Front Page Titles (by Subject) COUNTRY LIFE IN THE SOUTH. - Retrospect of Western Travel, vol. 2
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COUNTRY LIFE IN THE SOUTH. - Harriet Martineau, Retrospect of Western Travel, vol. 2 
Retrospect of Western Travel in Three Vols (London: Saunders and Otley, 1838). Vol. 2.
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COUNTRY LIFE IN THE SOUTH.
“These views of the degradation of the Southern States receive a melancholy and impressive confirmation from the general aspect and condition of the country, viewed in contrast with its former prosperity. With natural advantages more bountiful than were ever dispensed by a kind Providence to any other people upon the face of the globe, there is, from the mountains to the sea-coast, cay.”—Southern Review, vol. ii., p. 513.
There was no end to the kind cautions given me against travelling through the Southern States; not only on account of my opinions on -slavery, but because of the badness of the roads, and the poverty of the wayside accommodations. There was so much of this, that my companion and I held a consultation one day, in our room at Washington, spreading out the map, and surveying the vast extent of country we proposed to traverse before meeting my relatives at New Orleans. We found that neither was afraid; and afterwards that there was no cause for fear, except to persons who are annoyed by irregularity and the absence of comfort. The evil prognostications went on multiplying as we advanced: but we learned to consider them as mere voices on the mountain of our enterprise, which must not deter us from accomplishing it. We had friends to visit at Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; Montgomery, Alabama; and Mobile. At Richmond we were cautioned about the journey into South Carolina: at Charleston we met with dreadful reports of travelling in Georgia: in Georgia people spoke of the horrors of Alabama, and so on: and, after all, nothing could well be easier than the whole undertaking. I do not remember a single difficulty that occurred, all the way. There was much fatigue, of course. In going down from Richmond to Charleston, with a party of friends, we were nine days on the road, and had only three nights rest. Throughout the journey, we were obliged to accommodate ourselves to the stage hours, setting off sometimes in the evening, sometimes at midnight; or, of all uncomfortable seasons, at two or three in the morning. On a journey of many days, we had to inform ourselves of the longest time that the stage would stop at a supping or breakfasting place, so that we might manage to snatch an hour's sleep. While the meal was preparing, it was my wont to lie down and doze, in spite of hunger: if I could find a bed or sofa, it was well: if not, I could wrap myself in my cloak, and make a pillow on the floor of my carpet-bag. I found that a sleep somewhat louder than this, when I could go to bed for two hours, was more fatiguing than refreshing. The being waked up at two, when I had lain down at midnight, was the greatest discomfort I experienced. But little sleep can be obtained in the stage, from the badness of the roads. It was only when quite wearied out that I could forget myself for an hour or two, amidst the joltings and rollings of the vehicle. In Alabama, some of the passengers in the stage were Southern gentlemen, coming from New York, in comparison with whose fatigues ours were nothing. I think they had then travelled eleven days and nights, with very short intervals of rest; and the badness of the roads at the end of a severe winter had obliged them to walk a good deal. They looked dreadfully haggard and nervous; and we heard afterwards that one of them had become incessantly convulsed in the face, after we had left them. It is not necessary, of course, to proceed without stopping, in such a way as this; but it is necessary to be patient of fatigue to travel in the South at all.
Yet I was very fond of these long journeys. The traveller (if he be not an abolitionist) is perfectly secure of good treatment; and fatigue and indifferent fare are the only evils which need be anticipated. The toils of society in the cities were so great to me that I generally felt my spirits rise when our packing began; and, the sorrow of parting with kind hosts once over, the prospect of a journey of many days was a very cheerful one. The novelty and the beauty of the scenery seemed inexhaustible; and the delightful American stages, open or closed all round at the will of the traveller, allow of everything being seen.
The American can conceive of nothing more dismal than a pine-barren, on a rainy day: but the profound tranquillity made it beautiful to me, whose rainy days have been almost all passed in cities, amidst the rumbling of hackney-coaches, the clink of pattens, the gurgle of spouts, and the flitting by of umbrellas. It is very different in the pine-barrens. The sandy soil absorbs the rain, so that there is no mud: the pines stand meekly drooping, as if waiting to be fed: the drip is noiseless: and the brooks and pools are seen bubbling clear, or quietly filling, while not a wing cleaves the-air, each bird nestling in the covert of its domestic tree. When the rain ceases, towards evening, the whole region undergoes a change. If a parting ray from the west pierces the woods, the stems look lilac in the moist light; the vines glitter before they shake off their last drops; the red-bird startles the eye; the butterflies come abroad in clouds; the frogs grow noisy, and all nature wakens up fresh as from her siesta. The planter may be seen on his pacing while horse, in a glade of the wood; or superintending the negroes who are repairing the fence of his estate. One black holds the large dibble, with which the holes for the stakes are made; others are warming their bands at the fire which blazes on the ground:—many hands to do slovenly work. While any light is left, the driver is apt to shorten his road by cutting across a knoll, instead of winding round it: and then the wheels are noiseless on the turf; the branches crash as the vehicle is forced between the trees; and the wood-pigeons, frightened from their roost, flutter abroad.
When the sun has gone down, all is still within the stage: the passengers grow drowsy, unless hunger keeps them awake. Each one nods upon his neighbour's shoulder, till a red light, gradually illuminating all the faces, and every moment growing brighter, rouses the dullest. Each tells somebody else that we are coming to a fire in the woods. First there are lines of little yellow flames on each side the path:—the blazing up of twigs too dry to have been made incombustible by the morning's rain. Then there is a pond of red fire on either hand; and pillars of light rising from it.—tall burning stems, throwing out jets of flame on all sides, or emitting a flood of sparks when touched by the night breeze. The succeeding darkness is intense. The horses seem to feel it; for they slacken to a foot-pace, and the grazing of a wheel against a pine-stem, or the zigzag motion of the vehicle, intimates that the driver's eyes have been dazzled. Presently the horses set off again; and the passengers sink once more into silence. They are next roused by the discordant horn of the driver, sending out as many distinct blasts as there are passengers; each blast more of a screech than the last; and the final flourish causing a shout of laughter in the coach; laughter animated a little, perhaps, by the prospect of supper. Right or left, soon appears the log-house, its open shutters and door giving token that a large fire is blazing within. The gentlemen hand out the ladies at the door, and then stand yawning and stretching, or draw to the fire while they can.—before the ladies take possession of the best place. The hostess, who is busy cooking, points to a lamp, with which the ladies light themselves to her chamber, to put up their hair under their bonnets for the night. Little impish blacks peep and grin from behind the stove, or shine in the heat of the chimney-earner. If any one of them has ever received a compliment on his dexterity, he serves with most ostentations bustle, his eyes wide open, his row of white teeth all in sight, and his little body twisting about; with every affectation of activity. An observer may see some fun going on behind the mistress's back; a whisk of the carrying knife across a companion's throat; or a flourish of two plates like cymbals over the head.
At last, supper is ready:—the broiled venison, the ham collops and eggs, and apple sauce; the infusion which is called tea or coffee; and the reeking corn-bread. Before the clatter of knives had ceases, the stage, with its fresh horses, is at the door; the ladies snatch a final warming, while the driver finishes his protracted meal, their eyes, being now at liberty to study the apartment, looking round for some other object than the old story.—the six Presidents who smile from the walls of almost every log-house in American, and the great map of the United States, with a thumb-mark. amounting to an erasure, on the spot of the very territory where this particular log-house happens to be. If we wanted to consult a map in a hurry, in such places as these, we never had to hunt out our present situation. There was always the worn spot, to serve as the center to our investigations. The passengers, however wearily they might have descended from the stage, are pretty sure to enter it again with a spring.—warm and satisfied, with a joke on their tongues, and a good supper to sleep or muse upon.
The sleep seldom lasts long. however. You are sure to come to a creek, where nobody has ever erected a bridge, or where a freshet has carried one away, and no measure have been taken to rebuild it. With drowsy groans, the passengers rouse themselves, and get out at the driver's bidding, under the cold stars, or the drifting clouds. The ladies slip on their India-rubber shoes; for their first step may be into soft mud. They stand upon a bank, if there be one, in order not to be run over in the dark; while the scow shows by the reflection of the light at her bow where the river is. When she touches the bank, the driver calls to everybody to keep out of the way, cracks his whip, and drives his lumbering carriage down the bank, and into the scow: the passengers follow; the scow is unchained, and the whole load is pushed across the stream, or pulled, if it happens to be a rope-ferry. When the expected shock tells you that have arrived at the other side, the driver again cracks his whip, and the horses scramble. If, they should refuse to mount the steep bank, and back a step upon the passengers instead, every one would infallibly be driven into the river. A delicate coaxing is therefore employed; and I imagine the animals must be aware what a ticklish thing any freak of theirs would be in such a situation; for I never know them decline mounting the bank, without a single back step.
If the team bolt, or other fastening of equal consequence should happen to break, there is a chance of two hours rest, or so. Something snaps; the vehicle stops; the gentlemen get out; the ladies gaze from the windows, while somebody half-dressed comes out with a lantern from any dwelling that may be in sight, and goes back again for hammer and nail, or, at worst, a piece of cord: and you proceed at a slow foot-pace, to the nearest hotel. There, the slaves, roused from the floor, where they are lying like dogs, go winking about, putting fresh logs on the smoldering fire, and lighting a lamp or two. After repeated inquiries on the part of the ladies, who feel the first miuntes of their two hours slipping away without any promise of rest, a female slave at last appears, staring as if she had never seen any body before. The ladies have already taken out nightcap, soap and towel from their carpet-bags. They motion the woman up-stairs, and follow her. They find the water-jug, if there be one, empty, of course. With coaxing, they get the attendant to fill it. Long after they are undressed, it comes, clear or “sort o' muddy,” as may be. If there are no sheets, or yellow ones, the ladies spread their dressing-gowns over the bed, and use their cloaks for a covering. As soon as they have lain down, a draught begins to blow in the strangest way on the top of their heads. They examine, and find a broken window behind the bed. They wrap up their heads, and lie down again. AS soon as they are fairly dreaming that they are at home, and need not get up till they please, the horn startles them, they raise their, heads, see a light under the door, and the black woman looks in to drawl out that they must please to make haste. It seems like a week since they down; but they are not rested, turn away sick and dizzy from the flickering light.
In the morning, you wonder where your fatigue is gone, As the day steals through the forest, kindling up beauty as it goes, the traveller's whole being is refreshed. The young aloes under the fallen trunks glitter with dew; the grey moss, dangling from the trees, waves in the breath of the morning. The busy little chameleons run along the fences, and the squirrel erects his brush as you pass. While the crescent moon and the morning star glittered low down in the sky, you had longed to stay the sun beneath the horizon; but now that he is come, fresh vigour and enjoyment seem to be shed down with his rays.
At such an hour, you often come up with a family departing from the spot where they had “camped out” for the night. I never had the pleasure of camping out: but I know exactly what it must be like: for I have seen establishments of this sort in every stage of the process,—from the searching out a spot blessed with a running stream, a shelter to windward, a dry soil, and plenty of fuel,—to the pilling the wagon with the pots, pans, and children, previous to starting at dawn. There is a striking air of cheer about the family when beginning their new day; leaving behind the desolation they have made; the scorched turf, the scattered brushwood, chips and meat bones, and setting forth in renewed strength in the fresh morning. I owe to these people many a picture such as will never meet my eye in the galleries of art.
Our stationary rural life in the South was various and pleasant enough: all shaded with the presence of slavery; but without any other drawback. There is something in the make-shift irregular mode of life which exists where there are slaves that is amusing when the cause is forgotten.
The waking in the morning is accomplished by two or three black women staring at you from the bed-posts. Then it is five minutes' work to get them out of the room. Perhaps before you are half dressed, you are summoned to breakfast. You look at your watch, and listen whether it has stopped; for it seems not to be seven o'clock yet. You hasten, however, and find your hostess making the coffee. The young people drop in when the meal is half done, and then it is discovered the breakfast has been served an hour too early, because the clock has stopped, and cook has ordered affairs according to her own conjectures. Every body laughs, and nothing ensues. After breakfast, a farmer in homespun,—blue trowsers and an orange-brown coat.—or all over grey,—comes to speak with your host. A drunken white has shot one of his Negroes, and he fears no punishment can be obtained, because there were no witnesses of the deed but blacks. A consultation is held whether the affair shall go into court: and before the farmer departs, he is offered cake and liqueur.
Your hostess, meantime, has given her orders, and is now engaged in a back room, or out the piazza behind the house, cutting out clothes for her slaves;—very laborious work in warm weather. There may be a pretence of lessons among the young people; and something more than pretence, if they happen to have a tutor or governess: but the probability is that their occupations are as various as their tempers. Rosa cannot be found: she is lying on the bed in her own room, reading a novel: Clara is weeping for her canary, which has flown away while she was playing with it: Alfred is trying to ascertain how soon we may all go out to ride; and the little ones are lounging about the court, with their arms round the necks of blacks, of their own size. You sit down to the piano, or to read and one slave or another enters every half hour to ask what is o'clock. Your hostess comes in, at length; and you sit down to work with her; she gratifies your curiosity about her “people;” telling you how soon they burn out their shoes at the toes, and wear out their shoes at the toes, and wear out their winter woolens, and tear up their summer cottons; and how impossible it is to get black women to learn to cut out clothes without waste; and how she never inquires when and where the whipping is done, as it is the overseer's business, and not hers. She has not been seated many minutes when she is called away, and returns saying how babyish these people are, that they will not take medicine unless she gives it to them; and how careless of each other, so that she has been obliged to stand by and see Diana put clean linen upon her infant, and to compel Bet to get her sick husband some breakfast.
Morning visitors next arrive. It may be the clergyman, with some new book that you want to look at; and inquiries whether your host sees any prospect of getting the requisite number of professors for the new college; or whether the present head of the insitution is to continue to fill all the chairs. It may be a lank judge from some raw district, with a quid in his cheek, a sword cane in his hand, and a legal doubt in his mind, which he wants your host to resolve. It may be a sensible woman, with courtesy in her countenance, and decision in her air, who is accustomed really to rule her household, and to make the host of such human material and such a human lot as are pressing around and upon her. If so, the conversation between her and your hostess becomes rapid and interesting,—full of tales of perplexity and trouble, of droll anecdotes, and serious and benevolent plans. Or it may be a lady of a different cast, who is delighted at the prospect of seeing you soon again. You look perplexed, and mention that you fear you shall be unable to return this way, O, but you will come and live here. You plead family, friends, and occupation in England,—to say nothing of England being your home. O, but you can bring your family and friends with you. You laughingly ask why. She draws up the replies, “for the honour and glory of living in a republic.”
Meantime, Clara has dried her tears, for some one has recovered her canary, and the door of the cage is shut. The carriage and saddle-horses are scrambling on the gravel before the door, and the children run in to know if they may ride with you. Cake, fruit and liqueurs, or perhaps tea, are brought in; and then the ladies depart. The clergyman thinks he will ride round with your party, hearing that you are going to inspect Mr. A.'s plantation. He warns you that it will not be “pleasant to see even the best plantations;” and your trembling heart fully agrees.
You admire the horsemanship of your host on his white horse, and the boys on their black ponies. The carriage goes at good speed, and yet the fast pace of the saddle-horses enables the party to keep together. While you are looking out upon a picturesque loghouse, peeping forth from a blossomy thicket, or admiring a splendid hedge of the Cherokee rose, in straggling bloom. Rosa rouses herself from a reverie, and asks you to tell her all about Victoria.
“What shall I tell you?”
“What religion is she? A Unitarian, I suppose, like you.”
Church of Englandism and dissent being explained, Rosa resumes, in a plaintive voice, “Is she betrothed yet?”
“Not that I know of.”
“O, I hope she is! I wish I knew! When will she be queen? When she is eighteen, won't she?—O, I thought she was to be of age, and be made queen at eighteen. How long will she be a queen?”
“As long as she lives.”
“As long as she lives! Why I thought—”
Rosa has no idea of rulers not being changed every four or eight years. Even her imagination is almost overpowered at the idea of being set above every body else for life.
The carriage stops, and you are invited to step out, and view the ravages of a tornado, a season or two ago; you see how clear a path it made for itself in the forest; and how it swept across the river, tearing down an answering gap through the tall cane-brake on the opposite bank. The prostrated trees lie sunk in swamp, half hidden by flowering reeds and bright mosses; while their stumps, twice as tall as yourself, are all cropped off, whatever may be their thickness, precisely at the same height; and so wrenched and twisted as to convince you that you never before conceived of the power of the winds. The boys show you a dry path down to the river side, that you may see the fish traps that arc laid in the stream, and watch the couples of shad fishers—dark figures amidst the flashing waters,—who are pursuing their occupation in the glare of noon. The girls tell you how father remembers the time when there were bears in that cane-brake, and there was great trouble in getting them to come out of their thick covert to be killed. When father first came here, this side of the river was all cane-brake too. Is not a cane-brake very ugly?—It may not have any picturesque beauty; but your eye rests upon it with satisfaction, as a tropical feature in the scene.
You proceed, and point out with admiration a beautifully situated dwelling, which you declare takes your fancy more than any you have seen. The children are amused that you should suppose any one lives there, overshadowed with trees as it is, so that its inhabitants would be devoured by mosquitoes. Your hostess tells you that it is called Mr. B.'s Folly. He spent a good deal of money, and much taste upon it; but it is uninhabitable from being rather too near the river. The fever appeared so immediately and decisively that the family had to leave it in three months; and there it stands, to be called B.'s Folly.
Your host paces up to the carriage window, to tell you that you arc now on A.'s plantation. You are overtaking a long train of negroes going to their work from dinner. They look all over the colour of the soil they are walking on: dusky in clothing, dusky in complexion. An old man, blacker than the rest, is indicated to you as a native African; and you point out a child so light as to make you doubt whether he be a slave. A glance at the long heel settles the matter. You feel that it would be a relief to be assured that this was a troop of monkeys dressed up for sport, rather than that these dull, shuffling animals should be human.
There is something inexpressibly disgusting in the sight of a, slave woman in the field. I do not share in the horror of the Americans at the idea of women being employed in out-door labour. It did not particularly gratify me to sec the cows always milked by men (where there were no slaves); and the hay and harvest fields would have looked brighter in my eyes if women had been there to share the wholesome and cheerful toil; But a negro woman behind the plough presents a very different object from the English mother with her children in the turnip field, or the Scotch lassie among the reapers. In her pre-eminently ugly costume, the long, scanty, dirty woollen garment, with the shabby large bonnet at the back of her head, the perspiration streaming down her dull face, the heavy tread of the splay foot, the slovenly air with which she guides her plough,—a more hideous object cannot well be conceived; unless it be the same woman at home, in the negro quarter, as the cluster of slave dwellings is called.
You are now taken to the cotton-gin, the building to your left, where you are shown how the cotton, as picked from the pods, is drawn between cylinders, so as to leave the seeds behind; and how it is afterwards packed, by hard pressure, into bales. The neighbouring creek is dammed up to supply the water-wheel by which this gin is worked. You afterwards sec the cotton-seed laid in handfuls round the stalks of the young springing corn, and used in the cotton field as manure.
Meantime, you attempt to talk with the slaves. You ask how old that very aged man is, or that boy; they will give you no intelligible answer. Slaves never know, or never will tell, their ages; and this is the reason why the census presents such extraordinary reports on this point; declaring a great number to be above a hundred rears old. If they have a kind master, they will boast to you of how much he gave for each of them, and what sums he has refused for them. If they have a hard master, they will tell you that they would have more to eat, and be less flogged, but that massa is busy, and has no time to come down, and see that they have enough to cat. Your hostess is well known on this plantation, and her kind face has been recognized from a distance; and already a negro woman has come to her with seven or eight eggs, for which she knows she shall receive a quarter dollar You follow her to the negro quarter, where yon see a tidy woman knitting, while the little children who are left in her charge are basking in the sun, or playing all kinds of anties in the road; little shining, plump, clear-eyed children, whose mirth makes you sad, when yon look round upon their parents, and see what these bright creatures arc to come to. You enter one of the dwellings, where every thing seems to be of the same dusky hue: the crib against the wall, the walls themselves, and the floor, all look one yellow. More children are crouched round the wood fire, lying almost in the embers. You see a woman pressing up against the wall, like an idiot, with her shoulder turned towards you, and her apron held up to her face. You ask what is the matter with her, and are told that she is shy. You see a woman rolling herself about in a crib, with her head tied up, You ask if she is ill, and are to told that she has not a good temper; that she struck at a girl she was jealous of with an axe; and the weapon being taken from her, she threw herself into the well, and was nearly drowned before she was taken out, with her head much hurt.
The overseer has, meantime, been telling your host about the fever having been more or less severe last season, and how well off he shall think himself if he has no more than so many days' illness this summer: how the vegetation has suffered from the late frosts, pointing out how many of the oranges have been cut off, but that the great magnolia in the centre of the court is safe. You are then invited to see the house, learning by the way the extent and value of the estate you are visiting, and of the “force” upon it. You admire the lofty, cool rooms, with their green blinds, and the width of the piazzas on both sides the house, built to compensate for the want of shade from trees, which cannot be allowed near the dwelling, for fear of mosquitoes. You visit the ice-house, and find it pretty full, the last winter having been a severe one. You learn that for three or four seasons after this ice-house was built, there was not a spike of ice in the State; and a cargo had to be imported from Massachusetts.
When you have walked in the field as long as the heat will allow, you step into the overseer's bare dwelling, within its bare enclosure, where fowls are strutting about, and refresh yourself with a small tumbler of milk,—a great luxury, which has been ordered for the party. The overseer's fishing tackle and rifle are on the wall: and there is a medicine chest, and a shelf of books. He is tall, sallow, and nonchalant, dropping nothing more about himself and his situation than that he does not know that he has had more than his share of sickness and trouble in his vocation, and so he is pretty well satisfied.
Your hostess reminds the party that they are going out to dinner, and that it is quite time to be returning to dress. So you go straight home by a shorter road, stopping no more, but looking out, now at a glorious trumpet honeysuckle dangling from a branch; now at a lefty, spreading green tree, red hot close to the ground, while a sheet of flames is spreading all about its roots, the flames looking orange and blue in the bright sunshine.
You are glad to find, on arriving at home, that you have half an hour to lie down before you dress, and are surprised, on rising, to feel how you are refreshed. You have not very far to go to dinner,—only to Mr. E.'s cottage on the Sand Hills. The E.'s have just come for the summer; the distant city being their winter residence. If you find the accommodations poor, you must excuse it, in consideration of their recent removal, The E.'s live in very good style in the city. The cottage is half way up a gentle ascent, with a deep, sandy road leading to the wooden steps of the front piazza, and pine forests in the rear. The entertainment to-day is not solely on your account: it is a parting dinner to young Mr. and Mrs. F., who are going to reside further west. They are leaving their parents and friends, and the family estate, and are to live in a loghouse, till a proper dwelling can be built. Mrs. F. is rather low in spirits, but her mother means to send the old family nurse with her; so that she will have one comfort, at any rate, and will be able to trust her infant out of her sight now and then. As for Mrs. E., she informs you that she has come out to the cottage sooner than she usually does, as she is expecting her confinement. She has all her five children in her presence always; and as she cannot trust them for an hour with her “people,” their noise and the heat would be intolerable in town; but here, where her room opens upon the piazza, she can have the children always in her sight or hearing, with less fatigue than in the city. You ask whether such a charge be not too much for her. Certainly; but there is no use in complaining, for it cannot be helped. She never had a nurse that was not more plague than use. It is not only that the servants tell the children improper things, and teach them falsehood, but it is impossible to get the little boys' faces washed without seeing it done; and the infant may, as likely as not, be dropped into the fire or out of the window. Ladies must make the best of their lot, for they cannot help themselves.
The dinner is plentiful, including, of course, turkey, ham, and sweet potatoes; excellent claret, and large blocks of ice-cream. A slave makes gentle war against the flies with the enormous bunch of peacocks' feathers: and the agitation of the air is pleasant, while the ladies are engaged in eating, so that they cannot use their own fans, which are hung by loops on the backs of their chairs. The afternoon is spent in the piazza, where coffee is served. There the ladies sit, whisking their feather fans, jesting with the children, and talking over the last English poem, or American novel; or complaining bitterly of the dreadful incendiary publications which Mr. E. heard from Mr. H., who had heard it from Mr. M., that Judge R. had said that somebody had seen circulated among the negroes, by some vile agent of the horrid abolitionists of the North.
You go in to tea, and find the table strewed with prints, and the piano open; and Mrs. F. plays and sings. The gentlemen have done discussing the French war and the currency, and are praising the conduct of the Committee of Vigilance; frankly informing you, as a stranger, of the reasons of its formation, and the modes of its operation in deterring abolitionists from coming into the neighbourhood, in arresting them oil any suspicion of tampering with the negroes, and in punishing them summarily, if any facts are established against them. While you are endeavouring to learn the nature of the crime and its evidence, you are summoned. There is going to be a storm, and your party must get home, if possible, before it comes on. In such a case, Mrs. E. will say nothing in opposition to your leaving her so early. She would not be the means of exposing you to the storm. You hasten away, and reach home during the first explosion of thunder.
You find there a bouquet, sent to you with Miss G.'s compliments; a splendid bunch of quince, yellow jessamine, arbor vitæ, hyacinths, cherry, and other blossoms. It is not nearly bed-time yet; and you sit on the sofa, fanning yourself, with the table-lamp, dimmed by the momentary glare of blue lightning. Your hostess learns from the servants that poor Miss Clara went to bed in great grief; the cat having killed her canary in the afternoon. It has been a sad day for poor Clara, from the adventures of her bird: but she is now fast asleep.
Your host amuses you with anecdotes of South country life. He asks you how you were struck with Mrs. L., whose call you returned yesterday. You reply that she seems a cheerful, hearty personage, who makes the best of a poor lot; and you relate how pleased you were at the frankness with which she owned, pointing to the stocking she was darning, that she knew little of books now-a-days, or of music, as she was making shirts and darning stockings for her sons, all the year round. You were sorry to see such evidences of poverty: chairs with broken backs, and a piano with three legs, and a cracked flute: but glad that Mrs. L. seemed able to look on the bright side of things. Your host throws himself back, and laughs for three minutes: and when he recovers, informs you that Mrs. L. is the wealthiest widow in the State. You protest that you looked upon her with respect as a meritorious widow, doing her best for a large family. Your host repeats that she is the richest widow in the State; and that she and all her family are odd about money. She has a sister in a neighbouring State, Mrs. M., who is even more bent upon economy. Last year Mrs. L. visited this sister, who lives in a country town. The sisters went out in Mrs. M.'s carriage, to make calls and do shopping. Mrs. L. observed that her sister's carriage was attended by a little mulatto girl, who let down the steps, and put them up, and mounted behind very dexterously. “The child is clever enough,” said Mrs. L.: “but, sister, your carriage should have a proper footman. You should not be seen in town with a girl behind your carriage.” Mrs. M. promised to consider the matter. The next day, a spruce mulatto lad was in waiting, of whom Mrs. L. fully approved. When she looked in his face, however, as he was letting down the steps at the entrance of a store, she was struck by his remarkable like-ness to the girl of yesterday, and observed upon it. Mrs. M. laughed, and owned she had got suit of boy's clothes made since yesterday, for the girl to wear during morning drives: and she thought this an excellent plan. Many such a story does your host amuse you with; observing that, though America has fewer humourists than England, they may be met with in abundance in rare settlements and retired districts, where they can indulge their fancies without much suffering from public opinion.
The storm abates. you are the oracle as to what o'clock it is; and, as you are confident that it is near eleven, the chamber lights are brought. You dismiss your dusky attendants, and throw yourself on your sample sofa for half an hour, to recal what yon have seen and heard this day, and meditate on the scope and tendencies of Country Life in the Southern States.