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ANANIAS.
I.

Middle Georgia, after Sherman passed through on his famous march to the sea, was full of the direst confusion and despair, and there were many sad sights to be seen. A wide strip of country with desolate plantations, and here and there a lonely chimney standing sentinel over a pile of blackened and smouldering ruins, bore melancholy testimony to the fact that war is a very serious matter. All this is changed now, of course. The section through which the grim commander pushed his way to the sea smiles under the application of new and fresher energies. We have discovered that war, horrible as it is, sometimes drags at its bloody tumbril wheel certain fructifying and fertilizing forces. If this were not so, the contest in which the South suffered the humiliation of defeat, and more, would[114] have been a very desperate affair indeed. The troubles of that unhappy time—its doubts, its difficulties, and its swift calamities—will never be known to posterity, for they have never been adequately described.

It was during this awful period—that is to say, in January, 1866—that Lawyer Terrell, of Macon, made the acquaintance of his friend Ananias. In the midst of the desolation to be seen on every hand, this negro was the forlornest spectacle of all. Lawyer Terrell overtook him on the public highway between Macon and Rockville. The negro wore a ragged blue army overcoat, a pair of patched and muddy blue breeches, and had on the remnants of what was once a military cap. He was leading a lame and broken-down horse through the mud, and was making his way toward Rockville, at what appeared to be a slow and painful gait. Curiosity impelled Lawyer Terrell to draw rein as he came up with the negro.

“Howdy, boss?” said the negro, taking off his tattered cap. Responding to his salutation, the lawyer inquired his name. “I’m name’ Ananias, suh,” he replied.

[115]

The name seemed to fit him exactly. A meaner-looking negro Lawyer Terrell had never seen. There was not the shadow of a smile on his face, and seriousness ill became him. He had what is called a hang-dog look. A professional overseer in the old days would have regarded him as a negro to be watched, and a speculator would have put him in chains the moment he bought him. With a good deal of experience with negroes, Lawyer Terrell had never seen one whose countenance and manner were more repulsive.

“Well,” said the lawyer, still keeping along with him in the muddy road, “Ananias is a good name.”

“Yasser,” he replied; “dat w’at mammy say. Mammy done dead now, but she say dat dey wuz two Ananiases. Dey wuz ole Ananias en young Ananias. One un um wuz de Liar, en de udder wuz de Poffit. Dat w’at mammy say. I’m name’ atter de Poffit.”

Lawyer Terrell laughed, and continued his cross-examination.

“Where are you going?”

“Who? Me? I’m gwine back ter Marster, suh.”

[116]

“What is your master’s name?”

“Cunnel Benjamime Flewellen, suh.”

“Colonel Benjamin Flewellen; yes; I know the colonel well. What are you going back there for?”

“Who? Me? Dat my home, suh. I bin brung up right dar, suh—right ’longside er Marster en my young mistiss, suh.”

“Miss Ellen Flewellen,” said Lawyer Terrell, reflectively. At this remark the negro showed a slight interest in the conversation; but his interest did not improve his appearance.

“Yasser, dat her name, sho; but we-all call her Miss Nelly.”

“A very pretty name, Ananias,” remarked Lawyer Terrell.

“Lord! yasser.”

The negro looked up at this, but Lawyer Terrell had his eyes fixed on the muddy road ahead of him. The lawyer was somewhat youngish himself, but his face had a hard, firm expression common to those who are in the habit of having their own way in the court-house and elsewhere.

“Where have you been, Ananias?” said the lawyer presently.

“Who? Me? I bin ’long wid Sherman army, suh.”

[117]

“Then you are quite a soldier by this time.”

“Lord! yasser! I bin wid um fum de time dey come in dese parts plum tell dey got ter Sander’ville. You ain’t never is bin ter Sander’ville, is you, boss?”

“Not to say right in the town, Ananias, but I’ve been by there a great many times.” Lawyer Terrell humored the conversation, as was his habit.

“Well, suh,” said Ananias, “don’t you never go dar; special don’t you go dar wid no army, kase hit’s de longes’ en de nasties’ road fum dar ter yer w’en you er comin’ back, dat I ever is lay my two eyes on.”

“Why did you come back, Ananias?”

“Who? Me? Well, suh, w’en de army come ’long by home dar, look like eve’ybody got der eye sot on me. Go whar I would, look alike all de folks wuz a-watchin’ me. ’Bout time de army wuz a-pilin’ in on us, Marse Wash Jones, w’ich I never is done ’im no harm dat I knows un, he went ter Marster, he did, en he ’low dat ef dey don’t keep mighty close watch on Ananias dey’d all be massycreed in deir beds. I know Marse Wash tol’ Marster dat, kaze Ma’y Ann, w’ich she wait on de table, she come[118] right outer de house en tol’ me so. Right den, suh, I ’gun ter feel sorter skittish. Marster had done got me ter hide all de stock out in de swamp, en I ’low ter myse’f, I did, dat I’d des go over dar en stay wid um. I ain’t bin dar so mighty long, suh, w’en yer come de Yankees, en wid um wuz George, de carriage driver, de nigger w’at Marster think mo’ uv dan he do all de balance er his niggers. En now, den, dar wuz George a-fetchin’ de Yankees right whar he know de stock wuz hid at.”

“George was a very handy negro to have around,” said Lawyer Terrell.

“Yasser. Marster thunk de worl’ en all er dat nigger, en dar he wuz showin’ de Yankees whar de mules en hosses wuz hid at. Well, suh, soon ez he see me, George he put out, en I staid dar wid de hosses. I try ter git dem folks not ter kyar um off, I beg um en I plead wid um, but dey des laugh at me, suh. I follered ’long atter um’, en dey driv dem hosses en mules right by de house. Marster wuz standin’ out in de front porch, en w’en he see de Yankees got de stock, en me ’long wid um, suh, he des raise up his han’s—so—en drap um down by his side, en den he tuck ’n tu’n[119] roun’ en go in de house. I run ter de do’, I did, but Marster done fasten it, en den I run roun’ de back way, but de back do’ wuz done fassen too. I know’d dey didn’t like me,” Ananias went on, picking his way carefully through the mud, “en I wuz mos’ out ’n my head, kaze I ain’t know w’at ter do. ’T ain’t wid niggers like it is wid white folks, suh. White folks know w’at ter do, kaze dey in de habits er doin’ like dey wanter, but niggers, suh—niggers, dey er diffunt. Dey dunner w’at ter do.”

“Well, what did you do?” asked Lawyer Terrell.

“Who? Me? Well, suh, I des crope off ter my cabin, en I draw’d up a cheer front er de fier, en stirred up de embers, en sot dar. I ain’ sot dar long ’fo’ Marster come ter de do’. He open it, he did, en he come in. He ’low, ‘You in dar, Ananias?’ I say, ‘Yasser.’ Den he come in. He stood dar, he did, en look at me. I ain’t raise my eyes, suh; I des look in de embers. Bime-by he say, ‘Ain’t I allers treat you well, Ananias?’ I ’low, ‘Yasser.’ Den he say, ‘Ain’t I raise you up fum a little baby, w’en you got no daddy?’ I ’low, ‘Yasser.’ He say, ‘How come you treat me dis[120] a-way, Ananias? W’at make you show dem Yankees whar my hosses en mules is?’”

Ananias paused as he picked his way through the mud, leading his broken-down horse.

“What did you tell him?” said Lawyer Terrell, somewhat curtly.

“Well, suh, I dunner w’at de name er God come ’cross me. I wuz dat full up dat I can’t talk. I tried ter tell Marster des ’zactly how it wuz, but look like I wuz all choke up. White folks kin talk right straight ’long, but niggers is diffunt. Marster stood dar, he did, en look at me right hard, en I know by de way he look dat his feelin’s wuz hurted, en dis make me wuss. Eve’y time I try ter talk, suh, sumpin’ ne’r kotch me in de neck, en ’fo’ I kin come ter myse’f, suh, Marster wuz done gone. I got up en tried ter holler at ’im, but dat ketch wuz dar in my neck, suh, en mo’ special wuz it dar, suh, w’en I see dat he wuz gwine ’long wid his head down; en dey mighty few folks, suh, dat ever is see my marster dat a-way. He kyar his head high, suh, ef I do say it myse’f.”

“Why didn’t you follow after him and[121] tell him about it?” inquired Lawyer Terrell, drawing his lap-robe closer about his knee.

“Dat des zactly w’at I oughter done, suh; but right den en dar I ain’t know w’at ter do. I know’d dat nigger like me ain’t got no business foolin’ ’roun’ much, en dat wuz all I did know. I sot down, I did, en I make up my min’ dat ef Marster got de idee dat I had his stock run’d off, I better git out fum dar; en den I went ter work, suh, en I pack up w’at little duds I got, en I put out wid de army. I march wid um, suh, plum tell dey got ter Sander’ville, en dar I ax um w’at dey gwine pay me fer gwine wid um. Well, suh, you mayn’t b’lieve me, but dem w’ite mens dey des laugh at me. All dis time I bin runnin’ over in my min’ ’bout Marster en Miss Nelly, en w’en I fin’ out dat dey wa’n’t no pay fer niggers gwine wid de army I des up en say ter myse’f dat dat kind er business ain’t gwine do fer me.”

“If they had paid you anything,” said Lawyer Terrell, “I suppose you would have gone on with the army?”

“Who? Me? Dat I wouldn’t,” replied Ananias, emphatically—“dat I wouldn’t.[122] I’d ’a’ got my money, en I’d ’a’ come back home, kaze I boun’ you I wa’n’t a-gwine ter let Marster drap off and die widout knowin’ who run’d dem stock off. No, suh. I wuz des ’bleege ter come back.”

“Ananias,” said Lawyer Terrell, “you are a good man.”

“Thanky, suh!—thanky, marster!” exclaimed Ananias, taking off his weather-beaten cap. “You er de fus w’ite man dat ever tol’ me dat sence I bin born’d inter de worl’. Thanky, suh!”

“Good-by,” said Lawyer Terrell, touching his horse lightly with the whip.

“Good-by, marster!” said Ananias, with unction. “Good-by, marster! en thanky!”

Lawyer Terrell passed out of sight in the direction of Rockville. Ananias went in the same direction, but he made his way over the road with a lighter heart.
II.

It is to be presumed that Ananias’s explanation was satisfactory to Colonel Benjamin Flewellen, for he settled down on his former master’s place, and proceeded to make his presence felt on the farm as it never had[123] been felt before. Himself and his army-worn horse were decided accessions, for the horse turned out to be an excellent animal. Ananias made no contract with his former master, and asked for no wages. He simply took possession of his old quarters, and began anew the life he had led in slavery times—with this difference: in the old days he had been compelled to work, but now he was working of his own free-will and to please himself. The result was that he worked much harder.

It may be said that though Colonel Benjamin Flewellen was a noted planter, he was not much of a farmer. Before and during the war he had intrusted his plantation and his planting in the care of an overseer. For three hundred dollars a year—which was not much of a sum in slavery times—he could be relieved of all the cares and anxieties incident to the management of a large plantation. His father before him had conducted the plantation by proxy, and Colonel Flewellen was not slow to avail himself of a long-established custom that had been justified by experience. Moreover, Colonel Flewellen had a taste for literature. His father had gathered together a large collection of[124] books, and Colonel Flewellen had added to this until he was owner of one of the largest private libraries in a State where large private libraries were by no means rare. He wrote verse on occasion, and essays in defense of slavery. There are yet living men who believed that his “Reply” to Charles Sumner’s attack on the South was so crushing in its argument and its invective—particularly its invective—that it would go far toward putting an end to the abolition movement. Colonel Flewellen’s “Reply” filled a page of the New York “Day-Book,” and there is no doubt that he made the most of the limited space placed at his disposal.

With his taste and training it is not surprising that Colonel Benjamin Flewellen should leave his plantation interests to the care of Mr. Washington Jones, his overseer, and devote himself to the liberal arts. He not only wrote and published the deservedly famous “Reply” to Charles Sumner, which was afterward reprinted in pamphlet form for the benefit of his friends and admirers, but he collected his fugitive verses in a volume, which was published by an enterprising New York firm “for the author;” and in addition to this he became the proprietor and[125] editor of the Rockville “Vade-Mecum,” a weekly paper devoted to “literature, science, politics, and the news.”

When, therefore, the collapse came, the colonel found himself practically stranded. He was not only land-poor, but he had no experience in the management of his plantation. Ananias, when he returned from his jaunt with the army, was of some help, but not much. He knew how the plantation ought to be managed, but he stood in awe of the colonel, and he was somewhat backward in giving his advice. In fact, he had nothing to say unless his opinion was asked, and this was not often, for Colonel Flewellen had come to entertain the general opinion about Ananias, which was, in effect, that he was a sneaking, hypocritical rascal who was not to be depended on; a good-enough worker, to be sure, but not a negro in whom one could repose confidence.

The truth is, Ananias’s appearance was against him. He was ugly and mean-looking, and he had a habit of slipping around and keeping out of the way of white people—a habit which, in that day and time, gave everybody reason enough to distrust him. As a result of this, Ananias got the credit[126] of every mean act that could not be traced to any responsible source. If a smoke-house was broken open in the night, Ananias was the thief. The finger of suspicion was pointed at him on every possible occasion. He was thought to be the head and front of the union League, a political organization set in motion by the shifty carpet-baggers for the purpose of consolidating the negro vote against the whites. In this way prejudice deepened against him all the while, until he finally became something of an Ishmaelite, holding no intercourse with any white people but Colonel Flewellen and Miss Nelly.

Meanwhile, as may be supposed, Colonel Flewellen was not making much of a success in managing his plantation. Beginning without money, he had as much as he could do to make “buckle and tongue meet,” as the phrase goes. In fact he did not make them meet. He farmed on the old lavish plan. He borrowed money, and he bought provisions, mules, and fertilizers on credit, paying as much as two hundred per cent interest on his debts.

Strange to say, his chief creditor was Mr. Washington Jones, his former overseer. Somehow or other Mr. Jones had thrived.[127] He had saved money as an overseer, being a man of simple tastes and habits, and when the crash came he was comparatively a rich man. When affairs settled down somewhat, Mr. Jones blossomed out as a commission merchant, and he soon established a large and profitable business. He sold provisions and commercial fertilizers, he bought cotton, and he was not above any transaction, however small, that promised to bring him a dime where he had invested a thrip. He was a very thrifty man indeed. In addition to his other business he shaved notes and bought mortgages, and in this way the fact came to be recognized, as early as 1868, that he was what is known as “a leading citizen.” He did not hesitate to grind a man when he had him in his clutches, and on this account he made enemies; but as his worldly possessions grew and assumed tangible proportions, it is not to be denied that he had more friends than enemies.

For a while Mr. Washington Jones’s most prominent patron was Colonel Benjamin Flewellen. The colonel, it should be said, was not only a patron of Jones, but he patronized him. He made his purchases, chiefly on credit, in a lordly, superior way,[128] as became a gentleman whose hireling Jones had been. When the colonel had money he was glad to pay cash for his supplies, but it happened somehow that he rarely had money. Jones, it must be confessed, was very accommodating. He was anxious to sell to the colonel on the easiest terms, so far as payment was concerned, and he often, in a sly way, flattered the colonel into making larger bills than he otherwise would have made.

There could be but one result, and though that result was inevitable, everybody about Rockville seemed to be surprised. The colonel had disposed of his newspaper long before, and one day there appeared, in the columns which he had once edited with such care, a legal notice to the effect that he had applied to the ordinary of the county, in proper form, to set aside a homestead and personalty. This meant that the colonel, with his old-fashioned ways and methods, had succumbed to the inevitable. He had a house and lot in town, and this was set apart as his homestead by the judge of ordinary. Mr. Washington Jones, you may be sure, lost no time in foreclosing his mortgages, and the fact soon came to be known that he[129] was now the proprietor of the Flewellen place.

Just at this point the colonel first began to face the real problems of life, and he found them to be very knotty ones. He must live—but how? He knew no law, and was acquainted with no business. He was a gentleman and a scholar; but these accomplishments would not serve him; indeed, they stood in his way. He had been brought up to no business, and it was a little late in life—the colonel was fifty or more—to begin to learn. He might have entered upon a political career, and this would have been greatly to his taste, but all the local offices were filled by competent men, and just at that time a Southerner to the manner born had little chance to gain admission to Congress. The Republican “reconstructionists,” headed by Thaddeus Stevens, barred the way. The outlook was gloomy indeed.

Nelly Flewellen, who had grown to be a beautiful woman, and who was as accomplished as she was beautiful, gave music lessons; but in Rockville at that time there was not much to be made by teaching music. It is due to the colonel to say that he was[130] bitterly opposed to this project, and he was glad when his daughter gave it up in despair. Then she took in sewing surreptitiously, and did other things that a girl of tact and common sense would be likely to do when put to the test.

The colonel and his daughter managed to get along somehow, but it was a miserable existence compared to their former estate of luxury. Just how they managed, only one person in the wide world knew, and that person was Ananias. Everybody around Rockville said it was very queer how the colonel, with no money and little credit, could afford to keep a servant, and a man-servant at that. But there was nothing queer about it. Ananias received no wages of any sort; he asked for none; he expected none. A child of misfortune himself, he was glad to share the misfortunes of his former master. He washed, he ironed, he cooked, he milked, and he did more. He found time to do little odd jobs around town, and with the money thus earned he was able to supply things that would otherwise have been missing from Colonel Flewellen’s table. He was as ugly and as mean-looking as ever, and as unpopular. Even the colonel distrusted[131] him, but he managed to tolerate him. The daughter often had words of praise for the shabby and forlorn-looking negro, and these, if anything, served to lighten his tasks.

But in spite of everything that his daughter or Ananias could do, the colonel continued to grow poorer. To all appearances—and he managed to keep up appearances to the last—he was richer than many of his neighbors, for he had a comfortable house, and he still had credit in the town. Among the shopkeepers there were few that did not respect and admire the colonel for what he had been. But the colonel, since his experience with Mr. Washington Jones, looked with suspicion on the credit business. The result was that he and his daughter and Ananias lived in the midst of the ghastliest poverty.

As for Ananias, he could stand it well enough; so, perhaps, could the colonel, he being a man, and a pretty stout one; but how about the young lady? This was the question that Ananias was continually asking himself, and circumstances finally drove him to answering it in his own way. There was this much to be said about Ananias;[132] when he made up his mind, nothing could turn him, humble as he was; and then came a period in the career of the family to which he had attached himself when he was compelled to make up his mind or see them starve.
III.

At this late day there is no particular reason for concealing the facts. Ananias took the responsibility on his shoulders, and thereafter the colonel’s larder was always comparatively full. At night Ananias would sit and nod before a fire in the kitchen, and after everybody else had gone to bed he would sneak out into the darkness, and be gone for many hours; but whether the hours of his absence were many or few, he never returned empty-handed. Sometimes he would bring a “turn” of wood, sometimes a bag of meal or potatoes, sometimes a side of meat or a ham, and sometimes he would be compelled to stop, while yet some distance from the house, to choke a chicken that betrayed a tendency to squall in the small still hours between midnight and morning. The colonel and his daughter[133] never knew whence their supplies came. They only knew that Ananias suddenly developed into a wonderfully good cook, for it is a very good cook indeed that can go on month after month providing excellent meals without calling for new supplies.

But Ananias had always been peculiar, and if he grew a trifle more uncommunicative than usual, neither the colonel nor the colonel’s daughter was expected to take notice of the fact. Ananias was a sullen negro at best, but his sullenness was not at all important, and nobody cared whether his demeanor was grave or gay, lively or severe. Indeed, except that he was an object of distrust and suspicion, nobody cared anything at all about Ananias. For his part, Ananias seemed to care nothing for people’s opinions, good, bad, or indifferent. If the citizens of Rockville thought ill of him, that was their affair altogether. Ananias went sneaking around, attending to what he conceived to be his own business, and there is no doubt that, in some way, he managed to keep Colonel Flewellen’s larder well supplied with provisions.

About this time Mr. Washington Jones, who had hired a clerk for his store, and who was mainly devoting his time to managing,[134] as proprietor, the Flewellen place, which he had formerly managed as overseer, began to discover that he was the victim of a series of mysterious robberies and burglaries. Nobody suffered but Mr. Jones, and everybody said that it was not only very unjust, but very provoking also, that this enterprising citizen should be systematically robbed, while all his neighbors should escape. These mysterious robberies soon became the talk of the whole county. Some people sympathized with Jones, while others laughed at him. Certainly the mystery was a very funny mystery, for when Jones watched his potato hill, his smoke-house was sure to be entered. If he watched his smoke-house, his potato hill would suffer. If he divided his time watching both of these, his storehouse would be robbed. There was no regularity about this; but it was generally conceded that the more Jones watched, the more he was robbed, and it finally came to be believed in the county that Jones, to express it in the vernacular, “hollered too loud to be hurt much.”

At last one day it was announced that Jones had discovered the thief who had been robbing him. He had not caught him, but[135] he had seen him plainly enough to identify him. The next thing that Rockville knew, a warrant had been issued for Ananias, and he was arrested. He had no commitment trial. He was lodged in the jail to await trial in the Superior Court. Colonel Flewellen was sorry for the negro, as well he might be, but he was afraid to go on his bond. Faithful as Ananias had been, he was a negro, after all, the colonel argued, and if he was released on bond he would not hesitate to run away, if such an idea should occur to him.

Fortunately for Ananias, he was not permitted to languish in jail. The Superior Court met the week after he was arrested, and his case was among the first called. It seemed to be a case, indeed, that needed very little trying. But a very curious incident happened in the court-room.

Among the lawyers present was Mr. Terrell, of Macon. Mr. Terrell was by all odds the greatest lawyer practising in that circuit. He was so great, indeed, that he was not called “major,” or “colonel,” or “judge.” He ranked with Stephens and Hill, and like these distinguished men his title was plain “Mr.” Mr. Terrell practised[136] in all the judicial circuits of the State, and had important cases in all of them. He was in Rockville for the purpose of arguing a case to be tried at term, and which he knew would be carried to the Supreme Court of the State, no matter what the verdict of the lower court might be. He was arranging and verifying his authorities anew, and he was very busy when the sheriff came into the court-house bringing Ananias. The judge on the bench thought he had never seen a more rascally-looking prisoner; but even rascally-looking prisoners have their rights, and so, when Ananias’s case was called, the judge asked him in a friendly way if he had counsel—if he had engaged a lawyer to defend him.

Ananias did not understand at first, but when the matter was made plain to him he said he could get a lawyer. Whereupon he walked over to where Mr. Terrell sat immersed in his big books, and touched him on the shoulder. The lawyer looked up.

“I’m name’ Ananias, suh,” said the negro.

“I remember you,” said Mr. Terrell. “What are you doing here?”

“Dey got me up fer my trial, suh, en I[137] ’ain’t got nobody fer ter speak de word fer me, suh, en I ’low’d maybe—”

Ananias paused. He knew not what else to say. He had no sort of claim on this man. He saw everybody around him laughing. The great lawyer himself smiled as he twirled his eye-glasses on his fingers. Ananias was embarrassed.

“You want me to speak the word?” said Mr. Terrell.

“Yes, suh, if you please, suh.”

“You need not trouble yourself, Mr. Terrell,” said the judge, affably. “I was about to appoint counsel.”

“May it please your honor,” said Mr. Terrell, rising. “I will defend this boy. I know nothing whatever of the case, but I happen to know something of the negro.”

There was quite a little stir in the court-room at this announcement. The loafers outside the railings of the bar, who had seen Ananias every day for a good many years, leaned forward to take another look at him. The lawyers inside the bar also seemed to be interested in the matter. Some thought that the great lawyer had taken the negro’s case by way of a joke, and they promised themselves a good deal of enjoyment,[138] for it is not every day that a prominent man is seen at play. Others knew not what to think; so that between those who regarded it as a practical joke and those who thought that Mr. Terrell might be in a serious mood, the affair caused quite a sensation.

“May it please the court,” said Mr. Terrell, his firm voice penetrating to every part of the large room, “I know nothing of this case; therefore I will ask half an hour’s delay to look over the papers and to consult with my client.”

“Certainly,” said the judge, pleasantly. “Mr. Sheriff, take the prisoner to the Grand Jury room, so that he may consult with his counsel.”

The sheriff locked the prisoner and the lawyer in the Grand Jury room, and left his deputy there to open the door when Mr. Terrell announced that the conference was over. In the mean time the court proceeded with other business. Cases were settled, dismissed, or postponed. A couple of young lawyers fell into a tumultuous wrangle over an immaterial point, which the judge disposed of with a wave of his hand.

In the Grand Jury room Ananias was telling his volunteer counsel a strange tale.

[139]
IV.

“And do you mean to tell me that you really stole these things from Jones?” said Mr. Terrell, after he had talked a little with his client.

“Well, suh,” replied Ananias, unabashed, “I didn’t zackly steal um, suh, but I tuck um; I des tuck um, suh.”

“What call had you to steal from Jones? Weren’t you working for Colonel Flewellen? Didn’t he feed you?” inquired the lawyer. Ananias shifted about from one foot to the other, and whipped his legs with his shabby hat, which he held in his hand. Lawyer Terrell, seated in a comfortable chair, and thoroughly at his ease, regarded the negro curiously. There appeared to be a pathetic element even in Ananias’s manner.

“Well, suh,” he said, after a while, seeing that he could not escape from the confession, “ef I hadn’t a-tuck dem things fum Marse Wash Jones, my Marster en my young mistiss would ’a’ sot dar en bodaciously starve deyse’f ter deff. I done seed dat, suh. Dey wuz too proud ter tell folks[140] dey wuz dat bad off, suh, en dey’d ’a sot dar, en des bodaciously starve deyse’f ter deff, suh. All dey lifetime, suh, dey bin use ter havin’ deir vittles put right on de table whar dey kin git it, en w’en de farmin’ days done gone, suh, dey wa’n’t nobody but Ananias fer put de vittles dar; en I des hatter scuffle ’roun’ en git it de bes’ way I kin. I ’spec’, suh,” Ananias went on, his countenance brightening up a little, “dat ef de wuss had a-come ter de wuss, I’d ’a’ stole de vittles; but I ’ain’t had ter steal it, suh; I des went en tuck it fum Marse Wash Jones, kaze it come off’n Marster’s lan’, suh.”

“Why, the land belongs to Jones,” said Lawyer Terrell.

“Dat w’at dey say, suh; but eve’y foot er dat lan’ b’longded ter de Flewellen fambly long ’fo’ Marse Wash Jones’ daddy sot up a hat-shop in de neighborhoods. I dunner how Marse Wash git dat lan’, suh; I know it b’longded in de Flewellen fambly sence ’way back, en dey got deir graveyard dar yit.”

Lawyer Terrell’s unusually stern face softened a little. He saw that Ananias was in earnest, and his sympathies were aroused. He had some further conversation with the[141] negro, questioning him in regard to a great many things that assumed importance in the trial.

When Lawyer Terrell and his client returned to the court-room they found it filled with spectators. Somehow, it became generally known that the great advocate was to defend Ananias, and a large crowd of people had assembled to watch developments. In some way the progress of Ananias and the deputy-sheriff through the crowd that filled all the aisles and doorways had been delayed; but when the negro, forlorn and wretched-looking, made his appearance in the bar for the purpose of taking a seat by his counsel, there was a general laugh. Instantly Lawyer Terrell was upon his feet.

“May it please your honor, what is the duty of the sheriff of this county, if it is not to keep order in this court-room?”

The ponderous staff of the sheriff came down on the floor with a thump; but it was unnecessary. Silence had fallen on the spectators with the first words of the lawyer. The crowd knew that he was a game man, and they admired him for it. His whole attitude, as he gazed at the people around him, showed that he was full of fight. His[142] heavy blond hair, swept back from his high forehead, looked like the mane of a lion, and his steel-gray eyes glittered under his shaggy and frowning brows.

The case of the State versus Ananias Flewellen, alias Ananias Harper—a name he had taken since freedom—was called in due form. It was observed that Lawyer Terrell was very particular to strike certain names from the jury list, but this gave no clue to the line of his defense. The first witness was Mr. Washington Jones, who detailed, as well as he knew how, the circumstances of the various robberies of which he had been the victim. He had suspected Ananias, but had not made his suspicions known until he was sure,—until he had caught him stealing sweet-potatoes.

The cross-examination of the witness by Ananias’s counsel was severe. The fact was gradually developed that Mr. Jones caught the negro stealing potatoes at night; that the night was dark and cloudy; that he did not actually catch the negro, but saw him; that he did not really see the negro clearly, but knew “in reason” that it must be Ananias.

The fact was also developed that Mr.[143] Jones was not alone when he saw Ananias, but was accompanied by Mr. Miles Cottingham, a small farmer in the neighborhood, who was well known all over the county as a man of undoubted veracity and of the strictest integrity.

At this point Lawyer Terrell, who had been facing Mr. Jones with severity painted on his countenance, seemed suddenly to recover his temper. He turned to the listening crowd, and said, in his blandest tones, “Is Mr. Miles Cottingham in the room?”

There was a pause, and then a small boy perched in one of the windows, through which the sun was streaming, cried out, “He’s a-standin’ out yander by the horse-rack.”

Whereupon a subp?na was promptly made out by the clerk of the court, and the deputy sheriff, putting his head out of a window, cried:

“Miles G. Cottingham! Miles G. Cottingham! Miles G. Cottingham! Come into court.”

Mr. Cottingham was fat, rosy, and cheerful. He came into court with such a dubious smile on his face that his friends in the room were disposed to laugh, but they[144] remembered that Lawyer Terrell was somewhat intolerant of these manifestations of good-humor. As for Mr. Cottingham himself, he was greatly puzzled. When the voice of the court crier reached his ears he was in the act of taking a dram, and, as he said afterward, he “come mighty nigh drappin’ the tumbeler.” But he was not subjected to any such mortification. He tossed off his dram in fine style, and went to the court-house, where, as soon as he had pushed his way to the front, he was met by Lawyer Terrell, who shook him heartily by the hand, and told him his testimony was needed in order that justice might be done.

Then Mr. Cottingham was put on the stand as a witness for the defense.

“How old are you, Mr. Cottingham?” said Lawyer Terrell.

“Ef I make no mistakes, I’m a-gwine on sixty-nine,” replied the witness.

“Are your eyes good?”

“Well, sir, they er about ez good ez the common run; not so good ez they mought be, en yit good enough fer me.”

“Did you ever see that negro before?” The lawyer pointed to Ananias.

“Which nigger? That un over there?[145] Why, that’s thish yer God-forsakin’ Ananias. Ef it had a-bin any yuther nigger but Ananias I wouldn’t ’a’ bin so certain and shore; bekaze sence the war they er all so mighty nigh alike I can’t tell one from t’other sca’cely. All eckceppin’ of Ananias; I’d know Ananias ef I met ’im in kingdom come wi’ his hair all swinjed off.”

The jury betrayed symptoms of enjoying this testimony; seeing which, the State’s attorney rose to his feet to protest.

“May it please the court”—

“One moment, your honor!” exclaimed Lawyer Terrell. Then, turning to the witness: “Mr. Cottingham, were you with Mr. Jones when he was watching to catch a thief who had been stealing from him?”

“Well, sir,” replied Mr. Cottingham, “I sot up wi’ him one night, but I disremember in pertickler what night it wuz.”

“Did you see the thief?”

“Well, sir,” said Mr. Cottingham, in his deliberate way, looking around over the court-room with a more judicial air than the judge on the bench, “ef you push me close I’ll tell you. Ther wuz a consid’able flutterment in the neighborhoods er whar we sot, an’ me an’ Wash done some mighty sly slippin’[146] up en surrounderin’; but ez ter seein’ anybody, we didn’t see ’im. We heerd ’m a-scufflin’ an’ a-runnin’, but we didn’t ketch a glimpse un ’im, nuther har ner hide.”

“Did Mr. Jones see him?”

“No more’n I did. I wuz right at Wash’s elbow. We heerd the villyun a-runnin’, but we never seed ’im. Atterwards, when we got back ter the house, Wash he ’lowed it must’a bin that nigger Ananias thar, an’ I ’lowed it jess mought ez well be Ananias ez any yuther nigger, bekaze you know yourself—”

“That will do, Mr. Cottingham,” said Mr. Lawyer Terrell, blandly. The State’s attorney undertook to cross-examine Mr. Cottingham; but he was a blundering man, and the result of his cross-examination was simply a stronger and more impressive repetition of Mr. Cottingham’s testimony.

After this, the solicitor was willing to submit the case to the jury without argument, but Mr. Terrell said that if it pleased the court he had a few words to say to the jury in behalf of his client. The speech made by the State’s attorney was flat and stale, for he was not interested in the case; but Lawyer Terrell’s appeal to the jury is still[147] remembered in Rockville. It was not only powerful, but inimitable; it was humorous, pathetic, and eloquent. When he concluded, the jury, which was composed mostly of middle-aged men, was in tears. The feelings of the spectators were also wrought up to a very high pitch, and when the jury found a verdict of “not guilty,” without retiring, the people in the court-room made the old house ring again with applause.

And then something else occurred. Pressing forward through the crowd came Colonel Benjamin Flewellen. His clothes were a trifle shabby, but he had the air of a prince of the blood. His long white hair fell on his shoulders, and his movements were as precise as those of a grenadier. The spectators made way for him. Those nearest noticed that his eyes were moist, and that his nether lip was a-tremble, but no one made any remark. Colonel Flewellen pressed forward until he reached Ananias, who, scarcely comprehending the situation, was sitting with his hands folded and his head bent down. The colonel placed his hand on the negro’s shoulder.

“Come, boy,” he said, “let’s go home.”

“Me, Marster?” said the negro, looking[148] up with a dazed expression. It was the tone, and not the words, that Ananias heard.

“Yes, old fellow, your Miss Nelly will be waiting for us.”

“Name er God!” exclaimed Ananias, and then he arose and followed his old master out of the court-room. Those who watched him as he went saw that the tears were streaming down his face, but there was no rude laughter when he made a futile attempt to wipe them off with his coat-tail. This display of feeling on the part of the negro was somewhat surprising to those who witnessed it, but nobody was surprised when Ananias appeared on the streets a few days after with head erect and happiness in his face.


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