By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Girl's Life in Virginia before the War
Author: Burwell, Letitia M.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Girl's Life in Virginia before the War" ***

Transcriber's note:
    Minor spelling inconsistencies, including hyphenated words, have been
    harmonized. Italic text has been marked with _underscores_.




[Illustration: "AN EVENING PARTY"--_Page 115._]





    Letitia M. Burwell


    William A. McCullough AND Jules Turcas

    _Second Edition_

    New York



    Copyright, 1895, by
    Frederick A. Stokes Company.


_Dedicated to my nieces, who will find in English and American
publications such expressions applied to their ancestors as: "cruel
slave-owners"; "inhuman wretches"; "southern taskmasters"; "dealers in
human souls," etc. From these they will naturally recoil with horror.
My own life would have been embittered had I believed myself to be
descended from such monsters; and that those who come after us may
know the truth, I wish to leave a record of plantation life as it was.
The truth may thus be preserved among a few, and merited praise may be
awarded to noble men and virtuous women who have passed away._

    _L. M. B._



    "AN EVENING PARTY"                _Frontispiece_

    OF THE PLANTATION"                             2

      'INDISPENSABLES'"                            4

    "I USE TO WATCH FOR DE CARRIAGE"              10

    "I DON'T WANT TO BE FREE NO MO'"              12

    "SHE ALWAYS RETURNED IN A CART"               18


    THE MINUET"                                   32


    DAT"                                          36


    "LUNCH BY SOME COOL, SHADY SPRING"            66

    THE BRIGHTEST SILVER URNS"                    78

    "HOW DEY DOES GROW!"                          86

    "WHERE IS MY MUTTON?"                         98

    "AUNT FANNY 'SPERSED DAT CROWD'"             160



That my birthplace should have been a Virginia plantation, my lot in
life cast on a Virginia plantation, my ancestors, for nine
generations, owners of Virginia plantations, remain facts mysterious
and inexplicable but to Him who determined the bounds of our
habitations, and said: "Be still, and know that I am God."

Confined exclusively to a Virginia plantation during my earliest
childhood, I believed the world one vast plantation bounded by negro
quarters. Rows of white cabins with gardens attached; negro men in the
fields; negro women sewing, knitting, spinning, weaving, housekeeping
in the cabins; with negro children dancing, romping, singing, jumping,
playing around the doors,--these formed the only pictures familiar to
my childhood.

The master's residence--as the negroes called it, "the great
house"--occupied a central position and was handsome and attractive,
the overseer's being a plainer house about a mile from this.

Each cabin had as much pine furniture as the occupants desired, pine
and oak being abundant, and carpenters always at work for the comfort
of the plantation.

Bread, meat, milk, vegetables, fruit, and fuel were as plentiful as
water in the springs near the cabin doors.

Among the negroes--one hundred--on our plantation, many had been
taught different trades; and there were blacksmiths, carpenters,
masons, millers, shoemakers, weavers, spinners, all working for
themselves. No article of their handicraft ever being sold from the
place, their industry resulted in nothing beyond feeding and clothing

PLANTATION"--_Page 2._]

My sister and myself, when very small children, were often carried to
visit these cabins, on which occasions no young princesses could have
received from admiring subjects more adulation. Presents were laid
at our feet--not glittering gems, but eggs, chestnuts, popcorn,
walnuts, melons, apples, sweet potatoes,--all their "cupboards"
afforded,--with a generosity unbounded. This made us as happy as
queens, and filled our hearts with kindness and gratitude to our dusky

Around the cabin doors the young negroes would quarrel as to who
should be his or her mistress, some claiming me, and others my sister.

All were merry-hearted, and among them I never saw a discontented
face. Their amusements were dancing to the music of the banjo,
quilting-parties, opossum-hunting, and sometimes weddings and parties.

Many could read, and in almost every cabin was a Bible. In one was a
prayer-book, kept by one of the men, a preacher, from which he read
the marriage ceremony at the weddings. This man opened a night
school--charging twenty-five cents a week--hoping to create some
literary thirst in the rising generation, whose members, however,
preferred their nightly frolics to the school, so it had few patrons.

Our house servants were numerous, polite, and well trained. My mother
selected those most obliging in disposition and quickest at learning,
who were brought to the house at ten or twelve years of age, and
instructed in the branches of household employment.

These small servants were always dressed in the cleanest, whitest,
long-sleeved aprons, with white or red turbans on their heads. No
establishment being considered complete without a multiplicity of
these, they might be seen constantly darting about on errands from the
house to the kitchen and the cabins, upstairs and downstairs, being,
indeed, omnipresent and indispensable.

It was the custom for a lady visitor to be accompanied to her room at
night by one of these black, smiling "indispensables," who insisted so
good-naturedly on performing all offices--combing her hair, pulling
off her slippers, etc.--that one had not the heart to refuse, although
it would have been sometimes more agreeable to be left alone.


The negroes were generally pleased at the appearance of visitors, from
whom they were accustomed to receive some present on arriving or
departing; the neglect of this rite being regarded as a breach of

The old negroes were quite patriarchal, loved to talk about "old
times," and exacted great respect from the young negroes, and also
from the younger members of the white family. We called the old men
"Uncle," and the old women "Aunt,"--these being terms of respect.

The atmosphere of our own home was one of consideration and kindness.
The mere recital of a tale of suffering would make my sister and
myself weep with sorrow. And I believe the maltreatment of one of our
servants--we had never heard the word "slave"--would have distressed
us beyond endurance. We early learned that happiness consisted in
dispensing it, and found no pleasure greater than saving our old
dolls, toys, beads, bits of cake or candy, for the cabin children,
whose delight at receiving them richly repaid us. If any of the older
servants became displeased with us, we were miserable until we had
restored the old smile by presenting some choice bit of sweetmeat to
the offended one.

I remember that once, when my grandmother scolded nurse Kitty,
saying: "Kitty, the butler tells me you disturb the breakfast cream
every morning by dipping out milk to wash your face," I burst into
tears, and thought it hard that, when there were so many cows, poor
Kitty could not wash her face in milk. Kitty had been told that her
dark skin would be improved by a milk bath, which she had not
hesitated to dip every morning from the breakfast buckets.

At such establishments one easily acquired a habit of being waited
upon, there being so many servants with so little to do. It was
natural to ask for a drink of water when the water was right at hand,
and to have things brought which you might easily have gotten
yourself. But these domestics were so pleased at such errands, one
felt no hesitation in requiring them. A young lady would ask black
Nancy or Dolly to fan her, whereupon Nancy or Dolly would laugh
good-naturedly, produce a large palm-leaf, and fall to fanning her
young mistress vigorously, after which she would be rewarded with a
bow of ribbon, some candy, or sweet cakes.

The negroes made pocket-money by selling their own vegetables,
poultry, eggs, etc.,--produced at the master's expense, of course. I
often saw my mother take out her purse and pay them liberally for
fowls, eggs, melons, sweet potatoes, brooms, shuck mats, and split
baskets. The men made small crops of tobacco or potatoes for
themselves on any piece of ground they chose to select.

My mother and grandmother were almost always talking over the wants of
the negroes,--what medicine should be sent, whom they should visit,
who needed new shoes, clothes, or blankets,--the principal object of
their lives seeming to be in providing these comforts. The carriage
was often ordered for them to ride around to the cabins to distribute
light-bread, tea, and other necessaries among the sick. And besides
employing the best doctor, my grandmother always saw that they
received the best nursing and attention.

In this little plantation world of ours was one being--and only
one--who inspired awe in every heart, being a special terror to small
children. This was the queen of the kitchen, Aunt Christian, who
reigned supreme. She wore the whitest cotton cap with the broadest of
ruffles; she was very black and very portly; and her scepter was a
good-sized stick, kept to chastise small dogs and children who invaded
her territory. Her character, however, having been long established,
she had not often occasion to use this weapon, as these enemies kept
out of her way.

Her pride was great, "for," said she, "aint I bin--long fo' dis yer
little marster whar is was born--bakin' de bes' loaf bread, an' bes'
beat biscuit and rice waffles, all de time in my ole marster time? An'
I bin manage my own affa'rs, an' I gwine manage my own affa'rs long is
I got breff. Kase I 'members 'way back yonder in my mammy time fo' de
folks come fum de King's Mill plantation nigh Williamsbu'g. All our
black folks done belonks to de Burl fambly uver sence dey come fum
Afiky. My granmammy 'member dem times when black folks lan' here stark
naked, an' white folks hab to show 'em how to war close. But we all
done come fum all dat now, an' I gwine manage my own affa'rs."

She was generally left to manage her "own affa'rs," and, being a
pattern of neatness and industry, her fame went abroad from Botetourt
even unto the remotest ends of Mecklenburg County.

That this marvelous cooking was all the work of her own hands I am, in
later years, inclined to doubt; as she kept several assistants--a boy
to chop wood, beat biscuit, scour tables, lift off pots and ovens; one
woman to make the pastry, and another to compound cakes and jellies.
But her fame was great, her pride lofty, and I would not now pluck one
laurel from her wreath.

This honest woman was appreciated by my mother, but we had no affinity
for her in consequence of certain traditions on the plantation about
her severity to children. Having no children of her own, a favorite
orphan house-girl, whenever my mother went from home, was left to her
care. This girl--now an elderly woman, and still our faithful and
loved servant--says she remembers to this day her joy at my mother's
return home, and her release from Aunt Christian. "I nuver will
forgit," to use her own words, "how I use to watch for de carriage to
bring miss home, an' how I watch up de road an' run clappin' my han's
an' hollerin': 'Miss done come! an' I aint gwine stay wid Aunt
Chrishun no longer!'"

[Illustration: "I USED TO WATCH FOR DE CARRIAGE"--_Page 9._]

Smiling faces always welcomed us home, as the carriage passed through
the plantation, and on reaching the house we were received by the
negroes about the yard with the liveliest demonstrations of


It was a long time before it dawned upon my mind that there were
places and people different from these. The plantations we visited
seemed exactly like ours. The same hospitality was everywhere; the
same kindliness existed between the white family and the blacks.

Confined exclusively to plantation scenes, the most trifling incidents
impressed themselves indelibly upon me.

One day, while my mother was in the yard attending to the planting of
some shrubbery, we saw approaching an old, feeble negro man, leaning
upon his stick. His clothes were nearly worn out, and he was haggard
and thin.

"Good-day, mistess," said he.

"Who are you?" asked my mother.

"Mistess, you don't know John whar use to belonks to Mars Edwin
Burl--Mars Edwin, yo' husban' uncle, whar die on de ocean crossin' to
Europe for he health. An' 'fo' he start he make he will an' sot me
free, an' gie me money an' lan' near Petersbu'g, an' good house, too.
But, mistess, I marry one free mulatto 'oman, an' she ruin me; she one
widow 'oman, an' she was'e all my money tell I aint got nothin', an' I
don't want be free no mo'. Please, mistess, take me on yo' plantation,
an' don't let me be free. I done walk hund'ed mile to git yer. You
know Mars Edwin think Miss Betsy gwine marry him, so he lef' her his
lan' an' black folks. But we niggers knowed she done promis' twelve
mo' gen'men to marry 'em. But she take de propity an' put on long
black veil make like she grievin', an' dat's how de folks all git
scattered, an' I aint got nowhar to go 'ceptin' hit's yer."

[Illustration: "I DON'T WANT BE FREE NO MO."--_Page 12._]

I wondered what was meant by being "free," and supposed from his
appearance it must be some very dreadful and unfortunate condition of
humanity. My mother heard him very kindly, and directed him to the
kitchen, where "Aunt Christian" would give him plenty to eat.

Although there were already many old negroes to be supported, who
no longer considered themselves young enough to work, this old man was
added to the number, and a cabin built for him. To the day of his
death he expressed gratitude to my mother for taking care of him, and
often entertained us with accounts of _his_ "old marster times," which
he said were the "grandes' of all."

By way of apology for certain knotty excrescences on his feet he used
to say: "You see dese yer knots. Well, dey come fum my bein' a monsus
proud young nigger, an' squeezin' my feet in de tightes' boots to
drive my marster carriage 'bout Petersbu'g. I nuver was so happy as
when I was drivin' my coach an' four, and crackin' de postilion over
de head wid my whip."

These pleasant reminiscences were generally concluded with: "Ah! young
misses, _you'll_, nuver see sich times. No more postilions! No more
coach an' four! And niggers drives _now_ widout white gloves. Ah! no,
young misses, _you'll_ nuver see nothin'! _Nuver_ in _your_ time."

With these melancholy predictions would he shake his head, and sigh
that the days of glory had departed.

Each generation of blacks vied with the other in extolling the virtues
of their particular mistress and master and "_their times_"; but,
notwithstanding this mournful contrast between the past and present,
their reminiscences had a certain charm. Often by their cabin
firesides would we listen to the tales of the olden days about our
forefathers, of whom they could tell much, having belonged to our
family since the landing of the African fathers on the English slave
ships, from which their ancestors had been bought by ours. Among these
traditions none pleased us so much as that an unkind mistress or
master had never been known among our ancestors, which we have always
considered a cause for greater pride than the armorial bearings left
on their tombstones.

We often listened with pleasure to the recollections of an old blind
man--the former faithful attendant of our grandfather--whose mind was
filled with vivid pictures of the past. He repeated verbatim
conversations and speeches heard sixty years before--from Mr. Madison,
Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Clay, and other statesmen, his master's special

"Yes," he used to say, "I stay wid your grandpa ten years in Congress,
an' all de time he was secretary for President Jefferson. He nuver
give me a cross word, an' I nuver saw your grandma de leas' out of
temper nuther but once, an' dat was at a dinner party we give in
Washington, when de French Minister said something disrespectful 'bout
de United States."

Often did he tell us: "De greates' pleasure I 'spect in heaven is
seein' my old marster." And sometimes: "I dreams 'bout my marster an'
mistess when I'se asleep, an' talks wid 'em an' sees 'em so plain it
makes me so happy I laughs out right loud."

This man was true and honest,--a good Christian. Important trusts had
been confided to him. He frequently drove the carriage and horses to
Washington and Baltimore,--a journey of two weeks,--and was sometimes
sent to carry large sums of money to a distant county.

His wife, who had accompanied him in her youth to Washington, also
entertained us with gossip about the people of that day, and could
tell exactly the size and color of Mrs. Madison's slippers, how she
was dressed on certain occasions, "what beautiful manners she had,"
how Mr. Jefferson received master and mistress when "we" drove up to
Monticello, what room they occupied, etc.

Although my grandfather's death occurred thirty years before, the
negroes still remembered it with sorrow; and one of them, speaking of
it, said to me: "Ah, little mistess, 'twas a sorrowful day when de
news come from Washington dat our good, kind marster was dead. A
mighty wail went up from dis plantation, for we know'd we had los' our
bes' friend."

The only negro on the place who did not evince an interest in the
white family was a man ninety years old, who, forty years before,
announced his intention of not working any longer,--although still
strong and athletic,--because, he said, "the estate had done come down
so he hadn't no heart to work no longer." He remembered, he said,
"when thar was three an' four hund'ed black folks, but sence de
British debt had to be paid over by his old marster, an' de
Macklenbu'g estate had to be sold, he hadn't had no heart to do
nothin' sence." And "he hadn't seen no _real_ fine white folks--what
_he_ called real fine white folks--sence he come from Macklenbu'g."
All his interest in life having expired with an anterior generation,
we were in his eyes but a poor set, and he refused to have anything to
do with us. Not being compelled to work, he passed his life
principally in the woods, and wore a rabbit-skin cap and a leather
apron. Having lost interest in and connection with the white family,
he gradually relapsed into a state of barbarism, refusing toward the
end of his life to sleep in his bed, preferring a hard bench in his
cabin, upon which he died.

Another very old man remembered something of his father, who had come
from Africa; and when we asked him to tell us what he remembered of
his father's narrations, would say:

"My daddy tell we chillun how he mammy liv' in hole in de groun' in
Afiky, an' when a Englishmun come to buy him, she sell him fur a
string o' beads. An' 'twas monsus hard when he fus' come here to war
close; ev'y chance he git he pull off he close an' go naked, kase
folks don't war no close in he country. When daddy git mad wid we
chillun, mammy hide us, kase he kill us. Sometime he say he gwine sing
he country, an' den he dance an' jump an' howl tell he skeer we
chillun to deaf."

They spoke always of their forefathers as the "outlandish people."

On some plantations it was a custom to buy the wife when a negro
preferred to marry on another estate. And in this way we became
possessed of a famous termagant, who had married our grandfather's
gardener, quarreled him to death in one year, and survived to quarrel
forty years longer with the other negroes. She allowed no children
about her cabin--not even a cat or dog could live with her. She had
been offered her freedom, but refused to accept it. Several times she
had been given away--once to her son, a free man, and to others with
whom she fancied she might live--but, like the bad penny, was always
returned to us. She always returned in a cart, seated on top of her
wooden chest and surrounded by her goods and chattels. She was dressed
in a high hat with a long black plume standing straight up, gay
cloth spencer, and short petticoat,--the costume of a hundred years
ago. Although her return was a sore affliction to the plantation, my
sister and myself found much amusement in witnessing it. The cold
welcome she received seemed not to affect her spirits, but,
re-establishing herself in her cabin, she quickly resumed the
turbulent course of her career.

[Illustration: "SHE ALWAYS RETURNED IN A CART."--_Page 18._]

Finally one morning the news came that this woman, old Clara, was
dead. Two women went to sweep her cabin and perform the last sad
offices. They waited all day for the body to get cold. While sitting
over the fire in the evening, one of them, happening to glance at a
small mirror inserted in the wall near the bed, exclaimed: "Old
Clara's laughing!" They went nearer, and there was a horrible grin on
the face of the corpse! Old Clara sprang out of bed, exclaiming: "Git
me some meat and bread. I'm most perish'd!"

"Ole 'oman, what you mean by foolin' us so?" asked the nurses.

"I jes' want see what you all gwine do wid my _things_ when I _was_
dade!" replied the old woman, whose "things" consisted of all sorts
of old and curious spencers, hats, plumes, necklaces, caps, and
dresses, collected during her various wanderings, and worn by a
generation long past.

Among these old cabin legends we sometimes collected bits of romance,
and were often told how, by the coquetry of a certain Richmond belle,
we had lost a handsome fortune, which impressed me even then with the
fatal consequences of coquetry.

This belle engaged herself to our great-uncle, a handsome and
accomplished gentleman, who, to improve his health, went to Europe,
but before embarking made his will, leaving her his estate and
negroes. He died abroad, and the lady accepted his property, although
she was known to have been engaged to twelve others at the same time!
The story in Richmond ran that these twelve gentlemen--my grandfather
among them--had a wine party, and toward the close of the evening some
of them, becoming communicative, began taking each other out to tell a
secret, when it was discovered they all had the same secret--each was
engaged to Miss Betsy McC.... This lady's name is still seen on fly
leaves of old books in our library,--books used during her reign by
students at William and Mary College,--showing that the young
gentlemen, even at that venerable institution, sometimes allowed their
classic thoughts to wander.


As soon as my sister and myself had learned to read and cipher, we
were inspired with a desire to teach the negroes who were about the
house and kitchen; and my father promised to reward my sister with a
handsome guitar if she would teach two boys--designed for

Our regular system was every night to place chairs around the
dining-table, ring a bell, and open school, she presiding at one end
of the table and I at the other, each propped up on books to give us
the necessary height and dignity for teachers.

Our school proved successful. The boys learned arithmetic, and the
guitar was awarded. All who tried learned to read, and from that day
we have never ceased to teach all who desired to learn.

Thus my early life was passed amid scenes cheerful and agreeable, nor
did anyone seem to have any care except my mother. Her cares and
responsibilities were great, with one hundred people continually upon
her mind, who were constantly appealing to her in every strait, real
or imaginary. But it had pleased God to place her here, and nobly did
she perform the duties of her station. She often told us of her
distress on realizing for the first time the responsibilities
devolving upon the mistress of a large plantation, and the nights of
sorrow and tears these thoughts had given her.

On her arrival at the plantation after her marriage, the negroes
received her with lively demonstrations of joy, clapping their hands
and shouting: "Thank God, we got a mistess!" some of them throwing
themselves on the ground at her feet in their enthusiasm.

The plantation had been without a master or mistress for twelve years,
my father, the sole heir, having been away at school and college.
During this time the silver had been left in the house, and the
servants had kept and used it, but _nothing had been stolen_.

The books, too, had been undisturbed in the library, except a few
volumes of the poets, which had been carried to adorn some of the
cabin shelves.

It was known by the negroes that their old master's will set them free
and gave them a large body of land in the event of my father's death;
and some of his college friends suggested that he might be killed
while passing his vacations on his estate. But this only amused him,
for he knew too well in what affection he was held by his negroes, and
how each vied with the other in showing him attention, often spreading
a dinner for him at their cabins when he returned from hunting or

I think I have written enough to show the mutual affection existing
between the white and black races, and the abundant provision
generally made for the wants of those whom God had mysteriously placed
under our care.

The existence of extreme want and poverty had never entered my mind
until one day my mother showed us some pictures entitled "London Labor
and London Poor," when we asked her if she believed there were such
poor people in the world, and she replied: "Yes, children, there are
many in this world who have nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat."

Still we could not realize what she said, for we had never seen a
beggar. But from that time it began to dawn upon us that all the world
was not a plantation, with more than enough on it for people to eat.
And when we were old enough to read and to compare our surroundings
with what we learned about other countries, we found that our laboring
population was more bountifully supplied than that of any other land.
We read about "myriads of poor, starving creatures, with pinched faces
and tattered garments," in far-off cities and countries. We read of
hundreds who, from destitution and wretchedness, committed suicide. We
read these things, but could not fully sympathize with such want and
suffering; for it is necessary to witness these in order to feel the
fullest sympathy, and we had never seen anything of the kind on our
own or our neighbors' plantations.

Our negroes' religious instruction, I found, had not been more
neglected than among the lower classes in England, Ireland, France,
and elsewhere. Every church--there was one of some denomination near
every plantation--had special seats reserved for the negroes. The
minister always addressed a portion of his sermon particularly to
them, and held service for them exclusively on Sabbath afternoons.
Besides, they had their own ministers among themselves, and held night
prayer-meetings in their cabins whenever they chose.

Many prayers ascended from earnest hearts for their conversion, and I
knew no home at which some effort was not made for their religious

One of our friends--a Presbyterian minister and earnest
Christian--devoted the greater part of his time to teaching and
preaching to them, and many pious ministers throughout the State
bestowed upon them time and labor.

I once attended a gay party where the young lady of the house, the
center of attraction, hearing that one of the negroes was suddenly
very ill, excused herself from the company, carried her prayer-book to
the cabin, and passed the night by the bedside of the sick man,
reading and repeating verses to him. I have also had young lady
friends who declined attending a wedding or party when a favorite
servant was ill.

[Illustration: "READING AND REPEATING VERSES TO HIM."--_Page 26._]

On one occasion an English gentleman--a surgeon in the Royal
Artillery--visiting at our house, accompanied us to a wedding, and,
hearing that two young ladies had not attended on account of the
illness of a negro servant, said to me: "This would not have occurred
in England, and will scarcely be believed when I tell it on my

The same gentleman expressed astonishment at one of our neighbors
sitting up all night to nurse one of his negroes who was ill. He was
amused at the manner of our servants' identifying themselves with the
master and his possessions, always speaking of "our horses," "our
cows," "our crop," "our mill," "our blacksmith's shop," "our
carriage," "our black folks," etc. He told us that he also observed a
difference between our menials and those of his own country, in that,
while here they were individualized, there they were known by the
names of "Boots," "'Ostler," "Driver," "Footman," "Cook," "Waiter,"
"Scullion," etc. On our plantations the most insignificant stable-boy
felt himself of some importance.

When I heard Mr. Dickens read scenes from "Nicholas Nickleby," the
tone of voice in which he personated Smike sent a chill through me,
for I had never before heard the human voice express such hopeless
despair. Can there be in England, thought I, human beings afraid of
the sound of their own voices?

There was a class of men in our State who made a business of buying
negroes to sell again farther south. These we never met, and held in
horror. But even they, when we reflect, could not have treated them
with inhumanity; for what man would pay a thousand dollars for a piece
of property, and fail to take the best possible care of it? The
"traders" usually bought their negroes when an estate became involved,
for the owners could not be induced to part with their negroes until
the last extremity--when everything else had been seized by their
creditors. Houses, lands,--everything went first before giving up the
negroes; the owner preferring to impoverish himself in the effort to
keep and provide for these,--which was unwise financially, and would
not have been thought of by a mercenary people.

But it was hard to part with one's "own people," and to see them
scattered. Still our debts had to be paid,--often security debts after
the death of the owner, when all had to be sold. And who of us but can
remember the tears of anguish caused by this, and scenes of sorrow to
which we can never revert without the keenest grief? Yet, like all
events in this checkered human life, even these sometimes turned out
best for the negroes, when by this means they exchanged unpleasant for
agreeable homes. Still it appeared to me a great evil, and often did I
pray that God would make us a way of escape from it. But His ways are
past finding out, and why He had been pleased to order it thus we
shall never know.

Instances of harsh or cruel treatment were rare. I never heard of more
than two or three individuals who were "hard" or unkind to their
negroes, and these were ostracized from respectable society, their
very names bringing reproach and blight upon their descendants.

We knew of but one instance of cruelty on our plantation, and that was
when "Uncle Joe," the blacksmith, burned his nephew's face with a hot
iron. The man carries the scar to this day, and in speaking of it
always says: "Soon as my marster fin' out how Uncle Joe treated me, he
wouldn't let me work no mo' in his shop."


The extent of these estates precluding the possibility of near
neighbors, their isolation would have been intolerable but for the
custom of visiting which prevailed among us. Many houses were filled
with visitors the greater part of the year, and these usually remained
two or three weeks. Visiting tours were made in our private carriages,
each family making at least one such tour a year. Nor was it necessary
to announce these visits by message or letter, each house being
considered always ready, and "entertaining company" being the
occupation of the people. Sometimes two or three carriages might be
descried in the evening coming up to the door through the Lombardy
poplar avenue,--the usual approach to many old houses; whereupon
ensued a lively flutter among small servants, who, becoming generally
excited, speedily got them into their clean aprons, and ran to open
gates and to remove parcels from carriages. Lady visitors were always
accompanied by colored maids, although sure of finding a superfluity
of these at each establishment. The mistress of the house always
received her guests in the front porch, with a sincere and cordial

These visiting friends at my own home made an impression upon me that
no time can efface. I almost see them now, those dear, gentle faces,
my mother's early friends, and those delightful old ladies, in close
bordered tarlatan caps, who used to come to see my grandmother. These
last would sit round the fire, knitting and talking over their early
memories: how they remembered the red coats of the British; how they
had seen the Richmond theater burn down, with some of their family
burned in it; how they used to wear such beautiful turbans of _crêpe
lisse_ to the Cartersville balls, and how they used to dance the
minuet. At mention of this my grandmother would lay off her
spectacles, put aside her knitting, rise with dignity,--she was very
tall,--and show us the step of the minuet, gliding slowly and
majestically around the room. Then she would say: "Ah, children, you
will never see anything as graceful as the minuet. Such jumping
around as _you_ see would not have been regarded as dignified in _my_

MINUET."--_Page 32._]

My mother's friends belonged to a later generation, and were types of
women whom to have known I shall ever regard as a blessing and
privilege. They combined intelligence with exquisite refinement; and
their annual visits gave my mother the greatest happiness, which we
soon learned to share and appreciate.

As I look upon these ladies as models for our sex through all time, I
enumerate some of their charms:

Entire absence of pretense made them always attractive. Having no
"parlor" or "company" manners to assume, they preserved at all times a
gentle, natural, easy demeanor and conversation. They had not dipped
into the sciences, attempted by some of our sex at the present day;
but the study of Latin and French, with general reading in their
mother tongue, rendered them intelligent companions for cultivated
men. They also possessed the rare gift of reading well aloud, and
wrote letters unsurpassed in penmanship and style.

Italian and German professors being rare in that day, their musical
acquirements did not extend beyond the simplest piano accompaniments
to old English and Scotch airs, which they sang in a sweet, natural
voice, and which so enchanted the beaux of their time that the latter
never afterward became reconciled to any higher order of music.

These model women also managed their household affairs admirably, and
were uniformly kind to, but never familiar with, their servants. They
kept ever before them the Bible as their constant guide and rule in
life, and were surely, as nearly as possible, holy in thought, word,
and deed. I have looked in vain for such women in other lands, but
have failed to find them.

Then there were old gentlemen visitors, beaux of my grandmother's day,
still wearing queues, wide-ruffled bosoms, short breeches, and knee
buckles. These pronounced the _a_ very broad, sat a long time over
their wine at dinner, and carried in their pockets gold or silver
snuffboxes presented by some distinguished individual at some remote

[Illustration: "THERE WERE OLD GENTLEMEN VISITORS."--_Page 34._]

Our visiting acquaintance extended from Botetourt County to Richmond,
and among them were jolly old Virginia gentlemen and precise old
Virginia gentlemen; eccentric old Virginia gentlemen and prosy old
Virginia gentlemen; courtly old Virginia gentlemen and plain-mannered
old Virginia gentlemen; charming old Virginia gentlemen and
uninteresting old Virginia gentlemen. Many of them had graduated years
and years ago at William and Mary College.

Then we had another set, of a later day,--those who graduated in the
first graduating class at the University of Virginia when that
institution was first established. These happened--all that we
knew--to have belonged to the same class, and often amused us, without
intending it, by reverting to that fact in these words:

"_That_ was a remarkable class! Every man in that class made his mark
in law, letters, or politics! Let me see: There was Toombs. There was
Charles Mosby. There was Alexander Stuart. There was Burwell. There
was R. M. T. Hunter,"--and so on, calling each by name except himself,
knowing that the others never failed to do that!

Edgar Poe and Alexander Stephens of Georgia were also at the
university with these gentlemen.

Although presenting an infinite variety of mind, manner, and
temperament, all the gentlemen who visited us, young and old,
possessed in common certain characteristics, one of which was a
deference to ladies which made us feel that we had been put in the
world especially to be waited upon by them. Their standard for woman
was high. They seemed to regard her as some rare and costly statue set
in a niche to be admired and never taken down.

Another peculiarity they had in common was a habit--which seemed
irresistible--of tracing people back to the remotest generation, and
appearing inconsolable if ever they failed to find out the pedigree of
any given individual for at least four generations. This, however, was
an innocent pastime, from which they seemed to derive much pleasure
and satisfaction, and which should not be regarded, even in this
advanced age, as a serious fault.

Among our various visitors was a kinsman--of whom I often heard, but
whom I do not recollect--a bachelor of eighty years, always
accompanied by his negro servant as old as himself. Both had the same
name, Louis, pronounced like the French, and this aged pair had been
so long together they could not exist apart. Black Louis rarely left
his master's side, assisting in the conversation if his master became
perplexed or forgetful. When his master talked in the parlor, black
Louis always planted his chair in the middle of the doorsill, every
now and then correcting or reminding with: "Now, marster, dat warn't
Colonel Taylor's horse dat won dat race dat day. You and me was dar."
Or: "Now, marster, you done forgot all 'bout dat. Dat was in de year
1779, an' _dis_ is de way it happened," etc., much to the amusement of
the company assembled. All this was said, I am told, most
respectfully, although the old negro in a manner _possessed_ his
master, having entire charge and command of him.


The negroes often felt great pride in "_our_ white people," as they
called their owners, and loved to brag about what "_our_ white people"
did and what "_our_ white people" had.

On one occasion it became necessary for my sister and myself to ride a
short distance in a public conveyance. A small colored boy, who helped
in our dining room, had to get in the same stage. Two old gentlemen,
strangers to us, sitting opposite, supposing we had fallen asleep when
we closed our eyes to keep out the dust, commenced talking about us.
Said one to the other: "Now, those children will spoil their Sunday
bonnets." Whereupon our colored boy spoke up quickly: "Umph! _you_
think _dems my_ mistesses' Sunday bonnets? Umph! you _jes' ought_ to
see what dey got up dar on top de stage in dar bandbox!" At this we
both laughed, for the boy had never seen our "Sunday bonnets," nor did
he know that we possessed any.


English books never fail to make honorable mention of a "roast of
beef," "a leg of mutton," "a dish of potatoes," "a dish of tea," etc.,
while with us the abundance of such things gave them, we thought, not
enough importance to be particularized. Still my reminiscences extend
to these.

Every Virginia housewife knew how to compound all the various dishes
in Mrs. Randolph's cookery book, and our tables were filled with every
species of meat and vegetable to be found on a plantation, with every
kind of cakes, jellies, and blanc-mange to be concocted out of eggs,
butter, and cream, besides an endless catalogue of preserves,
sweetmeats, pickles, and condiments. So that in the matter of good
living, both as to abundance and the manner of serving, a Virginia
plantation could not be excelled.

The first specialty being good loaf bread, there was always a hot
loaf for breakfast, hot corn bread for dinner, and a hot loaf for
supper. Every house was famed for its loaf bread, and said a gentleman
once to me: "Although at each place it is superb, yet each loaf
differs from another loaf, preserving distinct characteristics which
would enable me to distinguish, instantly, should there be a
convention of loaves, the Oaklands loaf from the Greenfield loaf, and
the Avenel loaf from the Rustic Lodge loaf."

And apropos of this gentleman, who, it is needless to add, was a
celebrated connoisseur in this matter of loaf bread, it was a
noticeable fact with our cook that whenever he came to our house, the
bread in trying to do its best always did its worst!

Speaking of bread, another gentleman expressed his belief that at the
last great day it will be found that more housewives will be punished
on account of light-bread than anything else; for he knew some who
were never out of temper except when the light-bread failed!

Time would fail me to dwell, as I should, upon the incomparable rice
waffles, and beat biscuit, and muffins, and laplands, and
marguerites, and flannel cakes, and French rolls, and velvet rolls,
and lady's fingers constantly brought by relays of small servants,
during breakfast, hot and hotter from the kitchen. Then the
tea-waiters handed at night, with the beef tongue, the sliced ham, the
grated cheese, the cold turkey, the dried venison, the loaf bread
buttered hot, the batter-cakes, the crackers, the quince marmalade,
the wafers,--all pass in review before me.

The first time I ever heard of a manner of living different from this
was when it became important for my mother to make a visit to a
great-aunt in Baltimore, and she went for the first time out of her
native State; as neither she nor her mother had ever been out of
Virginia. My mother was accompanied by her maid, Kitty, on this
expedition, and when they returned both had many astounding things to
relate. My grandmother threw up her hands in amazement on hearing that
some of the first ladies in the city, who visited old aunt, confined
the conversation of a morning call to the subject of the faults of
their hired servants. "Is it possible?" exclaimed the old lady. "I
never considered it well bred to mention servants or their faults in

Indeed, in our part of the world, a mistress became offended if the
faults of her servants were alluded to, just as persons become
displeased when the faults of their children are discussed.

Maid Kitty's account of this visit I will give, as well as I can
remember, in her own words, as she described it to her fellow-servants:
"You nuver see sich a way fur people to live! Folks goes to bed
in Baltimore 'thout a single moufful in de house to eat. An' dey
can't get nothin' neither 'thout dey gits up soon in de mornin' an'
goes to market after it deyselves. Rain, hail, or shine, dey got to
go. 'Twouldn't suit _our_ white folks to live dat way! An' I wouldn't
live dar not for nothin' in dis worl'. In dat fine three-story
house dar aint but bar' two servants, an' dey has to do all de work.
'Twouldn't suit _me_, an' I wouldn't live dar not for nothin' in
dis whole creation. I would git _dat_ lonesome I couldn't stan'
it. Bar' two servants! an' dey calls deyselves rich, too! An' dey
cooks in de cellar. I know mistess couldn't stan' dat--smellin'
everyt'ing out de kitchen all over de house. Umph! _dem_ folks don't
know nothin' _'tall_ 'bout good livin', wid dar cold bread an' dar

Maid Kitty spoke truly when she said she had never seen two women do
all the housework. For at home often three women would clean up one
chamber. One made the bed, while another swept the floor, and a third
dusted and put the chairs straight. Labor was divided and subdivided;
and I remember one woman whose sole employment seemed to be throwing
open the blinds in the morning and rubbing the posts of my
grandmother's high bedstead. This rubbing business was carried quite
to excess. Every inch of mahogany was waxed and rubbed to the highest
state of polish, as were also the floors, the brass fenders, irons,
and candlesticks.

[Illustration: "THREE WOMEN WOULD CLEAN UP ONE CHAMBER."--_Page 43._]

When I reflect upon the degree of comfort arrived at in our homes, I
think we should have felt grateful to our ancestors; for, as Quincy
has written: "In whatever mode of existence man finds himself, be it
savage or civilized, he perceives that he is indebted for the greater
part of his possessions to events over which he had no control; to
individuals whose names, perhaps, never reached his ear; to sacrifices
which he never shared. How few of all these blessings do we owe to our
own power or prudence! How few on which we cannot discern the impress
of a long past generation!" So we were indebted for our agreeable
surroundings to the heroism and sacrifices of past generations, which
not to venerate and eulogize betrays the want of a truly noble soul.
For what courage, what patience, what perseverance, what long
suffering, what Christian forbearance, must it have cost our
great-grandmothers to civilize, Christianize, and elevate the naked,
savage Africans to the condition of good cooks and respectable maids!
They--our great-grandmothers--did not enjoy the blessed privilege even
of turning their servants off when inefficient or disagreeable, but
had to keep them through life. The only thing was to bear and forbear,

    Be to their virtues very kind,
    Be to their faults a little blind.

If in heaven there be one seat higher than another, it must be
reserved for those true Southern matrons, who performed
conscientiously their part assigned them by God--civilizing and
instructing this race.

I have searched missionary records of all ages, but find no results in
Africa or elsewhere at all comparing with the grand work accomplished
for the African race in our Southern homes.

Closing the last chapter of "Explorations in the Dark Continent," the
thought came to me that it would be well if our African friends in
America would set apart another anniversary to celebrate "the landing
of their fathers on the shores of America," when they were bought and
domiciled in American homes. This must have been God's own plan for
helping them, although a severe ordeal for our ancestors.

In God's own time and way the shackles have been removed from this
people, who are now sufficiently civilized to take an independent
position in the great family of man.

However we may differ in the opinion, there is no greater compliment
to Southern slave-owners than the idea prevailing in many places that
the negro is already sufficiently elevated to hold the highest
positions in the gift of our government.

I once met in traveling an English gentleman who asked me: "How can
you bear those miserable black negroes about your houses and about
your persons? To me they are horribly repulsive, and I would not
endure one about me."

"Neither would they have been my choice," I replied. "But God sent
them to us. I was born to this inheritance and could not avert it.
What would you English have done," I asked, "if God had sent them to

"Thrown them to the bottom of the sea!" he replied.

Fortunately for the poor negro this sentiment did not prevail among
us. I believe God endowed our people with qualities peculiarly adapted
to taking charge of this race, and that no other nation could have
kept them. Our people did not demand as much work as in other
countries is required of servants, and I think had more affection for
them than is elsewhere felt for menials.

In this connection I remember an incident during the war which
deserves to be recorded as showing the affection entertained for negro

When our soldiers were nearly starved, and only allowed daily a small
handful of parched corn, the colonel of a Virginia regiment[1] by
accident got some coffee, a small portion of which was daily
distributed to each soldier. In the regiment was a cousin of mine,--a
young man endowed with the noblest attributes God can give,--who,
although famishing and needing it, denied himself his portion every
day that he might bring it to his black mammy. He made a small bag in
which he deposited and carefully saved it.

    [1] Robert Logan, of Roanoke, Va.

When he arrived at home on furlough, his mother wept to see his
tattered clothes, his shoeless feet, and his starved appearance.

Soon producing the little bag of coffee, with a cheerful smile, he
said: "See what I've saved to bring black mammy!"

"Oh! my son," said his mother, "you have needed it yourself. Why did
you not use it?"

"Well," he replied, "it has been so long since you all had any coffee,
and I made out very well on water, when I thought how black mammy
missed her coffee, and how glad she would be to get it."


The antiquity of the furniture in our homes can scarcely be described,
every article appearing to have been purchased during the reign of
George III., since which period no new fixtures or household utensils
seemed to have been bought.

The books in our libraries had been brought from England almost two
hundred years before. In our own library there were Hogarth's
pictures, in old worm-eaten frames; and among the literary
curiosities, one of the earliest editions of Shakespeare (1685)
containing under the author's picture the lines by Ben Jonson:

    "This Figure, that thou here seest put,
    It was for gentle Shakespeare cut;
    Wherein the Graver had a strife
    With Nature to outdo the Life:
    O, could he but have drawn his Wit
    As well in Brass, as he has hit
    His Face; the Print would then surpass
    All that was ever writ in Brass.
    But since he cannot, Reader, look
    Not on his Picture, but his Book."

This was a reprint of the first edition of Shakespeare's works,
collected by John Heminge and Henry Condell, two of his friends in the
company of comedians.

When a small child, the perusal of the "Arabian Nights" possessed me
with the idea that their dazzling pictures were to be realized when we
emerged from plantation life into the outside world, and the
disappointment at not finding Richmond paved with gems and gold like
those cities in Eastern story is remembered to the present time.

Brought up amid antiquities, the Virginia girl disturbed herself not
about modern fashions, appearing happy in her mother's old silks and
satins made over. She rejoiced in her grandmother's laces and in her
brooch of untold dimensions, with a weeping willow and tombstone on
it,--a constant reminder of the past,--which had descended from some
remote ancestor.

She slept in a high bedstead--the bed of her ancestors; washed her
face on an old-fashioned, spindle-legged washstand; mounted a high
chair to arrange her hair before the old-fashioned mirror on the high
bureau; climbed to the top of a high mantelpiece to take down the
old-fashioned high candlesticks; climbed a pair of steps to get into
the high-swung, old-fashioned carriage; perched her feet upon the top
of a high brass fender if she wanted to get them warm; and, in short,
had to perform so many gymnastics that she felt convinced her
ancestors must have been a race of giants, or they could not have
required such tall and inaccessible furniture.

An occasional visit to Richmond or Petersburg sometimes animated her
with a desire for some style of dress less antique than her own,
although she had as much admiration and attention as if she had just
received her wardrobe from Paris.

Her social outlook might have been regarded as limited and
circumscribed, her parents being unwilling that her acquaintance
should extend beyond the descendants of their own old friends.

She had never any occasion to make what the world calls her "_début_,"
the constant flow of company at her father's house having rendered her
assistance necessary in entertaining guests as soon as she could
converse and be companionable, so that her manners were early formed,
and she remembered not the time when it was anything but very easy and
agreeable to be in the society of ladies and gentlemen.

In due time we were provided--my sister and myself--with the best
instructors--a lady all the way from Bordeaux to teach French, and a
German professor for German and music. The latter opened to us a new
world of music. He was a fine linguist, a thorough musician, and a
gentleman. He lived with us for five years, and remained our sincere
and truly valued friend through life.

After some years we were thought to have arrived at "sufficient age of
discretion" for a trip to New York City.

Fancy our feelings on arriving in that world of modern people and
modern things! Fancy two young girls suddenly transported from the
time of George III. to the largest hotel on Broadway in 1855!

All was as strange to us then as we are now to the Chinese. Never had
we seen white servants before, and on being attended by them at first
we felt a sort of embarrassment, but soon found they were accustomed
to less consideration and more hard work than were our negro servants
at home.

Everything and everybody seemed in a mad whirl--the "march of material
progress," they told us. It seemed to us more the "perpetual motion of
progress." Everybody said that if old-fogy Virginia did not make haste
to join this march, she would be left "a wreck behind."

We found ourselves in the "advanced age": in the land of water-pipes
and dumb-waiters; the land of enterprise and money, and, at the same
time, of an economy amounting to parsimony.

The manners of the people were strange to us, and different from ours.
The ladies seemed to have gone ahead of the men in the "march of
progress," their manner being more pronounced. They did not hesitate
to push about through crowds and public places.

Still we were young; and, dazzled with the gloss and glitter, we
wondered why old Virginia couldn't join this march of progress, and
have dumb-waiters, and elevators, and water-pipes, and gas-fixtures,
and baby-jumpers, and washing-machines.

We asked a gentleman who was with us why old Virginia had not all
these, and he replied: "Because, while the people here have been busy
working for themselves, old-fogy Virginia has been working for
negroes. All the money Virginia makes is spent in feeding and clothing
negroes. And," he continued, "these people in the North were shrewd
enough years ago to sell all theirs to the South."

All was strange to us,--even the tablecloths on the tea and breakfast
tables, instead of napkins under the plates, such as we had at home,
and which always looked so pretty on the mahogany.

But the novelty having worn off after a while, we found out there was
a good deal of imitation, after all, mixed up in everything. Things
did not seem to have been "fixed up" to last as long as our old things
at home, and we began to wonder if the "advanced age" really made the
people any better, or more agreeable, or more hospitable, or more
generous, or more brave, or more self-reliant, or more charitable, or
more true, or more pious, than in "old-fogy Virginia."

There was one thing most curious to us in New York. No one seemed to
do anything by himself or herself. No one had an individuality; all
existed in "clubs" or "societies." They had many "isms" also, of which
we had never heard, some of the people sitting up all night and going
around all day talking about "manifestations," and "spirits," and
"affinities," which they told us was "spiritualism."

All this impressed us slow, old-fashioned Virginians as a strangely
upside-down, wrong-side-out condition of things.

Much of the conversation we heard was confined to asking questions of
strangers, and discussing the best means of making money.

We were surprised, too, to hear of "plantation customs," said to exist
among us, which were entirely new to us; and one of the magazines
published in the city informed us that "dipping" was one of the
characteristics of Southern women. What could the word "dipping" mean?
we wondered, for we had never heard it before. Upon inquiry we found
that it meant "rubbing the teeth with snuff on a small stick"--a truly
disgusting habit which could not have prevailed in Virginia, or we
would have had some tradition of it at least, our acquaintance
extending over the State, and our ancestors having settled there two
hundred years ago.

A young gentleman from Virginia, bright and overflowing with
fun,--also visiting New York,--coming into the parlor one day, threw
himself on a sofa in a violent fit of laughter.

"What is the matter?" we asked.

"I am laughing," he replied, "at the absurd questions these people can
ask. What do you think? A man asked me just now if we didn't keep
bloodhounds in Virginia to chase negroes! I told him: Oh, yes, every
plantation keeps several dozen! And we often have a tender boiled
negro infant for breakfast!"

"Oh, how could you have told such a story?" we said.

"Well," said he, "you know we never saw a bloodhound in Virginia, and
I do not expect there is one in the State; but these people delight
in believing everything horrible about us, and I thought I might as
well gratify them with something marvelous. So the next book published
up here will have, I've no doubt, a chapter headed: 'Bloodhounds in
Virginia and boiled negroes for breakfast!'"

While we were purchasing some trifles to bring home to some of our
servants, a lady who had entertained us most kindly at her house on
Fifth Avenue, expressing surprise, said: "_We_ never think of bringing
home presents to our help."

This was the first time we had ever heard, instead of "servant," the
word "help," which seemed then, and still seems, misapplied. The
dictionaries define "help" to mean aid, assistance, remedy, while
"servant" means one who attends another and acts at his command. When
a man pays another to "help" him, it implies he is to do part of the
work himself, and is dishonest if he leaves the whole to be performed
by his "help."

Among other discoveries during this visit we found how much more
talent it requires to entertain company in the country than in the
city. In the latter the guests and family form no "social circle round
the blazing hearth" at night, but disperse far and wide, to be
entertained at the concert, the opera, the theatre, or club; while in
the country one depends entirely upon native intellect and
conversational talent.

And, oh! the memory of our own fireside circles! The exquisite women,
the men of giant intellect, eloquence, and wit, at sundry times
assembled there! Could our andirons but utter speech, what would they
not tell of mirth and song, eloquence and wit, whose flow made many an
evening bright!

As all delights must have an end, the time came for us to leave these
metropolitan scenes, and, bidding adieu forever to the land of "modern
appliances" and stale bread, we returned to the land of "old ham and
corn cakes," and were soon surrounded by friends who came to hear the
marvels we had to relate.

How monotonous, how dull, prosy, inconvenient, everything seemed after
our plunge into modern life!

We told old Virginia about all the enterprise we had seen, and how
she was left far behind everybody and everything, urging her to join
at once the "march of material progress."

But the Mother of States persisted in sitting contentedly over her
old-fashioned wood fire with brass andirons, and, while thus musing,
these words fell slowly and distinctly from her lips:

"They call me 'old fogy,' and tell me I must get out of my old ruts
and come into the 'advanced age.' But I don't care about their
'advanced age,' their water-pipes and elevators. Give me the right
sort of men and women--God-loving, God-serving men and women. Men
brave, courteous, true; women sensible, gentle, and retiring.

"Have not my plantation homes furnished warriors, statesmen, and
orators, acknowledged great by the world? I make it a rule to 'keep on
hand' men equal to emergencies. Had I not Washington, Patrick Henry,
Light-Horse Harry Lee, and others, ready for the first Revolution? and
if there comes another,--which God forbid!--have I not plenty more
just like them?"

Here she laughed with delight as she called over their names: "Robert
Lee, Jackson, Joe Johnstone, Stuart, Early, Floyd, Preston, the
Breckinridges, Scott, and others like them, brave and true as steel.
Ha! ha! I know of what stuff to make men! And if my old 'ruts and
grooves' produce men like these, should they be abandoned? Can any
'advanced age' produce better?

"Then there are my soldiers of the Cross. Do I not yearly send out a
faithful band to be a 'shining light,' and spread the Gospel North,
South, East, West, even into foreign lands? Is not the only Christian
paper in Athens, Greece, the result of the love and labor of one of my

    [2] Rev. G. W. Leyburn.

"And can I not send out men of science, as well as warriors,
statesmen, and orators? There is Maury on the seas, showing the world
what a man of science can do. If my 'old-fogy' system has produced men
like these, must it be abandoned?"

Here the old Mother of States settled herself back in her chair, a
smile of satisfaction resting on her face, and she ceased to think of

Telling our mother of all the wonders and pleasures of New York, she

"You were so delighted I judge that you would like to sell out
everything here and move there!"

"It would be delightful!" we exclaimed.

"But you would miss many pleasures you have in our present home."

"We would have no time to miss anything," said my sister, "in that
whirl of excitement! But," she continued, "I believe one might as well
try to move the Rocky Mountains to Fifth Avenue as an old Virginian!
They have such a horror of selling out and moving."

"It is not so easy to sell out and move," replied our mother, "when
you remember all the negroes we have to take care of and support."

"Yes, the negroes," we said, "are the weight continually pulling us
down! Will the time _ever_ come for us to be free of them?"

"They were placed here," replied our mother, "by God, for us to take
care of, and it does not seem that we can change it. When we
emancipate them, it does not better their condition. Those left free
and with good farms given them by their masters soon sink into poverty
and wretchedness, and become a nuisance to the community. We see how
miserable are Mr. Randolph's[3] negroes, who with their freedom
received from their master a large section of the best land in Prince
Edward County. My own grandfather also emancipated a large number,
having first had them taught lucrative trades that they might support
themselves, and giving them money and land. But they were not
prosperous or happy. We have also tried sending them to Liberia. You
know my old friend Mrs. L. emancipated all hers and sent them to
Liberia; but she told me the other day that she was convinced it had
been no kindness to them, for she continually receives letters begging
assistance, and yearly supplies them with clothes and money."

    [3] John Randolph of Roanoke.

So it seemed our way was surrounded by walls of circumstances too
thick and solid to be pulled down, and we said no more.

Some weeks after this conversation we had a visit from a friend--Dr.
Bagby--who, having lived in New York, and hearing us express a wish to
live there, said:

"What! exchange a home in old Virginia for one on Fifth Avenue? You
don't know what you are talking about! It is not even called 'home'
there, but '_house_,' where they turn into bed at midnight, eat
stale-bread breakfasts, have brilliant parties--where several hundred
people meet who don't care anything about each other. They have no
soul life, but shut themselves up in themselves, live for themselves,
and never have any social enjoyment like ours."

"But," we said, "could not our friends come to see us there as well as
anywhere else?"

"No, indeed!" he answered. "Your hearts would soon be as cold and dead
as a marble door-front. You wouldn't want to see anybody, and nobody
would want to see you."

"You are complimentary, certainly!"

"I know all about it; and"--he continued--"I know you could not find
on Fifth Avenue such women as your mother and grandmother, who never
think of themselves, but are constantly planning and providing for
others, making their homes comfortable and pleasant, and attending to
the wants and welfare of so many negroes. And that is what the women
all over the South are doing, and what the New York women cannot
comprehend. How can anybody know, except ourselves, the personal
sacrifices of our women?"

"Well," said my sister, "you need not be so severe and eloquent
because we thought we should like to live in New York! If we should
sell all we possess, we could never afford to live there. Besides, you
know our mother would as soon think of selling her children as her

"But," he replied, "I can't help talking, for I hear our people
abused, and called indolent and self-indulgent, when I know they have
valor and endurance enough. And I believe so much 'material progress'
leaves no leisure for the highest development of heart and mind. Where
the whole energy of a people is applied to making money, the souls of
men become dwarfed."

"We do not feel," we said, "like abusing Northern people, in whose
thrift and enterprise we found much to admire; and especially the
self-reliance of their women, enabling them to take care of themselves
and to travel from Maine to the Gulf without escort, while we find it
impossible to travel a day's journey without a special protector."

"That is just what I don't like," said he, "to see a woman in a crowd
of strangers and needing no 'special protector.'"

"This dependence upon your sex," we replied, "keeps you so vain."

"We should lose our gallantry altogether," said he, "if we found you
could get along without us."


After some months--ceasing to think and speak of New York--our lives
glided back into the old channel, where the placid stream of life had
many isles of simple pleasures.

In those days we were not whirled over the iron track in a crowded
car, with dirty, shrieking children and repulsive-looking people. We
were not jammed against rough people, eating ill-smelling things out
of ill-looking baskets and satchels, and throwing the remains of pies
and sausages over the cushioned seats.

Oh, no! our journeys were performed in venerable carriages, and our
lunch was enjoyed by some cool, shady spring where we stopped in a
shady forest at mid-day.

[Illustration: "LUNCH BY SOME COOL, SHADY SPRING."--_Page 66._]

Our own ancient carriage my sister styled "the old ship of Zion,"
saying it had carried many thousands, and was likely to carry many
more. And our driver we called the "Ancient Mariner." He presided on
his seat--a lofty perch--in a very high hat and with great dignity.
Having been driving the same carriage for nearly forty years--no
driver being thought safe who had not been on the carriage box at
least twenty years,--he regarded himself as an oracle, and, in
consequence of his years and experience, kept us in much awe,--my
sister and myself never daring to ask him to quicken or retard his
pace or change the direction of his course, however much we desired
it. We will ever remember this thraldom, and how we often wished one
of the younger negroes could be allowed to take his place; but my
grandmother said "it would wound his feelings, and, besides, be very
unsafe" for us.

At every steep hill or bad place in the road it was an established
custom to stop the carriage, unfold the high steps, and "let us
out,"--as in pictures of the animals coming down out of the ark! This
custom had always prevailed in my mother's family, and there was a
tradition that my great-grandfather's horses, being habituated to stop
for this purpose, refused to pull up certain hills, even when the
carriage was empty, until the driver had dismounted and slammed the
door, after which they moved off without further hesitation.

This custom of walking at intervals made a pleasant variety, and gave
us an opportunity to enjoy fully the beautiful and picturesque scenery
through which we were passing.

Those were the days of leisure and pleasure for travelers; and when we
remember the charming summer jaunts annually made in this way, we
almost regret the steam horse, which takes us now to the same places
in a few hours.

We had two dear friends, Mary and Alice, who with their old carriages
and drivers--the facsimiles of our own--frequently accompanied us in
these expeditions; and no generals ever exercised more entire command
over their armies than did these three black coachmen over us. I smile
now to think of their ever being called our "slaves."

Yet, although they had this domineering spirit, they felt at the same
time a certain pride in us, too.

On one occasion, when we were traveling together, our friend Alice
concluded to dismount from her carriage and ride a few miles with a
gentleman of the party in a buggy. She had not gone far before the
alarm was given that the buggy horse was running away, whereupon our
black generalissimos instantly stopped the three carriages and
anxiously watched the result. Old Uncle Edmund, Alice's coachman,
stood up in his seat highly excited, and when his young mistress, with
admirable presence of mind, seized the reins and stopped the horse,
turning him into a by-road, he shouted at the top of his voice: "Dar,
now! I always knowed Miss Alice was a young 'oman of de mos' amiable
courage!"--and over this feat he continued to chuckle for the rest of
the day.

The end of these pleasant journeys always brought us to some old
plantation home, where we met a warm welcome not only from the white
family, but from the servants who constituted part of the

One of the most charming places to which we made a yearly visit was
Oaklands, a lovely spot embowered in vines and shade-trees.

The attractions of this home and family brought so many visitors
every summer, it was necessary to erect cottages about the grounds,
although the house itself was quite large. And as the yard was usually
filled with persons strolling about, or reading, or playing chess
under the trees, it had every appearance, on first approach, of a
small watering-place. The mistress of this establishment was a woman
of rare attraction, possessing all the gentleness of her sex, with
attributes of greatness enough for a hero. Tall and handsome, she
looked a queen as she stood on the portico receiving her guests, and,
by the first words of greeting, from her warm, true heart, charmed
even strangers.

Without the least "variableness or shadow of turning," her excellences
were a perfect continuity, and her deeds of charity a blessing to all
in need within her reach. No undertaking seemed too great for her, and
no details--affecting the comfort of her home, family, friends, or
servants--too small for her supervision.

The church, a few miles distant, the object of her care and love,
received at her hands constant and valuable aid, and its minister
generally formed one of her family circle.

No wonder, then, that the home of such a woman should have been a
favorite resort for all who had the privilege of knowing her. And no
wonder that all who enjoyed her charming hospitality were spellbound,
and loath to leave the spot where it was extended.

In addition to the qualities I have attempted to describe, this lady
inherited from her father, General Breckinridge, an executive talent
which enabled her to order and arrange her domestic affairs perfectly;
so that from the delicious viands upon her table to the highly
polished oak of the floors, all gave evidence of her superior
management and the admirable training of her servants.

Nor were the hospitalities of this establishment dispensed to the gay
and great alone: they were shared alike by the homeless and the
friendless, and many a weary heart found sympathy and shelter there.

Oaklands was famous for many things: its fine light-bread, its
cinnamon cakes, its beat biscuit, its fricasseed chicken, its butter
and cream, its wine-sauces, its plum-puddings, its fine horses, its
beautiful meadows, its sloping green hills, and last, but not least,
its refined and agreeable society collected from every part of our own
State, and often from others.

For an epicure no better place could have been desired. And this
reminds me of a retired army officer, a _gourmet_ of the first water,
whom we often met there. His sole occupation was visiting his friends,
and his only subjects of conversation were the best viands and the
best manner of cooking them! When asked whether he remembered certain
people at a certain place, he would reply: "Yes, I dined there ten
years ago, and the turkey was very badly cooked--not quite done
enough!" the turkey evidently having made a more lasting impression
than the people.

This gentleman lost an eye at the battle of Chapultepec, having been
among the first of our gallant men who scaled the walls. But a young
girl of his acquaintance always said she knew it was not bravery so
much as "curiosity, which led him to go peeping over the walls, first
man!" This was a heartless speech, but everybody repeated it and
laughed, for the colonel _was_ a man of considerable "curiosity."

Like all old homes, Oaklands had its bright as well as its sorrowful
days, its weddings and its funerals. Many yet remember the gay wedding
of one there whose charms brought suitors by the score and won hearts
by the dozen. The brilliant career of this young lady, her conquests
and wonderful fascinations, behold! are they not all written upon the
hearts and memories of divers rejected suitors who still survive?

And, apropos of weddings, an old-fashioned Virginia wedding was an
event to be remembered. The preparations usually commenced some time
before, with saving eggs, butter, chickens, etc.; after which ensued
the liveliest egg-beating, butter-creaming, raisin-stoning,
sugar-pounding, cake-icing, salad-chopping, cocoanut-grating,
lemon-squeezing, egg-frothing, wafer-making, pastry-baking,
jelly-straining, paper-cutting, silver-cleaning, floor-rubbing,
dress-making, hair-curling, lace-washing, ruffle-crimping,
tarlatan-smoothing, trunk-moving,--guests arriving, servants running,
girls laughing!

Imagine all this going on simultaneously for several successive days
and nights, and you have an idea of "preparations" for an
old-fashioned Virginia wedding.

The guests generally arrived in private carriages a day or two before,
and stayed often for a week after the affair, being accompanied by
quite an army of negro servants, who enjoyed the festivities as much
as their masters and mistresses.

A great many years ago, after such a wedding as I describe, a dark
shadow fell upon Oaklands.

The eldest daughter, young and beautiful, soon to marry a gentleman[4]
of high character, charming manners, and large estate, one night,
while the preparations were in progress for her nuptials, saw in a
vision vivid pictures of what would befall her if she married. The
vision showed her: a gay wedding, herself the bride; the marriage
jaunt to her husband's home in a distant county; the incidents of the
journey; her arrival at her new home; her sickness and death; the
funeral procession back to Oaklands; the open grave; the bearers of
her bier--those who a few weeks before had danced at the wedding;
herself a corpse in her bridal dress; her newly turfed grave with a
bird singing in the tree above.

    [4] Colonel Tom Preston.

This vision produced such an impression that she awakened her sister
and told her of it.

For three successive nights the vision appeared, which so affected her
spirits that she determined not to marry. But after some months,
persuaded by her family to think no more of the dream which
continually haunted her, she allowed the marriage to take place.

All was a realization of the vision: the wedding, the journey to her
new home,--every incident, however small, had been presented before
her in the dream.

As the bridal party approached the house of an old lady near Abingdon,
who had made preparations for their entertainment, servants were
hurrying to and fro in great excitement, and one was galloping off for
a doctor, as the old lady had been suddenly seized with a violent
illness. Even this was another picture in the ill-omened vision of
the bride, who every day found something occurring to remind her of
it, until in six months her own death made the last sad scene of her
dream. And the funeral procession back to Oaklands, the persons
officiating, the grave,--all proved a realization of her vision.

After this her husband, a man of true Christian character, sought in
foreign lands to disperse the gloom overshadowing his life. But
whether on the summit of Mount Blanc or the lava-crusted Vesuvius;
among the classic hills of Rome or the palaces of France; in the
art-galleries of Italy or the regions of the Holy Land,--he carries
ever in his heart the image of his fair bride and the quiet grave at


Another charming residence, not far from Oaklands,[5] which attracted
visitors from various quarters, was Buena Vista, where we passed many
happy hours of childhood.

    [5] General Watts's place, Roanoke.

This residence--large and handsome--was situated on an eminence
overlooking pastures and sunny slopes, with forests and mountain views
in the distance.

The interior of the house accorded with the outside, every article
being elegant and substantial.

The owner,[6] a gentleman of polished manners, kind and generous
disposition, a sincere Christian and zealous churchman, was honored
and beloved by all who knew him.

    [6] George P. Tayloe, Esq.

His daughters, a band of lovely young girls, presided over his house,
dispensing its hospitality with grace and dignity. Their mother's
death, which occurred when they were very young, had given them
household cares which would have been considerable but for the
assistance of Uncle Billy, the butler,--an all-important character
presiding with imposing dignity over domestic affairs.

His jet-black face was relieved by a head of gray hair with a small,
round, bald centerpiece; and the expression of his face was calm and
serene as he presided over the pantry, the table, and the tea-waiters.

His mission on earth seemed to be keeping the brightest silver urns,
sugar-dishes, cream-jugs, and spoons; flavoring the best ice-creams;
buttering the hottest rolls, muffins, and waffles; chopping the best
salads; folding the whitest napkins; handing the best tea and cakes in
the parlor in the evenings; and cooling the best wine for dinner.
Indeed, he was so essentially a part of the establishment that in
recalling those old days at Buena Vista the form of Uncle Billy comes
silently back from the past and takes its old place about the parlors,
the halls, and the dining-room, making the picture complete.


And thus upon the canvas of every old home picture come to their
accustomed places the forms of dusky friends, who once shared our
homes, our firesides, our affections,--and who will share them, as in
the past, never more.

Of all the plantation homes we loved and visited, the brightest,
sweetest memories cluster around Grove Hill,[7] a grand old place in
the midst of scenery lovely and picturesque, to reach which we made a
journey across the Blue Ridge--those giant mountains from whose
winding roads and lofty heights we had glimpses of exquisite scenery
in the valleys below.

    [7] The old seat of the Breckinridges, Botetourt County.

Thus winding slowly around these mountain heights and peeping down
from our old carriage windows, we beheld nature in its wildest
luxuriance. The deep solitude; the glowing sunlight over rock, forest,
and glen; the green valleys deep down beneath, diversified by
alternate light and shadow,--all together photographed on our hearts
pictures never to fade.

Not all the towers, minarets, obelisks, palaces, gem-studded domes of
"art and man's device," can reach the soul like one of these
sun-tinted pictures in their convex frames of rock and vines!

Arrived at Grove Hill, how enthusiastic the welcome from each member
of the family assembled in the front porch to meet us! How joyous the
laugh! How deliciously cool the wide halls, the spacious parlor, the
dark polished walnut floors! How bright the flowers! How gay the
spirits of all assembled!

One was sure of meeting here pleasant people from Virginia, Baltimore,
Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky, with whom the house was filled
from May till November.

How delightfully passed the days, the weeks! What merry excursions,
fishing-parties, riding-parties to the Indian Spring, the Cave, the
Natural Bridge! What pleasant music, and tableaux, and dancing, in the

For the tableaux we had only to open an old chest in the garret and
help ourselves to rich embroidered white and scarlet dresses, with
other costumes worn by the grandmother of the family nearly a hundred
years before, when her husband was in public life and she one of the
queens of society.

What sprightly _conversazioni_ in our rooms at night!--young girls
_will_ become confidential and eloquent with each other at night,
however reserved and quiet during the day.

Late in the night these talks continued, with puns and laughter, until
checked by a certain young gentleman, now a minister, who was wont to
bring out his flute in the flower-garden under our windows, and give
himself up for an hour or more to the most sentimental and touching
strains, thus breaking in upon sprightly remarks and repartees, some
of which are remembered to this day. A characteristic conversation ran

"Girls!" said one, "would it not be charming if we could all take a
trip together to Niagara?"

"Well, why could we not?" was the response.

"Oh!" replied another, "the idea of us poor Virginia girls taking a

"Indeed," said one of the Grove Hill girls, "it would be impossible.
For here are we on this immense estate,--four thousand acres, two
large, handsome residences, and three hundred negroes,--regarded as
wealthy, and yet, to save our lives, we could not raise money enough
for a trip to New York!"

"Nor get a silk-velvet cloak!" said her sister, laughing.

"Yes," replied the other. "Girls! I have been longing and longing for
a silk-velvet cloak, but never could get the money to buy one. But
last Sunday, at the village church, what should I see but one of the
Joneses sweeping in with a long velvet cloak almost touching the
floor! And you could set her father's house in our back hall! But,
then, she is so fortunate as to own no negroes."

"What a happy girl she must be!" cried a chorus of voices. "No negroes
to support! We could go to New York and Niagara, and have velvet
cloaks, too, if we only had no negroes to support! But all _our_ money
goes to provide for them as soon as the crops are sold!"

"Yes," said one of the Grove Hill girls; "here is our large house
without an article of modern furniture. The parlor curtains are one
hundred years old, the old-fashioned mirrors and recess tables one
hundred years old, and we long in vain for money to buy something

"Well!" said one of the sprightliest girls, "we can get up some of our
old diamond rings or breastpins which some of us have inherited, and
travel on appearances! We have no modern clothes, but the old rings
will make us look rich! And a party of _poor, rich Virginians_ will
attract the commiseration and consideration of the world when it is
known that for generations we have not been able to leave our

After these conversations we would fall asleep, and sleep profoundly,
until aroused next morning by an army of servants polishing the hall
floors, waxing and rubbing them with a long-handled brush weighted by
an oven lid. This made the floor like a "sea of glass," and dangerous
to walk upon immediately after the polishing process, being especially
disastrous to small children, who were continually slipping and
falling before breakfast.

The lady[8] presiding over this establishment possessed a cultivated
mind, bright conversational powers, and gentle temper, with a force of
character which enabled her judiciously to direct the affairs of her
household, as well as the training and education of her children.

    [8] Mrs. Cary Breckinridge.

She always employed an accomplished tutor, who added to the
attractiveness of her home circle.

She helped the boys with their Latin, and the girls with their
compositions. In her quiet way she governed, controlled, suggested
everything; so that her presence was required everywhere at once.

While in the parlor entertaining her guests with bright, agreeable
conversation, she was sure to be wanted by the cooks (there were six!)
to "taste or flavor" something in the kitchen; or by the gardener, to
direct the planting of certain seeds or roots,--and so with every
department. Even the minister--there was always one living in her
house--would call her out to consult over his text and sermon for the
next Sunday, saying he could rely upon her judgment and

Never thinking of herself, her heart overflowing with sympathy and
interest for others, she entered into the pleasures of the young as
well as the sorrows of the old.

If the boys came in from a fox or deer chase, their pleasure was
incomplete until it had been described to her and enjoyed with her

The flower-vases were never entirely beautiful until her hand had
helped to arrange the flowers.

The girls' laces were never perfect until she had gathered and crimped

Her sons were never so happy as when holding her hand and caressing
her. And the summer twilight found her always in the vine-covered
porch, seated by her husband,--a dear, kind old gentleman,--her hand
resting in his, while he quietly and happily smoked his pipe after the
day's riding over his plantation, interviewing overseers, millers, and
blacksmiths, and settling up accounts.

One more reminiscence, and the Grove Hill picture will be done. No
Virginia home being complete without some prominent negro character,
the picture lacking this would be untrue to nature, and without the
finishing touch. And not to have "stepped in" to pay our respects to
old Aunt Betsy during a visit to Grove Hill would have been looked
upon--as it should be to omit it here--a great breach of civility; for
the old woman always received us at her door with a cordial welcome
and a hearty shake of the hand.

"Lor' bless de child'en!" she would say. "How dey does grow! Done
grown up young ladies! Set down, honey. I mighty glad to see you. An'
why didn't your ma[9] come? I would love to see Miss Fanny. She always
was so good an' so pretty. Seems to me it aint been no time sence she
and Miss Emma"--her own mistress--"use' to play dolls togedder, an' I
use' to bake sweet cakes for dem, an' cut dem out wid de pepper-box
top for dar doll parties; an' dey loved each other like sisters."

    [9] "Miss Fanny."

[Illustration: "HOW DEY DOES GROW!"--_Page 86._]

"Well, Aunt Betsy," we would ask, "how is your rheumatism now?"

"Lor', honey, I nuver spec's to git over dat. But some days I can
hobble out an' feed de chickens; an' I can set at my window an' make
the black child'en feed 'em, an' I love to think I'm some 'count to
Miss Emma. An' Miss Emma's child'en can't do 'thout old 'Mammy
Betsy,' for I takes care of all dar pet chickens. Me an' my ole man
gittin' mighty ole now; but Miss Emma an' all her child'en so good to
us we has pleasure in livin' yet."

At last the shadows began to fall dark and chill upon this once bright
and happy home.

Old Aunt Betsy lived to see the four boys--her mistress's brave and
noble sons--buckle their armor on and go forth to battle for the home
they loved so well,--the youngest still so young that he loved his pet
chickens, which were left to "Mammy Betsy's" special care; and when
the sad news at length came that this favorite young master was
killed, amid all the agony of grief no heart felt the great sorrow
more sincerely than hers.

Another and still another of these noble youths fell after deeds of
heroic valor, their graves the battlefield, a place of burial fit for
men so brave. Only one--the youngest--was brought home to find a
resting-place beside the graves of his ancestors.

The old man, their father, his mind shattered by grief, continued day
after day, for several years, to sit in the vine-covered porch, gazing
wistfully out, imagining sometimes that he saw in the distance the
manly forms of his sons, returning home, mounted on their favorite
horses, in the gray uniforms worn the day they went off.

Then he, too, followed, where the "din of war, the clash of arms," is
heard no more.

To recall these scenes so blinds my eyes with tears that I cannot
write of them. Some griefs leave the heart dumb. They have no language
and are given no language, because no other heart could understand,
nor could they be alleviated if shared.


It will have been observed from these reminiscences that the mistress
of a Virginia plantation was more conspicuous, although not more
important, than the master. In the house she was the mainspring, and
to her came all the hundred or three hundred negroes with their
various wants and constant applications for medicine and every
conceivable requirement.

Attending to these, with directing her household affairs and
entertaining company, occupied busily every moment of her life. While
all these devolved upon her, it sometimes seemed to me that the master
had nothing to do but ride around his estate on the most delightful
horse, receive reports from overseers, see that his pack of hounds was
fed, and order "repairs about the mill"--the mill seemed always
needing repairs!

This view of the subject, however, being entirely from a feminine
standpoint, may have been wholly erroneous; for doubtless his mind
was burdened with financial matters too weighty to be grasped and
comprehended by our sex.

Nevertheless, the mistress held complete sway in her own domain; and
that this fact was recognized will be shown by the following incident:

A gentleman, a clever and successful lawyer, one day discovering a
negro boy in some mischief about his house, and determining forthwith
to chastise him, took him into the yard for that purpose. Breaking a
small switch, and in the act of coming down with it upon the boy, he
asked: "Do you know, sir, who is master on my place?"

"Yas, sah!" quickly replied the boy. "Miss Charlotte, sah!"

Throwing aside the switch, the gentleman ran into the house, laughed a
half hour, and thus ended his only experiment at interfering in his
wife's domain.

His wife, "Miss Charlotte," as the negroes called her, was gentle and
indulgent to a fault, which made the incident more amusing.

It may appear singular, yet it is true, that our women, although
having sufficient self-possession at home, and accustomed there to
command on a large scale, became painfully timid if ever they found
themselves in a promiscuous or public assemblage, shrinking from
everything like publicity.

Still, these women, to whom a whole plantation looked up for guidance
and instruction, could not fail to feel a certain consciousness of
superiority, which, although never displayed or asserted in manner,
became a part of themselves. They were distinguishable everywhere--for
what reason, exactly, I have never been able to find out, for their
manners were too quiet to attract attention. Yet a captain on a
Mississippi steamboat said to me: "I always know a Virginia lady as
soon as she steps on my boat."

"How do you know?" I asked, supposing he would say: "By their plain
style of dress and antiquated breastpins."

Said he: "I've been running a boat from Cincinnati to New Orleans for
twenty-five years, and often have three hundred passengers from
various parts of the world. But if there is a Virginia lady among
them, I find it out in half an hour. They take things quietly, and
don't complain. Do you see that English lady over there? Well, she has
been complaining all the way up the Mississippi River. Nobody can
please her. The cabin-maid and steward are worn out with trying to
please her. She says it is because the mosquitoes bit her so badly
coming through Louisiana. But we are almost at Cincinnati now, haven't
seen a mosquito for a week, and she is still complaining!

"Then," he continued, "the Virginia ladies look as if they could not
push about for themselves, and for this reason I always feel like
giving them more attention than the other passengers."

"We are inexperienced travelers," I replied.

And these remarks of the captain convinced me--I had thought it
before--that Virginia women should never undertake to travel, but
content themselves with staying at home. However, such restriction
would have been unfair unless they had felt like the Parisian who,
when asked why the Parisians never traveled, replied: "Because all the
world comes to Paris!"

Indeed, a Virginian had an opportunity for seeing much choice society
at home; for our watering-places attracted the best people from other
States, who often visited us at our houses.

On the Mississippi boat to which I have alluded it was remarked that
the negro servants paid the Southerners more constant and deferential
attention than the passengers from the non-slaveholding States,
although some of the latter were very agreeable and intelligent, and
conversed with the negroes on terms of easy familiarity,--showing,
what I had often observed, that the negro respects and admires those
who make a "social distinction" more than those who make none.


We were surprised to find in an "Ode to the South," by Mr. M. F.
Tupper, the following stanza:

    "Yes, it is slander to say you oppressed them:
      Does a man squander the prize of his pelf?
    Was it not often that he who possessed them
      Rather was owned by his servants himself?"

This was true, but that it was known in the outside world we thought
impossible, when all the newspaper and book accounts represented us as
miserable sinners for whom there was no hope here or hereafter, and
called upon all nations, Christian and civilized, to revile,
persecute, and exterminate us. Such representations, however, differed
so widely from the facts around us that when we heard them they failed
to produce a very serious impression, occasioning often only a smile,
with the exclamation: "How little those people know about us!"

We had not the vanity to think that the European nations cared or
thought about us, and if the Americans believed these accounts, they
defamed the memory of one held up by them as a model of Christian
virtue--George Washington, a Virginia slave-owner, whose kindness to
his "people," as he called his slaves, entitled him to as much honor
as did his deeds of prowess.

But to return to the two last lines of the stanza:

    "Was it not often that he who possessed them
      Rather was owned by his servants himself?"

I am reminded of some who were actually held in such bondage;
especially an old gentleman who, together with his whole plantation,
was literally possessed by his slaves.

This gentleman[10] was a widower, and no lady presided over his house.

    [10] William M. Radford, of Greenfield, Botetourt County.

His figure was of medium height and very corpulent. His features were
regular and handsome, his eyes were soft brown, almost black, and his
hair was slightly gray. The expression of his countenance was so full
of goodness and sympathy that a stranger meeting him in the road might
have been convinced at a glance of his kindness and generosity.

He was never very particular about his dress, yet never appeared

Although a graduate in law at the university, an ample fortune made it
unnecessary for him to practice his profession. Still his taste for
literature made him a constant reader, and his conversation was
instructive and agreeable.

His house was old and rambling, and--I was going to say his servants
kept the keys, but I remember there were _no keys_ about the
establishment. Even the front door had no lock upon it. Everybody
retired at night in perfect confidence, however, that everything was
secure enough, and it seemed not important to lock the doors.

The negro servants who managed the house were very efficient,
excelling especially in the culinary department, and serving up
dinners which were marvels.

The superabundance on the place enabled them not only to furnish
their master's table with the choicest meats, vegetables, cakes,
pastries, etc., but also to supply themselves bountifully, and to
spread in their own cabins sumptuous feasts, and wedding and party
suppers rich enough for a queen.

To this their master did not object, for he told them "if they would
supply his table always with an abundance of the best bread, meats,
cream, and butter, he cared not what became of the rest."

Upon this principle the plantation was conducted. The well-filled
barns, the stores of bacon, lard, flour, etc., literally belonged to
the negroes, who allowed their master a certain share!

Doubtless they entertained the sentiment of a negro boy who, on being
reproved by his master for having stolen and eaten a turkey, replied:
"Well, massa, you see, you got less turkey, but you got dat much more

While we were once visiting at this plantation, the master of the
house described to us a dairy just completed on a new plan, which for
some weeks had been such a hobby with him that he had actually
purchased a lock for it, saying he would keep the key himself--which
he never did--and have the fresh mutton always put there.

"Come," said he, as he finished describing it, "let us go down and
look at it. Bring me the key," he said to a small African, who soon
brought it, and we proceeded to the dairy.

Turning the key in the door, the old gentleman said: "Now see what a
fine piece of mutton I have here!"

But on entering and looking around, no mutton was to be seen, and
instead thereof were buckets of custard, cream, and blanc-mange. The
old gentleman, greatly disconcerted, called to one of the servants:
"Florinda! Where is my mutton that I had put here this morning?"

[Illustration: "WHERE IS MY MUTTON?"--_Page 98._]

Florinda replied: "Nancy took it out, sah, an' put it in de ole spring
house. She say dat was cool enough place for mutton. An' she gwine
have a big party to-night, an' want her jelly an' custards to keep

At this the old gentleman was rapidly becoming provoked, when we
laughed so much at Nancy's "cool" proceeding that his usual good
nature was restored.

On another occasion we were one evening sitting with this gentleman in
his front porch when a poor woman from the neighboring village came in
the yard, and, stopping before the door, said to him:

"Mr. Radford, I came to tell you that my cow you gave me has died."

"What did you say, my good woman?" asked Mr. Radford, who was quite

The woman repeated in a louder voice: "The cow you gave me has died.
And she died because I didn't have anything to feed her with."

Turning to us, his countenance full of compassion, he said: "I ought
to have thought about that, and should have sent the food for her
cow." Then, speaking to the woman: "Well, my good woman, I will give
you another cow to-morrow, and send you plenty of provision for her."
And the following day he fulfilled his promise.

Another incident occurs to me, showing the generous heart of this
truly good man. One day on the Virginia and Tennessee train, observing
a gentleman and lady in much trouble, he ventured to inquire of them
the cause, and was informed that they had lost all their money and
their railroad tickets at the last station.

He asked the gentleman where he lived, and on what side he was during
the war.

"I am from Georgia," replied the gentleman, "and was, of course, with
the South."

"Well," said Mr. Radford, pulling from his capacious pocket a large
purse, which he handed the gentleman, "help yourself, sir, and take as
much as will be necessary to carry you home."

The astonished stranger thanked him sincerely, and handed him his
card, saying: "I will return the money as soon as I reach home."

Returned to his own home, and relating the incidents of his trip, Mr.
Radford mentioned this, when one of his nephews laughed and said:
"Well, uncle, we Virginia people are so easily imposed upon! You don't
think that man will ever return your money, do you?"

"My dear," replied his uncle, looking at him reproachfully and sinking
his voice, "I was fully repaid by the change which came over the man's

It is due to the Georgian to add that on reaching home he returned the
money with a letter of thanks.

In sight of the hospitable home of Mr. Radford was another, equally
attractive, owned by his brother-in-law, Mr. Bowyer. These places had
the same name, Greenfield, the property having descended to two
sisters, the wives of these gentlemen. They might have been called
twin establishments, as one was almost a facsimile of the other. At
both were found the same hospitality, the same polished floors, the
same style of loaf-bread and velvet rolls, the only difference between
the two being that Mr. Bowyer kept his doors locked at night, observed
more system, and kept his buggies and carriages in better repair.

These gentlemen were also perfectly congenial. Both had graduated in
law, read the same books, were members of the same church, knew the
same people, liked and disliked the same people, held the same
political opinions, enjoyed the same old Scotch songs, repeated the
same old English poetry, smoked the same kind of tobacco, in the same
kind of pipes, abhorred alike intoxicating drinks, and deplored the
increase of bar-rooms and drunkenness in our land.

For forty years they passed together a part of every day or evening,
smoking and talking over the same events and people. It was a picture
to see them at night over a blazing wood fire, their faces bright with
good nature; and a treat to hear all their reminiscences of people and
events long past. With what circumstantiality could they recall old
law cases, and describe old duels, old political animosities and
excitements! What merry laughs they sometimes had!

Everything on one of these plantations seemed to belong equally to the
other. If the ice gave out at one place, the servants went to the
other for it as a matter of course; or if the buggies or carriage were
out of order at Mr. Radford's, which was often the case, the driver
would go over for Mr. Bowyer's without even mentioning the
circumstance, and so with everything. The families lived thus
harmoniously with never the least interruption for forty years.

Now and then the old gentlemen enjoyed a practical joke on each other,
and on one occasion Mr. Radford succeeded so effectually in quizzing
Mr. Bowyer that whenever he thought of it afterward he fell into a
dangerous fit of laughter.

It happened that a man who had married a distant connection of the
Greenfield family concluded to take his wife, children, and servants
to pass the summer there, dividing the time between the two houses.
The manners, character, and political proclivities of this visitor
became so disagreeable to the old gentlemen that they determined he
should not repeat his visit, although they liked his wife. One day Mr.
Bowyer received a letter signed by this objectionable individual--it
had really been written by Mr. Radford--informing Mr. Bowyer that, as
one of the children was sick, and the physician advised country air,
he would be there the following Thursday with his whole family, to
stay some months.

"The impudent fellow!" exclaimed Mr. Bowyer as soon as he read the
letter. "He knows how Radford and myself detest him! Still I am sorry
for his wife. But I will not be dragooned and outgeneraled by that
contemptible fellow. No! I will leave home to-day!"

Going to the back door, he called in a loud voice for his coachman,
and ordered his carriage. "I am going" said he, "to Grove Hill for a
week, and from there to Lexington, with my whole family, and don't
know when I shall be at home again. It is very inconvenient," said he
to his wife, "but I must leave home."

Hurrying up the carriage and the family, they were soon off on their
unexpected trip.

They stayed at Grove Hill, seven miles off, a week, during which time
Mr. Bowyer every morning mounted his horse and rode timidly around the
outskirts of his own plantation, peeping over the hills at his house,
but afraid to venture nearer, feeling assured it was occupied by the
obnoxious visitor. He would not even make inquiries of his negroes
whom he met, as to the state and condition of things in his house.

Concluding to pursue his journey to Lexington, and halfway there, he
met a young nephew of Mr. Radford's who happened to know all about
the quiz, and, immediately suspecting the reason of Mr. Bowyer's exile
from home, inquired where he was going, how long he had been from
home, etc. Soon guessing the truth, and thinking the joke had been
carried far enough, he told the old gentleman he need not travel any
further, for it was all a quiz of his uncle's, and there was no one at
his house. Thereupon Mr. Bowyer, greatly relieved, turned back and
went his way home rejoicing, but "determined to pay Radford," he said,
for such a practical joke, which had exiled him from home and given
him such trouble. This caused many a good laugh whenever it was told
throughout the neighborhood.

The two estates of which I am writing were well named--Greenfield; for
the fields and meadows were of the freshest green, and, with majestic
hills around, the fine cattle and horses grazing upon them, formed a
noble landscape.

This land had descended in the same family since the Indian camp-fires
ceased to burn there, and the same forests were still untouched where
once stood the Indians' wigwams.

In this connection I am reminded of a tradition in the Greenfield
family which showed the heroism of a Virginia boy:

The first white proprietor of this place, the great-grandfather of the
present owners, had also a large estate in Montgomery County, called
Smithfield, where his family lived, and where was a fort for the
protection of the whites when attacked by the Indians.

Once, while the owner was at his Greenfield place, the Indians
surrounded Smithfield, and the white women and children took refuge in
the fort, while the men prepared for battle. They wanted the
proprietor of Smithfield to help them fight and to take command, for
he was a brave man; but they could not spare a man to carry him the
news. So they concluded to send one of his young sons, a lad thirteen
years old, who did not hesitate, but, mounting a fleet horse, set off
after dark and rode all night through dense forests filled with
hostile Indians, reaching Greenfield, a distance of forty miles, next
morning. He soon returned with his father, and the Indians were
repulsed. And I always thought that boy was courageous enough for his
name to live in history.[11]

    [11] John Preston, afterward Governor of Virginia.

The Indians afterward told how, the whole day before the fight,
several of their chiefs had been concealed near the Smithfield house
under a large haystack, upon which the white children had been sliding
and playing all day, little suspecting the gleaming tomahawks and
savage men beneath.

From the Greenfield estate in Botetourt and the one adjacent went the
ancestors of the Prestons and Breckinridges, who made these names
distinguished in South Carolina and Kentucky. And on this place are
the graves of the first Breckinridges who arrived in this country.

All who visited at the homesteads just described retained ever after a
recollection of the perfectly cooked meats, bread, etc., seen upon the
tables at both houses, there being at each place five or six negro
cooks who had been taught by their mistresses the highest style of the
culinary art.

During the summer season several of these cooks were hired at the
different watering-places, where they acquired great fame and made
for themselves a considerable sum of money by selling recipes.

A lady of the Greenfield family, who married and went to Georgia, told
me she had often tried to make velvet rolls like those she had been
accustomed to see at her own home, but never succeeded. Her mother and
aunt, who had taught these cooks, having died many years before, she
had to apply to the negroes for information on such subjects, and
they, she said, would never show her the right way to make them.
Finally, while visiting at a house in Georgia, this lady was surprised
to see velvet rolls exactly like those at her home.

"Where did you get the recipe?" she soon asked the lady of the house,
who replied: "I bought it from old Aunt Rose, a colored cook, at the
Virginia Springs, and paid her five dollars."

"One of our own cooks, and my mother's recipe," exclaimed the other,
"and I had to come all the way to Georgia to get it, for Aunt Rose
never would show me exactly how to make them!"


Not far from Greenfield was a place called Rustic Lodge.[12]

    [12] Colonel Burwell's.

This house, surrounded by a forest of grand old oaks, was not large or
handsome. But its inmates were ladies and gentlemen of the old English

The grandmother, Mrs. Burwell, about ninety years of age, had in her
youth been one of the belles at the Williamsburg court in old colonial
days. A daughter of Sir Dudley Digges, and descended from English
nobility, she had been accustomed to the best society. Her manners and
conversation were dignified and attractive.

Among reminiscences of colonial times she remembered Lord Botetourt,
of whom she related interesting incidents.

The son of this old lady, about sixty years of age, and the proprietor
of the estate, was a true picture of the old English gentleman. His
manners, conversation, thread-cambric shirt-frills, cuffs, and long
queue tied with a black ribbon, made the picture complete. His two
daughters, young ladies of refinement, had been brought up by their
aunt and grandmother to observe strictly all the proprieties of life.

This establishment was proverbial for its order and method, the most
systematic rules being in force everywhere. The meals were served
punctually at the same instant every day. Old Aunt Nelly always
dressed and undressed her mistress at the same hour. The cook's gentle
"tapping at the chamber door" called the mistress to an interview with
that functionary at the same moment every morning,--an interview
which, lasting half an hour, and never being repeated during the day,
resulted in the choicest dinners, breakfasts, and suppers.

Exactly at the same hour every morning the old gentleman's horse was
saddled, and he entered the neighboring village so promptly as to
enable some of the inhabitants to set their clocks by him.

This family had possessed great wealth in eastern Virginia during the
colonial government, under which many of its members held high

But impoverished by high living, entertaining company, and a heavy
British debt, they had been reduced in their possessions to about
fifty negroes, with only money enough to purchase this plantation,
upon which they had retired from the gay and charming society of
Williamsburg. They carried with them, however, some remains of their
former grandeur: old silver, old jewelry, old books, old and
well-trained servants, and an old English coach which was the
curiosity of all other vehicular curiosities. How the family ever
climbed into it, or got out of it, and how the driver ever reached the
dizzy height upon which he sat, was the mystery of my childhood.

But, although egg-shaped and suspended in mid-air, this coach had
doubtless, in its day, been one of considerable renown, drawn by four
horses, with footman, postilion, and driver in English livery.

How sad must have been its reflections on finding itself shorn of
these respectable surroundings, and, after the Revolution, drawn by
two republican horses, with footman and driver dressed in republican

A great-uncle of this family, unlike the coach, never would become
republicanized; and his obstinate loyalty to the English crown, with
his devotion to everything English, gained for him the title "English
Louis," by which name he is spoken of in the family to this day. An
old lady told me not long ago that she remembered, when a child, the
arrival of "English Louis" at Rustic one night, and his conversation
as they sat around the fire,--how he deplored a republican form of
government, and the misfortunes which would result from it, saying:
"All may go smoothly for about seventy years, when civil war will set
in. First it will be about these negro slaves we have around us, and
after that it will be something else." And how true "English Louis'"
prediction has proven.[13]

    [13] On the route to Rustic was a small village called Liberty,
    approaching which, and hearing the name, "English Louis" swore he
    would not pass through any such----little republican town, and,
    turning his horses, traveled many miles out of his way to avoid it.

Doubtless this gentleman was avoided and proscribed on account of his
English proclivities. For at that day the spirit of republicanism and
hatred to England ran high; so that an old gentleman--one of our
relatives whom I well remember--actually took from his parlor walls
his coat-of-arms, which had been brought by his grandfather from
England, and, carrying it out in his yard, built a fire, and,
collecting his children around it to see it burn, said: "Thus let
everything English perish!"

Should I say what I think of this proceeding I would not be
considered, perhaps, a true republican patriot.

I must add a few words to my previous mention of Smithfield, in
Montgomery County, the county which flows with healing waters.

Smithfield, like Greenfield, is owned by the descendants of the first
white family who settled there after the Indians, and its verdant
pastures, noble forests, and mountain streams and springs, form a
prospect wondrously beautiful.

This splendid estate descended to three brothers of the Preston
family, who equally divided it, the eldest keeping the homestead, and
the others building attractive homes on their separate plantations.

The old homestead was quite antique in appearance. Inside, the high
mantelpieces reaching nearly to the ceiling, which was also high, and
the high wainscoting, together with the old furniture, made a picture
of the olden time.

When I first visited this place, the old grandmother, then eighty
years of age, was living. She, like the old lady at Rustic, had been a
belle in eastern Virginia in her youth. When she married the owner of
Smithfield sixty years before, she made the bridal jaunt from Norfolk
to this place on horseback, two hundred miles. Still exceedingly
intelligent and interesting, she entertained us with various incidents
of her early life, and wished to hear all the old songs which she had
then heard and sung herself.

"When I was married," said she, "and first came to Smithfield, my
husband's sisters met me in the porch, and were shocked at my pale and
delicate appearance. One of them, whispering to her brother, asked:
'Why did you bring that ghost up here?' And now," continued the old
lady, "I have outlived all who were in the house that day, and all my
own and my husband's family."

This was certainly an evidence of the health-restoring properties of
the water and climate in this region.

The houses of these three brothers were filled with company winter and
summer, making within themselves a delightful society. The visitors at
one house were equally visitors at the others, and the succession of
dinner and evening parties from one to the other made it difficult for
a visitor to decide at whose particular house he was staying.

One of these brothers, Colonel Robert Preston, had married a lovely
lady from South Carolina, whose perfection of character and
disposition endeared her to everyone who knew her. Everybody loved her
at sight, and the better she was known the more she was beloved. Her
warm heart was ever full of other people's troubles or joys, never
thinking of herself. In her house many an invalid was cheered by her
tender care, and many a drooping heart revived by her bright Christian
spirit. She never omitted an opportunity of pointing the way to
heaven; and although surrounded by all the allurements which gay
society and wealth could bring, she did not swerve an instant from the
quiet path along which she directed others. In the midst of bright and
happy surroundings her thoughts and hopes were constantly centered
upon the life above; and her conversation--which was the reflex of her
heart--reverted ever to this theme, which she made attractive to old
and young.

The eldest of the three brothers was William Ballard Preston, once
Secretary of the Navy in the cabinet of President Taylor.


In the region of country just described and in the counties beyond
abound the finest mineral springs, one or more being found on every
plantation. At one place there were seven different springs, and the
servants had a habit of asking the guests and family whether they
would have--before breakfast--a glass of White Sulphur, Yellow
Sulphur, Black Sulphur, Alleghany, Alum, or Limestone water!

The old Greenbrier White Sulphur Springs was a favorite place of
resort for eastern Virginians and South Carolinians at a very early
date, when it was accessible only by private conveyances, and all who
passed the summer there went in private carriages. In this way certain
old Virginia and South Carolina families met every season, and these
old people told us that society there was never so good after the
railroads and stages brought "all sorts of people, from all sorts of
places." This, of course, we knew nothing about from experience, and
it sounded rather egotistical in the old people to say so, but that is
what they said.

Indeed, these "old folks" talked so much about what "used to be in
their day" at the old White Sulphur, that I found it hard to convince
myself that I had not been bodily present, seeing with my own eyes
certain knee-buckled old gentlemen, with long queues, and certain
Virginia and South Carolina belles attired in short-waisted, simple,
white cambrics, who passed the summers there. These white cambrics, we
were told, had been carried in minute trunks behind the carriages; and
were considered, with a few jewels, and a long black or white lace
veil thrown over the head and shoulders, a complete outfit for the
reigning belles! Another curiosity was that these white cambric
dresses--our grandmothers told us--required very little "doing up:"
one such having been worn by Mrs. General Washington--so her
granddaughter told me--a whole week without requiring washing! It must
have been an age of remarkable women and remarkable cambrics! How
little they dreamed then of an era when Saratoga trunks would be
indispensable to ladies of much smaller means than Virginia and South
Carolina belles!

To reach these counties flowing with mineral waters, the families from
eastern Virginia and from South Carolina passed through a beautiful
region of Virginia known as Piedmont, and those who had kinsfolk or
acquaintances there usually stopped to pay them a visit. Consequently
the Piedmont Virginians were generally too busy entertaining summer
guests to visit the Springs themselves. Indeed, why should they? No
more salubrious climate could be found than their own, and no scenery
more grand and beautiful. But it was necessary for the tide-water
Virginians to leave their homes every summer on account of chills and

In the lovely Piedmont region, over which the "Peaks of Otter" rear
their giant heads, and chains of blue mountains extend as far as eye
can reach, were scattered many pleasant and picturesque homes. And in
this section my grandfather bought a plantation, when the ancestral
estates in the eastern part of the State had been sold to repay the
British debt, which estates, homesteads, and tombstones with their
quaint inscriptions, are described in Bishop Meade's "Old Churches and
Families of Virginia."

While the tide-water Virginians were already practicing all the arts
and wiles known to the highest English civilization; sending their
sons to be educated in England, and receiving therefrom brocaded silks
and powdered wigs; and dancing the minuet at the Williamsburg balls
with the families of the noblemen sent over to govern the
colony,--Piedmont was still a dense forest, the abode of Indians and
wild animals.

It was not strange, then, that the Piedmont Virginians never arrived
at the opulent manner of living adopted by those on the James and York
rivers, who, tradition tells us, went to such excess in high living as
to have "hams boiled in champagne," and of whom other amusing and
interesting tales have been handed down to us. Although the latter
were in advance of the Piedmont Virginians in wealth and social
advantages, they were not superior to them in honor, virtue, kindness,
or hospitality.

It has been remarked that, "when natural scenery is picturesque,
there is in the human character something to correspond; impressions
made on the retina are really made on the soul, and the mind becomes
what it contemplates."

The same author continues: "A man is not only _like_ what he sees, but
he _is_ what he sees. The noble old Highlander has mountains in his
soul, whose towering peaks point heavenward; and lakes in his bosom,
whose glassy surfaces reflect the skies; and foaming cataracts in his
heart to beautify the mountain side and irrigate the vale; and
evergreen firs and mountain pines that show life and verdure even
under winter skies!"

"On the other hand," he writes, "the wandering nomad has a desert in
his heart; its dead level reflects heat and hate; a sullen, barren
plain,--no goodness, no beauty, no dancing wave of joy, no gushing
rivulet of love, no verdant hope. And it is an interesting fact that
those who live in countries where natural scenery inspires the soul,
and where the necessities of life bind to a permanent home, are always
patriotic and high-minded; and those who dwell in the desert are
always pusillanimous and groveling!"

If what this author writes be true, and the character of the Piedmont
Virginians accords with the scenery around them, how their hearts must
be filled with gentleness and charity inspired by the landscape which
stretches far and fades in softness against the sky! How must their
minds be filled with noble aspirations suggested by the everlasting
mountains! How their souls must be filled with thoughts of heaven as
they look upon the glorious sunsets bathing the mountains in
rose-colored light, with the towering peaks ever pointing heavenward
and seeming to say: "Behold the glory of a world beyond!"[14]

    [14] From this vicinity went nine ministers who were eminent in their
    several churches: two Episcopal bishops, one Methodist bishop, three
    distinguished Presbyterian and three Baptist divines of talent and

Beneath the shadow of the "Peaks" were many happy homes and true
hearts, and, among these, memory recalls none more vividly than
Otterburn and its inmates.

Otterburn was the residence of a gentleman and his wife who, having no
children, devoted themselves to making their home attractive to
visitors, in which they succeeded so well that they were rarely
without company, for all who went once to see them went again and

This gentleman, Benjamin Donald, was a man of high character,--his
accomplishments, manner and appearance marking him "rare,"--"one in a
century." Above his fellow-men in greatness of soul, he could
comprehend nothing mean. His stature was tall and erect; his features
bold; his countenance open and impressive; his mind vigorous and
cultivated; his bearing dignified, but not haughty; his manners simple
and attractive; his conversation so agreeable and enlivening that the
dullest company became animated as soon as he came into the room.
Truth and lofty character were so unmistakably stamped upon him that a
day's acquaintance convinced one he could be trusted forever. Brought
up in Scotland, the home of his ancestors, in him were blended the
best points of Scotch and Virginia character,--strict integrity and
whole-souled generosity and hospitality.

How many days and nights we passed at his house, and in childhood and
youth how many hours were we entertained by his bright and instructive
conversation! Especially delightful was it to hear his stories of
Scotland, which brought vividly before us pictures of its lakes and
mountains and castles. How often did we listen to his account of the
wedding-tour to Scotland, when he carried his Virginia bride to the
old home at Greenock! And how often we laughed about the Scotch
children, his nieces and nephews, who, on first seeing his wife,
clapped their hands and shouted: "Oh, mother! are you not glad uncle
did not marry a black woman?" Hearing he was to marry a Virginian,
they expected to see a savage Indian or negro! And some of the family
who went to Liverpool to meet them, and were looking through
spy-glasses when the vessel arrived, said they were "sure the Virginia
lady had not come, because they saw no one among the passengers
dressed in a red shawl and gaudy bonnet like an Indian"!

From this we thought that Europeans must be very ignorant of our
country and its inhabitants, and we have since learned that their
children are purposely kept ignorant of facts in regard to America and
its people.

Among many other recollections of this dear old friend of Otterburn I
shall never forget a dream he told us one night, which so impressed us
that, before his death, we asked him to write it out, which he did;
and, as the copy is before me in his own handwriting, I will insert it

   "About the time I became of age I returned to Virginia for the
   purpose of looking after and settling my father's estate. Three
   years thereafter I received a letter from my only sister, informing
   me that she was going to be married, and pressing me in the most
   urgent manner to return to Scotland to be present at her marriage,
   and to attend to the drawing of the marriage contract. The letter
   gave me a good deal of trouble, as it did not suit me to leave
   Virginia at that time. I went to bed one night, thinking much on
   this subject, but soon fell asleep, and dreamed that I landed in
   Greenock in the night-time, and pushed for home, thinking I would
   take my aunt and sister by surprise.

    "When I arrived at the door, I found all still and quiet, and the
    out-door locked. I thought, however, that I had in my pocket my
    check-key, with which I quietly opened the door and groped my way
    into the sitting-room, but, finding no one there, I concluded they
    had gone to bed. I then went upstairs to their bedroom, and found
    that unoccupied. I then concluded they had taken possession of my
    bedroom in my absence, but, not finding them there, became very
    uneasy about them. Then it struck me they might be in the guest's
    chamber, a room downstairs kept exclusively for company. Upon
    going there I found the door partially open; I saw my aunt
    removing the burning coals from the top of the grate preparatory
    to going to bed. My sister was sitting up in bed, and as I entered
    the room she fixed her eyes upon me, but did not seem to recognize
    me. I approached toward her, and, in the effort to make myself
    known, awoke and found it all a dream. At breakfast next morning I
    felt wearied and sick, and could not eat, and told the family of
    my (dream) journey overnight.

    "I immediately commenced preparing, and in a very short time
    returned to Scotland. I saw my sister married, and she and her
    husband set off on their 'marriage jaunt.' About a month
    thereafter they returned, and at dinner I commenced telling them
    of my dream; but, observing they had quit eating and were staring
    at me, I laughed, and asked what was the matter, whereupon my
    brother-in-law very seriously asked me to go on. When I finished,
    they asked me if I remembered the exact time of my dream. I told
    them it distressed and impressed me so strongly that I noted it
    down at the time. I pulled out my pocketbook and showed them the
    date, '14th day of May,' written in pencil. They all rose from the
    table and took me into the bedroom and showed me, written with
    pencil on the white mantelpiece, '14th of May.'

    "I asked them what that meant, and was informed that on that very
    night--and _the only night_ they ever occupied that room during my
    absence--my aunt was taking the coals off of the fire, when my
    sister screamed out: 'Brother has come!'

    "My aunt scolded her, and said she was dreaming; but she said she
    had not been to sleep, was sitting up in bed, and _saw me_ enter
    the room, and run out when she screamed. So confident was she that
    she had seen me, and that I had gone off and hidden, that the
    whole house was thoroughly searched for me, and as soon as day
    dawned a messenger was sent to inquire if any vessel had arrived
    from America, or if I had been seen by any of my friends."

No one who visited Otterburn can forget the smiling faces of the negro
servants about the house, who received the guests with as true
cordiality as did their mistress, expressing their pleasure by
widespread mouths showing white teeth (very white by contrast with
their jet-black skin), and when the guests were going away always
insisted on their remaining longer.

One of these negro women was not only an efficient servant, but a
valuable friend to her mistress.

In the absence of her master and mistress she kept the keys, often
entertaining their friends, who, in passing from distant plantations,
were accustomed to stop, and who received from her a cordial welcome,
finding on the table as many delicacies as if the family had been at

No more sincere attachment could have existed than that between this
lady and her servant. At last, when the latter was seized with a
contagious fever which ended her life, she could not have had a more
faithful friend and nurse than was her mistress.

The same fever attacked all the negroes on the plantation, and none
can describe the anxiety, care, and distress of their owners, who
watched by their beds day and night, administering medicine and
relieving the sick and dying.


Among other early recollections is a visit with my mother to the
plantation of a favorite cousin, not far from Richmond, and one of the
handsomest seats on the James River. This residence--Howard's
Neck[15]--was a favorite resort for people from Richmond and the
adjacent counties, and, like many others on the river, always full of
guests; a round of visiting and dinner parties being kept up from one
house to another, so that the ladies presiding over these
establishments had no time to attend to domestic duties, which were
left to their housekeepers while they were employed entertaining

    [15] Dr. Cunningham's.

The negroes on these estates appeared lively and happy--that is, if
singing and laughing indicate happiness; for they went to their work
in the fields singing, and returned in the evening singing, after
which they often spent the whole night visiting from one plantation
to another, or dancing until day to the music of the banjo or
"fiddle." These dances were wild and boisterous, their evolutions
being like those of the savage dances described by travelers in
Africa. Although the most perfect timists, their music, with its wild,
melancholy cadence, half savage, half civilized, cannot be imitated or
described. Many a midnight were we wakened by their wild choruses,
sung as they returned from a frolic or "corn-shucking," sounding at
first like some hideous, savage yell, but dying away on the air,
echoing a cadence melancholy and indescribable, with a peculiar
pathos, and yet without melody or sweetness.

Corn-shuckings were occasions of great hilarity and good eating. The
negroes from various plantations assembled at night around a huge pile
of corn. Selecting one of their number--usually the most original and
amusing, and possessed of the loudest voice--they called him
"captain." The captain seated himself on top of the pile--a large
lightwood torch burning in front of him, and, while he shucked,
improvised words and music to a wild "recitative," the chorus of
which was caught up by the army of shuckers around. The glare of the
torches on the black faces, with the wild music and impromptu words,
made a scene curious even to us who were so accustomed to it.

After the corn was shucked they assembled around a table laden with
roasted pigs, mutton, beef, hams, cakes, pies, coffee, and other
substantials--many participating in the supper who had not in the
work. The laughing and merriment continued until one or two o'clock in
the morning.

On these James River plantations distinguished foreigners were often
entertained, who, visiting Richmond, desired to see something of
Virginia country life. Mr. Thackeray was once a guest at one of these
places, but Dickens never visited them. Could he have passed a month
at any one of the homes I have described, he would, I am sure, have
written something more flattering of Americans and American life than
is found in "Martin Chuzzlewit" and "American Notes." However, with
these we should not quarrel, as some of the sketches, especially the
one on "tobacco-chewers," we can recognize.

Every nation has a right to its prejudices--certainly the English
people have such a right as regards America, this country appearing to
the English eye like a huge mushroom, the growth of a night, and
unsubstantial. But it is surely wrong to censure a whole nation--as
some have done the Southern people--for the faults of a few. Although
the right of a nation to its prejudices be admitted, no one has a
right, without thorough examination and acquaintance with the subject,
to publish as facts the exaggerated accounts of another nation, put
forth by its enemies. The world in this way receives very erroneous

For instance, we have no right to suppose the Germans a cruel race
because of the following paragraph clipped from a recent newspaper:

   "The cruelty of German officers is a matter of notoriety, but an
   officer in an artillery regiment has lately gone beyond precedent
   in ingenuity of cruelty. Some of his men being insubordinate, he
   punished them by means of a 'spurring process,' which consisted in
   jabbing spurs persistently and brutally into their legs. By this
   process his men were so severely injured that they had to go to the

Neither have we a right to pronounce all Pennsylvanians cruel to their
"helps," as they call them, because a Pennsylvania lady told me "the
only way she could manage her help"--a white girl fourteen years
old--"was by holding her head under the pump and pumping water upon it
until she lost her breath,"--a process I could not have conceived, and
which filled me with horror.

But sorrow and oppression, we suppose, may be found in some form in
every clime, and in every phase of existence some hearts are "weary
and heavy laden." Even Dickens, whose mind naturally sought and fed
upon the comic, saw wrong and oppression in the "humane institutions"
of his own land!

And Macaulay gives a painful picture of Mme. D'Arblay's life as
waiting-maid to Queen Charlotte--from which we are not to infer,
however, that all queens are cruel to their waiting-maids.

Mme. D'Arblay--whose maiden name was Frances Burney--was the first
female novelist in England who deserved and received the applause of
her countrymen. The most eminent men of London paid homage to her
genius. Johnson, Burke, Windham, Gibbon, Reynolds, Sheridan, were her
friends and ardent eulogists. In the midst of her literary fame,
surrounded by congenial friends, herself a star in this select and
brilliant coterie, she was offered the place of waiting-maid in the
palace. She accepted the position, and bade farewell to all congenial
friends and pursuits. "And now began," says Macaulay, "a slavery of
five years--of five years taken from the best part of her life, and
wasted in menial drudgery. The history of an ordinary day was this:
Miss Burney had to rise and dress herself early, that she might be
ready to answer the royal bell, which rang at half after seven. Till
about eight she attended in the queen's dressing-room, and had the
honor of lacing her august mistress's stays, and of putting on the
hoop, gown, and neck-handkerchief. The morning was chiefly spent in
rummaging drawers and laying fine clothes in their proper places. Then
the queen was to be powdered and dressed for the day. Twice a week her
Majesty's hair had to be curled and craped; and this operation added a
full hour to the business of the toilet. It was generally three before
Miss Burney was at liberty. At five she had to attend her colleague,
Mme. Schwellenberg, a hateful old toadeater, as illiterate as a
chambermaid, proud, rude, peevish, unable to bear solitude, unable to
conduct herself with common decency in society. With this delightful
associate Frances Burney had to dine and pass the evening. The pair
generally remained together from five to eleven, and often had no
other company the whole time. Between eleven and twelve the bell rang
again. Miss Burney had to pass a half hour undressing the queen, and
was then at liberty to retire.

"Now and then, indeed, events occurred which disturbed the wretched
monotony of Frances Burney's life. The court moved from Kew to
Windsor, and from Windsor back to Kew.

"A more important occurrence was the king's visit to Oxford. Then Miss
Burney had the honor of entering Oxford in the last of a long string
of carriages, which formed the royal procession, of walking after the
queen all day through refectories and chapels, and of standing half
dead with fatigue and hunger, while her august mistress was seated at
an excellent cold collation. At Magdalen College Frances was left for
a moment in a parlor, where she sank down on a chair. A good-natured
equerry saw that she was exhausted, and shared with her some apricots
and bread, which he had wisely put in his pockets. At that moment the
door opened, the queen entered, the wearied attendants sprang up, the
bread and fruit were hastily concealed.

"After this the king became very ill, and during more than two years
after his recovery Frances dragged on a miserable existence at the
palace. Mme. Schwellenberg became more and more insolent and
intolerable, and now the health of poor Frances began to give way: and
all who saw her pale face, her emaciated figure, and her feeble walk
predicted that her sufferings would soon be over.

"The queen seems to have been utterly regardless of the _comfort_, the
_health_, the _life_, of her attendants. Weak, feverish, hardly able
to stand, Frances had still to rise before seven, in order to dress
the sweet queen, and sit up till midnight, in order to undress the
sweet queen. The indisposition of the handmaid could not and _did not
escape the notice of_ her royal mistress. But the _established
doctrine of the court was that all sickness_ was to be _considered as
a pretense until it proved fatal_. The only way in which the invalid
could clear herself from the suspicion of malingering, as it is called
in the army, was to go on lacing and unlacing, _till she fell down
dead at the royal feet_."

Finally Miss Burney's father pays her a visit in this palace prison,
when "she told him that she was miserable; that she was worn with
attendance and want of sleep; that she had no comfort in
life,--nothing to love, nothing to hope; that her family and friends
were to her as though they were not, and were remembered by her as men
remember the dead. From daybreak to midnight the same killing labor,
the same recreation, more hateful than labor itself, followed each
other without variety, without any interval of liberty or repose."

Her father's veneration for royalty amounting to idolatry, he could
not bear to remove her from the court--"and, between the dear father
and the sweet queen, there seemed to be little doubt that some day or
other Frances _would drop down a corpse_. Six months had elapsed since
the interview between the parent and the daughter. The resignation was
not sent in. The sufferer grew worse and worse. She took bark, but it
failed to produce a beneficial effect. She was stimulated with wine;
she was soothed with opium, but in vain. Her breath began to fail. The
whisper that she was in a decline spread through the court. The pains
in her side became so severe that she was forced to crawl from the
card-table of the old fury, Mme. Schwellenberg, to whom she was
tethered, three or four times in an evening, for the purpose of taking
hartshorn. Had she been a negro slave, a humane planter would have
excused her from work. But her Majesty showed no mercy. Thrice a day
the accursed bell still rang; the queen was still to be dressed for
the morning at seven, and to be dressed for the day at noon, and to be
undressed at midnight."

At last Miss Burney's father was moved to compassion and allowed her
to write a letter of resignation. "Still I could not," writes Miss
Burney in her diary, "summon courage to present my memorial from
seeing the queen's entire freedom from such an expectation. For though
I was frequently so ill in her presence that I could hardly stand, I
saw she concluded me, while life remained, inevitably hers.

"At last, with a trembling hand, the paper was delivered. Then came
the storm. Mme. Schwellenberg raved like a maniac. The resignation was
not accepted. The father's fears were aroused, and he declared, in a
letter meant to be shown to the queen, that his daughter must retire.
The Schwellenberg raged like a wildcat. A scene almost horrible

"The queen then promised that, after the next birthday, Miss Burney
should be set at liberty. But the promise was ill kept; and her
Majesty showed displeasure at being reminded of it."

At length, however, the prison door was opened, and Frances was free
once more. Her health was restored by traveling, and she returned to
London in health and spirits. Macaulay tells us that she went to visit
the palace, "her _old dungeon, and found her successor already far on
the way to the grave, and kept to strict duty, from morning till
midnight, with a sprained ankle and a nervous fever_."

An ignorant and unlettered woman would doubtless not have found this
life in the palace tedious, and our sympathy would not have been
aroused for her; for as long as the earth lasts there must be human
beings fitted for every station, and it is supposed, till the end of
all things, there must be cooks, housemaids, and dining-room servants,
which will make it never possible for the whole human family to stand
entirely upon the same platform socially and intellectually. And Miss
Burney's wretchedness, which calls forth our sympathy, was not because
she had to perform the duties of waiting-maid, but because to a gifted
and educated woman these duties were uncongenial; and congeniality
means _happiness_; uncongeniality, _unhappiness_.


From the sorrows of Miss Burney in the palace--a striking contrast
with the menials described in our own country homes--I will turn to
another charming place on the James River--Powhatan Seat, a mile below
Richmond, which had descended in the Mayo family two hundred years.

Here, it was said, the Indian chief Powhatan had lived, and here was
shown the veritable stone supposed to have been the one upon which
Captain Smith's head was laid, when the Indian princess Pocahontas
rescued him.

This historic stone, near the parlor window, was only an ugly, dark,
broad, flat stone, but imagination pictured ever around it the Indian
group, Smith's head upon it, the infuriated chief with uplifted club
in the act of dealing the death-blow, the grief and shriek of
Pocahontas as she threw herself upon Smith, imploring her father to
spare him,--a piercing cry to have penetrated the heart of the savage

Looking out from the parlor window and imagining this savage scene,
how strange a contrast met the eye within! Around the fireside
assembled the loveliest family group, where kindness and affection
beamed in every eye, and father, mother, brothers, and sisters were
linked together by tenderest devotion and sympathy.

If natural scenery reflects itself upon the heart, no wonder a "holy
calm" rested upon this family, for far down the river the prospect was
peace and tranquillity; and many an evening in the summer-house on the
river bank we drank in the beauty of soft blue skies, green isles, and
white sails floating in the distance.

Many in Richmond remember the delightful weddings and parties at
Powhatan Seat, where assembled the _élite_ from Richmond, with an
innumerable throng of cousins, aunts, and uncles from Orange and
Culpeper counties.

On these occasions the house was illuminated by wax lights issuing
from bouquets of magnolia leaves placed around the walls near the
ceiling, and looking prettier than any glass chandelier.

We, from a distance, generally stayed a week after the wedding,
becoming, as it were, a part of the family circle; and the bride did
not rush off on a tour as is the fashion nowadays, but remained
quietly at home, enjoying the society of her family and friends.

One feature I have omitted in describing our weddings and
parties--invariably a part of the picture--was the sea of black faces
surrounding the doors and windows to look on the dancing, hear the
music, and afterward get a good share of the supper.

Tourists often went to walk around the beautiful grounds at
Powhatan--so neatly kept with sea-shells around the flowers, and
pleasant seats under the lindens and magnolias--and to see the
historic stone; but I often thought they knew not what was missed in
not knowing, as we did, the lovely family within.

But, for us, those rare, beautiful days at Powhatan are gone forever;
for since the war the property has passed into strange hands, and the
family who once owned it will own it no more.

During the late war heavy guns were placed in the family
burying-ground on this plantation--a point commanding the river; and
here was interred the child of a distinguished general[16] in the
Northern army--a Virginian, formerly in the United States army--who
had married a member of the Powhatan family. He was expected to make
an attack upon Richmond, and over his child's grave was placed a gun
to fire upon him. Such are the unnatural incidents of civil war.

    [16] General Scott.

About two miles from Powhatan Seat was another beautiful old
place--Mount Erin--the plantation formerly of a family all of whom,
except two sisters, had died. The estate, becoming involved, had to be
sold, which so grieved and distressed these sisters that they passed
hours weeping if accidentally the name of their old home was mentioned
in their presence.

Once when we were at Powhatan, and these ladies were among the guests,
a member of the Powhatan family ordered the carriage, and took my
sister and myself to Mount Erin, telling us to keep it a secret when
we returned, for "the sisters," said she, "would neither eat nor sleep
if reminded of their old home."

A pleasant drive brought us to Mount Erin, and when we saw the box
hedges, gravel walks, and linden trees we were no longer surprised at
the grief of the sisters whose hearts entwined around their old home.
The house was in charge of an old negro woman--the purchaser not
having moved in--who showed us over the grounds; and every shrub and
flower seemed to speak of days gone by. Even the ivy on the old bricks
looked gloomy, as if mourning the light, mirth, and song departed from
the house forever; and the walks gave back a deadened echo, as if they
wished not to be disturbed by stranger tread. All seemed in a reverie,
dreaming a long sweet dream of the past, and entering into the grief
of the sisters, who lived afterward for many years in a pleasant home
on a pleasant street in Richmond, with warm friends to serve them, yet
their tears never ceased to flow at the mention of Mount Erin.

One more plantation picture, and enough will have been described to
show the character of the homes and people on our plantations.

The last place visited by my sister and myself before the war of 1861
was Elkwood, a fine estate in Culpeper County, four miles from the
railroad station, the residence of Richard Cunningham.

It was the last of June. The country was a scene of enchantment as the
carriage rolled us through dark, cool forests, green meadows, fields
of waving grain; out of the forests into acres of broad-leaved corn;
across pebble-bottomed streams, and along the margin of the Rapidan,
which flowed at the base of the hill leading up to the house.

The house was square and white, and the blinds green as the grass lawn
and trees in the yard. Inside the house the polished "dry-rubbed"
floors, clean and cool, refreshed one on entering like a glass of iced
lemonade on a midsummer's day. The old-fashioned furniture against the
walls looked as if it thought too much of itself to be set about
promiscuously over the floor, like modern fauteuils and divans.

About everything was an air of dignity and repose corresponding with
the manners and appearance of the proprietors, who were called "Uncle
Dick" and "Aunt Jenny"--the _a_ in "Aunt" pronounced very broad.

Aunt Jenny and Uncle Dick had no children, but took care of numerous
nieces and nephews, kept their house filled to overflowing with
friends, relatives, and strangers, and were revered and beloved by
all. They had no pleasure so great as taking care of other people.
They lived for other people, and made everybody comfortable and happy
around them. From the time Uncle Dick had prayers in the morning until
family prayers at bedtime they were busy bestowing some kindness.

Uncle Dick's character and manners were of a type so high that one
felt elevated in his presence; and a desire to reach his standard
animated those who knew him. His precept and example were such that
all who followed them might arrive at the highest perfection of
Christian character.

Uncle Dick had requested Aunt Jenny, when they were married, forty
years before, to have on his table every day dinner enough for six
more persons than were already in the house, "in case," he said, "he
should meet friends or acquaintances, while riding over his plantation
or in the neighborhood, whom he wished to ask home with him to
dinner." This having been always a rule, Aunt Jenny never sat at her
table without dinner enough for six more,--and hers were no
commonplace dinners; no hasty-puddings, no saleratus bread, no soda
cakes, no frozen-starch ice-cream, no modern shorthand recipes, but
genuine old Virginia cooking. And all who want to know what that was
can find out all about it in Aunt Jenny's book of copied recipes--if
it is extant--or in that of Mrs. Harrison, of Brandon. But as neither
of these books may ever be known to the public, their "sum and
substance" may be given in a few words:

"Have no shams. Procure an abundance of the freshest, richest _real_
cream, milk, eggs, butter, lard, best old Madeira wine, all the way
from Madeira, and never use a particle of soda or saleratus about
anything or under any pressure."

These were the ingredients Aunt Jenny used, for Uncle Dick had rare
old wine in his cellar which he had brought from Europe thirty years
before, and every day was a feast-day at Elkwood. And the wedding
breakfasts Aunt Jenny used to get up when one of her nieces married at
her house--as they sometimes did--were beyond description.

While at Elkwood, observing every day that the carriage went to the
depot empty and returned empty, we inquired the reason, and were
informed that Uncle Dick, ever since the cars had been passing near
his plantation, ordered his coachman to have the carriage every day at
the station, "in case some of his friends might be on the train, and
might like to stop and see him"!

Another hospitable rule in Uncle Dick's house was that company must
never be kept waiting in his parlor, and so anxious was his young
niece to meet his approbation in this as in every particular that she
had a habit of dressing herself carefully, arranging her hair
beautifully--it was in the days, too, when smooth hair was
fashionable--before lying down for the afternoon siesta, "in case,"
she said, "someone might call, and Uncle Dick had a horror of visitors
waiting." This process of reposing in a fresh muslin dress and
fashionably arranged hair required a particular and uncomfortable
position, which she seemed not to mind, but dozed in the most precise
manner without rumpling her hair or her dress.

Elkwood was a favorite place of resort for Episcopal ministers, whom
Aunt Jenny and Uncle Dick loved to entertain. And here we met the Rev.
Philip Slaughter, the learned divine, eloquent preacher, and charming
companion. He had just returned from a visit to England, where he had
been entertained in palaces. Telling us the incidents of his visit, "I
was much embarrassed at first," said he, "at the thought of attending
a dinner-party given in a palace to me, a simple Virginian, but, on
being announced at the drawing-room door and entering the company, I
felt at once at ease, for they were all ladies and gentlemen, such as
I had known at home--polite, pleasant, and without pretense."

This gentleman's conversational powers were not only bright and
delightful, but also the means of turning many to righteousness--for
religion was one of his chief themes.

A proof of his genius and eloquence was given in the beautiful poem
recited--without ever having been written--at the centennial
anniversary of old Christ Church in Alexandria. This was the church in
which General Washington and his family had worshiped, and around it
clustered many memories. Mr. Slaughter, with several others, had been
invited to make an address on the occasion, and one night, while
thinking about it, an exquisite poem passed through his mind,
picturing scene after scene in the old church--General Washington,
with his head bowed in silent prayer; infants at the baptismal font;
young men and maidens in bridal array at the altar; and funeral trains
passing through the open gate.

On the night of the celebration, when his turn came, finding the hour
too late and the audience too sleepy for his prose address, he
suddenly determined to "dash off" the poem, every word of which came
back to him, although he had never written it. The audience roused up
electrified, and, as the recitation proceeded, their enthusiasm
reached the highest pitch. Never had there been such a sensation in
the old church before. And, next morning, the house at which he was
stopping was besieged by reporters begging "copies" and offering good
prices, but the poem remains unwritten to this day.

Elkwood, like many other old homes, was burned by the Northern army in
1862, and not a tree or flower remains to mark the spot that for so
many years was the abode of hospitality and good cheer.

In connection with Culpeper County, it is due here to state that it
excelled all others in ancient and dilapidated buggies and carriages,
seeming to be a regular infirmary for all the disabled vehicles of the
Old Dominion. Here their age and infirmities received every care and
consideration, being propped up, tied up, and bandaged up in every
conceivable manner; and, strangest of all, rarely depositing their
occupants in the road, which was prevented by cautious old gentlemen
riding alongside, who, watching for and discovering the weakest
points, stopped and securely tied up fractured parts with bits of
twine, rope, or chain always carried in buggy-or carriage-boxes for
that purpose. These surgical operations, although not ornamental,
strengthened and sustained these venerable vehicles, and produced a
miraculous longevity.

Many more sketches might be given of pleasant country homes--themes
worthy a better pen than mine; for Brandon, Westover, Shirley, Carter
Hall, Lauderdale, Vaucluse, and others, linger in the memory of
hundreds who once knew and loved them--especially Vaucluse, which,
although far removed from railroads, stage-coaches, and public
conveyances, was overflowing with company throughout the year. For the
Vaucluse girls were so bright, so fascinating, and so bewitchingly
pretty, that they attracted a concourse of visitors, and were sure to
be belles wherever they went.

And many remember the owner of Vaucluse, Mr. Blair Dabney, that
pure-hearted Christian and cultivated gentleman who, late in life,
devoted himself to the Episcopal ministry, and labored faithfully in
the Master's cause, preaching in country churches, "without money and
without price." Surely his reward is in heaven.

Besides these well-ordered establishments, there were some others
owned by inactive men, who smoked their pipes, read their books, left
everything very much to the management of their negroes, and seemed
content to let things tumble down around them.

One of these places we used to call "Topsy-Turvy Castle," and another

At such places the negro quarters--instead of being neat rows of white
cabins in the rear of the house, as on other plantations--occupied a
conspicuous place near the front, and consisted of a solid, long, ugly
brick structure, with swarms of negroes around the windows and doors,
appearing to have nothing in the world to do and never to have done

Everything had a "shackling," lazy appearance. The master was always,
it appeared to us, reading a newspaper in the front porch, and never
observing anything that was going on. The house was so full of idle
negroes standing about the halls and stairways that one could scarcely
make one's way up or down stairs. Everything needed repair, from the
bed upon which you slept to the family coach which took you to church.

Few of the chairs had all their rounds and legs, and, when completely
disabled, were sent to the garret, where they accumulated in great
numbers, and remained until pressing necessity induced the master to
raise his eyes from his paper long enough to order "Dick" to "take the
four-horse wagon and carry the chairs to be mended."

A multitude of kinsfolk and acquaintance usually congregated here. And
at one place, in order to accommodate so many, there were four beds in
a chamber. These high bedsteads presented a remarkable appearance,--the
head of one going into the side of another, the foot of one into
the head of another, and so on, looking as if they had never been
"placed," but as if their curious juxtaposition had been the result
of an earthquake.

One of these houses is said to have been greatly improved in
appearance during the war by the passage of a cannon-ball through the
upper story, where a window had been needed for many years.

But the owners of these places were so genuinely good, one could not
complain of them, even for such carelessness. For everybody was
welcome to everything. You might stop the plows if you wanted a horse,
or take the carriage and drive for a week's journey, and, in short,
impose upon these good people in every conceivable way.

Yet, in spite of this topsy-turvy management--a strange fact connected
with such places--they invariably had good light-bread, good mutton,
and the usual abundance on their tables.

We suppose it must have been a recollection of such plantations which
induced the negro to exclaim, on hearing another sing "Ole Virginny
Nubber Tire": "Umph! ole Virginny nubber tire, kase she nubber done
nuthin' fur to furtigue herself!"


Confining these reminiscences strictly to plantation life, no mention
has been made of the families we knew and visited in some of our
cities, whose kindness to their slaves was unmistakable, and who,
owning only a small number, could better afford to indulge them.

At one of these houses this indulgence was such that the white family
were very much under the control of their servants.

The owner of this house, Charles Mosby, an eminent lawyer, was a man
of taste and learning, whose legal ability attracted many admirers,
and whose refinement, culture, and generous nature won enthusiastic

Although considered the owner of his house, it was a mistake, if
ownership means the right to govern one's own property; for beyond his
law-papers, library, and the privilege of paying all the bills, this
gentleman had no "rights" there whatever, his house, kitchen, and
premises being under the entire command of "Aunt Fanny," the cook, a
huge mulatto woman, whose word was law, and whose voice thundered
abuse if any dared to disobey her.

The master, mistress, family, and visitors all stood in awe of Aunt
Fanny, and yet could not do without her, for she made unapproachable
light-bread and conducted the affairs of the place with distinguished

Her own house was in the yard, and had been built especially for her
convenience. Her furniture was polished mahogany, and she kept most
delicious preserves, pickles, and sweetmeats of her own manufacture,
with which to regale her friends and favorites. As we came under that
head, we were often treated when we went in to see her after her day's
work was over, or on Sundays.

Although she "raved and stormed" considerably--which she told us she
was "obliged to do, honey, to keep things straight"--she had the
tenderest regard for her master and mistress, and often said: "If it
warn't for _me_, they'd have nuthin' in the world, and things here
would go to destruction."

So Aunt Fanny "kept up this family," as she said, for many years, and
many amusing incidents might be related of her.

On one occasion her master, after a long and exciting political
contest, was elected to the legislature. Before all the precincts had
been heard from, believing himself defeated, he retired to rest, and,
being naturally feeble, was quite worn out. But at midnight a great
cry arose at his gate, where a multitude assembled, screaming and
hurrahing. At first he was uncertain whether they were friends to
congratulate him on his victory or the opposite party to hang him, as
they had threatened, for voting an appropriation to the Danville
Railroad. It soon appeared they had come to congratulate him, when
great excitement prevailed, loud cheers, and cries for a speech. The
doors were opened and the crowd rushed in. The hero soon appeared and
delivered one of his graceful and satisfactory speeches.

Still the crowd remained cheering and storming about the house, until
Aunt Fanny, who had made her appearance in full dress, considering
the excitement had been kept up long enough, and that the master's
health was too delicate for any further demonstration, determined to
disperse them. Rising to her full height, waving her hand, and
speaking majestically, she said: "Gentlemen, Mars' Charles is a feeble
pusson, an' it's time for him to take his res'. He's been kep' 'wake
long enough now, an' it's time for me to close up dese doors!"

With this the crowd dispersed, and Aunt Fanny remained mistress of the
situation, declaring that if she "hadn't come forward an' 'spersed dat
crowd, Mars' Charles would have been a dead man befo' mornin'."

[Illustration: "AUNT FANNY 'SPERSED DAT CROWD'."--_Page 161._]

Aunt Fanny kept herself liberally supplied with pocket-money, one of
her chief sources of revenue being soap, which she made in large
quantities and sold at high prices; especially what she called her
"butter soap," which was in great demand, and which was made from all
the butter which she did not consider fresh enough for the delicate
appetites of her mistress and master. She appropriated one of the
largest basement rooms, had it shelved, and filled it with soap. In
order to carry on business so extensively, huge logs were kept blazing
on the kitchen hearth under the soap-pot day and night. During the
war, wood becoming scarce and expensive, "Mars' Charles" found that it
drained his purse to keep the kitchen fire supplied.

Thinking the matter over one day in his library, and concluding it
would greatly lessen his expenses if Aunt Fanny could be prevailed
upon to discontinue her soap trade, he sent for her, and said very

"Fanny, I have a proposition to make you."

"What is it, Mars' Charles?"

"Well, Fanny, as my expenses are very heavy now, if you will give up
your soap-boiling for this year, I will agree to pay you fifty

With arms akimbo, and looking at him with astonishment but with
firmness in her eye, she replied: "Couldn't possibly do it, Mars'
Charles; because _soap_, sir, _soap's my main-tain-ance_!"

With this she strode majestically out of the room. "Mars' Charles"
said no more, but continued paying fabulous sums for wood, while Aunt
Fanny continued boiling her soap.

This woman not only ordered but kept all the family supplies, her
mistress having no disposition to keep the keys or in any way
interfere with her.

But at last her giant strength gave way, and she sickened and died.
Having no children, she left her property to one of her

Several days before her death we were sitting with her mistress and
master in a room overlooking her house. Her room was crowded with
negroes who had come to perform their religious rites around the
deathbed. Joining hands, they performed a savage dance, shouting
wildly around her bed. This was horrible to hear and see, especially
as in this family every effort had been made to instruct their negro
dependents in the truths of religion; and one member of the family,
who spent the greater part of her life in prayer, had for years prayed
for Aunt Fanny and tried to instruct her in the true faith. But
although an intelligent woman, she seemed to cling to the
superstitions of her race.

After the savage dance and rites were over, and while we sat talking
about it, a gentleman--the friend and minister of the family--came in.
We described to him what we had just witnessed, and he deplored it
bitterly with us, saying he had read and prayed with Aunt Fanny and
tried to make her see the truth in Jesus. He then marked some passages
in the Bible, and asked me to go and read them to her. I went, and
said to her: "Aunt Fanny, here are some verses Mr. Mitchell has marked
for me to read to you, and he hopes you will pray to the Saviour as he
taught you." Then said I: "We are afraid the noise and dancing have
made you worse."

Speaking feebly, she replied: "Honey, dat kind o' 'ligion suit us
black folks better 'en yo' kind. What suit Mars' Charles' mind karn't
suit mine."

And thus died the most intelligent of her race--one who had been
surrounded by pious persons who had been praying for her and
endeavoring to instruct her. She had also enjoyed through life not
only the comforts but many of the luxuries of earth, and when she died
her mistress and master lost a sincere friend.


This chapter will show how "Virginia beat biscuit" procured for a man
a home and friends in Paris.

One morning in the spring of 185--, a singular-looking man presented
himself at our house. He was short of stature, and enveloped in furs,
although the weather was not cold. Everything about him which could be
gold, was gold, and so we called him "the gold-tipped man." He called
for my mother, and when she went into the parlor, he said to her:

"Madam, I have been stopping several weeks at the hotel in the town of
L., where I met a boy--Robert--who tells me he belongs to you. As I
want such a servant, and he is anxious to travel, I come, at his
request, to ask if you will let me buy him and take him to Europe. I
will pay any price."

"I could not think of it," she replied. "I have determined never to
sell one of my servants."

"But," continued the man, "he is anxious to go, and has sent me to beg

"It is impossible," said she, "for he is a great favorite with us, and
the only child his mother has."

Finding her determined, the man took his leave, and went back to the
town, twenty-five miles off; but returned next day accompanied by
Robert, who entreated his mother and mistress to let him go.

Said my mother to him: "Would you leave your mother and go with a
stranger to a foreign land?"

"Yes, madam. I love my mother, an' you an' all de fambly--you always
been so good to me--but I want travel, an' dis gent'man say he give me
plenty o' money an' treat me good, too."

Still she refused. But the boy's mother, finally yielding to his
entreaty, consented, and persuaded her mistress, saying: "If he is
willing to leave me, and so anxious to go, I will give him up."

Knowing how distressed we all would be at parting with him, he went
off without coming to say "good-by," and wrote his mother from New
York what day he would sail with his new master for Europe.

At first his mother received from him presents and letters, telling
her he was very much delighted, and "had as much money as he knew what
to do with." But after a few months he ceased to write, and we could
hear nothing from him.

At length, when eighteen months had elapsed, we were one day
astonished to see him return home, dressed in the best Parisian style.
We were rejoiced to see him again, and his own joy at getting back
cannot be described. He ran over the yard and house, examining
everything, and said: "Mistess, I aint see no place pretty as yours,
an' no lady look to me like you in all de finest places I bin see in
Europ', an' no water tas'e good like de water in our ole well. An' I
dream 'bout you all, an' 'bout ev'y ole chur an' table in dis house,
an' wonder ef uvver I'd see 'um ag'in."

He then gave us a sketch of his life since the "gold-tipped man" had
become his master. Arrived in Paris, his master and himself took
lodgings, and a teacher was employed to come every day and instruct
Robert in French. His master kept him well supplied with money, never
giving him less than fifty dollars at a time. His duties were light,
and he had ample time to study and amuse himself.

After enjoying such elegant ease for eight or nine months he awoke one
morning and found himself deserted and penniless! His master had
absconded in the night, leaving no vestige of himself except a gold
dressing-case and a few toilet articles of gold, which were seized by
the proprietor of the hotel in payment of his bill.

Poor Robert, without money and without a friend in this great city,
knew not where to turn. In vain he wished himself back in his old

"If I could only find some Virginian to whom I could appeal," said he
to himself. And suddenly it occurred to him that the American
Minister, Mr. Mason, was a Virginian. When he remembered this, his
heart was cheered, and he lost no time in finding Mr. Mason's house.

Presenting himself before the American Minister, he related his story,
which was not at first believed. "For," said Mr. Mason, "there are so
many impostors in Paris it is impossible to believe you."

Robert protested he had been a slave in Virginia, had been deserted by
his owner in Paris, and begged Mr. Mason to keep him at his house, and
take care of him.

Then Mr. M. asked many questions about people and places in Virginia,
all of which were accurately answered. Finally he said: "I knew well
the Virginia gentleman who was, you say, your master. What was the
color of his hair?" This was also satisfactorily answered, and Robert
began to hope he was believed, when Mr. Mason continued:

"Now, there is one thing which, if you can do, will convince me you
came from Virginia. Go in my kitchen and make me some old Virginia
beat biscuit, and I will believe everything you have said!"

"I think I kin, sir," said Robert, and, going into the kitchen, rolled
up his sleeves, and set to work.

This was a desperate moment, for he had never made a biscuit in his
life, although he had often watched the proceeding as "Black Mammy,"
the cook at home, used to beat, roll, and manipulate the dough on her

"If I only could make them look like hers!" thought he, as he beat,
and rolled, and worked, and finally stuck the dough all over with a
fork. Then, cutting them out and putting them to bake, he watched them
with nervous anxiety until they resembled those he had often placed on
the table at home.

Astonished and delighted with his success, he carried them to the
American Minister, who exclaimed: "Now I _know_ you came from old

Robert was immediately installed in Mr. John Y. Mason's house, where
he remained a faithful attendant until Mr. Mason's death, when he
returned with the family to America.

Arriving at New York, he thought it impossible to get along by
himself, and determined to find his master. For this purpose he
employed a policeman, and together they succeeded in recovering "the
lost master,"--this being a singular instance of a "slave in pursuit
of his fugitive master."

The "gold-tipped man" expressed much pleasure at his servant's
fidelity, and, handing him a large sum of money, desired him to return
to Paris, pay his bill, bring back his gold dressing-box and toilet
articles, and, as a reward for his fidelity, take as much money as he
wished and travel over the Continent.

Robert obeyed these commands, returned to Paris, paid the bills,
traveled over the chief places in Europe, and then came again to New
York. Here he was appalled to learn that his master had been arrested
for forgery, and imprisoned in Philadelphia. It was ascertained that
the forger was an Englishman and connected with an underground forging
establishment in Paris. Finding himself about to be detected in Paris,
he fled to New York, and, other forgeries having been discovered in
Philadelphia, he had been arrested.

Robert lost no time in reporting himself at the prison, and was
grieved to find his master in such a place.

Determined to do what he could to relieve the man who had been a good
friend to him, he went to a Philadelphia lawyer, and said to him:
"Sir, the man who is in prison bought me in Virginia, and has been a
kind master to me; I have no money, but if you will do your best to
have him acquitted, I will return to the South, sell myself, and send
you the money."

"It is a bargain," replied the lawyer. "Send me the money, and I will
save your master from the penitentiary."

Robert returned to Baltimore, sold himself to a Jew in that city, and
sent the money to the lawyer in Philadelphia. After this he was bought
by a distinguished Southern Senator--afterward a general in the
Southern army[17]--with whom he remained, and to whom he rendered
valuable services during the war.

    [17] General Robert Toombs.

Other instances were known of negroes who preferred being sold into
slavery rather than take care of themselves. There were some in our
immediate neighborhood who, finding themselves emancipated by their
master's will, begged the owners of neighboring plantations to buy
them, saying they preferred having "white people to take care of
them." On the Wheatly plantation, not far from us, there is still
living an old negro who sold himself in this way, and cannot be
persuaded _now_ to accept his freedom. After the war, when all the
negroes were freed by the Federal government, and our people were too
much impoverished longer to clothe and feed them, this old man refused
to leave the plantation, but clung to his cabin, although his wife and
family moved off and begged him to accompany them.

"No," said he, "I nuvver will leave dis plantation, an' go off to
starve wid free niggers."

Not even when his wife was very sick and dying could he be persuaded
to go off and stay one night with her. He had long been too old to
work, but his former owners indulged him by giving him his cabin, and
taking care of him through all the poverty which has fallen upon our
land since the war.

Many of us remember this old man, Harrison Mitchell, who was an
unusual character, high-toned and reliable. His father was an Indian
and his mother a negress. He resembled the Indian, with straight
black hair, brown skin, and high cheek-bones. His great pride was that
he had "cum out de Patrick Henry estate an use to run a freight boat
wid flour down de Jeemes Ruver fum Lynchbu'g to Richmon' long fo' dar
was a sign o' town at Lynch's Ferry." But his great and consuming
theme, especially after the war, was the impossibility of the negroes
taking care of themselves "bedout no white man," and nothing ever
reconciled him to his own freedom. Taking his seat in our back porch,
where my mother usually entertained him, we would assemble to hear him
talk. I would ask: "Well, Uncle Harrison, what do you think of freedom
now after ten years?"

"Lord, mistess, what I t'ink o' freedom? Why, mistess, dese niggers is
no mo' kakalate to take kur o' deyselves dan 'possum. An' I tells 'em
so. Kase what is a nigger bedout white man? He aint nuthin', an' he
aint gwine be nuthin' no ways dey fix it. An' dey aint gwine stay
free, kase de Lord nuvver 'tends 'um to be nuthin' bedout white folks.
Kase ev'ybody know nigger aint got no hade. I nuvver want no nigger be
takin' kur o' me. I looks to my white folks to take kur o' me. I
'lonks to Mars' Robert an' aint gwine lef his plantation tell I die.
What right Yankees got settin' me free, an' den karn't take kur o' me?
No! niggers is niggers, an' gwine be niggers, an' white folks got to
take kur on 'em tell end o' screeation. An' der Lord gwine put ev'y
single one on 'em back in slavery jes' as sure as you born."

True to his word, old Harrison refused to wear an article of clothing
"ef de white folks didn't give it to him." And his daughter, wishing
to give him a blanket, asked her former young mistress to let him
think it was from _her_, or he would not take it.

At last "Mars' Robert" was on his deathbed. Old Harrison went in to
see him for the last time.

"Mars' Robert," said he, "I got one reques' to make fo' you die."

"What is it?" asked his master.

"Mars' Robert, I want to be buried right outside de gate o' de garden
lot where you an' Miss Lucy is buried, so I kin see you fus' on de
mornin' o' de resurrection."

"Harrison, you shall be buried _inside_ the lot with us," replied
"Mars' Robert" distinctly, and a lady who heard it told me she never
saw such radiant happiness as the old man's face expressed when these
words fell on his ear.


O bright-winged peace! long didst thou rest o'er the homes of old
Virginia; while cheerful wood fires blazed on hearth-stones in parlor
and cabin, reflecting contented faces with hearts full of peace and
good will toward men! No thought entered there of harm to others; no
fear of evil to ourselves. Whatsoever things were honest, whatsoever
things were pure, whatsoever things were gentle, whatsoever things
were of good report, we were accustomed to hear around these parlor
firesides; and often would our grandmothers say:

"Children, ours is a blessed country! There never will be another war!
The Indians have long ago been driven out, and it has been nearly a
hundred years since the English yoke was broken!"

The history of our country, to our minds, was contained in two
pictures on the walls of our house: "The Last Battle with the
Indians," and "The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown."

No enemies within or without our borders, and peace established among
us forever! Such was our belief. And we wondered that men should get
together and talk their dry politics, seeing that General Washington
and Thomas Jefferson--two of our Virginia plantation men--had
established a government to last as long as the earth, and which could
not be improved. Yet they _would_ talk, these politicians, around our
parlor fire, where often our patience was exhausted hearing
discussions, in which we could not take interest, about the Protective
Tariff, the Bankrupt Law, the Distribution of Public Lands, the
Resolutions of '98, the Missouri Compromise, and the Monroe Doctrine.
These topics seemed to afford them intense pleasure and satisfaction,
for, as the "sparks fly upward," the thoughts of men turn to politics.

In 1859 we had a visit from two old friends of our family--a
distinguished Southern Senator and the Secretary of War[18]--both
accustomed to swaying multitudes by the power of their eloquence--which
lost none of its force and charm in our little home circle. We listened
with admiration as they discussed the political issues of the day--no
longer a subject uninteresting or unintelligible to us, for every
word was of vital importance. Their theme was, _The best means of
protecting our plantation homes and firesides_. Even the smallest
children now comprehended the greatest politicians.

    [18] General Toombs and General Floyd.

Now came the full flow and tide of Southern eloquence--real
soul-inspiring eloquence.

Many possessing this gift were in the habit of visiting us at that
time; and all dwelt upon one theme--the secession of Virginia--with
glowing words from hearts full of enthusiasm; all agreeing it was
better for States, as well as individuals, to separate rather than
quarrel or fight.

But there was one[19]--our oldest and best friend--who differed from
these gentlemen; and his eloquence was gentle and effective. Unlike
his friends, whose words, earnest and electric, overwhelmed all
around, this gentleman's power was in his composure of manner without
vehemence. His words were well selected without seeming to have been
studied; each sentence was short, but contained a gem, like a
solitaire diamond.

    [19] Charles Mosby.

For several months this gentleman remained untouched by the fiery
eloquence of his friends, like the Hebrew children in the burning
furnace. Nothing affected him until one day the President of the
United States demanded by telegraph fifty thousand Virginians to join
an army against South Carolina. And then this gentleman felt convinced
it was not the duty of Virginians to join an army against their

About this time we had some very interesting letters from the Hon.
Edward Everett--who had been for several years a friend and agreeable
correspondent--giving us his views on the subject, and very soon after
this all communication between the North and South ceased, except
through the blockade, for four long years.

And then came the long dark days--the days when the sun seemed to
shine no more; when the eyes of wives, mothers, and sisters were
heavy with weeping; when men sat up late in the night studying
military tactics; when grief-burdened hearts turned to God in prayer.

The intellectual gladiators who had discoursed eloquently of war
around our fireside buckled their armor on and went forth to battle.

Band after band of brave-hearted, bright-faced youths from Southern
plantation homes came to bleed and die on Virginia soil; and for four
long years old Virginia was one great camping-ground, hospital, and
battlefield. The roar of cannon and the clash of arms resounded over
the land. The groans of the wounded and dying went up from hillside
and valley. The hearts of women and children were sad and careworn.
But God, to whom we prayed, protected us in our plantation homes,
where no white men or even boys remained, all having gone into the
army. Only the negro slaves stayed with us, and these were encouraged
by our enemies to rise and slay us; but God in his mercy willed
otherwise. Although advised to burn our property and incited by the
enemy to destroy their former owners, these negro slaves remained
faithful, manifesting kindness, and in many instances protecting the
white families and plantations during their masters' absence.

Oh! the long terrible nights passed by these helpless women and
children, the enemy encamped around them, the clash of swords heard
against the doors and windows, the report of guns on the air which
might be sending death to their loved ones!

But why try to describe the horrors of such nights? Who that has not
experienced them can know how we felt? Who can imagine the
heartsickness when, stealing to an upper window at midnight, we
watched the fierce flames rising from some neighboring home, expecting
our own to be destroyed by the enemy before daylight in the same way?

Such pictures, dark and fearful, were the only ones familiar to us in
old Virginia those four dreadful years.

At last the end came--the end which seemed to us saddest of all. But
God knoweth best. Though "through fiery trials" he had caused us to
pass, he had not forsaken us. For was not his mercy signally shown in
the failure of the enemy to incite our negro slaves to insurrection
during the war? Through his mercy those who were expected to become
our enemies remained our friends. And in our own home, surrounded by
the enemy those terrible nights, our only guard was a faithful negro
servant who slept in the house, and went out every hour to see if we
were in immediate danger; while his mother--the kind old nurse--sat
all night in a rocking-chair in our room, ready to help us. Had we
not, then, amid all our sorrows, much to be thankful for?

Among such scenes one of the last pictures photographed on my memory
was that of a negro boy who was very ill with typhoid fever in a cabin
not far off, and who became greatly alarmed when a brisk firing,
across our house, commenced between the contending armies. His first
impulse--as it always had been in trouble--was to fly to his mistress
for protection, and, jumping from his bed, his head bandaged with a
white cloth, and looking like one just from the grave, he passed
through the firing as fast as he could, screaming: "O mistess, take
kur o' me! Put me in yo' closet, and hide me from de Yankees!" He
fell at the door exhausted. My mother had him brought in, and a bed
was made for him in the library. She nursed him carefully, but he died
in a day or two from fright and exhaustion.

Soon after this came the surrender at Appomattox, and negro slavery
ended forever.

All was ruin around us,--tobacco factories burned down, sugar and
cotton plantations destroyed. The negroes fled from these desolated
places, crowded together in wretched shanties on the outskirts of
towns and villages, and found themselves, for the first time in their
lives, without enough to eat, and with no class of people particularly
interested about their food, health, or comfort. Rations were
furnished them a short time by the United States government, with
promises of money and land which were never fulfilled. Impoverished by
the war, it was a relief to us no longer to have the responsibility of
supporting them. This would, indeed, have been impossible in our
starving condition.

Years have passed, and the old homes have been long deserted where the
scenes I have attempted to describe were enacted. The heads of the
families lie buried in the old graveyards, while their descendants are
scattered from the Atlantic to the Pacific, always holding sacred in
memory the dear old homes in Virginia.

The descendants of the negroes here portrayed,--where are they? It
would take a long chapter, indeed, to tell of them. Many are crowded
on the outskirts of the towns and villages North and South, in
wretched thriftlessness and squalor, yet content and without ambition
to alter their condition.

On the other hand, a good proportion of the race seek to improve their
opportunities in schools and colleges, provided partly by the aid of
Northern friends, but principally from taxes paid by their former
owners in spite of the impoverished condition of the South.

Many have acquired independent homes, with the laudable purpose of
becoming useful and respected citizens. The majority, however, are
best pleased with itineracy.

It is needless to say that those of the latter class can never become
desirable domestics in a well-ordered, cleanly house. And those whose
youth has been passed in schoolrooms, with no training in the habits
of refined life, have not acquired sufficient education to avail much
in the line of letters. Thus the problem of their race remains
unsolved, even by those who know it most intimately.

In the matter of classical education the question occurs: Will the
literature of the one race meet the requirements of the other, or the
heroes and heroines of one be acceptable to the other? Has not God
given each country its distinct race and literature? The history of
every country occupied by antagonistic races has been that the
stronger has dominated or exterminated the other.

Thinking of the superficial education at some of our schools, I am
reminded of a colored boy's subject for a composition.

Not long since a "colored scholar," seventeen years old, with very
fair intelligence, who had never missed a day at the public school,
was asked by a white gentleman who was much interested in the boy, and
who often took the trouble to explain to him words in common use, the
meaning of which the boy was wholly ignorant,--

"Peter, what lessons have you to-night?"

"Well, sir, I got a composition to write to-night."

"A composition? What's your subject?"

"Dey tell me, sir, to write a composition on de administration o' Mr.

"Administration of Mr. Pierce!" exclaimed the gentleman, himself an
eminent journalist and statesman. "And what could you know about the
administration of Mr. Pierce? Did you ever hear of Mr. Pierce?"

"No, sir, I nuvver has."

The tie which once bound the two races together is broken forever, and
entire separation in churches and schools prevents mutual interest or

Our church schools are doing much to elevate and improve the negroes,
and we have to thank many kind, warm friends in the North for timely
aid in missionary boxes, books, and Bibles to carry on the colored
Sunday-school work in which many Southern people are deeply
interested, without the means of conducting them as they wish.

The negroes still have a strange belief in what they call "tricking,"
and often the most intelligent, when sick, will say they have been
"tricked," for which they have a regular treatment and "trick doctors"
among themselves. This "tricking" we cannot explain, and only know
that when one negro became angry with another he would bury in front
of his enemy's cabin door a bottle filled with pieces of snakes,
spiders, bits of tadpole, and other curious substances; and the party
expecting to be "tricked" would hang up an old horseshoe outside of
his door to ward off the "evil spirits."

Since alienated from their former owners they are, as a general thing,
more idle and improvident; and, unfortunately, the tendency of their
political teaching has been to make them antagonistic to the better
class of white people, which renders it difficult for them to be
properly instructed. That such animosity should exist toward those who
could best understand and help them is to be deplored. For the true
negro character cannot be fully comprehended or described but by those
who, like ourselves, have always lived with them.

At present their lives are devoted to a religious excitement which
demoralizes them, there seeming to be no connection between their
religion and morals. In one of their Sabbath schools is a teacher who,
although often arrested for stealing, continues to hold a high
position in the church.

Their improvidence has passed into a proverb, many being truly objects
of charity; and whoever would now write a true tale of poverty and
wretchedness may take for the hero "Old Uncle Tom without a cabin."
For "Uncle Tom" of the olden time, in his cabin, with a blazing log
fire and plenty of corn bread, and the Uncle Tom of to-day, are
pictures of very different individuals.


Reviewing these sketches of our early days, I feel that they are
incomplete without a tribute to some of the teachers employed to
instruct us. Even in colonial days our great-grandfathers had been
sent to England to be educated, so that education was considered
all-important in our family, especially with my father, who exerted
his influence for public schools and advocated teaching the negroes to
read and write, contending that this would increase their value as
well as their intelligence.

Determining that my sister and myself should have proper educational
advantages, he engaged, while we were young children, a most
extraordinary woman to teach us--a Danish lady, better versed in many
other languages than in our own. Her name was Henriquez, and her
masculine appearance, mind, and manners were such as to strike terror
into the hearts of youthful pupils. Having attended lectures at a
college in Copenhagen with several female friends alike ambitious to
receive a scientific education, Mme. Henriquez scorned feminine
acquirements and acquaintances, never possessing, to my knowledge, a
needle or thimble. Her conversation was largely confined to scientific
subjects, and was with men whenever possible, rarely descending to
anything in common with her own sex. Sometimes in school our
recitations would be interrupted by recollections of her early days in
Copenhagen, and, instead of pursuing a lesson in geography or grammar,
we would be entertained with some marvelous story about her father's
palace, the marble stable for his cows, etc. In the midst of
correcting a French or German exercise she would sometimes order a
waiter of refreshments to be brought into the schoolroom and placed
before her on a small table which had a history, being made, as she
often related, from a tree in her father's palace grounds, around
which the serfs danced on the day of their emancipation. She had a
favorite dog named Odin which was allowed the privilege of the
schoolroom, and any girl guilty of disrespect to Odin was in serious

This Danish lady was succeeded by one of a wholly different type, all
grace and accomplishments, a Virginian, and the widow of Major Lomax of
the United States Army.

Mrs. Lomax had several accomplished daughters who assisted in her
school, and the harp, piano, and guitar were household instruments.
The eldest daughter contributed stories and verses, which were greatly
admired, to periodicals of that day. One of these stories, published
in a Northern journal, won for her a prize of one hundred dollars, and
the school-girls were thrilled to hear that she spent it all for a
royal purple velvet gown to wear to Miss Preston's wedding in
Montgomery County.

In this school Mrs. Lomax introduced a charming corps of teachers from
Boston, most cultivated and refined women, whom it will always be a
pleasure to remember. Among these were Mrs. Dana, with her
accomplished daughter, Miss Matilda Dana, well known in the literary
world then as a writer of finished verses.

We had also a bright, sweet-natured little Frenchwoman, Mlle. Roget,
who taught her native language.

Besides these teachers we had a German gentleman, a finished pianist
and linguist; and the recollections of those days are like the delicious
music that floated around us then from those master-musicians.

After such pleasant school-days at home we were sent away to a
fashionable boarding-school in the city of Richmond, presided over by
a lady of great dignity and gentleness of manner, combined with high
attainments. She was first Mrs. Otis of Boston, and afterward Mrs.
Meade of Virginia.

At her school were collected many interesting teachers and pupils.
Among the former were Miss Prescott of Boston and Miss Willis, sister
of N. P. Willis, both lovable and attractive.

Among the noted girls at Mrs. Meade's school was Amélie Rives[20] of
Albemarle County, Va. She spoke French fluently, and seemed to know
much about Paris and the French court, her father having been Minister
to France.

    [20] This interesting girl married Mr. Sigourney of Massachusetts, and
    after the war, as she was crossing the ocean to Europe with her
    husband and all her children (except one son) the ill-fated ship sank
    with nearly all on board. We have heard that, as the ship was going
    down, Amélie, her husband, and her children formed a circle, hand in
    hand, and were thus buried in the deep.

We looked upon Amélie with great admiration, and, as she wrote very
pretty poetry, every girl in the school set her heart upon having some
original verses in her album, a favor which Amélie never refused.

Closing this chapter on schools suggests the great difference in the
objects and methods of a Virginia girl's education then and now. At
that period a girl was expected not only to be an ornament to the
drawing-room, but to be also equipped for taking charge of an
establishment and superintending every detail of domestic employment
on a plantation--the weaving, knitting, sewing, etc.--for the comfort
of the negro servants to be some day under her care. I have thus seen
girls laboriously draw the threads of finest linen, and backstitch
miles of stitching on their brothers' collars and shirt-bosoms. Having
no brothers to sew for, I looked on in amazement at this dreary task,
and I have since often wished that those persevering and devoted women
could come back and live their lives over again in the days of

At that day the parents of a girl would have shuddered at the thought
of her venturing for a day's journey without an escort on a railway
car, being jostled in a public crowd, or exposed in any way to
indiscriminate contact with the outside world, while the proposition
of a collegiate course for a woman would have shocked every
sensibility of the opposite sex.

How the men of that time would stand aghast to see the girl of the
present day elbowing her way through a crowd, buying her ticket at the
railway station, interviewing baggage-agents, checking trunks, and
seating herself in the train to make a long journey alone, perhaps to
enter some strange community and make her living by the practice of
law or medicine, lecturing, teaching, telegraphing, newspaper-reporting,
typewriting, bookkeeping, or in some other of the various avenues
now open to women!

Whether the new system be any improvement upon the old remains open
for discussion. It is certain that these widely opposed methods must
result in wholly different types of feminine character.


The scenes connected with the late war will recall to the mind of
every Southern man and woman the name of Robert E. Lee--a name which
will be loved and revered as long as home or fireside remains in old
Virginia, and which sets the crowning glory on the list of illustrious
men from plantation homes. Admiration and enthusiasm naturally belong
to victory, but the man must be rare indeed who in defeat, like
General Lee, receives the applause of his countrymen.

It was not alone his valor, his handsome appearance, his commanding
presence, his perfect manner, which won the admiration of his
fellow-men. There was something above and beyond all these--his true
Christian character. Trust in God ennobled his every word and action.
Among the grandest of human conquerors was he, for, early enlisting as
a soldier of the Cross, to fight against the world, the flesh, and the
devil, he fought the "good fight," and the victor's crown awaited him
in the "kingdom not made with hands."

Trust in God kept him calm in victory as in defeat. When I remember
General Lee during the war, in his family circle at Richmond, then at
the height of his renown, his manner, voice, and conversation were the
same as when, a year after the surrender, he came to pay my mother a
visit from his Lexington home.

His circumstances and surroundings were now changed: no longer the
stars and epaulets adorned his manly form; but, dressed in a simple
suit of pure white linen, he looked a king, and adversity had wrought
no change in his character, manner, or conversation.

To reach our house he made a journey, on his old war horse "Traveler,"
forty miles across the mountains, describing which, on the night of
his arrival, he said:

"To-day an incident occurred which gratified me more than anything
that has happened for a long time. As I was riding over the most
desolate mountain region, where not even a cabin could be seen, I was
surprised to find, on a sudden turn in the road, two little girls
playing on a large rock. They were very poorly clad, and after looking
a moment at me began to run away. 'Children,' said I, 'don't run away.
If you could know _who_ I am, you would know that I am the last man in
the world for anybody to run from now.'

"'But we do know you,' they replied.

"'You never saw me before,' I said, 'for I never passed along here.'

"'But we do know you,' they said. 'And we've got your picture up
yonder in the house, and you are General Lee! And we aint dressed
clean enough to see you.'

"With this they scampered off to a poor low hut on the mountain side."

It was gratifying to him to find that even in this lonely mountain hut
the children had been taught to know and revere him.

He told us, too, of a man he met the same day in a dense forest, who
recognized him, and, throwing up his hat in the air, said: "General,
_please_ let me cheer you," and fell to cheering with all his lungs!

My last recollections of General Lee, when making a visit of several
weeks at his house the year before his death, although not coming
properly under the head of "plantation reminiscences," may not be
inappropriate here.

It has been said that a man is never a hero to his valet; but this
could not have been said of General Lee, for those most intimately
connected with him could not fail to see continually in his bearing
and character something above the ordinary level, something of the

At the time of my visit the Commencement exercises of the college of
which he was president were going on. His duties were necessarily
onerous. Sitting up late at night with the board of visitors, and
attending to every detail with his conscientious particularity, there
was little time for him to rest. Yet every morning of that busy week
he was ready, with his prayer-book under his arm, when the church bell
called its members to sunrise service.

It is pleasant to recall all that he said at the breakfast, dinner,
and tea table, where in his hospitality he always insisted upon
bringing all who chanced to be at his house at those hours--on
business or on social call.[21] This habit kept his table filled with
guests, who received from him the most graceful courtesy.

    [21] Here was seen the Mount Vernon silver, which had descended to
    Mrs. General Washington's great-grandson, General Custis Lee, and
    which was marvelously preserved during the war, having been concealed
    in different places--and once was buried near Lexington in a barn
    which was occupied by the enemy several days.

Only once did I hear him speak regretfully of the past. It was one
night when, sitting by him on the porch in the moonlight, he said to
me, his thoughts turning to his early childhood:

"It was not my mother's wish that I should receive a military
education, and I ought to have taken her advice; for," he continued
very sadly, "my education did not fit me for this civil life."

In this no one could agree with him, for it seemed to all that he
adorned and satisfactorily filled every position in life, civil or

There was something in his manner which naturally pleased everyone
without his making an effort; at the same time a dignity and reserve
which commanded respect and precluded anything like undue
familiarity. All desirable qualities seemed united in him to render
him popular.

It was wonderful to observe--in the evenings when his parlors were
overflowing with people, young and old, from every conceivable
place--how by a word, a smile, a shake of the hand, he managed to give
_all_ pleasure and satisfaction, each going away charmed with him.

The applause of men excited in him no vanity; for those around soon
learned that the slightest allusion or compliment, in his presence, to
his valor or renown, instead of pleasing, rather offended him. Without
vanity, he was equally without selfishness.

One day, observing several quaint articles of furniture about his
house, and asking Mrs. Lee where they came from, she told me that an
old lady in New York city--of whom neither herself nor the general had
ever before heard--concluded to break up housekeeping. Having no
family, and not wishing to sell or remove her furniture to a
boarding-house, she determined to give it to "the _greatest living
man_" and that man was General Lee.

She wrote a letter asking his acceptance of the present, requesting
that, if his house was already furnished and he had no room, he would
use the articles about his college.

The boxes arrived. But--such was his reluctance at receiving
gifts--weeks passed and he neither had them opened nor brought to his
house from the express office.

Finally, as their house was quite bare of furniture, Mrs. Lee begged
him to allow her to have them opened, and he consented.

First there was among the contents a beautiful carpet large enough for
two rooms, at which she was delighted, as they had none. But the
general, seeing it, quickly said: "That is the very thing for the
floor of the new chapel! It must be put there."

Next were two sofas and a set of chairs. "The very things we want,"
again exclaimed the general, "for the platform of the new chapel!"

Then they unpacked a sideboard. "This will do _very well_," said the
general, "to be placed in the basement of the chapel to hold the
college papers!"

And so with everything the lady had sent, only keeping for his own
house the articles which could not possibly be used for the college
or chapel,--a quaint work-table, an ornamental clock, and some
old-fashioned preserve-dishes--although his own house was then bare
enough, and the donor had particularly requested that only those
articles which they did not need at their home should go to the

The recollection of this visit, although reviving many pleasant hours,
is very sad, for it was the last time I saw the dear, kind face of
Mrs. Lee, of whom the general once said, when one of us, alluding to
him, used the word "hero": "My dear, _Mrs._ Lee is the hero. For
although deprived of the use of her limbs by suffering, and unable for
ten years to walk, I have never heard her murmur or utter one

And the general spoke truly,--Mrs. Lee was a heroine. With gentleness,
kindness, and true feminine delicacy, she had strength of mind and
character a man might have envied. Her mind, well stored and
cultivated, made her interesting in conversation; and a simple
cordiality of manner made her beloved by all who met her.

During this last visit she loved to tell about her early days at
Arlington--her own and her ancestors' plantation home--and in one of
these conversations gave me such a beautiful sketch of her
mother--Mrs. Custis--that I wish her every word could be remembered
that I might write it here.

Mrs. Custis was a woman of saintly piety, her devotion to good works
having long been a theme with all in that part of Virginia. She had
only one child--Mrs. Lee--and possessed a very large fortune. In early
life she felt that God had given her a special mission, which was to
take care of and teach the three hundred negroes she had inherited.

"Believing this," said Mrs. Lee to me, "my mother devoted the best
years of her life to teaching these negroes, for which purpose she had
a school-house built in the yard, and gave her life up to this work;
and I think it an evidence of the ingratitude of their race that,
although I have long been afflicted, only one of those negroes has
written to inquire after me, or offered to nurse me."

These last years of Mrs. Lee's life were passed in much suffering, she
being unable to move any part of her body except her hands and head.
Yet her time was devoted to working for her church. Her fingers were
always busy with fancy-work, painting, or drawing,--she was quite an
accomplished artist,--the results of which were sold for the purpose
of repairing and beautifying the church in sight of her window, and as
much an object of zeal and affection with her as the chapel was with
the general.

Indeed, the whole family entered into the general's enthusiasm about
this chapel, just then completed, especially his daughter Agnes, with
whom I often went there, little thinking it was so soon to be her
place of burial.

In a few short years all three--General Lee, his wife and
daughter--were laid here to rest, and this chapel they had loved so
well became their tomb.


All plantation reminiscences resemble a certain patchwork, made when
we were children, of bright pieces joined with black squares. The
black squares were not pretty, but if left out the character of the
quilt was lost. And so with the black faces--if left out of our home
pictures of the past, the character of the picture is destroyed.

What I have written is a simple record of facts in my experience,
without an imaginary scene or character; intended for the descendants
of those who owned slaves in the South, and who may in future wish to
know something of the lofty character and virtues of their ancestors.

The pictures are strictly true; and should it be thought by any that
the brightest have alone been selected, I can only say I knew no

It would not be possible for any country to be entirely exempt from
crime and wickedness, and in Virginia, too, these existed; for
prisons, penitentiaries, and courts of justice were here, as
elsewhere, necessary; but it is my sincere belief that the majority of
Southern people were true and good. And that they have accomplished
more than any other nation toward civilizing and elevating the negro
race may be shown from the following paragraph in a late magazine:

"From a very early date the French had their establishment on the
western coast of Africa. In 1364 their ships visited that portion of
the world. But with all this long intercourse with the white man the
natives have profited little. Five centuries have not civilized them,
so as to be able to build up institutions of their own. Yet the French
have always succeeded better than the English with the negro and
Indian element."

Civilization and education are slow; for, says a modern writer:

"After the death of Roman intellectual activity, the seventh and
eighth centuries were justly called dark. If Christianity was to be
one of the factors in producing the present splendid enlightenment,
she had no time to lose, and she lost no time. She was the only power
at that day that could begin the work of enlightenment. And, starting
at the very bottom, she wrought for _nine hundred years_ alone. The
materials she had to work upon were stubborn and unmalleable. For one
must be somewhat civilized to have a taste for knowledge at all; and
one must know something to be civilized at all. She had to carry on
the double work of civilizing and educating. Her progress was
necessarily slow at first. But after some centuries it began to
increase in arithmetical progression until the sixteenth century."

Then our ancestors performed a great work--the work allotted them by
God, civilizing and elevating an inferior race in the scale of
intelligence and comfort. That this race may continue to improve, and
finally be the means of carrying the Gospel into their native Africa,
should be the prayer of every earnest Christian.

Never again will the negroes find a people so kind and true to them as
the Southerners have been.

There is much in our lives not intended for us to comprehend or
explain; but, believing that nothing happens by chance, and that our
forefathers have done their duty in the place it had pleased God to
call them, let us cherish their memory, and remember that the Lord God
Omnipotent reigneth.

    "For he who rules each wondrous star,
      And marks the feeble sparrow's fall,
    Controls the destiny of man,
      And guides events however small.

    "Man's place of birth, his home, his friends,
      Are planned and fixed by God alone--
    'Life's lot is cast'--e'en death he sends
      For some wise purpose of his own."


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Girl's Life in Virginia before the War" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files. We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's search system for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.