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  --  A RETROSPECT OF THE PAST.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER III.

Hopkins, Pauline E.
Contending Forces



O Freedom ! thou art not as poets dream,
A fair young girl with light and delicate limbs,

Thy birthright was not given by human hands:
Thou wert twinborn with man.

The shores of Pamhco Sound presented a motley crowd of slaves, overseers, owners of vessels, and a phantasmagoric landscape very charming to eyes unaccustomed to such scenes. It was near the noon siesta. In the harbor lay three or four vessels ready to be loaded with their freight of rice, tobacco or cotton. The sun poured its level rays straight down upon the heads of all. A band of slaves sang in a musical monotone, and kept time to the music of their song as they unloaded a barge that had just arrived:

Turn dat han' spike roun' an' roun',
Hol' hard, honey; hol' hard, honey.
Brack man tote de buckra's load,
Hol' hard, honey; hol' hard, honey

Neber 'fo' seed a nigger like you,
Hol' hard, honey; hol' hard, honey.
Allers tinkin' 'bout yer ol' brack Sue,
Hol' hard, honey; hol' hard, honey.

Ef I was an alligater what'd I do?
Hol' hard, honey; hol' hard, honey.
Run 'way wid ol' brack Sue,
Hol' hard, honey; hol' hard, honey.

Massa ketch yer, what'd he do?
Hi, hi, honey; hi, hi, honey.
Cut yer back an' ol' brack Sue's,
He, he, honey; he, he, honey.

I cuss massa 'hin' de fence,
Hol' hard, honey; hol' hard, honey.
Massa don' hyar make no differyence,
Hol' hard, honey; hol' hard, honey.

Turn dat han' spike roun' an' roun',
Hol' hard, honey; hol' hard, honey.
Brack man tote de buckra's load,
Hol' hard, honey; hol' hard, honey.

As the refrain died away the bell for the noon rest sounded faintly in the distance, gradually drawing nearer, and again their rich and plaintive voices blended together in sweet cadences as they finished placing the heavy load to the satisfaction of their drivers:

Hark, dat merry, purty bell go
Jing-a-lingle, jing-a-lingle, jingle bell,
Jing-a-lingle, jing-a-lingle, jing-a-lingle bell,
Jingle bell, jingle bell.

Even so sang the children of Israel in their captivity, as they sat by the rivers of Babylon awaiting deliverance.

Just now a ship, which had some time since appeared as a dark spot on the horizon, turned her majestic prow and steered for the entrance to the sound. Immediately the pilot boat in the harbor put out to her. Everyone on the shore became eagerly intent upon the strange ship, and they watched the pilot climb aboard with all the interest which usually attends the slightest cause for excitement in a small community.

The ship came on very slowly, for there was little wind, under topsail, jib and foresail, the British flag at the peak and the American flag at the fore. The people on shore could see the captain standing by the pilot, the anchor ready to be dropped, and the bowsprit shrouds loose. But now their interest was divided with a new arrival. A man on horseback rode down to the shaky wooden platform which served as a landing place for passengers; behind him, at a respectful distance, rode a white-haired Mulatto. The man leaped from his horse and threw his reins to the slave, signaled a couple of Negroes in a boat, jumped into it as they, obedient to his sign, pulled alongside the wharf, and was rowed swiftly out to the advancing ship, which

was now making considerable headway toward the shore.

Among the idlers on the wharf was one whom everyone addressed as Bill. He was large, or rather burly, carried a rawhide in his hand, and from his air of authority toward them, was evidently the overseer of the gang of slaves who were loading the tobacco barge. From out the crowd a man who had been sitting idly on a bale of cotton moved toward him.

"Holloa, Bill," he said, addressing the owner of the rawhide.

"Howdy, Hank"; returned Bill, surveying the other curiously, "whar in time did you drap from?"

Hank did not reply directly. He shifted the tobacco quid in his mouth from one cheek to the other, then with a nod of the head toward the approaching vessel, asked: "Whar's she from?"

"Hain't been in town lately, I reckon, or you'd know all about the 'Island Queen' from Bermudy. Planter named Montfort on her. He's movin' his niggers here to Caroliny; gittin' too hot fer him back thar," replied Bill, with a backward jerk of his thumb in the supposed direction of Bermuda. "How's things up yer way?"

"Fair, fair to middlin', Bill; thar's been some talk 'bout a risin' among the niggers, and so we

jes tuk a few o' them an' strun 'em up fer a eggsample to the res'. I tell you, Bill, we jes don't spec' to hav' no foolin' 'bout this yer question of who's on top as regards a gentleman's owning his niggers, an' whomsoeveder goes ter foolin' with that ar pertickler pint o' discusshun is gwine ter be made a eggsample of, even ef it's a white man. Didn' hyar nuthin' 'bout a circus up our way, did yer?"

Bill scratched his chin and shook his head in the negative.

"Wall, 'twas this here way: Jed Powers, you 'member Dan Powers' Jed, don' yer? Dan thet was tarred an' feathered fer selling good likely whiskey ter niggers?" Bill nodded in the affirmative. "Jed Powers wuz seed walkin' with Jimison's wench Violy. Be blowed ef he wasn't gittin' ready ter cut an' run ter Canidy with her!"

"Don' b'lieve yer, durned ef I do," said Bill.

"Fact! Be durned ef it ain't jes so."

"Wall! of all the onnat'rall cusses!"

"But his wurst offense, in gineral, wuz thet he wuz meanin' fer to marry her!" Hank paused in his narrative to allow a full appreciation of his statement to be impressed upon Bill's mind.

"Wus an' wus!" groaned the latter. "What is we comin' to, by thunder! I allays took Jed

to be a decen' sort o' cuss, too. What's the committee doin' 'bout it?"

"Wall, we sot out to stop thet fun, anyhow. We got him after a hot chase, an' we put him in jail; an' las' week we guv him his trial. Jedge sentenced him to fifty lashes an'hangin' by the neck untell he wuz dead. But somehow or nuther folks is gittin' squeamish. Jedge don' durst to hang him; he'll jes guv him the fifty lashes an' a talkin' to on the immoralty o' his acts an' ways. Jedge tol' him he wuz young an' had a chance to 'pent from the desolute ways o' his youth, of which his wurst failin' wuz a-wantin' to marry niggers, leastwise he'd end in hell, shure. Jedge tol' him everythin' 'cordin' ter law an' jestice. We wuz calkerlatin' ter have a celebrashun to which all the leading citizens o' this county would 'a' been bid, but, o' course, not havin' the hangin' sort o' took the ginger out o' the whole business."

"I hain't a doubt o' yer horsepertality in case o' the event, Hank; we's allays got along mighty comf'table tergether," replied Bill, nodding an emphatic approval of all that Hank had said. The whole speech had been liberally punctuated with copious floods of tobacco juice, which formed a small river between the two men.

"Best thing I know of down our way," said

Bill, after they had taken another good look at the ship, "the best thing I know of was a raffle over ter Jellison's auction-rooms. A raffle's a great thing fer pickin up bargains in niggers an' horses. This pertickler one was fer a bay horse, a new light buggy an' harness, an' a Mulatto gal Sal. The whole thing wuz wurth fifteen hundred dollars, an' we had fifteen hundred chances at a dollar a head. Highest throw took first choice; lowest, the remainder. Winners to pay twenty dollars each fer refreshments."

"Leetle bit selfish o' you, Bill, ter keep all thet to yerself," said Hank, giving Bill a reproachful glance.

"Mabby so, mabby so. But you won't lose nuthin', Hank, ef I can help yer in the footur. 'Pears like some one wuz a-tellin' me," he continued reflectively, "thet yer wuz a-wurkin' fer the county 'bout thet time fer board an' clo's."

"Be durned ef I wuzn't," replied Hank with great candor. "Shot at a free nigger an' killed Brady's dog Pete. Ef it'd been the nigger I'd happened ter kill, hit would 'a' been all right; but bein' 'twas a bluded hound thet had tred hundreds o' runaways, it wuz anuther question; an' not havin' the muney ter pay a fine, an' Brady bein' purty mad, why in I went fer a munth."


"Wall, as I was a-sayin', ter perceed, by a lucky chance it wuz my fust choice, an' I choose the gal. I knowed she wuz a fust-class breeder an' my muney wuz shure fer a hundred per cent on her."

"I swear ter gosh, but yer right, Bill; mate her with the right sort an' you's got yer own muney."

Both men now turned their attention to the advancing ship.

"I see ol' Pollock's got 'em in tow," remarked Hank reflectively, after a moment's silence. "Ans Pollock's as crafty as can be. No 'fense meant, yer know; seems he's yer boss still; mean cuss ef he's rich's a jedge"; he continued, "s'pose they've got a heap o' money, too."

"Can't say as to thet," replied Bill, "but they bought Pollock's ol' place, an' it looks as though money might be plenty the way everything has been fixed up fer the missis."

The noon hours were now over, and a great deal of confusion reigned, caused by the arrival of a ship in port with so rich a man as Mr. Montfort aboard. The two friends became separated in the ensuing bustle which attended the landing of the party. During the preceding conversation a carriage and teams for transporting the baggage and slaves had drawn

up alongside the shore; and as Mr. Montfort stepped on the rickety wharf and assisted his wife to do the same, a murmur of involuntary admiration ran through the motley crowd of rough white men and ignorant slaves.

Grace Montfort was a dream of beauty even among beautiful women. Tall and slender; her form was willowy, although perfectly molded. Her complexion was creamy in its whiteness, of the tint of the camellia; her hair, a rich golden brown, fell in rippling masses far below the waist line; brown eyes, large and soft as those seen in the fawn; heavy black eyebrows marking a high white forehead, and features as clearly cut as a cameo, completed a most lovely type of Southern beauty.

The two children followed their mother closely. They were sturdy boys, who resembled her in the beauty of their features; and in Jesse, the baby, a still greater resemblance could be traced, because the hair had been allowed to remain in long, soft curls. So they came ashore to their new home, obsequiously waited upon by Mr. Pollock, and lovingly attended by their numerous slaves. In an instant the family was seated in the waiting vehicle; and before the spectators could fully realize the beauty and elegance of the newcomers, they were whirled away, and the carriage was lost in a cloud of dust.


Hank Davis and Bill Sampson met once more before they left the wharf. "Ef they hain't got an overseer, I'm going to 'ply fer the job"; said Hank, "never seed sich a booty in my life."

Bill Sampson scratched his head meditatively: "Strikes me, Hank, thet thet ar female's got a black streak in her somewhar."

Hank stared at Bill a moment, as though he thought he had suddenly lost his senses; then he burst into a loud guffaw.

"You git out, Bill Sampson."

"Wall, maybe," said Bill, "maybe so. Thar's too much cream color in the face and too little blud seen under the skin fer a genooine white 'ooman. You can't tell nothin' 'bout these Britishers; they're allers squeamish 'bout thar nigger brats; yas, sah, very squeamish. I've hern tell that they think nuthin of ejcatin' thar black brats, and freein' 'em, an' makin' 'em rich."

"You go to the devil"; returned Hank, as he moved away, "you're wus' nan ol' nigger, allers seein' a possum up a tree; an' 'taint no possum 'tall,--nuthin' but er skunk."

Apologists tell us as an excuse for the barbarous practice of slavery, that it was a godlike institution for the spread of the gospel of the meek and lowly carpenter's son, and that

the African savage brought to these shores in chains was a most favored being.

Such may be the thoughts of the careless and superficial mind; but when we survey the flotsam and jetsam left from the wreck of the Civil War, we can deceive ourselves no longer; we must confess that the natural laws which govern individuals and communities never relax in their operation. The fruit of slavery was poisonous and bitter; let us rejoice that it no longer exists.


  --  A RETROSPECT OF THE PAST.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER III.