Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

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

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states. That s why you see me cake\valking with the ex-rebs
to the illegitimate tune about simmon seeds and cotton. I vote
for the Great Father in Washington, but I am not going back
on Mars Jeff. You say the Confederacy has been dead forty
years? Well, if it hadn t been for it, I d have been breathing
to-day with soul so dead I could n t have whispered a single
cuss-word about my native land. The O Keefes are not over
burdened with ingratitude."

I must have looked bewildered. " The war was over," I
said vacantly, "in

O Keefe laughed loudly, scattering my thoughts.

" Ask old Doc Millikin if the war is over ! " he shouted,
hugely diverted. " Oh, no ! Doc has n t surrendered yet. And
the Confederate States ! Well, I just told you they bucked offi
cially and solidly and nationally against a foreign government
four months ago and kept me from being shot. Old Jeff s
country stepped in and brought me off under its wing while
Roosevelt was having a gunboat repainted and waiting for the
National Campaign Committee to look up whether I had ever
scratched the ticket."

" Is n t there a story in this, Barney ? " I asked.

" No," said O Keefe ; " but I 11 give you the facts. Y^ou
know how I went down to Panama when this irritation about a
canal began. I thought I d get in on the ground floor. I did,


and had to sleep on it, and drink water with little zoos in it ;
so, of course I got the Chagres fever. That was in a little town
called San Juan on the coast.

" After I got the fever hard enough to kill a Port-au-Prince
nigger, I had a relapse in the shape of Doc Millikin.

" There was a doctor to attend a sick man ! If Doc Millikin
had your case, he made the terrors of death seem like an in
vitation to a donkey party. He had the bedside manners of a
Piute medicine man and the soothing presence of a dray loaded
with bridge girders. When he laid his hand on your fevered
brow you felt like Cap. John Smith just before Pocahontas
went his bail.

" Well, this old medical outrage floated down to my shack
when I sent for him. He was built like a shad, and his eye
brows was black, and his white whiskers trickled down from his
chin like milk coming out of a sprinkling pot. He had a nigger
boy along carrying an old tomato can full of calomel, and a saw.

" Doc felt my pulse, and then he began to mess up some
calomel with an agricultural implement that belonged to the
trowel class. . . .

" By this time Doc Millikin had thrown up a line of fortifica
tions on square pieces of paper ; and he says to me : * Yank,
take one of these powders every two hours. They won t kill you.
I 11 be around again about sundown to see if you re alive.

" Old Doc s powders knocked the Chagres. I stayed in San
Juan, and got to knowing him better. He was from Mississippi,
and the red-hottest Southerner that ever smelled mint. He made
Stonewall Jackson and R. E. Lee look like Abolitionists. He
had a family somewhere down near Yazoo City ; but he stayed
away from the States on account of an uncontrollable liking he
had for the absence of a Yankee government. Him and me got
as thick personally as the emperor of Russia and the dove of
peace, but sectionally we didn t amalgamate.


f T was a beautiful system of medical practice introduced by
old Doc into that isthmus of land. He d take that bracket saw
and the mild chloride and his hypodermic, and treat anything
from yellow fever to a personal friend.

" Besides his other liabilities Doc could play a flute for a
minute or two. He was guilty of two tunes Dixie and
another one that was mighty close to Suwanee River you
might say it was one of its tributaries. He used to come down
and sit with me while I was getting well, and aggrieve his flute
and say unreconstructed things about the North. You *d have
thought the smoke from the first gun at Fort Sumter was still
floating around in the air.

[O Keefe tells how, participating in a Colombian revolution
on the insurgent side, he was captured by the government
troops and after a trial was sentenced to be shot in two
weeks. His appeal to the American consul for protection
proving ineffectual, he requests the consul to have Doc Millikin
come to see him.]

" Doc comes and looks through the bars at me, surrounded
by dirty soldiers, with even my shoes and canteen confiscated,
and he looks mightily pleased.

5 * Hello, Y T ank, says he, * getting a little taste of Johnson s
Island, now, ain t ye ?

5 * Doc, says I, I Ve just had an interview with the U. S.
consul. I gather from his remarks that I might just as well have
been caught selling suspenders in Kishineff under the name of
Rosenstein as to be in my present condition. It seems that the
only maritime aid I am to receive from the United States is some
navy plug to chew. Doc, says I, * can t you suspend hostilities
on the slavery question long enough to do something for me ?

: It ain t been my habit/ Doc Millikin answers, * to do any
painless dentistry when I find a Y 7 ank cutting an eyetooth. So
the Stars and Stripes ain t landing any marines to shell the huts


of the Colombian cannibals, hey ? Oh, ^say, can you see by the
dawn s early light the star-spangled banner has fluked in the
fight? What s the matter with the War Department, hey ? It s
a great thing to be a citizen of a gold-standard nation, ain t it?

: * Rub it in, Doc, all you want, says I. * I guess we re
weak on foreign policy.

For a Yank, says Doc, putting on his specs and talking
more mild, you ain t so bad. If you had come from below the
line I reckon I would have liked you right smart. Now since
your country has gone back on you, you have to come to the
old doctor whose cotton you burned and whose mules you stole
and whose niggers you freed to help you. Ain t that so, Yank ?

"It is says I, heartily, and let s have a diagnosis of the
case right away, for in two weeks time all you can do is to
hold an autopsy and I don t want to be amputated if I can
help it.

Now, says Doc, businesslike, it s easy enough for you
to get out of this scrape. Money 11 do it. You Ve got to pay
a long string of em from General Pomposo down to this
anthropoid ape guarding your door. About ten dollars will
do the trick. Have you got the money ?

" Me ? says I. I Ve got one Chile dollar, two real pieces,
and a media. .

Then if you Ve any last words, utter em, says that old
reb. The roster of your financial budget sounds quite much to
me like the noise of a requiem.

* * Change the treatment, says I. I admit that I m short.
Call a consultation or use radium or smuggle me in some saws
or something.

* * Yank, says Doc Millikin, * I Ve a good notion to help you.
There s only one government in the world that can get you
out of this difficulty; and that s the Confederate States of
America, the grandest nation that ever existed.


" Just as you said to me I says to Doc : Why, the Confed
eracy ain t a nation. It s been absolved forty years ago.

* That s a campaign lie/ says Doc. * She s running along
as solid as the Roman Empire. She s the onjy hope you ve
got. Now, you, being a Yank, have got to go through with
some preliminary obsequies before you can get official aid.
You Ve got to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederate
government. Then I 11 guarantee she does all she can for you.
What do you say, Yank ? it s your last chance.

! If you re fooling with me, Doc/ I answers, you re no
better than the United States. But as you say it s the last
chance, hurry up and swear me. I always did like corn whisky
and possum anyhow. I believe I m half Southerner by nature.
I m willing to try the Ku-Klux in place of the khaki. Get brisk.

" Doc Millikin thinks awhile, and then he offers me this oath
of allegiance to take without any kind of chaser :

I, Barnard O Keefe, Yank, being of sound body but a Re
publican mind, do hereby swear to transfer my fealty, respect,
and allegiance to the Confederate States of America, and the gov
ernment thereof in consideration of said government, through
its official acts and powers, obtaining my freedom and release
from confinement and sentence of death brought about by the
exuberance of my Irish proclivities and my general pizenness
as a Yank.

" I repeated these words after Doc, but they seemed to me
a kind of hocus-pocus ; and I don t believe any life-insurance
company in the country would have issued me a policy on the
strength of em.

" Doc went away, saying he would communicate with his
government immediately.

" Say you can imagine how I felt me to be shot in two
weeks and my only hope for help being in a government that s
been dead so long that it is n t even remembered except on


Decoration Day and when Joe Wheeler signs the voucher for
his pay check. But it was all there was in sight ; and somehow
I thought Doc Millikin had something up his old alpaca sleeve
that was n t all foolishness.

" Around to the jail comes old Doc again in about a week.
I was fleabitten, a mite sarcastic, and fundamentally hungry.

Any Confederate ironclads in the offing ? I asks. * Do
you notice any sounds resembling the approach of Jeb Stewart s
cavalry overland or Stonewall Jackson sneaking up in the rear ?
If you do, I wish you d say so.

1 It s too soon yet for help to come, says Doc.

* The sooner the better, says I. I don t care if it gets in
fully fifteen minutes before I am shot ; and if you happen to
lay eyes on Beauregard or Albert Sidney Johnston or any of
the relief corps, wigwag em to hike along.

* There s been no answer received yet, says Doc.

Don t forget, says I, * that there s only four days more.
I don t know how you propose to work this thing, Doc, I says
to him ; * but it seems to me I d sleep better if you had got a
government that was alive and on the map like Afghanistan
or Great Britain, or old man Kruger s kingdom, to take this
matter up. I don t mean any disrespect to your Confederate
States, but I can t help feeling that my chances of being pulled
out of this scrape was decidedly weakened when General Lee

* It s your only chance, says Doc ; don t quarrel with it.
What did your own country do for you ?

" It was only two days before the morning I was to be shot,
when Doc Millikin came around again.

" All right, Yank, says he. Help s come. The Confeder
ate States of America is going to apply for your release. The
representatives of the government arrived on a fruit steamer
last night.


" * Bully ! says I bully for you, Doc ! I suppose it s
marines with a Catling. I am going to love your country all I
can for this.

* Negotiations, says old Doc, will be opened between the
two governments at once. You will know later on to-day if
they are successful.

" About four in the afternoon a soldier in red trousers brings
a paper round to the jail, and they unlocks the door and I
walks out. The guard at the door bows and I bows, and I steps
into the grass and wades around to Doc Millikin s shack.

" Doc was sitting in his hammock, playing * Dixie/ soft and
low and out of tune, on his flute. I interrupted him at * Look
away ! look away ! and shook his hand for five minutes.

* I never thought/ says Doc, taking a chew fretfully, * that
I d ever try to save any blame Yank s life. But, Mr. O Keefe,
I don t see but what you are entitled to be considered part
human, anyhow. I never thought Yanks had any of the rudi
ments of decorum and laudability about them. I reckon I
might have been too aggregative in my tabulation. But it ain t
me you want to thank it s the Confederate States of America.

f * And I m much obliged to em/ says I. * It s a poor man
that would not be patriotic with a country that s saved his life.
I 11 drink to the Stars and Bars whenever there s a flagstaff
and a glass convenient. But where/ says I, f are the rescuing
troops? If there was a gun fired or a shell burst, I didn t
hear it.

" Doc Millikin raises up and points out the window with his
flute at the banana steamer loading with fruit.

" Yank/ says he, there s a steamer that s going to sail in
the morning. If I was you, I d sail on it. The Confederate
government s done all it can for you. There wasn t a gun
fired. The negotiations was carried on secretly between the
two nations by the purser of that steamer. I got him to do it


because I did n t want to appear in it. Twelve thousand dollars
was paid to the officials in bribes to let you go.

"Man! says I, sitting down hard, twelve thousand
how will I ever who could have where did the money
come from ?

Yazoo City, says Doc Millikin. I ve got a little saved
up there. Two barrels full of it. It looks good to these
Colombians. T was Confederate money, every dollar of it.
Now do you see why you d better leave before they try to
pass some of it on an expert ?

" I do/ says I.

tf Now let s hear you give the password, says Doc Millikin.

! * Hurrah for Jeff Davis ! says I.

" * Correct, says Doc. * And let me tell you something : The
next tune I learn on my flute is going to be "Yankee Doodle."
I reckon there s some Yanks that are not so pizen. Or, if you
was me, would you try " The Red, White, and Blue " ? "



[Mrs. Susan Dabney Smedes was born at Raymond, Mississippi,
in 1840, and was the daughter of Thomas S. Dabney, a planter
whose life forms the basis of her description of life on a Southern
plantation, entitled " Memorials of a Southern Planter." She was
married in 1860 to Lyell Smedes, but was in a few months left a
widow. Her life has been largely devoted to philanthropic work.
Her home at present is Sewanee. Tennessee.]


And now a great blow fell on Thomas Dabney. Shortly
before the war he had been asked by a trusted friend to put
his name as security on some papers for a good many thousand
dollars. At the time he was assured that his name w r ould only
be wanted to tide over a crisis of two weeks, and that he would
never hear of the papers again. It was a trap set, and his
unsuspicious nature saw no danger, and he put his name to
the papers. Loving this man, and confiding in his honor as in
a son s, he thought no more of the transaction.

It was now the autumn of 1866. One night he walked up
stairs to the room where his children were sitting, with a paper
in his hand. " My children," he said, " I am a ruined man.
The sheriff is downstairs. He has served this writ on me. It
is for a security debt. I do not even know how many more
such papers have my name to them." His face was white as

1 Reprinted from " Memorials of a Southern Planter," by permission of the
holder of the copyright, James Pott & Company.



he said these words. He was sixty-eight years of age, with
a large and helpless family on his hands, and the country in
such a condition that young men scarcely knew how to make
a livelihood.

The sheriff came with more writs. Thomas roused himself
to meet them all. He determined to pay every dollar.

But to do this he must have time. The sale of everything
that he owned would not pay all these claims. He put the
business in the hands of his lawyer, Mr. John Shelton, of
Raymond, who was also his intimate friend. Mr. Shelton
contested the claims, and this delayed things till Thomas
could decide on some way of paying the debts.

A gentleman to whom he owed personally several thousand
dollars courteously forbore to send in his clairn. Thomas was
determined that he should not on this account fail to get his
money, and wrote urging him to bring a friendly suit, that, if
the worst came, he should at least get his proportion. Thus
urged, the friendly suit was brought, the man deprecating the
proceeding, as looking like pressing a gentleman.

And now the judgments, as he knew they would, went
against him one by one. On the 2;th of November, 1866,
the Burleigh plantation was put up at auction and sold, but
the privilege of buying it in a certain time reserved to Thomas.
At this time incendiary fires were common. There was not
much law in the land. We heard of the ginhouses and cotton-
houses that were burned in all directions. One day as Thomas
came back from a business journey the smoldering ruins of
his ginhouse met his eye. The building was itself valuable and
necessary. All the cotton that he owned was consumed in it.
He had not a dollar. He had to borrow the money to buy a
postage stamp, not only during this year but during many years
to come. It was a time of deepest gloom. Thomas had been
wounded to the bottom of his affectionate heart by the perfidy


of the man who had brought this on his house. In the midst
of the grinding poverty that now fell in full force on him, he
heard of the reckless extravagance of this man on the money
that should have been used to meet these debts.

Many honorable men in the South were taking the benefit
of the bankrupt law. Thomas s relations and friends urged
him to take the law. It was madness, they said, for a man of
his age, in the condition the country was then in, to talk of
settling the immense debts that were against him. He refused
with scorn to listen to such proposals. But his heart was well-
nigh broken.

He called his children around him, as he lay in bed, not
eating and scarcely sleeping.

" My children." he said, " I shall have nothing to leave you
but a fair name. But you may depend that I shall leave you
that. I shall, if I live, pay even- dollar that I owe. If I die, I
leave these debts to you to discharge. Do not let my name be
dishonored. Some men would kill themselves for this. I shall
not do that. But I shall die."

The grief of betrayed trust was the bitterest drop in his cup
of suffering. But he soon roused himself from this depression
and set about arranging to raise the money needed to buy
in the plantation. It could only be done by giving up all the
money brought in by the cotton crop for many years. This
meant rigid self-denial for himself and his children. He could
not bear the thought of seeing his daughters deprived of com
forts. He was ready to stand iinflinchingly any fate that might
be in store for him. But his tenderest feelings were stirred
for them. His chivalrous nature had always revolted from the
sight of a woman doing hard work. He determined to spare
his daughters all such labor as he could perform. General
Sherman had said that he would like to bring even- Southern
woman to the washtub. " He shall never bring my daughters


to the washtub," Thomas Dabney said. " I will do the washing
myself." And he did it for two years. He was in his seventieth
year when he began to do it.

This may give some idea of the labors, the privations, the
hardships, of those terrible years. The most intimate friends
of Thomas, nay, his own children, who were not in the daily
life at Burleigh, have never known the unprecedented self-
denial, carried to the extent of acutest bodily sufferings, which
he practiced during this time. A curtain must be drawn over
this part of the life of my lion-hearted father 1

When he grew white and thin, and his frightened daughters
prepared a special dish for him, he refused to eat the delicacy.
It would choke him, he said, to eat better food than they had,
and he yielded only to their earnest solicitations. He would
have died rather than ask for it. When the living was so
coarse and so ill-prepared that he could scarcely eat it, he
never failed, on rising from the table, to say earnestly and
reverently, as he stood by his chair, " Thank the Lord for
this much."

During a period of eighteen months no light in summer, and
none but a fire in winter, except in some case of necessity, was
seen in the house. He was fourteen years in paying these
debts that fell on him in his sixty-ninth year. He lived but
three years after the last dollar was paid.


[Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve was born in Charleston, South Caro
lina, in 1831. After graduating from Princeton he studied in several
German universities and then returned to the United States to en
gage in teaching. For several years he was professor of Latin and
Greek in the University of Virginia, and since 1876 he has been
professor of Greek in Johns Hopkins University. While he is well


known as the author of textbooks and monographs in his chosen
field of scholarship, he has also shown himself in such volumes as
" Essays and Studies " and " Hellas and Hesperia " to be gifted as
an English stylist.]


A few months ago, as I was leaving Baltimore for a summer
sojourn on the coast of Maine, two old soldiers of the war be
tween the states took their seats immediately behind me in the
car and began a lively conversation about the various battles in
which they had faced each other more than a quarter of a cen
tury ago, when a trip to New England would have been no
holiday jaunt for one of their fellow travelers. The veterans
went into the minute detail that always puts me to shame,
when I think how poor an account I should give if pressed
to describe the military movements that I have happened to
witness ; and I may as well acknowledge at the outset that I
have as little aptitude for the soldier s trade as I have for the
romancer s. Single incidents I remember as if they were of
yesterday. Single pictures have burned themselves into my
brain. But I have no vocation to tell how fields were lost and
won, and my experience of military life w r as too brief and fitful
to be of any value to the historian of the war. For my own
life that experience has been of the utmost significance, and
despite the heavy price I have had to pay for my outings,
despite the daily reminder of five long months of intense
suffering, I have no regrets. An able-bodied young man, with
a long vacation at his disposal, could not have done otherwise,
and the right to teach Southern youth for nine months was
earned by sharing the fortunes of their fathers and brothers
at the front for three. Self-respect is everything; and it is

1 Reprinted from The Creed of the Old South," by permission of the
holder of the copyright, the Johns Hopkins Press.


something to have belonged in deed and in truth to an heroic
generation, to have shared in a measure its perils and priva
tions. But that heroic generation is apt to be a bore to a
generation whose heroism is of a different type, and I doubt
whether the young people in our car took much interest in the
very audible conversation of the two veterans. Twenty-five
years hence, when the survivors will be curiosities, as were
Revolutionary pensioners in my childhood, there may be a
renewal of interest. As it is, few of the present generation
pore over " The Battles and Leaders of the Civil War," and a
grizzled old Confederate has been heard to declare that he in
tended to bequeath his copy of that valuable work to someone
outside of the family, so provoked was he at the supineness
of his children. And yet, for the truth s sake, all these battles
must be fought over and over again, until the account is cleared
and until justice is done to the valor and skill of both sides.

The two old soldiers were talking amicably enough, as all
old soldiers do, but they " yarned," as all old soldiers do, and
though they talked from Baltimore to Philadelphia, and from
Philadelphia to New York, their conversation was lost on me,
for my thoughts went back into my own past, and two pictures
came up to rrie from the time of the war.

In the midsummer of 1863 I was serving as a private in the
First Virginia Cavalry. Gettysburg was in the past and there
was not much fighting to be done, but the cavalry was not
wholly idle. Raids had to be intercepted, and the enemy was
not to be allowed to vaunt himself too much ; so that I gained
some experience of the hardships of that arm of the service
and found out by practical participation what is meant by a
cavalry charge. To a looker-on nothing can be finer. To the
one who charges, or is supposed to charge, for the horse
seemed to me mainly responsible, the details are somewhat
cumbrous. Now in one of these charges some of us captured


a number of the opposing force, among them a young lieu
tenant. Why this particular capture should have impressed me

Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonSouthern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry → online text (page 25 of 35)