Chapter XIII: Perplexity

Early on Monday morning Colonel Franks arose to start for Woodville and Jackson, in search of the fugitive.
' My dear, is Ailcey up ? Please call Tony,' said Mrs. Franks, the boy soon appearing before his mistress. ' Tony, call Ailcey,' continued she; ' your master is up and going to the country.'
' Missus Ailcey ain' dah !' replied the boy, returning in haste from the nursery.
' Certainly she is ; did you go into the nursery ?'
5'Yes um!'
' Are the children there ?'
' Yes um boph on 'em.'
' Then she can't be far—she'll be in presently.'
' Missus, she ain' come yit,' repeated the boy after a short absence.
10'Did you look in the nursery again ?'
' Yes um !'
' Are the children still in bed ?'
'Yes um, boph sleep, only maus George awake.'
' You mean one asleep and the other awake !' said Mrs. Franks smiling.
15'Yes um boph wake!' replied the boy.
' Did'nt you tell me Tony that your master George only was awake ?' asked the mistress.
' Miss Matha sleep fus, den she wake up and talk to maus George,' explained the boy, his master laughing, declared that a negro's skull was too thick to comprehend anything.
' Don't mistake yourself Colonel!' replied Mrs. Franks ; ' that boy is any¬thing but a blockhead, mind that!'
'My dear, can't you see something about that girl ? said the Colonel.
20' Run quickly Tony, and see if Ailcey is in the hut,' bade Mrs. Franks.
' Dear me!' continued she; ' since the missing of little Joe, she's all gossip, and we need'nt expect much off her until the thing has died away.'
' She'll not gossip after to-day, my dear !' replied the Colonel decisively ; ' as I'm determined to put her in my pocket in time, before she is decoyed away by that ungrateful wretch, who is doubtless ready for anything, however vile, for revenge.' 
Ailcey was a handsome black girl, graceful and intelligent, but having been raised on the place, had not the opportunity of a house maid for refinement. The Colonel having had a favorable opinion of her as a servant, frequently requested that she be taken from the field, long before it had been done. This had not the most favorable impression upon the mind of his lady, who since the morning of the interview, the day before, had completely turned against the girl.
Mrs. Franks was an amiable lady and lenient mistress, but did a slave offend, she might be expected to act as a mistress ; and still more, she was a woman ; but concerning Ailcey she was mistaken, as a better and more pure hearted female slave, there was not to be found ; and as true to her mistress and her honor, as was Maggie herself.
25' Missus, she ain't dare nudder ! aun' Judy ain seed 'er from las' night!' said the boy who came running up the stairs.
' Then call Charles immediately !' ordered she ; when away went he and shortly came Charles.
' Servant mist'ess !' saluted Charles, as he entered her presence.
' Charles, do you know anything of Ailcey ?" enquired she.
' No mist'ess I don't.'
30' When did you see her last ?'
' Last night ma'm.'
' Was she in company with any one?'
' Yes ma'm, Potter's Rachel.'
' What time in the evening was it Charles ?'
35' After seven o'clock ma'm.'
' O, she was home after that and went to bed in the nursery, where she has been sleeping for several nights.'
' My dear, this thing must be probed to the bottom at once ! things are taking such a strange course, that we do'nt know whom to trust. I'll be hanged if I understand it!' The carriage being ordered, they went directly down to 'squire Potter's.
' Good morning Mrs. Potter !—you will pardon us for the intrusion at so early an hour, but as the errand may concern us all, I'll not stop to be ceremonious—do I find the 'squire in ?'
The answer being in the affirmative, a servant being in attendance, the old gentleman soon made his appearance.
40' Good morning Colonel and Madam Franks !' saluted he.
' Good morning 'squire ! I sha'nt be ceremonious, and to give you a history of my errand, and to make a short story of a long one, we'll ' make a lump job of it,' to use a homely phrase.'
' I know the 'squire will be interested !' added Mrs. Franks.
No doubt of it at all ma'm!" replied Mrs. Potter who seemed to anticipate them.
' It is this :' resumed the Colonel. 'On Friday I gave my boy Henry verbal permission to go to the country, when he pretended to leave. On Saturday evening during the negro-gathering at the old quarters, my little negro boy Joe was stolen away, and on last evening, our negro girl Ailcey the nurse, cleared out, and it seems was last seen in company with your negro girl Rachel.'
45' Titus, call Rachel there ! No doubt but white men are at the bottom of it,' said Potter.
' Missus, heah I is !' drawled the girl awkwardly, with a courtsey.
' Speak to your master there ; he wants you,' ordered Mrs. Potter.
' Mausta !' saluted the girl.
' Rachel my girl, I want you to tell me, were you with Colonel Frank's black girl Ailcey on last evening?'
50' Yes seh, I wah.'
' Where Rachel ?' continued the master.
' Heah seh, at ouah house.'
' Where did you go to ?'
' We go down to docteh Denny.'
55' What for—what took you down to Dr. Denny's, Rachel ?'
' Went 'long wid Ailcey.'
' What did Ailcey go there for—do you know ?'
' Went dah to see Craig' Polly.'
' Craig's Polly, which of Mr. Craig's negro girls is that ?'
60' Dat un w'ot mos' white.'
' Well, was Polly there ?'
' She waun dah w'en we go, but she soon come.'
' Why did you go to Dr. Denny's to meet Polly ?'
' Ailcey say Polly go'n to meet uh dah.'
65' Well, did they leave there when you did!'
' Yes seh.'
' Where did you go to then ?'
' I come home, seh.'
' Where did they go ?'
70' Da say da go'n down undah da Hill.'
' Who else was with them besides you ?'
' No un seh.'
' Was there no man with them, when they left for under the Hill ?'
' No seh.'
75' Did you see no man about at all Rachel ?'
' No seh.'
' Now don't be afraid to tell: was there no white person at all spoke to you when together last night?'
' None but some white gent'men come up an' want walk wid us, same like da al'as do we black girls w'en we go out.'
'Did the girls seem to be acquainted and glad to see them ?'
80' No seh, the girls run, and da gent'men cus—.'
' Never mind that Rachel, you can go now,' concluded her master.
' Well 'squire, hanged if this thing mus'nt be stopped ! Four slaves in less than that many days gone from under our very eyes, and we unable to detect them! It's insufferable! and I believe whites to be at the head of it. I have my suspicions on a party who stands high in the community, and—
' Now Colonel, if you please!' interrupted Mrs. Franks.
' Well, I suppose we'll have for the present, to pass that by,' replied he,
85'Indeed, something really should be done!' said the 'squire.
' Yes, and that quickly, if we would keep our negroes to prevent us from starving.'
'I think the thing should at once be seen into : what say you Colonel ?' ' As I have several miles to ride this morning,' said Franks, looking at his watch; it now being past nine o'clock, ' I must leave so as to be back in the evening. Any steps that may be taken before my return, you have the free use of my name. Good morning !'
A few minutes and the Colonel was at his own door, astride of a horse, and on his way to Woodville.
To Chapter XIV

Textual Notes

1morning] 59; Monday morning, Colonel 61
3dah] 59; dar 61
5!'] 59; ?' 61
17Matha] 59; Martha 61
18yourself] 59; mistake yourself, Colonel!' 61
18any¬thing] 59; anything 61
19?] 59; ?' 61
21'] 59; not in 61
21off] 59; of 61
21.'] 59; . 61
22,] 59; not in 61
23place] 59; plantation 61
24her] 59; own honor, a 61
25nudder] 59; nuther 61
25Judy] 59; Judy 'ain seed 61
25from] 59; fom 61
28?"] 59; ?' 61
31m] 59; am 61
33m] 59; am 61
35m] 59; am 61
42-43Franks.] 59; Franks. / 'No doubt 61
43m!"] 59; am!' 61
44negro-gathering] 59; negro / gathering 61
46heah] 59; hear 61
48girl. ' Rachel] 59; e girl courtseying. / 'Rache 61
49you] 59; you out with 61
50wah] 59; war 61
52Heah] 59; Hear 61
52ouah] 59; our 61
56wid] 59; with 61
58dah] 59; dar 61
59,] 59; ; 61
62waun dah] 59; want dar 61
64uh dah] 59; er dar 61
65!'] 59; ?' 61
70Da] 59; Day 61
70undah da] 59; undeh de 61
78white] 59; wite 61
78girls] 59; gals 61
80the girls] 59; de gals 61
80run] 59; run 61
80da] 59; de 61
81,] 59; ; 61
84,] 59; . 61
87watch;] 59; s watch; 'it no 61
87'] 59; not in 61