Chapter XIV: Gad and Gossip

This day the hut of mammy Judy seemed to be the licensed resort, for all the slaves of the town ; and even many whites were seen occasionally to drop in and out, as they passed along. Every one knew the residence of Colonel Franks, and many of the dusky inhabitants of the place, were solely indebted to the purse proud occupants of the 'great house,' for their introduction to that part of Mississippi.
For years he and major Armsted were the only reliable traders upon whom could be depended for a choice gang of field negroes and other marketable people. And not only this section, but the whole Mississippi Valley to some extent, was to them indebted. First as young men the Agents of Woolford,in maturer age their names became as household words and known as the great proprietory Mississippi or ' Georgia Negro Traders.'
Domestic service seemed for the time suspended, and little required at home to do, as the day was spent as a kind of gala-day, in going about from place to place talking of every thing.
Among the foremost of these was mammy Judy, for although she partially did, and was expected to stay and be at home to-day, and act as an oracle, yet she merely stole a little time to run over to Mrs. Van Winter's, step in at 'squire Potter's to speak a word to Milly, drop by Dr. Denny's, and just poke in her head at Craig's a moment.
5' Ah been tellin' on 'em so! All along ah been tellin' on 'em, but da uden bleve me !' soliloquized mammy Judy, when the first dash of news through the boy Tony reached her, that Ailcey had gone and taken with her some of 'squire Potter's people, several of Dr. Denny's, a gang of Craig's and half of Van Winter's. ' Dat jis wat ah been tellin' on 'em all along, but da uden bleve me !' concluded she.
'Yeah heah de news!' exclaimed Potter's Minney to Van Winter's Biddy.
' I heah dat Ailcey gone !' replied Biddy.
' Dat all; no mo ?' enquired the girl with a high turban of Madras on her head.
' I heahn little Joe go too !'
10' Didn yeh heah dot Denny' Sookey, an' Craig' Polly, took a whole heap uh Potteh' people an' clah'd out wid two po' white mens, an' dat da all seen comin' out Van Winteh de old ablish'neh, soon in de monin' fo' day ?'
' No!' replied the good natured simple hearted Biddy, ' I did'n !'
' Yes sho's yeh baun dat true, case uhly dis mornin Cunel Frank' an' lady come see mausta—and yeh know 'e squiah an' make de law—an' mauster ghin 'em papehs, an' da go arter de Judge to put heh in jail!'
' Take who to jail ?'
' Wy dat ole ablishneh, Miss Van Winteh ! Ah wish da all dead dese ole ablishnehs, case da steal us an' sell us down souph to baud maustas, w'en we got good places. Any how she go'n to jail, an' I's glad !'
15Looking seriously at her, Biddy gave a long sigh, saying nothing to commit herself, but going home, communicated directly to her mistress that which she heard, as Mrs. Van Winter was by all regarded as a friend to the negro race, and at that time the subject of strong suspicion among the slave holders of the neighbor¬hood.
Eager to gad and gossip, from place to place the girl Winney passed about relating the same to each and all with whom she chanced to converse, they imparting to others the same strange story, until reaching the ears of intelligent whites who had heard no other version, it spread through the city as a statements of facts.
Learning as many did by sending to the house, that the Colonel that day had gone in search of his slaves, the statement was confirmed as having come from Mrs. Franks, who was known to be a firm friend of Mrs Van Winter.
' Upon my word !' said Captain Grason on meeting Sheriff Hughes; 'Sheriff, things are coming to a pretty pass !'
' What's that Captain ?' enquired the Sheriff.
20' Have you not heard the news yet, concerning the negroes ?'
' Why no ! I've been away to Vicksburg the last ten days, and just getting back.'
' O, Heavens ! we're no longer safe in our own houses. Why sir, we're about being overwhelmed by an infamous class of persons who live in our midst, and eat at our tables !'
' You surprise me Captain ! what's the matter ?'
' Sir, it would take a week to relate the particulars, but our slaves are running off by wholesale. On Sunday night a parcel of Colonel Frank's negroes left, a lot of Dr. Denny's, some of 'squire Potter's, and a gang of Craig's, aided by white men, whom together with the negroes were seen before day in the morning coming out of the widow Van Winters, who was afterwards arrested, and since taken before the judge on a writ of habeas corpus, but the circumstances against her being so strong she was remanded for trial, which so far strengthens the accusation. I know not where this thing will end!'
25' Surprising indeed sir !' replied Hughes ; ' I had not heard of it before but shall immediately repair to her house, and learn all the facts in the case. I am well acquainted with Mrs. Van Winter—in fact she is a relation of my wife—and must hasten. Good day sir!'
On ringing the bell, a quick step brought a person to the door, when on being opened, the Sheriff found himself in the warm embraces of the kind hearted and affectionate Mrs. Van Winter herself.
After the usual civilities, she was the first to introduce the subject, informing him of their loss by their mutual friends Colonel Franks and lady, with others, and no surprise was greater than that, on hearing the story current concerning herself.
Mammy Judy was as busy as she well could be, in hearing and telling news among the slaves who continually came and went through the day. So overwhelmed with excitement was she, that she had little else to say in making a period, than
' All a long ah been tellin' on yeh so, but yeh uden bleve me!'
30Among the many who thronged the hut was Potter's Milly. She in person is black, stout and fat, bearing a striking resemblance to the matronly old occupant mammy Judy. For two hours or more letting a number come in, gossip and pass out, only to be immediately succeeded by another; who like the old country woman who for the first time in visiting London all day stood upon the sidewalk of the principal throughfare waiting till the crowd of people and cavalcade of vehicles passed, before she made the attempt to cross the street; she sat waiting till a moment would occur by which in private to impart a secret to her friend alone. That moment did at last arrive.
' Judy !' said the old woman in a whisper ; 'ah been waitin' all day long to see yeh fah sumpen' ticlar !'
' Wat dat Milly ?' whispered mammy Judy scarcely above her breath.
' I's gwine too!' and she hurried away to prepare supper for the white folks, before they missed her, though she had been absent full two hours and a half, another thirty minutes being required for the fat old woman to reach the house.
' Heah dat now!' whispered mammy Judy; ' ah tole yeh so!'
35' Well my dear, not a word of that graceless dog, the little negro, nor that girl,' said Franks who had just returned from the country ; ' but I am fully compensated for the disappointment, on learning of the arrest and imprisonment of that—!'
' Who Colonel ?' interrrupted his wife.
' I hope after this you'll be willing to set some estimation on my judgement—I mean your friend Mrs. Van Winter the abolitionist!'
'I beg your pardon Colonel, as nothing is farther from the truth! From whom did you receive that intelligence ?'
' I met Captain Grason on his way to Woodville, who informed me that it was current in town, and you had corroborated the statement. Did you see him ?'
40' Nothing of the kind sir, and it has not been more than half an hour since Mrs. Van Winter left here, who heartily sympathizes with us, though she has her strange notions that black people have as much right to freedom as white.'
' Well my dear, we'll drop the subject !' concluded the Colonel with much apparent disappointment.
The leading gentlemen of the town and neighborhood assembled inaugurating the strictest vigilant police regulations, when after free and frequent potations of brandy and water, of which there was no scarcity about the Colonel's mansion, the company separated, being much higher spirited, if not better satisfied, than when they met in council.
This evening Charles and Andy met each other in the street, but in consequence of the strict injunction on the slaves by the patrol law recently instituted, they only made signs as they passed, intending to meet at a designated point. But the patrol reconnoitred so closely in their track, they were driven entirely from their purpose, retiring to their homes for the night.
To Chapter XV

Textual Notes

1,] 59; not in 61
1purse proud] 59; purse-proud 61
2major] 59; Major 61
2Woolford] 59; Woodfolk 61
5Ah] 59; I 61
5ah] 59; I 61
5da uden] 59; day ud'n 61
5soliloquized] 59; soliloquised 61
5,] 59; ; 61
5half] 59; a halt 61
5jis] 59; t jis' wat 61
5ah] 59; I 61
5uden] 59; ud'n 61
6Yeah heah] 59; Yeh hear 61
6Minney] 59; Winney 61
7heah] 59; hearn 61
8?' enquired] 59; '?' inquired 61
9heahn] 59; hearn 61
10Didn] 59; too!' / 'Didn' yeh 61
10heah dot] 59; hear dat 61
10uh] 59; ob 61
10clah] 59; clar 61
10white] 59; wite 61
10an'] 59; and 61
11'n] 59; nt 61
12baun] 59; [baim] 61
12uhly] 59; urly 61
12mornin] 59; dis mornin' 61
12squiah] 59; squieh ' 61
12'] 59; not in 61
12mauster ghin] 59; mausteh g 61
12'em] 59; mausteh g'in 'em papehs, 61
12heh] 59; 'er 61
12jail!'] 59; Jail?' 61
13Take] 59; To put 61
13to] 59; in 61
14ablishneh] 59; ablishineh 61
14Ah] 59; I 61
14ablishnehs] 59; ablishinehs 61
14da] 59; day 61
14baud] 59; haud 61
15neighbor¬hood] 59; neighborhood 61
16,] 59; ; 61
17Mrs] 59; f Mrs. Van Winter 61
19enquired] 59; inquired 61
22,] 59; not in 61
24Winters] 59; Winter's 61
24habeas corpus] 59; habeas corpus 61
25before] 59; t before, but shal 61
27their] 59; the 61
27,] 59; not in 61
29ah] 59; I 61
29uden] 59; would'n 61
30is] 59; was 61
30,] 59; not in 61
30London] 59; stood all da 61
30stood] 59; not in 61
30throughfare] 59; thoroughfare 61
31ah] 59; I 61
31fah] 59; for 61
32Wat] 59; W'at 61
33,] 59; not in 61
34Heah] 59; Hear 61
34ah] 59; I 61
36interrrupted] 59; interrupted 61
37judgement] 59; judgment 61
39and] 59; and that you 61
40freedom] 59; fredom 61
43they] 59; the 61
43,] 59; not in 61