'm de kitchen inter de big house, en wuz gittin' close ter de do' whar
he had ter go in, his feet sta'ted ter bu'n en his head begun ter swim,
en he let de big dish er chicken en dumplin's fall right down in de
dirt, in de middle er de ya'd, en de w'ite folks had ter make dey dinner
dat day off'n col' ham en sweet'n' 'taters.
"De nex' mawnin' he overslep' hisse'f, en got inter mo' trouble. Atter
breakfus', Mars' Dugal' sont 'im ober ter Mars' Marrabo Utley's fer ter
borry a monkey wrench. He oughter be'n back in ha'f a' hour, but he come
pokin' home 'bout dinner-time wid a screw-driver stidder a monkey
wrench. Mars' Dugal' sont ernudder nigger back wid de screw-driver, en
Hannibal did n' git no dinner. 'Long in de atternoon, ole mis' sot
Hannibal ter weedin' de flowers in de front gya'den, en Hannibal dug up
all de bulbs ole mis' had sont erway fer, en paid a lot er money fer, en
tuk 'em down ter de hawg-pen by de ba'nya'd, en fed 'em ter de hawgs.
Wen ole mis' come out in de cool er de ebenin', en seed w'at Hannibal
had done, she wuz mos' crazy, en she wrote a note en sont Hannibal down
ter de oberseah wid it.
"But w'at Hannibal got fum de oberseah did n' 'pear ter do no good.
Eve'y now en den 'is feet 'd 'mence ter torment 'im, en 'is min' 'u'd
git all mix' up, en his conduc' kep' gittin' wusser en wusser, 'tel
fin'lly de w'ite folks could n' stan' it no longer, en Mars' Dugal' tuk
Hannibal back down ter de qua'ters.
"'Mr. Smif,' sez Mars' Dugal' ter de oberseah, 'dis yer nigger has done
got so triflin' yer lately dat we can't keep 'im at de house no mo', en
I 's fotch' 'im ter you ter be straighten' up. You 's had 'casion ter
deal wid 'im once, so he knows w'at ter expec'. You des take 'im in
han', en lemme know how he tu'ns out. En w'en de han's comes in fum de
fiel' dis ebenin' you kin sen' dat yaller nigger Jeff up ter de house. I
'll try 'im, en see ef he's any better 'n Hannibal.'
"So Jeff went up ter de big house, en pleas' Mars' Dugal' en ole mis' en
de res' er de fambly so well dat dey all got ter lackin' 'im fus'rate;
en dey 'd 'a' fergot all 'bout Hannibal, ef it had n' be'n fer de bad
repo'ts w'at come up fum de qua'ters 'bout 'im fer a mont' er so. Fac'
is, dat Chloe en Jeff wuz so int'rusted in one ernudder sence Jeff be'n
up ter de house, dat dey fergot all 'bout takin' de baby doll back ter
Aun' Peggy, en it kep' wukkin' fer a w'ile, en makin' Hannibal's feet
bu'n mo' er less, 'tel all de folks on de plantation got ter callin' 'im
Hot-Foot Hannibal. He kep' gittin' mo' en mo' triflin', 'tel he got de
name er bein' de mos' no 'countes' nigger on de plantation, en Mars'
Dugal' had ter th'eaten ter sell 'im in de spring, w'en bimeby de
goopher quit wukkin', en Hannibal 'mence' ter pick up some en make folks
set a little mo' sto' by 'im.
"Now, dis yer Hannibal was a monst'us sma't nigger, en w'en he got rid
er dem so' feet, his min' kep' runnin' on 'is udder troubles. Heah
th'ee er fo' weeks befo' he 'd had a' easy job, waitin' on de w'ite
folks, libbin' off'n de fat er de lan', en promus' de fines' gal on de
plantation fer a wife in de spring, en now heah he wuz back in de
co'n-fiel, wid de oberseah a-cussin' en a-r'arin' ef he did n' get a
ha'd tas' done; wid nuffin but co'n bread en bacon en merlasses ter eat;
en all de fiel'-han's makin' rema'ks, en pokin' fun at 'im 'ca'se he'd
be'n sont back fum de big house ter de fiel'. En de mo' Hannibal studied
'bout it de mo' madder he got, 'tel he fin'lly swo' he wuz gwine ter git
eben wid Jeff en Chloe, ef it wuz de las' ac'.
"So Hannibal slipped 'way fum de qua'ters one Sunday en hid in de co'n
up close ter de big house, 'tel he see Chloe gwine down de road. He
waylaid her, en sezee:--
"'I ain' got no time fer ter fool wid fiel'-han's,' sez Chloe, tossin'
her head; 'w'at you want wid me, Hot-Foot?'
"'I wants ter know how you en Jeff is gittin' 'long.'
"'I 'lows dat's none er yo' bizness, nigger. I doan see w'at 'casion any
common fiel'-han' has got ter mix in wid de 'fairs er folks w'at libs in
de big house. But ef it'll do you any good ter know, I mought say dat
me en Jeff is gittin' 'long mighty well, en we gwine ter git married in
de spring, en you ain' gwine ter be 'vited ter de weddin' nuther.'
"'No, no!' sezee, 'I would n' 'spec' ter be 'vited ter de weddin',--a
common, low-down fiel'-han' lack _I_ is. But I's glad ter heah you en
Jeff is gittin' 'long so well. I did n' knowed but w'at he had 'mence'
ter be a little ti'ed.'
"'Ti'ed er me? Dat's rediklus!' sez Chloe. 'W'y, dat nigger lubs me so I
b'liebe he 'd go th'oo fire en water fer me. Dat nigger is des wrop' up
"'Uh huh,' sez Hannibal, 'den I reckon it mus' be some udder nigger
w'at meets a 'oman down by de crick in de swamp eve'y Sunday ebenin',
ter say nuffin 'bout two er th'ee times a week.'
"'Yas, hit is ernudder nigger, en you is a liah w'en you say it wuz
"'Mebbe I is a liah, en mebbe I ain' got good eyes. But 'less'n I is a
liah, en 'less'n I _ain'_ got good eyes, Jeff is gwine ter meet dat
'oman dis ebenin' 'long 'bout eight o'clock right down dere by de crick
in de swamp 'bout half-way betwix' dis plantation en Mars' Marrabo
"Well, Chloe tol' Hannibal she did n' b'liebe a wo'd he said, en call'
'im a low-down nigger, who wuz tryin' ter slander Jeff 'ca'se he wuz mo'
luckier 'n he wuz. But all de same, she could n' keep her min' fum
runnin' on w'at Hannibal had said. She 'membered she 'd heared one er de
niggers say dey wuz a gal ober at Mars' Marrabo Utley's plantation w'at
Jeff use' ter go wid some befo' he got 'quainted wid Chloe. Den she
'mence' ter figger back, en sho' 'nuff, dey wuz two er th'ee times in de
las' week w'en she 'd be'n he'pin' de ladies wid dey dressin' en udder
fixin's in de ebenin', en Jeff mought 'a' gone down ter de swamp widout
her knowin' 'bout it at all. En den she 'mence' ter 'member little
things w'at she had n' tuk no notice of befo', en w'at 'u'd make it
'pear lack Jeff had sump'n on his min'.
"Chloe set a monst'us heap er sto' by Jeff, en would 'a' done mos'
anythin' fer 'im, so long ez he stuck ter her. But Chloe wuz a mighty
jealous 'oman, en w'iles she didn' b'liebe w'at Hannibal said, she seed
how it _could_ 'a' be'n so, en she 'termine' fer ter fin' out fer
herse'f whuther it _wuz_ so er no.
"Now, Chloe had n' seed Jeff all day, fer Mars' Dugal' had sont Jeff
ober ter his daughter's house, young Mis' Ma'g'ret's, w'at libbed 'bout
fo' miles fum Mars' Dugal's, en Jeff wuz n' 'spected home 'tel ebenin'.
But des atter supper wuz ober, en w'iles de ladies wuz settin' out on de
piazzer, Chloe slip' off fum de house en run down de road,--dis yer same
road we come; en w'en she got mos' ter de crick--dis yer same crick
right befo' us--she kin' er kep' in de bushes at de side er de road,
'tel fin'lly she seed Jeff settin' on de bank on de udder side er de
crick,--right unner dat ole wilier-tree droopin' ober de water yander.
En eve'y now en den he 'd git up en look up de road to'ds Mars'
Marrabo's on de udder side er de swamp.
"Fus' Chloe felt lack she 'd go right ober de crick en gib Jeff a piece
er her min'. Den she 'lowed she better be sho' befo' she done anythin'.
So she helt herse'f in de bes' she could, gittin' madder en madder eve'y
minute, 'tel bimeby she seed a 'oman comin' down de road on de udder
side fum to'ds Mars' Marrabo Utley's plantation. En w'en she seed Jeff
jump up en run to'ds dat 'oman, en th'ow his a'ms roun' her neck, po'
Chloe did n' stop ter see no mo', but des tu'nt roun' en run up ter de
house, en rush' up on de piazzer, en up en tol' Mars' Dugal' en ole mis'
all 'bout de baby doll, en all 'bout Jeff gittin' de goopher fum Aun'
Peggy, en 'bout w'at de goopher had done ter Hannibal.
"Mars' Dugal' wuz monst'us mad. He did n' let on at fus' lack he
b'liebed Chloe, but w'en she tuk en showed 'im whar ter fin' de baby
doll, Mars' Dugal' tu'nt w'ite ez chalk.
"'Wat debil's wuk is dis?' sezee. 'No wonder de po' nigger's feet
eetched. Sump'n got ter be done ter l'arn dat ole witch ter keep her
han's off'n my niggers. En ez fer dis yer Jeff, I'm gwine ter do des
w'at I promus', so de darkies on dis plantation'll know I means w'at I
"Fer Mars' Dugal' had warned de han's befo' 'bout foolin' wid
cunju'ation; fac', he had los' one er two niggers his-se'f fum dey bein'
goophered, en he would 'a' had ole Aun' Peggy whip' long ago, on'y Aun'
Peggy wuz a free 'oman, en he wuz 'feard she 'd cunjuh him. En w'iles
Mars' Dugal' say he did n' b'liebe in cunj'in' en sich, he 'peared ter
'low it wuz bes' ter be on de safe side, en let Aun' Peggy alone.
"So Mars' Dugal' done des ez he say. Ef ole mis' had ple'd fer Jeff, he
mought 'a' kep' 'im. But ole mis' had n' got ober losin' dem bulbs yit,
en she neber said a wo'd. Mars' Dugal' tuk Jeff ter town nex' day en'
sol' 'im ter a spekilater, who sta'ted down de ribber wid 'im nex'
mawnin' on a steamboat, fer ter take 'im ter Alabama.
"Now, w'en Chloe tol' ole Mars' Dugal' 'bout dis yer baby doll en dis
udder goopher, she had n' ha'dly 'lowed Mars' Dugal' would sell Jeff
down Souf. Howsomeber, she wuz so mad wid Jeff dat she 'suaded herse'f
she did n' keer; en so she hilt her head up en went roun' lookin' lack
she wuz rale glad 'bout it. But one day she wuz walkin' down de road,
w'en who sh'd come 'long but dis yer Hannibal.
"W'en Hannibal seed 'er, he bus' out laffin' fittin' fer ter kill: 'Yah,
yah, yah! ho, ho, ho! ha, ha, ha! Oh, hol' me, honey, hol' me, er I'll
laf myse'f ter def. I ain' nebber laf' so much sence I be'n bawn.'
"'Wat you laffin' at, Hot-Foot?'
"'Yah, yah, yah! Wat I laffin' at? W'y, I's laffin' at myse'f, tooby
sho',--laffin' ter think w'at a fine 'oman I made.'
"Chloe tu'nt pale, en her hea't come up in her mouf.
"'Wat you mean, nigger?' sez she, ketchin' holt er a bush by de road
fer ter stiddy herse'f. 'Wat you mean by de kin' er 'oman you made?'
"'Wat do I mean? I means dat I got squared up wid you fer treatin' me de
way you done, en I got eben wid dat yaller nigger Jeff fer cuttin' me
out. Now, he's gwine ter know w'at it is ter eat co'n bread en merlasses
once mo', en wuk fum daylight ter da'k, en ter hab a oberseah dribin'
'im fum one day's een' ter de udder. I means dat I sont wo'd ter Jeff
dat Sunday dat you wuz gwine ter be ober ter Mars' Marrabo's visitin'
dat ebenin', en you want 'im ter meet you down by de crick on de way
home en go de rest er de road wid you. En den I put on a frock en a
sunbonnet, en fix' myse'f up ter look lack a 'oman; en w'en Jeff seed me
comin', he run ter meet me, en you seed 'im,--fer I 'd be'n watchin' in
de bushes befo' en 'skivered you comin' down de road. En now I reckon
you en Jeff bofe knows w'at it means ter mess wid a nigger lack me.'
"Po' Chloe had n' heared mo' d'n half er de las' part er w'at Hannibal
said, but she had heared 'nuff to l'arn dat dis nigger had fooled her en
Jeff, en dat po' Jeff had n' done nuffin, en dat fer lovin' her too much
en goin' ter meet her she had cause' 'im ter be sol' erway whar she 'd
neber, neber see 'im no mo'. De sun mought shine by day, de moon by
night, de flowers mought bloom, en de mawkin'-birds mought sing, but po'
Jeff wuz done los' ter her fereber en fereber.
"Hannibal had n' mo' d'n finish' w'at he had ter say, w'en Chloe's knees
gun 'way unner her, en she fell down in de road, en lay dere half a'
hour er so befo' she come to. W'en she did, she crep' up ter de house
des ez pale ez a ghos'. En fer a mont' er so she crawled roun' de
house, en 'peared ter be so po'ly dat Mars' Dugal' sont fer a doctor; en
de doctor kep' on axin' her questions 'tel he foun' she wuz des pinin'
erway fer Jeff.
"Wen he tol' Mars' Dugal', Mars' Dugal' lafft, en said he 'd fix dat.
She could hab de noo house boy fer a husban'. But ole mis' say, no,
Chloe ain' dat kin'er gal, en dat Mars' Dugal' sh'd buy Jeff back.
"So Mars' Dugal' writ a letter ter dis yer spekilater down ter
Wim'l'ton, en tol' ef he ain' done sol' dat nigger Souf w'at he bought
fum 'im, he'd lack ter buy 'im back ag'in. Chloe 'mence' ter pick up a
little w'en ole mis' tol' her 'bout dis letter. Howsomeber, bimeby Mars'
Dugal' got a' answer fum de spekilater, who said he wuz monst'us sorry,
but Jeff had fell ove'boa'd er jumped off'n de steamboat on de way ter
Wim'l'ton, en got drownded, en co'se he could n' sell 'im back, much ez
he'd lack ter 'bleedge Mars' Dugal'.
"Well, atter Chloe heared dis, she wa'n't much mo' use ter nobody. She
pu'tended ter do her wuk, en ole mis' put up wid her, en had de doctor
gib her medicine, en let 'er go ter de circus, en all so'ts er things
fer ter take her min' off'n her troubles. But dey did n' none un 'em do
no good. Chloe got ter slippin' down here in de ebenin' des lack she 'uz
comin' ter meet Jeff, en she 'd set dere unner dat wilier-tree on de
udder side, en wait fer 'im, night atter night. Bimeby she got so bad de
w'ite folks sont her ober ter young Mis' Ma'g'ret's fer ter gib her a
change; but she runned erway de fus' night, en w'en dey looked fer 'er
nex' mawnin', dey foun' her co'pse layin' in de branch yander, right
'cross fum whar we 're settin' now.
"Eber sence den," said Julius in conclusion, "Chloe's ha'nt comes eve'y
ebenin' en sets down unner dat willer-tree en waits fer Jeff, er e'se
walks up en down de road yander, lookin' en lookin', en waitin' en
waitin', fer her sweethea't w'at ain' neber, neber come back ter her no
There was silence when the old man had finished, and I am sure I saw a
tear in my wife's eye, and more than one in Mabel's.
"I think, Julius," said my wife, after a moment, "that you may turn the
mare around and go by the long road."
The old man obeyed with alacrity, and I noticed no reluctance on the
"You are not afraid of Chloe's haunt, are you?" I asked jocularly.
My mood was not responded to, and neither of the ladies smiled.
"Oh, no," said Annie, "but I've changed my mind. I prefer the other
When we had reached the main road and had proceeded along it for a short
distance, we met a cart driven by a young negro, and on the cart were a
trunk and a valise. We recognized the man as Malcolm Murchison's
servant, and drew up a moment to speak to him.
"Who's going away, Marshall?" I inquired.
"Young Mistah Ma'colm gwine 'way on de boat ter Noo Yo'k dis ebenin',
suh, en I'm takin' his things down ter de wharf, suh."
This was news to me, and I heard it with regret. My wife looked sorry,
too, and I could see that Mabel was trying hard to hide her concern.
"He's comin' 'long behin', suh, en I 'spec's you'll meet 'im up de road
a piece. He 's gwine ter walk down ez fur ez Mistah Jim Williams's, en
take de buggy fum dere ter town. He 'spec's ter be gone a long time,
suh, en say prob'ly he ain' neber comin' back."
The man drove on. There were a few words exchanged in an undertone
between my wife and Mabel, which I did not catch. Then Annie said:
"Julius, you may stop the rockaway a moment. There are some
trumpet-flowers by the road there that I want. Will you get them for me,
I sprang into the underbrush, and soon returned with a great bunch of
"Where is Mabel?" I asked, noting her absence.
"She has walked on ahead. We shall overtake her in a few minutes."
The carriage had gone only a short distance when my wife discovered that
she had dropped her fan.
"I had it where we were stopping. Julius, will you go back and get it
Julius got down and went back for the fan. He was an unconscionably
long time finding it. After we got started again we had gone only a
little way, when we saw Mabel and young Murchison coming toward us. They
were walking arm in arm, and their faces were aglow with the light of
I do not know whether or not Julius had a previous understanding with
Malcolm Murchison by which he was to drive us round by the long road
that day, nor do I know exactly what motive influenced the old man's
exertions in the matter. He was fond of Mabel, but I was old enough, and
knew Julius well enough, to be skeptical of his motives. It is certain
that a most excellent understanding existed between him and Murchison
after the reconciliation, and that when the young people set up
housekeeping over at the old Murchison place, Julius had an opportunity
to enter their service. For some reason or other, however, he preferred
to remain with us. The mare, I might add, was never known to balk again.
Uncollected Uncle Julius Stories
Dave's Neckliss (1889)
A Deep Sleeper (1893)
Lonesome Ben (1900)
Superstitions and Folk-Lore of the South (1901)
"Have some dinner, Uncle Julius?" said my wife. It was a Sunday
afternoon in early autumn. Our two women-servants had gone to a
camp-meeting some miles away, and would not return until evening. My
wife had served the dinner, and we were just rising from the table, when
Julius came up the lane, and, taking off his hat, seated himself on the
The old man glanced through the open door at the dinner-table, and his
eyes rested lovingly upon a large sugar-cured ham, from which several
slices had been cut, exposing a rich pink expanse that would have
appealed strongly to the appetite of any hungry Christian.
"Thanky, Miss Annie," he said, after a momentary hesitation, "I dunno ez
I keers ef I does tas'e a piece er dat ham, ef yer'll cut me off a
slice un it."
"No," said Annie, "I won't. Just sit down to the table and help
yourself; eat all you want, and don't be bashful."
Julius drew a chair up to the table, while my wife and I went out on the
piazza. Julius was in my employment; he took his meals with his own
family, but when he happened to be about our house at meal-times, my
wife never let him go away hungry.
I threw myself into a hammock, from which I could see Julius through an
open window. He ate with evident relish, devoting his attention chiefly
to the ham, slice after slice of which disappeared in the spacious
cavity of his mouth. At first the old man ate rapidly, but after the
edge of his appetite had been taken off he proceeded in a more leisurely
manner. When he had cut the sixth slice of ham (I kept count of them
from a lazy curiosity to see how much he _could_ eat) I saw him lay it
on his plate; as he adjusted the knife and fork to cut it into smaller
pieces, he paused, as if struck by a sudden thought, and a tear rolled
down his rugged cheek and fell upon the slice of ham before him. But the
emotion, whatever the thought that caused it, was transitory, and in a
moment he continued his dinner. When he was through eating, he came out
on the porch, and resumed his seat with the satisfied expression of
countenance that usually follows a good dinner.
"Julius," I said, "you seemed to be affected by something, a moment ago.
Was the mustard so strong that it moved you to tears?"
"No, suh, it wa'n't de mustard; I wuz studyin' 'bout Dave."
"Who was Dave, and what about him?" I asked.
The conditions were all favorable to story-telling. There was an
autumnal languor in the air, and a dreamy haze softened the dark green
of the distant pines and the deep blue of the Southern sky. The generous
meal he had made had put the old man in a very good humor. He was not
always so, for his curiously undeveloped nature was subject to moods
which were almost childish in their variableness. It was only now and
then that we were able to study, through the medium of his recollection,
the simple but intensely human inner life of slavery. His way of looking
at the past seemed very strange to us; his view of certain sides of life
was essentially different from ours. He never indulged in any regrets
for the Arcadian joyousness and irresponsibility which was a somewhat
popular conception of slavery; his had not been the lot of the petted
house-servant, but that of the toiling field-hand. While he mentioned
with a warm appreciation the acts of kindness which those in authority
had shown to him and his people, he would speak of a cruel deed, not
with the indignation of one accustomed to quick feeling and spontaneous
expression, but with a furtive disapproval which suggested to us a doubt
in his own mind as to whether he had a right to think or to feel, and
presented to us the curious psychological spectacle of a mind enslaved
long after the shackles had been struck off from the limbs of its
possessor. Whether the sacred name of liberty ever set his soul aglow
with a generous fire; whether he had more than the most elementary ideas
of love, friendship, patriotism, religion,--things which are half, and
the better half, of life to us; whether he even realized, except in a
vague, uncertain way, his own degradation, I do not know. I fear not;
and if not, then centuries of repression had borne their legitimate
fruit. But in the simple human feeling, and still more in the undertone
of sadness, which pervaded his stories, I thought I could see a spark
which, fanned by favoring breezes and fed by the memories of the past,
might become in his children's children a glowing flame of sensibility,
alive to every thrill of human happiness or human woe.
"Dave use' ter b'long ter my ole marster," said Julius; "he wuz raise'
on dis yer plantation, en I kin 'member all erbout 'im, fer I wuz ole
'nuff ter chop cotton w'en it all happen'. Dave wuz a tall man, en
monst'us strong: he could do mo' wuk in a day dan any yuther two niggers
on de plantation. He wuz one er dese yer solemn kine er men, en nebber
run on wid much foolishness, like de yuther darkies. He use' ter go out
in de woods en pray; en w'en he hear de han's on de plantation cussin'
en gwine on wid dere dancin' en foolishness, he use' ter tell 'em 'bout
religion en jedgmen'-day, w'en dey would haf ter gin account fer eve'y
idle word en all dey yuther sinful kyarin's-on.
"Dave had l'arn' how ter read de Bible. Dey wuz a free nigger boy in de
settlement w'at wuz monst'us smart, en could write en cipher, en wuz
alluz readin' books er papers. En Dave had hi'ed dis free boy fer ter
l'arn 'im how ter read. Hit wuz 'g'in' de law, but co'se none er de
niggers did n' say nuffin ter de w'ite folks 'bout it. Howsomedever, one
day Mars Walker--he wuz de oberseah--foun' out Dave could read. Mars
Walker wa'n't nuffin but a po' bockrah, en folks said he could n' read
ner write hisse'f, en co'se he didn' lack ter see a nigger w'at knowed
mo' d'n he did; so he went en tole Mars Dugal'. Mars Dugal' sont fer
Dave, en ax' 'im 'bout it.
"Dave didn't hardly knowed w'at ter do; but he could n' tell no lie, so
he 'fessed he could read de Bible a little by spellin' out de words.
Mars Dugal' look' mighty solemn.
"'Dis yer is a se'ious matter,' sezee; 'it's 'g'in' de law ter l'arn
niggers how ter read, er 'low 'em ter hab books. But w'at yer l'arn
out'n dat Bible, Dave?'
"Dave wa'n't no fool, ef he wuz a nigger, en sezee:--
"'Marster, I l'arns dat it's a sin fer ter steal, er ter lie, er fer ter
want w'at doan b'long ter yer; en I l'arns fer ter love de Lawd en ter
'bey my marster.'
"Mars Dugal' sorter smile' en laf ter hisse'f, like he 'uz might'ly
tickle' 'bout sump'n, en sezee:--
"'Doan 'pear ter me lack readin' de Bible done yer much harm, Dave. Dat
's w'at I wants all my niggers fer ter know. Yer keep right on readin',
en tell de yuther han's w'at yer be'n tellin' me. How would yer lack fer
ter preach ter de niggers on Sunday?'
"Dave say he 'd be glad fer ter do w'at he could. So Mars Dugal' tole de
oberseah fer ter let Dave preach ter de niggers, en tell 'em w'at wuz in
de Bible, en it would he'p ter keep 'em fum stealin' er runnin' erway.
"So Dave 'mence' ter preach, en done de han's on de plantation a heap er
good, en most un 'em lef' off dey wicked ways, en 'mence' ter love ter
hear 'bout God, en religion, en de Bible; en dey done dey wuk better, en
didn' gib de oberseah but mighty little trouble fer ter manage 'em.
"Dave wuz one er dese yer men w'at did n' keer much fer de
gals,--leastways he did n' 'tel Dilsey come ter de plantation. Dilsey
wuz a monst'us peart, good-lookin', gingybread-colored gal,--one er dese
yer high-steppin' gals w'at hol's dey heads up, en won' stan' no
foolishness fum no man. She had b'long' ter a gemman over on Rockfish,
w'at died, en whose 'state ha' ter be sol' fer ter pay his debts. En
Mars Dugal' had be'n ter de oction, en w'en he seed dis gal a-cryin' en
gwine on 'bout bein' sol' erway fum her ole mammy, Aun' Mahaly, Mars
Dugal' bid 'em bofe in, en fotch 'em ober ter our plantation.
"De young nigger men on de plantation wuz des wil' atter Dilsey, but it
did n' do no good, en none un 'em could n' git Dilsey fer dey
junesey, 'tel Dave 'mence' fer ter go roun' Aun' Mahaly's cabin. Dey
wuz a fine-lookin' couple, Dave en Dilsey wuz, bofe tall, en
well-shape', en soopl'. En dey sot a heap by one ernudder. Mars Dugal'
seed 'em tergedder one Sunday, en de nex' time he seed Dave atter dat,
"'Dave, w'en yer en Dilsey gits ready fer ter git married, I ain' got no
rejections. Dey's a poun' er so er chawin'-terbacker up at de house, en
I reckon yo' mist'iss kin fine a frock en a ribbin er two fer Dilsey.
Youer bofe good niggers, en yer neenter be feared er bein' sol' 'way fum
one ernudder long ez I owns dis plantation; en I 'spec's ter own it fer
a long time yit.'
[Footnote 3: Sweetheart.]
"But dere wuz one man on de plantation w'at did n' lack ter see Dave en
Dilsey tergedder ez much ez ole marster did. W'en Mars Dugal' went ter
de sale whar he got Dilsey en Mahaly, he bought ernudder ban', by de
name er Wiley. Wiley wuz one er dese yer shiny-eyed, double-headed
little niggers, sha'p ez a steel trap, en sly ez de fox w'at keep out'n
it. Dis yer Wiley had be'n pesterin' Dilsey 'fo' she come ter our
plantation, en had nigh 'bout worried de life out'n her. She did n' keer
nuffin fer 'im, but he pestered her so she ha' ter th'eaten ter tell her
marster fer ter make Wiley let her 'lone. W'en he come ober to our place
it wuz des ez bad, 'tel bimeby Wiley seed dat Dilsey had got ter
thinkin' a heap 'bout Dave, en den he sorter hilt off aw'ile, en purten'
lack he gin Dilsey up. But he wuz one er dese yer 'ceitful niggers, en
w'ile he wuz laffin' en jokin' wid de yuther ban's 'bout Dave en Dilsey,
he wuz settin' a trap fer ter ketch Dave en git Dilsey back fer hisse'f.
"Dave en Dilsey made up dere min's fer ter git married long 'bout
Christmas time, w'en dey 'd hab mo' time fer a weddin'. But 'long 'bout
two weeks befo' dat time ole mars 'mence' ter lose a heap er bacon.
Eve'y night er so somebody 'ud steal a side er bacon, er a ham, er a
shoulder, er sump'n, fum one er de smoke-'ouses. De smoke-'ouses wuz
lock', but somebody had a key, en manage' ter git in some way er 'nudder.
Dey 's mo' ways 'n one ter skin a cat, en dey's mo' d'n one way ter git in
a smoke-'ouse,--leastways dat's w'at I hearn say. Folks w'at had bacon fer
ter sell did n' hab no trouble 'bout gittin' rid un it. Hit wuz 'g'in' de
law fer ter buy things fum slabes; but Lawd! dat law did n' 'mount ter a
hill er peas. Eve'y week er so one er dese yer big covered waggins would
come 'long de road, peddlin' terbacker en w'iskey. Dey wuz a sight er room
in one er dem big waggins, en it wuz monst'us easy fer ter swop off bacon
fer sump'n ter chaw er ter wa'm yer up in de wintertime. I s'pose de
peddlers did n' knowed dey wuz breakin' de law, caze de niggers alluz went
at night, en stayed on de dark side er de waggin; en it wuz mighty hard fer
ter tell _w'at_ kine er folks dey wuz.
"Atter two er th'ee hund'ed er meat had be'n stole', Mars Walker call
all de niggers up one ebenin', en tol' 'em dat de fus' nigger he cot
stealin' bacon on dat plantation would git sump'n fer ter 'member it by
long ez he lib'. En he say he 'd gin fi' dollars ter de nigger w'at
'skiver' de rogue. Mars Walker say he s'picion' one er two er de
niggers, but he could n' tell fer sho, en co'se dey all 'nied it w'en he
'cuse em un it.
"Dey wa'n't no bacon stole' fer a week er so, 'tel one dark night w'en
somebody tuk a ham fum one er de smoke-'ouses. Mars Walker des cusst
awful w'en he foun' out de ham wuz gone, en say he gwine ter sarch all
de niggers' cabins; w'en dis yer Wiley I wuz tellin' yer 'bout up'n say
he s'picion' who tuk de ham, fer he seed Dave comin' 'cross de
plantation fum to'ds de smoke-'ouse de night befo'. W'en Mars Walker
hearn dis fum Wiley, he went en sarch' Dave's cabin, en foun' de ham hid
under de flo'.
"Eve'ybody wuz 'stonish'; but dere wuz de ham. Co'se Dave 'nied it ter
de las', but dere wuz de ham. Mars Walker say it wuz des ez he 'spected:
he did n' b'lieve in dese yer readin' en prayin' niggers; it wuz all
'pocrisy, en sarve' Mars Dugal' right fer 'lowin' Dave ter be readin'
books w'en it wuz 'g'in' de law.
"W'en Mars Dugal hearn 'bout de ham, he say he wuz might'ly 'ceived en
disapp'inted in Dave. He say he wouldn' nebber hab no mo' conferdence in
no nigger, en Mars Walker could do des ez he wuz a mineter wid Dave er
any er de res' er de niggers. So Mars Walker tuk'n tied Dave up en gin
'im forty; en den he got some er dis yer wire clof w'at dey uses fer ter
make sifters out'n, en tuk'n wrap' it roun' de ham en fasten it
tergedder at de little een'. Den he tuk Dave down ter de blacksmif-shop,
en had Unker Silas, de plantation blacksmif, fasten a chain ter de ham,
en den fasten de yuther een' er de chain roun' Dave's neck. En den he
says ter Dave, sezee:--
"'Now, suh, yer'll wear dat neckliss fer de nex' six mont's; en I
'spec's yer ner none er de yuther niggers on dis plantation won' steal
no mo' bacon dyoin' er dat time.'
"Well, it des 'peared ez if fum dat time Dave did n' hab nuffin but
trouble. De niggers all turnt ag'in' 'im, caze he be'n de 'casion er
Mars Dugal' turnin' 'em all ober ter Mars Walker. Mars Dugal' wa'n't a
bad marster hisse'f, but Mars Walker wuz hard ez a rock. Dave kep' on
sayin' he did n' take de ham, but none un 'em did n' b'lieve 'im.
"Dilsey wa'n't on de plantation w'en Dave wuz 'cused er stealin' de
bacon. Ole mist'iss had sont her ter town fer a week er so fer ter wait
on one er her darters w'at had a young baby, en she didn' fine out
nuffin 'bout Dave's trouble 'tel she got back ter de plantation. Dave
had patien'ly endyoed de finger er scawn, en all de hard words w'at de
niggers pile' on 'im, caze he wuz sho' Dilsey would stan' by 'im, en
would n' b'lieve he wuz a rogue, ner none er de yuther tales de darkies
wuz tellin' 'bout 'im.
"W'en Dilsey come back fum town, en got down fum behine de buggy whar
she b'en ridin' wid ole mars, de fus' nigger 'ooman she met says ter
"'Is yer seed Dave, Dilsey?'
"'No, I ain' seed Dave,' says Dilsey.
"'Yer des oughter look at dat nigger; reckon yer would n' want 'im fer
yo' junesey no mo'. Mars Walker cotch 'im stealin' bacon, en gone en
fasten' a ham roun' his neck, so he can't git it off'n hisse'f. He
sut'nly do look quare.' En den de 'ooman bus' out laffin' fit ter kill
herse'f. W'en she got thoo laffin' she up'n tole Dilsey all 'bout de
ham, en all de yuther lies w'at de niggers be'n tellin' on Dave.
"W'en Dilsey started down ter de quarters, who should she meet but Dave,
comin' in fum de cotton-fiel'. She turnt her head ter one side, en
purten' lack she did n' seed Dave.
"Dilsey walk' right on, en did n' notice 'im.
"Dilsey did n' paid no 'tention ter 'im, en den Dave knowed some er de
niggers be'n tellin' her 'bout de ham. He felt monst'us bad, but he
'lowed ef he could des git Dilsey fer ter listen ter 'im fer a minute er
so, he could make her b'lieve he did n' stole de bacon. It wuz a week er
two befo' he could git a chance ter speak ter her ag'in; but fine'ly he
cotch her down by de spring one day, en sezee:--
"'Dilsey, w'at fer yer won' speak ter me, en purten' lack yer doan see
me? Dilsey, yer knows me too well fer ter b'lieve I 'd steal, er do dis
yuther wick'ness de niggers is all layin' ter me,--yer _knows_ I would
n' do dat, Dilsey. Yer ain' gwine back on yo' Dave, is yer?'
"But w'at Dave say didn' hab no 'fec' on Dilsey. Dem lies folks b'en
tellin' her had p'isen' her min' 'g'in' Dave.
"'I doan wanter talk ter no nigger,' says she, 'w'at be'n whip' fer
stealin', en w'at gwine roun' wid sich a lookin' thing ez dat hung roun'
his neck. I's a 'spectable gal, _I_ is. W'at yer call dat, Dave? Is dat
a cha'm fer ter keep off witches, er is it a noo kine er neckliss yer
"Po' Dave did n' knowed w'at ter do. De las' one he had pended on fer
ter stan' by 'im had gone back on 'im, en dey did n' 'pear ter be nuffin
mo' wuf libbin' fer. He could n' hol' no mo' pra'r-meetin's, fer Mars
Walker would n' 'low 'im ter preach, en de darkies would n' 'a' listen'
ter 'im ef he had preach'. He didn' eben hab his Bible fer ter comfort
hisse'f wid, fer Mars Walker had tuk it erway fum 'im en burnt it up, en
say ef he ketch any mo' niggers wid Bibles on de plantation he 'd do 'em
wuss'n he done Dave.
"En ter make it still harder fer Dave, Dilsey tuk up wid Wiley. Dave
could see him gwine up ter Aun' Mahaly's cabin, en settin' out on de
bench in de moonlight wid Dilsey, en singin' sinful songs en playin' de
banjer. Dave use' ter scrouch down behine de bushes, en wonder w'at de
Lawd sen' 'im all dem tribberlations fer.
"But all er Dave's yuther troubles wa'n't nuffin side er dat ham. He had
wrap' de chain roun' wid a rag, so it did n' hurt his neck; but w'eneber
he went ter wuk, dat ham would be in his way; he had ter do his task,
howsomedever, des de same ez ef he did n' hab de ham. W'eneber he went
ter lay down, dat ham would be in de way. Ef he turn ober in his sleep,
dat ham would be tuggin' at his neck. It wuz de las' thing he seed at
night, en de fus' thing he seed in de mawnin'. W'eneber he met a
stranger, de ham would be de fus' thing de stranger would see. Most un
'em would 'mence' ter laf, en whareber Dave went he could see folks
p'intin' at him, en year 'em sayin':--
"'W'at kine er collar dat nigger got roun' his neck?' er, ef dey knowed
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