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Title: Chronicles of Chicora Wood
Author: Elizabeth W. Allston (Elizabeth Pringle)
Language: English
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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.

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CHRONICLES OF CHICORA WOOD

[Illustration: MRS. PRINGLE AT CHICORA WOOD.

Photograph by Amelia M. Watson.]



CHRONICLES OF
CHICORA WOOD

BY
ELIZABETH W. ALLSTON PRINGLE

AUTHOR OF “A WOMAN RICE PLANTER”

ILLUSTRATED

NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS
1922

COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS

Printed in the United States of America

Published May, 1922

[Illustration: colophon]



PREFACE


As I sit in the broad piazza, watching the closing of the day, I gaze
into the vistas of moss-draped giant oaks. All is mystery, the mystery
of nature, the mystery of the ages. These oaks, still strong, still
beautiful, have seen generations pass. Through their filmy vistas the
god of the day is sending his gleaming shafts as he has always done.

But brighter to me than these last rays is the pageant of the Past,
which sweeps before me now: scenes as intense as the flaming sky,
incidents as tender as the fleecy clouds, years as dark and tragic as
that leaden storm-bank at the horizon’s edge, but redeemed from utter
despair by a courage and a sacrifice equal in splendor to its illumined
summits.

In my memory are stored the beauty and pathos of these years. Shall I
let all this die without a word? These pictures I have treasured--so
full of beauty and color--shall I let them fade, even as the sunset,
into gray oblivion? I cannot bring before you as clearly as I would the
charm and glamour of the past, but I can at least give a faint idea of
“the days that are no more.”



CONTENTS


PART I--MY FATHER

CHAPTER                                                             PAGE

I. ORIGIN OF THE TWO L ALLSTONS                                        3

II. PLANTER AND CITIZEN                                               12

III. MY BROTHER’S NARRATIVE                                           26


PART II--MY MOTHER

IV. EARLY DAYS AND OLD FIELD SCHOOL                                   43

V. DADDY TOM AND DADDY PRINCE--DEATH
OF LITTLE MOTHER SO BELOVED                                           53

VI. MARRIAGE                                                          57

VII. MOVE TO CANAAN--AUNT BLYTHE                                      67

VIII. FIRST CHILD--PLANTATION LIFE                                    81

IX. FIRST GRIEVING                                                    94


PART III--MYSELF

X. BABY WOES                                                         107

XI. THE LITTLE SCHOOLHOUSE--BOARDING-SCHOOL                          123

XII. SUMMER ON THE SEA--SCHOOL AND
DELLA’S ILLNESS AND TRIP ABROAD--PAPA
ELECTED GOVERNOR                                                     137

XIII. CHRISTMAS AT CHICORA WOOD                                      150

XIV. LIFE IN CHARLESTON--PREPARATIONS
FOR WAR                                                              160

XV. BOARDING-SCHOOL IN WAR TIMES                                     176


PART IV--WAR TIMES

XVI. THE WEDDING                                                     187

XVII. CROWLEY HILL--OUR PLACE OF REFUGE
DURING THE WAR                                                       192

XVIII. SORROW                                                        200

XIX. LOCH ADÈLE                                                      213

XX. SHADOWS                                                          218

XXI. PREPARING TO MEET SHERMAN                                       221

XXII. THEY COME!                                                     229

XXIII. DADDY HAMEDY’S APPEAL--IN THE
TRACK OF SHERMAN’S ARMY                                              239

XXIV. SHADOWS DEEPEN                                                 248

XXV. GLEAMS OF LIGHT                                                 250

XXVI. TAKING THE OATH                                                260


PART V--READJUSTMENT

XXVII. GLEAMS OF LIGHT FROM MY DIARY                                 283

XXVIII. AUNT PETIGRU--MY FIRST GERMAN                                298

XXIX. MAMMA’S SCHOOL                                                 307

XXX. THE SCHOOL A SUCCESS                                            316

XXXI. 1868                                                           331

XXXII. CHICORA WOOD                                                  340

XXXIII. DADDY ANCRUM’S STORY                                         349



ILLUSTRATIONS


Mrs. Pringle at Chicora Wood                               _Frontispiece_

                                                             FACING PAGE

Robert Francis Withers Allston, President of the Senate               20
      Portrait by Flagg about 1850

James Louis Petigru                                                   46
      Miniature by Fraser

Mrs. Benjamin Allston (née Charlotte Anne Allston),
    Mother of R. F. W. Allston                                        90
      Miniature by Fraser

Mrs. R. F. W. Allston (née Adèle Petigru)                            140
      Portrait by Flagg about 1850

Adèle Allston at Sixteen                                             188

Chicora Wood                                                         244

Mrs. William Allston (née Ester La Brosse de Mahboeuf)               294



_PART I_

MY FATHER



CHAPTER I

ORIGIN OF THE TWO L ALLSTONS


John Allston, of St. John’s, Berkeley, was born in England in 1666, and
came to this country between 1685 and 1694. He was descended from the
ancient family of Allstone, through John Allston, of Saxham Hall,
Newton, Suffolk, which was the seat of the Allstons for several hundred
years. An Allston was the Saxon Lord of Stanford in Norfolk before the
Conquest, and was dispossessed by the Normans. The old Saxon names of
Rath Alstan, Alstane, were but variants of the name which John of St.
John’s spelled Alstane, until the signature of his will (1718), when he
wrote it Allston. The motto was “Immotus,”[1] “Az. ten stars, crest an
estoile in a crescent argent.”

John Allston, of St. John’s, Berkeley, had a number of children, as
self-respecting people of that date usually had, but we are concerned
only with the descendants of his eldest son, John, who was the
grandfather of Benjamin Allston, my father’s father, and those of his
second son, William, who was the grandfather of Charlotte Ann Allston,
my father’s mother. So his parents were second cousins.

Ben Allston died when his second son, Robert, was only eight years old.
The boy was educated at Mr. Waldo’s school in Georgetown until he was
sixteen, when his widowed mother determined to send him to West Point.
He entered in 1817, graduating in June, 1821, this being the first class
which made the four years’ course under Colonel Sylvanus Thayer. He was
appointed lieutenant in the 3d Artillery, and assigned to duty on the
Coast Survey under Lieutenant-Colonel Kearney, of the Topographical
Engineers. In this position he assisted in surveying the harbors of
Plymouth and Provincetown, Mass., and the entrance to Mobile Bay. While
on duty here he got letters from his mother telling of her difficulties,
which demanded his immediate presence at home. He asked for leave of
absence, but being refused this by his commanding officer, he resigned
his commission February, 1822, bought a horse and rode through northern
Alabama and Georgia, then inhabited by Indians, to Charleston, and
thence to Georgetown, S. C.

His mother’s difficulties in managing her property of landed estate and
negroes had been great, and added to this was the effort of the
purchaser of a plantation adjoining Chicora on the south to seize a
tract of land (attempting to prove that this land belonged to his
plantation), which when cleared became four of her best rice-fields.
This had kept her in constant fiery correspondence, until my father felt
it his duty to resign and come home and settle the matter.

He employed the lawyer of greatest repute at the moment, James L.
Petigru; the case was brought into court, and my grandmother’s title to
the land established beyond question. She did not long survive to enjoy
having her son at home to take the burden of the management of her
affairs, for she died October 24, 1824, after a short illness of
pleurisy, in her fifty-fourth year. This was a very great sorrow to my
father, for he had for her an intense affection with a sense of
protection. She was beautiful and very small, so that the servants
always spoke of her as “Little Miss” in distinction to Aunt Blythe, who
was “Big Miss.” According to the custom of the day, the land was all
left to the sons, charged with legacies to the daughters, so my father’s
patrimony consisted of large tracts of swamp land in Georgetown and
Marion and seventeen negroes, subject to a debt to his sisters which
amounted to more than the value of the property. He entered upon its
management with great energy, surveyed the land himself, cleared and
drained the swamps and converted them into valuable rice-fields.

In this work his military education was of great service to him. In 1823
he was elected surveyor-general of the State, an office which he held
for four years. In 1828 he was returned by the people of Winyah to the
lower house of the legislature, and in 1832 was returned to the Senate.
About this time he attained the rank of colonel of the militia, service
of the State. He continued to be returned to the Senate, and was
president of that body from 1850 to 1856, when he was elected governor.
But I must go back. During the lawsuit about the land my father was
entertained by James L. Petigru, came to know the lawyer’s sister, Adèle
Petigru, and fell in love with her; and she finally yielded to his suit,
and they were married in 1832 and went at once to his plantation,
Chicora Wood, fourteen miles north of Georgetown, on the Great Pee Dee
River.

I am always afraid of bursting out into praise of my father, for I
adored him, and thought him the wisest and best man in the world, and
still do think he was a most unusual mixture of firmness and gentleness,
with rare executive ability. But I have always found, in reading
biographies and sketches, that the unstinted and reiterated praises of
the adoring writers rouses one’s opposition, and I write this with the
hope of bringing to his grandchildren the knowledge and appreciation of
my father’s character. I will try to draw his portrait with a few firm
strokes, and leave the respect and admiration to be aroused by it. Now
that slavery is a thing of the past, the younger generation in our
Southland really know nothing about the actual working of it, and they
should know to understand and see the past in its true light. Slavery
was in many ways a terrible misfortune, but we know that in the ancient
world it was universal, and no doubt the great Ruler of the world, “that
great First Cause, least understood,” allowed it to exist for some
reason of His own.

The colony of North and South Carolina, then one, entreated the mother
country to send no more slaves. “We want cattle, horses, sheep, swine,
we don’t want Africans.” But the Africans continued to come. The
Northeastern States were the first to get rid of the objectionable human
property when conscientious scruples arose as to the owning of
slaves--in some instances by freeing them, but in many more instances by
selling them in the Southern States. There is no doubt that in the
colder climate slave labor was not profitable. When the Civil War came,
the Southern planters were reduced from wealth to poverty by the seizure
of their property which they held under the then existing laws of the
country. It is a long and tangled story--and I do not pretend to judge
of its rights and wrongs. I have no doubt that the Great Father’s time
for allowing slavery was at an end. I myself am truly thankful that
slavery is a thing of the past, and that I did not have to take up the
burden of the ownership of the one hundred people my father left me in
his will (all mentioned by name), with a pretty rice-plantation called
Exchange two miles north of Chicora Wood. I much prefer to have had to
make my own living, as I have had to do, except for the short six years
of my married life, than to have had to assume the care and
responsibility of those hundred negroes, soul and body. I have had a
happy life, in spite of great sorrow and continued work and strain, but
I am quite sure that with my sensitive temperament and fierce Huguenot
conscience I never could have had a happy life under the burden of that
ownership.

It would have been a comfort, however, if we could have gathered up
something from my father’s large property, but we did not. Just before
the war my mother’s brother, Captain Tom Petigru, of the navy, died,
leaving a childless widow. She lived in Charleston, in her beautiful
home with large yard and garden, at the corner of Bull and Rutledge
Streets, and was a rich woman, as riches were counted in those
days--owning a large farm in Abbeville County, where the Giberts and
Petigrus had originally settled, and also a rice-plantation, “Pipe
Down,” on Sandy Island on the Waccamaw, not far from my father’s
estates, also one hundred negroes. As soon as Uncle Tom died, Aunt Ann
wrote to my father, asking him as a great favor to buy her plantation
and negroes, as she felt quite unequal to the management and care of
them. My father replied immediately that it was impossible for him to
comply with her request, that he had his hands full managing his own
property, and that he specially felt he had already more negroes than he
desired. Aunt Ann continued her entreaties. Then the negroes from Pipe
Down began to send deputations over to beg my father to buy them. Philip
Washington, a very tall, very black man, a splendid specimen of the
negro race, after two generations of slavery, was their spokesman. My
uncle had been devoted to Philip, and considered him far above the
average negro in every way, and in his will had given him his freedom,
along with two or three others; he pleaded the cause of his friends with
much eloquence, saying they had fixed on him as the one owner they
desired. Then my uncle, James L. Petigru, entered the lists, and
appealed to my father’s chivalry for his old and feeble sister-in-law,
and to the intense feeling of the negroes, who had selected him for
their future owner, and were perfectly miserable at his refusal--if it
were a question of money, he argued, my father need not hesitate, as
“Sister Ann” did not desire any cash payment; she greatly preferred a
bond and mortgage, and the interest paid yearly, as that would be the
best investment she could have. At last my father yielded, and made a
small cash payment, giving his bond and a mortgage for the rest. The
deed was done--the Pipe Down people were overjoyed, and the debt
assumed. This debt it was which rendered my father’s estate insolvent at
the end of the war, for he died in 1864. The slaves having been freed,
the property was gone, but the debt remained in mortgages on his landed
estates, which had all to be sold. The plantations were: Chicora Wood,
890 acres, Ditchford, 350 acres, Exchange, 600 acres, Guendalos, 600
acres, Nightingale Hall, 400 acres, Waterford, 250 acres, beside Pipe
Down itself. Also the two farms in Anson County, North Carolina, and our
beautiful house in Charleston. Besides this, there were 6,000 acres of
cypress timber at Britton’s Neck; 5,000 acres of cypress and pine land
near Carver’s Bay; 300 acres at Canaan Seashore; house and 20 acres on
Pawley’s Island. Of all this principality, not one of the heirs got
anything!

My mother’s dower was all that could be claimed. In South Carolina the
right of dower is one-third of the landed property, for life, or
one-sixth, in fee simple. My mother preferred the last, and the Board of
Appraisers found that the plantation Chicora Wood, where she had always
lived, would represent a sixth value of the real estate, and that was
awarded her as dower; but not an animal nor farm implement, no boats nor
vehicles--just the land, with its dismantled dwelling-house. I tell this
here, to explain how we came to face poverty at the end of the war.



CHAPTER II

PLANTER AND CITIZEN


Now I must go back to my father’s early life, for I left him just
married, and bringing his beautiful bride from the gay life of the city
to the intense quiet, as far as social joys went, of the country. It was
wonderful that their marriage proved a success, and a great credit to
them both. They were so absolutely different in tastes and ideals that
each had to give up a great deal that they had dreamed of in matrimony;
but their principles and standards being the same, things always came
right in the end. My father was always a very public-spirited man, and
interested in the good of his county and his State. Of course, all this
public life necessitated constant and prolonged absences from home, and
the rejoicing was great always, when the legislature adjourned and he
returned from Columbia. He was a scientific rice-planter and
agriculturist; he wrote articles for _De Bow’s Review_ that were
regarded as authorities. His plantations were models of organization and
management. All the negroes were taught a trade or to do some special
work. On Chicora Wood there was a large carpenter’s shop, where a great
number of skilled men were always at work, under one head carpenter.
Daddy Thomas was this head, during all my childhood, and he was a great
person in my eyes. He was so dignified, and treated us young daughters
of the house as though we were princesses; just the self-respecting
manner of a noble courtier. His wife was the head nurse of the
“sick-house,” and the “children’s house,” also, so that she was also a
personage--very black and tall, with a handkerchief turban of unusual
height. We never went near her domain without returning with handsome
presents of eggs, or potatoes, or figs, according to season, for Maum
Phœbe was a very rich person and one of great authority. There were
always four or five apprentices in the carpenter’s shop, so year by year
skilled men were turned out, not “jack-legs,” which was Thomas Bonneau’s
epithet for the incompetent. Then the blacksmith-shop, under Guy Walker,
was a most complete and up-to-date affair, and there young lads were
always being taught to make horseshoes, and to shoe horses, and do all
the necessary mending of wheels and axles and other ironwork used on a
plantation. The big flats and lighters needed to harvest the immense
rice-crops were all made in the carpenter’s shop, also the flood-gates
necessary to let the water on and off the fields. These were called
“trunks,” and had to be made as tight as a fine piece of joiner’s work.
There was almost a fleet of rowboats, of all sizes, needed on the
plantation for all purposes, also canoes, or dugouts, made from cypress
logs. There was one dugout, _Rainbow_, capable of carrying several
tierces of rice. When I was a child, the threshing of the rice from the
straw was done in mills run by horse-power; before I can remember it was
generally done by water-power. The men and women learned to work in the
mill; to do the best ploughing; the best trenching with the
hoe--perfectly straight furrows, at an even depth, so as to insure the
right position for the sprouting grain; the most even and best sowing of
the rice. Then, skilfully to take all the grass and weeds out with the
sharp, tooth-shaped hoes, yet never touch or bruise the grain or its
roots, the best cultivation of the crop. Also they learned to cut the
rice most dexterously, with reap-hooks, and lay the long golden heads
carefully on the stubble, so that the hot sun could get through and dry
it, as would not be possible if it were laid on the wet earth, so that
it could be tied in sheaves the next day. For all these operations
prizes were offered every year--pretty bright-colored calico frocks to
the women, and forks and spoons; and to the men fine knives, and other
things that they liked--so that there was a great pride in being the
prize ploughman, or prize sower, or harvest hand, for the year.

Only the African race, who seem by inheritance immune from the dread
malarial fever, could have made it possible and profitable to clear the
dense cypress swamps and cultivate them in rice by a system of flooding
the fields from the river by canals, ditches, and flood-gates, draining
off the water when necessary, and leaving these wonderfully rich lands
dry for cultivation. It has been said that, like the pyramids, slave
labor only could have accomplished it; be that as it may, at this moment
one has the pain of watching the annihilation of all this work now, when
the world needs food; now when the starving nations are holding out
their hands to our country for food, thousands and thousands of acres of
this fertile land are reverting to the condition of swamps: land capable
of bringing easily sixty bushels of rice to the acre without fertilizer
is growing up in reeds and rushes and marsh, the haunt of the alligator
and the moccasin. The crane and the bittern are always there, the
fish-hawk and the soaring eagle build their nests on the tall
cypress-trees left here and there on the banks of the river; the
beautiful wood-duck is also always there, and at certain seasons the big
mallard or English duck come in great flocks; but, alas, they no longer
come in clouds, as they used to do (so that a single shot has been known
to kill sixty on the wing). For them too the country is ruined, for them
too all is changed. Those that come do not stay. It was the abundant
shattered rice of the cultivated fields, flooded as soon as the harvest
was over, which brought them in myriads from their nesting-grounds in
the far north, to spend their winters in these fat feeding-grounds, in
the congenial climate of Carolina. Now there is no shattered rice on
which to feed, and in their wonderful zigzag flight they stop a day or
two to see if the abundance of which their forefathers have quacked to
them has returned, and not finding it they pass on to Florida and other
warm climes to seek their winter food. Thus this rich storehouse and
granary is desolate. With the modern machinery for making dikes and
banks these fields could be restored to a productive condition and made
to produce again, without a very heavy expenditure. But alas! those who
owned them had absolutely no money, and after the destruction of the
banks and flood-gates by the great storm of 1906 no restoration was
made. A few of the plantations in Georgetown County have been bought by
wealthy Northern men as game-preserves. One multimillionaire, Emerson,
who bought a very fine rice-plantation, Prospect Hill, formerly property
of William Allston, has some fields planted in rice every year, simply
for the ducks, the grain not being harvested at all, but left to attract
the flocks to settle down and stay there, ready for the sportsman’s gun.

Besides being a diligent, devoted, and scientific planter and manager of
his estates, my father was greatly interested in the welfare of the poor
whites of the pineland, spoken of always scornfully by the negroes as
“Po’ Buchra”--nothing could express greater contempt. Negroes are by
nature aristocrats, and have the keenest appreciation and perception of
what constitutes a gentleman. The poor whites of the low country were at
a terrible disadvantage, for they were never taught to do anything;
they only understood the simplest farm work, and there was no market for
their labor, the land-owners having their own workers and never needing
to hire these untrained hands, who in their turn looked down on the
negroes, and held aloof from them. These people, the yeomanry of the
country, were the descendants of the early settlers, and those who
fought through the Revolution. They were, as a general rule, honest,
law-abiding, with good moral standards. Most of them owned land, some
only a few acres, others large tracts, where their cattle and hogs
roamed unfed but fat. Some owned large herds, and even the poorest
usually had a cow and pair of oxen, while all had chickens and hogs--but
never a cent of money. They planted corn enough to feed themselves and
their stock, sweet potatoes, and a few of the common vegetables. They
never begged or made known their needs, except by coming to offer for
sale very roughly made baskets of split white oak, or some coarsely spun
yarn, for the women knew how to spin, and some of them even could weave.
There was something about them that suggested a certain refinement, and
one always felt they came from better stock, though they never seemed to
trace back. Their respect for the marriage vow, for instance, impressed
one, and their speech was clear, good Anglo-Saxon, and their vocabulary
included some old English words and expressions now obsolete. My father
was most anxious to help them, and felt that to establish schools for
them throughout the county would be the first step. In one of these
schools a young girl proved such an apt scholar and learned so quickly
all that she could acquire there that he engaged a place for her in a
Northern school, and got the consent of her parents to her going, and
she, being ambitious, was greatly pleased. He appointed a day to meet
her in Georgetown, impressing on the parents to bring her in time for
him to put her on the ship, before it sailed for New York. At the
appointed time the parents arrived. My father asked for Hannah; the
mother answered that they found they would miss Hannah too much, she was
so smart and helpful, but they’d brought Maggie, and he could send _her_
to school! My father was very angry; Hannah Mitchell was eighteen and
clever and ambitious, while Maggie was fourteen, and dull and
heavy-minded. Of course he did not send her. It was a great
disappointment, for he had taken much trouble, and was willing to go to
considerable expense to give Hannah the chance to develop, and hoped
she would return prepared to teach in the school he had established.
These people are still to be found in our pinelands, and have changed
little.

The public roads were also my father’s constant care, and all through
that country were beautifully kept. The method was simple; each
land-owner sent out twice a year a number of hands, proportioned to his
land, and the different gentlemen took turns to superintend the work.
Our top-soil goes down about two feet, before reaching clay. The roads
were kept in fine condition by digging a good ditch on each side of a
sixty-foot highway; the clay from the ditch being originally thrown into
the middle of the road, and then twice a year those ditches were cleared
out, and a little more clay from them thrown on the road each time. The
great difficulty in road-making and road-keeping, as I know from my
personal observation in the present, is not the amount of labor, but the
proper, intelligent direction of the work. In my father’s day, the
office of road commissioner and supervisor were unpaid, and my father
gave his time, work, and interest unstintedly.

My father’s love of art, and of music, and of all

[Illustration: ROBERT FRANCIS WITHERS ALLSTON, PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE.

Portrait by Flagg about 1850.]

beauty was very great. It made all the difference in the world to us,
his children, growing up in the country, so far from picture-galleries
and concerts and every kind of music. At the sale of the Bonaparte
collection of pictures in Baltimore my father commissioned the artist,
Sully, to attend the sale and select and buy for him six pictures. Papa
was much pleased with Mr. Sully’s selection. They included:

     “A Turk’s Head,” by Rembrandt.

     “The Supper at Emmaus,” by Gherardo del Notte.

     “The Holy Family,” a very beautiful Gobelin tapestry. For this
     picture Mr. Sully was offered double the price he paid before it
     left the gallery.

     “Io,” whom Juno in jealous rage had transformed into a white
     heifer. A very large and beautiful canvas, a landscape with the
     heifer ruminating in the foreground, watched by Cerberus, while on
     a mountainside Mercury sits playing on his flute, trying to lull
     him to sleep. (I still own this painting.)

     “St. Paul on the Island of Melita,” a very large canvas
     representing a group of shipwrecked mariners around a fire of
     sticks; in the midst stands the figure of St. Paul just shaking
     from his finger a viper, into the fire, very dramatic.

     “St. Peter in Prison,” awakened by the angel while his keepers
     sleep.

     This is the match picture to the above and the same size.

These works of art on the walls of our country home awoke in us all an
appreciation and recognition of fine paintings for which we can never be
sufficiently grateful.

This great love for art and his confidence in its elevating influence is
shown by his buying and having placed in the grounds of the State
capitol a replica of Houdon’s statue of Washington.

Another and most characteristic evidence is furnished by the following
note from a friend, to whom I wrote, asking for some facts as to my
father’s public life, for I had thus far written of him entirely as I
knew him in his family and home life, except for the bare outline by the
dates of his election to different offices, and though I have no desire
or intention of making this a history of his official and political
career, feeling myself entirely unfitted for that, I felt I should give
something to show his service in his own State. In reply Mr. Yates
Snowden wrote:

“The day before your letter came my eye lit upon the invitation of R. F.
W. Allston, president of the Carolina Art Association, inviting the
members of the Convention Secession to visit the Gallery of Art in
Meeting Street whilst deliberating here for the public weal. It is hoped
that an hour bestowed occasionally in viewing some specimens of art,
including Leutze’s illustration of Jasper and the old Palmetto Fort, may
contribute an agreeable diversion to the minds of gentlemen habitually
engrossed in the discussion of grave concerns of state.”--(“Journal of
the (Secession) Convention,” p. W225, April 1, 1861.)

I can quite imagine that this invitation was a source, to some of the
members of that convention, of great amusement, as being most unsuitable
to their frame of mind.

My father’s full sympathy with the convention is shown by the following
extract from Brant and Fuller’s “Eminent and Representative Men of the
Carolinas”:

“Robert Francis Withers Allston, South Carolina statesman, scholar, and
agriculturist, was born April 21, 1801.... During the nullification era
and for many years afterward Mr. Allston was deputy adjutant-general of
the militia, and from 1841 to 1864 was one of the trustees of South
Carolina College at Columbia.... In politics he belonged to the
Jefferson and Calhoun school, believing in the complete sovereignty of
the States.”

During his prolonged absences in Columbia my father did not like to
leave my mother alone on the plantation, with no one but the negroes to
care for the children, so he secured a good, reliable Irishwoman to take
charge of the children and the nursery, with the others under her.
Strange to say, this was never resented, and Mary O’Shea stayed with us
about fifteen years, when some of her kinfolk called her away. We called
her “May” and were devoted to her. She had her trials, for my father did
not approve of fire in the room where the children slept, and this,
along with the open window, was a terrible ordeal to May. The
day-nursery, with its roaring open wood-fire, only made the contrast
more distressing to her; she never became reconciled to it, and I only
wonder that she stayed all those years. As soon as the older children
were big enough, we had an English governess--Miss Wells first, and
afterward Miss Ayme.

I have asked my brother, Charles Petigru Allston, to write for me what
he remembered of my father, and I will insert here what he has written
for me.



CHAPTER III

MY BROTHER’S NARRATIVE


My holiday, the months of December, 1863, and January, 1864, were passed
with my father on the coast, where he had planting, salt boiling, and
freighting up the rivers, to look after. Salt was a very scarce article
at that time, and my father had it boiled from sea-water on the salt
creeks of the Waccamaw seashore, behind Pawley’s Island. The vats were
made chiefly of old mill boilers, cut in half and mounted on brick, with
furnace below for wood, and a light shed above, to protect from the
weather. A scaffold was built out in the salt creek, and a pump placed
there to lift the water about twenty feet, and from the pump a wooden
trough carried the water to the boilers, some 300 yards away, in the
forest. At flood-tide, when the water came in from the sea, was the best
time to pump, as the water had then more salt and less of the seepage
water from the marshlands. Sometimes, when a man was upon the scaffold,
pumping, a federal gunboat, lying off the coast, would throw a shell
over the island, which cut off the sight of the works, in the direction
of the smoke from the boiling vats; when this happened the man came down
in wild haste and made for the brush. These interruptions became so
frequent that finally the boiling had to be done at night, when the
smoke was not visible. My father sent me over to inspect the salt-works
and report to him more than once, so that I was familiar with the
situation. Wagons came long distances from the interior to buy or barter
for salt. This work was carried on entirely by negroes, without any
white man in charge. My father had the faculty for organization, and his
negro men were remarkably well trained, intelligent, and self-reliant.
Another work which he instituted and developed was the transporting of
rice and salt up the rivers to the railroad. The ports, being blockaded,
and no railroad within forty miles, it became necessary to make some
outlet for the rice-crop to get to market and to the army. He had two
lighters built, which were decked over and secured from weather, and
carried from 150 to 200 tierces (600 pounds each) of clean or marketable
rice. On each lighter he put a captain, with a crew of eight men. These
lighters were loaded at the rice-mill and taken up the Pee Dee River,
to the railroad bridge near Mars Bluff, to Society Hill, and sometimes
to Cheraw. It was a long, hard trip, and when the freshet was up it
seemed sometimes to be impossible to carry a loaded barge against the
current, by hand--but it was done. At such times the only progress was
made by carrying a line ahead, making fast to a tree on the river-bank,
and then all hands warping the boat up by the capstan; then make fast
and carry the line ahead again. The crew were all able men. They had
plenty to eat and seemed to enjoy themselves. I have often been with my
father when the boats returned from a trip and the captain came to make
his report; it was worth listening to; the most minute account of the
trip, with all its dangers and difficulties. There was seldom a charge
of any serious character against any of the crew; each knew that such a
charge made by the captain meant the immediate discharge from the crew
and a return to field work.

My father also sent rice up the Black River to the Northeastern Railroad
at Kingstree, and finally built a warehouse, making a new station, which
is now Salter’s; here he put a very intelligent negro, Sam Maham, in
charge; he received the rice from the captains of the river-craft, and
delivered it to the railroad on orders, and I have never heard a word of
complaint against him. Black River, however, had to be navigated by
smaller craft than the Pee Dee, open flats, boats square at each end,
and 50 feet long by 12 feet wide. I well remember the report made by the
captain of the first crew sent up Black River. It was thrilling in
parts. He had to cut his way through after leaving the lower river,
which was open for navigation. The river had never been used high up for
that sort of craft, and was full of logs, etc.; besides, in places it
was difficult to find the right channel, and his description of going
through a section where the river was broken up by low islands, or
shoals into several apparent channels, all of which were shallow, except
one, was most exciting. None of these men had ever been on this river or
in that locality before, and only the drilling and direction given them
by my father could have carried them through; but they went through, and
after that there was a regular line going. But these flats being smaller
and open and no decks, were much more liable to damage the cargo; still
very little was lost, strange to say. They had good sailcloth covers,
and the crews took an interest in the work. The captain and crew making
the best record were always well rewarded.

I became familiar with all this work during the winter of 1863-64. My
father wanted me to learn as much as possible of each branch of the
work, and knew how to direct my attention to the chief details to be
studied and worked out.

At night we sat together and had milk and potatoes, with sassafras tea
for supper, and it was very good. One who has never had to depend on
sassafras tea does not know how good it is. My father had many
opportunities for getting in all the supplies that he wanted, as well as
for making a good deal of money by exchanging his rice and salt for
cotton, and then sending the cotton out by the blockade-runners to
Nassau; but he was opposed to the running of the blockade for private
gain. How often as we sat by the fire in the evenings did he talk to me
on that and other subjects of public interest. His idea was that the
Confederate Government should control the cotton; buy it up at home, pay
for it in gold, ship it out by blockade-runners, sell it in Europe for
the government, and bring in such supplies as were most
needed--medicines, shoes, clothes, as well as arms, etc. In this way,
he said, the government would be free from the horde of speculators who
were making fortunes out of our misfortunes, and thus be able to build
up a financial standing in Europe that would go far toward deciding the
status of the Confederate States. He was most earnest on this subject,
and I know that he made more than one trip to Richmond for the purpose
of urging some such measure on President Davis, but he returned
disappointed, and I remember after one trip he seemed entirely hopeless
as to the outcome. Feeling, as he did, he would never avail himself of
the many opportunities which offered, except to get such things as were
prime necessities. In February, 1864, I returned to my school in
Abbeville district. I drove away from the Chicora house on my way to the
railroad, forty miles distant, leaving my father standing on the
platform at the front door. That was my last sight of him. He died in
April, 1864, and though I was written for, the mails and transportation
were so slow that he was buried before I got home.

I returned to school after being at home a few weeks in April, and
remained until the following October, when the school was dismissed.
The call for recruits for the army was now from sixteen years up, and
would include many who were at the school. I went to my mother at
Society Hill and was to get ready to join the corps of State Cadets.

While I was at Society Hill my mother heard from the overseer at Chicora
Wood, that he had some trouble about repairing the freight-lighters.
This being a most important matter and requiring to be promptly attended
to, my mother decided to send me down to see if I could help the
overseer. So I started off on a little brown horse to ride the ninety
miles down to the rice country. I arrived safely, and after a few days
began to make headway with the work. The largest lighter had been in the
water a good long time and was very heavy to haul out, but was badly in
need of repairing. It was my first experience of unwilling labor; the
hands were sulky. My father’s talks and teaching now came in to the aid
of my own knowledge of the negro nature, and before long I had the big
lighter hauled up, high and dry. We had and could get no oakum for
calking, but my father had devised a very respectable substitute in
cypress bark; it was stripped from the tree and then broken, somewhat
as flax is, and then worked in the hands until quite pliable; this did
wonderfully well, though it did not last as well as oakum. If pitch was
freely applied to the freshly calked seams a very good job was made. We
got the lighter calked and cleaned and simply painted, and put back in
the water ready for work.

I then returned to my mother at Society Hill and remained there until I
joined the Arsenal Cadets, and we entered the active service.

My father’s eldest brother, Joseph, while a student at the South
Carolina College was appointed lieutenant in the United States army by
President Madison and served in Florida in the War of 1812. He attained
the rank of general, and all his life was given that title. Though he
died at forty-five he had been married three times, his last wife, Mary
Allan, only, having children. She had two sons, Joseph Blyth and William
Allan. She lived only a few years after her husband, and the little boys
were left to the guardianship of my father and the care of my mother,
and Chicora Wood was their home until they grew up. Joseph Blyth Allston
was a gifted man, a clever lawyer and eloquent pleader. His literary
talent was above the ordinary; he has written some poems of great
beauty; “Stack Arms” and the longer poem, “Sumter,” deserve a high place
in the war poetry of the South. By the merest chance a sketch of my
father, written by him, at the request of some one whose individuality
is unknown to me, has fallen into my hands at this moment, and I gladly
quote from it here, leaving out only the repetitions of facts already
stated:

“All the offices held by Robert F. W. Allston in the State were filled
by him with credit to himself and usefulness to the country, but his
private virtues gave him a much more enduring claim to the regard of his
contemporaries and of posterity. In the forties he had been offered the
office of governor and had peremptorily declined it. This was not for
want of ambition, but because he had dined at Colonel Hampton’s a few
days before, in company with Mr. Hammond, who aspired to that office,
and without formally pledging himself, had tacitly acquiesced in his
candidacy. A liberal economy marked his expenditures, and a cultivated
hospitality made his home the centre of a large circle of friends. The
rector of the parish (Prince Frederick’s) dined with him every Sunday,
with his wife. At dessert the Methodist minister generally arrived from
some other appointment, took a glass of wine, and then preached to the
negroes in the plantation chapel in the avenue, constructed in the
Gothic style by his negro carpenters, under his direction.

“He did much to improve the breeds of cattle, sheep, and swine in his
neighborhood, and was a constant correspondent of the Bureau of
Agriculture at Washington. He was an active member of the South Carolina
Jockey Club, of the St. Cecilia Society, and of the South Carolina
Historical Society of Charleston; of the Winyah Indigo Society of
Georgetown, of which he was long president; of the Hot and Hot Fish Club
of Waccamaw; the Winyah and All Saints Agricultural Society, and the
Agricultural Association of the Southern States. He was also a member of
the Order of Masons.

“He was an eminently successful rice-planter and made many improvements
in the cultivation of that crop and the drainage of the rice-lands.

“‘Allston on Sea-Coast Crops’ is the title of a valuable treatise on
this subject, which unfortunately is now out of print. Yet one of his
best overseers, when asked if he was not a great planter, replied:

“‘No, sir, he is no planter at all.’

“‘To what, then, do you attribute his great success?’

“‘To his power of organization, sir, and the system and order which he
enforces on all whom he controls.’

“That was indeed the keynote of his character. He was most regular in
his own habits, and all within his reach felt the influence of his
example. Especially marked was it upon the negroes whom he owned. Even
at this day (1900) they show by their thrift and industry the influence
of his training and speak of him with pride and affection.

“Political matters and his duty as a member of the Protestant Episcopal
Church often called him to the North, and sometimes he took a trip there
with his family for pleasure. In 1855 he took his wife and eldest
daughter abroad, and they travelled all over the Continent. He took a
prize at the Paris Exposition that year for rice grown on his
plantation, Chicora Wood, Pee Dee--a silver medal. The rice was
presented to the war office, Department of Algeria, in the autumn, and
was in such perfect preservation (in glass jars) that in the succeeding
year it was again exhibited under the auspices of the Department of War,
and was adjudged worthy of a gold medal [which has been placed in the
National Museum in Washington for the present.--E. W. A. P.].

“Usually, however, he spent the summers on the sea-beach of Pawley’s
Island, and enforced by example as well as precept the duty of the
land-owner to those dependent on him. Here he fished and hunted deer, of
which he has been known to send home two by 10 A.M., shot on his way to
the plantation. Here he was within easy reach of his estates, and could
exercise an intelligent and elevating control over the 600 negroes who
called him master. This beautiful and bountiful country, watered by the
noble stream of the Waccamaw and the Pee Dee, and washed by the waves of
the Atlantic Ocean, was very near to his heart. And here, amid the
scenes in which he had spent his life, he died at his home, Chicora
Wood, April 7, 1864, and lies buried in the yard of the old Church of
Prince George, Winyah, at Georgetown, South Carolina.”--(_Extract from
paper by Jos. Blyth Allston._)

       *       *       *       *       *

And now I must leave this imperfect portrait of my father. Of his
illness and death I shall tell elsewhere.

His taking away was softened to me afterward by the feeling that he did
not live to see the downfall of the hopes he had cherished for the
success of the Confederacy, nor the humiliation of the State he had so
loved, when its legislative halls were given up to the riotous
caricature of State government by the carpetbaggers and negroes, who
disported themselves as officials of the State of South Carolina, from
the surrender of Lee until 1876, when Wade Hampton redeemed the State
from its degradation.

It was only Hampton’s wonderful power and influence over the men, brave
as lions, whom he had led in battle, that prevented awful bloodshed and
woe. In 1876 I heard a high-spirited, passionate man, who had been one
of Butler’s most daring scouts, say, when hearing of a youth whose front
teeth had been knocked out by a negro on the street: “Why, I would let a
negro knock me down and trample on me, without lifting a hand, for
Hampton has said: ‘Forbear from retaliation, lift not a hand, no matter
what the provocation; the State must be redeemed!’” And, thank God, it
was redeemed! Those brave men did not suffer and bear insult and assault
in vain. My faith in my father is so great that I cannot help feeling
that if he had lived he would have been able to prevent things from
reaching the depths they did. Of one thing I am certain, that if his
life had been spared until after the war we as a family would not have
been financially ruined. He would have been able to evolve some system
by which, with his own people, he could have worked the free labor
successfully and continued to make large crops of rice and corn, as he
had done all through the war. His was a noble life, and Milton’s words
come to my mind:

    “There’s no place here for tears or beating of the breast.”



_PART II_

MY MOTHER



CHAPTER IV

EARLY DAYS AND OLD FIELD SCHOOL


My mother, Adèle Petigru, was the granddaughter of Jean Louis Gibert,
one of the Pasteurs du Desert, who brought the last colony of Huguenots
to South Carolina in April, 1764, after enduring persecution in France,
holding his little flock together through great peril and having the
forbidden services of his church in forests, in barns, at the midnight
hour, in order to escape imprisonment and death. There was a price set
upon his head for some years before he made up his mind to leave his
beloved land and escape with his little band of faithful to America.
These perils and the martyrdom of some of his followers is told in “Les
Frères Gibert.” It is a thrilling story, but too long to tell here. The
two brothers, Etienne and Jean Louis, escaped to England, the little
flock following one by one. King George III made a grant of land in
South Carolina to Jean Louis for the settlement of the colony. He
retained Etienne in England as his chaplain.

The difficulties and setbacks encountered by the little band were most
harrowing and discouraging, but at last they reached the shores of what
was to them the promised land, and disembarked at Charleston, South
Carolina, April 14, 1764, from which city they made their way some 300
miles into the interior of the State where their grant was. Their
difficulties were by no means over; indeed, to them it seemed sometimes
as if they were only begun. The wild rugged wilderness where they were
to establish themselves, they called by the names they had left in their
beautiful France, New Bordeaux and Abbeville, and they set to work to
clear land and plant the cuttings of grape-vines to make wine, and the
cuttings of mulberry to carry on the manufacture of silk, which were
their industries at home. It is hard for us now to realize what they had
to encounter and endure--wild beasts, Indians, difficulties of
transportation, of transforming the big trees of the forest into lumber
suitable to building houses; but all these they conquered. They built
homes, they planted vineyards and orchards and mulberry-groves, and
succeeded in the manufacture of silk with their spinning-wheels and
hand-looms. There is at the old home place in Abbeville now one of the
little spinning-wheels with which the silk was spun, that the colony
sent with pride as a gift to be made into a dress for the royal wardrobe
of the Queen of England.

My great-grandfather was a man of executive ability and strength, with
that personal charm which made him intensely beloved and revered by his
little flock; and they prospered as long as he lived, but, alas, his
life was cut short by an unfortunate accident. He had brought with him
from France a devoted and capable attendant, Pierre Le Roy, who in this
wilderness filled many and diverse offices; he delighted to vary the
often very limited diet of the pasteur by preparing for him dainty
dishes of mushrooms with which he was familiar in the old country. There
are many varieties here unknown there, and any one who knows this
delicious but dangerous vegetable, knows how easily confounded are the
good and the poisonous; the deadly Aminita resembles very closely one of
the best edible mushrooms; we know not exactly how, but one night the
dainty dish proved fatal to the great and good pasteur, and his flock
was left desolate in August, 1773, just nine years after their arrival
in the New World.

Jean Louis Gibert had married Isabeau Boutiton, a fellow emigrant and
sister of his assistant minister, Pierre Boutiton. She was left a widow
very young, with two little daughters, Louise and Jeanne, and one son,
Joseph, to struggle with the difficult new life. I cannot pursue the
fortunes of the colony, but without the leader and counsellor on whom
they leaned the colony soon began to disintegrate and disperse, and
their descendants are now scattered all over the country. But of this I
am sure, wherever they have gone they have carried their strong, upright
influence, always raising the standards and ideals of the communities
they entered.

Little Louise Gibert very early married William Pettigrew, a blue-eyed,
fair-haired young neighbor, who was charmed by her dark beauty. His
grandparents had come from Ireland and settled in Pennsylvania, from
which State their sons had scattered, Charles settling in North
Carolina, where he was to become the first bishop of the Episcopal
Church, and William settling in South Carolina as a farmer.

They had a large family, four sons and five daughters:

     James Louis, who became a very distinguished man, a lawyer.

[Illustration: JAMES LOUIS PETIGRU.

Miniature by Fraser.]

     John, clever and witty, but the ne’er-do-well of the family.

     Tom, who died a captain in the U. S. navy.

     Charles, who graduated at West Point.

The daughters were:

     Jane Gibert, who married John North.

     Mary, who never married.

     Louise, married Philip Johnston Porcher.

     Adèle, married Robert Francis Withers Allston.

     Harriet, married Henry Deas Lesesne.

The sisters were all women of rare beauty, but Mary. Outsiders never
could decide which was the most beautiful, but, of course, each family
thought their own mother entitled to the golden apple. My mother was
painted by the artist Sully when she was twenty-two, just a year after
the birth of her first child, Benjamin, when she was so ill that her
hair was cut, so she appears in the portrait with short brown curls, and
is very lovely. There is a portrait of her painted by Flagg, in middle
life. When she died in her eighty-seventh year she was still beautiful,
with brown, wavy hair only sprinkled with gray.

The tradition in my mother’s father’s family was that the Pettigrews had
come from France after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and had
gone to Scotland, when they had changed the spelling of the name from
Petigru, and had eventually moved to Ireland. This idea was, of course,
pleasant to the little Frenchwoman, and when her eldest son, James
Louis, grew up and proposed to change the spelling of his name and
revert to the French spelling she was delighted, and the father
consented that the children should spell the name as they preferred, but
he declined to change his. So on his and his wife’s tombstone in the
most interesting little God’s acre at the old home in Abbeville, his
name is William Pettigrew, while all his children are recorded as
Petigru. My mother said to me not long before her death that she felt it
had been a mistake, as there was no survivor of the Petigru name, all
the sons having died. But I do not agree with her, for my uncle, James
L. Petigru, was a great man--heart, soul, and mind--and left a mark in
his State, having codified her laws with knowledge and wisdom. He was
almost the only man in Charleston who was opposed to secession,--I may
almost say the only man in the State.[2] But he was so revered and
beloved that, at a time when party feeling was intense, he walked out of
his pew in St. Michael’s Church (which he never failed to occupy on
Sunday) the first time the Prayer for the President of the United States
was left out of the service, and no one ever said one word of criticism
or disapproval. In a period when party politics ran high and bitter
feeling was intense, it was a wonderful tribute to a man’s character and
integrity that, even though running counter to the intense united
feeling of the community, love and respect for him should have protected
him from attack.

My mother always talked with great pleasure of her early life. She spoke
with admiration and love which amounted to adoration of her “little
mother.” Her father took second place always in her narrative, though he
was a most delightful companion--very clever and full of wit, a great
reader, and it was his habit to read aloud in the evenings, while the
family sat around the fire, each one with some appointed task. The elder
girls sewed, while all the children had their baskets of cotton to pick,
for in those days the gin had not been invented and the seed had to be
carefully picked from the cotton by hand! It would seem a weary task to
us, but they regarded it as a game, and ran races as to who should pick
the most during the long winter evenings while my grandfather read
Milton, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, and other masters of literature. When
one contrasts those evenings, those influences on the minds of children,
with the amusements and diversions deemed necessary to the young of the
present day, one does not wonder at the pleasure-loving race we are
becoming. Add to this that there were no little story-books to dissipate
the minds of children. My mother’s ideal of a story-book was her beloved
Plutarch’s “Lives,” and I remember still with intense regret her
disappointment when, I having accomplished the task of learning to read
fluently, she one morning placed in my lap a large volume with very good
print, and turned to the Life of Themistocles, which she had so loved.
Perhaps if it had not been for the long s’s which adorned this beautiful
edition of Plutarch it might have been more of a success, but at the end
of the half-hour I announced that I saw no pleasure in such a dull
book.... I would gladly read to her from one of my story-books, and then
she would see what a really nice book was. My dear mother was so pained.
She had had the same experience with the older children, but she
thought me very bright and felt sure that she would find a congenial
mind in her “little Bessie.” Seeing how hurt she was and that she had
set her heart on that special book, I did not insist on my book but came
every day and read the Plutarch aloud; but I never enjoyed it, which she
could never understand.

This thing of bringing all reading matter presented to a child down to
its level is a great mistake; it lowers ideals and taste. Stories while
you are a child, and then romances, novels, detective tales, corrupt the
taste until it is so reduced that there are not many young people now
who can read Scott’s novels with any more pleasure than I read Plutarch
at ten. My mother’s school was the old field school of the long ago. The
country was thinly settled and the schools widely separated, so that
children had to make an all-day business of it. The nearest school to
the family home was on Long Cane, three miles away, and mamma, at first
accompanied by an older sister and brother, later alone, walked three
miles to school every day. She took her little basket of lunch, a
substantial one, for she did not get home again until late afternoon. It
is quite surprising to find what excellent instruction was given in
these “old field schools.” Education was not so widely diversified, but
it was more thorough and of a higher kind, as far as it went.

Mamma learned to prove sums by “casting out the nines” in a wonderful
way, which no one else that I ever saw knew anything about. Her mind was
stored with treasures of good poetry which she had been required to
memorize in school. On her solitary walk home she was never lonely. The
birds and the little inhabitants of the woods were her delight. At a big
chestnut-tree about a mile from home she had special friends--two
squirrels who ran down from their castle in the top of the tree when
they heard her coming, and she always reserved some of her lunch for
them. She sat at the root of the tree and played with them until she saw
the sun about to sink below the horizon, when she picked up her little
school-bag and started at a run for the last stretch of her way home.



CHAPTER V

DADDY TOM AND DADDY PRINCE--DEATH OF LITTLE MOTHER SO BELOVED


The farms of the up-country as a rule required few hands, and so each
farmer owned only a few negroes, and, of course, the relations between
master and slave were different from those in the low-country, where
each plantation had a hundred or more negroes, which necessitated
separate villages, where the negroes lived more or less to themselves.
In the up-country it was more like one large family. In my mother’s home
there were three quite remarkable, tall, fine-looking, and very
intelligent Africans who had been bought by her grandfather from the
ship which brought them to this country. Tom, Prince, and Maria--they
occupied an important place in my mother’s recollections of her early
childhood. They had been of a royal family in their own land, and had
been taken in battle by an enemy tribe with which they were at war, and
sold to a slave-ship. No one ever doubted their claim to royal blood,
for they were so superior to the ordinary Africans brought out. They
were skilled in the arts of their own country, and had artistic tastes
and clever hands. Daddy Tom and Daddy Prince told tales of their wild
forests, which the children were never tired of hearing nor they of
telling. Maum Maria made wonderful baskets and wove beautiful rugs from
the rushes that grew along Long Cane Creek. One day as she sat on the
ground weaving a rug which she had hung from a tree, and my mother was
listening to her stories of her home in Africa, the little girl said in
a voice of sympathy: “Maum ’Ria, you must be dreadfully sorry they took
you away from all that, and brought you to a strange land to work for
other people.” Maum Maria stopped her work, rose to her full height--she
was very tall and straight--clasped her hands and said, dropping a deep
courtesy as she spoke: “My chile, ebery night on my knees I tank my
Hebenly Father that he brought me here, for without that I wud neber hev
known my Saviour!” She remained, hands clasped, and a look of ecstasy on
her face, for some time before she sat down and resumed her work, and
the little girl, greatly impressed, asked no more questions that day.
When grandmother died, she left these three free, with a little sum to
be given them yearly; not much, for she had little to leave. Daddy Tom
took his freedom, but Daddy Prince and Maum Maria said they were
grateful to their beloved mistress, but they would rather remain just as
they were; they had all they needed and were happy and loved their white
family, and they did not want to make any change.

My grandfather Pettigrew, with all his charming qualities of wit and
good humor, had no power to make or keep money. And among the few sad
memories my mother had of her childhood was that of seeing her beloved
little mother sitting at the window looking out, while tears coursed
down her cheeks, as she saw the sheriff taking off all their cattle, and
two families of their negroes to be sold!... her husband having gone
security for a worthless neighbor. My mother told it with tears, even
when she was very old, the scene seemed to come so vividly before her of
her mother’s silent grief.

It is curious to me that my paternal grandfather, Ben Allston, also lost
his plantation for a security debt, having signed a paper when he was
under age for a cousin who was in trouble pecuniarily. Grandfather was
advised by a lawyer to contest the matter, as he had been a minor and
it was not valid, but he would not avail himself of that plea, I am
thankful to say, and lost the beautiful and valuable plantation which he
had inherited, Brook Green on the Waccamaw. That is the only point of
similarity between my two grandfathers, however, as they were totally
different types, one Scotch-Irish, the other pure English.

The little Frenchwoman, so beloved by her children, did not live to show
any sign of age, and the memory remained with my mother of her beauty,
her olive skin and black hair, in which no strands of white appeared,
and her graceful, small, active figure and tiny hands and feet. She
always spoke broken English, but, as her husband did not speak or
understand French, she never spoke it with her children through courtesy
to him, and none of them spoke French. Her illness was short and the
family had no idea it was to be fatal, but evidently she recognized it,
for she called my mother and kissed her, and said: “My child, I want to
tell you that you have been my greatest comfort. I want you to remember
that always.”



CHAPTER VI

MARRIAGE


After the mother’s death the home seemed very desolate; and when the
eldest brother’s, James L. Petigru’s, wife proposed most generously to
take the younger girls to live with them in Charleston, so that their
education might be carried on, their father gladly consented, and my
mother from that time lived with her brother in Charleston until her
marriage, having the best teachers that the city afforded and enjoying
the most charming and witty social surroundings. Aunt Petigru, though a
beauty and belle, was a great invalid, so that the care of the house and
her two young children came much on the sisters-in-law. Louise, two
years older than my mother, married first and was established in her own
home. After two years in society, which was very gay then, my mother
became engaged to Robert Allston. When the family heard of the
engagement they were greatly disturbed that my mother should contemplate
burying her beauty and brilliant social gifts in the country, and her
sister Louise thought fit to remonstrate, being a matron properly
established in her city residence. She made a formal visit and opened
her batteries at once.

“My dear Adèle, I have come to remonstrate with you on this
extraordinary announcement you have made! You cannot think of accepting
this young man. Mr. Allston lives winter and summer in the country. He
will take you away from all your friends and family. That he is
good-looking I grant you, and I am told he is a man of means; but it is
simply madness for you with your beauty and your gifts to bury yourself
on a rice-plantation. Perhaps I would not feel so shocked and surprised
if you did not have at your feet one of the very best matches in the
city. As it is, I feel I should be criminal if I let you make this fatal
mistake without doing all I can to prevent it. If you accept Mr. Blank,
you will have one of the most beautiful homes in the city. You will have
ample means at your command and you will be the centre of a brilliant
social circle. My dear sister, my love for you is too great for me to be
silent. I must warn you. I must ask you why you are going to do this
dreadful thing?”

My mother was at first much amused; but as my aunt continued to grow
more and more excited, contrasting her fate as my father’s wife with the
rosy picture of what it would be if she accepted the city lover, mamma
said: “Louise, you want to know why I am going to marry Robert Allston?
I will tell you:--because he is as obstinate as the devil. In our family
we lack willpower; that is our weakness.”

My aunt rose with great dignity, saying: “I will say good morning. Your
reason is as extraordinary as your action.” And she swept out of the
room, leaving my mother master of the field.

It was indeed a brave thing for my mother to do, to face the lonely,
obscure life, as far as society went, of a rice-planter’s wife. She had
been born in the country and lived there until she was fifteen, but it
was a very different country from that to which she was going. It was in
the upper part of the State, the hill country, where there were farms
instead of plantations, and there were pleasant neighbors, the
descendants of the French colony, all around, and each farmer had only
one or two negroes, as the farms were small. In the rice country the
plantations were very large, hundreds of acres in each, requiring
hundreds of negroes to work them. And, the plantations being so big,
the neighbors were far away and few in number. Whether my mother had any
realization of the great difference I do not know. I hope she never
repented her decision. I know she was very much in love with her
blue-eyed, blond, silent suitor. They were complete contrasts and
opposites in every way. Papa outside was considered a severe, stern man,
but he had the tenderness of a very tender woman if you were hurt or in
trouble--only expression was difficult to him, whereas to my mother it
was absolutely necessary to express with a flow of beautiful speech all
she felt.

They were married at St. Michael’s Church, Charleston, April 21, 1832,
and went into the country at once. There was a terrible storm of wind
and rain that day, which seemed to the disapproving family an
appropriate sign of woe. But it was only the feminine members of the
family who were so opposed to my father. My uncle approved of mamma’s
choice, for he recognized in my father rare qualities of mind and spirit
and that thing we call character which is so hard to define.

My uncle feared my mother would find only raw, untrained servants in her
new home, so he gave her a well-trained maid and seamstress to whom she
was accustomed, and who was devoted to her. Maum Lavinia was a
thoroughly trained, competent house-servant, and must have been a great
comfort, though she had a terrible temper. She married on the plantation
and had a large family, dying only a few years ago, keeping all her
faculties to extreme age. One of her grandsons is a prosperous,
respected man in New York now, Hugh Roberton. I keep track of all the
descendants of our family servants, and it gives me great pleasure when
they make good and do credit to their ancestry. It does not always
happen. In so many instances, to my great regret, they have fallen in
character and good qualities instead of rising;--without training or
discipline that is to be expected.

Mamma has told me of her dismay when she found what a big household she
had to manage and control. Not long after they were married she went to
my father, almost crying, and remonstrated: “There are too many
servants; I do not know what to do with them. There is Mary, the cook;
Milly, the laundress; Caroline, the housemaid; Cinda, the seamstress;
Peter, the butler; Andrew, the second dining-room man; Aleck, the
coachman; and Moses, the gardener. And George, the scullion, and the boy
in the yard besides! I cannot find work for them! After breakfast, when
they line up and ask, ‘Miss, wha’ yu’ want me fu’ do to-day?’ I feel
like running away. Please send some of them away, for Lavinia is capable
of doing the work of two of them. Please send them away, half of them,
at least.”

But papa made her understand that he could not. These were
house-servants; they had been trained for the work, even if they were
not efficient and well trained. It would be a cruelty to send them into
the field, to work which they were not accustomed to. Then he said: “As
soon as you get accustomed to the life here you will know there is
plenty for them to do. The house is large and to keep it perfectly clean
takes constant work. Then there is the constant need of having clothes
cut and made for the babies and little children on the place; the
nourishment, soup, etc., to be made and sent to the sick. You will find
that there is really more work than there are hands for, in a little
while.” And truly she found it so. But it took all her own precious time
to direct and plan and carry out the work. The calls to do something
which seemed important and necessary were incessant. One day my father
came in and asked her to go with him to see a very ill man. She
answered: “My dear Mr. Urston” (she always called papa Mr. Allston, but
she said it so fast that it sounded like that), “I know nothing about
sickness, and there is no earthly use for me to go with you. I have been
having the soup made and sending it to him regularly, but I cannot go to
see him, for I can do him no good.” He answered with a grave, hurt look:
“You are mistaken; you can do him good. At any rate, it is my wish that
you go.” Mamma got her hat and came down the steps full of rebellion,
but silent. He helped her into the buggy and they drove off down the
beautiful avenue of live oaks, draped with gray moss, out to the negro
quarter, which is always called by them “the street.”

The houses were built regularly about fifty yards apart on each side of
a wide road, with fruit-trees on each side. There are generally about
twelve houses on each side, so that it makes a little village. On
Chicora Wood plantation there were three of these settlements, a little
distance apart, each on a little elevation with good Southern exposure,
and all named. One was called California, one Aunty Phibby Hill, and one
Crick Hill, because Chapel Creek, a beautiful stream of water, ran
along parallel with it and very near. In California, which was the
middle settlement, was the hospital, called by the darkies “the
sick-house.” To this, which was much larger than the other houses, built
for one family each, my father drove. He helped mamma out and they
entered; the room was large and airy, and there on one of the beds lay
an ill man with closed eyes and labored breathing; one could not but see
that death was near. He appeared unconscious, with a look of great pain
on his face. My father called his name gently, “Pompey.” He opened his
eyes and a look of delight replaced the one of pain. “My marster!” he
exclaimed. “Yu cum! O, I tu glad! I tink I bin gwine, widout see yu once
more.”

Papa said: “I’ve brought something good for you to look upon, Pompey. I
brought your young mistress to see you,” and he took mamma’s hand and
drew her to the side of the bed where Pompey could see her without
effort.

His whole face lit up with pleasure as he looked and he lifted up his
hands and exclaimed: “My mistis! I tank de Lawd. He let me lib fu’ see
you! ’Tis like de light to my eye. God bless you, my missis.” And
turning his eyes to papa, he said: “Maussa, yu sure is chuse a beauty!
’Tis like de face of a angel! I kin res’ better now, but, my marster,
I’m goin’! I want yu to pray fur me.”

So papa knelt by the bed and offered a fervent prayer that Pompey, who
had been faithful in all his earthly tasks, should receive the great
reward, and that he might be spared great suffering and distress in his
going. Then he rose and pressed the hand which was held out to him, and
went out followed by my mother. As they drove home she was filled with
penitence and love. She wanted to express both, but as she glanced at my
father she saw that his mind was far away and she could not. He was, in
mind, with the dying man; he was full of self-questioning and solemn
thought: “Had he been as faithful to every duty through life as Pompey
in his humbler sphere had been?” No thought of his bride came to him.

At last she spoke and said: “I thank you for having made me come with
you, and I beg you to forgive my petulance about coming. I did not
understand.” He pressed her hand and kissed her but spoke no word, and
they returned to the house in silence.

My heart has always been filled with sympathy for my mother when she
told me these things of her early life, for I was very like her, and I
do not know how she stood that stern silence which came over papa when
he was moved. And yet I adored him and I think she did, but all the same
it must have been hard.

She found the life on the plantation a very full one and intensely
interesting, but not at all the kind of life she had ever dreamed of or
expected, a life full of service and responsibility. But where was the
reading and study and self-improvement which she had planned? Something
unexpected was always turning up to interrupt the programme laid out by
her; little did she suspect that her mind and soul were growing apace in
this apparently inferior life, as they could never have grown if her
plans of self-improvement and study had been carried out.



CHAPTER VII

MOVE TO CANAAN--AUNT BLYTHE


The cultivation of rice necessitated keeping the fields flooded with
river water until it became stagnant, and the whole atmosphere was
polluted by the dreadful smell. No white person could remain on the
plantation without danger of the most virulent fever, always spoken of
as “country fever.” So the planters removed their families from their
beautiful homes the last week in May, and they never returned until the
first week in November, by which time cold weather had come and the
danger of malarial fever gone. The formula was to wait for a black frost
before moving; I believe that is purely a local expression; three white
frosts make a black frost; that means that all the potato vines and all
the other delicate plants had been killed so completely that the leaves
were black.

At the end of May my father’s entire household migrated to the sea,
which was only four miles to the east of Chicora as the crow flies, but
was only to be reached by going seven miles in a rowboat and four miles
by land. The vehicles, horses, cows, furniture, bedding, trunks,
provisions were all put into great flats, some sixty by twenty feet,
others even larger, at first dawn, and sent ahead. Then the family got
into the rowboat and were rowed down the Pee Dee, then through Squirrel
Creek, with vines tangled above them and water-lilies and flags and wild
roses and scarlet lobelia all along the banks, and every now and then
the hands would stop their song a moment to call out: “Missy, a
alligator!” And there on the reeds and marsh in some sunny cove lay a
great alligator basking in the sun, fast asleep. As soon as the sound of
the oars reached him, he would plunge into the water, making great waves
on which the boat rose and fell in a way suggestive of the ocean itself.
The way was teeming with life; birds of every hue and note flew from
tree to tree on the banks; here and there on top of a tall cypress a
mother hawk could be seen sitting on her nest, looking down with anxious
eye, while around, in ever-narrowing circles, flew her fierce mate, with
shrill cries, threatening death to the intruder. No one who has not
rowed through these creeks in the late spring or early summer can
imagine the abundance and variety of life everywhere. On every log
floating down the stream or lodged along the shore, on such a summer
day rows of little turtles can be seen fast asleep, just as many as the
log will hold, ranging from the size of a dinner-plate to a
dessert-plate, only longer than they are broad--the darkies call them
“cooters” (they make a most delicious soup or stew)--so many it is hard
to count the number one sees in one trip. Besides all this, there is the
less-pleasing sight of snakes on the banks and sometimes on the tree
overhanging the water, also basking in the sun so trying to human beings
at midday. But my mother was enchanted with this row, so perfectly new
to her, and the negro boat-songs also delighted her. There were six
splendid oarsmen, who sang from the moment the boat got well under way.
Oh, there is nothing like the rhythm and swing of those boat-songs. “In
case if I neber see you any mo’, I’m hopes to meet yu on Canaan’s happy
sho’,” and “Roll, Jordan, Roll,” and “Run, Mary, Run,” “Drinkin’ Wine,
Drinkin’ Wine,” “Oh, Zion!” I am filled with longing when I think of
them. I was born at the seaside, and from that time until I was
eighteen, the move from the plantation to the sea beach at the end of
May, and the return home to the plantation the first week in November
were great events and a perfect joy.

Of course, it was different for my mother, for the tearing up of stakes
just as she had got accustomed to her new home and new life, the packing
up of everything necessary for comfort for every member of the household
for the summer and autumn was terrific. It required so much thought, so
many lists, so much actual labor. At the same time carpets, curtains,
and all the winter clothing had to be aired, sunned, and put up with
camphor against the moths. She was pretty well worn out and tired by
this new aspect of her future life, this upheaval and earthquake to be
gone through twice a year, so that when she stepped into the boat she
was not her gayest self; but, when the things were all stored in, the
lunch-baskets and valises and a big moss-wrapped bunch of roses, and the
dogs at her feet; when papa, seated by her, took the rudder ropes, when
the boat shot out into the river and the hands broke into song, preceded
by each one calling aloud to the other, “Let’s go, boys, let’s go,” she
told me it was the most delightful revelation and sensation of her life
almost. She had never been in a rowboat before; she had never been on a
river. She had grown up in the interior, far in the hill country near
the upper waters of the Savannah River, a rocky stream, where no woman
ever thought of going in a boat. This swift, delightful movement, with
the glorious sunshine and fresh morning breeze--for they always made an
early start, there being so much to be done at the other end--made the
row only too short.

But new pleasures awaited her, for the flat with the horses had gone
ahead of them, starting with the ebb tide, at four in the morning; and,
when they landed at the wharf at Waverly on the Waccamaw (which belonged
to my father’s elder brother, General Joseph Allston, who died leaving
his two sons, Joseph Blythe and William Allan, to papa’s care and
guardianship), they found the horses all ready saddled, and they mounted
and rode the four miles to “Canaan,” where they were to spend the
summer. It was on the seashore, just at an inlet where the ocean view
was; and, as mamma saw the great waves come rolling in, she was filled
with joy anew. To me it has always been intoxicating, that first view
each year of the waves rolling, rolling; and the smell of the sea, and
the brilliant blue expanse; but then I was born there and it is like a
renewal of birth.

My mother enjoyed her life here. It was much simpler than that at the
plantation, with fewer servants, and that she much enjoyed. They had
breakfast at six o’clock every morning, and as soon as breakfast was
over, papa mounted his horse and rode to Waverly, where the boat met
him. His horse was put in the stable and he rowed to Chicora, went over
all the crop, the rice-fields first, landing on the bank opposite the
house and walking round all the planted fields, seeing that the water
was kept on the rice just at the right depth, that the fields which had
been dried for hoeing were dry enough to begin on them with the hoe.
There is a real science in rice-planting, and my father was thoroughly
versed in it and most diligent in seeing after the treatment of each
field. He was always followed by the trunk minder, Jacob, and in every
field Jacob went down the bank to the water edge and drew out a stalk or
two of rice for papa to examine the root growth, by which the water is
managed. This accomplished, papa crossed to the house, where a horse was
ready saddled. He mounted and rode all over the upland crop, corn,
potatoes, oats, peas; went into the house, which Maum Mary kept fresh
and clean, wrote a few letters, drank a glass of buttermilk and ate
some fruit, got into his boat again, and returned to the seashore for a
three-o’clock dinner, having done a tremendous day’s work; and he never
failed, with all his work, to go into the garden and gather a bunch of
roses and pink oleander to bring to mamma. Of course, his homecoming was
the event of the day to my mother.

Soon papa’s aunt, Mrs. Blythe, came to be with them for the summer,
which was a great pleasure to mamma. She was a woman of noble character
and ample means, who was specially devoted to my father, having no
children of her own, and recognizing in him a kindred nature. Aunt
Blythe was a true specimen of the “grande dame” of the old South. She
had been brought up to responsibility, to command herself and others;
she was an old lady when mamma first knew her, but tall and stately in
figure and beautiful in face. She brought her own barouche, horses, and
coachman and footman, and her own maid and laundress--in short, a
retinue. I never saw Aunt Blythe, as she died before I was born, but the
tales of her generosity and her grandeur which were told by white and
black placed her in the category of fairies and other benign spirits. I
was named after Aunt Blythe, a rare instance of posthumous gratitude, I
think; and my mother, in the way she did it, showed a sympathetic,
romantic understanding of Aunt Blythe’s nature. She had been sought in
marriage in her early youth by her first cousin, John Waties; but, when
he approached her father and asked for his consent, he refused
absolutely, as he disapproved of the marriage of cousins. So Aunt Blythe
and her lover agreed not to be married during the father’s lifetime.
Alas, alas! John Waties died very soon! He left all his property to his
fiancée, which made her the rich woman of the family. This property
included a large and valuable rice-plantation, with a large number of
negroes. Aunt Blythe felt this a great trust and responsibility and most
difficult to manage, for it was almost impossible to get an overseer who
would treat the negroes with gentleness and justice. The men who sought
the place of overseer in those days were invariably from the North,
their one idea being to get as much work from the hands as possible,
and, consequently, make as much money. Aunt Blythe could not live alone
in this isolated spot, the barony of Friendfield (it is the plantation
now owned by Doctor Baruch and kept by him as a game-preserve), and,
after trying one overseer after another, and finding them cruel and
regardless in their treatment of her people, she accepted one of her
many suitors, Doctor Blythe, who had been a surgeon in the Revolutionary
War. She was then able to live on her plantation and to see that her
negroes were kindly and properly managed and looked after. Mamma became
devoted to Aunt Blythe and wanted to name her second daughter after her,
but my father wanted her named after his mother, who had died a few
years before his marriage, so he named her Charlotte; but mamma wanted
Aunt Blythe’s name in, so she asked to have the name Charlotte
Frances--Aunt Blythe’s name was Elizabeth Frances--and papa consented,
but he always called the beautiful little girl Charlotte, while mamma
called her Frances. She died when she was about four, a grief my mother
felt to the very end, with strange poignancy. When, some years after
Aunt Blythe’s death, I made my appearance on the scene, mamma named me
for her; but, instead of giving me the very pretty name of her excellent
husband, she gave me the name of the man she loved, John Waties. So,
instead of being Elizabeth Blythe Allston, I was named Elizabeth Waties
Allston; not nearly so pretty a name, but it really made me the child of
romance, I think. It was a beautiful thought and would have greatly
pleased Aunt Blythe if she had known.

All of this has taken me from that first summer of my mother’s married
life on the seashore. It was a very happy one, the long mornings spent
in sewing and talking with one who knew people and life, which my mother
did not at all; and, above all, who knew this very peculiar life,
surrounded by hundreds of a different race, with absolutely different
characteristics and ideas. Mamma told me that once she had said in a
despairing voice to her:

“But, auntie, are there no honest negroes? In your experience, have you
found none honest?”

“My dear, I have found none honest, but I have found many, many
trustworthy; and, Adèle, when you think of it, that really is a higher
quality. It is like bravery and courage; bravery is the natural,
physical almost, absence of fear; courage is the spiritual quality which
makes a man encounter danger confidently in spite of inward fear. And so
honesty is a natural endowment, but trustworthiness is the quality of
loyalty, of fidelity which will make a man die rather than betray a
trust; and that beautiful quality I have often found. When found, you
must give it full recognition and seem to trust absolutely; one trace of
suspicion will kill it; but one may make a mistake, and it is well, with
every appearance of complete trust, to keep your mind alert and on the
subject.”

My mother exclaimed: “Oh, my dear auntie, I do not see how I can live my
whole life amid these people! I don’t see how you have done it and kept
your beautiful poise and serenity! To be always among people whom I do
not understand and whom I must guide and teach and lead on like
children! It frightens me!”

Aunt Blythe laid her hand on my mother’s hand and said: “Adèle, it is a
life of self-repression and effort, but it is far from being a degrading
life, as you have once said to me. It is a very noble life, if a woman
does her full duty in it. It is the life of a missionary, really; one
must teach, train, uplift, encourage--always encourage, even in reproof.
I grant you it is a life of effort; but, my child, it is _our life_: the
life of those who have the great responsibility of owning human beings.
We are responsible before our Maker for not only their bodies, but
their souls; and never must we for one moment forget that. To be the
wife of a rice-planter is no place for a pleasure-loving, indolent
woman, but for an earnest, true-hearted woman it is a great opportunity,
a great education. To train others one must first train oneself; it
requires method, power of organization, grasp of detail, perception of
character, power of speech; above all, endless self-control. That is why
I pleaded with my dear sister until she consented to send Robert to West
Point instead of to college. Robert was to be a manager and owner of
large estates and many negroes. He was a high-spirited, high-tempered
boy, brought up principally by women. The discipline of four years at
West Point would teach him first of all to obey, to yield promptly to
authority; and no one can command unless he has first learned to obey.
It rejoices my heart to see Robert the strong, absolutely
self-controlled, self-contained man he now is; for I mean to leave him
my property and my negroes, to whom I have devoted much care, and who
are now far above the average in every way, and I know he will continue
my work; and, from what I see of you, my child, I believe you will help
him.”

My mother told me that this talk with Aunt Blythe influenced her whole
life. It altered completely her point of view. It enabled her to see a
light on the path ahead of her, where all had been dark and stormy
before; the life which had looked to her unbearable, and to her mind
almost degrading. Aunt Blythe urged her daily to organize her household
so that she would have less physical work herself, and that part should
be delegated to the servants, who might not at first do it well, but who
could be taught and trained to do it regularly and in the end well. With
Aunt Blythe’s help she arranged a programme of duties for each servant,
and Aunt Blythe’s trained and very superior maid was able to assist
greatly in the training of mamma’s willing but raw servants.

The old lady was most regular in taking her daily drives and always
insisted on my mother’s going with her. It was a great amusement to her
to see the preparations made. Aunt Blythe was big and heavy and always
wore black satin slippers without heels. Mamma said she had never seen
her take a step on mother earth except to and from the carriage, when
she was always assisted. She wore an ample, plainly gathered black silk
gown, with waist attached to skirt, cut rather low in the neck, and a
white kerchief of fine white net for morning, and lace for dress,
crossed in front, and a white cap. We have her portrait by Sully in that
dress. She always carried a large silk bag filled with useful things,
and as they met darkies on the way, Aunt Blythe would throw out to each
one, without stopping the carriage, a handkerchief or apron, a paper of
needles, or a paper of pins, or a spool of thread, or a card of buttons
or hooks and eyes, or a spoon or fork--all things greatly prized, for in
those days all these things were much scarcer than they are to-day, and
there were no country shops as there are now, and, consequently, such
small things were worth ten times as much as now to people, though they
might not really cost as much as they now do. Sometimes it was a little
package of tea or coffee or sugar which she had Minda, her maid, prepare
and tie up securely for the purpose. Naturally, “Miss Betsey Bly” was
looked upon as a great personage, and her path in her daily drives was
apt to be crossed by many foot-passengers, who greeted her with profound
courtesies, and apron skilfully tucked over the arm, so that it could be
extended in time to receive anything.



CHAPTER VIII

FIRST CHILD--PLANTATION LIFE


The next winter, in February, mamma’s first child, a son, named
Benjamin, after papa’s father, was born. She was desperately ill, and
her beautiful hair was cut as short as possible. Papa had thought it
wisest for her to accede to her brother and his wife’s urgent request
that she should go to them in Charleston for the event; and it was most
fortunate, for had she been taken ill at home, with a doctor far away,
she probably would not have lived. As it was, her recovery was slow, and
it was some time before she could resume her normal life at home. Aunt
May, her unmarried sister, went home with her when she returned, and
stayed until she regained her usual health. Aunt May was the only plain
sister, for although she had beautiful complexion, brown hair, and fine
figure, her face was not pretty,--but she made up in wit what she lacked
in beauty. She was the wittiest, most amusing companion, and had great
domestic gifts as housekeeper. Aunt May’s coffee, Aunt May’s rolls and
bread, in short, every article on her table was superior, and, of
course, this was a great comfort to mamma. There was only one drawback.
Aunt May had no patience with incompetence, and the servants were a
terrible trial to her, and mamma had to hear hourly of their
shortcomings, which she knew only too well already, and to sympathize
with Aunt May over them.

My mother spent a very anxious time in the first year of her eldest
child’s life. He was very delicate, and mamma knew nothing about babies.
The plantation nurses seemed to her very ignorant, and she was afraid to
trust the baby to them. However, any one who has read Doctor Sims’s very
interesting account of his early practice, especially among babies, well
knows that these nurses, many of them, had learned through the constant
care of babies how to manage them in a way surprising to one whose
knowledge is altogether theoretic and scientific. Anyway, my brother
grew and strengthened before the next baby came two years afterward.
Robert was a very beautiful, strong child, and from the first gave no
anxiety or trouble, only delight to mamma; and the little boys were
always taken for twins, the elder being small for his age and the
younger large.

Two years passed, and another baby came. This was the first little girl,
and papa wished to name her for his mother, Charlotte Ann, and mamma
asked that part of Aunt Blythe’s name be added--her name was Elizabeth
Frances. She had died the winter before, and mamma missed her
dreadfully. So the little girl was called Charlotte Frances; and, in the
household with its number of servants, you could always distinguish
those devoted to my mother, who always spoke of “Miss Fanny,” and those
devoted to my father, who spoke of “Miss Cha’lot.” But I never knew this
from mamma, and do not know if it were so. Hearing of her only from
mamma, I only knew of her as Fanny, my perfectly beautiful little
sister.

Of these years I know very little, nothing, indeed, except that my
parents went the summer following to Newport and New York, and visited
papa’s uncle, the great painter, Washington Allston, in Boston. When Mr.
Flagg was looking over the great man’s letters preparatory to publishing
his life and letters, he found one from Washington Allston to his
mother, speaking of this visit and of my mother’s beauty and charm; and
Mr. Flagg very kindly sent this letter to my mother, who gave it to me,
and there is quite a contest among my nieces and nephews as to who will
be the lucky one to whom I leave it. Mamma was greatly impressed by the
ethereal beauty of the artist. She had at this time as nurse for the
baby a woman from the State of New York, who took the little one in to
see and be seen by her great-uncle. When she came out of the studio she
said to mamma: “Surely, your uncle has the face of an angel, ma’am.”

Three years passed, mamma very happy with her little family of
interesting children, two of them so beautiful that wherever they went
the nurse was stopped on the street by those who remarked on the
wonderful beauty of Robert and Fanny. Poor, dear little Ben was neither
beautiful nor strong, but he had a good mind and powerful will. Mamma
often went to Charleston to visit her brother and sisters there, for by
this time the youngest sister, Harriet, was also married to a young and
very clever lawyer, Henry Deas Lesesne, who was in the law office of
James L. Petigru, and she had her charming home in Charleston; so there
were three homes to be visited there. Aunt Louise had relented in her
attitude to my father and was always hospitably anxious to entertain the
little family. Aunt Blythe had left her fortune to my father and the
two boys, still babies though they were, to the surprise and indignation
of many. So these were happy prosperous years.

Papa found the house at Chicora too small for the growing family, and
began the planning of a new one, to which the two very large down-stairs
rooms of the old one should be attached as an L. As the spring came on,
a new baby was expected, and mamma hoped it would be a little girl, to
name after her mother. As my mother dreaded the move to the sea, which
involved so much troublesome packing, my father built a summer house,
what would now be called a bungalow, for it had large, airy rooms, but
all on one floor, at a pineland about eight miles north of the
plantation on the same side of the Pedee, where he had a large tract of
land, and where the cattle went always in summer. It was called “The
Meadows.” Mamma was very pleased to be so near the plantation, for she
could drive down in the afternoons and see after her flower-garden,
which was beautiful and her delight. She gathered great baskets of roses
and brought them back. The Meadows was very prettily situated in a
savannah, which was a natural garden of wild flowers--great, brilliant
tiger-lilies, white and yellow orchis, the pink deer-grass, with its
sweet leaf, pink saltatia, as well as white, and ferns everywhere.

Here, in this isolated new summer home, miles away from any neighbor,
mamma was taken ill about two months before the time set for the baby’s
coming. Hastily the doctor was summoned, a very young man, still
unmarried, but one who showed early his skill and proficiency as a
family doctor; then the monthly nurse, as it was then called, Mary
Holland, was found and brought. Fortunately, she had been employed in
Georgetown and had not yet returned to Charleston, where she lived, and
was in great demand by the doctors of best standing. I remember her as
an old woman, but still tall and stately in figure, and with great
dignity and poise. She was about the color of an Indian. It was a mercy
she could be got, for my mother was desperately ill; but the little girl
so hoped for was born, and my mother did not die. When she became strong
enough to speak, and my father was with her, she said: “I want to see
little Louise.”

My father answered: “I will bring little Adèle to you myself.”

She exclaimed: “Oh, Mr. Allston, I do not want the baby named after me!
I must name her for my dear mother.”

But he answered: “I wish her to bear the name of my beloved wife.”

She said nothing, but the tears which all of her suffering had not
brought, now rolled down her cheeks. In a little while papa returned
with the small bundle of flannel wrappings and most skilfully and
tenderly unfolded them until the baby was visible.

Mamma looked at her, and then with something of her wonted spirit said:
“You may call her Adèle if you like! Poor little soul, she cannot live!
Take her away!”

I must think that this exhibition of almost cruel obstinacy on my
father’s part was due to the fact that the doctor had told him mamma
could not possibly recover, and he thought it the only chance to have a
little girl to name after her.

Wonderful tales were told of the smallness of the little Adèle. “She was
put into a quart cup with ease and comfort to her.” After mamma was well
enough to hold her and play with her, she passed her wedding-ring over
her hand and on her arm as a bracelet! But the little Adèle had a grit
and grip on life which astounded every one, and she grew to womanhood,
a beautiful creature in face, form, and spirit. She married and had
seven children, and never lost one from illness. They grew up healthy
and strong. The tiny Adèle was born August 16, 1840, in the very middle
of a very hot summer. Of course, my mother’s return to health was slow
and tedious.

One can cast one’s mind back to that date, when ice was so great a
luxury that it was only to be had in the North, where it was cut and put
up in the winter. The Meadows was twenty miles from the nearest town and
post-office, Georgetown, and everything had to be brought up by the
plantation wagons and team. But milk and butter and cream were abundant,
also poultry and eggs; and the Pedee furnished most delicious
fish--bream and Virginia perch and trout. There were figs in abundance
and also peaches, but the latter were small and a good deal troubled
with cuculio. They were, however, very good stewed, and my mother made
quantities of delicious preserves from them.

Around the house at Chicora grew luxuriant orangetrees, only the
bitter-sweet; but these oranges make the nicest marmalade, so mamma put
up quantities of that for winter use. Her vegetable-garden was always
full of delicious things--cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, and okra; and,
as my father killed beef and mutton every week for use on the
plantation, she had the very best soups and steaks; and there were
always wild ducks to be had. Also, after August 1, there was venison in
the house, for my father was devoted to deer-hunting. At the time the
negroes understood preserving the venison in the hottest weather by
exposing it to the broiling sun. I do not know what else they did, for
it is now a lost art; but it was called “jerked venison” and was a
delicious breakfast dish, when shaved very thin and broiled. They also
preserved fish in the same way--called “corned fish”--it was a great
breakfast dish broiled. Besides all this, about the end of August the
rice-birds began to swarm over the rice, sucking out all the grain when
in the milk stage. This necessitated the putting out of bird-minders in
great numbers, who shot the little birds as they rose in clouds from the
rice at the least noise. These rice-birds are the most delicious
morsels; smaller than any other bird that is used for food, I think, so
that a man with a good appetite can eat a dozen, and I, myself, have
eaten six. When they go out at the end of harvest, another delicious
little bird comes in, called locally a coot, but really the rail or
soarer of Maryland. All these things made living easy and abundant, for
they came in great quantities.

Mamma spoke with great pleasure of this part of her life when she could
thoroughly enjoy her little family, sorrow not yet having clouded her
horizon. When the little Adèle was two years old came a little sister,
strong, healthy, and beautiful, to bear the name of the beloved little
French mother, Louise Gibert--then her cup of happiness was full. She
had come to love the plantation life, with its duties and its power to
help the sick, to have the girls taught to sew and cut out simple
garments, to supply proper and plentiful nourishment for the
hospital--all this came to be a joy to her. There was on the plantation,
besides the hospital or “sick-house,” a “children’s house,” where all
the mothers who were going out to work brought their children to be
cared for during the day. The nursing babies, who were always taken care
of by a child of ten or eleven, were carried to the mothers at regular
intervals to be nursed. The head nurse, old Maum Phibby (Phœbe), was a
great personage, and an administrator, having two under her, a nurse and
a cook. Maum Phibby trained the children big

[Illustration: MRS. BENJAMIN ALLSTON (NÉE CHARLOTTE ANNE ALLSTON),
MOTHER OF R. F. W. ALLSTON.

Miniature by Fraser.]

enough to learn, teaching them to run up a seam and hem, in the way of
sewing, and to knit first squares for wash-cloths, and then stockings,
and then to spin. When the war came there was not a grown woman on the
plantation who could not knit stockings or spin yarn. Weaving was only
taught to certain young women who showed ability and some mechanical
skill.

Mamma walked out often to the sick-house to see the patients and taste
the soup and other nourishment, and then on to the “chillun’s house” to
see how their food was prepared, and whether they were all kept clean
and healthy. This she did all her life, and I remember the joy of being
allowed to go with her and of seeing the children all lined up in rows,
their black skins shining, as clean black skins do, in a delightful way,
their white teeth gleaming as they dropped their courtesies as mamma
passed, each one holding in her hand some piece of work to exhibit. They
were a healthy, happy lot and very clean, as it was an important part of
Maum Phibby’s duties to report the mothers who were negligent of “clean
linen.”[3] There was in the children’s house, as well as the
sick-house, a tin tub, that in the hospital big enough for the tallest
man to lie straight in, and that at the children’s house smaller; and
any number of huge black kettles, so that hot water in great quantities
could be got very quickly on the open fires. The children were bathed
and scrubbed once a week by Maum Phibby, and woe to the mother whose
child was not found to have been kept clean in the meantime. I have two
of those immense coffin-shaped tubs now, perfectly good and strong, and
I had one freshly painted and used it until two years ago, when I was
able to put in a modern bathtub. At the end of the war, when furniture
and every portable thing was carried off by the darkies, the bathtubs
from the sick-house were the one thing not taken. They were
conspicuously in poor repute, one thing that nobody wanted! The
coffin-shaped tub has a great recommendation, as taking less than half
the water to cover a person entirely than the modern tub, and a very hot
bath could be quickly given.

Mamma every Sunday afternoon had all the children big enough to come
assembled in the little church in the avenue, and taught them what she
could of the great mercy of God and what he expected of his children.
It was always spoken of as “katekism,” and was the event of the week to
the children--their best clothes, their cleanest faces, and oh, such
smiling faces greeted mamma when she arrived at the church! After the
lesson a big cake was brought in a wheelbarrow by one of the house-boys,
convoyed by Maum Mary, who cut it with much ceremony, and each child
went up to the barrow, dropped a courtesy and received a slice, then
passed to my mother with another courtesy, filed out and scampered
happily home as soon as safe from Maum Mary’s paralyzing eye.

All her life mamma kept this up, and in later years we children were
allowed to go on condition that we should sit still and listen to the
catechism, and ask for no cake until every child had had his share. Then
we were allowed a few scraps, which tasted nicer than any other cake.



CHAPTER IX

FIRST GRIEVING


One spring, when the little Louise was about three, I think, Adèle five,
Fanny seven, Robert nine, Ben eleven, a neighbor wrote from Charleston
to mamma, asking if she would receive her and her two children for a
night. The children had been ill with scarlet fever, but were well
again, and pronounced by the doctor fit to travel; but, in order to
reach their home on Sandy Island in one day they would have to be out
late in the evening; and she feared the night air, so took the liberty
of begging mamma to receive them for the night. My mother wrote she
would be happy to do so, and they came, spent the night, went on their
way the next day. My mother had had no fear and the children played
together. She felt as the doctor had pronounced them fit to travel it
was perfectly safe. A few days after the visit Robert was playing, when
he suddenly dropped his playthings and put his head in mamma’s lap,
saying he felt sick. It was the dread disease. His illness was terrible
from the first, but very short. He died. Then Fanny took it and
followed rapidly, though Robert had been isolated from the moment he was
taken. My poor mother was prostrated with her passionate grief. Every
precaution then known was taken in the way of fumigation and burning up
bedding and clothing, and the plague was stayed.

A great longing to visit the home of her childhood seized my mother, and
my father felt it was a great thing that she should have the desire to
go, as he really feared for her mind and health. So when all possible
danger of contagion was considered over, he took her and the three
children who were left up to Abbeville to the farm called Badwell, where
she was born, and where her beloved mother lay in the family
burying-ground with the pasteur of the desert, Jean Louis Gibert, her
father. My father left them there and returned to his work. In a few
days the beautiful little Louise was taken ill and died, and was laid by
her grandmother in the God’s acre! I cannot bear to think of my mother’s
suffering at this time. The tragedy of it! The child named at last for
her mother, on this much-longed-for visit to her mother’s home. Now her
three beautiful, strong children were gone, leaving only the delicate
Ben and the delicate and tiny seven-months’ child, Adèle. It seems like
the crushing out of some dainty, happy creature, a beautiful, full,
happy life drained of its joy, leaving only stern, exacting duty!

I know my dear father suffered terribly at this time, too, but he never
spoke to me of it. He never found it possible to put his deeper feelings
into words. I think he and my mother were a great comfort to each other
in their grief, and I think it was this summer that my father had the
desperate illness of which my mother has told me, and I believe it was
his return from the jaws of death which made her first feel life held a
future for her.

They were in the same isolated, remote summer house, The Meadows. Papa
came home from his harvest work on the plantation much exhausted, went
at once to bed, and when mamma followed him at midnight she knew he was
desperately ill--a burning, consuming fever, and his rapid whispered
speech showed him delirious. She called the servants, wrote a note to
Doctor Sparkman, asking him to come at once, telling him how suddenly
papa had been taken, put a man on horseback and sent him off in the
night, telling him to go from place to place until he found the doctor.
Then she proceeded to do what she could for the patient to reduce the
awful fever. Cloths wrung out in water fresh from the spring on head and
face and hands was all she could do to cool it, as there was no ice.
Then she had a tub of hot water brought and with the help of Hynes, the
house-servant, put his feet to the knees in that, covering him with
blankets to produce steam. Mercifully this quieted him and the jabbering
ceased and he slept. Daylight came, no doctor, no sound came to her
listening ear of horse-hoofs. The heavy sleep as of one drugged lasted
until she was frightened, but she feared to wake him. She looked after
the children, having Hynes, who was very faithful and intelligent, to
sit by papa and fan him. She gave the children their breakfast and tried
to eat, herself, for she knew she would need all her strength.
Dinner-time came, evening, night. Oh, the long hours, how they dragged!
She thought of her desperate, passionate grief for her children, feeling
she could not bear it. Had God heard her rebellious murmurings, and was
he going to show her now how blessed she had then been, having her
husband left to her! How unutterably worse this grief would be! How
hopeless, indeed, would life be without him!

And so the hours wore on, but she was not idle; she thought of everybody
and did everything for the comfort of the house. Just at midnight the
dogs began to bark. She went on the piazza and heard wheels approaching.
She had kept the dinner-table laid with flowers and silver and candles,
all bright and cheery. As soon as she heard wheels she ordered the
servants to bring in dinner, and when the doctor entered and said, “How
is Colonel Allston?” she said, “Doctor, sit down and dine first, and
then I will take you in to see him.” He sat down, and she went to the
sick-room, where things were unchanged, the same drugged sleep and heavy
breathing. As soon as the doctor had finished, he came and listened to
her accurate account of all the symptoms. Then the fight began. I do not
know what he gave or what he did, but he remained doing all that his
skill and science suggested, for thirty-six hours, and then he felt for
the first time that there was hope, and left to see after his other
patients. He told my mother that he had been with a desperately ill
patient on Santee, thirty miles south of his home, for twenty-four
hours; when he returned to his home he found mamma’s note and the
servant, and without going into the house, though he was famished for
food after a thirty-mile drive, he had had a fresh horse put in and came
right on. Then he said: “Oh, Mrs. Allston, if every one thought of the
doctor as you do, the life of a country doctor would be a different
thing, and fewer of them would become dependent on stimulants. I was
exhausted, but expected to see and prescribe for the patient before
having food. When I saw that delicious dinner of roast duck and
vegetables I was completely surprised, but I blessed you and felt how
much clearer my brain, how much better my condition to prescribe for the
patient, and how much better chance it gave him for life, though, I
confess, when I first saw Colonel Allston I did not feel there was any
chance of saving him.” I tell all this just as my mother told it to me.
It shows what a woman she was. My father recovered slowly, and it was
the last summer they spent at The Meadows, the distance from all help in
illness being too great.

The next May, 1845, they again moved to Canaan Seashore, where my mother
had spent her first summer of married life. They went early in May and I
was born on the 29th of that month. Naturally, I suppose, after all the
sorrow and anxiety mamma had had, I was a miserably delicate, nervous
baby, and I have heard mamma say that for months they were afraid to
take me out of the house at all. At the end of that time the house which
papa was building on Pawley’s Island, just across the marsh and creek
from Canaan, was finished, and they determined to move the household
over to the island for the rest of the summer. That was my first outing,
and the times I was taken out of the room afterward were few and far
between, for it seems after going out I never closed my eyes at all that
night. I was a poor sleeper at any time, but after going out I was no
sleeper at all. The floor of my dear mother’s room on the beach is
seamed all over by the marks of the rocking-chair in which I was
eternally rocked! They had a hard struggle to keep me alive. Both mamma
and papa wanted me named for the dear old aunt who had been such a
blessing to everybody, so I was named Elizabeth Waties, mamma with
tender sympathy giving me the name she would have borne had her dream of
love materialized. I seemed to be marked for sadness, with deep lines
under my eyes, as though I had already wept much, which I certainly had,
only with a baby it is not weeping, but crying, with the accompaniment
of much noise.

The winter I was two years old, one Sunday mamma had gone with papa in a
boat to All Saints’ Church, seven miles away on the Waccamaw. She looked
out of the window as she listened to dear, saintly Mr. Glennie’s sermon,
and across her vision passed a young man walking in the churchyard,
holding by the hand little Ben, who had been allowed to go out when the
sermon began. She was much excited, because she could not imagine what
stranger could possibly be there. As he passed a second time she
recognized her beloved brother Charles, whom she had not seen for
several years. One can understand that the rest of Mr. Glennie’s
excellent discourse was lost to her, and she could scarcely wait for the
blessing, to rush out and meet the stranger.

He was in the army, having graduated from West Point in 1829. He told
her he was on his way to Florida, and had managed to arrange to spend
one day with her, but it could only be one. So when he reached the
plantation and found she had gone by water to church so far away, he
ordered a boat, and followed her, so as to lose nothing of his time with
her. This visit was the greatest joy to my mother. He was her youngest
brother and her special favorite. She was distressed when he told her
where he was going and why. The U. S. post at Tampa, Florida, had proved
a very deadly one. One officer after another who had been sent there in
command had contracted the terrible malarial fever of the country and
died soon after getting there. His friend Ramsay had been ordered there,
and he found him in despair one day, having just received his orders. He
said he had a wife and a mother, both dependent on him, and it was awful
to him to be going to certain death when he thought of them and what
would become of them. Uncle Charles said at once: “Ramsay, I will take
your place; if I apply for the exchange, I can get it, and I have no one
dependent upon me, so I have the right to do it.” The exchange had been
effected and Uncle Charles was on his way to take the place which West
Point for years sang of in their class song, “Benny Havens, Oh!” as
“Tampa’s deadly shore.” Uncle Charles left early the next morning. By
the time my next little brother came, a boy born the 31st of the next
July, Uncle Charles had accomplished his sacrifice and fallen a victim
to the fever, so the baby was named Charles Petigru; and everybody
always loved him more than any of the other children. He was so
beautiful and so sweet and good that we all expected him to die, but he
didn’t, but grew up to be a man and always a blessing to all around him.

Mamma’s grief at her brother’s death was great, but she had learned to
suffer without rebellion, and as some wise one has written, “there is
great peace and strength in an accepted sorrow.” She always felt very
proud of the heroism and self-sacrifice of Uncle Charles’s death. “No
greater love is there than that a man give his life for his friend”;
that is not quoted exactly, but it sets a man very high. Now we are
living in such a heroic time, with men giving their lives on the
battle-field to save one another, every hour, that perhaps it does not
seem as grand a thing. But when one thinks of a very young, handsome,
popular man deliberately giving up a choice army post to take one which
meant certain, unheroic, painful, and obscure death, it seems to me
very, very heroic and beautiful. After Uncle Charles’s death--I think he
was the seventh commanding officer of the Tampa post who died in quick
succession--the post was given up. Wonderful to say, now since the
science of stamping out disease has reached such a height, Tampa is a
health resort! and one wonders what was the cause of that death-dealing
miasma which made the place so fatal. On our way to the Chicago
Exposition, having to be some hours in Atlanta, we visited the military
station there, and I met a Captain Ramsay, who told me he was the son of
the officer whose life had been saved by my Uncle Charles Petigru’s
generous heroism, and seemed quite excited to meet two nieces and three
great-nieces of the heroic young lieutenant to whom his family owed so
much.



_PART III_

MYSELF



CHAPTER X

BABY WOES


Having brought things up to this point by telling what I heard from my
dear mother, who had a wonderful memory, as well as a most dramatic
power of speech, I must try now to put down what I remember myself. Here
and there a scene stands out, just a medallion, as it were, a bas-relief
from the far past, with everything as distinct and clear-cut as
possible.

The very first is a very mortifying one to recount; but, if I am to put
down all I remember, as I have been urged to do, I must be frank and
truthful, or it will have no value. This is the old story of our first
Mother Eve in that beautiful garden of Eden, temptation, fall,
punishment. My mother was ill on Pawley’s Island, the beach. I must have
been about three. The wife of the family doctor (who was, when we were
on the beach, Doctor Hasel) had sent a plate of very beautiful peaches
to my mother, and they had been put on the Sheraton sideboard in the
dining-room. They were so big that one could rest on a tumbler without
going in, quite different from the ordinary peaches we had; indeed, I
had never seen such peaches, as big as an orange they were and with
bright-red cheeks. I gazed and gazed, walking through the room several
times slowly. My father was sitting in the corner of the room at his
desk, writing, with his back turned, and finally Satan prevailed and I
tipped in softly with my little bare feet, and tried to reach the
peaches; failing, I got a chair and put it alongside the sideboard,
climbed up, got the top peach and quickly and quietly made my way into
the thick shrubbery outside, and ate my beautiful and delicious capture
with great delight. I was somewhat sticky and messy, but fortune favored
me and I made my way into the nursery without meeting any one, washed my
hands and face to the best of my ability, and then went in the corner of
the piazza where my dolls were, and felt serenely happy. When I came out
with my doll for a walk I found quite an excitement. First May, the
Irish nurse who was head of the nursery, met me and asked if I had taken
one of the beautiful peaches. Quite calmly I answered “No.” Then every
one I met told of the rape of the peach and asked if I knew anything
about it. I always managed to answer in the same calm negative, though
by this time I was far from feeling calm within. Finally May went to my
father with many lamentations, and announced that one of the servants
had taken one of the beautiful peaches from the sideboard. Papa said:
“Send Miss Bessie to me.” So I came and papa repeated the terrible
question, as it had now come to be, and I answered with the same “No,”
but very faint was it this time, for I felt it was no use, as papa
seemed to me to have all the qualities of the Deity, omniscience being
one. He said with a terribly pained voice:

“My little daughter, why tell a lie? I was writing here and heard your
little feet coming and going through the room, but thought of no
possible harm until this outcry about the missing peach was brought to
me, and then I turned and saw the chair placed by the sideboard, and
knew what the little feet had been busy about, and sent for my little
girl, feeling sure she would tell me what she had done. It was a shock
to me to hear that ‘No,’ and a real grief. That my little daughter,
named after my blessed Aunt Blythe, who was the soul of honor, should
have taken one of the beautiful peaches sent to her mother who is ill,
without asking for it, is bad enough; but that that same little
daughter should tell a lie about it is a great distress. But most of all
is the fact that she told a lie which would leave the guilt to fall upon
an innocent person! That is a terrible thing to have done, and I must
punish you, so that you may never fall so low again. Go into the little
room and wait until I come.”

I went. The little room was a shed-room on the northeast corner of the
piazza, which was kept always ready for any stray man guest who might
arrive unexpectedly. The little mahogany bed was always made up with
fresh sheets and white coverlet and looked very inviting. I sat in the
rocking-chair and rocked, trying to make believe to myself that I did
not care and was not frightened. After a while my father came and gave
me a severe switching. When he had finished he kissed me, put me on the
bed, and threw a light linen coverlet over me, and I went to sleep. I
slept a long time, for when I woke up it was nearly dark, and I felt
like an angel in heaven--so happy and peaceful and, above all, filled
with a kind of adoration for my father. It is strange what a realization
of right and wrong that gave me, baby though I was. I have never ceased
to feel grateful to papa for the severity of that punishment. It _had_
to be remembered, and it meant the holding aloft of honesty and truth,
and the trampling in the dust of dishonesty and falsehood. No child is
too young to have these basic principles taught them.

The next silhouette which stands out vividly is different. We had had
the delight of a little sister added to our nursery. She was born in
December, the only winter baby. All the rest of us were born in summer.
I only remember the wild excitement in the nursery when May came in the
early morning and announced, “You have a little sister,” and how we
scrambled out of bed and into our clothes hastily, hoping to see her. Of
course, we did not have that joy for some days.

Then a long blank, only two years, really. It was summer. We were on
Pawley’s Island, and my father and mother had gone to New York, leaving
us at home with the governess and nurse. Letters came saying that my
mother was very ill, and instead of the carriage being ordered to meet
her at the boat, directions came for a mattress to be placed in the
wagon, and that was to meet her at Waverly. The afternoon came and we
were so wild with expectation and excitement that the governess and
nurse thought best to take us across the causeway into the woods, with
the bait held out of meeting mamma as she came.

The walk in the woods was always a treat, so we went joyfully--Della,
who was twelve, and Charley, the baby, still in her nurse’s arms most of
the time, and myself. I remember principally in this walk a spider, the
biggest I ever saw until I was an old woman. I was hanging on an oak
limb, quite near to the ground. It was rotten, and it broke and I fell
to the earth, and with me fell out of the hollow limb a spider as big as
a dollar. I was terribly frightened and screamed for a long time.

Soon after I was quieted we heard the rumble of wheels, and the wagon
came in sight, going very slowly. As it came nearer we rushed forward to
meet it, but papa, who rode on horseback beside it, held up his finger
in warning, and then placed it on his lips, so we remained quite still
until the wagon, in which we could see nothing, passed. Papa stopped
behind, got down from his horse and kissed us all, putting Charley upon
the horse, while he walked beside. He told us that mamma was very ill,
and we must be very good and make no noise, but keep the house very
quiet. Della asked if we could see her and just kiss her, but he said
no; we must be content to know she had got safely home, and thank God
for that, but we would not be able to see her until she was better. Then
he mounted and rode on and caught up with the wagon. When the little
procession of disappointed children reached the house my mother had been
carried into her own room and put to bed. A nurse had arrived in the
buggy and took charge of her room. The governess and May were told to
keep us entirely in the western part of the house, where we could not be
heard unless we made some outrageous noise.

This dear old house consisted of _two_ houses, each with two immense
rooms down-stairs with very high ceilings and many windows and doors,
and two rooms above equally large, but only half stories. These two
houses were placed at right angles; the front one, toward the beach, ran
north and south, the other, toward the marsh, ran east and west. Both
had wide piazzas around them, which made a large, cool, shady hall where
they came together. Our nursery was in the northeast up-stairs room in
the front house, and though it was over the dining-room and not over
mamma’s room, it was thought best to move us to the other side of the
house entirely. So we slept in the bedroom next to the day-nursery,
where we took our meals, at the extreme west of the house.

I cannot tell how long this stillness lasted, but it seems an age, as I
look back. Then one day May came in and said mamma was better, and we
had a new little brother, but we must still be very good and make no
noise. I remember going very softly with my bare feet, holding Charley’s
hand, until we got to the piazza outside of mamma’s room and waiting
until we heard the baby cry. Then we knew the good news was true, and we
crept back in delight to the playroom. Every day we made this trip, and
for some days were rewarded by the delightful sound of the baby’s voice;
and then one day, though we sat a long time, there was no sound--all was
still. And that day, after dinner, papa came in and told us the little
brother had left us; God had taken him back to heaven.

We went out for our afternoon walk very solemnly, and as we walked I
held tightly to Hagar’s hand and said how I wished I could just once
have seen my little brother. Hagar, who was a negro girl about fifteen,
Maum ’Ria’s daughter, and was assistant in the nursery, and went out to
walk with us, said: “If yu didn’t bin so coward, I cud ’a show yu de
baby, but yuse too cry-baby en yu’ll tell en git me in trubble.” I
declared I would not cry and I would not tell, if only she would let me
see the little brother. Then she told me that when she began to take
water up into the rooms, I must sit on the stairs and wait till she
beckoned to me, and then very softly I must follow her up-stairs--all of
which programme was carried out. And when we got into the room above my
mother’s, she put me out of the window on to the shed, and followed
herself, and we walked stealthily on the shingles, so they would not
creak, across the shed of the piazza to the window of the other house,
where the company room was. The venetian was closed, but Hagar put her
hand between the slats and pulled the bolt and opened the shutter and
put me in, following, herself, quickly. There, on the white-curtained
dressing-table was a pretty white box of a strange shape to me. Hagar
lifted the white muslin which covered it and held me up so that I could
look in, and there was the most beautiful doll I had ever seen. I looked
with delight. I can remember the little waxen face now. All would have
gone well if I had not suddenly stooped and, before Hagar could stop me,
kissed the lovely thing. The awful cold of death sent such a shock
through me that I opened my mouth to scream, but before any sound came
Hagar clapped her hand over my mouth and hissed into my ear: “Ain’t I
say so! Yuse too cry-baby! I wish to de Lawd I neber bring yu! Yu’ll
sho’ tell en git me in trubble!” I stifled my screams and choked back my
tears, Hagar shaming me and adjuring me to silence until I was quiet
enough for us to attempt the perilous return trip. That night I could
not sleep. I sobbed and sobbed and tossed on my little bed; the cold of
that kiss seemed to freeze me all over. May went to papa, saying she
feared I was going to be ill. He came to the nursery at once, talked to
me and patted me and, when I only cried the more, he took me in his arms
and walked up and down the nursery, singing to me. As the sobs still
continued, he asked: “What ails my little daughter; has she any pain?”

“No.”

“Has anything scared my little Bessie?”

Violently I shook my head and tried my best to stop the sobs. I must
keep my promise to Hagar. But it was far into the night before my
father’s sweet voice, singing hymn after hymn, soothed me and the sense
of safety in his strong arms brought quiet, and I slept, and he laid me
gently in my little trundle-bed.

I remember nothing after that until one afternoon--I do not know if it
was that summer or the next--we were going out for our usual walk on the
beach, May with the little Louise in her arms, Charley trudging behind,
I bringing up the rear. As we came round the piazza and were about to go
down the front steps, papa, who was at his desk writing in the
dining-room, called to May: “Mary, do not take the children farther than
the Opening. We are going to have a storm and it will surely break when
the tide changes.” She came out and told us what papa had said.

I flung myself down on the top step and said: “If I can’t go any farther
than the Opening, I won’t go at all.”

May argued, she pleaded with me, she warned: “For the Lord’s sake,
child, don’t let your father hear you! Come on then”--and she took my
hand.

But at this I lay flat back on the piazza and yelled and shrieked: “If I
can’t go beyond the Opening, I won’t go at all.”

At last my father’s voice came, calm and serene, from the dining-room:
“Never mind, Mary, leave her. Don’t let the other children lose their
walk. Go on to the beach.” And she went.

I screamed louder and louder and kicked until my poor heels were all
bruised, but I didn’t care. The devil of temper had me in its clutches,
and I was crazed by it. Finally papa came out and took me into the
little Prophet’s Chamber, and gave me a severe whipping. As before, I
went to sleep on the little white bed and woke up feeling like an angel
in heaven, with adoration in my heart for the God who had conquered the
evil spirit which had possessed me. I always feel grateful for that
first conquest of the evil spirit within me. It has, no doubt, saved me
much suffering; but this poor, intense, self-willed nature has all its
long life dashed itself against stone walls, crying: “All--or nothing!”
And God has tried gently to win me to yield to his will, his plans, and
I have rebelled. And he had to take from me all that he had given me
with a free hand, as though I were his favorite child.

Never was a girl more blessed than I in her marriage, too happy to live,
I often felt. Alas, my happiness so possessed me that it made me blind
to the world outside. What cared I for the world, or outer world, as
long as my little paradise was untouched? Alas, it had to go; and so one
thing after another had to be taken before this poor piece of humanity
was fit for the Master’s use, able to yield and to help others to yield.
And now I thank the great Father for all that crushing and sorrow, as I
used as a little child to thank and adore my father for his punishments.
There were only these two that I have told of. Never afterward did my
father have to give me even a stern look. It was my joy and pride to win
his approval, generally only a smile, but it meant more to me than the
most lavish praise from any one else.

My father thought riding a most healthful exercise. My sister was a
fearless horsewoman, and during the summers which we passed on this
beautiful island, which had a splendid hard, broad beach three miles
long, she spent all her afternoons on horseback. When she came home and
dismounted, my father always put me on for a little ride. I was terribly
afraid and it was a fearful joy to me. I nearly always cried when I was
put on the horse, whose name was Typee; I would say: “Papa, I could
canter all day, but it is the stopping I mind.” I still remember with
terror the high, hard trot which Typee found necessary in stopping; he
could not go from his easy canter to his nice, easy walk without
introducing this tremendous hard trot between, and when I was thrown up
into the air I never knew whether I would drop back in the saddle or
down on the sand. My brother Charley, two years younger, was a good and
fearless rider; his horse Lady was swift and spirited, had a very easy
gait and was not at all vicious, but nothing would induce me to mount
her.

One day, when my father returned from a visit to the upper part of the
State, he called me and said: “My little Bessie, I have brought a pony
to be all your own; his name is Rabbit and he is very gentle, so that
now you need not be afraid to ride, and you can go with Adèle instead of
waiting until she comes home, for your ride.”

Of course I appeared overjoyed and thanked him with enthusiasm, but in
my heart I was terribly dismayed; go to ride with Della, who went fast
all the time! No, indeed, I could not do that, but after Rabbit arrived,
a little, dark-brown horse with kind eyes and slow ways, I was put on
his back, weeping, every afternoon, and started off with Della; but
Typee went so fast that I begged her to go on and leave Rabbit and me
to our own devices, which she always did, so we ambled along
comfortably, he having a very nice pace which suited me better than a
canter or a gallop. Della took her long, rapid ride and, returning,
picked me up, so we came home demurely together. It was supposed that I
was becoming a great horsewoman, and I really was getting over my fear
and ceased to weep as I was mounted. Those quiet rambles along the
beautiful, smooth beach, where nothing could hurt you,--with the great,
beautiful sea, rolling in with its dashing waves just beside me, but
limited by its great Creator--very soon became the greatest delight and
joy to me. I loved to be alone with this wonderful companion, and would
ride along about a mile and then turn and come slowly back, so that
Della could reach me before we got home. This conduct of my father’s
toward me showed his wonderful insight, and the thought he gave each
individuality. Every one, my mother included, feared the effect on me of
forcing me to mount and ride daily, when it was such pain to me, but he
saw that if that nervous fear of everything was recognized and
encouraged, the rest of me would never develop. Charley went to ride
every morning with a negro boy a few years older than himself, to see
that he was not too rash. I doubt whether Brutus could be called a
modifier, but he understood all about horses and was a good rider,
teaching Charley a great deal, running races, and jumping ditches.



CHAPTER XI

THE LITTLE SCHOOLHOUSE--BOARDING-SCHOOL


These tragic memories all have as a background our summer home on
Pawley’s Island, which we always spoke of as “the beach,” as though this
were the only beach in the world. My next memories are of the little
schoolhouse at Chicora and our two English governesses--Miss Wells, who
was our first, I do not remember distinctly, but Miss Ayme, who stayed
with us until I went to boarding-school at nine, plays a great part in
my pictures of the early days.

My father had a two-roomed cottage about 300 yards from the house, in a
sunny spot in the park, near the river. It was a beautiful situation,
and each room had a fireplace, where we kept up splendid oakwood fires,
and to this charming schoolhouse we went at nine and remained until two,
having our lunch sent down to us there, and only returning to the house
when the bell sounded for preparation for dinner. In this way we avoided
the inevitable interruptions when the neighbors came to visit, for as
they came from a distance of several miles always, it was quite a
prolonged affair, meaning tea and bread-and-butter, handed by Nelson on
the big silver waiter, and wine, handed by the footman on a smaller
silver waiter, and a great deal of talk. If we had been in the house
when we were called for, it would have been impossible to refuse to send
for us; but the fact that we were at the “schoolhouse,” which could not
be seen from the front door or piazza, resulted in our never being
summoned.

Miss Ayme was much before her day in many things, especially in her
insistence on physical exercises, so in 1850 she introduced what is now
essential in all schools, calisthenics. We exercised with poles and
dumb-bells, and my sister, who stooped a little, was made to lie on her
back a certain length of time every day on a wide plank, which was
inclined at an angle, while Miss Ayme read aloud to her: the result was
seen all her life in a beautiful figure, and erect, graceful bearing. I
walked up and down for an allotted time each day, with a backboard, but
as I had gone to boarding-school when the time came that I should have
had the slanting-board treatment, I never have acquired the beautiful
carriage of my sister. Miss Ayme also believed in telling children many
of the truths of nature, which at that time was considered very
indiscreet if not immoral. She was a very good teacher and, besides
being a good Christian, was a lady. She had queer little ways and was a
never-ending amusement to our neighbors, who had not the appreciation of
the higher standards and the vision of my father and mother. Her odd
dress and very English speech struck them as her principal
characteristics. Miss Ayme had been a governess in a family of the
nobility in England. I have, I am sorry to say, forgotten the name, of
which we used to get very tired, for she told many stories about the
children, who seemed preternaturally good and were fed, to our minds,
very poorly, principally on porridge, which sounded miserable to us.
They were eager always for the top of Miss Ayme’s boiled egg, which at
that time in England was skilfully cut off with a knife, and she gave it
to each one in turn, which they considered most generous of her.

When my sister was thirteen it was thought best by my parents to send
her to boarding-school. There was one in Charleston, kept by Madame
Togno, who took only a limited number, where French was the language
spoken. This pleased my mother especially, and as the course of study
was said to be very good, my sister was sent to Charleston in the early
autumn. This left me as the only pupil for Miss Ayme, Charley being only
six, and as she was an expensive teacher my parents decided to do
without her after the New Year. I remember how I missed my sister, how
terribly lonely I was without her, and how wild with delight I was when
she returned in June, having enjoyed her school experiences very much
and having improved in health as well as everything else, especially
music, to which my father was devoted. So it was decided, as I was eager
to go, that I should go too when she returned to Madame Togno’s select
French school. I was only nine, small for my age and very thin and
nervous, and when one thinks of it now, it seems to have been an awful
risk. But I feel quite sure it was most judicious; the companionship of
girls of my own age was very good. The regulated life and study I had
had at home were excellent, but I was alone, with no minds of my own age
to measure myself with. At school I entered a class of fourteen little
girls of my own age, day-scholars, some of them exceptionally
well-grounded, bright children; and it did me a world of good to find I
had to work hard if I wanted to keep up.

One lovely curly-haired, blue-eyed child that looked like an angel and a
kitten combined, and who had been taught by her father like a boy, Sara
White, kept me always at the greatest strain in the arithmetic, history,
and dictation classes. Sara was not only the best girl in the class, but
the prettiest and the tiniest. Her long, golden curls and her
preternaturally clean white apron were my greatest envy. She was the
dearest little case of enlarged conscience I have ever met. One day in
class I saw her crying quietly, the big tears dropping onto her slate,
and I whisperingly asked what was the matter. She told me between
suppressed sniffs that her mother had forbidden her to go into the yard
without her hat; she wanted to cross the yard to wash her slate, but
madame had forbidden any girl to go into the closet where the hats were
hung until recess! What a plight! I, being always daring, proceeded
skilfully to go after a book across the room. I quickly entered the
closet and got the hat, and Sara made her trip across the yard. Dear
little strong, pure soul! She has lived a heroic life, at one time
nearly supporting her family in New York by her china-painting. Still
dainty and sweet, with her true blue eyes and golden, snow-touched curly
hair, she is one of my dearest friends.

I learned French rapidly, as it was the language required of the
boarding-pupils. I quickly picked up enough French words to pass me on
and I invented many others, so that I appeared to be speaking French
fluently to the older girls, who were painfully following rules and
phrase-books. The ingenuity with which I added French-sounding terminals
to English words so as to create the impression that I was speaking
French was a great amusement to madame, and I became a great favorite
with her. I was a tiny child, small and thin, with deep circles under my
big eyes, with an uncannily alert mind, but shy and morbid by nature;
very nervous and easily thrown into violent paroxysms of weeping by
reproof. Madame was quick to find out that I responded to praise by
redoubled effort, but wilted under disapproval and rebuke, and she kept
me near her a great deal, and encouraged me to narrate in my own
original French lingo all that I saw and heard, so that I soon got over
my homesickness and learned quickly, but was in a fair way to be badly
spoiled. The dining-room not being very large, madame had a table made
in the shape of a horseshoe. She sat at the middle of the curve on the
outside of the table, and I sat just opposite her inside, and my
mission was to amuse her as well as every one else at the table, so that
I scarcely took time to eat enough to keep me going. The meals were
always excellent, as madame prided herself on her table and looked
carefully after the selection of food and the cooking.

There were about twenty boarding-pupils, most of them young ladies being
“finished off,” in which process madame took much pride. We boasted
three beauties, who were always put in the front rank when we went to
concerts or to the theatre. Victoria Jordan looked absolutely like the
pictures of the ill-fated Marie Antoinette, when dressed for a party.
She married the year after this and we were all distressed by her sad
fate. She and her husband were blown up in a steamer on the Mississippi
on their wedding-trip. Carrie Elliot came next, I think, but many
thought Adèle Allston, my sister, was the loveliest. Carrie was my first
love; she was seven years my senior and was not impatient of my
devotion. She married a very charming man, a cousin, who became in time
a bishop, greatly admired and beloved--Bishop Robert Elliot, of Texas.

My principal trouble was the constant fear of fire. Soon after I got to
school there was a big fire not far off in the middle of the night, and
I was waked by the ringing of the bells and the awful cries of “Fire!” I
was terrified and, on getting up, the red glare which lit up the whole
sky was awful. At that time the fire department was made up of
volunteers and the engines were drawn entirely by man-power, an excited
mob of black and white pulling on a tremendous loop of rope, running at
full speed and yelling “Fire!” as they went. One afternoon when there
was a fire near the Battery, and we were standing on the front step to
see if we could get even a glimpse of it, as the engine passed, the
impulse was too strong for me. I rushed out and took my place on the
rope and ran down the street, pulling and madly yelling with the rest.
The other girls who saw it were afraid to tell madame, seeming actually
to fear capital punishment, and hoping that I would have the sense to
come back, myself. So it was not until madame missed me in the
study-hour and inquired where I was that the dreadful truth was
revealed. To their great surprise, madame laughed heartily and sent the
cook to the fire to bring me back. This was a great joy to the cook, as
to visit a fire to them is what an opera-ticket is to us. She found me
in the rabble, and, after due delay, when she was supposed to be
looking for me, and in which she was really enjoying the rare treat of
meeting all her friends and imagining tragedies if there were none to
see, we returned home fast friends. She held me tightly by the hand and
narrated volubly the difficulty she had in finding me and then in
getting me to come, how “she almost had to take me up and tote me”--all
of which was pure fiction. I stood a miserable prisoner at the bar, but
not at all repentant, only prepared for the worst. Madame used her
finest sarcasm on me.

“Well, mademoiselle, I did not know you had joined the fire-brigade! I
am sorry to deprive them of so strong and competent a member; but your
parents, in placing you in my care, did not mention that as one of the
branches in which I was to have you instructed, and you will now retire
to bed without supper and remain there until to-morrow morning. And the
next time the fire-bells ring, instead of allowing you to go out on the
step to see it, you will be locked up.” So, sorrowfully, I went up to my
little bed. But it was very good for me for, of course, I was exhausted;
and the cook, whose interest had been aroused in me for the first time,
brought me a particularly nice supper. She had to wake me, for I was
sound asleep.

After the fire terror, my next trouble was the going to bed. My sister
and I occupied a very nice but small room. She slept in a single
mahogany four-poster, with a white valance around it, under which during
the day my trundle-bed was rolled. I was always sent to bed at eight.
The maid went up, lit the gas, and pulled the trundle-bed out and then
left, returning in fifteen minutes to put out the gas. She was not of
the friendly kind and I always jumped into bed as I heard her coming.
The valance of the tall bed hung over a part of my bed, as, if it was
pulled out all the way, the door could not open wide, and I always
imagined a robber was hid under that valance! My sister did not come
till nine, and I lay there in a cold sweat till she came, perfectly
certain I heard the man breathing. I always asked her in a whisper in
French to look under the bed, and, of course, the man not being there, I
recovered and was asleep before she got in bed; but no one can imagine
how I suffered from this foolish fright.

My music was another trial this first year. I had the crossest teacher
that ever was. I cannot remember her name, for we only called her
“mademoiselle,” but she scolded me and cracked my knuckles till I cried,
at every lesson. These were my only troubles, however, and I was very
happy and dreamed many dreams. It was hard to find a place where one
could dream in peace; there were girls everywhere jabbering bad French;
but I found a delightful place--under the dining-table! I was a very
morbid child with many imaginary sorrows, and it was a great relief to
me to write journals and pour out my woes to these safe confidants.
Every scrap of paper was secured and kept in my pocket, for at that day
we had a large, capacious pocket in every frock, so that I had stores of
paper, and when the outside world was too hard and unfeeling, I watched
my chance when no one was near, and slipped to my quiet retreat under
the big horseshoe dining-table, with its white cloth which swept the
floor, and wrote and wrote until my griefs were assuaged, then rolled up
my treasure and returned to the outer world refreshed. When the
manuscript became too bulky I buried it in the garden under the pettis
porum bushes. This I kept up for years, and in that way I buried my
sorrows.

In the early spring mamma wrote to madame and asked that she would
select and buy our spring and summer things, sending her a liberal check
for the purpose. This delighted madame, and she bought and had made for
us clothes that I could not abide and refused to wear at first. A straw
bonnet trimmed with blue ribbons and a curl of straw around the front is
a nightmare to me still. It was just like an old lady’s bonnet in the
sixties, and tied under the chin; but, as soon as that was done the
bonnet fell back off of my head, and in order to keep it on at all I had
to keep my left hand clapped on the back. Then the frock was a
purple-and-white delaine, stripes of purple flowers on a white ground.
This was made with a full waist buttoned at the back, what was called
“half high neck,” and had a very full deep frill around it of cotton
lace! Oh, how I hated it! And when we were dressing for church the first
time I was to wear it, I cried and stamped and said I would never wear
it, and poor Della was in despair, not knowing what madame would do if
she heard me.

She said: “Look at me, Bessie. My dress is just like yours and I am not
saying a word.”

I answered: “You never do say a word. If you like it you can wear it,
but I’m not going to.”

And so it went on until madame’s voice was heard, calling on us to start
for church; and I let my dear, sweet sister button up my hateful frock
and tie on the hateful hat and wipe my eyes and nose with a wet cloth,
and we flew down the stairs in time to take our place in the procession;
for we always went everywhere in twos, a teacher ahead and one behind.
Madame never went to church herself.

My beloved sister must have had an awful time with me. She never did
anything wrong or queer, and this year was called not only the most
beautiful but the best girl in the school. I was always causing her
anxious moments. One night she found me crying bitterly when she came to
bed. She asked me anxiously if I were ill.

“Have you earache?”

“No.”

“Then what is the matter?”

“Oh, Della, I’m crying because I don’t love any one.”

“Mercy, Bessie, you don’t love me?”

“No. If any one else was as good to me as you are, I’d love them just as
much!”

“You certainly are a queer child. You mean to say you don’t love
mamma?”

“If any one else did all she does for me, I’d care just as much for
them.”

I sobbed on and poor Della in despair said: “And you don’t love papa?”

“Oh, yes, yes,” I cried with the greatest relief; “I do love papa.”

“Then for mercy’s sake stop crying and go to sleep.”



CHAPTER XII

SUMMER ON THE SEA--SCHOOL AND DELLA’S ILLNESS AND TRIP ABROAD--PAPA
ELECTED GOVERNOR


We went to our summer home on Pawley’s Island in June, and oh! the
delight of the freedom of the life on the sea-beach after the city, and
the happiness of being at home. The bathing in the glorious surf early
in the morning--we often saw the sun rise while we were in the water,
for we were a very early household, and had breakfast at what would now
be thought an unearthly hour, but my father did a tremendous day’s work,
which could only be accomplished by rising before the sun. And we
children were by no means idle. We were required to read and write and
practise every day. Papa’s rules were strict: we could never go out to
walk or play on the beach in the afternoon unless we had done our tasks.
I was required to practise only half an hour, but it must be done. Then
I wrote a page in a blank book and showed it to mamma for correction.
She had me to write a journal of all that had taken place the day
before, instead of writing in a copy-book. I have one of the little old
books before me now, commonplace and dull, but it was a very good idea
for a child, I think. I must have acquired the diary habit then, for all
my life it has been a comfort to me to record my joys and my woes, when
they were not too deep. Then I read aloud to mamma from some classic for
half an hour, so I did not go wild during the holidays. Add to this that
papa did not allow us to read a story-book or a novel before the
three-o’clock dinner, so that I read by myself in the mornings Motley’s
“Rise of the Dutch Republic” and Prescott’s “Philip II”--only a little
portion every day, but there is no telling how much my taste was formed
by it.

There were three girls of my own age living on the island, and we met
and walked together every afternoon. Jane and Rebecca Alston were twins
and exactly alike; there was a tale that their most competent elder
sister had once given a dose of medicine to the well one when they were
lying in bed together, unable absolutely to tell one from the other.
This tale was a comfort to me, for though I was devoted to Rebecca and
did not like Jane, when we met I could not possibly tell which was my
friend until Jane showed her haughty nature in some way. They called
each “Sissy,” so there was no help from that. The third girl, Kate La
Bruce, was devoted to Jane and disliked Rebecca, but she was as helpless
at first as I was. They have all gone to the beyond before me.

Madame had occupied a house in Tradd Street, two doors east of Meeting,
that first year; but when we returned in October to school she had moved
into a very nice house in Meeting Street, with a delightful big garden
full of rose-bushes and violets--such a joy to us, for we could roam
about it during recess and in the afternoon. This year another boarder
of my own age arrived, Emma Cheves. We looked at each other with
suspicious scrutiny for a while, and then we became the most devoted
friends. Emma was my first friend and remained my best friend all her
life. It was a great grief when she passed away a year ago. She, like
myself, lived on a big rice-plantation, so we had much in common, only
her beautiful home was very near Savannah.

This winter my dear, sweet, beautiful sister, who never did anything
wrong and to whom all the teachers were devoted, was taken ill. It
proved to be inflammatory rheumatism, and she was desperately ill. At
that day trained nurses were unknown, and it seems a wonder that any
one ever got over a desperate illness, but they did. Madame moved Della
into her own large, airy room, and she nursed her herself, with the
assistance of one of our very good negro servants that papa sent down
for that purpose, and who was devoted and vigilant; and after a long
illness Della recovered. It was spring when she was able to leave the
room. The doctor advised a sea-voyage for her, and papa determined to
take mamma and herself abroad. My mother’s eldest sister, Mrs. North,
offered to take the younger children, with the nurse, Mary O’Shea, while
they were gone, to her home, Badwell, Abbeville district, the original
home of mamma’s people. This was very good of Aunt Jane, as it was quite
an undertaking, and for six months.

I do not remember the stay there with any pleasure, though my aunt and
cousins were very good to me. I was so miserable about those who had
crossed the ocean. I never expected to see them again. The only thing I
remember very clearly was dreadful. There was a big boy there who used
to tease me and laugh at me. Aunt Jane’s coachman, Joe, a very good man,
was ill all summer, and I got into the habit of asking to

[Illustration: MRS. R. F. W. ALLSTON (NÉE ADÈLE PETIGRU).

Portrait by Flagg about 1850.]

be allowed to take something nice from the dinner-table to him every
day, which seemed to please my aunt, and was the thing in the day that
gave me most pleasure. One day just before dinner-time this boy called
to me: “Come, Bessie, quick. Joe wants to speak to you.” I ran
breathless, right up the steps, into the room, up to the bed. Joe was
just in the agonies of death; a silver dollar hung over each eye--the
negro method of closing the eyes in death--his mouth open and teeth all
exposed with the last struggle for breath, and the terrible rattle in
his throat! No words can describe the effect it had upon me. Day and
night he was before my eyes, and the dread sound was in my ears. I
became really ill nervously, and they had to pet me and feed me up, and
dose me with stimulants.

I don’t remember anything more until I was back at home on the
plantation with mamma and papa and Della all there, and seeing the
lovely things they had brought for us. Then, too, I heard I was not to
go to boarding-school again, but was to live with the family in the
beautiful house papa had bought and given to mamma in Meeting Street,
next to the Scotch church.

Papa brought with him from Paris a beautiful piano mechanique. It was
an upright rosewood piano which could be played naturally like any
other, but when you closed the lid on the keys you could open the top,
and there was a tiny railroad-track on which you put wooden blocks about
one-half inch thick, eight inches long and four wide, and having wires
inserted into them much like a wool or cotton card. There was a handle
which turned and carried these little flat cars along the track, but it
took great skill to turn the handle evenly with the right hand and
adjust the little flat cars with the left hand so that they would touch
each other and make no break in the music. But dear Nelson, our head
house-servant, soon learned to do it beautifully, and it was the
greatest delight to him and he was ready to play all the evening. Now
that there are so many inventions to give music this does not seem
remarkable, but in 1855 it was most wonderful, and the greatest possible
joy. We heard all the most beautiful operas and classical music that we
never would have heard or known anything about. The music came in little
wooden boxes about two feet long and six inches wide and high. They
occupied a corner in the drawing-room, and when piled were about four
feet high and four feet wide. The dear little piano was moved during
the war to the interior where we refugeed, and it is still in the
family--very tired, but still sweet in tone. But the boxes of music were
lost during the war. I have often regretted it greatly, because it seems
to me it was quite as beautiful as any of the machines I have heard
since, and the collection of music was so fine. This piano cost $1,000
in Paris, besides the heavy expense of bringing it over to this country.

My sister took music lessons while in Paris from M. Lestoquoi, a
distinguished pianist, and made great strides in her playing; she really
was a beautiful musician.

My father was elected governor of the State the next year and as there
would be necessarily a great deal of entertaining in which Della would
have to take part, papa decided that it would be best for her not to
return to school, as it would be impossible for her to keep her mind on
her studies. So, though she was only sixteen, she left school. There
were balls and receptions and dinners, and though I had no part in them,
it was hard for me to study.

All my sister’s ball dresses came from Paris, and it was the most
exciting thing to see her dress for a ball. At that time they wore the
most beautiful artificial flowers, and I especially remember Della in a
frock of tulle--little pleatings from waist to floor of white tulle and
then pink tulle, and long garlands of apple-blossoms with silver stamen,
and a light garland twined in her smooth, glossy brown hair. She was a
picture, truly, and naturally she was a great belle and had many
suitors. She did not care for attention at all, and I think that only
made her the more attractive. She was not allowed to dance the “round
dances,” as they were called--the waltz, the polka, and the mazurka--as
only what was considered the fast set danced them; and a ring of
spectators would form round the room to watch the eight or ten girls who
were so bold as to dance them.

The proprieties were really worshipped at that time. I remember hearing
Della severely scolded for having answered a note from a young man
asking her to ride on horseback with him, in the first person. Poor
Della said: “But how else could I write, mamma?”

“You should have written: ‘Miss Allston regrets that she will not be
able to ride with Mr. Blank this afternoon.’”

Such a thing as driving with a young man was not possible, though at
that time all the men had fine horses and buggies. But my sister, being
a very good horsewoman, was allowed to ride occasionally with a young
man. Girls were not allowed to receive visitors without a chaperon being
in the room. Mamma found this part of her duty very trying, so I was
sent to study my lessons in the east drawing-room, where my sister
received her visitors; and I certainly enjoyed the situation, if no one
else did. There was a beautiful drop-light on the table by which I
studied at one end of the room. I always murmured my lessons aloud as I
swayed backward and forward, to give the impression that I was oblivious
to all but my book. But little escaped my ears. As a rule I thought the
conversation dull, but one night I heard the young man say, laying his
hand on the marble table beside them: “Have you ever seen any one as
cold as this marble?”

Della answered composedly: “No.”

Then he said: “I am looking now at one whose heart is just as cold.”
That rather pleased me, but as Della seemed bored he did not proceed in
that strain.

Charleston was very gay for a few weeks in the winter at that time.
There were three or four balls every week. Three balls given by the St.
Cecilia Society took place at intervals of ten days, for everything had
to be crowded in before Lent came. These were the most exclusive and
elegant balls of all; but the Jockey Club ball, which always ended the
race week, was the largest and grandest--not so exclusive, because it
included all the racing people. The races were the great excitement of
the winter. Every one went and every one bet. Gloves and French
sugar-plums came pouring in upon every girl who had any attention at
all, for that was the only time that a girl could receive any offering
from a man but flowers.

These last were terribly stiff bouquets made up by a florist, with rows
of trite roses and pinks and other flowers all wired on to a stick,
forming a pyramid with geranium-leaves around the base, surrounded with
a white lace-paper frill and wrapped in silver paper. My sister had one
suitor who had sense and, instead of sending these terrible stiff
pyramids, used to send her little reed baskets filled with little white
musk-roses picked by himself in his aunt’s garden. They were too
sweet--no stems--just a quart of little darlings that you could put in
your drawer, and be conscious of, every time you took a garment out for
weeks--and so recall the donor. Alas, he was killed early in the war.
This was Pinckney Alston, a gallant soldier and charming man. My father
was very anxious for Della to learn to sew, and she was at last spurred
to the point of making a frock for herself. Up to this time her only
achievement in the way of sewing had been when she was about fourteen
and we were at West Point for brother’s graduation. Our great hero,
General Robert E. Lee, then Colonel Lee, was superintendent at that
time, and paid Della a great deal of attention, and one day when he was
lamenting that he had no one to hem six new handkerchiefs, his wife
being absent, mamma suggested to my sister that she should offer to hem
them for him, which after much hesitation she did. She did not finish
all of them before we left, and sent them with a little note when we
reached home, and received from him the most charming letter of thanks,
which Della always treasured among her sacred things. The great success
of this venture with her needle seemed to have completely satisfied her
ambition, until papa, to whom she was perfectly devoted, roused her to
attempt and accomplish the great feat of the frock. I well remember her
appearance when she put it on for the first time. She was very proud of
it, and apparently perfectly content with it, but it was a sore trial to
me. To begin with, the color displeased me. It was a yellow cambric with
little black figures here and there. The skirt was very long and the
waist very short and tight; the sleeves were meant to be long but failed
of their intention, leaving about three inches of wrist unadorned. No
one liked to discourage her first effort by any criticism. She had
received from a young man the day before she first donned it, a note
requesting an interview alone at twelve o’clock, which had been granted.
It did not seem to excite her at all, but I was greatly excited, for
this was a very good-looking man, and I had never realized that he was
devoted to her, he was so quiet and undemonstrative; but I knew this
must mean something, it was so unusual. And I know if he had not been
the son of one of papa’s best friends, it would not have been permitted.
What was my horror, then, when I saw Della going into the drawing-room
to this fateful meeting in the yellow cambric frock with its inadequate
sleeves! The interview did not last very long, and Della was
sufficiently upset, when she rapidly went to her own room, to satisfy
even my ideas!

I did not ask any questions, but I gleaned from the family talk that the
young man had come to say good-by, as he was to sail for New York on his
way to Europe the next day. Just at the hour at which the steamer left a
beautiful pyramidal bouquet arrived in a handsome silver bouquet-holder,
with Mr. Blank’s card.



CHAPTER XIII

CHRISTMAS AT CHICORA WOOD


While we were at boarding-school we had not gone into the country for
the short Christmas holidays; but now we went a week before Christmas
with all the household, and did not return till about the 10th of
January. Oh, the joy of the Christmas on the plantation! We had to have
presents for so many--fruit and candy and dolls and nuts and
handkerchiefs and stockings and head-handkerchiefs. Rejoicing and
festivities everywhere! All busy preparing and selecting Christmas
presents, and decorating the house with holly. Christmas Eve, making
egg-nog, and going round with little children helping them hang up
stockings and, later, going round with grown-ups and filling stockings.
Christmas morning very early, “Merry Christmas!” echoing all over the
house; all the house-servants stealing in softly to “ketch yu,” that is,
say the magic words “Merry Christmas!” before you did. Then joyful
sounds, “I ketch yu!” and you must produce your gift, whereupon they
bring from the ample bosom or pocket, as the case may be, eggs tied in
a handkerchief--two, three, six, perhaps a dozen, according to the
worldly position of the donor. Such jolly, gay, laughing visitors, a
stream coming all the time. As fast as one party left another came,
always making great plans to walk softly so as to catch you, so that
dressing was a prolonged and difficult matter, for you must respond and
open the door when “Merry Christmas, I ketch yu!” sounded. Breakfast was
apt to be late, because cook and all the servants had to creep up softly
to each door and “ketch” each member and receive their presents, and
open them, and exhibit them, and compare them, and see the children’s
presents, and do an immense deal of unnecessary talking and joking. So
that it was hard for them to settle down and come to prayers, which papa
had always in the library, and then bring in the breakfast and resume
the attitude of respectful and well-trained servants.

Such delicious breakfast--sausage, and hogshead cheese, and hominy, and
buckwheat cakes, and honey and waffles, and marmalade, which mamma made
from the oranges which grew all round the piazza. And before we got up
from table, the dancing began in the piazza, a fiddle playing the
gayest jigs, with two heavy sticks knocking to mark the time, and a
triangle and bones rattling in the most exciting syncopated time; and
all the young negroes on the plantation, and many from the other
plantations belonging to papa, dancing, dancing, dancing. Oh, it was
gay! They never stopped from the time they began in the morning, except
while we were at meals, until ten o’clock at night. The dancers would
change, one set go home and get their dinner, while another took the
floor. Fiddler, stick-knocker, all would change; but the dance went on
with the new set just as gaily as with the first. And this went on more
or less for three days, for not a stroke of work was done during that
holiday except feeding the cattle, pigs, and sheep, and horses--just
three days of pure enjoyment and fun. Christmas night papa always set
off beautiful fireworks with Nelson’s help. This was a grand
entertainment for all, white and black. There was much feasting at
Christmas, for a beef and several hogs were always killed and extra
rations of sugar, coffee, molasses, and flour were given out, and great
quantities of sweet potatoes. Altogether, it was a joyful time.

There were three days at New Year too, and then the clothes were given
out. Maum Mary began early in the morning after New Year’s Day to bring
out and pile in log-cabin fashion in the piazza rolls of red flannel,
rolls of white homespun (unbleached muslin), and of thick homespun, and
of calico for the women. Then, for the men, rolls of jeans,
dark-colored, and rolls of white for shirts, and then rolls of the most
beautiful white stuff like the material of which blankets are made. This
was called _plains_, and with the jeans was imported from England, as
being stronger and warmer than any to be got in this country. There were
buttons and threads and needles in each roll of stuff, suitable for that
thickness of material. All these little piles made of rolls filled up
the very big piazza, and it took nearly all day for the long lists to be
read out and each individual to come up and get their stuffs. Each woman
had a red flannel roll, two white homespun rolls, two colored homespun,
and two calico. The men had one red flannel, two white homespun, two
jeans, and one white plains. Then came the blankets. Every year some one
got new blankets, very strong, warm wool blankets. One year the men got
them, the next the women, the next the children; so every household had
some new ones every year.

The children’s clothing was given out the next day. This took longer.
Each child came up to Maum Mary where she sat surrounded by whole bales
of stuff, and stood in front of her. She took the end of the homespun,
held it on top of the child’s head and brought the material down to the
floor and then up again to the head. This would make one full garment
for the child, and was the way to assure there being enough, with no
waste. The red flannel was handled the same way, and the colored
homespun for every-day frocks, and the calico for Sunday frocks. It was
an interesting thing to watch: a name was read out by mamma, papa, or my
sister from the book, and up the step came the little girl, dropped a
courtesy to each of us and then to Maum Mary, and stood before her to be
measured. Maum Mary was sometimes inclined to be very impatient and
cross, but she dared not give way to the inclination openly, with us all
watching her. She would just jerk the timid ones around a little; but if
papa was there he would say quite sternly: “Gently, Mary, gently.” The
little girl, as she went out loaded with her things and the things of
her little brothers and sisters, would drop another courtesy of thanks.
The boys were taught to “Tech dey furud,” as Maum Mary called it; being
really just what the military salute is now; but they were generally
very awkward about it.

The hardest thing of all was the shoes. Every man, woman, and child on
the place, about a month before, was called on to give their measure--a
nice, light strip of wood about an inch wide the length of their foot.
Each was supposed to put the weight of the foot down on the piece of
wood and have some one mark and cut it off the right length; then take
it himself, so that there would be no mistake, to Mr. Belflowers, who
wrote the full name upon it. These measures Mr. Belflowers brought to
papa, all clearly and distinctly marked in pencil; and they were sent to
the factor in Charleston, who took them to a reliable shoe dealer, and
each measure was fitted into a pair of shoes. These shoes were all boxed
up and sent up to the different plantations in time for distribution on
the third day after New Year. Darkies have a very great dislike of big
feet, so many of them were tempted to send too short a measure; and then
what a disappointment and what suppressed groans and lamentations when
the new shoes were tried on!

“Somebody change my meshur.” And often I was called on to examine the
stick and read out the name on it. No mistake there. But these victims
of vanity were few, and were always much ridiculed by the others who had
wisely given the full length of the foot.

“Ki, Breder, yu got small fut, yu kno’. Yu haf’ fu suffer. Me, I got big
fut an I kin run een my new shu’.”

There was much visiting among the neighbors during this season. Every
one had friends from the city to spend the holidays in the country. The
plantations were large, so the neighbors were not near; but they all had
an abundance of horses and vehicles, and the roads were excellent. An
absolutely flat country, the dirt roads were kept in the best condition.
There were Mr. and Mrs. Poinsett at the White House, eight miles south
of Chicora at the point of land between the Pee Dee and the Black
Rivers. Mr. Poinsett was a distinguished man, a great botanist. It was
he who brought from Mexico the beautiful Flor del Buen Noche to the
Department of Agriculture; and it was named Poinsettia in his honor. He
was secretary of war under Van Buren and was largely instrumental in the
establishment of the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He married Mrs. John
Julius Pringle, née Izard, a widow, and made a most beautiful garden at
her plantation, the White House--so named originally because it was a
little white house in the midst of a field. Mr. and Mrs. Poinsett spent
their summers at Newport and most of the winters in Washington.

Mr. and Mrs. Julius Izard Pringle (née Lynch) and their daughter Mary,
afterward Countess Yvan des Francs, who was my sister’s dearest friend,
being just her age--lived at Greenfield, eight miles southwest of us on
the Black River in winter, and went to Newport in summer. Mr. and Mrs.
Ralph Izard (née Pinckney) and their large family lived at Weymouth, six
miles south of us on the Pee Dee. They spent their winters there and
travelled abroad during the summers. Doctor Sparkman and his family were
at Dirliton, five miles away, Doctor Stark Heriot four miles at
Birdfield, Mr. and Mrs. Nat Barnwell (née Fraser) at Enfield, three
miles away. These were all south of us.

To the north were Mr. and Mrs. Francis Weston (née Tucker) and their
large family. The eldest daughter has been a most remarkable woman. I
speak of her as Miss Penelope in “The Woman Rice Planter.” Mrs. Weston
was the daughter of my father’s eldest sister, who married Mr. John
Tucker, had two daughters and died; when Mr. Tucker remarried twice and
had a large number of children,--five sons, four of whom he educated in
the most thorough manner as physicians, sending them to Paris for a
final course, as he said the owner of a plantation with large numbers of
slaves could best be fitted for the position by a good medical
education. So there were three Doctor Tuckers owning plantations north
of us on the Pee Dee River, and one Doctor Tucker owning plantations on
the Waccamaw River. They did not practise their profession beyond their
plantations, however, but were mighty hunters and good citizens.

Just north of the Weston’s historic plantation, Hasty Point, lived at
Bel Rive Mr. and Mrs. J. Harleston Read (née Lance). This was entailed
property, a part of the very large John Mann Taylor estate. The Reads,
like the Westons, spent their summers in Charleston, where they owned
beautiful houses. Mrs. Weston, once speaking to my mother of the
terrible move to and from the city each spring and fall, said: “We have
to take fifty individuals with us in the move, I mean children and all.”

My mother: “Why, Elizabeth, how is that possible?”

She answered: “We cannot possibly separate husband and wife for six
months; so Harry, the coachman, has to have his wife and children, and
the same with the cook, and the butler, and the laundress, until we are
actually moving an army every time we move.”

This shows some of the bondage of the old system not generally thought
of.



CHAPTER XIV

LIFE IN CHARLESTON--PREPARATIONS FOR WAR


We returned to Charleston, January the 15th, in the midst of the gay
season. Of course, I went back to school and had little to do with the
gaiety, except to see Della dress for the balls and hear her account of
them the next morning.

I had always suffered much from what I know now was dyspepsia, but it
had no name then. I just felt badly at eleven every day if I ate any
breakfast. In our family it was considered the proper thing to eat
breakfast, and I had always had a fair appetite and ate my plate of
hominy and butter, and an egg or a piece of sausage and then a waffle
and syrup or honey. That was our regular breakfast; but I began to find,
if I ate my plate of hominy, I was perfectly miserable by eleven; and so
I ate less and less until I found out the delightful fact that, if I ate
nothing, I did not have the misery at eleven. But, when my mother found
I was eating no breakfast, she was shocked and distressed and said I
could not possibly go to school and study on a perfectly empty stomach.
I must eat my hominy--a mother now would say “my cereal.” I said: “Just
let me eat a waffle and no hominy.” But the hominy was considered the
most nourishing, easily digested thing, with a soft-boiled egg. As I was
always very hungry in the morning, I yielded readily and went on
suffering more and more--burning cheeks and flaming eyes and so cross
every one was afraid to speak to me from eleven till two. Then it passed
off, and I was exhausted and ate a hearty dinner. This went on until I
could go no longer. I was too miserable and had to tell mamma and stay
in bed. She sent for the family doctor, a white-haired old gentleman,
Doctor Peter Porcher. He questioned me and punched me all over with his
long forefinger, and then said to me:

“What would you do if you had a horse that was worn out from overwork?”

Very much tried by this question so alien to my condition, I said
languidly: “Let him rest, I suppose.”

“Exactly,” said the little doctor. “Exactly, and that is what we must do
to your stomach and digestive organs, which are worn out by overwork.”

Then he asked mamma to have two bedroom pitchers of warm water brought,
and he made me drink glass after glass of that tepid water, which he
handed me himself, until my system was emptied of every particle of
undigested food. Then he said to mamma that for three days I must have
absolutely nothing but a cup half full of milk filled up with hot water
in the morning, nothing more. He patted my hand and said:

“Then you will be quite well and have no more trouble.”

I stayed in bed that day and was so exhausted that I slept and rested
and never thought of food; but the next morning, when they brought me my
cup of milk and water, I was desperately hungry and very restless. So I
sent for mamma and told her that if she kept me in bed I could not
possibly endure the three days’ fast, for I thought of nothing but how
hungry I was; but, if she let me get up and go to school and study my
lessons, I would not mind it so much. Mamma hesitated a little, but knew
me so well that she was sensible and gave me permission to get up and
dress and go to school; which I did, getting there just in time. I said
my lessons and enjoyed myself greatly, the freedom from gnawing distress
in my chest making me very gay; and, at the end of the three days, I
returned to my natural diet and was in perfect health, and for years
free from any kind of indigestion. I just narrate this as an instance of
the heroic methods of the past. We were brought up to make light of and
endure all pain silently just as long as we could stand it, and then
submit to any treatment prescribed by the doctor, however drastic. For
years I had suffered daily pain and discomfort, but not severe enough to
attract attention to me, as I did not complain, was only miserable and
cross, and correspondingly gay as soon as the misery was gone. And now I
was well!

In the spring I went to my first child’s party. It was given by the
Cleland Hugers in their house in Legare Street for their beautiful son,
two years older than myself. Alas, he was one of the first to fall in
battle during our war. He and Oliver Middleton were both so beautiful
and both fell gallantly fighting when mere boys. But there was no shadow
in that bright scene to tell us what was coming. Mamma had a pretty
white muslin frock made for me, and my sweet sister took great pleasure
in dressing me for the party--a very full, very short skirt barely
covering my knees, a long expanse of white stocking, and black
slippers. When I stood before the big cheval glass, Della fixing some
blue ribbons on my tightly scraped back, tightly plaited hair, I began
to cry and exclaimed:

“Della, I am too ugly to live! I can’t go to the party!”

My dear sister expostulated and assured me I looked sweet, and said how
pretty my frock was, etc., etc., but it only added fuel to fire; and I
cried the more. At last she lost patience and said:

“Well, if you go on crying, you _will_ be a sight with red, swollen eyes
and nose”--and I stopped at once, and let her bathe them, and try to
remove some of the damage; and I went down.

It was an awful ordeal, for Charley was invited, too, and May, the Irish
nurse, was sent to take us; and, when she got to the door, she asked to
see Mrs. Huger and commended us specially to her care. Charley had never
been to a party before. He looked beautiful in his Scotch plaid kilt
mamma had brought from abroad; but he was very frightened and, just as
soon as Mrs. Huger released his hand, he found a safe place behind a
door where he could see and not be seen, nor be in danger of receiving
any attention. Mrs. Huger took me into the dancing-room, and immediately
a small boy I knew, who had long golden curls, asked me to go to supper
with him. I gladly accepted, for I had had visions of no partner for
supper, which was the greatest catastrophe which could happen. So I was
quite pleased to accept my very youthful beau; but in a few minutes more
the biggest boy in the room came and asked me for supper! And I had to
say I was engaged! It was dreadful. I hated my golden curled devoted,
with a fierce hatred. And it was worse when supper came, for I suddenly
remembered my responsibility about Charley, who had to be provided with
supper; and my little partner seemed reluctant to help me look for him.
The rooms were crowded and it was dreadful to roam around alone looking
for Charley, and when at last I found him behind the door he was crying;
but, after I took his hand and led him to the supper-room with its
beautiful cakes with a cupid on a wire on top of each, and the dishes of
ice-cream and cakes, and silver dishes of candy and kisses, he soon
recovered. And I found that my little beau had busied himself, while I
was gone, getting three saucers of ice-cream and three slices of cake,
so he rose in my estimation; and the party ended most happily. And I
found, though I was ugly, boys liked to talk to me and to dance with me,
which, after all, was the main thing.

These years were very happy ones. Mamma enjoyed the return to the social
life of the city very much after her long experience of country life;
and, of course, it was a joy to have her lovely daughter to introduce
into society. My sister was absolutely docile and did just what mamma
wanted her to do. She never had a wish about her own clothes, and no
wonder, for mamma had perfect taste and got everything for her that was
beautiful.

About this time I remember two little experiences of my own. My dear
sister had always been willing to share her high-post mahogany bed and
beautiful room with me; but papa thought I should have my own room, as I
was old enough. So the room next to hers was fitted up for me and was
just as pretty as could be, with its own tall four-poster and pretty
chintz curtains and with the bathroom attached. But still I slept in
Della’s room, though I dressed and kept my clothes in my own room. But
one day when papa returned from Columbia he asked me if I slept well in
my own beautiful bed now; and the truth had to come out that I never
had slept there, at which he looked grave and said: “It is my wish that
you sleep in your own room.” So that night I did so, and the following
night also, and began to think I should end by liking it. It was spring
and all the windows were open, and the third night I was awakened by
shrieks from Price’s Alley, which ran along beside our garden wall!
Screams and cries for help and sounds of blows falling! It was just as
distinct as if it had been in the next room. I fled to Della’s room and
never again attempted to sleep in my own room. The next morning we heard
it was a drunken man beating his wife; some Irish families occupied a
house together there. But it was the end of papa’s efforts to make me a
self-respecting individual. I stayed with my sister until she was
married, and then I took my younger sister, whom I adored, in with me.
She was five years younger than myself, but a very different nature, as
brave as a lion. Nothing scared her nor made her nervous.

The other experience was, I know, some years later, for I was big enough
to have boy, as well as girl friends; and one afternoon mamma told me I
could have the open carriage to take some of my friends for a drive. I
was much delighted and invited Minnie Hayne and Willie Wilkinson, and
Minnie invited another boy. We were having a very nice time, and Minnie
was in such a gale of spirits that she began to sing, and the boys
joined in, and I began to feel a little nervous for fear we might meet
some of my family, when the carriage stopped and Daddy Aleck, the
coachman, who always sat as straight as if he had been trained at West
Point, turned stiffly round and said:

“Miss Betsy, if unna (you-all) kyant behave unna self, I’ll tek yu
straight home! Dis ain’t no conduk fu de Gubner karridge!”

My feelings are better imagined than described. However, it was most
successful. The rest of the drive was perfectly proper; and after a
while when we got up the road one of the boys brought out a box of
sugar-plums, which we ate most noiselessly and discreetly, and we had a
delightful drive and mamma never heard of our undue hilarity. These seem
very trivial things to record, but young girls are interested in trivial
things; and the surge of events toward the great Civil War, which was
approaching, was not felt by me at all. I realized more and more the
beauty and comfort of my home and surroundings.

I must describe our servants. Nelson was the butler and house-servant.
(He was a mulatto, the son of a Mr. Thompson who had been overseer at
Chicora before Mr. Belflowers. He was a Northern man, very smart and
capable; but after this papa sent him away. Nelson adopted his father’s
surname, Thompson.) He was the best, most faithful, intelligent man
possible, and we were all devoted to him. Then came William Baron, who
was very black and very heavily built, but an excellent servant, with
very courteous manners. He took the greatest delight in arranging all
the flowers in the house, which I also loved to do; and there was always
a race between William and myself as to who should do it. I remember
specially one yellow flat bowl on a stand with Greek figures in black
chasing round it, a perfectly lovely thing for flowers; and it nearly
broke my heart when I found William had changed the flowers in it and
arranged them to his mind. William was my brother’s (Colonel Ben
Allston’s) body-servant during the whole war.

After the war William Baron became well known in Charleston as a
caterer, cook, and provider of elegant entertainments. He took charge of
the suppers for the St. Cecilia, which were always very handsome and
elaborate and quite a feature. Indeed, William was quite a personage,
with grand manners, and perfectly honest. He had but one fault, to look
upon the wine when it was red; he habitually took more than was good for
him and lived too high, so that his health gave out before he was at all
an old man. He always showed enthusiastic pleasure when he met any of
the family, but especially my eldest brother to whom he had belonged.
Mas’ Ben continued to fill his ideas as to what constituted a gentleman.
Whenever my brother came to the city and he knew it, he would send round
a dish of delicious chicken salad or a shrimp pie, for which he was
famous, or a Charlotte Russe, or some dish that he knew Mas’ Ben
specially liked. It was always a pleasure to meet William; his very
black, round face shone with delight and every one of his very white
teeth showed, as he assured you that “it did his heart good to look upon
you and you were looking so fine and so well.”

Then there was Stephen Gallant, who was papa’s special servant and
valet, but when there was much company he helped with the waiting, which
he understood well. Joe Washington was the cook. He had been trained two
years by a man who kept a very fine restaurant, Sam Lee. Phœbe and
Nannie were the maids, and Nellie, Nelson’s wife, the laundress,
assisted by a young girl. Daddy Moses, William’s father, was brought
down from the country to take charge of the yard and be gardener under a
white man, Mr. Wubb, who was employed. Harris, a boy in the house,
attended the bell and ran errands. They were all good servants and I was
fond of all but Stephen, whom I could not bear. He put on great airs
because he went with papa to Columbia always, and felt himself superior
to the others, who jokingly called him the “little guv’ner,” because he
imitated papa’s walk and manner generally, in an absurd way, as he was
quite small and very black.

My sister became engaged the year before the war. She had a beautiful
engagement ring, a diamond. She also wore always a magnificent ruby
which had been left her by Uncle Tom, captain in the navy. One day she
was sewing before dinner and had taken off her rings and slipped them
into her work-box, and when we went in to dinner she left it in the
hall. When we came out from dinner and she opened her work-box to get
the rings, they were gone! It is a very remarkable thing that the
servants were not suspected at all. There was a door in the hall
opening on to the driveway, and it was always taken for granted that a
thief had slipped in, opened the box, and taken out the only valuables
in it and escaped. The police were notified to look out for a
sneak-thief, and they reported great activity on their part, ending in
nothing. The rings were never heard of again. My sister was much blamed
for her carelessness. I know now that poor Stephen took those rings. He
was not waiting on table that day, and knew well the value of the jewels
and my sister’s habit of slipping them off into her box while she was
sewing. He knew about the approaching war, and he knew they would always
command a good sum of money, for the great value of the pigeon-blood
ruby had often been discussed. And Stephen was the only one who ran off
to the U. S. fleet before the end of the conflict. Soon after my
father’s death he took his whole family but one boy, Brutus, put them in
a small boat and rowed through the waves from the inlet next to Pawley’s
Island and joined the fleet. It must have all been arranged before, for
they were on the lookout for the boat and picked them up safely. Of
course, this was a great risk, and it seems strange, after braving the
waves of the ocean in a small boat, Stephen should have been drowned
some years after the war in the Waccamaw River. He had overloaded his
boat with rough rice and it sank. His son Brutus, who was with him,
escaped by swimming to shore.

When the family went into the country this year, early in December, my
aunt Ann (Uncle Tom’s widow, the buying of whose negroes at her urgent
request ruined my father) asked mamma to leave me with her, so that I
could continue at school until the holidays and so not lose my place in
my classes. So I stayed and went to school from her house. The holidays
began December 20. I was to take the steamer _Nina_, which was the only
way to reach Georgetown then except to travel the sixty miles in our own
carriage, as my mother always did; but, of course, mamma and the family
having gone that way, I had to take the boat. It so happened that the
day for the sailing of the _Nina_ was a day of wild excitement, as it
was the 20th of December, 1860. The Ordinance of Secession was passed
that morning in Charleston, and the whole town was in an uproar.
Parades, shouting, firecrackers, bells ringing, cannon on the forts
booming, flags waving, and excited people thronging the streets. I was
to go on board the _Nina_ at nine o’clock and sleep there, as she sailed
at an unearthly hour in the morning. My aunt’s coachman was to drive me
down, but he came to her and said:

“Miss, I cudn’t possible keep dem horse frum run, wid all dis racket.
Dem is jest de trimble en prance een de stable now, en I dasn’t dare tek
dem on de street.”

We all knew they were very spirited, overfed horses, and that the man
was right. It would be a great risk to attempt to drive them. So it was
decided I would have to walk. My two cousins had come to see me off and
walked with me--J. Johnston Pettigrew, my great hero and ideal of a man;
and Charley Porcher, who was only a little older than myself and my
great friend. Fortunately my trunk had been sent down in the morning. It
had rained and when we got down to the wharf it was wet and muddy, and I
had no over-shoes. Without a word of warning, Cousin Johnston picked me
up in his arms and carried me all the way to the boat. I was overcome by
the struggle within me, mortification that I should be treated like a
child when I was fifteen and thought myself grown up, and delight and
gratification that Cousin Johnston cared enough for me to do it, and joy
that I was in the arms of my adored hero! I never saw Cousin Johnston
again. He entered the army at once and, after distinguishing himself in
every action and being promoted to be general, he was killed at
Gettysburg, a terrible loss to our army, and my first sorrow.

South Carolina having seceded from the Union, military preparations
began at once. My brother Ben, who had been educated at West Point and
served in the army until three years before, raised and equipped a
company of cavalry at his own expense, aided by my father. It was called
“Marion’s Men of Winyah.” The whole country was in wild excitement,
drilling and preparing for war. Every one volunteered, old, young, and
middle-aged. It was hard to keep the boys at school. In the spring every
man we knew in Charleston was in one company or another. The Charleston
Light Dragoons and the Washington Light Infantry were the favorites, but
there were many other companies of great popularity.

One State after another followed South Carolina’s example, and a
convention was called at Montgomery, Ala., which elected Jefferson Davis
President of the Southern Confederacy.



CHAPTER XV

BOARDING-SCHOOL IN WAR TIMES


As soon as war was declared Madame Togno moved her school from
Charleston to Columbia, as every one knew it was only a question of time
as to when the city would be shelled. She rented Barhamville, a
well-known old school a few miles out of Columbia, and in November,
1862, my little sister and myself were sent there. The journey is
specially impressed on me, for my eldest sister had talked a great deal
of Mary Pringle’s delightful brother, Julius, who had left Heidelberg
(where he had graduated and was then taking a law course) as soon as he
heard of secession, and had run the blockade to join the Confederate
army. She had been at home when he called and I had not, and she talked
so much about him that I said, with my sharp tongue: “That seemed a
strange way for a girl engaged to one man to talk of another, and
wondered how her fiancé would like it if he could hear.” She did not in
the least mind this, but continued her praise, so that my opposition was
roused; and, when, as we were taking the train, with packages and much
impedimenta, our good Phibby included, for she was to go with us, Della
brought up the young man and introduced him to us, I said to her when he
went to make some inquiry at the office for her: “So this is your
paragon! You certainly shouldn’t choose for me!” However, he was a most
attentive companion on the journey, and stood and talked to me all the
way to Charleston, where we were to spend a few days before going on to
Columbia. Jinty made me very miserable, because I was painfully
dignified and speaking in the most correct and careful way, till I saw
that while he stood and talked to me, she, on the opposite seat, was
shooting peanuts skilfully into his coat-pockets. I could not speak to
her and reprimand her, for she would have answered me back promptly, and
I was terribly afraid he would turn and see what my little sister was
doing. He did not, however, and must have been much amazed later to find
his pockets full of peanuts.

Barhamville was much larger than any house madame had ever rented
before, and so she had many more boarders, and the character of the
school was somewhat altered. She still tried to make French the language
of the school, but it was much harder to carry this out. Most of the
girls were eighteen or nineteen and knew no French, so that it was
impossible for them to converse in it. Finding this the case, madame
made a rule that no one should speak at table except to say, “Passez moi
le pain s’il vous plait,” and all the other necessary requests for food;
for we had two long tables and only one waitress. Madame walked up and
down the room while we ate, so as to keep order. Very soon she began to
find it very hard to get the good food on which she always prided
herself. Tea and coffee had to be left out, and one thing after another,
until we ceased to come into the dining-room at all for supper. Two
large trays of very dry corn-dodgers were brought into the schoolroom at
tea-time, accompanied by two large pitchers of water and a tray of
glasses. The girls were all very good and never complained. Every one
knew there were privations in their own homes, and felt that madame was
doing the best she could for us.

Madame had been fortunate enough to secure very good teachers.
Mademoiselle le Prince, the French teacher, was quite a remarkable woman
as far as teaching went. Educated at a convent just outside of Paris,
she had the best accent, and it was her one idea in life to give a
correct and thorough knowledge of French; not only to have her pupils
speak it correctly, but to have them write with perfect precision all
the difficult terminations of the “participe passé.” She was hated by
many girls, she was so cross, but she was a delight to me, for she was
the real thing. I spoke French glibly and wrote it in the same easy way,
to my own satisfaction, but when I got mademoiselle’s point of view I
was heartily ashamed of my French and very soon rectified all that by
hard study, to her delight. The teacher of English was the Reverend Mr.
Johnson. He helped out his salary, which was inadequate to his needs, by
mending shoes, which he did well.

The music teacher, Monsieur Torriani, was also a joy. Thoroughly
competent, most appreciative of good work, it was a delight to work for
him. My music had become my great pleasure; and, when I took my first
lesson from this charming, appreciative Italian, I felt I was going to
have a delightful year at school, whatever the privations might be.
Madame assigned me two hours for practice, but very soon I felt that was
not enough and begged her to let me have another hour. She said it was
impossible; there were only three pianos in the school and I already
had more than my share of these three. I still worried her, and at last
she said: “If you are willing to get up early and practise an hour on
the piano in the drawing-room, you may do it; but it will be hard, for
it will have to be before the fire is made up.” I accepted with many
thanks; and all that winter I got up at six, broke the ice in my pitcher
to perform my hasty ablutions, and putting on my cloak took my candle
into the drawing-room, and often with tears rolling down my cheeks
practised that hour! My hands were so swollen with chilblains that I was
ashamed to take my music lesson.

I began to take singing lessons, too, and spent the whole of six months
on exercises before I took a single song. I can never forget my delight
when Monsieur Torriani applauded my first song--a very high, lovely
little song from the opera of “Martha.” “Dormi pur ma, il mio riposo tu
m’ai tolto, ingrato cor Buona notte, buon dormir.” I had a very small,
sweet voice, with clear, birdlike, high notes, but it seemed so very
little, for we had a girl in school with a beautiful big voice, Sallie
McCoullough, such a sweet, good, simple girl. If she had been more
sophisticated she would have had a happier life. M. Torriani took
delight in training and developing her voice, which was quite fit for
opera, but she was no actress, and failed to make the success she should
have made through that. Dear, big, sweet, simple Sallie! Every one loved
her, and when we got her to sing “Home, Sweet Home” and other old songs
in the schoolroom in the dusk without accompaniment, we all wept quarts.
One day I said to M. Torriani that I was going to stop my singing
lessons, that I had no voice and it was only a mortification.

He asked with a great air of respect: “Did you think of going on the
stage?”

“Oh, Monsieur Torriani, don’t make fun of me. I am too wretched. I have
so little voice, it really is none, and I would so love to sing.”

Then he sobered down and said: “Mademoiselle, you must not stop. Your
voice is little but very sweet and vous avez le feu sacré. You cannot
stop. You will give more pleasure all your life than many a big voice.
You will bring comfort to the sad heart. No, you must not stop, you!”

Then he went on to ask how long I practised at a time, and I told him
half an hour. “Oh, nevair, nevair,” he exclaimed, and told me never to
practise more than ten minutes at one time, and to spare and protect my
“precious little instrument,” as he called it, in every way. Never to
talk loud or shout, never under any circumstances to talk in a carriage
or car while it was in motion, and many other directions.

Clothes were becoming difficult. You could buy nothing, and it was much
colder up here than with us on the coast. We needed cloaks, both Jane
and I. So mamma had Maum ’Venia make for us each a coat from the lovely
white _plains_, which was bought for the negroes, with pearl buttons
taken from some old coats. They were immensely admired and were so nice
and warm. It was just like having a coat made out of the white part of a
very fine, soft blanket, and not the least part of the joy of them was
that they were very becoming.

It was this winter that my second great friend came into my life, Ruth
Nesbitt, from Georgia. She was the loveliest, sweetest girl, a tall,
very slender brunette with beautiful brown eyes, and a little tiptilted
nose and a large but well-formed mouth full of exquisite little teeth.
She was so quiet, so shy, so reserved and stiff. For a long time I
could only tell by her eyes that Ruth cared for me. I was greatly
surprised when I found myself devoted to her. I cared for so few and was
so easily bored. I constantly had girls devoted to me whose advances I
barely endured, and now to find a perfectly congenial companion was too
delightful. And to see the color rush over her pretty pansy-looking
face, and her bright brown eyes sparkle as I came near was a joy.
Travelling was so expensive that we did not go home for the Christmas
holidays, and Ruth and I read Dickens out under the trees every day. One
sewed while the other read aloud, and it was perfect bliss.

The news from the war became more and more exciting. I had letters
nearly every week from my cousin, Hal Lesesne, who was captain in the
army and stationed at Battery Wagner. They made me feel I was in the
midst of the fighting, they were so vivid, although very short. One day
one came, quite a long letter this time, but only a few words legible,
the rest soaked with ink. On a scrap of paper he wrote: “Just as I
finished this a shell burst near me and a fragment shattered the
ink-stand. I send it because I do not know when I can write again and
you may be able to make out some of it. Anyway, you will know that I
have written.” I kept all these letters. They were such a picture of the
life there; and, by a strange fate, they were stolen in 1870. It was a
great regret to me, for he was killed almost with the last shot which
was fired during the war. I was very fond of him. He was not a lover,
only a dear friend and cousin; and, besides that feeling, the letters
were history by that time, telling of the heroic defense of Batteries
Wagner and Gregg and the other fortifications on Morris Island.



_PART IV_

WAR TIMES



CHAPTER XVI

THE WEDDING


I left school on my birthday, May 29, 1863, and returned to my home in
Charleston. There great activity and excitement reigned, for my sister
was to be married June 24 and I was to be first bridesmaid. The wedding
was very beautiful. To begin with, Della was lovely beyond words, an
ideal picture of a bride, and the groom, Arnoldus Van der Horst, was a
handsome and martial figure in his uniform, that of a major of the
Confederate army. They were married by the assistant rector of St.
Michael’s Church, the Reverend Mr. Elliot, in our beautiful oval
drawing-room or ballroom. It had a very high ceiling and was papered in
white with small sprigs of golden flowers scattered over it. There were
four large windows on the south, opening on the iron balcony which ran
round on the outside. And, on the opposite side of the room, two windows
exactly like those opening on the balcony, running from the tall ceiling
to the floor, but the panes of these were mirrors. It made you think you
were looking into another crowded room. There was a high mantelpiece of
white wood carved with exquisite figures of women dancing and holding
aloft garlands of flowers, Adam’s most beautiful designs; the cornice
around the ceiling was also beautiful; the furniture was rosewood,
covered with blue velvet with little pink rosebuds, and the carpet was
velvet with bouquets of pink roses tied with blue ribbons. The first
groomsman, Lewis Van der Horst, brother of the groom, was also in
uniform, that of a private in the Charleston Light Dragoons, C. S. A. He
was killed the following spring in Virginia, fighting gallantly.

I have a foolish little journal I wrote at this time, so foolish and
lacking in all interest, that I do not use it, but think perhaps this
little excerpt may be pardoned:

“Charleston, June 27th, 1863.

“Della is married!!

“It all seems like a dream; all the excitement is over, and now for the
first time I can think over it calmly. Wednesday at nine the wedding
took place. It was a very beautiful ceremony. She was perfectly lovely.
Her costume was a full plain dress of Brussel’s net, a beautiful
material, over a splendid white silk, with a beautiful real lace veil
falling almost to the ground; a wreathe of white hyacinths and bouquet
of the same.

[Illustration: ADÈLE ALLSTON AT SIXTEEN.

Afterward Mrs. Arnoldus Van der Horst.]

Such was her costume, but her appearance I cannot describe!”

This diary is a help as to dates, and it records that on July 10, at
daybreak, the shelling of Charleston began, and records also the hasty
packing up of the household gods and family impedimenta, and their
removal from the city; also our arrival at the station at Society Hill,
Darlington County, that night at twelve. There had been no time to send
orders for Daddy Aleck and the carriage to meet us, but the wonderfully
kind neighbors whom we were to find there gave their evidences of
generous friendship that night; for John Williams happened to be there
and offered his carriage and so did Doctor Smith, so that we got to
Crowley Hill with little delay. This was to be our place of refuge
during the war, while the plantations on the coast were regarded as
unsafe.

Before we left the city there comes to my mind a very vivid picture of a
visit paid by another member of the Charleston Light Dragoons, also a
private. He was at home on a short furlough and called to pay his
respects to my mother, and she sent for me to see him also. It was in
the same beautiful oval drawing-room. Mamma was seated on the little
sofa in front of one of the mirror windows, and when I entered the room,
on a chair facing her and talking with great animation sat Poinsett
Pringle, whom I had never seen before, the almost twin brother of my
future husband. Introductions were made, and I sat down and listened and
looked, and looked and listened. Efforts were made both by himself and
by mamma to draw me into the conversation, but in vain. When he had gone
mamma said to me:

“Well, Bessie, if this is the way you are going to behave, you certainly
will not be a success in society! You sat there with your mouth wide
open, gazing at the young man! What was the matter?”

I said solemnly: “Mamma, he was so beautiful that I was paralyzed! I
never saw any one so beautiful in my life.”

And it was true. He was angelically beautiful; light-brown hair parted
in the middle, with a curl in it, short as it was; wonderful blue eyes
that looked like windows to a beautiful soul, fair, smooth skin, perfect
teeth, and a dimple in his smooth chin--add to this very beautiful hands
and the sweetest voice, and no one will wonder that my breath had been
taken away by the sight of him. He was the darling and pride of his
whole family. His mother had him educated for the diplomatic service.
He was a most accomplished musician, playing beautifully on the piano,
and had a charming voice. I never saw him again. All this charm and
beauty of mind and body was snuffed out by a bullet the following May. I
think it was the battle of Haws Shop in Virginia, which the Confederates
lost, and had to give up the field. Poinsett was going out unhurt when
he saw his friend Bee lying wounded. Poinsett picked him up and carried
him some distance toward the rear, when a bullet struck, killing them
both. If I could paint, how I would love to perpetuate that beautiful
face and figure.

It was a terrible undertaking to pack all that big, heavy furniture and
get it away under stress. We found afterward that we had left many
things of great value. At this moment I remember especially two blue
china Chinese vases, urn-shaped, which stood two feet high and were very
heavy. It seemed impossible to get boxes and material to pack them and
they were left. Daddy Moses remained alone to take charge of the house
and garden.



CHAPTER XVII

CROWLEY HILL--OUR PLACE OF REFUGE DURING THE WAR


Crowley Hill, the place to which we went, was a quaint old-fashioned
house set in a great grove of oak-trees, not the big live oaks we were
accustomed to, but Spanish oaks and red oaks and scrub oaks, which are
beautiful in summer and brilliant-colored in autumn, but bare all
winter. There was quite a little farm land attached, and the place had
been lent papa by the widow of his dear friend, Nicholas Williams.
Nicholas Williams, like my uncle, James L. Petigru, was opposed to
secession, and when he found himself powerless to influence his State,
he determined to leave it and live abroad--but it killed him. He died in
New York before sailing. It is impossible to tell the kindness we
received from these friends all the time we were refugees in their
midst. Of course we were much cut off from our supplies; until mamma had
a garden planted and our dairy was got going we were stranded; but every
day came servants bringing supplies of every kind, milk, cream,
vegetables, fruit, flowers, everything we did not have. At last I said
one day to mamma:

“I cannot stand this. I hate to receive! I am accustomed to give, and so
are you! I don’t see how you stand it, saying ‘Thank you’ all the time.”

Mamma laughed and said: “My child, you are not worthy to give if you
cannot receive gracefully. It shows that you think too much of your
power to give, and it makes you feel superior! I love to give and am
thankful for the many years I have been able to help my neighbors and
others in that way; and now I receive with pleasure these evidences of
the affection and interest of my dear generous friends.”

But never did I get over the feeling of impatience at the necessity of
receiving those daily trays and baskets of delicious things. Our
household consisted only of mamma, my little sister, and myself, for
papa remained at his work on the plantation, only coming now and then
for a few days; and Charley having left the country school, Mr.
Porcher’s, to which he had gone at nine, and where he had endured much
hardship from the scarcity of food the year we were at Barhamville,
having lived for months on nothing but squash and hominy, had now gone
to the Arsenal, the military school in Columbia. We had the full force
of servants, except that William was in the army with my brother, who
was serving as colonel of the 4th Alabama Regiment in Virginia, and
Stephen, who was on the plantation with papa. Mamma at once began to
plant the farm and garden, with the house-servants, and made wonderful
crops.

I went for a month to visit my sister in Wilmington, Major Van der Horst
being on General Whiting’s staff, stationed at Wilmington. Mr. McCrea
had lent them his beautiful and convenient house, so that my sister was
delightfully situated there, and the society was very gay. The first
party I went to I made a great mistake. A very handsome man, young De
Rosset, asked me to dance as soon as he was introduced. I accepted with
pleasure, as I was devoted to dancing. As we stood preparatory to the
start, he asked: “Do you dance fast or loose?” I was confused and
stammered out, “Oh, I made a mistake. I do not dance at all!” and sat
down. I could not bear to say “fast” nor could I bear to say “loose”;
but, as I looked at the dancers, I understood what it meant, and there
was nothing to terrify me in it. One-half of the dancers held hands
crossed, as you do in skating. This was “loose,” and the rest danced in
the ordinary way which I had always been accustomed to; this was called
“fast.” This marred my pleasure in the many parties I went to while in
Wilmington; for, once having said I didn’t dance, I had to stick to it.

The price of every article of clothing was enormous, and shoes were
impossible. I thought of buying a pair of stays, but a very common pair
were fifty dollars, so I ripped up some old Paris ones and made a
beautiful pair for myself, using all the bones, etc. Mamma wrote me to
get three yards of material to make a coat to wear next winter. It was
ninety-five dollars a yard, the only stuff I could get, thick and hairy,
but not fine at all.

At Society Hill, when I returned, the loom was set up in the
wash-kitchen, and I learned to weave as well as to spin, and we knit,
knit, knit all the time. We had one of the maids to spin a fine yarn of
cotton and silk ravellings, with which we knit gloves for our own use.
All pieces of old black silk were cut into small scraps and ravelled out
and carefully mixed with the cotton, and made a very pretty gray for
gloves. We had only one caddy of tea, which was kept for sickness, and
a very little coffee. As a substitute, people used bits of dried sweet
potato parched, and Indian corn parched, also the seed of the okra; this
made a very rich drink, very full of oil. The root of the sassafras made
a very nice tea. Sugar was very scarce, so mamma planted sorghum, a kind
of sugar-cane which made very nice molasses, which Nelson boiled in the
big copper kettle. I made delicious preserves with honey, and we dried
figs, and mamma made all the vinegar we used with the fig-skins, put in
a cask and fermented. This winter there was trouble about the supplies
for the negroes. There were no blankets to be had, and papa wrote,
begging mamma to have the carpets cut up into blanket sizes, so that
those who were expecting blankets that year should not be disappointed.
The thick damask curtains were cut up for coats, as they made good
coats, thickly lined. Altogether there was so much to do that the days
were not long enough.

One day we had a visit from Julius Pringle, who was on furlough at the
house of an uncle, who was refugeeing about four miles away. This was
only the second time I saw him. Mamma and he did all the talking, while
I sewed in silence. Mamma went out of the room to order some cake and
wine, and he told me he didn’t know the way to Crowley, and had come to
a place where four roads crossed, and was puzzling how to decide which
road to take “when I saw a track of a tiny foot leading this way, and I
followed that and I knew it would bring me to you.” This made me very
angry indeed, and I got red and lost the use of my quick tongue. When
mamma came back the talk flowed on as easily and pleasantly as possible.
She told him what a fine crop of rye she had made in her calf pasture,
and what difficulty she had to find a place to put it until she thought
of the big piano box, which had helped very much, for it held so much.
All this time I sewed in silence, with flaming face. At last he asked me
to play. I declined fiercely, but mamma said: “My dear Bessie! Of course
you will play for us”--she being quite shocked at my manner. I went to
the piano and played as though I were fighting the Yankees. When I
returned to my seat Mr. Pringle thanked me, and, turning to my mother,
said:

“Mrs. Allston, apparently the piano box is of more use than the piano!”
And then they both laughed heartily.

I could have killed him without hesitation. I saw him at church after
that, only a moment. And then the day he was to leave to go back to
Virginia, mamma wanted to ask him to take a letter, and we drove to the
station. And when he shook hands with me and said good-by, the look in
his eye was a revelation and declaration of devotion that seemed to
compass me and seal me as forever his, near or far, with my own will or
without it. From that moment I knew that no other man could be anything
to me. It was so strange that in absolute silence, with not a second’s
prolonging of the hand-pressure necessary to say a proper, conventional
good-by, my whole life was altered; for up to that moment I had no idea
that he was devoted to me.

I had always longed to take part in the work going on everywhere for our
soldiers. In our little isolated corner we could do nothing but sewing
and knitting. Soldiers’ shirts made by an extraordinarily easy pattern
which some one had invented we made in quantities. All the ladies in
Columbia were cooking and meeting the soldier trains day and night, and
feeding them and asking what they needed and supplying their wants.
They took it by turns, so that no hour of the day or night could a train
come and find no one to give them hot coffee and biscuits and
sandwiches, and sometimes fried chicken, too.



CHAPTER XVIII

SORROW


When the spring came papa made us a little longer visit than usual. He
was not feeling well, his heart was giving him trouble. I only knew this
afterward from mamma, for papa never complained. I remember from my
early childhood looking on in wonder at the self-denial he exercised,
not once or twice, but all the time. His digestion was weak, and day
after day, when we had such delicious things, shrimp, fish, and
rice-birds, and coots, and green corn, and lima beans, I saw him dine on
a plate of milk-and-rice, or a plate of soup with all the delicious okra
and tomatoes and beans strained out. But he never talked of it, nor did
it make him cross. He was specially tender and gentle to us all this
time. One day he asked me to do something and I answered:

“Papa, I don’t know how, I can’t do it.”

And he laid his hand on my shoulder and said: “Don’t ever say that, my
daughter. God has given it to you that whenever you put your whole self
to accomplish anything you will succeed. When you fail it will be
because you have not tried hard enough. Don’t forget this; it is a great
responsibility. Never say again you cannot do a thing!” He spoke so
solemnly that I was greatly impressed; and, many times in my life when
things have risen up before me which have seemed quite beyond my
strength and capacity and endurance, I have remembered that conversation
and gone ahead, only to find that he was right.

When papa said he must go back to the plantation, mamma thought it a
great risk, as he was so far from strong. She urged him to take another
week’s rest; but he said he must go; there was to be a meeting in
Georgetown to determine something about the public schools, and he must
be there. He would take two days on the drive through the country home,
and rest two days before the meeting, for it was most important. He left
us March 18, Friday, promising to return to us the next Sunday week.

About a week after he left, early in the morning, a messenger came up on
horseback with a note from Mr. Belflowers. He thought it his duty to let
mamma know that he thought papa an ill man. He had attended a meeting in
Georgetown in very inclement weather, when he was so far from well that
he had a mattress put in the carryall, and lay on that instead of going
in the carriage. He was afraid “the governor,” as he continued to call
papa, would not like it if he knew he was writing this, but he had to do
it. Mamma ordered the carriage at once and we prepared to start on the
journey. By the mail which came in just before we started, a letter came
from papa to her, saying he had taken a bad cold and wished very much he
could come back and put himself under her care. That was so much for him
to admit that she felt she could name the letter as the cause of her
coming and not betray Mr. Belflowers. It was dreadful to have no quicker
means of going. We started at nine o’clock; that night we spent at Mrs.
Fryer’s, about half-way. The next morning we started by dawn, met a
fresh pair of horses, Mr. Belflowers sent to meet us at Union Church,
and reached Chicora about five in the afternoon.

When we got to Chicora we found papa very ill. He had pneumonia. He was
very happy to see us and did not inquire why we came. It seemed quite
natural to him that we did come. Doctor Sparkman, the same who had saved
his life at The Meadows when they were both young, was in attendance and
was perfectly devoted. Stephen was in constant attendance and very
efficient, also a very faithful man named John Locust, sent by my
cousin, William Allan Allston, over from Waccamaw. As soon as I came I
was established in the position of head nurse, for I had always had a
turn for nursing and at school had nursed all the sick girls and got the
nickname of Miss Nightingale. I was truly thankful for my experience
now, for I was able to be a comfort to papa and a help to everybody,
specially mamma, who was completely unnerved by seeing papa so
desperately ill. The doctor had told us he had little hope, but I was
full of confidence that he would get well. I was very happy to find
papa’s comfort in my nursing. I could see his eyes follow me as I moved
about the room, and one day as I brought him his cup of gruel he said,
“Daughter, that is a pretty dress; it pleases me”--and he held the fold
of the skirt in his fingers as he reluctantly swallowed the gruel which
I gave him by the teaspoonful. His breathing was so labored it was hard
for him to speak and also to swallow. No one can understand the joy his
words gave me, for I loved him so dearly and it was such a delight to
give him pleasure now. I remember the frock well. It was a greenish-gray
material, something like mohair, with dark-green conventionalized
leaves here and there over it; an old dress Della had given me when she
got new things for her trousseau. I had had it washed and made it over
myself. I kept it just to look at for years and years.

The neighbors helped. Mr. Josh La Bruce came over from Sandy Island in
his boat and sat up one night, and was a great help, he was so quiet and
so strong in lifting. Then one night Mr. Weston came and sat up and Mr.
Belflowers sat up one night. Then Mr. La Bruce came again. Papa suffered
terribly from the difficulty of breathing and the want of sleep was
dreadful. He could not sleep. He would repeat in a low voice, “He giveth
his beloved sleep”; then, “I am not beloved!” I would sing a hymn in a
low voice sometimes, which seemed to soothe him and made him doze a
little.

One day he called for Mr. Belflowers, saying he wanted to see him alone,
and every one went out, and it must have been nearly an hour before Mr.
Belflowers came out. Papa asked me to read to him from the Bible, and
that always seemed a comfort to him. The 14th chapter of St. John was
what he asked for most often: “Let not your heart be troubled.” One day
I was reading it to him when his niece, Mrs. Weston, came in, and I
asked her to read it, and she took the Bible from me and read so
beautifully. I saw at once how it comforted him, so slowly, so quietly,
so distinctly, so impersonally. It might have been the blessed Saviour
himself uttering those great words of comfort and promise to his
disciples. The mind of a suffering, dying person acts slowly. If you
hurry the words they cannot follow them without painful effort. When
Cousin Lizzie got to the end of the chapter papa gasped out, “Go on,
Elizabeth,” and she went slowly on a long time.

The breathing became more and more terrible every hour, such a struggle
that I could not endure to see it and be helpless to aid in any way. I
would kneel beside the bed and take his hand and he would press mine in
a grip which showed his pain, and at last as I knelt there I gave him up
and prayed God to relieve him from his agony. Poor mamma could scarcely
stay in the room, it was such an agony to her. She came in and knelt
beside him and held his hand, and then she had to go out. But at last we
all felt the end was at hand, and knelt beside the bed, praying for him
with all our being, when he lifted his right hand with a powerful sweep
and said in a strong voice: “Lord, let me pass!” And it was all over in
a few seconds, with no struggle or distress. It was peace after the
awful storm, and we felt he was safely in the haven.

I had not slept for days and nights and went into the next room and fell
into a deep sleep for an hour. When I woke I went into papa’s room. The
big bed had been moved out, and there he lay on the little single
mahogany bed,[4] looking oh so peaceful and so beautiful; all the lines
of care and anxiety gone and a look of youth and calm strength in his
face. Oh, the comfort of that look. Mamma was sitting there, quite
self-controlled and calm. I called her outside, for we had to make all
the arrangements and give all the directions.

In the country there are no officials trained to take charge of things,
and I suggested that we have Mr. Belflowers come and give him necessary
directions. He was waiting down-stairs, and came up at once. Mamma began
to tell him what she thought he had better do, but faltered and said: “I
really don’t know what directions to give!”

He said: “There is no need for you to give any or to think about it,
Mrs. Allston. The governor called me in three days ago and gave me every
direction. He had it all in his mind, but his speech was so cut short by
his breath that it took a good while for him to tell me. He told me what
carpenters must make the coffin, where the specially selected and
seasoned wood was; what negro was to drive the wagon which carried him
and which horses; what horses to go in your carriage, with Aleck
driving; who was to carry the invitation to the funeral, and with what
horses on this side of the river, and to Georgetown, and what man was to
take the boat and take it to Waccamaw. He said he wanted to be laid in
the graveyard of Prince Frederick’s church, as it was so near, and it
would give too much trouble to be taken to Georgetown, and that after
the war was over he could be moved to the family enclosure in
Georgetown. And, ma’am, I have already given all the orders, just as he
told me.”

It is impossible to give any idea of the immense relief this was to
mamma and to me. It just seemed a horror to see after all the sordid,
terrible details. Papa had told John Locust and Stephen just how to
arrange and dress and lay him out, so John had asked mamma to leave the
room when the spirit had fled, and called her back when it was all done.
The day before the end mamma had wanted to ask him some questions as to
what she should do, etc. She broke down and said: “What can I ever do
without you? Tell me what to do!” He pressed her hand and said: “The
Lord will provide; have no fear.” He could not direct her as to anything
ahead in those troublous, changing times, but he could see that she was
spared all trouble at the last, and we both felt it was the most
touching and wonderful proof of his devotion even in the agony of death.

He was laid to rest in the churchyard of Prince Frederick’s, just a mile
away, where the beautiful half-finished brick church in whose building
he had been so much interested, stood, a monument to war. All the
trimmings and furnishings had been ordered in England, and, in running
the blockade, they had been sunk. The architect, whose name was Gunn,
had died, and was buried near the church, and the roofless but beautiful
building stood there forlorn. There we laid him, with all the beauty of
the wild spring flowers and growth he so loved around him, nearly under
a big dogwood-tree in all its white glory. Crying and lamentation of
the negroes who flocked along the road behind the wagon which carried
papa, and filled the large graveyard, standing at a little distance
behind the family, according to their rank and station on the
plantation. Those who dug the grave had been specially named by papa,
and it was considered a great honor. My dear father, if love could
avail, when he reached those gates of pearl, they would fly open at his
approach, for he carried the love and devotion of many people of all
colors and classes.

As soon as possible my uncle, Chancellor Lesesne, arrived and opened and
read the will. Mamma was named executrix and Chancellor Henry D. Lesesne
executor. The house in Charleston and all the furniture were left to
mamma, with all the house-servants and their families, and what
carriages and horses she wanted, and a sum of money. To each of us five
children a plantation and negroes, one hundred each. They were all named
for each one. Charley was to have Chicora Wood, where we had always
lived, and all the negroes who lived there. Brother Guendalos, the
plantation adjoining on the south; Jane, Ditchfield, the plantation
adjoining Chicora on the north; and to me was left Exchange, the
plantation just north of that. To my sister Adèle, Waterford, a
plantation on the Waccamaw, very valuable, and which would sell well;
and Nightingale Hall, which was considered the place which would sell
best, as it was at the pitch of tide most considered, being subject
neither to freshet from above nor salt from the ocean below, was to be
sold for the benefit of the heirs.

Then came an immense deal of writing and work for me. My brothers not
being available nor any clerical outside help, I did all the writing and
copying of the will to be sent round to the different heirs, and the
lists of negroes, cattle, farm implements, and personal property, and
helped Uncle Henry in every way. I have by me now the list of 600
negroes.

It was a great relief to have the work to do, for more and more as the
days went on and the sense of thankfulness for his relief from suffering
grew fainter, the sense of terrible desolation and sorrow possessed me.
Papa was the only person in the world in whom I had absolute faith and
confidence. I had never seen him show a trace of weakness or indecision.
I had never seen him unjust or hasty in his judgment of a person. I had
watched him closely and yet I had never seen him give way to temper or
irritation, though I had seen him greatly tried. Never a sign of
self-indulgence, or indolence, or selfishness. It was my misfortune to
see people’s weaknesses with uncanny clearness, and my mother often
rebuked me for being censorious and severe in my judgments of all around
me; but never had I seen a thing in my father which I would criticise or
wish to change. Only, I often wished he would talk more; but when I once
said that very shyly to him, he laughed and said: “Child, when I have
something to say I say it, and it seems to me that is a good plan.”

We returned to Society Hill in May, mamma and I driving up in the
carriage as we had gone down; but oh, how different the whole world was
to us! The beauty of nature on the way, the woods in all the glory of
their fresh leafage, the wild flowers, the birds, the gorgeous
sunshine--all, all seemed a mockery. Our life was to be a gray, dull
drab always. We stopped a night on the way up with kind, devoted
friends, General Harllee and his charming wife, in their beautiful home,
with a wonderful flower-garden. There was no power left in me to admire
even, much less to enjoy. I had always been the most enthusiastic person
in the world, too much so for polite standards. Now it was all gone. I
was just a very thin, under-sized, plain, commonplace young person,
ready to do anything I was told, but without one spark of initiative.
Mamma was crushed not only by her grief but by the feeling that she was
utterly inadequate to the task before her, that of looking after and
providing for over 600 negroes in this time of war and stress, of seeing
that the proper supplies of food were at the different points where they
were needed.

Mamma had never had the least planning about supplies, beyond buying her
own groceries. The supplies of rice, grist, potatoes, everything, had
been brought to her storeroom door regularly once a week, calling for no
thought on her part. Now suddenly she had to plan and arrange for the
100 people on the farms in North Carolina, as well as for the 500 down
on the plantations. It was perfectly wonderful to see how she rose to
the requirements of the moment, and how strong and level her mind was.
In a little while she had grasped the full extent of the situation, and
was perfectly equal to her new position.



CHAPTER XIX

LOCH ADÈLE


Soon after we returned to Crowley Hill she determined to go to the North
Carolina farms and see the people, so as to reassure them as to her
taking care of them fully.

We started very early in the morning, Daddy Aleck driving, with baskets
packed with lunch for the day and provisions to cook, for we expected to
stay three or four days. The drive of thirty miles was charming until it
got too hot, and we stopped under a tree by a spring, took out the
horses and tied them in the shade and had our lunch, and rested until it
became a little cooler. Loch Adèle, as we girls had named the farm, was
a very pretty place with a mill and large pond, which we dignified into
a loch, much to papa’s amusement. A pretty rolling country, and the Pee
Dee River, called the Yadkin as soon as it passed the line from South to
North Carolina, ran a small rocky stream about a mile from the rambling
farmhouse. Flats had brought supplies in large quantities up the river
from Chicora, and most of the Charleston furniture had been brought by
rail to Cheraw, fifteen miles away, and hauled out to this place, so
that the house was thoroughly furnished, pictures hanging on the walls,
because it seemed better than to keep them packed. The two lovely
bas-reliefs of Thorwaldsen’s, “Night” and “Morning,” looked especially
beautiful hanging on the white walls of the drawing-room, and the whole
place was homelike and delightful with our Charleston belongings. And
the poor negroes were so glad to see us and to realize that “Miss” was
going to look after them and to the best of her ability take “Maussa’s”
place. They wanted to hear all about papa’s illness and death and the
funeral, and who had been honored by taking special place in it. Mamma
was interviewed by each one separately, and had to repeat all the
details over and over. She was very patient, to my great surprise, and,
I think, to the people’s, too, for she had never been as willing to
listen to their long rigmaroles as papa had been. But now she listened
to all and consoled them and wept with them over their mutual loss.
Altogether the visit did us both good.

Old Daddy Hamedy, who was head man on the place, had been a first-class
carpenter and still was, but when there was needed some one to take
supervision of the farm and people up there, papa chose him on account
of his character and intelligence. Papa had engaged a white man, a Mr.
Yates, who lived some miles away, to give an eye to the place from time
to time and write him how things went on, and Hamedy was to apply to Mr.
Yates if anything went wrong. He was originally from the North, but he
had bought a farm near the little town of Morven some years before, and
lived here ever since. Mamma sent to ask Mr. Yates to come and see her,
and he came. He was a very smart man, but impressed me most unpleasantly
as unreliable and unscrupulous, as I watched him talking to mamma. He
evidently felt that, papa being gone, his time had come, and was quite
sure he could manage my mother easily. He was most flattering in his
admiration, which was not surprising, for my mother was beautiful in her
plain black frock and widow’s cap.

In trying to make easy conversation as he sat and talked to us, he
asked: “Miss Allston, do you smoke?”

In some surprise my mother answered: “No, I have never smoked.”

“Well, well,” he said. “You wouldn’t find another lady of your age in
this country that didn’t smoke.”

This nearly upset my gravity, for the idea of my mother’s smoking was
too much for me, and I went out down to the mill-pond. Into this lake my
father had had rolled many hogsheads packed securely with bottles of old
Madeira wine, as being the best chance of saving them from the Yankees.
They were certainly not safe at Chicora Wood, only about twenty miles
from the mouth of Winyah Bay, when gunboats could run up from the sea so
easily. So the wine was packed and shipped by his flats in charge of
faithful men. I remember when the flats were going, on one occasion,
papa wanted to send up a very beautiful marble group of “The Prodigal
Son,” which was always in the drawing-room at Chicora, and he called in
Joe Washington, who was to take charge of the flat, to look at it, and
told him that he would have it carefully packed by the carpenter, and he
wanted him to be specially careful of it; whereupon Joe said:

“Please, sir, don’t have it pack. I’ll tek good kere of it, but please
lef it so en I kin look at it en enjoy it. I’ll neber let nuthin’ hut
it.”

So papa acceded and did not have it packed, and on that open flat, amid
barrels and boxes and propelled by oars and poles, only a little shed at
one end under which the eight hands could take shelter in case of rain,
“The Prodigal Son” and the happy father made their journey of 300 miles
in perfect safety. And I may say here the group was brought back when
the war was over, and now rests in the old place in the drawing-room at
Chicora Wood. How it escaped Sherman I do not know; some one must have
hid it in the woods.



CHAPTER XX

SHADOWS


I insert here an extract from my diary:

“Croley Hill, Sunday July 19th, 1864.

Just as we were leaving for Church the paper came and there in it was
the dreadful intelligence that my cousin Gen’l Johnston Pettigrew, who
was wounded on the 17th had died of his wounds. It is too dreadful! If I
could I would hope that this, like the first might be a false report,
but something tells me it is true.... Next to Uncle (James L. Petigru)
he was the light of the family, so clever, so learned, so noble; and how
I have almost adored him in his nobleness and wisdom; how I have sat and
listened to Uncle and himself talking until I thought nothing could ever
be as brilliant and pleasant as that; but now both have gone and we
shall never see their equals again.... I am glad I have Cousin
Johnston’s beautiful book ‘Spain and the Spaniards’ which he gave me. We
heard he was wounded at Gettysburg but his name was not mentioned among
the generals and never since, so we supposed it was a mistake, and
_Now_....” This was a terrible blow and distress. After this, sad news
kept coming in of reverses, and things looked dark. The hospitals were
in great need of stimulants and mamma determined to send the rye she had
made to the still about twenty miles away and have it made into whiskey.
Daddy Aleck took it and told of the dangers he had encountered on the
way, so that when it was finished, he was afraid to go for it alone, and
mamma told Jinty and me we must ride along with him.

About this time my cousin, Captain Phil Porcher, of the navy, went out
on a little vessel, the _Juno_, which had been built in Charleston
harbor to run the blockade, and nothing was ever heard of him or of any
of the crew or officers. Weeks passed into months and not a word of the
fate of the boat. It was terrible for Aunt Louise and her daughters.
Mamma wrote and begged them to come and stay with us, and they came. It
was dreadful to see their sufferings. My aunt was a beautiful and heroic
figure. They would not act as though they had heard of his death, for
each day there was the hope that when the paper came there would be some
news of him. They tried so hard to be cheerful and hope against hope.
But no news ever did come. It remains one of the mysteries of the
deep.”[5]

Phil Porcher was a gallant, charming, and exemplary man, and the
greatest loss to the whole family and to the country.



CHAPTER XXI

PREPARING TO MEET SHERMAN


After my aunt and cousins left we began to bury every treasure we had.
All the silver which had not been sent to Morven was packed in a wooden
chest, and Mr. William Evans, our nearest neighbor, came one day in his
wagon to take it as, it was supposed, to the station to send it away by
the railroad. Nelson went with him, and they drove by a winding route
into some very thick woods near, and Nelson dug a deep hole and the two
of them lowered it in with ropes, filled the grave, and marked the spot.
That was one weight off of our minds. We kept just enough for daily use.
I became an expert in burying. Three sheets were a necessity; one to put
the top earth on, with moss and leaves and everything to look natural,
then one to put the second colored earth near the surface, and one to
put every grain of the yellow clay below, one little pellet of which
would tell the tale that a hole had been dug.

Charley came home for a few days on his way to Virginia, the boys at
the Arsenal having been called out. He was just sixteen, and it was
pitiful to see him weighed down by his knapsack and all the heavy things
he had to march with, for he was very thin and gaunt. Mamma consulted
him as to what to do with the old Madeira, of which she still had a good
deal packed in barrels in the storeroom. He consulted Nelson, and they
agreed to pack it in the big piano box, which was still used as a grain
bin. So the piano box was cleared out and emptied, and brought into the
little front porch, which it nearly filled, as there had been a room cut
off from each end of the porch, which originally ran the length of the
house, and this left this porch with steps all the way along down to the
ground, only about five steps. Here they brought hay and we all helped
bring the bottles of wine up quietly from the storeroom, and Nelson, who
was an expert, packed them beautifully. It was done so quietly that the
servants in the yard knew nothing of it. We all went to bed at the usual
hour, but at twelve o’clock Charley and Nelson got up, having provided
ropes, spades, and everything necessary in one of the shed-rooms, which
Charley occupied, also two pieces of round oak as rollers. They dug a
hole big enough for the piano box, using sheets for the earth, as I
have described, and how those two accomplished it is a mystery, without
help, but they did put that huge box into that deep hole, covered it up,
removing the dirt which was too much, and levelled the surface, raked
the whole front road, and then brought the wagon and rolled it back and
forth over it, making it look natural; so that in the morning there was
no trace of anything unusual. Charley left the next day for Virginia,
and oh, how miserable we were! Poor mamma, he was her special darling,
named after her youngest brother, who gave his life for his friend so
long ago.

Mamma was kept very busy, sending supplies in different directions, and
having cloth spun and woven. She sent demijohns of whiskey to the
hospitals and some down to Mr. Belflowers for use on the plantation in
case of sickness (the darkies having a feeling that no woman can be
safely delivered of a child without a liberal supply of whiskey).

I cannot mark the passage of time exactly, but the report came that
Sherman was advancing, and there came awful rumors of what he was doing
and would do. We made long homespun bags, quite narrow, and with a
strong waistband, and a strong button, to be worn under the skirts. And
into these we put all our treasures. They said every photograph was
destroyed, after great indignities. I took all my photos of my dear ones
(such sights they look now, but then seemed beautiful). I put them one
by one in a basin of clear cold water and left them a few minutes, when
I found I could peal them off of the card; and then I pasted them into a
little book which I could carry in one of my pockets. The book was
Brother’s passport-book when he was travelling abroad, and I have it now
with all the pictures in it. Our kind and generous neighbor, Mrs. Wm.
Evans, was a very, very thin, tall woman, but when I ran over to see her
during these days of anxiety and she came out into the piazza to meet
me, I could not believe my eyes. She seemed to be an enormously stout
woman! I looked so startled that she said:

“My dear Bessie, they say these brutes take everything but what you have
on and burn it before your eyes. So I have bags of supplies, rice and
wheat flour and sugar and what little coffee we had, hung round my
waist, and then I have on all the clothes I can possibly stand, three
dresses for one item.” And then we both laughed until we nearly fell
from exhaustion. And when I ran home and told mamma we had another great
laugh, and oh, it was such a mercy to have a good hearty laugh in those
days of gloom and anxiety. We never quite got to Mrs. Evans’s condition,
but we each had treasures unknown to the others concealed about us.

Things in the Confederacy were going worse and worse. It was an agony to
read the papers. My sister, Mrs. Van der Horst, came home from
Wilmington, bringing her maid, Margaret. Her husband did not think it
safe for her to stay any longer there. It was a great comfort to have
her with us. The Yankees were reported nearer and nearer, but we never
saw any one to hear positively where they were. Then one evening, just
at dusk, two horsemen galloped up to the front door, tied their horses
and came in. They were Charleston Light Dragoons acting as scouts for
General Hampton--Julius Pringle and Tom Ferguson. They came to tell us
Hampton was protecting all our troops as they left the State. They were
the very last, and Mr. Pringle said to mamma:

“I knew you had wine and whiskey in the house and I came to beg you for
God’s sake to destroy it all. Do not let a drop be found in the house,
I implore you.”

Mamma said: “But, Julius, I have not sent all that whiskey to the
hospitals yet, and it is so greatly needed! I have two demijohns still.”

“Oh, Mrs. Allston, I implore you, do not hesitate. Have those demijohns
broken to pieces the first thing to-morrow morning.”

She promised. We gave them a good supper, of which they were in great
need. Nelson fed the horses. They took two hours’ sleep and then left in
the middle of the night. As they were going, there were shots heard on
the public road which ran back of our house about 400 yards. The two
dragoons jumped on their horses and galloped off from the front door
into the darkness of the night. It was an awful moment. They were gone,
our last friends and protectors, and the agony in Mr. Pringle’s face was
indescribable.

We found the next morning that the shots had been the forerunners only
of the license we had to expect. It was negroes shooting our hogs, which
were fat and tempting. Early the next morning mamma called Nelson and
Daddy Aleck and had them bring the wheelbarrow and put into it the
demijohns with the precious rye whiskey and roll them to a little
stream near by, and pour it into the water. We went along and it was a
melancholy procession, and Daddy Aleck secretly wept and openly
grumbled, as he felt he had risked his life for that whiskey. As it was
poured into the branch by Nelson, who also loved whiskey, Daddy Aleck
went lower down the stream and knelt down and drank as if he were a
four-footed beast. Then we went back and wondered how we could dispose
of the two dozen bottles of wine still in the storeroom. Papa had once
said it might prove the most salable thing we had after the war. I
undertook to conceal them, and, going up into the garret, I found the
flooring was not nailed down, and, lifting one board at a time, I laid
the bottles softly in, softly because they were placed on the ceiling
laths and it was an old house. But the ceiling held and the bottles were
disposed of.

After having done all he could to help mamma that day, Nelson came to
her and said: “Miss, I want you to give me some provision and let me go
for a while.”

She exclaimed: “Nelson, you cannot leave us when these Yankees are
coming! You must not leave us unprotected.”

He said: “Miss, I know too much. Ef dem Yankee was to put a pistol to my
head and say tell what you know or I’ll shoot you, I cudn’t trust
meself. I dunno what I mite do! Le’ me go, miss.” So mamma put up his
bag of provisions and he went.

The next day she decided it was best to send Daddy Aleck off, as he said
if she let him go he thought he could take the horses in the swamp and
save them. So he went, taking the horses and a bag of harness and all
the saddles. It was a brave, clever thing of the old man to carry out.
But we felt truly desolate when both he and Nelson were gone, and we
only had Phibby and Margaret, Della’s maid, and Nellie, Nelson’s wife,
and little Andrew, who was a kind of little dwarf, a very smart and
competent, well-trained dining-room servant, who looked about fourteen
but was said to be over twenty.



CHAPTER XXII

THEY COME!


As everything would be seized by the enemy when they came, we lived very
high, and the things which had been preciously hoarded until the men of
the family should come home were now eaten. Every day we had a real
Christmas dinner; all the turkeys and hams were used. One day mamma had
just helped us all to a delicious piece of turkey when Phibby rushed in,
crying: “Miss, dey cumin!” Bruno, Jane’s little water-spaniel, began to
bark, and she rushed out to the wide roofless porch where he was, threw
her arms round his neck and held his throat so tight he couldn’t bark,
just as a soldier was about to strike him with a sword. I was terrified
for her as she knelt there in the middle of the porch, holding him; but
they only looked down at her, as they rushed by on each side into the
house, calling out:

“Whiskey! We want liquor! Don’t lie; we know you have it! We want
whiskey! We want firearms!” Each one said the same thing.

Mamma was very calm. As they clamored she said: “You may search the
house. You will find none. I had some whiskey, but it is here no
longer.”

They seemed delighted at the sight of the dinner-table, and for a time
were occupied eating and pocketing all that could be pocketed. When the
renewed cry for wine, whiskey, and firearms came, mamma took from the
nail where it hung the huge storeroom key, and went down the steps to
the storeroom, just in time to prevent its being smashed in with an axe.
She opened the door and they rushed in with many insulting words. Poor
Phibby was wild with terror, and followed mamma, closely holding on to
her skirt and entreating her not to go.

“Miss, dem’ll kill yu, fu Gawd sake don’ go wid dem.” But mamma showed
no sign of excitement or alarm and never seemed to hear the dreadful
things they said. They opened box after box in vain, but at last in the
box under all the rest they came on a bottle and the men shouted: “We
knew you were lying!” The finder struck the head off with one blow, and,
putting the bottle to his mouth, took a long draft. Then there was a
splutter and choking, and he got rid of it as quickly as possible, to
the amusement and joy of the others, who had envied his find. It was
our one treasured bottle of olive-oil, which had been put out of reach,
to be kept for some great occasion.

Upstairs in her bedroom my sister was having a trying time. She unlocked
her trunk to prevent its being ripped open with a sword, and looked on
while they ran through it, taking all her jewels and everything of
value, holding up each garment for examination and asking its uses, each
one being greeted by shouts of laughter. She, having recently come, had
not concealed or buried any of her things. After disposing of her big
trunk, they turned to a closet, where a man’s leather trunk was. They
asked for the key, and when she said she did not have it, they cut it
open, and there on top lay a sword. Then there were howls of: “We knew
you were lying. You said you had no arms.” Della only answered: “I did
not know what was in this trunk.” It was her brother-in-law Lewis Van
der Horst’s trunk. He had been killed fighting gallantly in Virginia,
and his trunk had been sent home by his friends to his brother without
the key.

All this time I was with another party, who were searching for liquor,
and I followed them into the garret. It was odd how impossible it was
not to follow them and see what they did. I was told afterward that in
most places the women shut themselves up in a room while they searched
the house; but, with us, we were irresistibly borne to keep up with them
and watch them. When I heard them tramping over the garret, the loose
boards rattling, I flew up myself and stood there while they opened
every box and trunk, taking anything of any value, every now and then
quarrelling over who should have a thing. I was in misery, for the
boards seemed to be crying aloud: “Take us up and you’ll find something.
Take us up.” Whenever they asked me anything I answered with some quick,
sharp speech which would intensely amuse any one but the questioner, who
generally relapsed into sulky silence. They seemed to be in great dread
of being surprised by Hampton’s cavalry, whom they spoke of as “the
devil, for you never knew where he was,” so they did everything very
rapidly.

All this time there were parties going all over the yard, running
ramrods into the ground to find buried things. My terror about that big
box of wine was intense as I saw them. They even went under the big
piazza at the back of the house and rammed every foot of the earth. It
was a marvel that they never thought of coming to the front, having come
up at the back of the house from the public road. They never even opened
the gate which separated the front yard from the back, and so the great
piano box was never found. Little Andrew we never had felt very sure of,
and so everything about the burying of things was kept from him. As they
left, Margaret and Nellie came in crying bitterly. They had taken every
trinket and treasure they had, and all their warm clothes. Margaret was
specially loud in her denunciation:

“I always bin hear dat de Yankees was gwine help de nigger! W’a’ kynd a
help yu call dis! Tek ebery ting I got in de wurld, my t’ree gold
broach,” etc., etc. Poor Margaret had sometimes been supposed to be
light-fingered, and she had returned from Wilmington with a good deal of
jewelry, which we wondered about; but now, poor soul, it was all gone.
For four days the army kept passing along that road, and we heard shouts
and shots and drums beating, and every moment expected another visit,
but, as I said, they moved in haste, always fearing to leave the main
road and be ambushed by Hampton’s ubiquitous scouts. We never went to
bed or took off our clothes during that time. We sat fully dressed in
the parlor, all night through, Phibby always sitting with us on the
floor near the door, leaning straight up against the wall, her legs
stretched out in front of her, nodding and praying. She was a great
comfort. Mamma tried to induce her to go to bed and sleep, saying:

“Phœbe, you have nothing to fear. They won’t hurt you.”

All her answer was: “Miss, yu tink I gwine lef’ yu fu dem weeked men fu
kill, no ma’am, not Phibby. I’ll stay right here en pertect yu.”

Mamma read calmly. Della slept on the sofa. I scribbled in my journal. I
will make a little extract here from the little paper book I carried in
my pocket. It seems very trivial and foolish; but here it is:

“March 8th, 1865.--Twelve o’clock! and we still sit whispering around
the fire, Phœbe on the floor nodding, Della with her feet extended
trying to rest on the sofa, and I on a stool scribbling, scribbling to
while away the time till dawn. Thank God, one more quiet day, and we so
hoped for a quiet night, but a little after nine Phœbe ran in saying she
heard them coming. Oh, the chill and terror that ran through me when I
heard that; but it proved a false alarm.... I never fully understood
terror until now, and yet every one says our experience of them is
mild.... They delight in making terrible threats of vengeance and seem
to gloat over our misery. Yesterday a captain was here who pretended to
be all kindness and sympathy over the treatment we had received from the
foragers.... He did not enter the house. We placed a chair on the piazza
and gave him what we had to eat. But when he began to talk, he seemed
almost worse than any other. He vowed never to take a prisoner, said he
would delight in shooting down a rebel prisoner and often did it! My
disgust was intense, but I struggled hard to keep cool and succeeded
somewhat. He asked, ‘Do you know what you are fighting for?’ I replied,
‘Existence.’ He said, ‘We won’t let you have it,’ with such a grin....
He said, ‘At the beginning of this war, I didn’t care a cent about a
nigger, but I’d rather fight for ten years longer than let the South
have her independence.’ Then, with a chuckle, he said, ‘But we’ll starve
you out, not in one place that we have visited have we left _three
meals_.’ At something Della said he exclaimed, ‘Oh, I know what you
mean, you mean the Almighty, but the Almighty has got nothing to do with
this war.’ Such blasphemy silenced us completely.”

The tales the negroes heard from one another were terrific, as to what
the Yankees had done, and what the negroes had done. We never saw any
one during this time but those in the yard. Little Andrew, whom we never
had felt sure of, behaved very well. We had thought he would probably go
off with the Yankees, but whether his experience of them had not been
such as to make him desire a closer knowledge I don’t know, but
certainly no one could have behaved better than he did, laying the table
with the few forks and spoons mamma had managed to hide, and bringing in
our scanty meals with as much dignity as if things were unchanged; and
he was a help, though he never expressed devotion or the contrary, only
brought in specially hair-raising stories of the outrages committed on
every side, many of which stories proved to have no foundation in fact.

At last the noises on the highway ceased, and we knew Sherman’s great
army had passed on toward the North.

We began to breathe freely and feel that we could go to bed at night and
sleep. At first we went to bed with all our clothes on, but gradually
we realized that the army had passed entirely, leaving no troops in the
country behind them. News began to come in, and we knew that Sherman had
burned Columbia and left a trail of desolation where he had passed. The
fear of the Confederate troops had kept them to a narrow strip of
country. It was like the path stripped by a tornado, narrow but complete
destruction in it. Mrs. Evans ventured over to make us a visit. She had
not yet assumed her natural proportions, but had lightened her burden so
that she could walk the half-mile between our houses. We were eager to
hear her experiences, but, to her intense disappointment, she had had
none! She had not seen a Yankee! It shows how careful they were not to
leave the main road for fear of ambush. She had prepared many brilliant,
severe speeches to make to them, for she had a very witty, sharp tongue
and was as bold as a lion, so that she felt very sore and aggrieved, and
when she heard of our experiences her blood boiled that we had not
lashed them with bitter words.

About four days after they passed Daddy Aleck reappeared with the
horses, safe and sound, but greatly distressed that he had waked hearing
shots near one morning, packed up his things quickly on his horses, and
taken them deeper in the swamp and left one of the side-saddles hanging
on a limb. Nelson also arrived, looking weary and blanched by his
experiences. Daddy Aleck was a naturally brave, combative nature and
very tough, but Nelson was a lover of peace and comfort, and camping out
in the swamp was no joy to him. He and Daddy Aleck were never friends
and distrusted each other, so they had not cared to go together.



CHAPTER XXIII

DADDY HAMEDY’S APPEAL--IN THE TRACK OF SHERMAN’S ARMY


Only a few days after Daddy Aleck’s and Nelson’s return, Brutus came
from Loch Adèle, bearing a piece of paper with hieroglyphics on it in
pencil. After much studying over it by each one of us, we found it was a
note from dear, faithful Daddy Hamedy: “Miss, cum at once. Mister Yates
dun dribe de peeple.” Then mamma questioned the boy, not telling what
trouble we had to make out the important document of which he was the
bearer. He told his story. General Kilpatrick and the whole army had
camped on the place a week. They had burned the gin-house after taking
all the provisions they could carry away, and left the negroes without a
thing to eat, and the whole country was the same--nothing to eat for the
white people who belonged there any more than for them--and Mr. Yates
had come to the farm the day before and told Daddy Hamedy they must all
leave the country at once and go back down to the low country from which
they came. Daddy Hamedy had answered him civilly; he said it would take
them a day to prepare, and as soon as Mr. Yates left he had started this
runner, Brutus, off. He had travelled all night to bring it quick! Mamma
praised him and gave him the best meal she could and told him to go to
sleep. Everything was stirring that night, preparing for an early start.
Mamma went over to see Mr. Evans and consulted him about it and told him
she was going up the next day. He advised her greatly against it, but,
finding he could not persuade her to give it up, he said he would ride
on horseback along with us. He had saved his riding-horse by taking it
in the swamp as Daddy Aleck had.

So at daylight the next morning we started; mamma and I in the carriage
with a basket of cooked food, Daddy Aleck driving and Brutus beside him
on the box, Mr. Evans riding beside the carriage. It was an awful
experience, as it must always be to travel in the track of a destroying
army. To begin with, the road was a quagmire. It took an experienced
driver like Daddy Aleck to get us through, and even with all his care
Brutus and Mr. Evans had often to get a rail from the fences along the
road and pry our wheels out of the bog. We were never out of the sight
of dead things, and the stench was almost unbearable. Dead horses all
along the way and, here and there, a leg or an arm sticking out of a
hastily made too-shallow grave. Along the way ten cows dead in one pen,
and then eight or ten calves dead in another. Dead hogs everywhere; the
effort being to starve the inhabitants out, no living thing was left in
a very abundant country. It is a country of small farms, just two-roomed
houses; all now tightly shut up, no sign of life. Wells with all means
of drawing water destroyed. We stopped at one or two houses and knocked
without any response, but at last we knocked at one where a tall, pale
woman opened a crack of the door wide enough to talk through. No, she
had nothing; could not help us in any way to draw water. So Daddy Aleck
got his halters and tied them together and let his horse-bucket down
into the well, and I was so thirsty I drank, but mamma would not. As we
got beyond Cheraw, fifteen miles on our way, we began to meet some of
our people from Morven, who had started on their hundred-mile flight to
the low country, in obedience to Mr. Yates’s mandate--forlorn figures, a
pot sometimes balanced on the head, and a bundle of clothing swung on
the back, a baby in arms, sometimes one or two children trailing
behind. Mamma stopped as we got to each traveller and told them to turn
back; she had come to feed them and do all she could for them, and they
need have no fear. To Daddy Aleck’s great indignation, she took some of
the impedimenta from the most heavily loaded and we went on our way. We
had made such an early start that few had gone more than a few miles,
and all were so rejoiced to see mamma and so thankful to turn back that
we began to feel quite cheerful.

It was lucky, for things were worse and worse as we went on; and when
finally we got to pretty Loch Adèle a scene of desolation met us--every
animal killed, and the negroes had had a kind of superstitious feeling
about making use of the meat, or they could have cured meat enough to
last the winter; for, though the Yankees had burned down the gin-house,
with cotton and provisions and salt, they could not destroy the latter,
and there, in a blackened mass, was a small mountain of salt. If Mr.
Yates had been any good he could have seen to that. The house was not
burned, but everything in it was broken to pieces--beds, sideboard,
chairs, tables, and on the floor the fragments of the beautiful big
medallions of “Night” and “Morning,” chopped into little pieces. I
found one baby’s foot, whole, in the mass of rubbish, which I kept a
long time, it was so beautiful, quite the size of a real baby’s.

We had a tremendous afternoon’s work to clear away and make the place
habitable for the night, but Brutus worked with me and I got two women
to help, and we managed to prop up a table and put boards over the
bottomless chairs, and by supper-time, with a bright fire burning, for
we had only brought two candles, it was quite a different-looking place.
Mamma had brought two roast chickens and a piece of boiled bacon (as she
had buried a box of bacon, fortunately) and a loaf of bread and some
corn-dodgers which we toasted by the fire, so we had a good supper. The
thing that worried us most was the fixing a comfortable bed for Mr.
Evans, but we succeeded in propping up things, and, putting some straw
and the blankets we had brought, made a comfortable resting-place; but,
when it was all fixed, Mr. Evans absolutely refused to occupy it, said
he preferred to rest on the three-legged sofa by the fire, and insisted
that mamma and I should take the bed. Which, after a little friendly
contention, we did, and most thankful was I to stretch myself on
anything after the fatigues and agitations of the day.

Early in the morning we were up and busy. Brutus cooked hominy for
breakfast and fried some bacon. After breakfast Mr. Evans, seeing mamma
equal to the situation, rode back home. Before we had sat down,
forlorn-looking country people began to arrive. They sat around the fire
on broken chairs while we ate breakfast. Then Mr. Yates arrived. He was
so startled when he saw mamma he looked as though he would faint. He
said good morning and then went out. People still came and mamma was
filled with wonder as to what it meant, till one man said:

“Wall, when’s the auction goin’ to begin?”

Mamma said: “What auction?”

He said: “We was notified by your agent how as there was to be an
auction here to-day, an’ everything on the place was to be sold. I come
to buy a plough.”

Mamma said: “There will be no auction here to-day.”

Then they one by one rose and said: “I reckon if there ain’t to be no
auction, we better be gittin’ home.” And they made their adieus and
left.

Then we understood. Mr. Yates had ordered the negroes to leave, and
intended to sell out all

[Illustration: CHICORA WOOD.

Photograph by Amelia M. Watson.]

the things on the place and take the money, never supposing there was
any possibility of mamma’s being informed in time to get up to prevent
it. But he reckoned without knowing the negroes or mamma. As soon as
they had all left, she summoned Mr. Yates and had a talk with him. She
told him she would not need his services any more, that he had quite
exceeded his authority in sending the negroes off without consulting
her, and that the fact of his having advertised an auction without her
consent also showed that he misunderstood the situation. He was quite
insolent and said he would not go unless he was paid in full. To which
she answered she had no intention of letting him go unpaid, asked for
his accounts, looked over them, and gave him a check on Mr. Malloy in
Cheraw.

Mamma found that below the salt was a large pile of rough rice which
would not burn, and which was ample provision for the negroes. On
examination we found that only the outside of the pile of rough rice was
scorched. Rough rice (which is the rice still encased in its thick,
rough, outer shell) cannot burn, and there was enough rice there to keep
the people well fed a long time, and they prefer rice to any other food.
They beat it in mortars made by taking about three feet of the trunk of
a hardwood-tree and burning out the centre, so as to hold about six
quarts of grain. Then they make a pestle from a smaller limb of hardwood
neatly smoothed and rounded at the end; and with these crude implements
the stiff, hard, almost indestructible hull is easily removed.

Mamma also found that away from the path of the enemy there were
supplies of sorghum syrup and potatoes, etc., which people would gladly
bring to exchange for salt and rice. So we turned home, an immense load
lifted from our hearts. The people would not really suffer!

Mamma made a little talk to the negroes, and told them just to stay
quietly there and do their ordinary work, and that she had made
arrangements for provisions for them to be brought to the farm every
week, and that very soon she would have the flats come up from Chicora
Wood and take them all back to the low country, and begged them not to
lose their good reputation by breaking the law in any way, now that the
whole country was so upset. And she thanked them for having behaved so
well ever since papa had been taken, and having made it easy for her by
their good conduct. And they courtesied and said: “Tank Gawd” that she
had come to “luk after” her people and not let them be driven away by
“Po’ buckra.” Altogether it was a very comforting little scene. Daddy
Hamedy made a little speech, assuring her of his fidelity to her, and
that he would look after everything and let her know if anything went
wrong. He apologized much for not having been able to protect the
property, but he said General Kilpatrick and the soldiers wouldn’t
listen to him at all, and just cut the dam and drained off the water and
got Maussa’s wine, and got drunk on it, and sent some off in wagons, and
were so harsh to him he just had to keep out of sight of them. By the
time they set fire to the gin-house, full of good provisions and all the
fine cotton-crop, he was struck down by a severe chill and had to go to
bed. And, when one looked at his face, one had to believe in his
distress. Three of the young men had gone off with the soldiers. They
wanted to take many more, but “tank de Lawd,” they had more sense than
to go. We left early the next morning and returned to Crowley.



CHAPTER XXIV

SHADOWS DEEPEN


After this things are vague in my mind, only an impression of distress
and gloom. I got a letter from my cousin and friend, Hal Lesesne,
telling of the successive falling back which was so terrible to them
all. He had been so long in the forts around Charleston, and so greatly
desired to see active service in Virginia, and now, alas, things were so
black, no one could help fearing. “But be assured,” he said, “we are
fighting every step of the way, and make the enemy pay dearly for their
gain.” When I got that letter he had already fallen, killed in the very
last battle of the war, Averysboro, I think. This was a great sorrow to
me; and the surrender was just crushing and numbing to all my being. Men
began to come in on their way home from the front, worn, weary, gaunt,
and hungry. They had lived days and days and fought on a handful of
parched corn. Their shoes were worn out, their uniforms ragged; only
their spirit was undimmed, and that made them suffer so in the sense of
failure.

My dear brother Charley finally came, a ghost of his former self,
shoulders bowed down by marching with his heavy knapsack. He looked so
ill and changed, we were not surprised when we found he had typhoid
fever. He had been taken in and kindly nursed by friends on his way
home, but he was a pitiful sight.



CHAPTER XXV

GLEAMS OF LIGHT


Then one day, to our amazement, Sam Galant came with two horses which he
had brought back safe all the way from Virginia! They were thin and so
was he, but it was a wonderful feat, without money and without food, at
a time when the soldiers returning home on foot were desperate for a
horse to till and cultivate the little farms to which they were
returning empty-handed. How was it possible for Sam to escape capture by
some of them, almost hopeless at the great distance from their homes,
which they must travel mostly afoot! Sam had wonderful tales to tell of
his experiences. He kept with Hampton’s Cavalry all the time, leading
horses to be at hand to replace those killed in battle. He gave a
thrilling account of the death of Bill, the mail horse. Edward Wells, of
the Charleston Light Dragoons, was riding him, and as they were
galloping out of Cheraw, just over the bridge, a shell went through Bill
from tail to head, without exploding, leaving Mr. Wells standing on his
feet unhurt. “Sam, a horse,” he called, and, according to Sam’s tale,
he stepped up instantly with a fresh horse, Mr. Wells mounted and was
gone. Sam concluded:

“Yes, ma’am, Mr. Wells is the bravest man in the world, I believe. He
neber mind de shell busting all ’round him, en I was dere right
alongside him, ready to his han’.”

Oh, if I had only got Sam to come and tell it all to me quietly long
afterward, so that I could write it down as I did Daddy Ancrum’s story!
But Sam was comparatively young, some years younger than myself, and I
always thought there was time. I never thought of his dying.

One day a messenger arrived from the plantation to mamma, with a badly
scribbled line on brown paper: “Miss, cum quick, dem de ’stribute ebry
ting.” Mamma questioned the boy. He said the people had gone wild, that
“a Capting from de Yankee A’my kum en a kerridge en tell de people dem
is free en ebry ting belongst to dem. No wite peeple ’ill neber jum
back, en den him ’stribute ebery ting.”

Mamma told Daddy Aleck to have the carriage ready early the next
morning, and she and I started off, leaving Della and Jane still at
Crowley, with all the servants. Charley rode with us on horseback and,
to our surprise, Julius Pringle turned up the evening before and said he
would ride along with us too. The presence of these two, just home from
all the dangers and suffering of the war, now here safe and sound, made
the journey a great pleasure. Mr. Pringle rode Jerry, Charley’s young
half-Arab stallion, which mamma had sent on to Virginia for him, and
which he rode as one of Hampton’s scouts all the last year of the war.
We had not gone far when a runner on foot from Chicora Wood met us.

He said: “Miss, I got a pa’tikler messidge fu yu, en I wan’ to speak to
yu private.” So mamma got out of the carriage and went a little way into
the woods with him. He said: “A’nt Milly say don’t kum, ’tis dang’us,
but ef yu does kum, don’t keep de publik road. Dem de watch fu yu! Kum
troo de ’oods.” Mamma thanked and told him to go on to Crowley and rest
and Miss Adèle would give him plenty to eat, and when he was rested, he
could start back. She got into the carriage and we drove on.

I never have understood that message from Maum Milly, whether it was a
genuine anxiety on her part, or whether it was to keep mamma from coming
and asserting her rights, by intimidating her. Maum Milly had always
been greatly considered and trusted. She held herself and her family as
vastly superior to the ordinary run of negroes, the aristocracy of the
race. Whatever her intention was, the message had no effect on mamma’s
plans, and we never left the public road.

That night we stopped at a house where dark caught us, and asked for
shelter, simply that; we had provisions. The family were from Georgetown
and had refugeed here, the Sampsons, and they received us with
enthusiastic hospitality and kindness, making us most comfortable for
the night, and giving us a delicious and abundant supper and breakfast
of fried chicken, so that we were able to keep our supplies for the next
day. I do not think I ever saw as beautiful a young Jewess as the
daughter of the family, Deborah Sampson.

When we got to Plantersville we drove to Mrs. Weston to ask about them
all, for we knew nothing of how they had fared in these dark days.
Cousin Lizzie was rejoiced to see us after all we had both gone through,
and Mr. Weston and herself and Pauline most hospitably invited us to
stay with them, until we could make arrangements to get the log house in
order for us to occupy, as it had been shut up a long time. There was
so much to hear and so much to tell that it was hard to go to bed. They
had been through a great trial in the Bunker raid, when this Yankee had
come through the little village in an open carriage, followed by a
throng of negroes, whooping and yelling with joy, in response to his
announcement that they were free, and that everything belonged to them.
He went to every house and seized every article of value, took the
earrings from women’s ears and the rings from their fingers; for the
inhabitants of the little hamlet had been so far removed from the centre
of war that they had not thought of concealing their valuables and
jewelry, as no one had any fear of the negroes. This seems to me a
wonderful tribute to them, and they deserve to have the changes rung on
it. When this man, announcing himself as “A N’united State Officer,” as
they called it, authorized them to take possession of everything as
their own, it is a marvel that license and shooting did not ensue on
their part; for the end had not come yet, and none of the men had come
home from the army. There were only women and children and two old men
in the village, and there might have been frightful scenes there. They
took all Bunker gave them, but touched nothing themselves where the
white owners were present. It was only on the plantations, where the
owners were absent, that, on his persuasion, they pitched in and
“stributed” the contents of the houses. That darky word for it is good,
for each one took what he selected as fast as he could till there was
nothing left.

The next day Mr. Pringle rode up with a note from his mother, asking us
to go down and stay with her at the White House, their plantation,
twelve miles south of Plantersville, on the Pee Dee River,--that is, the
Pee Dee ran in front of the house, and the Black River half a mile away
at the back. Mamma accepted the invitation with much pleasure. Mrs.
Pringle and her husband and Mary had been in Europe when the war broke
out. The sons, Julius, Poinsett, and Lynch, were at Heidelberg
University. The young men at once left, ran the blockade, and entered
the Confederate service. Mr. and Mrs. Pringle and Mary remained in
Italy. Mr. Pringle died and was buried in the beautiful cemetery in Rome
in 1863, and the next spring Mrs. Pringle and Mary came to America, and
stayed with Fanny Butler (daughter of Fanny Kemble), at Butler Place,
outside of Philadelphia, until they were able to slip through the lines
and get into Virginia, only to find the darling of them all, Poinsett,
had been recently killed in battle. It was too awful for them. They
stayed where they could occasionally see the other two boys, until this
winter, when they made their way down to the plantation, to remain
there.

I had never been to the White House before, though I had always heard of
it as very beautiful; a picturesque, rambling house with three gables,
set facing the river about 200 yards away, in a most beautiful garden,
which had been planted by Mr. Poinsett, who was a specialist on gardens,
a botanist. The White House was even more beautiful than I had imagined.
As soon as you left the road you entered on a lane bordered on each side
with most luxuriant climbing roses, now in riotous bloom, long garlands
of white roses swaying in the breeze, high up, and quarrelling for
supremacy with long garlands of pink roses. This lane took you direct to
the Pee Dee River, where you made a sharp turn and drove along the
avenue of live oaks just on the edge of the river, which had here a sand
beach like the seashore. The effect was delightful; on the left the
river, only a few feet away, on the right a green lawn, until you came
to the vegetable-garden. A picture garden! All the vegetables sedately
in straight rows, and having nothing to do with each other. The French
artichokes standing in stately stiff rows, not so much as glancing at
the waving asparagus bed, nor the rows of pale-green mammoth roses,
which turn out to be heads of lettuce. I had never seen a
vegetable-garden which was ornamental before. While I was taking it in
we entered the flower-garden, with a wilderness of roses, azaleas,
camellias, and other beautiful shrubs and plants.

Mamma and Mrs. Pringle were rejoiced to see each other, but it was sad,
for both had suffered much sorrow since their last meeting. Papa had
been taken from us and Mrs. Pringle had lost both her husband and
beautiful son, so it was a long time before they could become composed.
That evening, however, they made up, for there was so much to be told.
First of all, Mrs. Pringle told mamma that the government had ordered
that all property belonging to Mrs. Allston, the sister of James L.
Petigru, should be protected from all damage. This seemed to impress
Mrs. Pringle very much, but mamma did not seem to attach much importance
to it. She said she did not think it was at all to be depended on, that
she must go to Georgetown and get the commanding officer there to send a
detachment of men to take from the negroes the keys of the barns at each
plantation, where the large crops made were locked up. These keys they
had given to the negroes, and mamma could get no corn for the horses nor
provisions for herself, and they must restore the keys to her. Mrs.
Pringle said it would be quite useless for her to ask anything until she
took the oath of allegiance to the United States, that she had wanted
something done and their reply was until she took the oath of allegiance
no request could be considered; that she had declined to do so at the
time, but now felt it must be done. So it was arranged that mamma would
take Mrs. Pringle down in her carriage to Georgetown the next day to
take the oath, while I should remain with Mary and her brothers at the
White House.

Oh, what a white day that stands out in my memory! I was embroidering a
waist in black silk, to make a Russian blouse out of the everlasting
purple calico we were all wearing. As I sewed in a big chair in the
beautiful library, filled with most delightful books, exquisite
engravings on the walls and marble busts around the room, Mr. Pringle
read aloud to me. He picked up the first book his hand came upon,--I
think it was “Eugene Aram.” But the book was nothing; it was his voice,
so beautifully modulated, and his presence, safe back from the awful
danger, and in his own beautiful home. It cast a spell over me; and long
afterward he told me he had no idea of what he was reading; nothing of
it entered his mind; it was the simple fact of having me sitting there
in his own home, sewing as if I belonged there, that intoxicated him, so
that he was afraid to speak, and so took refuge in reading! So there we
were, a pair of idiots, in a fool’s paradise, some might think, but such
moments are immortal. Soul speaks to soul, though no voice be heard.



CHAPTER XXVI

TAKING THE OATH


That evening reality returned heavily when the two mothers, widows and
managers of large estates and property, returned. The day had been very
trying. The oath was taken as the first thing, they having made up their
minds to take it at once. Then mamma asked the colonel to send a guard
or a single soldier to take back the keys which they had given to the
negroes and give them to her, the rightful owner of the foodstuffs in
the barns. He said quite nonchalantly that she could take the keys; it
was not at all necessary for him to send a guard; he would give her a
written order. She remonstrated with him, saying she believed in
authority, and as an officer had delivered the key to the negroes,
taking it from the overseer, a white man who was in charge of the
plantation, she thought it was absolutely necessary that an official or
a man wearing the United States uniform should take the keys from the
negroes and deliver them to her; that, without that, there was an
opening for dispute and contention and disrespect. The colonel said
shortly he did not agree with her. She then asked about the order from
Washington as to the protection of her property. Yes, he said that he
had received such an order, but they knew of nothing to which it would
apply. He wrote an order for the negroes to deliver the keys to her, and
the interview was ended. She had some business of a different nature
which she attended to in Georgetown, and then they drove back to the
White House, very tired and very indignant at the want of courtesy, and
desire to facilitate the return of things to a possible working order.
The negroes were free--no one had a word to say on that score--but they
were not owners of the land, and in order for things to assume a
condition when the land could be planted, or, rather, prepared for
planting, in the new order of things, the negroes would look to the
officers for the tone they were expected to assume to their former
owners. But it was evident these men absolutely refused to back up the
white people in any way. The talk that evening was not cheering, to say
the least.

Mrs. Pringle told us, after the Georgetown matter had been fully
discussed, of her experience with the man, Bunker, who had led the
negroes to Plantersville and behaved so outrageously there, after
turning over all the houses on the river, Chicora Wood included, to the
negroes, to distribute all the contents among themselves. It was two
days afterward that he came down to the White House, followed by an
immense throng of negroes, and demanded wine and money. Mrs. Pringle,
who was as bold as a lion and very clever, tall, stout, and of
commanding presence, with the face of a man, met them on the piazza and
refused to let them enter the house. Bunker had been drinking heavily
and also some of the negroes. She spoke with authority, and said she
knew the United States Government would not sanction the seizure of her
things by a drunken mob, even though one man, the leader, had on the
United States uniform; and the army regulations were severe against
intoxication. She was a Northern woman herself and knew all about it,
and had friends in the government and the army at that moment. Bunker
was a little dashed, but very angry at being talked to in that haughty
manner before his followers, and things looked ugly for a moment, so
that Mary, who was standing behind her mother, began to cry, and,
Bunker’s attention being diverted to her, he began to try to console
her. She was a very beautiful girl. He brought forward some of the
things he had stolen from the Plantersville people and presented them to
her--silver pitchers, etc. Mary indignantly pushed them away, but her
mother bent down and said: “Take them; you can restore them to the
owner.” So Mary let him bring them into the piazza and present them to
her, but when he began to try to console her by complimentary speeches
and admiring looks, she dropped her full length on the piazza in a dead
faint! Mrs. Pringle took her by the feet and dragged her in through the
hall to the dining-room, and, locking the door, put the key in her
pocket, and returned to the mob; but they had vanished away, leaving
rapidly and quietly. They, no doubt, thought Mary was dead; those kind
of people do not faint, and to see her brilliant, radiant color suddenly
turn to deadly white and her mother drag her limp body away like that
sobered them. In the meantime the man whom they trusted as house-servant
had busied himself getting out--the keys being in the basket in the
drawing-room--all the wine and liquor there was in the house. He packed
it up, and took it out of the back door to a cart which he had there,
and went off with the party. He was never seen by them again. When they
had all gone, Mrs. Pringle unlocked the door, and used restoratives,
and finally succeeded in bringing Mary to life, but she was terribly
weak and ill for some days. Mrs. Pringle reviled Mary for being such a
weakling and failing her at a critical moment, but we all felt and she
knew that Mary had really saved the day, diverting the unsteady mind of
Bunker from his original intention of plunder, first her tears and then
her faint had converted his rage first to pity and then to fright.

The next morning mamma and I left the hospitable, beautiful White House
after breakfast and drove to Nightingale Hall, about two miles away.
Here the negroes had been specially turbulent. The overseer there, Mr.
Sweat, was a very good, quiet man, and had been liked by all the
negroes, but in the intoxication of freedom their first exercise of it
was to tell Mr. Sweat if he left the house they would kill him, and they
put a negro armed with a shotgun to guard the house and see that he did
not leave alive. Mr. Sweat seems to have been something of a
philosopher, for he assured them he had no intention of leaving, and
settled himself quite cheerfully to pass the time of his imprisonment.
The key of the barns having been given to the negroes, he kept a little
journal of all they did. From his window he watched them take supplies
from the barns, corn and rice, using the baskets which were always used
in measuring grain, open baskets made to hold a bushel, which is
thirty-two quarts. In this way, as he knew exactly what was in the
barns, having superintended the planting, harvesting, and threshing of
the grains, he could tell just how much was left. He had written all of
this to my mother, getting a friendly negro who cooked for him to take
charge of the letter.

When we drove in the yard the negroes soon assembled in great numbers.
Mamma had not seen them at all yet. She talked with the foreman, Mack,
very pleasantly from the seat in the carriage, asking after all the old
people on the place, and his family, etc. Then, finally, she said:

“And now, Mack, I want the keys to the barn.”

He said: “De officer giv me de key, ma’am, en I kyant gie um to yu.”

She drew from her silk reticule the order, and said: “I have here the
officer’s order to you to give the key to me.”

He took the paper and looked at it, but there rose a sullen murmur from
the crowd, and a young man who had stood a little way off, balancing a
sharp stone in his hand and aiming it at mamma from time to time, now
came nearer and leaned on the wheel of the carriage. Mamma thought he
wanted to intimidate her, and so she stepped out of the carriage into
the very midst of them. I motioned to follow, but she said in a low
tone, as she shut the door, “Stay where you are,” and I obeyed.

The foreman said: “How we gwine eat ef we gie yu de key? We haf fu hab
bittle.”

Mamma answered: “Mack, you know that every man, woman, and child on this
place has full ration for a year! You know, for you measured it and gave
it out yourself. If anything should be wanted, I will come down and give
it out myself.”

At that the young man, still balancing the stone, laughed, and all
followed in a great shout, and he said: “Yu kyant do dat, dat de man
wuk. Yu kyan do um, en we’ll starve.”

But mamma held her ground, and walking up and down among them, speaking
to each one by name, asking after their children and babies, all by
name. Gradually the tension relaxed, and after a long time, it seemed to
me ages, in which she showed no irritation, no impatience, only
friendly interest, no sense that they could possibly be enemies, Mack
gave her the keys without any interference from the others, and we left.
She did not think it wise to go to the barn to look at the crops. Having
gained her point, she thought it best to leave. We were both terribly
exhausted when we got home, and enjoyed a good night’s rest in our own
very original-looking log house in Plantersville, which Charley had
succeeded in getting made clean and comfortable for us.

The next morning, after breakfast, we started to Chicora Wood to get the
keys there. Mamma did not take Charley, for he was very weak from his
illness, and having made the trip down before he was strong enough.
Besides that, in the condition of the country, the negroes were apt to
be more irritated by the presence of a returned soldier than with ladies
only. Besides which, it was a very mortifying position for a man, whose
impulse, under insolence or refusal to do the right thing, was naturally
to resent it, and, being perfectly powerless, not having taken the oath,
he was not even recognized as a citizen, and had no rights and would
have no support from the law. Therefore, it was certainly the part of
wisdom to leave him behind, though I did not fully understand it at the
time. We did not have much trouble at Chicora. Daddy Primus had been the
man to whom the keys were given, and he was a very superior, good old
man. He had been head carpenter ever since Daddy Thomas’s death. He took
mamma into each barn and showed her the splendid crops, and as he locked
the door to each, she just held out her hand for it, and he placed the
key to that barn in her hands without question. And here the people
seemed glad to see her and to see me, and we walked about over the place
and talked with every one.

We looked at the house; it was a wreck,--the front steps gone, not a
door nor shutter left, and not a sash. They had torn out all the
mahogany framework around the doors and windows--there were mahogany
panels below the windows and above the doors there were panels
painted--the mahogany banisters to the staircase going upstairs;
everything that could be torn away was gone. The pantry steps being
there, we went into the house, went all through, even into the attic.
Then the big tank for the supply of the water-works, which was lined
with zinc, had been torn to pieces, and the bathroom below entirely
torn up. It was a scene of destruction, and papa’s study, where he kept
all his accounts and papers, as he had done from the time he began
planting as a young man, was almost waist-deep in torn letters and
papers. Poor things, they were looking, I suppose, for money or treasure
of some kind in all those bundles of letters and papers most
methodically and carefully tied up with red tape, each packet of
accounts having a wooden slat, with the date and subject of account upon
it. We looked through every corner, and then went out on the piazza and
sat down and ate the lunch we had brought. It is wonderful to me, as I
look back, that we were so cheerful; but we were, and after a good lunch
with some hard-boiled eggs Maum Mary brought us, we got into the
carriage and drove home to the dear, peaceful log house.

The next morning we started early in the carriage for Guendalos, mamma
and I, driven by Daddy Aleck. This plantation belonged to my elder
brother, Colonel Ben Allston, who had been in the army since the
beginning of the war, never having been home at all. There had been no
white man on the place, and we heard the negroes were most turbulent and
excited. As we neared the place the road was lined on either side by
angry, sullen black faces; instead of the pleasant smile and courtesy or
bow to which we were accustomed, not a sign of recognition or welcome,
only an ominous silence. As the carriage passed on they formed an
irregular line and followed.

This would be a test case, as it were. If the keys were given up, it
would mean that the former owners still had some rights. We drove into
the barnyard and stopped in front of the barn. Several hundred negroes
were there, and as they had done the day before, they crowded closer and
closer around the carriage, and mamma got out into the midst of them, as
she had done at Nightingale. She called for the head man and told him
she wished to see the crop, and he cleared the way before us to the rice
barn and then to the corn barn. Mamma complimented him on the crops. As
she was about to leave the corn barn a woman stretched her arms across
the wide door so as to hold up the passageway. Mamma said, “Sukey, let
me pass,” but Sukey did not budge. Then mamma turned to Jacob. “This
woman has lost her hearing; you must make her move from the doorway.”
Very gently Jacob pushed her aside and we went out and Jacob locked the
door. Then mamma said: “And now, Jacob, I want the keys.” “No, ma’am, I
kyant gie yu de key. De officer gen me de key, en I kyant gie um to
nobody but de officer.”

“I have the officer’s written order to you to give me the keys--here it
is”--and she drew from her reticule the paper and handed it to Jacob. He
examined it carefully and returned it to her, and proceeded slowly to
draw the keys from his pocket and was about to hand them to mamma, when
a young man who had stood near, with a threatening expression sprang
forward and shouted, “Ef yu gie up de key, blood’ll flow,” shaking his
fist at Jacob. Then the crowd took up the shout, “Yes, blood’ll flow for
true,” and a deafening clamor followed. Jacob returned the keys to the
depths of his pocket. The crowd, yelling, talking, gesticulating,
pressed closer and closer upon us, until there was scarcely room to
stand. Daddy Aleck had followed with the carriage as closely as the
crowd would allow without trampling some one, and now said to mamma:
“Miss, yu better git een de carriage.” Mamma answered by saying: “Aleck,
go and bring Mas’ Charles here.”

Most reluctantly the old man obeyed, and drove off, leaving us alone in
the midst of this raging crowd. I must say my heart sank as I saw the
carriage with the faithful old man disappear down the avenue--for there
was no white person within five miles and in this crowd there was
certainly not one friendly negro. Jacob, the head man, was the most so,
but evidently he was in great fear of the others and incapable of
showing his good feeling openly. I knew that Daddy Aleck would have to
drive five miles to find Charley and then back, and that must consume a
great deal of time.

The crowd continued to clamor and yell, first one thing and then
another, but the predominant cry was: “Go for de officer--fetch de
Yankee.” Mamma said: “By all means bring the officer; I wish to see him
quite as much as you do.”

The much-desired and talked-of officer was fourteen miles away. In the
midst of the uproar a new man came running and shouting out that the
officers were at a plantation three miles away, so six men started at a
run to fetch him. Mamma and I walked slowly down the avenue to the
public road, with a yelling mob of men, women, and children around us.
They sang sometimes in unison, sometimes in parts, strange words which
we did not understand, followed by a much-repeated chorus:

    “I free, I free!
     I free as a frog!
     I free till I fool!
     Glory Alleluia!”

They revolved around us, holding out their skirts and dancing--now with
slow, swinging movements, now with rapid jig-motions, but always with
weird chant and wild gestures. When the men sent for the officer reached
the gate they turned and shouted, “Don’t let no white man een dat gate,”
which was answered by many voices, “No, no, we won’t let no white pusson
een, we’ll chop um down wid hoe--we’ll chop um to pieces sho”--and they
brandished their large, sharp, gleaming rice-field hoes, which looked
most formidable weapons truly. Those who had not hoes were armed with
pitchforks and hickory sticks, and some had guns.

It was a strange situation: Two women, one fifty, the other eighteen,
pacing up and down the road between two dense hedges of angry blacks,
while a little way off in the woods was a company of men, drawn up in
something like military order--guns held behind them--solemn, silent,
gloomy, a contrast to the noisy mob around us. There we paced for hours
while the autumn day wore on.

In the afternoon Daddy Aleck returned without Charley, having failed to
find him. It was a great relief to me, for though I have been often
laughed at for the opinion, I hold that there is a certain kind of
chivalry in the negroes--they wanted blood, they wanted to kill some
one, but they couldn’t make up their minds to kill two defenseless
ladies; but if Charley had been found and brought, I firmly believe it
would have kindled the flame. When the carriage came, I said to mamma in
a low tone: “Let us go now.”

She answered with emphasis, but equally low, “Say not one word about
going; we must stay until the officers come”--so we paced on, listening
to blasphemous mutterings and threats, but appearing not to hear at
all--for we talked together as we walked about the autumn flowers and
red berries, and the brilliant skies, just as though we had been on our
own piazza. I heard the little children say to each other: “Luk a dem
buckra ’oman, ain’t ’fraid.”

The sun sank in a blaze of glory, and I began to wonder if we would
spend the night there, when there was a cry, “Dey comin’!” We thought
it was the officers, and how I did wish they could come and see us
there, but it turned out to be four of the runners, who had returned,
saying they had not found the officers, and that Jacob and one of the
men had gone on to Georgetown to see them. Then we got into the carriage
and drove home. We were hungry and exhausted, having tasted no morsel of
food or drop of water through the long day. We went to bed in our log
castle, which had no lock of any kind on the door, and slept soundly.

In the early dawn of the next morning there was a knock at the door, and
before we could reach the hallway the door was opened, and a black hand
thrust through, with the keys. No word was spoken--it was Jacob; he gave
them in silence, and mamma received them with the same solemnity.

The bloodless battle had been won.


CHARLES PETIGRU ALLSTON’S NARRATIVE

During the war there was great demand for horses, which increased as the
time went on. My father always raised a few horses, and at this time
there was a gray stallion (part Arab), just four years old, that my
father had given to me the winter before he died; there were also
several other horses, saddle and draft. After my father’s death, my
mother, in the summer of 1864, made an arrangement with some friends in
the Cavalry Service, C. S. A., Butler’s Command, to take and use our
horses, with the promise that any that survived should be returned to us
after the war.

One of the horses was killed under Edward L. Wells, of the Charleston
Light Dragoons, as Butler’s Scouts were leaving Cheraw, S. C., by a
Parrot shell that passed through him, going in at the tail and coming
out of the chest, did not explode, and left Wells uninjured.

My gray stallion was ridden by Julius Pringle all through Virginia,
wherever Butler’s Cavalry went, and returned safe and sound. The other
two horses, a gray gelding and a bay filly, were alive at the time of
the surrender, and Julius Pringle turned them over to a young negro of
ours, who had been sent along with the horses, in charge of them (Sam
Galant) somewhere in Virginia, and told him to make his way back home,
and to get away before the actual surrender. The lad was of a family who
had been long in our service, family servants for generations; his
father had been my father’s body-servant for years, and then been
succeeded in that office by one of his sons, and Sam had grown up with
me. My father had sent him to Charleston to be instructed in music by
Mr. Dauer, a German, with three others, and he played the violin very
well. This boy had no money that we knew of, food was scarce, straggling
marauders many, the horses in pretty poor shape, yet he managed to work
his way with two horses through the country, and arrive at Crowley Hill
safe, but nearly starved, both he and the horses, specially the gray. I
asked him afterward how he managed it; he said he seldom moved during
the day, but got out of the way as much as possible, and let the horses
eat grass; then at night he travelled, but was careful to avoid all
other travellers, and also all camp-fires. He must have done some very
adroit foraging, also, or he would surely have starved. Horses were
specially valuable then, and we were glad to see these two return.

After things settled down somewhat, in May, 1865, I think, my mother
decided that she would have to go to the plantation home in Georgetown
County to look after affairs there, and try to restore order. A deserter
from the fleet off the coast had gone through all the plantations near
Georgetown, and incited the negroes to plunder and rob in every
direction, and had caused much trouble and demoralization. Several fine
dwellings had been completely destroyed, and all of them robbed of every
movable article. My mother and one of my sisters started in the
carriage, with a pair of horses driven by old Aleck--I rode along on
horseback--Julius Pringle, also on horseback, joined us. There was
practically no law in the land, but the influence of established
authority in the past kept a very fair semblance of order. We had a
journey of over ninety miles ahead of us, roads and everything
uncertain, but we made the trip safely and with little incident, and
arrived safely at Plantersville, which was a collection of houses built
irregularly in the pineland, as summer homes for the rice-planters along
the rivers, who had to leave the comfortable plantation homes in May and
go to the rough pineland houses until November, on account of malaria
fever. Our summer house was on the sea, and could not be occupied at all
during the war, so my father had built by his carpenters in this
settlement a large log house, on lightwood pillars ten feet high, to
escape damp, and put on it a double roof of cypress shingles, in which
there was not a single metal nail; they were securely fastened on with
wooden pins. (Up to the year 1900 this roof did not have to be renewed.)
To this log house my mother, sister, and myself were to go.

       *       *       *       *       *

After a while we had to set to work to gather in some of the furniture
which the negroes had carried off and hidden, for we had not enough to
get along with; my mother, having taken the oath as soon as she returned
to the low country, some time before, applied to the military
authorities, and a corporal and three men were detailed to assist in
recovering what we could find.... There were some wild and weird scenes
enacted. The nigs had been told that everything would belong to them;
that the government would punish the whites for the war, by taking their
property and dividing it among the nigs, giving forty acres to each head
of family, etc. So when we arrived, backed by soldiers, to take from
them what they had collected of our belongings, they were much taken
aback, and some of them were inclined to resist. However, we gathered up
enough furniture and stuff to get along comfortably.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then came the agreements as to planting; what portion of the crop they
should have in payment of their labor, and what portion we, the owners
of the land, should have; here again the military had to be called in.
One lieutenant, who was trying to argue with a violent gang, finally
turned to my mother and said, with a most troubled face: “Mrs. Allston,
I think I would rather have white help.” He could do nothing with them,
and a man of sterner mould had to come another day and make the contract
with that gang.

But in Plantersville we young folk took every opportunity possible to
have a dance or some frolic at night. It was certainly most wholesome to
have some diversion from the serious problems of the day.



_PART V_

READJUSTMENT



CHAPTER XXVII

GLEAMS OF LIGHT FROM MY DIARY


_Log Castle, Plantersville, July 10th, 1865._

It seems too wonderful to be at home again in my own dear low country
after being refugees so long. It is a delight to be alive, and know most
of those we love are alive too after the terrible sufferings and
anxieties of the War. We miss Papa more and more every day; it seems
impossible it should be only a year and three months since he died, it
seems years and years. Poor Mamma, who was perfectly unaccustomed to
business, has had every thing upon her, and it is a perfect wonder to
see her rise to each emergency as it comes. Yesterday she called Daddy
Aleck and told him she had not the money to pay his wages and he would
have to find another place.

He was very indignant. “Miss, I don’ want no wagis! Aint I wuk fu yu
sence I bin man grown, aint my fadder wuk fu Maussa fadder! En my
grandfadder de same! Aint yu feed me on de bes’! An’ clothes me in de
bes’. Aint I drive yo’, de Guvna’s lady all de time Maussa bin Guv’na,
en now yu tink I gwine lef’ yu, en lef’ de hosses. ’Tis true I got but a
po’ pair, jes’ wat dem Yankee lef’, but I kin manige wid dem, en I wont
lef’ dem en yu to dat triflin niggah boy, no ma’am, not Aleck Pa’ka, e
aint mean enuf fu dat!”

It was a distressing scene. Mamma was much moved, but she was firm, and
when Daddy Aleck realized that she would not be persuaded, the tears
rolled down his shiny black face and I, in my corner pretending to
write, ignominiously sobbed. When Daddy Aleck had gone, I remonstrated
with Mamma. I did not see how we could get on without the old man, and
he did not want to go, he would be content to stay if he had his food
and clothes as usual, and I thought it was cruel.

Mamma said, “Child, you don’t understand; Aleck really wants to stay
now, but I have no right to keep him. He is a valuable groom and
hostler, can manage and drive any horses, and he can easily get a good
place in Georgetown, whereas I could not only not pay him, but I could
not possibly feed him as he has been accustomed to be fed, sugar and
coffee and tea and all the meat he wanted. We barely have what will keep
the household, and a very little coffee and tea. As to clothing him,
that means a heavy outlay and is out of the question.”

As I still argued, she said, “My dear Bessie, why make things harder for
me? Try and trust to my desire to do the best I can under great trial
and strain.” Of course, I was ashamed of my self, and tried to say so;
but I am a stubborn brute and find it hard to say I’m sorry even when I
am.

_Aug. 1st._ My days are so happy. I cut and contrive new garments out of
old, and sew and dream as I sew. Brother’s wife, Ellen, is very pretty
and very sweet, but very ill, it seems to me. She cannot walk or do
anything but lie still and read and talk; this last she is always ready
to do, and while I rub her, as I do twice a day to try and give some
strength to her limbs, she talks most entertainingly. She has been a
great belle and was engaged to three other men when she married Brother.
She was surprised when she first told me and I appeared shocked. It
seems, in Texas, it is thought nothing of, but I solemnly advised her
not to mention it here, at which she laughed heartily. Afterwards, I
could not help laughing myself, for Brother has had rather a varied
career in the way of engagements, but I did not tell her this.

I have been crazy to have some low necked waists to wear in the late
afternoon and evenings. I always used to dress for the evenings, and I
am so tired of these everlasting calico frocks which we are all wearing.
Papa was lucky enough to get a piece of purple calico two years ago,
which ran the Blockade. We were enchanted, it was rather a pretty
pattern, purple stripes on a white ground and a little flower in each
stripe. We were much in need of frocks so Mamma had made for us each two
dresses and she had two herself. From that day we have been in uniform.
I cut my waist myself so as to have it different. I made a Russian
blouse and embroidered the shoulder straps and sleeves and belt in
black, but, alas, the difference is only waist deep. The rest is just
like the other eight! Two weeks ago I had a brilliant idea. Della’s
bedroom curtains were pink and white chintz and were lined with pink
paper cambric. The sun has faded the linings hopelessly into every shade
of yellow and brown, in some places almost white. That gave me the
thought that if I bleached those linings, I might have some white
material to make into waists, so I went to the plantation and consulted
Maum Milly. She looked at the stuff and thought it could be done. Told
me how to wash it first, then let it lie in cold water a day or so, then
spread it on the grass and leave it for the sun and dew to bleach, and
she thought, in two or three weeks, it would be white. She has always
been our laundress, but now of course we cannot pay her and have just a
little girl her granddaughter doing the washing. After having given me
all the directions of what to tell the “gal” to do, I said I would not
think of trusting it to Clarissa. I was going to do it myself. Then Maum
Milly’s heart relented and she said, “Chile, yu kyant do um proper. Gim
me dat cloth, I’ll do um fu yu.” So now I know if it can be done, it
will be.

_Aug. 10th._ Maum Milly brought my white stuff, looking like a fine
piece of muslin, and I have made two lovely low necked baby waists. They
are too sweet, gathered very full and little short sleeves also gathered
full, and around the neck and sleeves I have put the beautiful
valenciennes lace Mamma gave me, and they are things of beauty. No one
would ever dream they were evolved from faded pink paper cambric curtain
linings. Mrs. Pringle and Mary, who are very critical, having lived much
in the great world, admired my waist very much last night when they had
a little dance at their house. I was careful not to tell its history.

They are such an addition to this little village for, though in deep
grief for the loss of Poinsett who was killed at Haw’s Ship, Mrs.
Pringle is so thankful to have her other two sons alive and with her
that, though he was the darling of her heart, she keeps herself and her
house as cheerful as possible, and does all she can to make the village
brighter. Most people think it proper to be very gloomy. Of course, it
is hard, all the people who were rich are now very poor but there is no
good being gloomy over it. So Mrs. Pringle gives little dances now and
then, and they are delightful. Then we have riding parties. Dear old
Daddy Aleck saved two of our side saddles for us. I am so glad mine was
one.

Thanks to Sam for bringing home the horse and Daddy Aleck for the
saddle, I am able to ride; and, as every body is afraid of tête-a-têtes,
we go in parties, four girls and four men, all riding together. I say
afraid of tête-a-têtes because the War is still so very near, and it is
hard to keep to surface talk, and it is awfully dangerous to go below,
for we are all paupers.

Mamma has gone to Charleston to see if she can arrange to have our
house repaired. Three shells went through the roof and it is impossible
to live in it until it is thoroughly repaired. I do hope she will
succeed, but she has not a cent of money, and nowhere to borrow any. It
does seem desperate, but I must remember when Papa was dying and Mamma
in despair said, “What shall we do without you?” He answered steadily,
in spite of his gasping breath, “The Lord will provide.” And we have
been marvellously helped and guided.

_Aug. 25th._ A letter from Mamma today has upset me completely. She has
been very successful in getting the house repaired. A contractor who
knew her well and had worked for Papa and done up the house the last
time, undertook to do all the work without any payment now; but, when he
has finished, Mamma will give him her note promising to pay as soon as
she can. This has lifted a great load, but the tremendous announcement
is that she has determined to open a boarding and day school, and she
expects me _to teach_! The minute I read the letter I wrote, “Mamma, I
cannot teach. Don’t ask me to do it. I just hate the thought. Besides, I
don’t know enough of any one thing to teach it. I cannot, indeed, I
cannot.” Now that I have sent the letter I am awfully ashamed, and when
we were riding this afternoon, we fell a little behind the others and I
told Mr. P. He seemed so shocked and surprised. Altogether I am
miserable. Am I really just a butterfly? Is my love of pleasure the
strongest thing about me? What an awful thought. I try to pray, but I
don’t want to pray. I just do want to be for a while like a flower in
the sun. I want to open and feel the glow and the beauty and the joy of
existing, even if I know I have to wither and die sometime. Flowers
don’t think of that, they just rejoice in the life God has made so
beautiful for them, and I do believe He likes that. Oh dear, how I wish
I was good or dead, one or the other. Now I must go and rub my pretty
sweet sister-in-law, and try to forget how wicked I am.

_Sept. 1st._ A letter from Mamma in answer to my protest that I could
not teach. “My dear Bessie, your letter was a great surprise. It would
be a serious disappointment if all the money your Father so gladly spent
on your education has been wasted. However, I think you do yourself an
injustice. At any rate, you will come down for the opening of the school
and we will see.”

That is all, no reproaches for my petulance and miserable selfishness.
But I notice she does not confide her plans to me any more, and that
hurts more than bitter words. “Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall
deliver me from the body of this Death.” I don’t believe I have quoted
it right, but that means _self_. Mr. Glennie in our Bible lesson once
told us that in some Eastern country the punishment for a murderer was
to bind the body of his victim with chains on his back, and he must
wander ever with this putrifying result of his crime, until it crumbled
away. What an awful punishment, and how suitable. Mr. Glennie did not
tell us it meant one’s own wretched self in that cry, but I know it does
by my own experience. One is never free from that burden self. Happy
those, I suppose, in whom it perishes by disintegration before they get
old. Alas, alas, in some it seems well nigh indestructible!

_Sept. 3rd._ We cannot have any service in the dear little old log
church, for Mr. Trapier will not pray for the President of the United
States, and so we have not the pleasure and comfort of church.

Mr. P. comes every day and reads aloud to me. It is really unique. I sit
inside the window and sew on my ingenious remakings of old things and he
sits outside the window and reads, “He knew He was Right.” It is
perfectly delightful for me, it is so much easier than talking. People
are so disagreeable, the village is all saying we are engaged. I know he
is hearing it all the time, as I am, and it is so awkward for both. I
thought it would be easier if I referred lightly to it, so this morning,
sewing very fast, pricking my first finger brutally, I said, “Last
evening I was walking in the village and heard something so absurdly
ridiculous.” I got no farther, for in a solemn, hurt voice, from across
the window sill, there came, “I’m sorry it seemed so ridiculous to you.
It did not seem so to me.” Then I took refuge in immoderate laughter,
after which I said, “Please go on with the book.” But I felt I had been
defeated in my effort to make things more comfortable.

_Sept. 15th._ The wild flowers are so beautiful all through the woods. I
do not walk in the village now, people are so trying. I go out into the
swamp behind the house every afternoon. There are great tiger lilies and
the gorgeous Cardinal Flower, I call it scarlet lobelia. In the up
country where we have been for four years, I never saw these flowers.
Then the ferns and the lovely little partridge berry vine. This is
called the lover’s vine sometimes, because there are two lovely sweet
little white flowers, with the delicate perfume of the orange blossom,
and when they drop there is formed only one scarlet berry, but it has
two little eyes. It grows along the ground. Its dark green, regularly
placed leaves and bright berries are too pretty. I mean to take some up
and plant it in a box to take to Charleston with me, to remind me of
this dear darling country.

Riding two afternoons ago, we were galloping along four abreast, as if
for a charge, when Dot shied from a snake alongside the road, and my
saddle turned completely under her, and I found myself under my
neighbour’s horse! He was so frightened and so was every one else that
they all seemed indignant at my laughing. It seemed unsuitable to the
situation, but it really was too funny, I seated in the middle of the
road under Mr. P.’s horse, whose name is Trovatore and who behaved
beautifully and did not trample me or hurt me at all. Everyone was pale
and clamorous for restoratives, which I did not in the least need. My
saddle was put back and secured and we had a very silent ride home in
spite of my efforts to talk.

_Sept. 26th._ Every one said my delightful solitary strolls in the
swamp would end in fever, and every one is happy now for they were right
and I have been laid low for a week. As there was no one here to take
care of me, Ellen requiring great care herself, Mrs. Pringle, who adds
to her other great qualities that of being a competent nurse, has been
coming over every day to take care of me. It is delightful, for she is
so clever and (for the moment) so sympathetic that I positively enjoy
the state of things except when I am actually burning up with fever. Dr.
Dan Tucker is attending me, and is a delightful Doctor. I was burning up
with thirst, my fever so high and the practice of the country is to give
water by the teaspoonful in fever. To my delight and the surprise of the
inhabitants, especially that revered personage, the oldest, the Doctor,
ordered a pail of water brought fresh from the spring and put by my
bedside with a dear little gourd dipper, and told me to drink all I
wanted! It was so clever of him, for it is so much to satisfy the eye
and the imagination. I really do not drink so much, but I feel refreshed
and satisfied by its presence and the fact that I can have all I want. I
am sitting up today and so bored by the absence of Mrs.

[Illustration: MRS. WILLIAM ALLSTON (NÉE ESTER LA BROSSE DE MAHBOEUF).

     From a portrait painted by an English artist who visited this
     country before the Revolution. The portrait was pierced through the
     left eye by a British soldier when hanging in the dining-room of
     the Allston house in Georgetown, S. C.
]

Pringle that I have to write to pass the time. Dr. Dan Tucker was
educated in Paris, that is, took his medical course there. He served
through the War as Surgeon and has now settled here.

_Sept. 28th._ Dr. Tucker wants me fed up, and Mrs. Pringle is bringing
me over delicious things to eat, made by herself for she is a
distinguished cook. The Doctor shot and sent me a most beautiful summer
duck two days ago. I enjoyed some of it very much, but the next day came
out in huge splotches of red all over me. Mrs. Pringle was quite scared,
but the Doctor said that the food was a little too strong for me yet
awhile, and I must have no more till I was able to walk about.

_Oct. 13th._ Wild excitement! Letter from Mamma, Della has a little
daughter! I am an Aunt! As if that was not excitement enough, Mamma
writes I must go down to Charleston at once. The house is not yet ready,
but Aunt Petigru has invited me to stay there until we are able to move
into the house. I am pleased and yet I am sorry. I hate to have this
summer, the happiest of my life, end. And yet I knew it had to end, and
it was time. I have let myself just dream and dream, and, when one has
to work, it is not good to dream. I have been far from idle in body; I
have kept the house, and nursed Ellen, and rubbed her, kneeling morning
and evening for an hour at a time by the bed and not minding my own back
aching till I nearly drop, and I have sewed and done many other
necessary things, but all the time I have been dreaming, and I do love
it. But now I must be stern and say, “Get behind me, Satan,” when the
dreaminess wants to seize me. The bell is ringing, I must go.

_Oct. 20th._ The last few days have been trying. I have had so much
trouble to keep on the surface. I am going tomorrow. Brother will drive
me to Georgetown to take the boat. My irresponsible life ends. It has
not lasted long, for, Brother being away, I had all the copying of
Papa’s will to send to the different members of the family, and the
lists of the negroes and the plantations and all the property to make,
and it is only these two months, since Brother has been at home and has
taken charge of everything, that I have been able to enjoy being young
and foolish. I love dancing and I love admiration and I love to be gay;
but all the time, underneath all that, I am so terribly serious, so
terribly in earnest that I find the other girls do not understand me
and the men are startled and puzzled--all but my friend, and I have to
be so fiercely foolish and on the surface with him if I am to prevent a
catastrophe, and I must prevent it.



CHAPTER XXVIII

AUNT PETIGRU--MY FIRST GERMAN


_Charleston, Oct. 25th._

My niece is too fascinating, tiny, red, squirming! I have never been on
intimate terms with so young a baby before, and cannot be content to
hold her but a little while. I want to hold her for a long time and
realize her individuality, but the nurse disapproves, so I continue to
find her fascinating.

_Oct. 30th._ I am having a delightful time. Aunt is very good and kind.
She is the widow of Mamma’s brother, James L. Petigru, who was a
distinguished lawyer and codified the Laws of this State. He died in the
midst of the War, heartbroken, they said, at the suffering and distress
for his own people that he saw ahead. Poor Mamma, it was awfully hard on
her, for she simply adored Uncle, and Papa was as strongly in favour of
secession as Uncle was opposed to it. So those she loved best were
absolutely opposed to each other. Her opinions went with Papa, but she
felt intense sympathy for Uncle, and felt it killed him. The Yankee
Officers have been ordered by the Government to treat Aunt with the
greatest consideration. She has but to signify a wish for it to be
gratified at once. She was a great beauty and has never forgotten it
through years of terrible ill health. Uncle spoiled and humoured her
always, and now it seems the most natural thing in the world to have
everything she wants, have officers at her beck and call and live in
luxury, when every one else is almost in want. But she is most generous
with her comforts and luxuries, having Nannie, her maid and nurse, seek
out her friends who are ill or in need and sending them baskets from her
stores. She does not hesitate to say that she did not in any way
sympathize with Uncle’s opinion as to the War. She is always in bed, and
with a much befrilled cap which only reveals a few curls of light yellow
hair, receives the officers sent to her for command. She has a very
small single bed quite low to the floor and looks like a child, and
speaks in a high childish voice, most authoritatively. She has what she
calls a “Lazy Scissors.” It shoots out to a length of about three feet
and picks up things she wants. Nannie, her black maid, rules everything
and everybody, and I am thankful Nannie happens to approve of me for it
helps the situation. Aunt has a critical eye and loves beauty, and I am
not pretty, but she also loves to laugh, and I can amuse her by my
accounts of all my adventures when I go out, for I never stir from the
house without some adventure. Just now I am trying to get Aunt to
consent to my going to a party which is to be given by the young men at
Miss Annie Savage Heyward’s house, corner of Lamboll and Legare. It is
the first big dance given in town and I want to go, but Aunt has not as
yet given her consent. Mamma has gone in the country for a while and
there is no appeal from Aunt’s decision. I have got Nannie on my side.
The trouble is there is no chaperone to go with me, only my Cousin
Charley Porcher will come for me and bring me home. He fought all
through the War and came out alive, and I’m sure that makes him fit for
anything.

_Nov. 5th._ Well, I went to the party and had a grand time, no
refreshments but water, but a beautifully waxed floor, a great big cool
room, that is, two opening into each other with folding doors, and a
great wide piazza all round outside to walk in after dancing. But first
I must tell about my getting off. There had been no question of dress, I
was thankful for that. Aunt seemed to think of course I had a ball
dress. So when I was arrayed in my best black merino skirt--I was still
in half mourning for Papa--and my bleached pink paper cambric baby
waist, and Aunt sent Nannie to say she wished to see me before I went, I
trembled. However, I summoned up all the diablerie in me to meet the
ordeal. Really, I felt most uncertain of my appearance already, but I
would not show it for worlds. When I went in to the darkened room, Aunt
ordered Nannie to light up everything, candles and lamps, and as I stood
trembling inside, while the lights asserted themselves, Aunt surveyed me
and burst forth.

“Bessie, you are a fool! My God, that is no costume for a party! You
look more like a funeral than a big fashionable dance! Come here and let
me see that skirt. My God, it is really what I thought, black merino!
Plain and full! You cannot leave my house for a party dressed like
that!”

“Aunt,” I said, “If you say another word I will begin to cry and then my
costume will be lighted up with a red nose to please you.” This made her
laugh and I went on. “You have not looked at the exquisite lace on my
bodice. Mrs. Pringle said this was an ideal young girl’s waist.”

She looked, examined the lace, and relented. “Nannie, open that top
drawer to the left and get out that set of old Mexican silver. This
child must have something to relieve this stern effect.”

Nannie arrived with a box and Aunt took out and had me put on a pair of
broad silver bracelets like manacles of fish scales, a string of silver
beads round my neck which though not plump is called pretty, and in my
ears carved silver earrings about three inches long and weighing about a
ton apiece. Then Aunt surveyed me once more, gave me a little push and
said, “Now go, all this excitement has made me feel very ill. Do behave
yourself and don’t cry if you don’t get a partner.”

Thankfully I escaped and went down to Charley, who was tired waiting for
me. He was all admiration of my appearance, but Aunt had injected a new
and fearful thought to my mind. “Not get a partner,” what an awful
thought! I had always had my choice of partners, but now that I came to
think, I had been away from town all the years of the War. Papa and
Mamma had never allowed me to accept invitations to stay with my friends
who had remained in Charleston. It was said that society was too
informal and too gay for them to be willing for me to join it. Most of
the dear boy friends whom I used to dance with had been killed or
disabled, and I really was going into an unknown company. I suppose it
was well that Aunt’s words had made me realize this, for it might have
come with too great a shock without that. As we went in, Charley gave me
my only pair of well worn slippers which he had carried, and I went into
the dressing room and, taking off my walking boots, (an awful pair of
English shoes, miles too big for me and stuffed with cotton, which I had
worn for two years, we having been lucky to get them through the
blockade), put them on. Then I braced myself up and went upstairs with
Charley. Miss Annie Heyward received us and put me at my ease at once by
asking if I could play a galop, for none of the girls who could play had
arrived yet, and so she had to ask me etc., etc. I was delighted and
went with alacrity to the piano, which was arranged most considerately,
so that you faced the dancers, and you could enjoy watching them as you
played. This was my forte, dance music. In Plantersville they said I
could make any one dance, and it gave me almost as much pleasure as
dancing itself. Soon the floor was full of whirling couples, and I had a
chance to see how many of them I knew and how many I didn’t know. Alas,
the latter were vastly in the majority, but, I reflected with joy, when
ever I had no partner, _I could play_. So when Miss Heyward came to
relieve me I was in a gale of spirits, and C. came to claim a promised
dance; so I went through that, though with reluctance, for he was not as
good a dancer as he had been fighter. I got on _tant bien que mal_,
until glasses of water were handed round and people began to settle for
“the German.” This was unknown to me, and I watched the bringing in of
chairs and the happy couples placing themselves around the big room. Mr.
Joe Manigault, a great society man and exquisite dancer from “before the
War,” was to lead. Nearly all the chairs were filled and I was still at
the piano. Then I saw Mr. M. take one young man after another into the
piazza and walk them up and down, and I knew he was trying to induce
them to let him present them to me so that they could ask me for the
German. I could see them glance at me surreptitiously through the
window, while walking. One after another returned to the room, not
having yielded to Mr. M. At last, he found one who valiantly came
forward, was introduced and asked for the pleasure, and I accepted with
great alacrity, and never began to tease him about having ignominiously
allowed Mr. M. to choose his partner for him until the German was well
under way. And then I pointed to the row of “stags,” as they were called
who would not take partners, relying on being “taken out,” being all
good dancers. Then between times they could retire to the piazza and
smoke. He was bright and able to answer my ungracious attacks, so that I
got quite as good as I gave. Add to this that, as soon as any one danced
with me, being thrown together in the figures of the German, they always
wanted to dance with me again, and soon all the stags came up and were
introduced, eager to be “taken out” by me; but nay, nay, I let them
ornament the wall as far as I was concerned. And oh I had a glorious
time, Mr. M. himself selecting me very often to lead the figures with
him. He had to tell me just what to do, but I soon learned, and when it
was my turn to play he would not let me, but suggested to one sweet
quiet girl that played very well that she should take my turn, saying I
had played twice my share earlier in the evening. We broke up at 12
exactly, as all the men are working hard and must get their sleep. They
have formed a Cotillion Club and are going to give a dance once a month
and I have been asked by three men for the next German. My ears are so
sore from my adornments that I don’t think I will wear them again,
though they are beautiful. Aunt was delighted with my account of the
party, and laughed and chuckled over my first German partner, saying,
“Men are fools, and always will be.”



CHAPTER XXIX

MAMMA’S SCHOOL


_Dec. 1st, 1865._

Preparations for the school are going on apace. We have moved into our
house and it is too beautiful. I had forgotten how lovely it was.
Fortunately, the beautiful paper in the second floor, the two drawing
rooms and Mamma’s room, has not been at all injured. The school is to
open Jan. 1st and, strange to say, Mamma is receiving letters from all
over the State asking terms etc. I thought there would be no
applications, every one being so ruined by the War, but Mamma’s name and
personality make people anxious to give their daughters the benefit of
her influence; and, I suppose, the people in the cotton country are not
so completely ruined and without money as we rice planters of the low
country are. Be it as it may, the limit Mamma put of ten boarding pupils
is nearly reached already. My cousin, Marianna Porcher, will be the head
teacher of French and Literature; she is wonderfully clever; I will have
the younger girls, and I certainly will have my hands full, for there
are a great many applications for the entry of day-scholars of the
younger set. Mamma will teach all the classes of History, for which she
is admirably fitted. Prof. Gibbes from the Charleston College will teach
Mathematics and Latin to the advanced scholars; but I want Mlle. Le
Prince, who is a first class French teacher, engaged to live in the
house as well as teach. There is no way of learning French equal to
speaking it. But Mamma very truly says we must go slowly, and be sure we
are making, before we expand. I am frightened to death. I know girls and
have been to Boarding School and Mamma’s plan of no rules except those
of an ordinary well-ordered, well-conducted home, seems to me perfectly
impracticable; but, having once said that, I do not dare argue the
matter. I am amazed to see how clever Mamma is. She wanted to send C. to
College in Virginia, his constitution has been much injured by the heavy
marching and privation endured in the Army at 16. Carrying that heavy
knapsack on those killing, long marches without food has given him a
stoop and a weary look in his beautiful hazel eyes; but it was
impossible for her to borrow the $200.00 necessary to send him. She
thought the change of climate from this relaxing low country air would
do him good, and enable him to build up; but, as she could not get the
money, she has placed him at the Charleston College, and I am truly
thankful to have him at home. Only, restless, Cassandra-like, I see a
problem ahead; he is so very good-looking!

_March 21st, 1866._ Here we are, almost at the end of our first three
months of school, and it has been and is a grand success! I have not had
time to write a line here because every second of my time is occupied,
and oh, I am so happy! In the first place, I find I can teach! And I
love it! I have a class of thirteen girls ranging from twelve to
fifteen, and, if you please, I teach them everything! except history
which Mamma teaches. They are most of them very bright, delightful
girls, and mind my least word, even look. Only once have I had any
trouble. I kept a girl in for an hour after school because she had not
pretended to study her lesson that day, and the next day I had a note
from her Mother to say that she was shocked at her daughter being
singled out for punishment, and requesting that it should not happen
again. I returned a note saying that I also requested earnestly that it
should not happen again, that M. come to her class without having
studied her lesson; should it happen a second time, the punishment would
have to be much more severe. I had no reply to that, but M., who is very
bright tho’ very spoiled, thought wisest to study in future. A Mother,
who had taught in her youth and who knew of this passage at arms, wrote
me a note of sympathy, saying, “A teacher must be prepared to swallow
buckets full of adders.” This was so very strong and so beyond my
experience, that I did not answer it, and thus far I can truly say I
have not swallowed a single mosquito even.

I have a little time today and I want to put down what I do every day, I
really have not added it up even in my mind. First of all, I trim and
fill all the lamps, twenty in all, for we have no light but kerosene in
the house; the fixtures are all there, but gas is so expensive; then I
practise a half hour before going into school at nine; school lasts
until two; there is no general recess, each class going into the garden
for their recess at a different time; then I give one or two music
lessons every day, that takes more out of me than anything. Once a week,
Mr. Hambruch gives me a lesson, from pure goodness and love of music;
for, of course, I could not afford it. He taught me for years when I was
young, and when he offered to give me a spare hour he had, I was too
glad. Yesterday I went to him almost crying, and told him how badly I
felt at taking money for girls who were not learning any thing. He
laughed and answered, “Oh, Miss A., you must not mind that. We music
teachers, if we only taught the ones that learn, we would starve.”

That was a great surprise and consolation to me, for he is the very best
music teacher in Charleston, and I was so proud of his saying, “We music
teachers.” Of course I only charge a quarter of what he charges for
lessons and people have so little money that I have a good many pupils,
as Mr. H. was so good as to give me a certificate as to my capacity to
teach. I make every stitch of clothing that I wear, and that takes up
every spare moment; add to all this that I go into society, and enjoy
myself fiercely.

We have ten delightful girls as boarding pupils, from all over the
State. They are preternaturally well behaved, and Mamma’s plan of its
being really a home, with no rules, is succeeding perfectly. My dear,
pretty little sister is a kind of lead horse in the team, and as she
walks straight the rest follow. But they really are exceptionally nice
ladylike girls who treat Mamma like a queen.

C. is the greatest help to Mamma, and, so far, has kept his eyes to
himself. He is a wonder. He does all the marketing on his way to
College! And that is no small thing. Beef is 50 c. a pound and mutton in
proportion. C. sits at the foot of the table and carves and helps one
dish of meat while Mamma carves the other. He is as solemn and well
behaved as a judge, and though the girls adore him, it is in secret, so
all goes well.

The “Young Ladies,” contrary to all my ideas, are allowed to receive
visitors Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, when J. and I also have
visitors, and Mamma sits in the room, sometimes talking with us,
sometimes reading; but the evenings are very gay and pleasant, and, I am
forced to admit, have no demoralizing effect. On the contrary, their
manners and deportment have visibly improved.

Mamma looks perfectly lovely, as she sits reading in her plain black
frock and widow’s cap. She is a little over fifty, but her hair is brown
and curly and her complexion as smooth and unwrinkled as a girl’s, only
she is very white and seldom has a colour, as she used to do. She is a
great reader and one of my friends, who has a good library and also
reviews the new books, and so gets them, brings her some book of great
interest every time he comes to make me a visit, and they talk a great
deal together. Sometimes I get quite jealous, for I do not read deep
books. I mean I would not care to if I had time. I never have time to
read at all.

       *       *       *       *       *

I must explain here how the great and unexpected pleasure of going into
society came to me. I had quite given up all hope of that joy, for once
when I asked mamma about my going out sometimes, she seemed quite
shocked, as though it were an absolute impossibility, so I never said
anything more about it. But after the school was well started, the son
of my father’s friend, Nicholas Williams (the same whose family had been
so wonderfully good and generous to us, lending us Crowley Hill as a
home for the whole war, and lavishing the products of their farm and
garden upon us), brought his two beautiful daughters, one barely
fifteen, the other seventeen; and Mrs. Williams asked my mother to
receive them for French, literature, and history only, and expressed the
wish that they should go into society, as much as practicable, as their
time would not be fully occupied by their studies. My mother consented,
and these delightful girls came, Serena a queenly brunette and Mary a
madonna-faced blonde, but it was not wise to trust too much to that
demure expression. When the first invitations came to a ball for us all,
mamma came to me and said: “Bessie, you will have to go and chaperon the
girls, for after the work of the day I am quite unequal to going out and
sitting up half the night.”

I tried not to show my delight too plainly, but answered quietly, that I
would do my best in the new rôle of chaperon. We went to the ball, and I
was very proud of my beauties, and their lovely clothes. The acting
chaperon was very small, very thin, and dressed in a frock she had made
herself in between times, a little over twenty, and nobody thought that
she would be able to manage the responsibilities, for the girls were
great belles from the first moment, but there never was the least
difficulty or friction; they were well-bred, well-trained girls,
accustomed to recognize and yield to authority; which was for the moment
represented in the person of their very small, very plain chaperon. I
soon grew very fond of them. They called me “Miss Allston” most
carefully. Altogether the going into society with them was just the last
thing necessary to fill my cup of happiness to the brim. My every
faculty was in full use, and the going out and dancing, instead of
being a fatigue, took away all sense of fatigue; I myself have no doubt
but that rhythmic motion to music is one of the most restful things in
the world. I feel quite sure that in the end this will be recognized by
the medical profession as the best cure for nervous diseases.



CHAPTER XXX

THE SCHOOL A SUCCESS


_Charleston, January, 1867._

We are now well on in the second year of the school, and it is no longer
an experiment but a great success. Mamma’s methods and judgment have
been fully justified. The “young Ladies” have behaved entirely like
young ladies, and never done any of the things I feared. I have the
delight of having Mlle. Le Prince established in the house, and French
the language of the school, in a modified way, that is, there are no
punishments for speaking English, but if a girl is really in earnest
about learning, she speaks French, and if she is not it does not matter.
I am getting to delight in teaching, and my little class learns
amazingly.

_April, ’67._ I have had a grand winter; Mary and Serena came for a long
visit and went out during the season. They had the most beautiful Paris
ball-dresses. It is impossible to describe the effect produced by these
beautiful women in their beautiful costumes.

Every one was nicely dressed, for all the girls and their mothers had
become expert dressmakers, with few exceptions. But the frocks were
generally of the simplest muslins, sweet and fresh, but not such as
would be worn in the great world to a full-dress ball; and when these
creations, which would have been thought brilliant in any ballroom burst
upon us, we were filled with admiration and wonder.

I had risen to the dignity of two silk dresses this year, and felt very
grand before the appearance of the Paris toilets. At the beginning of
the war, mamma had packed all of Della’s and her best clothes, for which
she knew they would have no use while refugees, in two large trunks, and
they had been sent up the Pee Dee River to Morven in a flat with a load
of rice. The flat had struck a snag and sunk, and the trunks had
remained under water a long time, so that almost everything was ruined,
but in looking over the mass of mildewed stuffs, I found two dresses of
mamma’s, which I asked her to give me, as I thought I could make
something of them. One was a very heavy thick black silk, with stripes
of satin about two inches wide, every two inches apart, the stripes
running across, or bayadere, as it was called then. But this was no
longer the fashion; so I ripped up the very ample full skirt, and after
washing it three times to get off the stains of the muddy river water in
which it had lain so long, I sewed the breadths together, matching the
stripes so exactly that no one could imagine that it had been done. Then
I cut the most beautiful long skirt by a Paris pattern, gored like an
umbrella at the top, and flaring out into the most wonderful long train,
which was stiffened with buckram, so that as you danced it slid along
the waxed floor, even when your partner backed you all over the room;
then the low-necked waist, which did fit beautifully, was trimmed with
thread lace, and was sewed to the skirt. I thought the effect was regal.
The other was a very heavy purple satin brocaded so as to make the
effect of a purple satin covered with black lace. This was harder to
wash and cleanse than the black, but I worked at it in the holidays, and
ended by succeeding in making it too a thing of beauty, and felt that I
was provided with apparel suitable to my character as chaperon.

My friends were more beautiful than ever this season. I had become
perfectly devoted to Serena, and she had showed that she returned the
feeling, for in sending to Paris for their season’s toilets she had
sent for six beautifully fine pocket-handkerchiefs for me, with my
monogram most elaborately embroidered on them, the finest, most
beautiful handkerchiefs I have had in my long life, I have one still
just as a memento of her affection; beauty, spoiled and adored by men as
she was, she had to divert some of the cotton money sent to Paris from
her own finery to give me this delight.

They were not at school this year, and I found it much harder to
maintain my authority and dignity with them. Serena was terribly strong,
and one day when she wanted to do something to which I would not
consent, she came into my room, to make a last appeal to me; I was only
half dressed, and she picked me up and threw me up in the air, and as
she caught me, said: “Now will you let me?” I panted out: “Now less than
ever.” She threw me up once more and left the room. There was a tale of
her wishing to get her father’s consent to some plan, and holding him
over the banister of the second-story piazza, saying she would drop him
unless he yielded to her will; of course she did not get her wish. She
was a grand woman, and no wonder she counted her victims by scores.

I wish I had time to tell of my many friends; they were all such nice
men, who had fought through the war, and now were not ashamed to
take any kind of honest work to enable them to help their mothers
and sisters. There were literally butchers and bakers, and
candlestick-makers, but all thorough, true gentlemen, and most of them
beautiful dancers. The only public balls we had that year were the three
balls given by the Cotillion Club. They were in the South Carolina Hall,
with a fine waxed floor and good band of music, but very mild
refreshments.

The private parties were too delightful; the young men of the family
giving the party always waxed the floor, and they became experts in
doing it, and that was really the sole thing absolutely necessary to the
success of a party. We were sure of good music, for there were four or
five girls going into society that played delightfully for dancing. The
refreshments generally consisted of rolls, handed in dishes of exquisite
china, and water in very dainty glasses. At one or two houses we had the
rare treat of coffee, but that did not often happen, and when the rolls
appeared just before the German, they were very welcome, and greatly
enjoyed, for we were all working hard, and living none too high. In the
winter the only recreation, except the dancing, was walking on the
Battery in the afternoon. We made engagements for this, just as we did
for a German, generally with girl friends, for the men at work did not
get off for the afternoons. A run on the Battery in the early dusk, or
just at sunset, after a hard day’s teaching was something heavenly, and
when you had a friend near enough to enjoy silence nothing could be more
perfect. Before the war my father never let us walk on the Battery on
Sunday afternoon, for he said it was only fair for the darkies to have
it that evening, and after the war no one walked there that afternoon,
for it was thronged with negroes. The regular promenade for us that
afternoon after church, for every one went to church morning and
afternoon in those days, was down a very narrow, rough pavement to the
west end of Tradd Street, to what was then Chisolm’s Mill, beyond all
the houses, where the street was simply a roadway, with the marsh
behind, and the broad salt river in front. Along the road piles of logs
and lumber had been dumped here and there. To this spot the élite of
Charleston wended their way, lads and lasses, two and two, and sat on
the logs in place of benches, and watched the sun slowly sink into the
gorgeous clouds, which swallowed it up all too quickly, proclaiming the
end of our happy day of REST. Many a momentous conversation was murmured
on those logs, with the strong, pungent smell of the marshes borne to us
by the brisk, fresh breezes. Many a life contract was sealed there.
Somehow it was easier to speak freely in those surroundings, all telling
of work and toil, no beauty but God’s great lavish glory of sun and
clouds and river and sky. What mattered money and income and fashion?
Surely to love God and work and do your duty to the best of your
ability, holding the strong, firm hand of the woman you loved, was to
make the best of your life, and would insure a blessing upon it.

No one will ever know how many troths were plighted there, nor how many
lives, starting out with that simple, childlike faith, in the saving
power of love and duty (that word so greatly scorned now), were
justified in their confidence, and were noble and happy, and have
brought up families of whom they may well be proud. I can never forget
the shock of my first proposal, which took place down there. I had
worked so hard before I left the country to prevent the asking of that
question, and had succeeded so well, knowing all the time in my secret
heart that I had done so because I doubted my power to say no with
sufficient firmness if the fateful words were spoken, had put all such
thoughts out of my mind entirely; I went out as a chaperon, enjoying
myself as a married woman would do; I knew there was only one man in the
world that I would ever marry, and not quite sure that I could even
marry him, but I forgot that other people did not know that. I had a
great deal of attention and a great many friends, but never thought of
them as possible lovers; so when one evening, sitting on a pile of
squared logs which were far from comfortable, watching the tide come in,
with the most glorious sunset clouds reflected in the water, and we had
stopped talking for some time, and my thoughts were far away, Mr. Blank
asked me to marry him, I just gasped with horror and exclaimed: “Oh, how
awful! How could you spoil all our delightful friendship in this way! I
am so distressed!” But he said: “Miss Bessie, this is very extraordinary
conduct on your part! What did you think that I was coming to see you
all the time for, and playing chess regularly once a week for, and
following you about all the time at the parties, and doing everything in
the world I could for you for? I have never cared for any one else, and
I never thought you could fail to understand my devotion.”

“Oh,” I repeated, “it is too awful! You know, your dear sister was my
best friend, and I liked you because of that, and I thought that was
what made you like me, and I liked to be with you because you looked
like her and reminded me of her; I have missed her so ever since she
died. But now I see how blind and selfish I have been.” We had an awful
walk home and parted at the steps, and he never came to see me again.

As the days passed and he did not come to see me, mademoiselle, who had
become devoted to me and watched my visitors with intense interest, said
to me: “Où est donc ce bon M. Blanc? Il ne vient plus! J’espère que vous
ne l’avez pas renvoyé! Il était si bel homme, et si gentil! Je ne pense
pas que vous ayez la chance d’attirer un si bon parti encore!”

This experience was a blow, and destroyed my confidence in and enjoyment
of my friends; my eyes had been opened, and I was more careful in
accepting men’s friendship as if they were girls. Nearly all the men in
town fell victims to my beautiful friends, and when they left to go to
their new home in Virginia things were very flat, and the men very
gloomy. My diary is at an end and I am very hazy and uncertain about
dates. When we went this summer for the holidays up to my brother, at
the log house in Plantersville, we took Mlle. le Prince with us, as she
had nowhere to go, and I devoted a good deal of my time to studying
French with her. We read “Les Travailleurs de la Mer,” and I remember
very distinctly her disgust and disappointment; she would exclaim:
“Appeler cela un roman! Où est donc l’amour?” Never having had any
love-affair of her own, she was unwilling to read any book which did not
supply her craving for love-stories, and she saw no beauty in Victor
Hugo’s masterpiece.

I cannot be sure, but I think it was this winter that General Sickles
was put in command of Charleston. He took a big house in Charlotte
Street, and soon after he got established there he brought his little
daughter to mamma and asked to enter her at the school as a day-scholar,
and mamma accepted her pleasantly as such. But it made quite a
commotion; the feeling of many in the community was that mamma should
have refused to take her. Those who were so bold as to speak to her on
the subject were careful not to repeat their indiscretion. One lady,
however, was bold enough to say that she did not desire such association
for her daughter, and my mother told her then she had best remove her
daughter from school, which she did. There never was a more pathetic
little figure than that of the new scholar; very pale, very thin and
tall, about ten she looked, and dressed in the deepest, plainest black,
with none of the natural gaiety of a child; it was said she had just
lost her mother, but there was no way of getting behind the wall of
childish reserve which this young spirit had been able to build around
her inner being. My mother taught her altogether herself, for she did
not fit into any of the classes, and mamma was deeply interested in her.

The last year we were in Charleston the St. Cecilia Society began to
revive, and determined to give two balls. This was a great event, and
every one began to think about a ball dress. I, being like the immortal
Mrs. Gilpin, who, “though on pleasure bent, had a frugal mind,” had
bought a good piece of white alpaca, and constructed a frock of that,
trimmed with handsome scarlet silk-velvet ribbon, which had trimmed an
opera-cloak of my sister’s, made in Paris, which had gone down in the
river with the other fine clothes. It was a miracle that the velvet
survived the ordeal, and was still beautiful after being steamed, and I
was delighted with my frock when it was finished. Mamma had not ever
seemed to think about my clothes, but the idea of a St. Cecilia Ball
roused her to ask: “Bessie, have you a suitable dress for the
approaching ball?”

“Yes, mamma, I have a very nice frock.”

“What is it?”

“A white alpaca trimmed with red velvet, and I have covered my slippers
with red velvet to match.”

Mamma exclaimed in horror: “An alpaca dress for a St. Cecilia Ball!
Impossible! I cannot consent to your going so unsuitably dressed.”

Then I burst out most improperly: “It is too late now to say that. I
have spent my hard-earned money for the frock, and it is finished. I got
it because it would last better than a muslin, and when it gets dirty I
can have it dyed for a day frock. You used to take great interest in
Della’s clothes and choose them all, because she was pretty, but as I am
ugly you have never cared what I put on.”

Poor mamma was terribly shocked, and said so; then she said: “I
certainly will see that you have a proper outfit for this occasion.”

True to her word, she went out, bought and had made by Mrs. Cummings,
the best dressmaker in town, a real ball dress. White tulle over white
silk, and trimmed with wreaths of little fine white flowers. When I went
to try it on I could scarcely believe my eyes, and found it hard to
sleep that night for thinking of it. Mrs. Cummings promised to have it
sent by seven o’clock Thursday, the night of the ball. I waited and
looked anxiously; eight came, no dress, and finally at nine I sent the
others off to the ball and went to bed. I felt I had been well punished
for my wicked outburst of temper; but perhaps few can understand how I
suffered, for few, I think, have the intense love of pleasure which I
had in my youth. I could, and did, throw myself, heart and soul into my
work, whatever it was, but I threw myself with equal vehemence into my
play when the work was over. In two weeks’ time came the next St.
Cecilia, and I went and wore my beautiful ball dress, but I had a very
chastened feeling all the evening. The frock was a dream, quite short,
with little pleatings of tulle, from the waist to the bottom; the waist
fitted perfectly, and mamma had fulfilled her promise of an outfit, for
she had bought white kid slippers (one and a half was then my number)
and a pair of white kid gloves, something I had never even dreamed of;
so for once I was properly attired according to the ideas of the great
world, and mamma was very pleased when I went to show myself to her
before going. We still walked to all entertainments in our boots, our
slippers, carefully wrapped up, being intrusted to our escort, who
received them with a kind of reverence mingled with joy, at having
committed to his care a part of one’s vital belongings. This was only
for real balls, however; at the little informal dances which we had very
often, we danced in our walking shoes, always waxing the soles
thoroughly before going into the dancing-room. This important service
was also rendered by one’s escort, and was regarded almost in the light
of an accolade. In the rather laborious life that I led, never any fire
in my bedroom, never any hot water, I suffered terribly from chilblains,
and my hands and feet were often greatly swollen, so that I could not
get on my shoes; then, instead of staying away, I asked mamma if she
would lend me her best shoes. This was mamma’s only extravagance; she
was a very tall woman with beautiful hands and feet, long and narrow,
and common shoes did not fit her at all, so she had her boots made to
order, at what to us seemed an enormous price; she wore fives, much too
long for her, as she liked them that way, but fitting perfectly in
every other way. I could see that it was a supreme sacrifice on her part
to lend me those, her most precious possession, but she consented, and I
went off to a dance at the Dessaussure’s, arrayed in my black silk and
mamma’s shoes, and enjoyed my comfortable feet immensely; I had stuffed
the toes with cotton, as it was only in the length they were too big,
and when people stepped on my foot, as was often the case that first
evening that I wore them, as I had not got accustomed to managing feet
so much longer than usual, they would apologize humbly and hope they had
not hurt me too badly, I always answered: “You have not hurt me at all;
that was only my shoe you stepped on, not my foot”--to their great
amusement. One day a man said: “I was asked a conundrum that is going
the rounds last night: what young lady has the biggest shoe and the
smallest foot in town?” All this is very trivial and very silly, but as
I make the effort to recall the past, all these foolish details come,
and I just put them down.



CHAPTER XXXI

1868


This was a very happy year to me and to mamma. My little sister made her
début, and she was so pretty and so charming that she was greatly
admired and had a great many adorers. This added immensely to my
pleasure in going out, and I think it was a great relief to mamma to
have another very pretty daughter to be proud of. Two or three of the
older girls were allowed to go to parties, too, and they were a charming
lot, abounding in youth and joy. I cannot remember all, but some I was
especially fond of come to me: Rosa Evans, a tiny little thing, as
bright as a steel trap, with very fair skin and brown hair almost
touching the floor, and so thick that it was hard for her to dispose of
it on her small head; she had many serious admirers; she came from
Society Hill, where every one had been so good to us during the war;
Sophie Bonham, a charmingly pretty brunette, as quiet as a mouse, but
none the less having many admirers, Charley and herself being great
friends, he having by a miracle escaped without a broken heart from the
all-conquering Serena; then came Maggie Jordan, who though not nearly so
handsome, looked very like her sister Victoria, who had been one of the
beauties of madame’s school when I was a little girl, and who was blown
up on a steamer on the Mississippi when on her wedding-trip. I can
remember the faces and individualities of others, but their names are
too vague to attempt to record them. All this time I was too happy and
too busy sometimes to be able to sleep! It was the greatest joy to me to
have Jinty going out with me, and to see her so much admired; she had
many charming steadies, and then we had some friends in common; I
remember at this moment one man, older than the majority of our friends,
Bayard Clinch, such a delightful man; he was her admirer but my friend.
Altogether we had a very gay time. My own special friend was working so
hard on the rice-plantation in the country that he did not very often
get to town, and then, though I always knew when I entered a ballroom if
he was there, without seeing him, by a queer little feeling, I always
treated him with great coolness and never gave him more than one dance
in an evening, for there were two kind of people I could not bear to
dance with--the people whom I disliked and those I liked too much, and
he was the only one in the second class. Besides, he had learned to
dance in Germany, and had practised it at Heidelberg, and shot about the
floor in an extraordinary manner, which endangered the equilibrium of
the quiet couples, and that made me furious.

Charley was a beautiful dancer, and very popular, and I am afraid
something of a flirt, with his great, sleepy, hazel eyes, but he was
most sedate as an escort, as solemn as a judge, and the girls minded his
injunctions absolutely in all social matters, which was a great mercy,
for the etiquette in their home towns was by no means as strict as that
dictated by St. Cecilia standards.

Before the school term was over this spring I received an invitation
from Mrs. David Williams, to spend two months with Serena and Mary at
their farm near Staunton, Virginia, which I accepted with delight, and
began the preparation at once for my summer outfit, which would have to
be a little more elaborate than what I prepared for a summer at
Plantersville. When the time came for leaving, my uncle Chancellor
Lesesne took me to the station and put me on the train. He gave me many
directions as to my conduct on the journey, as it was looked upon as a
very hazardous departure from custom for me to make the journey alone;
among other charges that he gave he said: “My dear niece, let nothing
induce you to let a young man speak to you! It would be most improper to
enter into conversation with any man, but the natural questions which
you might have to ask of an official of the road, whom you will
recognize by his uniform.” Then he bade me an affectionate and solemn
farewell, which started me with a lump in my throat. The end of the
eight months of teaching, not to speak of my other activities, always
found me in a shattered condition. Toward the end of the last month the
dropping of a slate startled me into disgraceful tears, which were
almost impossible to stop. I used to be quite touched at the great care
the girls took not to drop a book or even a pencil, and those who had
annoyed me the most by their recklessness in this respect were the most
careful now; this was wonderful, for I was awfully cross and irritable.
After settling myself in my place, and getting out my book and fan and
everything else I could possibly need, Uncle Henry’s words came to my
mind with renewed force. I had insisted that I was not at all afraid,
and would rather travel alone than waste two weeks of my good holiday
and invitation, waiting until a party was going on to Virginia, who said
they would take charge of me. But Uncle Henry had succeeded in making me
feel that I was courting danger, disaster, and insult, and my strained
nerves were delighted to seize and elaborate that theme, so that when we
got to the place where I had to change cars for Staunton (I am not sure,
but I think it was Alexandria), I got out and stood by my trunk (which
had to be rechecked here) in perfect despair; a very nice-looking,
gentlemanly young man came up and said: “Can I do anything for you?”
With the last remnants of composure, I said, “No, thank you,” and
watched him with dismay disappear into the car. At last the conductor
came and stood a second at the door of the car and called: “All ’board!”
I made a dart to the car, saying to myself, “Let the trunk go; I don’t
care,” and got up the steps and into the car, to find not a seat, so I
stood in the middle of the crowded car, with my heavy blue veil down to
conceal the marks of agitation on my face, and my valise in my hand.
Fortunately, the conductor rushed through, and I managed to say: “My
trunk is out there.” In his great haste he looked where I pointed,
rushed to the baggage-car and sent two men, who ran, seized the trunk,
and pitched it aboard just as the train started. The conductor came back
and asked me why under the sun I had not spoken to him before, “that it
was a very near thing, and that if the trunk had been left there, in all
probability it would never have been seen again, as things were pretty
unsettled in these parts.” I was in no condition to enter into
conversation; my throat ached so that when I tried to tell the man that
I had not spoken to him because I had not seen him, he had trouble in
understanding me. The rest of my journey was short, fortunately, and my
hearty reception restored my equanimity, but it was some time before I
had recovered my voice and spirits enough to be able to narrate all my
experiences, to the great amusement of the party. I tell all this
because it is hard to believe that such a state of things could have
ever been possible, when we see the ease and aplomb with which very
young girls move about the world, from end to end literally. But that
was fifty-three years ago, and surely there is no one who would not say
that we have made a wonderful advance in sense.

The home life of this family always remains in my mind as a beautiful
picture, each member doing his or her own part as perfectly as it could
be done. Mr. Williams had shown his foresight and common sense in an
uncommon way, for during the war, when it was by no means necessary, as
they were wealthy, he had insisted that his daughters (who were
attending a school kept by the De Choiseul family and were having a
first-class education) should be taught to cook and to wash, for he said
that to him it seemed likely that they would have much more use for
these domestic arts than for the more ornamental branches; the
combination had been altogether charming. Finding his property all gone,
making it impossible to spend his winters in Florida and the summers in
the mountains at their beautiful place at Flat Rock, he determined to
sell both these delightful homes, not being willing for his family to
live altogether in the enervating climate of Florida, and there was no
chance of making a living at Flat Rock. So he sold them and bought a
farm in Virginia, where they could spend winter and summer in a fine
climate, and where he could cultivate the land and make a living. It had
been almost impossible to bring on their handsome furniture, and it
would have been most unsuitable to this farmhouse, so he had a workshop
in which he manufactured the most delightful rustic chairs and couches
and dressing-tables, which with pretty chintz cushions and curtains made
the interior fascinating and unique. I would like to run on and give a
full description of my perfect visit; but I must hasten to a close; only
one little thing I must tell. Soon after I arrived we were invited to a
dance. As I was sitting up in my room, reading, as I always did in the
morning while the girls went to do their respective duties in the
household--for they would not let me help in the smallest way, saying I
was there for rest and must have it, and after a short struggle I gave
in completely--Serena came in and asked what I was going to wear to the
dance that night; I answered, my barège frock. “Oh, no, wear your white
muslin, please.” I answered truly that it was not fresh enough, as I had
worn it constantly before leaving home and had not had time to have it
done up. Nothing would content her until I took it out for her to look
at; then, to my surprise, she said: “Why, that is quite fresh enough; I
will take it down for Mollie to smooth, and it will do nicely.” Of
course I yielded, as I always did to Serena in the end, but I wondered
over it, for the dress was really dirty. In the afternoon, when I came
up to get ready, there was my frock spread out on the bed, beautifully
done up! I flew down to the kitchen to thank Mollie, but she said: “You
needn’t to thank me, ma’am; shure an’ ’twas Miss Serena as don it; she
washed it, an’ she starched it, and she i’oned it, an’ her just drippin’
with the sweat.” I was overcome; to think of this beauty and belle,
adored and spoiled by so many, doing this in order that her work-weary,
plain little friend should look her best, for the barège was a pretty,
nice new frock, but she did not think as becoming. I think such
friendship is rare. I was to go to Baltimore for a short visit when I
left the farm, and it was decided that I needed another frock; after
discussing the important matter thoroughly Mrs. Williams said she
thought a black silk was what I should have; I quailed at the expense of
such a thing, but she said: “Bessie, you send and buy the silk and I
will make it up.” So I sent and got ten yards of beautiful black silk,
and my wonderful hostess cut, fitted, and made a most stylish
walking-suit, the very joy of my heart. Of course, I helped with the
sewing, but I could never have undertaken so handsome a costume alone. I
left my dear friends with tears; it was leaving peace and joy and love
behind.



CHAPTER XXXII

CHICORA WOOD


_March, 1869._

I am holding on to every moment of my full happy life, for this is to be
our last year in Charleston. Mamma has applied for her dower, and when
it is assigned her, we will move into the country, as Charlie is to
graduate this spring at the college, and Jinty’s education is complete,
and Mamma prefers the country where Charlie can make a living by
planting rice. Every one is happy over it but me; I cannot bear the
thought of giving up my full life; but I try not to think about it until
it comes, but to enjoy the present without alloy. Anyway we would have
to give up this beautiful house for the creditors of the estate want to
sell it.

I have so many delightful friends; one specially who has actually taught
me to love poetry, by his persistence in reading it to me. I do believe
I have always liked it in my heart, for among my most cherished books
from the time I was fourteen are Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales given me by
my first hero Cousin Johnston Pettigrew, and a little fat leather-bound
copy of Homer’s Iliad, I never moved without these two. Then I liked
Evangeline, and Hiawatha, but I never could get up any enthusiasm for
The Lady of the Lake, so I had got into the habit of saying with a
certain pride that I did not like poetry.

_April._ Every Friday evening Mr. Sass comes and we read Italian
together, which is delightful. I have studied a little alone, and when I
was about thirteen, to every one’s great amusement, I used to take an
hour’s lesson in the afternoon, once a week, from M. Pose. I have always
loved languages and Italian is especially beautiful, and in singing it
is such a help to know it. Now we are reading Goldoni’s plays, and the
Italian is so simple, it is very easy to read, very different from the
Jerusalem, which we read first. My mind is so eager for knowledge, it is
positively uncanny, it springs forward so to meet things, I fear me it
is more than usually true of me that “Knowledge comes but wisdom
lingers.”

I need ballast so much, if I had only had a man’s education. A good
course of mathematics under a severe master would help me greatly, and I
need help.

The only form of amusement that the young men could afford was boating,
and soon after we began the school, Charlie sent to the plantation and
got Brother to send down to him one of the rowboats. Rainbow, the pride
of the plantation, had been lent to the Confederate Government, for use
on the fortifications and we never got her back, but Brother sent the
next best and it was a fine rowboat. Charlie named it the Countess, and
he and his friends had great pleasure in her; Tom Frost, Arthur Mazyck,
William Jervey, James Lesesne and himself were the crew, and they
invited their girl friends to the most delightful moonlight rows. They
went on long fishing trips on Saturdays and all their holidays, coming
back happy but their faces pealing from sunburn. The exercise kept them
in good health and spirits.

_May, 1869._ Things are moving on rapidly. When Mamma applied for her
dower, she said she would take a sixth of the real estate in fee simple,
instead of a third for life only; she has received information that the
creditors appointed a board of Appraisers, to value the property and
decide, and after careful valuation they have decided that the
plantation, Chicora Wood, where she has always lived will constitute a
sixth of the land in value, and have awarded her that. It is too
delightful! and she is so happy, and we are all so happy, for the idea
of giving up Chicora was dreadful, and we feared they would think it too
valuable for a sixth. It has all to be repaired as the house is all torn
to pieces, but Mamma has been so wonderful that she has invested more
than a thousand dollars every year of the school, and she has begged
Brother to engage carpenters and begin the restoration of the house and
out-buildings at once, so that it will be ready for us next winter. I
only wish my heart was not so heavy about going.

The packing up of all our belongings was a tremendous business, but in
this as in everything else Charley was most efficient, and he did it
with a good heart, as it was the greatest happiness to him that we were
moving back to Chicora, and that he was going to plant the place. Jinty
was also perfectly happy, the thought of being able to live on horseback
once more filled her with joy. I, only, was downhearted; to me human
nature had become more interesting than plain nature, and people more
fascinating than plants. So I determined to apply for a place as
music-teacher in the town of Union, S. C., which had been held by a very
charming friend of mine who played beautifully, Caro Ravenel. The family
did not approve of my doing this as mamma thought I needed rest;
anyway, we were to go to the pineland for the summer and I would not
have to leave for Union until the autumn.

I remember well the last Sunday we were to be in Charleston; during the
service I was so moved that I had to put down my heavy veil to conceal
my tears!

Just at this time a most wonderful thing happened: mamma got a letter
from our cousin, John Earl Allston, of Brooklyn, N. Y., saying:

    “MY DEAR COUSIN:

     “I have placed to your credit in the Bank of Charleston the sum of
     $5,000, which I hope will be useful to you.

     “You need feel no sense of obligation in receiving it, for it is
     not one-half of what my Cousin Robert, your husband, did for me and
     mine in the past. When my mother’s house was to be sold over her
     head, he bought it in and gave it to her, and many other things he
     did for us, and it is a great pleasure to me to be able to do this
     for his widow and family.”

Of course, this was as great a blessing as it was a surprise. It so
happened that my mother had, in looking over some old papers recently,
come upon a letter to my father, with a memorandum on the back in papa’s
handwriting: “Application from John E. Allston, for an increase in the
amount of allowance made to his brother Washington, as his health is
much worse, and the expenses heavier; have directed that it be in future
$500, instead of $300, as heretofore.” But she knew nothing about the
purchase of the home.

It was too wonderful that this great good luck and mercy should come to
us just at this moment, when it would enable mamma to buy things
necessary to the beginning of the planting; for she not only had to
repair the house at Chicora, but she would have to buy in her own horses
and cows and oxen (which last are absolutely necessary to ploughing the
rice-lands, as their cloven hoofs do not sink in the boggy land, in
which a horse would go down hopelessly); also ploughs and harrows and
wagons and carriages, all had to be paid for; so dear, unknown Cousin
John had chosen the psychic moment to appear as _deus ex machina_.

Afterward Cousin John visited mamma at Chicora Wood, and we came to know
and love him. He told with the most beautiful simplicity of the long and
terrible struggle he had to make a living; like many an Allston he
lacked entirely the commercial instinct, and it was much easier for him
to spend money than to make it; but he had managed to have a home in
Brooklyn, and support his wife and one daughter in very moderate
comfort, until this adored only child reached the age of sixteen; then
she grew pale and thin, without life, or spirit, or appetite, and terror
seized the parents; the doctor called in said: “She must travel; this
city air is killing her. Take her away at once to the mountains, and you
may save her.” He had prescribed what to him seemed simple, but to the
distracted father, who was straining every nerve just to provide daily
food, it was utterly out of reach!

John Earl Allston had a very rich uncle, his mother’s brother, but once
in the past, being in distress for money, he had written to ask a loan
from him, not a large sum, and promising to pay by a certain date, when
his income should come next. He not only did not receive the loan, but
the refusal was almost insulting, to the effect that he, the uncle, had
worked for his money, and he strongly advised his nephew to do the same,
and not try to borrow. So Cousin John knew there was no use to apply to
him again, and there was no one else; the war was going on, and so my
father was not accessible, and he had just to watch his darling fade
away and die. Then his wife was so agonized over the misery of seeing
death creep nearer and nearer and finally take her lovely child, that
her health gave way. The doctor when called made the same prescription:
“The only way to save her is to give her change of air and scene.” As
before, this was impossible, and she soon was laid beside her child.
About a year after Cousin John was left desolate and alone, the uncle
died, and he was notified that he had inherited a fortune! It was most
terrible to him. All that money, one hundredth part of which could have
saved his beloved wife and daughter, to spend on himself alone!

It was truly dust and ashes, and intensified his sorrow. Then, when he
found himself getting bitter and unlike himself, he called a halt.
“Cousin,” he said, “I made up my mind to spend my time in giving away my
money while I was alive, and have at least the enjoyment of making
people happy by a little timely present, and you don’t know how their
letters have helped me, for I find so many to whom a few thousand
dollars are as great a boon and relief as a few hundred would have been
to me in my poverty. I did not know how much happiness I was going to
get out of it.”

I think this is a good place to stop, for all of us were happy in the
thought that my dear mother’s laborious life as the head of a large
school was to end so happily, and that she would be able to rest and
have time for the reading she so loved, and return to the country life
which had become second nature to her, though conditions were so greatly
changed, and she would certainly not have to complain of too many
servants. I hope I have drawn her portrait and that of my father clearly
enough for their children’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren to
form some idea of their characters. It is with that hope and desire I
have drawn this imperfect sketch, and I will be perfectly repaid for my
efforts if I succeed in interesting them in the past.



CHAPTER XXXIII

DADDY ANCRUM’S STORY


I asked Daddy Ancrum to come some day and tell me all he could remember
about the past, and this morning while I was reading the lessons to
Clarinda in the front piazza we saw him coming through the gate, dressed
in his Sunday clothes, with a very clean white shirt and a rather
battered derby, but worn with such an air that you knew it was superfine
and not worn every day. I wish I had a picture of the old man; seems to
me he has such a lovely face in his old age; his figure is now bent, but
up to a few years ago it was very erect and powerful. Old as he is, he
gives me a better day’s work than any of the young ones. This is what he
told me:

     My mudder and fader was Ancrum and Henny, bought from Mr. Withers
     after de storm. The creditor come in and we haf fu sell. My ma tell
     me I ben five year old the March after the big storm. Maussa was a
     big man, he was just as supple, why maussa stan’ too fine. When he
     walk in Georgetown every man and woman had to look ’pon hum. When
     I cum to Georgetown dere was only two full selling stores in town.
     All was big house for lib in. When dem bring we to town for sell,
     dem put up all de fambly, my uncle, my aunty, my pa, my ma, and der
     cousin all together. Ole Mister Ben Allston come up to maussa and
     trow ’e arm round maussa neck, and he say: “Robert, step forward,
     the old Indigo Bank ain’t bruk yet.” Den maussa gon up and ’e buy
     we all; Mr. Waterman want to buy me for mek pilot on de sea, and he
     offer one tousand dolla, but maussa woodn’ let him have me. Ole
     maussa used to live in dat little house you got for study house.
     Maussa used to have all we chillun cum to de house and bring a
     shell and fill um with molasses, and we chillun ben dat happy and
     play round and maussa ben in de piazza and drop sleep, and we
     chillun lauf and say: “Luk a’ buckra de sleep.” De fust chile I
     min’ ben Clanda Ma Maria. When I tak dat chile fu nurse ober ribber
     I see maussa been dat supple dat I seen him myself jump across dat
     kenel. Den he choose me to send me up to Marion to old Uncle Joe,
     ’bout two miles from Warhee. I ben dey when maussa married and de
     nex’ yeah, when he gwine to de mounting, him gone trough day for
     see de place, and when he bring miss and Mas’ Ben just been ole
     nuff fu miss to travel, and Amy ben a nussing, Maum Milly and Da
     Jeam’s sister. Uncle Joe send me fu bring de colt out de field and
     I bring dem up so miss can see dem. Uncle Joe pint to me and he
     say: “Robert, that’s a smart boy. Please God you must take good
     care of him.” Den maussa laff and say “Yes.” Dem eat dinner under
     de wagon shed an de two sarvan, Amy the nuss and Hynes dribe de
     wagon, de Josey wagon, and maussa dribe de carriage. No, didn’t ben
     a carriage, ben a baruche, wid de top tun back. Dem gon on after
     dinner--den I nebber seen miss or maussa till I hear say de place
     in Marion sell to Mr. Tommy Godbald. Maussa had a hundred head of
     cattle and Mauma Milly mild 30 head ebery year and send down butter
     to miss and ebery year Uncle Joe drive from 60 to 100 head o’ hog.
     Dem had 500 acre of wild land--Oh, my Lawd, if you wanna see plum
     you must go dey, an’ apple an’ peach an’ walnut an’ eberyting to
     eat. Bob been a big young man, an Peter and Sampson and David, dem
     ben an’ outlan’ people Afrikan, one ben Gullah and one ben a
     Guinea--the Gullah ben a cruel people--and de Fullah ben a cruel
     people, but Guinea ben a tough workin’ people, an’ Milly ben a
     Guinea, milk de cow, mak de butta, and bile and scald--and ma Laud,
     you could pick up hominy off de flo’. Now, after mauss sol’ de
     place and all de cattle an’ hog, ’e only fech down de pepple and de
     hoss. When we come down him ben on de beach and he had annoder son
     name Robert. Him ben a longer jinted boy, him was a pretty boy, an’
     I seen him grown till he had on long ap’un. Maussa say when I come
     hom I mus’n’t stop on de plantation dat night, I must go right over
     to the sheashore, but de day I come an’ Mary ben jus’ out of him
     time wid Billy, and him was to go down at dat time back to de beach
     wid de baby, and dem had to ge’ befo’ ’twas too late in de ebening,
     kase de baby was so young. My business was to cut marsh fo’ de hoss
     and pick clam fo’ de duck; dat was at Kerneern an’ I do dat an’
     Mary Grice was de cook, te Amy ben de nuss, Uncle Hynes was de
     coach driver, Moses Barren was de butler, Cæsar was de hosier, Maum
     Ria was de seamster, an’ Lavina was de fine seamster, and a gal
     name Cotter--an’ Uncle Jeams Gallant was a fisherman--I met dem
     dere when I cum fus and Sandy was de house boy, clean knife, rub
     mahogany, I tell you we had someting to do den. Den Miss Bly habe
     him sarvant ol’ lady Mary Bly was ’e right hand, Uncle Aleck was
     de coach driber, ol’ Uncle Stephen Bly ben de butler, but when him
     come to stay wid miss, him fish principal kase de was no wuck for
     him in de house. All dem supply cum from Friend-Field. Haklus was
     de cook, when Miss Bly ben home, but now him had not’ing to do but
     cut mash for de hoss, Miss Bly had t’ree horse, Hope, Victory, and
     Active. Jack was de tailor an’ Fannie his wife was Miss Bly
     seamster, Binna was de house gal, F’ederick was de boy go behind de
     carriage, open gate an’ ting. You ain’t know dat maussa own nearly
     all of Georgetown? Dat Pint used to plant in corn and dat place
     make all ’e own provision. I sell too much grass out o’ dat place.
     Mauss used to rule de whole shubang--gracious Lord, Miss Bessie,
     when I study an’ look back and ting--an’ fin’ out--you say you ben
     so po’ I kyant believe, kase ole maussa ben too rich--I know befoh
     de death of my ole maussa, he put on de pole boat 50 jimmy john o’
     brandy an’ gin an’ rum foh tek up to Cheraw Bridge and put dem in
     Mr. Coker in sto’, and one boat carry 160 barrel of rice an’ one
     carry 140 barrel, an’ dem barrel hol’ 9 bushel an’ you ken pack 10
     in ’em, not dem little kag you call rice-barrel now.

     Maussa see somet’ing in me I didn’ see in myself, an’ he hol’ me
     bak all ’e cud, den after I ben in de house, an’ den he put me in
     de field for a while, and den he pint me to plow, an’ den when he
     put Peter in de field for ditch, an’ den ’e pint me to wait on Mr.
     Ellis. I wait on ’im about seven years, but one summah maussa wen’
     travelling an’ to de No’th, den Mr. Ellis treat me so mean I run
     ’way an’ lef’ um. I done all ’e wuk an’ cut wood an’ do eberything
     an’ he pa cum dere sick, an’ when nite cum I hab to brush muskita
     off ’e pa, an’ I brush de muskita as long as I could keep awake,
     but I drop ’sleep and den Mr. Ellis cum in and fin’ me ’sleep, and
     take egvantage o’ me and beat me, an’ den I clean up an’ lef, and I
     ben in de wood till I hear maussa cum home. Den maussa didn’ keep
     Mr. Ellis anoder year, an’ after dat I gone in de held an’ after
     dat he take me fo’ plow-man ober ribber, an’ after dat on de high
     lan’--an’ den ’e make me captain of a gang in harvest, an’ I was a
     regular arrand man, I nebber wuck in de field no mo’--jes’ tek
     cha’ge of flat--carry supply to Waverly ebery week, when maussa was
     gov’ner, carry down poultry, vegetable, rice, butter to go down to
     miss in Charlestown, bring back molasses, sugar, rum, eberyt’ing,
     an’ one time I was to take de house sarvant to put on de boat to
     tek dem down to de town, dem was to cum on de flat, ’bout middle
     night, an’ dem nebber cum till day clean, an’ jus’ as dem come in,
     de boat gone. Nelson, William, and Fibby--Fibby in de house, was
     ole Daddy Thomas’ daughta, and he ask maussa to buy her, an’ ’e
     bought her and two chillun, Nancy and Jeams, an’ afterwards she
     married Leander, the mule tender. Cuffy was drowned swimming de
     ribber with Buie, an’ Sawney, too, dem had finish’ task soon, an’
     so dem start home an’ swim de ribber, an’ Cuffy had a bucket tie’
     round ’im neck and ’e fill with water an’ pull ’im down. I stan’ on
     de bank an’ seen ’im drown. When I get to Squirrel Crick wid de
     flat and de boat gone, an’ I hab to tek dat flat down to town, and
     dat tek me till after dinner, an’ I didn’t hab nuffin to eat ’cause
     I was only spectin’ to go to de mout’ of Squirrel Crick, an’ dat
     boat gone in to Waverly, tek a load of rice, an’ pass me on de way,
     an’ he gone into Keith field, an’ tek a load of rice, an’ pass me
     on de way, and when I get to town I ben mos’ dead, I ben dat
     hongry, an’ Fibby say to de captain, very polite, “Captain, can’
     you gib these men something to eat, dey is mos’ dead.” Den de
     captain said: “Dinner is done, and there ain’t nutting but plenty
     of meat”; an’ he gib we plen’y of meat, an’ Fibby put ’e han’ in ’e
     pocket an ’e tek out a twenty-five cents, an’ give we, an’ he say
     you can each send a dozen eggs down to Charlestown sometime to me.
     An’ we gone an’ buy rice.

     After de wah come on and de sea all blockage an’ maussa send me in
     charge o’ 22 han’ to wuck on fortification. In June I was wuckin
     ober de ribber an’ maussa sen’ foh me, fust de Driver Richard was
     to tell me, but he didn’t wan’ me to go, and I didn’t wan’ to go,
     and I gone ober ribber ’gen in m’ task--and Mr. Belflowers sen’ foh
     me, an’ after maussa cum an’ see me ben a fight foh hoe out m’
     corn, den maussa tell me I ken tek dat day fu finish m’ corn, den
     Paul say we mus’ leave at twelve or we can’ ketch de train.

     Maussa tell me, ’e say: “Boy, you see nobody hurt my hands, you ask
     the name of the person in charge and let me know, and when you go
     anywhere to work, you ask the captain to put you in a tent by
     yourself, with your own men, don’t mix up with other people.” Now
     maussa tell me dat t’ree time’, an’ “Boy,” he say, “go to my yaad
     when you get to Charleston.”

     We ben dere a good while, an’ one day maussa cum in a bright
     kerrige, an’ eberybody hurrah, an’ maussa cum to we an’ ’e say:
     “Well, boy, how you gettin’ on?” An’ I say: “Not well, maussa. I
     los’ one of me man, Pompey, an’ de res’ sick, an’ dis place don’
     ’gree wid dem.” He say: “Well, you can’t go till your wuck dun.”
     “My maussa, dis wuck’ll nebber done. We’ll dun, but de wuck won’t
     dun, we’s all sick.”

     Maussa say: “Well, boy, if dat so you ken leave to-morrow. You meet
     me in Charlestown Monday; this is Saturday. Don’t let any of the
     hands go over to Charlestown until you go.” Jackson, Fibby’s
     brother, wen’ off, but I couldn’t stop him. Monday we was to walk
     to Charlestown, maussa tell de cap’ain put dem cross de bridge, but
     he didn’ put we over till eleven o’clock, so maussa had to put we
     on de mail train. When we get to Salters he tell Sam to give we
     each four quart of rice an’ then Paul Bryan drive we in de wagon
     four miles and maussa tol’ us to take two days to get home, bu’ we
     cum righ’ ’ome dat same nite. I tell you him been a number one
     maussa dat. Him’ll nebber back down from a man in trouble. He’ll
     save you if you is to save! The night we left the wuk, Mr. King was
     killed that day.

     When we got home maussa send me to a place called Britton’s Neck,
     dere ’e was clearing up land to plant. After dat maussa bring me
     down and put me in a flat, and I carry de rice from Waverly Mill to
     Kingstree. He sent Saundy fust, den maussa cum to Britton’s Neck,
     an’ tell me: “Boy, I want one flat from Nightingdale Hall, three
     from Chicora, and two from Guendalow, take all to Waverly, and all
     take turns an’ load and then start together, and go up the Black
     River to Kingstree, to the double bridge.”

     You couldn’t pole in Waccamaw, you had to row, an’ you couldn’t
     pole in Black River ’til you get to Mr. Green, Rockingham, then you
     ken fin’ sum polin’ bottom. Sawny flat maussa put 111 barrel and
     one week after maussa sen’ me an’ tell me to ketch Sawny, an’ Sawny
     ben unload, an’ Mr. Shaw tek de rice an’ haul half a mile about to
     de depot an den de railroad tek dem. Was a good deal of bad
     weather, and dat way it tuk me two weeks--Nightingdale flat only
     make one trip, but de odder five flat tek rice from Waverly to
     Kingstree three years, an’ after dat maussa had two boat build, an’
     send me an’ Joe Washington in charge of dem. My wife Maggie was a
     healthy woman ’til she begin to breed, but after that maussa put
     her to mind de sheep. Maussa say he nebber had any one fu’ mind
     sheep like she. When she call to de sheep “Come back here,” dey
     just wheel right round; when I gone on de boat up ribber, maussa
     say my wife is very sick, she was at de pint of death; I was near
     Cheraw--we wus aground three days, and we couldn’t go, and I pray,
     an’ I pray, an’ I pray, dat night, ’cause I couldn’t lef’ de boat
     on de road and de Lawd sen’ a big rain dat night and raise de
     ribber thirty feet, and we gone up an’ git out de load an’ gone
     right back home. An’ maussa tell me I mus’ put Maggie on de boat,
     to go up, an’ I must walk and drive up de sheep Mr. George Jeams
     had bought from him. “An’ you must drive them up to him, and then
     you go on to a place I bought with my own money, and I got
     ninety-five fine, good, prime people up there and I want you to
     take charge of the place--those people can’t make feed enough there
     to keep them four months; now I want you to see if you can make a
     crop up there.” Den I say: “Maussa, what can I do with my cow and
     calf; I kyant left them.” Him say: “Well, take them right along
     with you.” Den I say: “Maussa, I got ninety sheep fu’ carry, and my
     cow got a raging calf, an’ how can I tek them all along, on dat
     journey all by myself.” Den maussa say: “You can take Michael with
     you, till you get to Lynch’s Creek, where two men will meet you and
     take the sheep.”

     Well, I start from de farm and de sheep travel so slow, and so
     tired, I never gone no fadder dan Mr. Blank way to Union Church; I
     stay dere dat night, an’ de next day I gone to Lynch’s Creek, an’ I
     wait dere, an no man nebber come for de sheep, an’ I just gone on
     an’ tek de sheep and cattle, and when de man cum for de sheep dey
     had to follow me about twenty miles, an’ den I tu’n Michael back
     an’ I mek time on, an’ when I get to de place, maussa send me to
     take charge of Morven, an’ I tek charge, an’ fust I build a house
     for Maggie, when ’e come, and I ben dere three week before Maggie
     cum. She had Pattie, and Kissie, and Pauline, and Aham; an’ Peter,
     an’ Peter Sweet’s Louisa was on de boat, in delicate state, an’
     Maggie had to put dem to bed on de boat. An’ when I ben dere one
     month maussa come, an’ I been a clear ground when he come--he call
     fo’ me and Mr. Yates, the agent, and Mr. Balentine, the obershear;
     Mr. Yates sit near de fire, wid maussa, I stand behind, and maussa
     say: “Well, Anchum, I bring you here to try and make a crop for
     me, and Mr. Balentine, I want you to put everything in his
     charge--he is to order the work, and he is to do the punishment,
     and I want you to put the keys in his hands too.”

     An’ den I say: “Maussa, I well onderstan’ de wuck, an’ I’ll tek
     charge of dat, but I don’t want to tek no key.” An’ maussa say I
     must. But when maussa gone, I slip de key back in Mr. Balentine’s
     hand an’ say, “I don’ want de key, you keep de key,” an’ maussa say
     to me: “You feed my horse and you feed Mr. Balentine’s horse too,
     and your daughter Patty milk the cow.” But I wouldn’t let Patty
     milk, ’cause I wouldn’t run ’cross Amy, him been a’milk, and I know
     what was going on, an’ I knows dem people been eat de meat out o’
     de smoke-house, an’ I know dem would tu’n it on me--so I wait till
     we fin’ out, an’ Mr. Balentine gib dat man, Chance Grate, an’ he
     an’ Abram Hynes an’ himself were partners, and when Chance tuk some
     one else in the smoke-house without tell Abram he get mad an’ tu’n
     State evidence an’ tell me, an’ I must ask Mr. Balentine: “Y’ miss
     any meat?” An’ he say “No.” An I say: “Dat strange, ’cause Chance
     has got some; you’d better look.” An’ he gone in de smoke-house,
     an’ miss a lot. He had kill an’ cure fifty hog, and the meat ought
     to ben dere. When Mr. Balentine gone to count de meat he find half
     gone, den he gone with me to Chance house, an’ dere he find two
     hams an’ a shoulder, an’ Mr. Balentine give him a big licking, ’til
     he confess how he done it. Den I stop him, I hold ’e hand an’ I
     say: “Maussa only want de trut; he don’t allow lick after dat, not
     another cut.” Dere was two rice-barrel pack wid 300 bottle of ole
     wine in de cellar at Morven. I wucked and wucked and made a fine
     crop of peas, corn, and potatoes. Mr. Evans come up with ole miss
     to look at de crop, w’en I let her know I had housed de corn, one
     passel was shucked clean, an’ Mista Evans, when he look at it,
     estimate 1,000 bushel of corn. Howsumeber, in de fall in February
     we hear de Yankees was bombarding Chiraw; eberybody was trying to
     get away from dat side, as de bridge was burned by we people. Two
     soldiers cum one nite an’ ask me to let them spend de night--dey
     was what de people call de “Georgia Wild Cat.” Dey say: “Ole man,
     de Yankees will be here before nine to-morrow morning.” Dey hadn’t
     sooner gone away from de house next morning, when de whole place
     was surround wid soldier, and dey call on de men to surrender.
     What dey call de picket guard cum fust, and ax dat Daddy Hammedy
     fo’ de key, an’ when him hesitate, dem say, “I don’t want no key,”
     an’ he just rushed up and kicked de door in, an’ rushed in, and run
     up-stairs, and cum down with a bag full of silver, an’ forks and
     spoons an’ plate an’ dat man say: “Ole man, de man dat own dis
     place must be a hell of a rich man, he got such fine tings.” An’ I
     say: “Yes, sir, my master is a powerful rich man.” Den de oders run
     in an’ git more; den dey gone--den we tought dey was all gone, when
     on a sudden de whole place full of people, from every corner--dey
     seem to rise right out de ground; now dis was de infantry, an’ dey
     cum to station dere, and dey station dere for one week. Dem people
     just run dat grits-mill from de time day cum; dey just grind all de
     corn we mek, an’ in a half hour de smoke-house was empty, and dey
     kill and dey fetch in, and dey kill and dey fetch in, and dey kill
     and dey fetch in, an’ I got tired of it, I was sassy to them; I was
     wore out. Me an’ Hammedy was de only man on de place; I jus’ had to
     stey by de captain to perteck me and dese womens--den he put a
     guard an’ tell dem to shoot any soldier dat went to burn or trouble
     de people. By de time dey was gone dere was nothing left but de
     rough rice--400 bushels--an’ dey couldn’t manage dat; dey took all
     de corn, and if it hadn’t been for de rice we would have starved.
     The Yankees left on Tuesday, an’ de next Sunday Mr. Yates sent me
     word, I must take de people an’ left at once; we must take de road,
     man, woman, and chillun; we must be gone Monday night--that I must
     take de hands and march off at once. I send George Green to tell
     miss, say “Come at once,” and Tuesday miss cum, Daddy Eleck drive
     ’um, and Miss Bessie cum wid um, an’ Mista Evans ride ’long side,
     an’ miss say “What’s matter?” an’ I say: “Mr. Yates drive we, say
     we must lef’.” Then miss say, “Well, turn to work, repair de land
     and plant what you can”; but I say: “Miss, I want to go home.” Miss
     laugh and say: “Where is your home, Acrum?” I say: “Wherever you
     is, miss, dere is my home.” An’ miss say: “Well, if you go home
     now, ’tis too late to plant crop, so you had better plant your crop
     here, so by fall you can go after you gather the crop.” So we done
     so, an’ we mek a fine crop of corn and peas, an’ when de time cum
     for to move, all de people what didn’t have chillun tek dey fut an’
     gone, an’ we big fambly couldn’t do dat, an’ I study, an’ I study
     an’ at las’ I say to Daddy Hammedy: “You an’ your son is carpenter,
     and you can mek a flat; I can tek a man an’ cut down some big dead
     pine, an’ haul dem in, an’ we got saw-mill, and we can mek flat,
     and so we done, an’ in two weeks after we done gather in de crop we
     had de flat done and ready to start on a Saturday; den we say we
     will move next week, and de people say let’s go now, and so we
     done, but de oxen and ting worry me. Ole miss had send Mr. Yates
     and Mr. Balentine away an’ got a young man name John Shaw in
     charge, and he done just what I say. Den I puswade March--he had a
     ole horse he pic’ up--to tek de oxen down to ole miss to Society
     Hill, wid de hoss, and he done so. We started Sunday evening at
     four o’clock, and we did not get down to Chicora until de next
     Sunday night in de night. Me and Daddy Hammedy, an’ his wife Mary
     Ann, an’ my wife Maggie, an’ his daughter Tyra, an’ granddaughter
     Cherry, my chillun--Patty, Elizabeth, Pauline, Kizzie, Aham, and
     the baby Kilpatrick, then York Blye and Mary, his wife, and Joseph,
     Betsy, March’s wife, Leah, and Hetty, and Flora, Phenix, and his
     wife Elizabeth, and his daughter Mary, and his daughter Miley, and
     Lucy. When I got off to Chicora everything been tear up, people
     don gone crazy; now, when I left my house maussa tell me no one was
     to stay in my house till I come. I come back and find Moses in my
     house. I gone right in an’ mek Moses come right out. Now Mauss Ben
     he done puty by me; I had nine head to feed, an’ Mauss Ben say he
     feed them all fo’ my wuck, so Mauss Ben feed my family fu’ dat
     year, and feed dem well, an’ we mek fine crop o’ rice. The fust
     contract was you fu’nish land and seed and animals an’ get
     two-thirds; I fu’nish wuck and get one-third. Every day I didn’t
     wuck was deduct’ from my share.

Daddy Ancrum advised a change to one-half, the hands to furnish the work
animals as well as their own work, and the owner furnish the land in
good fix, and seed rice, and it was divided equally in half. (This
proved very successful, as they had their own work animals.)


FOOTNOTES:

[1] See vol. 1, page Q119, _Encyclopedia Heraldica_.

[2] I remember now two other men who were opposed to the war--Nicholas
Williams of Society Hill, and Gov. Perry of Greenville.

[3] It is one of the peculiarities of the darkies of the past that
they always spoke of that innermost garment which Shakespeare calls
“a shift” as “their linen,” even if it was made of coarse, unbleached
homespun.

[4] I always sleep on that bed myself now.

[5] Since writing this my esteemed friend, Professor Yates Snowden,
has given me an interesting account of an interview with Mr. B----, a
pilot of Charleston, who was one of two men who were picked up on the
coast of Georgia, survivors of the _Juno_. They had spent days on a
chicken-coop in the terrible storm which wrecked the overloaded little
boat.





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