By Thomas Nelson Page
(1853 - 1922)
 
 
Ashcake
 
 
WELL, yes, sir, dat am a comical name—
  It are so, for a fac’—
But I knowed one, down in Ferginyer,
  Could ’a’ toted dat on its back.
 
“What was it?” I ’m gwine to tell you—
  ’T was mons’us long ago:
’T was “Ashcake,” sah; an’ all on us
  Use’ ter call ’im jes’ “Ashcake,” so.
 
You see, sir, my ole Marster, he
  Was a pow’ful wealfy man,
Wid mo’ plantations dan hyahs on you haid—
  Gre’t acres o’ low-groun’ lan.
 
Jeems River bottoms, dat used ter stall
  A fo’-hoss plough, no time;
An’ he ’d knock you down ef you jes’ had dyared
  Ter study ’bout guano ’n’ lime.
 
De corn used ter stan’ in de row dat thick
  You jes’ could follow de balk;
An’ rank! well, I ’clar ’ter de king, I ’se seed
  Five ’coons up a single stalk!
 
He owned mo’ niggers ’n arr’ a man
  About dyar, black an’ bright;
He owned so many, b’fo’ de Lord,
  He didn’ know all by sight!
 
Well, sir, one evelin’, long to’ds dusk,
  I seen de Marster stan’
An’ watch a yaller boy pass de gate
  Wid a ashcake in his han’.
 
He never had no mammy at all—
  Leastways, she was dead by dat—
An’ de cook an’ de hands about on de place
  Used ter see dat de boy kep’ fat.
 
Well, he trotted along down de parf dat night,
  An’ de Marster he seen him go,
An’ hollered, “Say, boy—say, what ’s yer name?”
  “A—ashcake, sir,” says Joe.
 
It ’peared ter tickle de Marster much,
  An’ he called him up to de do’.
“Well, dat is a curisome name,” says he;
  “But I guess it suits you, sho’.”
 
“Whose son are you?” de Marster axed.
  “Young Jane’s,” says Joe; “she ’s daid.”
A sperrit cudden ’a’ growed mo’ pale,
  An’ “By Gord!” I heerd him said.
 
He tuk de child ’long in de house,
  Jes’ ’count o’ dat ar whim;
An’, dat-time-out, you never see
  Sich sto’ as he sot by him.
 
An’ Ashcake swung his cradle, too,
  As clean as ever you see;
An’ stuck as close ter ole Marster’s heel
  As de shader sticks to de tree.
 
’Twel one dark night, when de river was out,
  De Marster an’ Ashcake Joe
Was comin’ home an’ de skiff upsot,
  An’ Marster ’d ’a’ drownded, sho’,
 
Excusin’ dat Ashcake cotch’d him hard
  An’ gin him holt o’ de boat,
An’ saved him so; but ’t was mo’n a week
  B’fo’ his body comed afloat.
 
An’ de Marster he grieved so ’bouten dat thing,
  It warn’ long, sah, befo’ he died;
An’ he ’s sleep, way down in Ferginyer,
  Not fur from young Ashcake’s side.
 
 
Uncle Gabe’s White Folks
 
 
SARVENT, Marster! Yes, sah, dat ’s me—
  Ole Unc’ Gabe ’s my name;
I thankee, Marster, I ’m ’bout, yo’ see.
  “An’ de ole ’ooman?” She ’s much de same,
Po’ly an’ ’plainin’, thank de Lord!
But de Marster ’s gwine ter come back from ’broad.
 
“Fine ole place?” Yes, sah, ’t is so;
  An’ mighty fine people my white folks war—
But you ought ter ’a’ seen it years ago,
  When de Marster an’ de Mistis lived up dyah;
When de niggers’d stan’ all roun’ de do’,
Like grains o’ corn on de cornhouse flo’.
 
“Live mons’ ous high?” Yes, Marster, yes;
  Cut ’n’ onroyal ’n’ gordly dash;
Eat an’ drink till you could n’ res’.
  My folks war ’n’ none o’ yo’ po’-white-trash;
No, sah, dey was ob high degree—
Dis heah nigger am quality!
 
“Tell you ’bout ’em?” You mus’ ’a’ hearn
  ’Bout my ole white folks, sho’!
I tell you, suh, dey was gre’t an’ stern;
D’ did n’ have nuttin’ at all to learn;
  D’ knowed all dar was to know;
Gol’ ober de’ head an’ onder dey feet;
An’ silber! dey sowed ’t like folks sows wheat.
 
“Use ter be rich?” Dat war n’ de wud!
  Jes’ wallowed an’ roll’ in wealf.
Why, none o’ my white folks ever stir’d
  Ter lif’ a han’ for d’self;
De niggers use ter be stan’in’ roun’
Jes’ d’ same ez leaves when dey fus’ fall down;
De stable-stalls up heah at home
Looked like teef in a fine-toof comb;
De cattle was p’digious—mus’ tell de fac’!
An’ de hogs mecked de hillsides look like black;
An’ de flocks ob sheep was so gre’t an’ white
Dey ’peared like clouds on a moonshine night.
An’ when my ole Mistis use’ ter walk—
  Jes’ ter her kerridge (dat was fur
  Ez ever she walked)—I tell you, sir,
You could almos’ heah her silk dress talk;
Hit use’ ter soun’ like de mornin’ breeze,
When it wakes an’ rustles de Gre’t House trees.
An’ de Marster’s face!—de Marster’s face,
  Whenever de Marster got right pleased—
Well, I ’clar’ ter Gord, ’t would shine wid grace
  De same ez his countenance had been greased.
De cellar, too, had de bes’ ob wine,
An’ brandy, an’ sperrits dat yo’ could fine;
An’ ev’ything in dyah was stored,
’Skusin’ de glory of de Lord!
 
“Warn’ dyah a son?” Yes, sah, you knows
  He ’s de young Marster now;
But we heah dat dey tooken he very clo’es
  Ter pay what ole Marster owe;
He ’s done been gone ten year, I s’pose.
But he ’s comin’ back some day, of co’se;
An’ my ole ’ooman is aluz pyard,
  An’ meckin’ de Blue-Room baid,
An’ ev’y day dem sheets is ayard,
  An’ will be till she ’s daid;
An’ de styars she ’ll scour,
  An’ dat room she ’ll ten’,
  Ev’y blessed day dat de Lord do sen’!
 
What say, Marster? Yo’ say, you knows?—
  He ’s young an’ slender-like an’ fyah;
Better-lookin’ ’n you, of co’se!
Hi! you ’s he? ’Fo Gord, ’t is him!
  ’T is de very voice an’ eyes an’ hyah,
An’ mouf an’ smile, on’y yo’ ain’ so slim—
I wonder whah—whah ’s de ole ’ooman?
Now let my soul
  Depart in peace,
For I behol’
Dy glory, Lord!—I knowed you, chile—
  I knowed you soon ’s I see’d your face!
Whar has you been dis blessed while?
  Done come back an’ buy de place?
  Oh, bless de Lord for all his grace!
De ravins shell hunger, an’ shell not lack,
De Marster, de young Marster’s done come back!
 
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