Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘Colonel Carter of Cartersville’
By Francis Hopkinson Smith (1838–1915)
IT was some time before I could quiet the old man’s anxieties and coax him back into his usual good humor, and then only when I began to ask him of the old plantation days.  1
  Then he fell to talking about the colonel’s father, General John Carter, and the high days at Carter Hall when Miss Nancy was a young lady and the colonel a boy home from the university.  2
  “Dem was high times. We ain’t neber seed no time like dat since de war. Git up in de mawnin’ an’ look out ober de lawn, an’ yer come fo’teen or fifteen couples ob de fustest folks, all on horseback ridin’ in de gate. Den such a scufflin’ round! Old marsa an’ missis out on de po’ch, an’ de little pickaninnies runnin’ from de quarters, an’ all hands helpin’ ’em off de horses, an’ dey all smokin’ hot wid de gallop up de lane.  3
  “An’ den sich a breakfast an’ sich dancin’ an’ co’tin’; ladies all out on de lawn in der white dresses, an’ de gemmen in fair-top boots, an’ Mammy Jane runnin’ round same as a chicken wid its head off,—an’ der heads was off befo’ dey knowed it, an’ dey a-br’ilin’ on de gridiron.  4
  “Dat would go on a week or mo’, and den up dey’ll git an’ away dey’d go to de nex’ plantation, an’ take Miss Nancy along wid ’em on her little sorrel mare, an’ I on Marsa John’s black horse, to take care bofe of ’em. Dem was times!  5
  “My old marsa,”—and his eyes glistened,—“my old Marsa John was a gemman, sah, like dey don’t see nowadays. Tall, sah, an’ straight as a cornstalk; hair white an’ silky as de tassel; an’ a voice like de birds was singin’, it was dat sweet.  6
  “‘Chad,’ he use’ ter say,—you know I was young den, an’ I was his body servant,—‘Chad, come yer till I bre’k yo’ head’; an’ den when I come he’d laugh fit to kill hisself. Dat’s when you do right. But when you was a low-down nigger an’ got de debbil in yer, an’ ole marsa hear it an’ send de oberseer to de quarters for you to come to de little room in de big house whar de walls was all books an’ whar his desk was, ’twa’n’t no birds about his voice den,—mo’ like de thunder.”  7
  “Did he whip his negroes?”  8
  “No, sah; don’t reckelmember a single lick laid on airy nigger dat de marsa knowed of; but when dey got so bad—an’ some niggers is dat way—den dey was sold to de swamp lan’s. He wouldn’t hab’ ’em round ’ruptin’ his niggers, he use’ ter say.  9
  “Hab coffee, sah? Won’t take I a minute to bile it. Colonel ain’t been drinkin’ none lately, an’ so I don’t make none.”  10
  I nodded my head, and Chad closed the door softly, taking with him a small cup and saucer, and returning in a few minutes followed by that most delicious of all aromas, the savory steam of boiling coffee.  11
  “My Marsa John,” he continued, filling the cup with the smoking beverage, “never drank nuffin’ but tea, even at de big dinners when all de gemmen had coffee in de little cups—dat’s one ob ’em you’s drinkin’ out ob now; dey ain’t mo’ dan fo’ on ’em left. Old marsa would have his pot ob tea: Henny use’ ter make it for him; makes it now for Miss Nancy.  12
  “Henny was a young gal den, long ’fo’ we was married. Henny b’longed to Colonel Lloyd Barbour, on de next plantation to ourn.  13
  “Mo’ coffee, Major?” I handed Chad the empty cup. He refilled it, and went straight on without drawing breath.  14
  “Wust scrape I eber got into wid old Marsa John was ober Henny. I tell ye she was a harricane in dem days. She come into de kitchen one time where I was helpin’ git de dinner ready an’ de cook had gone to de spring house, an’ she says:—‘Chad, what ye cookin’ dat smells so nice?’  15
  “‘Dat’s a goose,’ I says, ‘cookin’ for Marsa John’s dinner. We got quality,’ says I, pointin’ to de dinin’-room do’.  16
  “‘Quality!’ she says. ‘’Spec’ I know what de quality is. Dat’s for you an’ de cook.’ Wid dat she grabs a caarvin’ knife from de table, opens de do’ ob de big oven, cuts off a leg ob de goose, an’ dis’pears round de kitchen corner wid de leg in her mouf.  17
  “’Fo’ I knowed whar I was Marsa John come to de kitchen do’ an’ says, ‘Gitting late, Chad; bring in de dinner!’ You see, Major, dey ain’t no up an’ down stairs in de big house, like it is yer; kitchen an’ dinin’-room all on de same flo’.  18
  “Well, sah, I was scared to def, but I tuk dat goose an’ laid him wid de cut side down on de bottom of de pan ’fo’ de cook got back, put some dressin’ an’ stuffin’ over him, an’ shet de stove do’. Den I tuk de sweet potatoes an’ den I went back in de kitchen to git de baked ham. I put on de ham an’ some mo’ dishes, an’ marsa says, lookin’ up:  19
  “‘I t’ought dere was a roast goose, Chad?’  20
  “‘I ain’t yerd nothin’ ’bout no goose,’ I says. ‘I’ll ask de cook.’  21
  “Next minute I yerd old marsa a-hollerin’:  22
  “‘Mammy Jane, ain’t we got a goose?’  23
  “‘Lord-a-massy! yes, marsa. Chad, you wu’thless nigger, ain’t you tuk dat goose out yit?’  24
  “‘Is we got a goose?’ said I.  25
  “‘Is we got a goose? Didn’t you help pick it?’  26
  “I see whar my hair was short, an’ I snatched up a hot dish from de hearth, opened de oven do’ an’ slide de goose in jes as he was, an’ lay him down befo’ Marsa John.  27
  “‘Now see what de ladies ’ll have for dinner,’ says old marsa, pickin’ up his caarvin’ knife.  28
  “‘What’ll you take for dinner, miss?’ says I. ‘Baked ham?’  29
  “‘No,’ she says, lookin’ up to whar Marsa John sat; ‘I think I’ll take a leg ob dat goose’—jes so.  30
  “Well, marsa cut off de leg an’ put a little stuffin’ an’ gravy on wid a spoon, an’ says to me, ‘Chad, see what dat gemman ’ll have.’  31
  “‘What’ll you take for dinner, sah?’ says I. ‘Nice breast o’ goose, or slice o’ ham?’  32
  “‘No; I think I’ll take a leg of dat goose,’ he says.  33
  “I didn’t say nuffin’, but I knowed bery well he warn’t a-gwine to git it.  34
  “But, Major, you oughter seen ole marsa lookin’ for de udder leg ob dat goose! He rolled him ober on de dish, dis way an’ dat way, an’ den he jabbed dat ole bone-handled caarvin’ fork in him an’ hel’ him up ober de dish an’ looked under him an’ on top ob him, an’ den he says, kinder sad like:—‘Chad, whar is de udder leg ob dat goose?’  35
  “‘It didn’t hab none,’ says I.  36
  “‘You mean ter say, Chad, dat de gooses on my plantation only got one leg?’  37
  “‘Some ob ’em has an’ some ob ’em ain’t. You see, marsa, we got two kinds in de pond, an’ we was a little boddered to-day, so Mammy Jane cooked dis one ’cause I cotched it fust.’  38
  “‘Well,’ said he, lookin’ like he look when he send for you in de little room, ‘I’ll settle wid ye after dinner.’  39
  “Well, dar I was shiverin’ an’ shakin’ in my shoes an’ droppin’ gravy an’ spillin’ de wine on de table-cloth, I was dat shuck up; an’ when de dinner was ober he calls all de ladies an’ gemmen, an’ says, ‘Now come down to de duck pond. I’m gwine ter show dis nigger dat all de gooses on my plantation got mo’ den one leg.’  40
  “I followed ’long, trapesin’ after de whole kit an’ b’ilin’, an’ when we got to de pond”—here Chad nearly went into a convulsion with suppressed laughter—“dar was de gooses sittin’ on a log in de middle of dat ole green goose-pond wid one leg stuck down—so—an’ de udder tucked under de wing.”  41
  Chad was now on one leg, balancing himself by my chair, the tears running down his cheeks.  42
  “‘Dar, marsa,’ says I, ‘don’t ye see? Look at dat ole gray goose! Dat’s de bery match ob de one we had to-day.’  43
  “Den de ladies all hollered an’ de gemmen laughed so loud dey yerd ’em at de big house.  44
  “‘Stop, you black scoun’rel!’ Marsa John says, his face gittin’ white an’ he a-jerkin’ hes handkerchief from his pocket. ‘Shoo!’  45
  “Major, I hope to have my brains kicked out by a lame grasshopper if ebery one ob dem gooses did’nt put down de udder leg!  46
  “‘Now, you lyin’ nigger,’ he says, raisin’ his cane ober my head, ‘I’ll show you—’ ‘Stop, Marsa John!’ I hollered; ‘’taint fair, ’tain’t fair.’  47
  “‘Why ain’t it fair?’ says he.  48
  “‘’Cause,’ says I, ‘you did’nt say “Shoo!” to de goose what was on de table.’”  49
  Chad laughed until he choked.  50
  “And did he thrash you?”  51
  “Marsa John? No, sah. He laughed loud as anybody; an’ den dat night he says to me as I was puttin’ some wood on de fire:—  52
  “‘Chad, where did dat leg go?’ An’ so I ups an’ tells him all about Henny, an’ how I was lyin’ ’cause I was ’feared de gal would git hurt, an’ how she was on’y a-foolin’ thinkin’ it was my goose; an’ den de ole marsa look in de fire for a long time, an’ den he says:  53
  “‘Dat’s Colonel Harbour’s Henny, ain’t it, Chad?’  54
  “‘Yes, Marsa,’ says I.  55
  “Well, de next mawnin’ he had his black horse saddled, an’ I held the stirrup for him to git on, an’ he rode ober to de Barbour plantation, an’ didn’t come back till plumb black night. When he come up I held de lantern so I could see his face, for I wa’n’t easy in my mine all day. But it was all bright an’ shinin’ same as a’ angel’s.  56
  “‘Chad,’ he says, handin’ me de reins, ‘I bought yo’ Henny dis arternoon from Colonel Barbour, an’ she’s comin’ ober to-morrow, an’ you can bofe git married next Sunday.’”  57

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