by: Charles W. Chesnutt
"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 piazza.
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
"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
"Julius," I said, "you seemed to be affected by something, a
moment ago. Was the mustard so strong that it moved you to
"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 didn' 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 couldn' 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 couldn' 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 didn' keer much fer de gals,--
leastways he didn' 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 b'en 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 didn' do no good, en none un 'em couldn' 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, sezee:--
"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.'
"But dere wuz one man on de plantation w'at didn' 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 han', 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 didn' 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
han'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 didn' hab no
trouble 'bout gittin' rid un it. Hit wuz 'g'in' de law fer ter
buy things fum slabes; but Lawd! dat law didn' '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 winter-time. I s'pose de peddlers didn' 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 couldn' 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 didn' 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 black-smif, 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 didn' 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 didn' take de ham, but none un 'em didn'
"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 wouldn' 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 be'n ridin' wid ole mars, de fus' nigger 'ooman she met
says ter her,--
"'Is yer seed Dave, Dilsey?'
"No, I ain' seed Dave,' says Dilsey.
"'Yer des oughter look at dat nigger; reckon yer wouldn' 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 didn' seed Dave.
"Dilsey walk' right on, en didn' notice 'im.
"Dilsey didn' 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 didn' 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,
"'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 wouldn' do dat, Dilsey. Yer ain' gwine back on yo' Dave,
"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 got?'
"Po' Dave didn' knowed w'at ter do. De las' one he had 'pended on
fer ter stan' by 'im had gone back on 'im, en dey didn' 'pear ter
be nuffin mo' wuf libbin' fer. He couldn' hol' no mo' pra'r-
meetin's, fer Mars Walker wouldn' 'low 'im ter preach, en de
darkies wouldn' '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
"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
"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 didn' 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 didn' 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 'im, 'Is yer stole any mo' hams lately?' er 'W'at yer take
fer yo' neckliss, Dave?' er some joke er 'nuther 'bout dat ham.
"Fus' Dave didn' mine it so much, caze he knowed he hadn' done
nuffin. But bimeby he got so he couldn' stan' it no longer, en
he'd hide hisse'f in de bushes w'eneber he seed anybody comin', en
alluz kep' hisse'f shet up in his cabin atter he come in fum wuk.
"It wuz monst'us hard on Dave, en bimeby, w'at wid dat ham
eberlastin' en etarnally draggin' roun' his neck, he 'mence' fer
ter do en say quare things, en make de niggers wonder ef he wa'n't
gittin' out'n his mine. He got ter gwine roun' talkin' ter
hisse'f, en singin' corn-shuckin' songs, en laffin' fit ter kill
'bout nuffin. En one day he tole one er de niggers he had
'skivered a noo way fer ter raise hams,--gwine ter pick 'em off'n
trees, en save de expense er smoke-'ouses by kyoin' 'em in de sun.
En one day he up'n tole Mars Walker he got sump'n pertickler fer
ter say ter 'im; en he tuk Mars Walker off ter one side, en tole
'im he wuz gwine ter show 'im a place in de swamp whar dey wuz a
whole trac' er lan' covered wid ham-trees.
"W'en Mars Walker hearn Dave talkin' dis kine er fool-talk, en
w'en he seed how Dave wuz 'mencin' ter git behine in his wuk, en
w'en he ax' de niggers en dey tole 'im how Dave be'n gwine on, he
'lowed he reckon' he'd punish' Dave ernuff, en it mou't do mo'
harm dan good fer ter keep de ham on his neck any longer. So he
sont Dave down ter de blacksmif-shop en had de ham tak off. Dey
wa'n't much er de ham lef' by dat time, fer de sun had melt all de
fat, en de lean had all swivel' up, so dey wa'n't but th'ee er fo'
"W'en de ham had be'n tuk off'n Dave, folks kinder stopped talkin'
'bout 'im so much. But de ham had be'n on his neck so long dat
Dave had sorter got use' ter it. He look des lack he'd los'
sump'n fer a day er so atter de ham wuz tuk off, en didn' 'pear
ter know w'at ter do wid hisse'f; en fine'ly he up'n tuk'n tied a
lightered-knot ter a string, en hid it under de flo' er his cabin,
en w'en nobody wuzn' lookin' he'd take it out en hang it roun' his
neck, en go off in de woods en holler en sing; en he allus tied it
roun' his neck w'en he went ter sleep. Fac', it 'peared lack Dave
done gone clean out'n his mine. En atter a w'ile he got one er de
quarest notions you eber hearn tell un. It wuz 'bout dat time dat
I come back ter de plantation fer ter wuk,--I had be'n out ter
Mars Dugal's yuther place on Beaver Crick for a mont' er so. I
had hearn 'bout Dave en de bacon, en 'bout w'at wuz gwine on on de
plantation; but I didn' b'lieve w'at dey all say 'bout Dave, fer I
knowed Dave wa'n't dat kine er man. One day atter I come back,
me'n Dave wuz choppin' cotton tergedder, w'en Dave lean' on his
hoe, en motion' fer me ter come ober close ter 'im; en den he
retch' ober en w'ispered ter me.
"'Julius', [sic] sezee, 'did yer knowed yer wuz wukkin' long yer
wid a ham?'
"I couldn 'magine w'at he meant. 'G'way fum yer, Dave,' says I.
'Yer ain' wearin' no ham no mo'; try en fergit 'bout dat; 't ain'
gwine ter do yer no good fer ter 'member it.'
"Look a-yer, Julius,' sezee, 'kin yer keep a secret?'
"'Co'se I kin, Dave,' says I. 'I doan go roun' tellin' people
w'at yuther folks says ter me.'
"'Kin I trus' yer, Julius? Will yer cross yo' heart?'
"I cross' my heart. 'Wush I may die ef I tells a soul,' says I.
"Dave look' at me des lack he wuz lookin' thoo me en 'way on de
yuther side er me, en sezee:--
"'Did yer knowed I wuz turnin' ter a ham, Julius?'
"I tried ter 'suade Dave dat dat wuz all foolishness, en dat he
oughtn't ter be talkin' dat-a-way,--hit wa'n't right. En I tole
'im ef he'd des be patien', de time would sho'ly come w'en
eve'ything would be straighten' out, en folks would fine out who
de rale rogue wuz w'at stole de bacon. Dave 'peared ter listen
ter w'at I say, en promise' ter do better, en stop gwine on dat-a-
way; en it seem lack he pick' up a bit w'en he seed dey wuz one
pusson didn' b'lieve dem tales 'bout 'im.
"Hit wa'n't long atter dat befo' Mars Archie McIntyre, ober on de
Wimbleton road, 'mence' ter complain 'bout somebody stealin'
chickens fum his hen-'ouse. De chickens kip' on gwine, en at las'
Mars Archie tole de han's on his plantation dat he gwine ter shoot
de fus' man he ketch in his hen-'ouse. In less'n a week atter he
gin dis warnin', he cotch a nigger in de hen-'ouse, en fill' 'im
full er squir'l-shot. W'en he got a light, he 'skivered it wuz a
strange nigger; en w'en he call' one er his own sarven's, de
nigger tole 'im it wuz our Wiley. W'en Mars Archie foun' dat out,
he sont ober ter our plantation fer ter tell Mars Dugal' he had
shot one er his niggers, en dat he could sen' ober dere en git
w'at wuz lef' un 'im.
"Mars Dugal' wuz mad at fus'; but w'en he got ober dere en hearn
how it all happen', he didn' hab much ter say. Wiley wuz shot so
bad he wuz sho' he wuz gwine ter die, so he up'n says ter ole
"'Mars Dugal',' sezee, 'I knows I's be'n a monst'us bad nigger,
but befo' I go I wanter git sump'n off'n my mine. Dave didn'
steal dat bacon w'at wuz tuk out'n de smoke-'ouse. I stole it
all, en I hid de ham under Dave's cabin fer ter th'ow de blame on
him--en may de good Lawd fergib me fer it.'
"Mars Dugal' had Wiley tuk back ter de plantation, en sont fer a
doctor fer ter pick de shot out'n 'im. En de ve'y nex' mawnin'
Mars Dugal' sont fer Dave ter come up ter de big house; he felt
kinder sorry fer de way Dave had be'n treated. Co'se it wa'n't no
fault er Mars Dugal's, but he wuz gwine ter do w'at he could fer
ter make up fer it. So he sont word down ter de quarters fer Dave
en all de yuther han's ter 'semble up in de yard befo' de big
house at sun-up nex' mawnin'.
"yearly in de mawnin' de niggers all swarm' up in de yard. Mars
Dugal' wuz feelin' so kine dat he had brung up a bairl er cider,
en tole de niggers all fer ter he'p deyselves.
"All dey han's on de plantation come but Dave; en bimeby, w'en it
seem lack he wa'n't comin', Mars Dugal' sont a nigger down ter de
quarters ter look fer 'im. De sun wuz gittin' up, en dey wuz a
heap er wuk ter be done, en Mars Dugal' sorter got ti'ed waitin';
so he up'n says:--
"'Well, boys en gals, I sont fer yer all up yer fer ter tell yer
dat all dat 'bout Dave's stealin' er de bacon wuz a mistake, ez I
s'pose yer all done hearn befo' now, en I's mighty sorry it
happen'. I wants ter treat all my niggers right, en I wants yer
all ter know dat I sets a heap by all er my han's w'at is hones'
en smart. En I want yer all ter treat Dave des lack yer did befo'
dis thing happen', en mine w'at he preach ter yer; fer Dave is a
good nigger, en has had a hard row ter hoe. En de fus' one I
ketch sayin' anythin' 'g'in Dave, I'll tell Mister Walker ter gin
'im forty. Now take ernudder drink er cider all roun', en den git
at dat cotton, fer I wanter git dat Persimmon Hill trac' all pick'
"W'en de niggers wuz gwine 'way, Mars Dugal' tole me fer ter go en
hunt up Dave, en bring 'im up ter de house. I went down ter
Dave's cabin, but couldn' fine 'im dere. Den I look' roun' de
plantation, en in de aidge er de woods, en 'long de road; but I
couldn' fine no sign er Dave. I wuz 'bout ter gin up de sarch,
w'en I happen' fer ter run 'cross a foot-track w'at look' lack
Dave's. I had wukked 'long wid Dave so much dat I knowed his
tracks: he had a monst'us long foot, wid a holler instep, w'ich
wuz sump'n skase 'mongs' black folks. So I follered dat track
'cross de fiel' fum de quarters 'tel I got ter de smoke-'ouse. De
fus' thing I notice' wuz smoke comin' out'n de cracks: it wuz
cu'ous, caze dey hadn' be'n no hogs kill' on de plantation fer six
mont' er so, en all de bacon in de smoke-'ouse wuz done kyoed. I
couldn' 'magine fer ter sabe my life w'at Dave wuz doin' in dat
smoke-'ouse. I went up ter de do' en hollered:--
"Dey didn' nobody answer. I didn' wanter open de do', fer w'ite
folks is monst'us pertickler 'bout dey smoke-'ouses; en ef de
oberseah had a-come up en cotch me in dere, he mou't not wanter
b'lieve I wuz des lookin' fer Dave. So I sorter knock at de do'
en call' out ag'in:--
"'O Dave, hit's me--Julius! Doan be skeered. Mars Dugal' wants
yer ter come up ter de big house,--he done 'skivered who stole de
"But Dave didn' answer. En w'en I look' roun' ag'in en didn' seed
none er his tracks gwine way fum de smoke-'ouse, I knowed he wuz
in dere yit, en I wuz 'termine' fer ter fetch 'im out; so I push
de do' open en look in.
"Dey wuz a pile er bark burnin' in de middle er de flo', en right
ober de fier, hangin' fum one er de rafters, wuz Dave; dey wuz a
rope roun' his neck, en I didn' haf ter look at his face mo' d'n
once fer ter see he wuz dead.
"Den I knowed how it all happen'. Dave had kep' on gittin' wusser
en wusser in his mine, 'tel he des got ter b'lievin' he wuz all
done turnt ter a ham; en den he had gone en built a fier, en tied
a rope roun' his neck, des lack de hams wuz tied, en had hung
hisse'f up in de smoke-'ouse fer ter kyo.
"Dave wuz buried down by de swamp, in de plantation buryin'-
groun'. Wiley didn' died fum de woun' he got in Mars McIntyre's
hen-'ouse; he got well atter a w'ile, but Dilsey wouldn' hab
nuffin mo' ter do wid 'im, en 't wa'n't long 'fo' Mars Dugal' sol'
'im ter a spekilater on his way souf,--he say he didn' want no
sich a nigger on de plantation, ner in de county, ef he could he'p
it. En w'en de een' er de year come, Mars Dugal' turnt Mars
Walker off, en run de plantation hisse'f atter dat.
"Eber sence den," said Julius in conclusion, "w'eneber I eats ham,
it min's me er Dave. I lacks ham, but I nebber kin eat mo' d'n
two er th'ee poun's befo' I gits ter studyin' 'bout Dave, en den I
has ter stop en leab de res' fer ernudder time."
There was a short silence after the old man had finished his
story, and then my wife began to talk to him about the weather, on
which subject he was an authority. I went into the house. When I
came out, half an hour later, I saw Julius disappearing down the
lane, with a basket on his arm.
At breakfast, next morning, it occurred to me that I should like a
slice of ham. I said as much to my wife.
"Oh, no, John," she responded, "you shouldn't eat anything so
heavy for breakfast."
"The fact is," she said, pensively, "I couldn't have eaten any
more of that ham, and so I gave it to Julius."
Next: THE AWAKENING OF THE NEGRO
Previous: PO' SANDY