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"Now that Bob has got the medal, Will, it is time that
we decided definitely where we shall send him. to col-
lege," said Mrs. Robertson.

"Oh, time enough for that," answered Mr. Robert-
son, "and besides we must wait a little while longer to
see what the crops are going to do."

"Crops or no crops, Bob is going to college, and he
is going this fall. Bob is such a good boy, and he has
taken the medal' for scholarship at the high school, and
then, Will, you must remember that he was converted
last summer. I am not afraid to send him off to college
now. Oh, Will, I am so proud of him. And you too,
[Will, you are proud of him, aren't you, aren't you, Will?"

"Yes, Mamie, I'm proud of him all right, but you see
it will cost money, a lot of money. And there is nowhere
we can get it unless the crops turn out well and the price
is good."

"Oh, we can sacrifice, Will. We can do without. Bob
must go to college. He is eighteen now, and it is time
for him to go."

"Yes, honey, I know all about that, and we'll see about

"No, no, Will, you must promise me. There have been
so many things you were going to see about that have
never come to pass. You must promise me."

"All right, then, we will send Bob to college this fall


4 White and Black

"No, Will, no 'if about it. Say 'We will send Bob
to college this fall.' "

"Well, honey, I was just going to say, 'if possible.'
We certainly can't send him if it is impossible. We can't
do the impossible."

"Oh, Will, Will, so many things have been impossible."

"Yes, dear heart, I know it. I know it. So many
things that we hoped for have never come to us, and it
has been my fault. I know that."

"No, Will, don't say that."

"Yes, it is true. Why disguise it? Why deny it?"

"But, Will, think, think of Bob, what a fine boy he
is, how smart, how good, how handsome! Oh, Will,
isn't it enough to fill us with happiness to have him?"

"Yes, yes, honey, he is a mighty fine boy."

"And to think of his taking the medal for scholar-
ship, such a beautiful medal it is. And Brother Maxcy
told me his was such a sound conversion. He said he
never saw a more earnest and sincere conversion in his
life. Oh, Will, our son is a true, true Christian!"

"Yes, honey, that's all mighty fine, and we'll strain
every nerve we will send him to college."

"Oh, Will, think what a magnificent lawyer he will
make, or maybe a consecrated minister of the gospel."

"Yes, yes, honey, that will come in its time, but I have
been out in the field all day, honey, and I'm awfully tired
and sleepy. Suppose we go to sleep now."

"Oh, I can't sleep, Will, for thinking about it. Listen,
I will run into Bob's room and tell him all about it. And
when I come back, I'll tip in, so you won't hear me."

"All right, honey," said Mr. Robertson sleepily, offer-
ing his lips for his good-night kiss.

Mrs. Robertson kissed him, saying, "Good night, dear,"

White and Black 5

and rose from beside him, threw on a kimono, and stole
out quietly to go to Bob's room.

They had had two other children, a boy and a girl,
but both had died in infancy, the one of typhoid and the
other of malaria, leaving Bob an only child.


IT was in the early part of June, 1921, and only two
weeks since Bob had been graduated from the high school
of Compton with the highest mark for scholarship, and
its reward, a gold medal, had been bestowed on him amid
the admiring and envious glances of his class-mates.

Compton was the county-seat of a county in southeast
Texas, that portion of the state which had been settled
before the Civil War by planters from North Carolina
and Alabama, who had brought with them their black

They had cleared away the forests and made fields for
the cultivation of cotton and corn. In 1921 these fields
had been in such cultivation for something like sixty or
seventy years. There had been infrequent and limited
rotation of crops, so the fertility of the soil was largely
exhausted. And the excessive rains of winter had washed
many deep gullies through the sand and clay of the
farms that lay, as it were, on their backs offering up in
continuing protest these red gashes on their fronts to
the inspection of unpitying skies.

The old Benton pl'ace, as it was commonly known
throughout the county, was about a mile east of the small
town of Compton. And the west boundary of the place
was Berry Creek, which was subject to violent over-
flows, as much of the surface soil of the neighboring
hills had been washed into the creek bed and choked up
the channel.


White and Black 7

The farm was traversed from west to east by one of the
main highways of the county, and on this a surface of
gravel and clay had recently been laid to make the road
passable in wet weather. One of the two railroads that
crossed each other at Compton also cut through the
farm, but near its north end, and ran approximately
parallel with the highway. Both the railroad and the
highway crossed Berry Creek, the former on a high
trestle, the latter on a low bridge approached at either
end by an earthen dump surfaced with concrete.

The old Benton place containing five hundred acres
had belonged to Mrs. Robertson's grandfather, who had
lived on it and cultivated it with his slaves. It had been
inherited by her through her father, and she and Will
Robertson had moved on it as bride and groom twenty
years before, in June of 1901. The old Robertson place
of five hundred acres, usually called by the Robertsons
"the lower place," as being farther down the creek, con-
stituted, together with fifteen hundred acres of timber
land in the eastern part of the county, the inherited estate
of the groom. This "lower place" was three miles to
the west, had never been reached by any good road, and
was therefore less accessible to travel, as well as farther
from town than the old Benton place. It was natural
therefore that the young couple should choose the latter
as the site for their home.

The old house of Grandfather Benton, originally built
of logs that were later planked over, had fallen into
decay, and had long been inhabited by Negro tenants.
It sat on the north side of the road. The young people
built their new home on the south side of the road, placing
it on the top of a hill that was the highest point in all
the country around.

8 White and Black

It was a frame house of two stories, painted white,
with green window blinds, and together with the out-
buildings cost five thousand dollars. It was known to
all on the farm as the "big house." It faced north toward
the road, and was square in shape except that there was
an ell at the rear, where were the kitchen and pantry.
One entering at the front passed across a large porch
into a hall running through the center of the house to a
back porch. Two downstairs rooms were on each side of
the hall, which contained a staircase leading up to a hall
and four rooms similarly arranged above. In the summer
time this hall was a cool place for an afternoon siesta,
but on a winter morning it felt as cold as the Arctic
regions despite the fact that there was a shut door at
each end. The first room to the right of the front
entrance was the family sitting-room. Across the hall
from it was the parlor, rarely used for any purpose.
Behind the parlor was the dining-room, and across the
hall from it a bedroom called the "preachers' room," in
which visiting ministers, and many of them came to the
Robertsons', usually stayed.

Immediately in front of the house and extending around
to the west side was a flower garden, not very well tended,
but enclosed by a picket fence. From the front gate
in this fence a graveled road bordered by planted pecan
trees led to the highway about three hundred yards dis-
tant. The same road bent west around the garden and
headed toward the rear of the premises, passing a well
and tank tower from which water was supplied to the
house by a windmill that screaked badly at times and at
other times didn't pump very well for lack of wind.

To the west of the house there was a sharp declivity
falling toward the creek bottom, in the nearer edge of

White and Black 9

which was planted a field of cotton. From the house
ran a road through this field to a gate called the bottom
gate, which afforded a shorter way than the highroad to
the town. Beyond the field were the trees along the creek
bank. Over their tops in the near distance could be seen
the houses and streets of Compton and the court house
in the middle of the square. None of these was par-
ticularly picturesque, as the houses were not imposing
and the streets were neither very wide nor handsome nor
greatly frequented by either pedestrians or equipages,
except perhaps on Saturday afternoons, when all of the
Negroes of the surrounding farms would come to town.

Behind the house was first a back-yard, then the barns,
stables and horse lot, then the vegetable garden, and
behind that the field cultivated by Joe Williams, a Negro
tenant. This field was traversed by a spring branch hav-
ing at its head around the spring a small grove of tower-
ing pine trees, and further down along its course a row
of cottonwoods on either side, until it reached the elms,
oaks, hackberries and willows of the creek bottom. The
spring branch was half way between the big house and
the tenant house of Joe Williams, the roof of which
could be seen from the big house through the foliage
of the intervening trees.

On the east of the house was a five-acre patch on which
was grown usually such small crops as sorghums, sweet
potatoes, cowpeas, peanuts and watermelons. Beyond
this patch was a thirty-acre wood lot, covered mainly by
young second growth pines, which were interspersed here
and there with sassafras, sycamores, elms and oaks.

Between this wood lot and the highway was a small
pasture of something like twenty acres, called the home
pasture, in which calves and the horses soon to be needed

So White and Black

were allowed to graze. The big pasture and hay meadow
were on the other side of the road, near the north end of
the farm, at some considerable distance behind the old
Benton homestead occupied by the Negro tenant, John
Ramsey, and his numerous family.


THE next morning Mr. Robertson was up early and out
in the fields. He went first to that tilled by Joe Williams,
a Negro of fifty years of age, who had lived on the place
continuously for twenty-five years, and had reared there
his family of three girls, Lucindy, Mariah and Ella. His
wife was named Malviny.

Neither Joe nor any of his family was to be seen at
work in the field, so Mr. Robertson rode on to the tenant
house, where he found Malviny sweeping off the front

"What's the matter, Malviny?" he asked. "Why aren't
the folks out in the field? That cotton's got to be dirted
up, and it needs to be given a last chopping to get rid
of the cockle-burrs and those bunches of Johnson grass."

"Yassuh, Mr. Will, I wuz a-tellin' Joe about it, but he
say better wait till the jew gits off en de plants. He say
dey ain't no rush, and he's feel'in' sorter po'ly dis mawnin'.
He jus' 'lowed he'd lay a little later. And den Lucin-
dy's got de fever agin. She mighty nigh shook de kivvers
offen her yestiddy evenin', she wuz chillin' so awful. But
I'll call him Joe, Joe, Mr. Will's out hyeer."

Joe came out of the house chewing. "Good mawnin',
Mr. Will," he said, his utterance muffled by the corn-
bread in his mouth. "I ain't 'spected you to be up and
aroun' dis soon. It's powerful early, Mr. Will. I ain't
had time to finish breakfus' yit."

"Well, I think it's high time you were in the field,
Joe, and where are the girls?"

12 White and Black

"Dey's kinder scrappin' up in de kitchen, Mr. Will,
all 'ceppen Lucindy. She's down agin wid de chills an'
fever. Looks like we sho' do have a power of sick-

"It does look that way, Joe. But hustle around now
and get out there with Mariah and Ella. I reckon Mai-
viny can look after Lucindy all right"

"All right, Mr. Will, but don't you reckon we better
wait till de jew lifts. You know it's powerful unhealthy
to git all wet up wid de jew, an' Mariah's been feelin'
puny like for mighty nigh a week, an' layin' by time is
mos' hyeer anyhow. Dey ain't no rush, Mr. Will. I
got de bes' cotton dey is on de place an' de cleanest. And
dey ain't none of 'em on de lower place kin beat me.
I wuz down dar las' week. And dey ain't none of 'em
can hold a light to me. An' de cawn's done laid by.
I got a cawn crop made, Mr. Will. Is you ever seed
sich cawn?"

"Well, yes, it is pretty good corn, Joe, but we've got
to make a good crop this year. I am going to send Bob
off to college. And he will need money."

"Waal, suh!" interposed Malviny, "Mr. Bob's gwine
off to college. Whar you gwine to send him, Mr. Will ?"

"I haven't decided yet, but Miss Mamie and I were
talking about it last night, and we are going to send him

"Waal, suh!" said Malviny, "an' whut's Miss Mamie
gwine to do widout him?"

"It is going to be hard on her. But we'll all have to
try to make it up to her somehow, Malviny."

"We sho' will, Mr. Will, 'cause Miss Mamie's sho'
gwine to grieve atter him. She keeps him in de middle
of her heart all de time."

White and Black 13

Mariah and Ella came out on the porch, bashfully fin-
gering their aprons before Mr. Will.

"Whut you reckon, Ella," said Malviny, "Mr. Bob is
gwine off to college."

"Yassum, dat sho* wuz a pretty medal dey give him
over to de high school," said Ella.

"I'm powerful glad he's goin'," said Joe. "You know,
Mr. Will, I always is believed in eddication. I sont all
my girls to school. An' all of 'em kin read an' write an'
figger better'n whut I kin now."

"Yes, that's so, Joe, and you have done right. Yon
have really done better by them than you could afford.
But get your hat, Joe, and come along. I want to see
that mule hitched to your plow before I leave. I've got
to go over to John Ramsey's house and stir him up."

Joe went into the house and came back with a torn
and misshapen old rag of a hat so full of holes that no
imagination could regard it as a real protection against
the sun.

"Is that the best hat you've got, Joe ?" asked Mr. Rob-
ertson, as he rode along beside him on the way to Joe's

"Yassuh, it's de bes' one I got to work in. Of co'se
I's got my Sunday hat, but it won't do to wear dat in
de field."

"Well, I'll have to look around the house and see if
Mr. Bob or I haven't an old one we can give you."

"Thank you, Mr. Will, wonder if you ain't got some
old pants, too. And Malviny wuz jes' sayin' las' week
she bet Miss Mamie wuz gwine to give her a dress. She
say she dreamed she seen Miss Mamie givin' her dat ar
spotted dress Miss Mamie been a-wearin' for de longest."

Mr. Robertson laughed, and said, "Well, I reckon

14 White and Black

Malviny'll get it. What surprises me is that she hasn't
already told Miss Mamie about that dream. Or maybe
you thought of that dream, Joe, just this minute, and you
haven't had time to tell Malviny about it."

"Haw, haw, haw," laughed Joe. "You sho' is a joker,
Mr. Will."

"Well, never mind," said Mr. Robertson, "but speaking
of jokes, Joe, I just happened to notice how light-com-
plected Mariah and Ella are, when they came out on the
porch. You and Malviny are both so black."

"Now, look 'ee hyeer, Mr. Will, you know I can't stand
no jokin' 'bout dat. An' den dey ain't so light. Some-
times it jes' happens dat a way wid black folks, any-

"I don't know, Joe, it looks to me like you started with
Lucindy, pretty middling black, and then Mariah, lighter,
and Ella, not very far from yellow. How do you explain

"Mr. Will, you knows as good as I does dat Malviny's
mammy wuz a yaller woman, an' it's jes' come out ag'in
in de gals."

"Well, maybe so, Joe, but you'd better keep your eyes
open all the same," and Mr. Robertson laughed teasingly.

"Now, look 'ee hyeer, Mr. Will," said Joe as he stood
with his hand on the ramshackle gate of his horse-lot,
"you knows how I've brung my gals up. I ain't never
let 'em work out for nobody. I knows and you knows
about dese white men. . . . And Malviny she's been home,
too, mighty nigh all de time. Naw, suh, my wimmen
folks has got to have charackter, Mr. Will. You knows
dat. Look over dar now at John Ramsey's gals. It
makes me sick, plumb sick, and him a local preacher, too.

White and Black i<J

It's true I don't preach in de church. I don't do nuthin'
but lecture sometimes at prayer meetin' when de preacher
ain't dar, but if one of my gals wuz to carry on like
John Ramsey's does, I'd beat her to death. Why can't
de white men behave deyselves an' let our wimmen folks
alone, we don't "

"Look out, Joe," said Mr. Robertson sternly. "Stop
right there. Get that mul'e hitched to the plow."

"Yassuh, Mr. Will, I wuzn't gwine to say nuthin'. I
was jes' a-thinkin' "

"Well, don't think. I haven't got time to fool along
here all morning. Get a move on you."

Joe caught the mule and led it to where the gear was
hanging on the rail fence. "Whoa, mule! whoa, Beck!"
he said. "Dis hyeer mule tries to flinch plum across de
lot ever time I go to th'ow de back-band 'cross her. She
is de out-doin'est mule I ever seed."

"I reckon so, Joe, you ought to be ashamed of your-
self. Look at that sore on her back."

"Oh, dat ain't much of a so', Mr. Will'. Dat little ole
so' don't hurt her none. She's jes' mean, dat's whut she

"Why, the sore is half as big as my hand. Get a
gunnysack and put under that back-band, and bring the
mule up to the big house to-night to be doctored."

Joe found an old gunny-sack, put it in place, and at
last got the mule hitched to the plow. Mr. Robertson
turned his horse and rode away, saying angrily, "These
damned niggers will work a mule all day and slip it out
and ride it all night." But he added after a pause, "Well,
that's just a nigger. They always have done it, the best

1 6 White and Black

of them, and I suppose they always will. But Joe is
right. The white men ought to let the nigger women
alone. And Joe has certainly done his best by his girls.
Ah, well, there's a lot of things to worry about."


ON his way to John Ramsey's, Mr. Robertson had to
pass by the big house and go down the road in front
of it. Just as he came to the big gate opening into the
road he was overtaken by Bob riding his horse, Saladin, a
very beautiful animal, somewhat larger than medium-
sized, a dark bay in col'or, and gracefully shaped. Mrs.
Robertson had named him Saladin, because he must have
Arabian blood in him, she said. Mr. Robertson had
bought him for Bob two years before from an itinerant

"Hold on, Papa," said Bob, "let me open the gate
for you."

Mr. Robertson looked around, saying, "Hello, Bob,
have you had your- breakfast already ?"

"I have that," answered Bob, "and it was a good one.
Cindy can beat the world frying chicken, can't she, Papa !
And Mama gave me a lot of those new plum preserves
with my batter-cakes. You and Mama are mighty good
to me, Papa."

"Yes, I expect we spoil you, Bob. But you know, yot
are your mother's heart."

Bob had skilfully brought his horse alongside of the
gate, and now leaned over and deftly opened it. Riding
through first, he held the gate open for his father to
pass, and then closed it.

"Papa," he said, "you couldn't spare a dollar this morn-
ing, could you?"

"Well, son, I reckon so, but dollars are mighty scarce.


1 8 White and Black

What are you going to do, set 'em up to the girls at the
soda-fountain ?"

"Well, I thought I might see Minnie Deane, and a
feller feels mighty bad when he hasn't got a cent in his

"All right," answered Mr. Robertson, taking out his
pocketbook, "here's the dollar. Minnie is a nice girl."

"Thank you, Papa, so long !" And Bob galloped away
toward Compton.

"Rides like he was part of the horse," thought Mr.
Robertson, as he looked after him. "He's a fine boy,
there's no denying that. But, of course, he is not as good
as Mamie thinks he is. No boy could be. Now, for John

He rode across the highway to John's gate, which was
set back a little way from the road. Two pickaninnies,
ragged, grinning, bright yellow in color, raced from John's
porch to open the gate, animated by hope for a nickel.
But this morning Mr. Robertson passed them up, hardly
noticing their presence.

He saw John hastily leaving the porch as if he had
a matter of great urgency to attend to somewhere within
the house or at the horse-lot in the rear.

"Hold on, John. Where are you going?" he called,

John stopped midway of the dilapidated hall that was
open to the elements at both ends, and half turning around,
said, "Lawd, is dat you, Mr. Will? I ain't seed you, I
wuz in sich a hurry to git to work. I wuz jes' a-rushin*
back to hitch up. But dat's me. I always is in sich a
rush a-workin* dat I don't hardly see nobody at all."

Mr. Robertson laughed good-naturedly. "Of all the
fancy liars, John, you take the cake. You would have

White and Black 19*

sat out on that porch until dinner time watching the
road, if I hadn't come along. You saw me, but you
thought I was going to town with Bob. The only thing
that surprised you was that I turned up this way."

"Now, Mr. Will, you discombobulates a man when you
argyfies dat a way. I wuz jes' tellin' Rosy las' night dat
you sho' is got a keen eye on you. An' dey ain't nobody
neenter to think dey kin pull de wool over it, neither."

"How's your crop, John? I have been down to the
lower place so much lately that I haven't had a chance to
get over here."

"De crop is doin' fine, Mr. Will. Of co'se dey is a
few skips in de cotton hyeer an' dar. You know I didn't
git de bes' stand 'count of de wet weather, but I sho' is
worked to make up for dat. An' cotton is a plant dat
reesponds to work."

"Well, if that's all it responds to," said Mr. Robert-
son, smiling, "yours is bound to answer in a whisper."

"Naw, suh, naw, suh, Mr. Will, my cotton is shoutin'
out loud, and my cawn, you ought to see it, my cawn is
yellin' come look at me !"

"Well, let's go," answered Mr. Robertson. "Saddle
up something and come along."

They went to the horse-lot, and John threw an old
worn-out saddle on the back of a flea-bitten, bony gray
mare, mounted, and they rode toward the field.

"John, why don't you feed your work animals ?" asked
Mr. Robertson.

"I feeds 'em, I feeds 'em good all de time," answered
John, "but you know, Mr. Will, my part of de cawn from
las' year is runnin' low, an' we got to save some of it
for bread. But dis hyeer ole mare kin eat an' eat an*
eat, an' she don't git no fatter. She reminds me of de

2O White and Black

locustes in de Scripter. Dey et up ever' thing dey wuz
in de Promised Land an' whut do de Good Book say ?
It don't say nuthin' about a single fat locust anywhar
'round Jerusalem, nor yet in de bound'ry lines of Jericho."

"You've been selling that corn. That's what you've
been doing," said Mr. Robertson. "And I'm getting tired
of it. I'm going to drive you off of the place if you
don't quit starving your stock."

But just then they passed through a skirt of high blood-
weeds and willow bushes that grew along a small branch
and that had hitherto hid John's crop from sight. When
Mr. Robertson's eye fell on the corn, he said, angrily,
"What on earth do you mean, John? The cockle-burrs
are taking that corn. Here we have had two weeks of
good weather, and you haven't struck a lick of work."

"Lawd, Mr. Will, I done laid dat cawn by mos' three
weeks ago. I wuz de fust hand on de place to lay my
cawn by."

"Well, you are going to be the first hand on the place
to get in it again and chop those burrs and plow out
the middles. You begin on that this morning. You
hear me !"

"Yassuh, of co'se I'll' chop 'em out if you say so, Mr.
Will, but dem burrs don' hurt nuthin'. You know it's
natchul for cuckle-burrs to grow up in cawn you done
laid by, Mr. Will, and dey shades de roots of de cawn."

"Shut up!" said Mr. Robertson. "That corn won't
make ten bushels to the acre. Come on, and let's see
your cotton."

John followed meekly with apprehension and calcu-
lation in his eye. They rode in silence. When they came
to the cotton field, Mr. Robertson exclaimed, "God

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