Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1861–1889
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889
 
From “Marse Chan”
By Thomas Nelson Page (1853–1922)
 
[Born at “Oakland,” Hanover Co., Va., 1853. Died there, 1922. Marse Chan. In Ole Virginia. 1887.]

“ONE night Marse Chan come back from de offis wid a telegram dat say, ‘Come at once,’ so he wuz to start nex’ mawnin’. He uniform wuz all ready, gray wid yaller trimmin’s, an’ mine wuz ready too. an’ he had ole marster’s sword, whar de State gi’ ’im in de Mexikin war; an’ he trunks wuz all packed wid ev’rything in ’em, an’ my chist wuz packed too, an’ Jim Rasher he druv ’em over to de depo’ in de waggin’, an’ we wuz to start nex’ mawnin’ ’bout light. Dis wuz ’bout de las’ o’ spring, yo’ know. Dat night ole missis made Marse Chan dress up in he uniform, an’ he sut’n’y did look splendid, wid he long mustache an’ he wavin’ hyar an’ he tall figger.
  1
  “Arfter supper he come down an’ sez: ‘Sam, I wan’ you to tek dis note an’ kyar it over to Cun’l Chahmb’lin’s, an’ gi’ it to Miss Anne wid yo’ own han’s, an’ bring me wud what she sez. Don’ let any one know ’bout it, or know why you’ve gone.’ ‘Yes, seh,’ sez I.  2
  “Yo’ see, I knowed Miss Anne’s maid over at ole Cun’l Chahmb’lin’s—dat wuz Judy whar is my wife now—an’ I knowed I could wuk it. So I tuk de roan an’ rid over, an’ tied ’im down de hill in de cedars, an’ I wen ’roun’ to de back yard. ’Twuz a right blowy sort o’ night; de moon wuz jes’ risin’, but de clouds wuz so big it didn’ shine ’cep’ th’oo a crack now an’ den. I soon foun’ my gal, an’ arfter tellin’ her two or three lies ’bout herse’f, I got her to go in an’ ax Miss Anne to come to de do’. When she come, I gi’ her de note, an’ arfter a little while she bro’t me anurr, an’ I tole her good-by, an’ she gi’ me a dollar, an’ I come home an’ gi’ de letter to Marse Chan. He read it, an’ tole me to have de hosses ready at twenty minits to twelve at de corner of de garden. An’ jes’ befo’ dat he come out ez ef he wuz gwine to bed, but instid he come, an’ we all struck out to’ds Cun’l Chahmb’lin’s. When we got mos’ to de gate, de hosses got sort o’ skeered, an’ I see dey wuz some’n or somebody stan’in’ jes’ inside; an’ Marse Chan he jump’ off de sorrel an’ flung me de bridle and he walked up.  3
  “She spoke fust (’twuz Miss Anne had done come out dyah to meet Marse Chan), an’ she sez, jes’ ez cold ez a chill, ‘Well, seh, I granted your favor. I wished to relieve myse’f of de obligations you placed me under a few months ago, when you made me a present of my father, whom you fust insulted an’ then prevented from gittin’ satisfaction.’  4
  “Marse Chan he didn’ speak fur a minit, an’ den he said: ‘Who is with you?’ (Dat wuz ev’y wud.)  5
  “‘No one,’ sez she; ‘I came alone.’  6
  “‘My God!’ sez he, ‘you didn’ come all through those woods by yourse’f at this time o’ night?’  7
  “‘Yes, I’m not afraid,’ sez she. (An’ heah dis nigger! I don’ b’lieve she wuz.)  8
  “De moon come out, an’ I cotch sight o’ her stan’in’ dyah in her white dress, wid de cloak she had wrapped herse’f up in drapped off on de groun’, an’ she didn’ look like she wuz ’feared o’ nuthin’. She wuz mons’us purty ez she stood dyah wid de green bushes behine her, an’ she hed jes’ a few flowers in her breas’—right hyah—and some leaves in her sorrel hyar; an’ de moon come out an’ shined down on her hyar an’ her frock, an’ ’peared like de light wuz jes’ stan’in’ off it ez she stood dyah lookin’ at Marse Chan wid her head tho’d back, jes’ like dat mawnin’ when she pahss Marse Chan in de road widout speakin’ to ’im, an’ sez to me, ‘Good mawnin’, Sam.’  9
  “Marse Chan, he den tole her he hed come to say good-by to her, ez he wuz gwine ’way to de war nex’ mawnin’. I wuz watchin’ on her, an’ I tho’t, when Marse Chan tole her dat, she sort o’ started an’ looked up at ’im like she wuz mighty sorry, an’ ’peared like she didn’ stan’ quite so straight arfter dat. Den Marse Chan he went on talkin’ right fars’ to her; an’ he tole her how he had loved her ever sence she wuz a little bit o’ baby mos’, an’ how he nuver ’membered de time when he hedn’ ’spected to marry her. He tole her it wuz his love for her dat hed made ’im stan’ fust at school an’ collige, an’ hed kep’ ’im good an’ pure; an’ now he wuz gwine ’way, wouldn’ she let it be like ’twuz in ole times, an’ ef he come back from de war wouldn’ she try to think on him ez she use’ to do when she wuz a little guirl?  10
  “Marse Chan he had done been talkin’ so serious, he hed done tuk Miss Anne’s han’, an’ wuz lookin’ down in her face like he wuz list’nin’ wid his eyes.  11
  “Arfter a minit Miss Anne she said somethin’, an’ Marse Chan he cotch her urr han’ an’ sez:  12
  “‘But if you love me, Anne?’  13
  “When he said dat, she tu’ned her head ’way from ’im, an’ wait’ a minit, an’ den she said—right clear:  14
  “‘But I don’ love yo’.’ (Jes’ dem th’ee wuds!) De wuds fall right slow—like dirt falls out a spade on a coffin when yo’s buryin’ anybody, an’ sez, ‘Uth to uth.’ Marse Chan he jes’ let her hand drap, an’ he stiddy hisse’f ’g’inst de gate-pos’, an’ he didn’ speak torekly. When he did speak, all he sez wuz:  15
  “‘I mus’ see you home safe.’  16
  “I ’clar, marster, I didn’ know ’twuz Marse Chan’s voice tell I look at ’im right good. Well, she wouldn’ let ’im go wid her. She jes’ wrap’ her cloak ’roun’ her shoulders, an’ wen’ ’long back by herse’f, widout doin’ more’n jes’ look up once at Marse Chan leanin’ dyah ’g’inst de gate-pos’ in he sodger clo’s, wid he eyes on de groun’. She said ‘Good-by’ sort o’ sorf, an’ Marse Chan, widout lookin’ up, shake han’s wid her, an’ she wuz done gone down de road. Soon ez she got ’mos’ ’roun’ de curve, Marse Chan he followed her, keepin’ under de trees so ez not to be seen, an’ I led de hosses on down de road behine ’im. He kep’ ’long behine her tell she wuz safe in de house, an’ den he come an’ got on he hoss, an’ we all come home.  17
  “Nex’ mawnin’ we all come off to j’ine de army. An’ dey wuz a-drillin’ an’ a-drillin’ all ’bout for a while an’ dey went ’long wid all de res’ o’ de army, an’ I went wid Marse Chan an’ clean he boots, an’ look arfter de tent, an’ tek keer o’ him an’ de hosses. An’ Marse Chan, he wan’ a bit like he use’ to be. He wuz so solum an’ moanful all de time, at leas’ ’cep’ when dyah wuz gwine to be a fight. Den he’d peartin’ up, an’ he alwuz rode at de head o’ de company, ’cause he wuz tall; an’ hit wan’ on’y in battles whar all his company wuz dat he went, but he use’ to volunteer whenever de cun’l wanted anybody to fine out anythin’, an’ ’twuz so dangersome he didn’ like to mek one man go no sooner’n anurr, yo’ know, an’ ax’d who’d volunteer. He ’peared to like to go prowlin’ aroun’ ’mong dem Yankees, an’ he use’ to tek me wid ’im whenever he could. Yes, seh, he sut’n’y wuz a good sodger! He didn’ mine bullets no more’n he did so many draps o’ rain. But I use’ to be pow’ful skeered sometimes. It jes’ use’ to ’pear like fun to ’im. In camp he use’ to be so sorrerful he’d hardly open he mouf. You’d ’a’ tho’t he wuz seekin’, he used to look so moanful; but jes’ le’ ’im git into danger, an’ he use’ to be like ole times—jolly an’ laughin’ like when he wuz a boy.  18
  “When Cap’n Gordon got he leg shot off, dey mek Marse Chan cap’n on de spot, ’cause one o’ de lieutenants got kilt de same day, an’ turr one (named Mr. Ronny) wan’ no ’count, an’ all de company said Marse Chan wuz de man.  19
  “An’ Marse Chan he wuz jes’ de same. He didn’ nuver mention Miss Anne’s name, but I knowed he wuz thinkin’ on her constant. One night he wuz settin’ by de fire in camp, an’ Mr. Ronny—he wuz de secon’ lieutenant—got to talkin’ ’bout ladies, an’ he say all sorts o’ things ’bout ’em, an’ I see Marse Chan kinder lookin’ mad; an’ de lieutenant mention Miss Anne’s name. He hed been courtin’ Miss Anne ’bout de time Marse Chan fit de duil wid her pa, an’ Miss Anne hed kicked ’im, dough he wuz mighty rich, ’cause he warn’ nuthin’ but a half-strainer, an’ ’cause she like Marse Chan, I believe, dough she didn’ speak to ’im; an’ Mr. Ronny he got drunk, an’ ’cause Cun’l Chahmb’lin tole ’im not to come dyah no more, he got mighty mad. An’ dat evenin’ I’se tellin’ yo’ ’bout, he wuz talkin’, an’ he mention’ Miss Anne’s name. I see Marse Chan tu’n he eye ’roun’ on ’im an’ keep it on he face, and pres’n’y Mr. Ronny said he wuz gwine hev some fun dyah yit. He didn’ mention her name dat time; but he said dey wuz all on ’em a parecel of stuck-up ’risticrats, an’ her pa wan’ no gent’man anyway, an’— I don know what he wuz gwine say (he nuver said it), fur ez he got dat far Marse Chan riz up an’ hit ’im a crack, an’ he fall like he hed been hit wid a fence-rail. He challenged Marse Chan to fight a duil, an’ Marse Chan he excepted de challenge, an’ dey wuz gwine fight; but some on ’em tole ’im Marse Chan wan’ gwine mek a present o’ him to his fam’ly, an’ he got somebody to bre’k up de duil; twan’ nuthin’ dough, but he wuz ’fred to fight Marse Chan. An’ purty soon he lef’ de comp’ny.  20
  “Well, I got one o’ de gent’mens to write Judy a letter for me, an’ I tole her all ’bout de fight, an’ how Marse Chan knock Mr. Ronny over fur speakin’ discontemptuous o’ Cun’l Chahmb’lin, an’ I tole her how Marse Chan wuz a-dyin’ fur love o’ Miss Anne. An’ Judy she gits Miss Anne to read de letter fur her. Den Miss Anne she tells her pa, an’—you mine, Judy tells me all dis arfterwards, an’ she say when Cun’l Chahmb’lin hear ’bout it, he wuz settin’ on de poach, an’ he set still a good while, an’ den he sey to hisse’f:  21
  “‘Well, he carn’ he’p bein’ a Whig.’  22
  “An den he gits up an’ walks up to Miss Anne an’ looks at her right hard; an’ Miss Anne she hed done tu’n away her haid an’ wuz makin’ out she wuz fixin’ a rose-bush ’g’inst de poach; an’ when her pa kep’ lookin’ at her, her face got jes’ de color o’ de roses on de bush, and pres’n’y her pa sez:  23
  “‘Anne!’  24
  “An’ she tu’ned roun’, an’ he sez:  25
  “‘Do yo want ’im?’  26
  “An’ she sez, ‘Yes,’ an’ put her head on he shoulder an’ begin to cry; an’ he sez:  27
  “‘Well, I won’ stan’ between yo’ no longer. Write to ’im an’ say so.’  28
  “We didn’ know nuthin’ ’bout dis den. We wuz a-fightin’ an’ a-fightin’ all dat time; an’ come one day a letter to Marse Chan, an’ I see ’im start to read it in his tent, an’ he face hit look so cu’ious, an’ he han’s trembled so I couldn’ mek out what wuz de matter wid ’im. An’ he fol’ de letter up an’ wen’ out an’ wen’ way down ’hine de camp, an’ stayed dyah ’bout nigh an hour. Well, seh, I wuz on de lookout for ’im when he come back, an’, fo’ Gord, ef he face didn’ shine like a angel’s! I say to myse’f, ‘Um’m! ef de glory o’ Gord ain’ done shine on ’im!’ An’ what yo’ ’spose ’twuz?  29
  “He tuk me wid ’im dat evenin’, an’ he tell me he hed done git a letter from Miss Anne, an’ Marse Chan he eyes look like gre’t big stars, an’ he face wuz jes’ like ’twuz dat mawnin’ when de sun riz up over de low groun’, an’ I see ’im stan’in’ dyah wid de pistil in he han’, lookin’ at it, an’ not knowin’ but what it mout be de lars’ time, an’ he done mek up he mine not to shoot ole Cun’l Chahmb’lin fur Miss Anne’s sake, what writ ’im de letter.  30
  “He fol’ de letter wha’ was in his han’ up, an’ put it in he inside pocket—right dyah on de lef’ side; an’ den he tole me he tho’t mebbe we wuz gwine hev some warm wuk in de nex’ two or th’ee days, an’ arfter dat ef Gord speared ’im he’d git a leave o’ absence fur a few days, an’ we’d go home.  31
  “Well, dat night de orders come, an’ we all hed to git over to’ds Romney; an’ we rid all night till ’bout light; an’ we halted right on a little creek, an’ we stayed dyah till mos’ breakfas’ time, an’ I see Marse Chan set down on de groun’ ’hine a bush an’ read dat letter over an’ over. I watch ’im, an’ de battle wuz a-goin’ on, but we had orders to stay ’hine de hill, an’ ev’y now an’ den de bullets would cut de limbs o’ de trees right over us, an’ one o’ dem big shells what goes ‘Awhar—awhar—awhar!’ would fall right ’mong us; but Marse Chan he didn’ mine it no mo’n nuthin’! Den it ’peared to git closer an’ thicker, and Marse Chan he calls me, an’ I crep’ up, an’ he sez:  32
  “‘Sam, we’se goin’ to win in dis battle, an’ den we’ll go home an’ git married; an’ I’se goin’ home wid a star on my collar.’ An’ den he sez, ‘Ef I’m wounded, kyar me home, yo’ hear?’ An I sez, ‘Yes, Marse Chan.’  33
  “Well, jes’ den dey blowed boots an’ saddles, an’ we mounted; an’ de orders come to ride ’roun’ de slope, an’ Marse Chan’s comp’ny wuz de secon’, an’ when we got ’roun’ dyah, we wuz right in it. Hit wuz de wust place ever dis nigger got in. An’ dey said, ‘Charge ’em!’ an’ my king! ef ever you see bullets fly, dey did dat day. Hit wuz jes’ like hail; an’ we wen’ down de slope (I long wid de res’) an’ up de hill right to’ds de cannons, an’ de fire wuz so strong dyah (dey hed a whole rigiment o’ infintrys layin’ down dyah onder de cannons) our lines sort o’ broke an’ stop; de cun’l was kilt, an’ I b’lieve dey wuz jes’ ’bout to bre’k all to pieces, when Marse Chan rid up an’ cotch hol’ de fleg an’ hollers, ‘Foller me!’ an’ rid strainin’ up de hill ’mong de cannons. I seen ’im when he went, de sorrel four good lengths ahead o’ ev’y urr hoss, jes’ like he use’ to be in a fox-hunt, an’ de whole rigiment right arfter ’im. Yo’ ain’ nuver hear thunder! Fust thing I knowed, de roan roll’ head over heels an’ flung me up ’g’inst de bank, like yo’ chuck a nubbin over ’g’inst de foot o’ de corn pile. An’ dat’s what kep’ me from bein’ kilt, I ’specks. Judy she say she think ’twuz Providence, but I think ’twuz de bank. O’ co’se, Providence put de bank dyah, but how come Providence nuver saved Marse Chan? When I look’ ’roun’, de roan wuz layin’ dyah by me, stone dead, wid a cannon-ball gone ’mos’ th’oo him, an’ our men hed done swep’ dem on t’urr side from de top o’ de hill. ’Twan’ mo’n a minit, de sorrel come gallupin’ back wid his mane flyin’, an’ de rein hangin’ down on one side to his knee. ‘Dyah!’ sez I, ‘fo’ Gord! I ’specks dey done kill Marse Chan, an’ I promised to tek care on him.’  34
  “I jumped up an’ run over de bank, an’ dyah, wid a whole lot o’ dead men, an’ some not dead yit, onder one o’ de guns wid de fleg still in he han’, an’ a bullet right th’oo he body, lay Marse Chan. I tu’n ’im over an’ call ’im, ‘Marse Chan!’ but ’twan’ no use, he wuz done gone home, sho’ ’nuff. I pick’ ’im up in my arms wid de fleg still in he han’s, an’ toted ’im back jes’ like I did dat day when he wuz a baby, an’ ole marster gin ’im to me in my arms, an’ sez he could trus’ me, an’ tell me to tek keer on ’im long ez he lived. I kyar’d ’im ’way off de battlefiel’ out de way o’ de balls, an’ I laid ’im down onder a big tree till I could git somebody to ketch de sorrel for me. He wuz cotched arfter a while, an’ I hed some money, so I got some pine plank an’ made a coffin dat evenin’, an’ wrapt Marse Chan’s body up in de fleg, an’ put ’im in de coffin; but I didn’ nail de top on strong, ’cause I knowed ole missis wan’ see ’im; an’ I got a’ ambulance an’ set out for home dat night. We reached dyah de nex’ evein’, arfter travellin’ all dat night an’ all nex’ day.  35
  “Hit ’peared like somethin’ hed tole ole missis we wuz comin’ so; for when we got home she wuz waitin’ for us—done drest up in her best Sunday-clo’es, an’ stan’in’ at de head o’ de big steps, an’ ole marster settin’ in his big cheer—ez we druv up de hill to’ds de house, I drivin’ de ambulance an’ de sorrel leadin’ ’long behine wid de stirrups crost over de saddle.  36
  “She come down to de gate to meet us. We took de coffin out de ambulance an’ kyar’d it right into de big parlor wid de pictures in it, whar dey use’ to dance in ole times when Marse Chan wuz a school-boy, an’ Miss Anne Chahmb’lin use’ to come over, an’ go wid ole missis into her chamber an’ tek her things off. In dyah we laid de coffin on two o’ de cheers, an’ ole missis nuver said a wud; she jes’ looked so ole an’ white.  37
  “When I hed tell ’em all ’bout it, I tu’ned right ’roun’ an’ rid over to Cun’l Chahmb’lin’s, ’cause I knowed dat wuz what Marse Chan he’d ’a’ wanted me to do. I didn’ tell nobody whar I wuz gwine, ’cause yo’ know none on ’em hadn’ nuver speak to Miss Anne, not sence de duil, an’ dey didn’ know ’bout de letter.  38
  “When I rid up in de yard, dyah wuz Miss Anne a-stan’in’ on de poach watchin’ me ez I rid up. I tied my hoss to de fence, an’ walked up de parf. She knowed by de way I walked dyah wuz somethin’ de motter, an’ she wuz mighty pale. I drapt my cap down on de een’ o’ de steps an’ went up. She nuver opened her mouf; jes’ stan’ right still an’ keep her eyes on my face. Fust, I couldn’ speak; den I cotch my voice, an’ I say, ‘Marse Chan, he done got he furlough.’  39
  “Her face was mighty ashy, an’ she sort o’ shook, but she didn’ fall. She tu’ned roun’ an’ said, ‘Git me de ker’ige!’ Dat wuz all.  40
  “When de ker’ige come ’roun’, she hed put on her bonnet, an’ wuz ready. Ez she got in, she sey to me, ‘Hev yo’ brought him home?’ an’ we drove ’long, I ridin’ behine.  41
  “When we got home, she got out, an’ walked up de big walk—up to de poach by herse’f. Ole missis hed done fin’ de letter in Marse Chan’s pocket, wid de love in it, while I wuz ’way, an’ she wuz a-waitin’ on de poach. Dey sey dat wuz de fust time ole missis cry when she find de letter, an’ dat she sut’n’y did cry over it, pintedly.  42
  “Well, seh, Miss Anne she walks right up de steps, mos’ up to ole missis stan’in’ dyah on de poach, an’ jes’ falls right down mos’ to her, on her knees fust, an’ den flat on her face right on de flo’, ketchin’ at ole missis’ dress wid her two han’s—so.  43
  “Ole missis stood for ’bout a minit lookin’ down at her, an’ den she drapt down on de flo’ by her, an’ took her in bofe her arms.  44
  “I couldn’ see, I wuz cryin’ so myse’f, an’ ev’ybody wuz cryin’. But dey went in arfter a while in de parlor, an’ shet de do’; an’ I heahd ’em say, Miss Anne she tuk de coffin in her arms an’ kissed it, an’ kissed Marse Chan, an’ call’ ’im by his name, an’ her darlin’, an’ ole missis lef’ her cryin’ in dyah tell some on ’em went in, an’ found her done faint on de flo’.  45
  “Judy (she’s my wife) she tell me she heah Miss Anne when she axed ole missis mout she wear mo’nin’ fur ’im. I don’ know how dat is; but when we buried ’im nex’ day, she wuz de one whar walked arfter de coffin, holdin’ ole marster, an’ ole missis she walked next to ’em.  46
  “Well, we buried Marse Chan dyah in de ole grabeyard, wid de fleg wrapped roun’ ’im, an’ he face lookin’ like it did dat mawnin’ down in de low groun’s, wid de new sun shinin’ on it so peaceful.  47
  “Miss Anne she nuver went home to stay arfter dat; she stay wid ole marster an’ ole missis ez long ez dey lived. Dat warn’ so mighty long, ’cause ole marster he died dat fall, when dey wuz fallerin’ fur wheat—I had jes’ married Judy den—an’ ole missis she warn’ long behine him. We buried her by him next summer. Miss Anne she went in de hospitals toreckly arfter ole missis died; an’ jes’ fo’ Richmond fell she come home sick wid de fever. Yo’ nuver would ’a’ knowed her fur de same ole Miss Anne. She wuz light ez a piece o’ peth, an’ so white, ’cep’ her eyes an’ her sorrel hyar, an’ she kep’ on gittin’ whiter an’ weaker. Judy she sut’n’y did nuss her faithful. But she nuver got no betterment! De fever an’ Marse Chan’s bein’ kilt hed done strain her, an’ she died jes’ fo’ de folks wuz sot free.  48
  “So we buried Miss Anne right by Marse Chan, in a place whar ole missis hed tole us to leave, an’ dey’s bofe on ’em sleep side by side over in de ole grabeyard at home.  49
  “An’ will yo’ please tell me, marster? Dey tells me dat de Bible sey dyar won’ be marryin’ nor givin’ in marriage in heaven, but I don’ b’lieve it signifies dat—does you?”  50
  I gave him the comfort of my earnest belief in some other interpretation, together with several spare “eighteen-pences,” as he called them, for which he seemed humbly grateful. And as I rode away I heard him calling across the fence to his wife, who was standing in the door of a small whitewashed cabin, near which we had been standing for some time:  51
  “Judy, have Marse Chan’s dawg got home?”  52
 
 
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