30 OCTOBER 1880, Page 12



Rugby, Tennessee. THERE is one inconvenience in this desultory mode of corre- spondence,—that one is apt to forget what one has told already, and to repeat oneself. I have written something of the white native of these mountains ; have I said anything of his dark brother? The-subject is becoming a more and more interesting aud important one every day, through all these regions. In these mountains, the negro, perhaps, can scarcely be called a native. Very few black families, I am told, were to be found here a year or two since. My own eyes assure me that they are multiplying rapidly. I see more and more black men amongst the gangs on roads and bridges, and come across queer little encampments in the woods, with a pile of logs smouldering in the midst, round which stand the mirth-provoking figures of small black urchins, who stare and grin at the intruder on horseback, till he rides on under the gold and russet and green autumnal coping of hickories, chestnuts, and pines.

I am coming to the conclusion that wherever work is to be had, in Tennessee, at any rate, there will the negro be found. He seems to gather to a contractor like the buzzards, which one sees over the tree-tops, to carrion. And unless the white natives take to "putting in all their time," whatever work is going will not long remain with them. The nigger will loaf and shirk as often as not when he gets the chance, but he has not the same craving for knocking off altogether as soon as he has a couple of dollars in his pocket ; has no strong hunting instinct, and has not acquired the art of letting his pick drop listlessly into the ground with its own weight, and stopping to admire the scenery after every half-dozen strokes. The negro is much more obedient, moreover, and manageable,—obedient to a fault, if one can believe the many stories one hears of his readiness to commit small misdemeanours and crimes, and not always small ones, at the bidding of his employers. There is one thing, however, which an equally unanimous testimony agrees in declaring that he will not do, and that is, sell his vote, or be dragooned into giving it for any one but his own choice; he may, indeed, be scared from voting, but cannotbe "squared," a singular testimony, surely, of his prospective value as a citizen. Equally strong is the evidence of his resolute determination to get his children educated. In some Southern States the children are, I believe, kept apart, but in the only school I have had the chance of seeing, black and white children were together. They were not in class, but in the front of the barn-like building, used both for church and school, having just come out for the dinner-hour. There was a large, sandy, trampled place under the trees, by no means a bad play-ground, on which a few of the most energetic, the blacks in the majority, were playing at some game as we came up, the mysteries of which I should have liked to study. But the longer we stayed, the less .chance there seemed of their going on, and the game remains a mystery to me still. Where these children, some fifty in number, came from, is a problem ; but there they were, from somewhere. And everywhere, I hear, the blacks are forcing the running, with respect to education, and great numbers of them are showing a thrift and energy which are likely to make them formidable competitors in the struggle for existence in all States south of Kentucky, at any- rate.

In one department (a very small one, no doubt), they will have crowded out the native whites in a very short time, if I may judge by our experience in this house. We number two ladies and six men, and our whole service is done by one boy.

Our first experiment was with a young native, who " reared up" en the first morning at the idea of having to black booth. This prejudice, I think I told you, was removed for the moment, and he stayed for a few days. Where it was he "weakened on us" I could not learn for certain, but incline to the belief that it was either having to carry the racquets and balls to the lawn-tennis ground, or to get a fire to burn in order to boil the water for a four-o'clock tea. Both these services were ordered by the ladies, and I thought I saw signs (though I am far from certain) that his manly soul rose against feminine command. Be that as it may, off he went without warning, and soon after Amos Hill arrived, with almost pathetic apologies and a negro boy, short of stature, huge of month, fabulous in the apparent age of his garments, named Jeff. He had no other name, he told us, and

did not know whether it signified Jefferson or Geoffrey, or where or how he got it, or anything about himself, except that he had got our place at .$5 a month,—at which he showed his ivory, "some !"

From this time all was changed. Jeff, it is true, after the first two days, gave proofs that he was not converted, like the white housemaid who had learned to sweep under the mats.

His sweeping and tidying were decidedly those of the sinner, and he entirely abandoned the only hard work we set him, as soon as it was out of sight from the Asylum. It was a path leading to a shallow well, which the boys had dug at the bottom of the garden. The last twenty yards or so are on a steeper incline than the part next the house, so Jeff studiously com- pleted the few feet that were left to the brow, and never put pick or shovel on the remainder, which lay behind the friendly brow of the slope. But in all other directions, where the work was mainly odd jobs, a respectable kind of loafing, Jeff was always to the fore, acquitting himself to the best, I think, of his ability. We did not get full command of him till the arrival of a young Texan cattle-driver, who taught us the peculiar cry for the negro, by appending a high " Ho " to his name, or rather running them to- gether, so that the whole sounded, " Hojeff !" as nearly as possible one syllable. Even the ladies picked up the cry, and thenceforward Jeff's substitute for the "Anon, anon, Sir !" of the Elizabethan waiter was instantaneous. He built a camp-oven, like those of the Volunteers at Wimbledon, and neater of construction, from which he supplied a reasonably constant provision of hot water between six and six, of course cutting his own logs for the fire. His highest achievement was ironing the ladies' cotton dresses, which they declared he did not very badly. Most of us entrusted him with the washing of flannel shirts and socks, which at any rate were faithfully immersed in suds, and hang up to dry under our eyes. The laundry was an army tent, pitched at the back of the Asylum, where Jeff spent nearly all his time when not under orders, and generally eating an apple, of which there was always a sack, a present from some ranch-owner, or brought over from the garden, lying about, and open to mankind at large. I never could find out whether he could read. One evening he came up proudly to ask whether his mail had come, and sure enough when the mail arrived there was a post-card, which he claimed.

We thought he would ask one of us to read it for him, but were disappointed. He had a habit of crooning over and over again all day some scrap of a song. One of these excited my curiosity exceedingly, but I never succeeded in getting more than two lines out of him,—

" Oh my ! oh my ! I've got a hundred dollars in a mine !"

One had a crave to hear what came of those 100 dollars. It seems it is so almost universally. The nearest approach to a complete negro ditty which I have been able to strike is one which the Texan gives, with a wonderful roll of the word 'chariot," which cannot be written. It runs :—

"The Debbie he chase me round a stump,

Gwine for to carry me home ; He catch me most at ebery jump,

Gwine for to carry me home. Swing low, sweet chay-o-t,

Gwine for to carry me home.

'he Debbie he make one grab at me, Gwine, &c., He missed me, and my soul goad free, Gwine, tot.

Swing low, &e.

Oh! won't we have a gay old time,

Gwine, &e.

A eatin' up o' honey, and a drinkin' up o' wine.

Caine, &c.

Swing low, &c."

This, Sir, I think you will agree with me, though precious, is obviously a fragment only. It took our Texan many months to pick it up, even in this mutilated condition. But after all, Jeff's character and capacity come out most in the direction of boots. It is from his attitude with regard to them that I incline to think that the Black race have a great future in these States. You may have gathered from previous letters that there is a clear, though not a well marked, division in this settlement as to blacking. Amos Hill builds on it decidedly, and would have every farmer appear in blacked boots, at any rate on Sunday. The opposition is led by a. young farmer of great energy and famous temper, who, having been "strapped," or left without a penny, 300 miles from the Pacific coast, amongst the Mexican mines, and having made his hands keep his head in the wildest of earthly settlements, has a strong contempt for all amenities of clothing, which is sharei by the geologist and others. How the point will be settled at last, I cannot guess. It stands over while the ladies are still here, and I have actually seen the "strapped" one giving his wondrous boots a sly lick or two of blacking on Sunday morning. But, anyhow, the blacks will be cordially on the side of polish and, the aristocracy. This one might, perhaps, have anticipated ; but what I was not prepared for, was Jeff's apparent passion for boots. I own a fine, strong pair of shooting-boots, which he worshipped for five minutes at least every morning. As my

last day in the Asylum drew on, I could see he was troubled in his mind. At last, out it came. Watching his chance, when no

one was near, he sidled up, and pointing to them on the square chest in the verandah which served for blacking-board, he said, "I'd like to buy dem booth." After my first astonishment was over, I explained to him that I couldn't afford to sell them for less than about six weeks of his wages, and that, moreover, I wanted them for myself, as I could get none such here. He was much disappointed, and muttered frequently, "I'd like to buy dem boots !"—but my heart did not soften.

Perhaps I ought rather to be giving your readers more serious experiences, but somehow the negro is apt to run one out into chaff. However, I will conclude with one fact, which seems to me a very striking confirmation of my view. All Americans are reading the Fool's Errand, a powerful novel, founded on the state of things after the war in the Kuklux times. It is written by a Southern Judge, a fair and clever man, clearly, but one who has no more faith in the negro's power to raise himself to anything above hewing wood and drawing water for the "Caucasian" than C. J. Taney himself. In all that book there is no single instance of the drawing of a mean, corrupt, or de- praved negro ; but the negroes are represented as full of patience, trustfulness, shrewdness, and power of many kinds.