Southern Life in Southern Literature/Augustus Baldwin Longstreet

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Southern Life in Southern Literature
Maurice Garland Fulton (Ed.)
Augustus Baldwin Longstreet
PART I. THE OLD SOUTH IN LITERATURE - HUMORISTS

HUMORISTS


AUGUSTUS BALDWIN LONGSTREET

[Augustus Baldwin Longstreet was born in Augusta, Georgia, in 1790. He graduated at Yale in 1813 and practiced law in Georgia, becoming a district judge in 1822. In addition to the practice of law, he did editorial work in Augusta, where he established the Sentinel. In 1838 he became a Methodist minister, and was there after largely connected with educational institutions, being in turn president of Emory College, Georgia, of Centenary College, Louisiana, of the University of Mississippi, and of South Carolina College. He died in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1870. His fame as a writer rests upon a single book, "Georgia Scenes," consisting of realistic sketches of Georgia country life, written originally as contributions to newspapers and later gathered into book form.]


THE HORSE SWAP

During the session of the Supreme Court, in the village of ——, about three weeks ago, when a number of people were collected in the principal street of the village, I observed a young man riding up and down the street, as I supposed, in a violent passion. He galloped this way, then that, and then the other; spurred his horse to one group of citizens, then to another; then dashed off at half speed, as if fleeing from danger; and, suddenly checking his horse, returned first in a pace, then in a trot, and then in a canter. While he was performing these various evolutions, he cursed, swore, whooped, screamed, and tossed himself in every attitude which man could assume on horseback. In short, he cavorted most magnanimously (a term which, in our tongue, expresses all that I have described, and a little more), and seemed to be setting all creation at defiance. As I like to see all that is passing, I determined to take a position a little nearer to him, and to ascertain, if possible, what it was that affected him so sensibly. Accordingly, I approached a crowd before which he had stopped for a moment,

Blossom and his Horse, Bullet-Southern Life in Southern Literature 170.png
BLOSSOM AND HIS HORSE, BULLET

Reproduction of one of the original illustrations of "Georgia Scenes"

and examined it with the strictest scrutiny. But I could see nothing in it that seemed to have anything to do with the cavorter. Every man appeared to be in good humor, and all minding their own business. Not one so much as noticed the principal figure. Still he went on. After a semicolon pause, which my appearance seemed to produce (for he eyed me closely as I approached), he fetched a whoop and swore that he could outswap any live man, woman, or child that ever walked these hills, or that ever straddled horseflesh since the days of old daddy Adam. "Stranger," said he to me, "did you ever see the Yallow Blossom from Jasper?"

"No," said I, "but I have often heard of him."

"I'm the boy," continued he; "perhaps a leetle, jist a leetle, of the best man at a horse swap that ever trod shoe leather."

I began to feel my situation a little awkward, when I was relieved by a man somewhat advanced in years, who stepped up and began to survey the Yallow Blossom's horse with much apparent interest. This drew the rider's attention, and he turned the conversation from me to the stranger.

"Well, my old coon," said he, "do you want to swap hosses?"

"Why, I don t know," replied the stranger; "I believe I've got a beast I'd trade with you for that one, if you like him."

"Well, fetch up your nag, my old cock; you're jist the lark I wanted to get hold of. I am perhaps a leetle, jist a leetle, of the best man at a horse swap that ever stole cracklins out of his mammy's fat gourd. Where's your hoss?"

"I'll bring him presently, but I want to examine your horse a little."

"Oh! look at him," said the Blossom, alighting and hitting him a cut; "look at him. He's the best piece of hossflesh in the thirteen united univarsal worlds. There's no sort o' mistake in little Bullet. He can pick up miles on his feet and fling 'em behind him as fast as the next man's hoss, I don't care where he comes from. And he can keep at it as long as the sun can shine without resting."

During this harangue little Bullet looked as if he understood it all, believed it, and was ready at any moment to verify it. He was a horse of goodly countenance, rather expressive of vigilance than fire, though an unnatural appearance of fierceness was thrown into it by the loss of his ears, which had been cropped pretty close to his head. Nature had done but little for Bullet's head and neck, but he managed, in a great measure, to hide their defects by bowing perpetually. He had obviously suffered severely for corn, but if his ribs and hip bones had not disclosed the fact, he never would have done it, for he was in all respects as cheerful and happy as if he commanded all the corn cribs and fodder stacks in Georgia. His height was about twelve hands, but as his shape partook somewhat of that of the giraffe, his haunches stood much lower. They were short, straight, peaked, and concave. Bullet's tail, however, made amends for all his defects. All that the artist could do to beautify it had been done, and all that horse could do to compliment the artist, Bullet did. His tail was nicked in superior style and exhibited the line of beauty in so many directions that it could not fail to hit the most fastidious taste in some of them. From the root it drooped into a graceful festoon, then rose in a handsome curve, then resumed its first direction, and then mounted suddenly upward like a cypress knee to a perpendicular of about two and a half inches. The whole had a careless and bewitching inclination to the right. Bullet obviously knew where his beauty lay and took all occasions to display it to the best advantage. If a stick cracked, or if anyone moved suddenly about him, or coughed, or hawked, or spoke a little louder than common, up went Bullet's tail like lightning, and if the going up did not please, the coming down must of necessity, for it was as different from the other movement as was its direction. The first was a bold and rapid flight upward, usually to an angle of forty-five degrees. In this position he kept his interesting appendage until he satisfied himself that nothing in particular was to be done, when he commenced dropping it by half inches, in second beats, then in triple time, then faster and shorter, and faster and shorter still, until it finally died away imperceptibly into its natural position. If I might compare sights to sounds I should say its settling was more like the note of a locust than anything else in nature.

Either from native sprightliness of disposition, from uncontrollable activity, or from an unconquerable habit of removing flies by the stamping of the feet, Bullet never stood still, but always kept up a gentle fly-scaring movement of his limbs, which was peculiarly interesting.

"I tell you, man," proceeded the Yellow Blossom, "he's the best live hoss that ever trod the grit of Georgia. Bob Smart knows the hoss. Come here, Bob, and mount this hoss, and show Bullet's motions." Here Bullet bristled up, and looked as if he had been hunting for Bob all day long and had just found him. Bob sprang on his back. "Boo-oo-oo!" said Bob, with a fluttering noise of the lips; and away went Bullet, as if in a quarter race, with all his beauties spread in handsome style.

"Now fetch him back," said Blossom. Bullet turned and came in pretty much as he went out.

"Now trot him by." Bullet reduced his tail to "customary," sidled to the right and left airily, and exhibited at least three varieties of trot in the short space of fifty yards.

"Make him pace!" Bob commenced twitching the bridle and kicking at the same time. These inconsistent movements obviously (and most naturally) disconcerted Bullet; for it was impossible for him to learn, from them, whether he was to proceed or stand still. He started to trot and was told that wouldn't do. He attempted a canter and was checked again. He stopped and was urged to go on. Bullet now rushed into the wild field of experiment and struck out a gait of his own that completely turned the tables upon his rider and certainly deserved a patent. It seemed to have derived its elements from the jig, the minuet, and the cotillon. If it was not a pace, it certainly had pace in it, and no man could venture to call it anything else; so it passed off to the satisfaction of the owner.

"Walk him!" Bullet was now at home again, and he walked as if money was staked on him.

The stranger, whose name, I afterwards learned, was Peter Ketch, having examined Bullet to his heart's content, ordered his son Neddy to go and bring up Kit. Neddy soon appeared upon Kit, a well-formed sorrel of the middle size and in good order. His tout ensemble threw Bullet entirely in the shade, though a glance was sufficient to satisfy anyone that Bullet had decided advantage of him in point of intellect.

"Why, man," said Blossom, "do you bring such a hoss as that to trade for Bullet? Oh, I see you're no notion of trading."

"Ride him off, Neddy!" said Peter. Kit put off at a handsome lope.

"Trot him back!" Kit came in at a long sweeping trot, and stopped suddenly at the crowd.

"Well," said Blossom, "let me look at him; maybe he'll do to plow."

"Examine him!" said Peter, taking hold of the bridle close to the mouth, "he's nothing but a tacky. He ain't as pretty a horse as Bullet, I know, but he'll do. Start 'em together for a hundred and fifty mile and if Kit an't twenty mile ahead of him at the coming out, any man may take Kit for nothing. But he's a monstrous mean horse, gentlemen, any man may see that. He's the scariest horse, too, you ever saw. He won't do to hunt on, nohow. Stranger, will you let Neddy have your rifle to shoot off him? Lay the rifle between his ears, Neddy, and shoot at the blaze in that stump. Tell me when his head is high enough."

Ned fired and hit the blaze, and Kit did not move a hair's breadth.

"Neddy, take a couple of sticks and beat on that hogshead at Kit's tail."

Ned made a tremendous rattling, at which Bullet took fright, broke his bridle, and dashed off in grand style, and would have stopped all farther negotiations by going home in disgust had not a traveler arrested him and brought him back: but Kit did not move.

"I tell you, gentlemen, continued Peter, "he's the scariest horse you ever saw. He an't as gentle as Bullet, but he won't do any harm if you watch him. Shall I put him in a cart, gig, or wagon for you, stranger? He'll cut the same capers there he does here. He's a monstrous mean horse."

During all this time Blossom was examining him with the nicest scrutiny. Having examined his frame and limbs, he now looked at his eyes.

"He's got a curious look out of his eyes," said Blossom.

"Oh, yes, sir," said Peter, "just as blind as a bat. Blind horses always have clear eyes. Make a motion at his eyes, if you please, sir."

Blossom did so, and Kit threw up his head rather as if something pricked him under the chin than as if fearing a blow. Blossom repeated the experiment, and Kit jerked back in considerable astonishment.

"Stone blind, you see, gentlemen," proceeded Peter; "but he's just as good to travel of a dark night as if he had eyes."

"Blame my buttons," said Blossom, "if I like them eyes."

"No," said Peter, "nor I neither. I'd rather have 'em made of diamonds; but they'll do, if they don't show as much white as Bullet's."

"Well," said Blossom, "make a pass at me."

"No," said Peter; "you made the banter, now make your pass."

"Well, I'm never afraid to price my bosses. You must give me twenty-five dollars boot."

"Oh, certainly; say fifty, and my saddle and bridle in. Here, Neddy, my son, take away daddy's horse."

"Well," said Blossom, "I've made my pass, now you make yours."

"I'm for short talk in a horse swap and therefore always tell a gentleman at once what I mean to do. You must give me ten dollars."

Blossom swore absolutely, roundly, and profanely that he never would give boot.

"Well," said Peter, "I didn't care about trading, but you cut such high shines that I thought I'd like to back you out, and I've done it. Gentlemen, you see I've brought him to a hack."

"Come, old man," said Blossom, "I've been joking with you. I begin to think you do want to trade, therefore give me five dollars and take Bullet. I'd rather lose ten dollars any time than not make a trade, though I hate to fling away a good hoss."

"Well," said Peter, "I'll be as clever as you are; just put the five dollars on Bullet's back and hand him over, it's a trade."

Blossom swore again, as roundly as before, that he would not give boot; and, said he, "Bullet wouldn't hold five dollars on his back, nohow. But as I bantered you, if you say an even swap, here's at you."

"I told you," said Peter, "I'd be as clever as you, therefore here goes two dollars more, just for trade sake. Give me three dollars and it's a bargain."

Blossom repeated his former assertion; and here the parties stood for a long time, and the bystanders (for many were now collected) began to taunt both parties. After some time, however, it was pretty unanimously decided that the old man had backed Blossom out.

At length Blossom swore he "never would be backed out for three dollars after bantering a man," and accordingly they closed the trade.

"Now," said Blossom, as he handed Peter the three dollars, "I'm a man that when he makes a bad trade, makes the most of it until he can make a better. I'm for no rues and after claps."

"That's just my way," said Peter; "I never goes to law to mend my bargains."

"Ah, you're the kind of boy I love to trade with. Here's your hoss, old man. Take the saddle and bridle off him, and I'll strip yours; but lift up the blanket easy from Bullet's back, for he's a mighty tender-backed hoss."

The old man removed the saddle, but the blanket stuck fast. He attempted to raise it, and Bullet bowed himself, switched his tail, danced a little, and gave signs of biting.

"Don't hurt him, old man," said Blossom, archly; "take it off easy. I am, perhaps, a leetle of the best man at a horse swap that ever catched a coon."

Peter continued to pull at the blanket more and more roughly, and Bullet became more and more cavortish, insomuch that when the blanket came off he had reached the kicking point in good earnest.

The removal of the blanket disclosed a sore on Bullet's back bone that seemed to have defied all medical skill. It measured six full inches in length and four in breadth and had as many features as Bullet had motions. My heart sickened at the sight, and I felt that the brute who had been riding him in that situation deserved the halter.

The prevailing feeling, however, was that of mirth. The laugh became loud and general at the old man's expense, and rustic witticisms were liberally bestowed upon him and his late purchase. These Blossom continued to provoke by various remarks. He asked the old man "if he thought Bullet would let five dollars lie on his back." He declared most seriously that he had owned that horse three months and had never discovered before that he had a sore back, "or he never should have thought of trading him," etc.

The old man bore it all with the most philosophic composure. He evinced no astonishment at his late discovery and made no replies. But his son Neddy had not disciplined his feelings quite so well. His eyes opened wider and wider from the first to the last pull of the blanket, and, when the whole sore burst upon his view, astonishment and fright seemed to contend for the mastery of his countenance. As the blanket disappeared, he stuck his hands in his breeches pockets, heaved a deep sigh, and lapsed into a profound revery, from which he was only roused by the cuts at his father. He bore them as long as he could, and when he could contain himself no longer he began, with a certain wildness of expression which gave a peculiar interest to what he uttered: "His back's mighty bad off, but . . . old Kit's both blind and deef. . . . You walk him, and see if he eint. His eyes don't look like it; but he'd jist as leve go agin the house with you, or in a ditch, as anyhow. Now you go try him." The laugh was now turned on Blossom; and many rushed to test the fidelity of the little boy's report. A few experiments established its truth beyond controversy.

"Neddy," said the old man, "you ought n't to try and make people discontented with their things. Stranger, don't mind what the little boy says. If you can only get Kit rid of them little failings, you'll find him all sorts of a horse. You are a leetle the best man at a horse swap that ever I got hold of; but don't fool away Kit. Come, Neddy, my son, let's be moving; the stranger seems to be getting snappish."

THE TURN OUT

In the good old days of fescues, abisselfas, and anpersants, terms which used to be familiar in this country during the Revolutionary War, and which lingered in some of our county schools for a few years afterward, I visited my friend Captain Griffin, who resided about seven miles to the eastward of Wrightsborough, then in Richmond, but now in Columbia County. I reached the captain's hospitable home on Easter, and was received by him and his good lady with a Georgia welcome of 1790. It was warm from the heart, and taught me in a moment that the obligations of the visit were upon their side, not mine. Such receptions were not peculiar at that time to the captain and his family; they were common throughout the state. Where are they now! and where the generous hospitalities which invariably followed them! I see them occasionally at the contented farmer's door and at his festive board, but when they shall have taken leave of these, Georgia will know them no more.

The day was consumed in the interchange of news between the captain and myself (though, I confess, it might have been better employed), and the night found us seated round a temporary fire, which the captain's sons had kindled up for the purpose of dyeing eggs. It was a common custom of those days with boys to dye and peck eggs on Easter Sunday and for a few days afterward. They were colored according to the fancy of the dyer—some yellow, some green, some purple, and some with a variety of colors, borrowed from a piece of calico. They were not unfrequently beautified with a taste and skill which would have extorted a compliment from Hezekiah Niles, if he had seen them a year ago, in the hands of the "young operatives," in some of the northern manufactories. No sooner was the work of dyeing finished, than our young operatives sallied forth to stake the whole proceeds of their "domestic industry" upon a peck. Egg was struck against egg, point to point, and the egg that was broken was given up as lost to the owner of the one which came whole from the shock.

While the boys were busily employed in the manner just mentioned, the captain's youngest son, George, gave us an anecdote highly descriptive of the Yankee and Georgia character, even in their buddings, and at this early date. "What you think, pa," said he, "Zeph Pettibone went and got his Uncle Zach to turn him a wooden egg, and he won a whole hatful o' eggs from all us boys 'fore we found it out; but when we found it out maybe John Brown didn't smoke him for it, and took away all his eggs and give 'em back to us boys; and you think he did n't go then and git a guinea egg, and win most as many more, and John Brown would o' give it to him agin if all we boys had n't said we thought it was fair. I never see such a boy as that Zeph Pettibone in all my life. He don't mind whipping no more 'an nothing at all, if he can win eggs."

This anecdote, however, only fell in by accident, for there was an all-absorbing subject which occupied the minds of the boys during the whole evening, of which I could occasionally catch distant hints in undertones and whispers, but of which I could make nothing until they were afterward explained by the captain himself. Such as "I'll be bound Pete Jones and Bill Smith stretches him." "By Jockey, soon as they seize him you'll see me down upon him like a duck upon a June bug." "By the time he touches the ground he'll think he's got into a hornet's nest," etc.

"The boys," said the captain, as they retired, "are going to turn out the schoolmaster to-morrow, and you can perceive they think of nothing else. We must go over to the schoolhouse and witness the contest, in order to prevent injury to preceptor or pupils; for, though the master is always, upon such occasions, glad to be turned out, and only struggles long enough to present his patrons a fair apology for giving the children a holiday, which he desires as much as they do, the boys always conceive a holiday gained by a 'turn out' as the sole achievement of their valor; and, in their zeal to distinguish themselves upon such memorable occasions, they sometimes become too rough, provoke the master to wrath, and a very serious conflict ensues. To prevent these consequences, to bear witness that the master was forced to yield before he would withhold a day of his promised labor from his employers, and to act as a mediator between him and the boys in settling the articles of peace, I always attend; and you must accompany me to-morrow." I cheerfully promised to do so.

The captain and I rose before the sun, but the boys had risen and were off to the schoolhouse before the dawn. After an early breakfast, hurried by Mrs. G. for our accommodation, my host and myself took up our line of march towards the schoolhouse. We reached it about half an hour before the master arrived, but not before the boys had completed its fortifications. It was a simple log pen, about twenty feet square, with a doorway cut out of the logs, to which was fitted a rude door, made of clapboards, and swung on wooden hinges. The roof was covered with clapboards also, and retained in their places by heavy logs placed on them. The chimney was built of logs, diminishing in size from the ground to the top, and overspread inside and out with red-clay mortar. The classic hut occupied a lovely spot, overshadowed by majestic hickories, towering poplars, and strong-armed oaks. The little plain on which it stood was terminated, at the distance of about fifty paces from its door, by the brow of a hill, which descended rather abruptly to a noble spring that gushed joyously forth from among the roots of a stately beech at its foot. The stream from this fountain scarcely burst into view before it hid itself beneath the dark shade of a field of cane which overspread the dale through which it flowed and marked its windings until it turned from the sight among vine-covered hills, at a distance far beyond that to which the eye could have traced it without the help of its evergreen belt. A remark of the captain's, as we viewed the lovely country around us, will give the reader my apology for the minuteness of the foregoing description. " These lands," said he, "will never wear out. Where they lie level, they will be as good fifty years hence as they are now." Forty-two years afterward I visited the spot on which he stood when he made the remark. The sun poured his whole strength upon the bald hill which once supported the sequestered schoolhouse; many a deep-washed gully met at a sickly bog where gushed the limpid fountain; a dying willow rose from the soil which nourished the venerable beech; flocks wandered among the dwarf pines, and cropped a scanty meal from the vale where the rich cane bowed and rustled to every breeze, and all around was barren, dreary, and cheerless. But to return.

As I before remarked, the boys had strongly fortified the schoolhouse, of which they had taken possession. The door was barricaded with logs, which I should have supposed would have defied the combined powers of the whole school. The chimney too was nearly filled with logs of goodly size, and these were the only passways to the interior. I concluded if a turn out was all that was necessary to decide the contest in favor of the boys, they had already gained the victory. They had, however, not as much confidence in their outworks as I had, and therefore had armed themselves with long sticks—not for the purpose of using them upon the master if the battle should come to close quarters, for this was considered unlawful warfare, but for the purpose of guarding their works from his approaches, which it was considered perfectly lawful to protect by all manner of jabs and punches through the cracks. From the early assembling of the girls it was very obvious that they had been let into the conspiracy, though they took no part in the active operations. They would, however, occasionally drop a word of encouragement to the boys, such as "I wouldn't turn out the master, but if I did turn him out, I'd die before I'd give up." These remarks doubtless had an emboldening effect upon "the young freeborns," as Mrs. Trollope would call them, for I never knew the Georgian of any age who was indifferent to the smiles and praises of the ladies—before his marriage.

At length Mr. Michael St. John, the schoolmaster, made his appearance. Though some of the girls had met him a quarter of a mile from the schoolhouse and told him all that had happened, he gave signs of sudden astonishment and indignation when he advanced to the door and was assailed by a whole platoon of sticks from the cracks. "Why, what does all this mean?" said he, as he approached the captain and myself, with a countenance of two or three varying expressions.

"Why," said the captain, "the boys have turned you out, because you have refused to give them an Easter holiday."

"Oh," returned Michael, "that's it, is it? Well, I'll see whether their parents are to pay me for letting their children play when they please." So saying, he advanced to the schoolhouse and demanded, in a lofty tone, of its inmates an unconditional surrender.

"Well, give us holiday then," said twenty little urchins within, "and we'll let you in."

"Open the door of the academy " (Michael would allow nobody to call it a schoolhouse)—"Open the door of the academy this instant," said Michael, "or I'll break it down."

"Break it down," said Pete Jones and Bill Smith, "and we'll break you down."

During this colloquy I took a peep into the fortress to see how the garrison were affected by the parley. The little ones were obviously panic-struck at the first words of command; but their fears were all chased away by the bold, determined reply of Pete Jones and Bill Smith, and they raised a whoop of defiance.

Michael now walked round the academy three times, examining all its weak points with great care. He then paused, reflected for a moment, and wheeled off suddenly towards the woods, as though a bright thought had just struck him. He passed twenty things which I supposed he might be in quest of, such as huge stones, fence rails, portable logs, and the like, without bestowing the least attention upon them. He went to one old log, searched it thoroughly; then to another; then to a hollow stump, peeped into it with great care; then to a hollow log, into which he looked with equal caution, and so on.

"What is he after?" inquired I.

"I'm sure I don't know," said the captain, "but the boys do. Don't you notice the breathless silence which prevails in the schoolhouse, and the intense anxiety with which they are eying him through the cracks?"

At this moment Michael had reached a little excavation at the root of a dogwood and was in the act of putting his hand into it, when a voice from the garrison exclaimed, with most touching pathos, "Lo'd o' messy, he's found my eggs! boys, let's give up."

"I won't give up," was the reply from many voices at once.

"Rot your cowardly skin, Zeph Pettibone, you wouldn't give a wooden egg for all the holidays in the world."

If these replies did not reconcile Zephaniah to his apprehended loss, it at least silenced his complaints. In the mean time Michael was employed in relieving Zeph's storehouse of its provisions; and, truly, its contents told well for Zeph's skill in egg-pecking. However, Michael took out the eggs with great care and brought them within a few paces of the schoolhouse and laid them down with equal care in full view of the besieged. He revisited the places which he had searched and to which he seemed to have been led by intuition, for from nearly all of them did he draw eggs, in greater or less numbers. These he treated as he had done Zeph's, keeping each pile separate. Having arranged the eggs in double files before the door, he marched between them with an air of triumph and once more demanded a surrender, under pain of an entire destruction of the garrison's provisions.

"Break 'em just as quick as you please," said George Griffin; "our mothers'll give us a plenty more, won't they, pa?"

"I can answer for yours, my son," said the captain; "she would rather give up every egg upon the farm than see you play the coward or traitor to save your property."

Michael, finding that he could make no impression upon the fears or the avarice of the boys, determined to carry their fortifications by storm. Accordingly he procured a heavy fence rail and commenced the assault upon the door. It soon came to pieces, and the upper logs fell out, leaving a space of about three feet at the top. Michael boldly entered the breach, when, by the articles of war, sticks were thrown aside as no longer lawful weapons. He was resolutely met on the half-demolished rampart by Peter Jones and William Smith, supported by James Griffin. These were the three largest boys in the school, the first about sixteen years of age, the second about fifteen, and the third just eleven. Twice was Michael repulsed by these young champions, but the third effort carried him fairly into the fortress. Hostilities now ceased for awhile, and the captain and I, having leveled the remaining logs at the door, followed Michael into the house. A large three-inch plank (if it deserve that name, for it was wrought from the half of a tree's trunk entirely with the ax), attached to the logs by means of wooden pins, served the whole school for a writing desk. At a convenient distance below it, and on a line with it, stretched a smooth log resting upon the logs of the house, which answered for the writers seat. Michael took his seat upon the desk, placed his feet on the seat, and was sitting very composedly,

Michael St. John, the Schoolmaster-Southern Life in Southern Literature 186.png
MICHAEL ST. JOHN, THE SCHOOLMASTER, EFFECTING AN ENTRANCE BY STORM

Reproduction of one of the original illustrations of "Georgia Scenes"

when, with a simultaneous movement, Pete and Bill seized each a leg, and marched off with it in quick time. The consequence is obvious; Michael's head first took the desk, then the seat, and finally the ground (for the house was not floored), with three sonorous thumps of most doleful portent. No sooner did he touch the ground than he was completely buried with boys. The three elder laid themselves across his head, neck, and breast, the rest arranging themselves ad libitum. Michael's equanimity was considerably disturbed by the first thump, became restive with the second, and took flight with the third. His first effort was to disengage his legs, for without them he could not rise, and to lie in his present position was extremely inconvenient and undignified. Accordingly, he drew up his right, and kicked at random. This movement laid out about six in various directions upon the floor. Two rose crying. "Ding his old red-headed skin," said one of them, "to go and kick me right in my sore belly, where I fell down and raked it running after that fellow that cried 'school-butter.'"

"Drot his old snaggle-tooth picture," said the other, "to go and hurt my sore toe, where I knocked the nail off going to the spring to fetch a gourd of warter for him, and not for myself n 'other."

"Hut! " said Captain Griffin, "young Washingtons mind these trifles! At him again."

The name of Washington cured their wounds and dried up their tears in an instant, and they legged him de novo. The left leg treated six more as unceremoniously as the right had those just mentioned; but the talismanic name had just fallen upon their ears before the kick, so they were invulnerable. They therefore returned to the attack without loss of time. The struggle seemed to wax hotter and hotter for a short time after Michael came to the ground, and he threw the children about in all directions and postures, giving some of them thumps which would have placed the ruffle-shirted little darlings of the present day under the discipline of paregoric and opodeldoc for a week; but these hardy sons of the forest seemed not to feel them. As Michael's head grew easy, his limbs, by a natural sympathy, became more quiet, and he offered one day's holiday as the price. The boys demanded a week; but here the captain interposed, and, after the common but often unjust custom of arbitrators, split the difference. In this instance the terms were equitable enough, and were immediately acceded to by both parties. Michael rose in a good humor, and the boys were, of course.