Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

Southern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry online

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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 uncon
trollable 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

" Ride him off, Neddy ! " said Peter. Kit put off at a hand
some 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


" 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 11 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

" 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 11 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


" 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 11 be as clever as you are ; just put
the five dollars on Bullet s back and hand him over, it s a

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, there
fore 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

" 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 11 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 dis
covered 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 11 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."



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 occa
sionally 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 (orth 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 char
acter, 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.

I 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 11 be bound Pete Jones and
Bill Smith stretches him." " By Jockey, soon as they seize
him you 11 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 school-
house 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 dis
tinguish themselves upon such memorable occasions, they some
times 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 accom
pany 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 forti
fications. It was a simple log pen, about twenty feet square, ,*J
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 school-
house ; 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 thejTTfo r gi gn nf an ) r a g p " - hn was in
different to the smiles and praises of the ladies before his

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 hap
pened, 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 school-
house and demanded, in a lofty tone, of its inmates an uncon
ditional 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 11 break it down."

" Break it down," said Pete Jones and Bill Smith, " and
we 11 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, exam
ining 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 appre
hended 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 11 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 forti
fications 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 cap
tain and I, having leveled the remaining logs at the door, fol
lowed 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

Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonSouthern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry → online text (page 13 of 35)