Text - "Mass' George. A Boy's Adventures in the Old Savannah" George Manville Fenn

close and start typing
Recollections of sunny days in the cotton-fields, with the men and women
cramming the white bursting pods into baskets as they laughed and
chattered together, and every now and then burst into some song or
chorus, their natural light-heartedness making them, if well treated,
forget the bonds from which they suffered. Of those many days in the
hot glow, where the men were busy with great chopping-knives cutting
down the tall, towering canes ready to be piled high in the mule-carts
and borne off to the crushing-mills.

For as time went on the visit of the slave schooner was repeated again
and again, and the settlers brought more land under cultivation, and the
place grew more busy week by week.

But at home all remained the same, only that by the help of Hannibal our
garden increased in beauty and productiveness to a wonderful extent, and
Pomp and I revelled in the abundance of the fruit.

I used to look at the boy and his father, and wonder how it was possible
for them to have settled down so contentedly. But they had, and it did
not seem to me that they had a single thought of the past, so light and
easy-going they were.

But I misjudged them, as time proved.

I was merry and lively enough in those days, never happier than when
playing Morgan some trick to arouse his wrath; but I was the perfection
of quietness compared to Pomp, who was more like a monkey in his antics
than a boy; and his father, the morose-looking, gloomy slave that he had
been, seemed to have grown as full of life and fun as his son.

I don't think that there was anything I could have asked that pair that
they would not have done. If I expressed a wish to have a pair of young
squirrels for pets, they were sure to be obtained, just as the raccoon
was, and the woodchuck. If I wished to fish, the baits were ready and
the boat cleaned out; while if I told Hannibal I wanted him to come and
row for me, his black face shone with pleasure, and he would toil on in
the hot sun, hour after hour, with the oars, evidently sharing my
delight whenever I caught a fish.

I remember one day when my father had gone across to the settlement on
some business, taking Morgan with him-I think it was to see and select
from some fruit-trees and seeds which had been brought over from the old
country-that I sat in our room, busy over the study which I had
promised to have done by the time of my father's return.

As I sat there I glanced out of the window from time to time to see
Hannibal toiling away with his hoe, in a great perspiration which
glistened in the sun, but evidently supremely happy, as he chattered
away to Pomp, who was also supposed to be working hard, but only at
preserving his position as he squatted on the top of a post with his
arms about his knees, and his hoe laid across his head, perfectly

I laughed to myself, and then went on with my work, a piece of Latin
translation, for my father used to say, "There is nothing to prevent you
being a gentleman, my boy, even if we do live out in the wilds."

All at once I heard Sarah's quick step, as she went out of the place,
and directly after she was busy over something.

Carelessly enough I looked up, and saw that she was beating and brushing
my father's uniform, previous to hanging it over a rail, so as to guard
it from decay by exposure to the sun.

I sat looking at the bright scarlet and gold lace, and saw that she had
brought out the cap too. Then I went on with my work again, finished
it, and with a sigh of satisfaction put all away, thinking that I would
go down to the pool and have a bathe.

The idea seemed good, and I stepped out, thinking what a patient,
industrious, careful woman Sarah was, and seeing that she must have
fetched is the uniform again, and put it away.

I went through the fence into the garden, meaning to make Pomp go with
me, but he was no longer perched on the stump, one of the many left when
the garden was made; and on looking round for Hannibal to ask where the
boy had gone, I found he too had left his work.

"Hasn't finished," I said to myself, for the man's hoe was leaning
against the tree.

Carelessly enough, I strolled on down to the bottom of the garden,
looking at the alligator's great grinning jaws as I went by, and out at
the end, to see if the pair were in the little hut that had been built
for their use, and a laugh which I heard as I drew nearer told me that I
was right as far as Hannibal was concerned, while a few excited words
which I could not make out proved that Pomp was there as well.

"What are they doing?" I thought to myself; and with the idea of giving
them a surprise, I did not go up to the door, but turned off, walked
round to the back, and parting the trees by whose leaves the place was
shadowed, I reached the little square window at the rear of the house,
and stood looking in, hardly knowing which to do-be furiously angry, or
burst out laughing.

For the moment I did neither, but stood gazing in unseen. There to my
left was Pomp, both his eyes twinkling with delight, squatting on the
floor, and holding his knees, his favourite attitude, while his thick
lips were drawn back from his milky-white teeth, from between which came
a low, half-hissing, half-humming noise evidently indicative of his
satisfaction, and in its way resembling the purring of a cat.

To my right, slowly walking up and down, with a grave display of dignity
that was most ludicrous, was Hannibal, his head erect, eyes very wide
open, and arms held firmly to his sides, a position that he must have
imitated from seeing some of the drilling preparations going on at the
settlement, and kept up ever since the scare produced by the coming of
the Indians and the Spaniards.

The reason for this attitudinising and parading was plain the moment I
appeared at the window and grasped the situation; for it was clear
enough-Pomp had seen the gay uniform airing upon the rail, had annexed
it, and carried it off to the hut, probably with his father as an
abettor, in what could only have been meant for a loan; and he had
followed the boy in, and possibly with his assistance put on the
clothes, which fitted him fairly well; but his appearance was not

For there over the white-faced scarlet coat was the shiny black face,
surmounted by the military cap worn wrong way foremost, while the
breeches were unbuttoned at the knee, and the leggings were not there,
only Hannibal's black legs, and below them his dusty toes, which spread
out far from each other, and worked about in a way most absurd.

But the most absurd thing of all was the aspect of satisfied dignity in
the man's countenance. It was as if he were supremely happy and
contented with himself, the clothes having evidently raised him
enormously in his own estimation.

"Now what shall I do?" I thought; "go in and scold them both, or wait
and see if they put the things back?"

I was still hesitating and thinking how angry my father would be, when I
found suddenly that there would be no need for me to speak and upset the
equanimity of the happy pair, for all at once I heard a loud exclamation
from the direction of the house, where Sarah had just come out to fetch
in the uniform; and directly after, she jumped at the right conclusion,
and made the place echo with the cry of "Pompey!"

The effect was wondrous.

The boy seemed for the moment turned to stone; his jaw fell, and he
stared at his father, whose face seemed to grow ashy, and from whose
aspect all the dignity had vanished in an instant.

Then, quick as some wild animal, Pomp sprang at his father, the shock
with which he struck him in the chest causing the hat to fall off back
on to the floor as he tore at the buttons to get the coat off.