Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> Maize in Milk: A Christmas Story of the South >> Page 335

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Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription MAIZE IN MILK335
portentious drought as devoured us, and such a teynpestious tornado
as beat us down after it, jest as the field was agoing to blow in
September, was a ravaging of us that no cotton could stand under."
"We must do better next year, Bedford."
"Ef it's the will of Providence, there shall be another guess
desemblance in our swamp next year."
"It must be, Bedford," was the rather emphatic reply of the colonel.
The negro was silent. The master proceeded "The old Salem
tract must be put in order with the beginning of the New Year.
You know that I have bought the force of our old friend, Ben Butler.
They will be here to-day. We must work them on that tract, and
must contrive to pay for them, in part, out of next year's crop. They
are not the best negroes in the world, as you know, but we must
manage them with prudence. I look to you, Bedford, to do your
best" the negro touched his beaver "and I do not doubt that you
can meet all my calculations. The seasons can scarcely be so bad
again as they have been for the last two years."
But these details are sufficient. Crossing a pretty but shallow
stream, which was skirted by a growth of gum and traversed by
occasional cypresses, of immense size, that strode clear away, six or
eight feet deep, in the water, the party emerged upon a hammock
beyond which lay the river, and the impatient boys cantered away in
front while the colonel and Bedford continued at a more moderate
pace. When the two latter reached the banks of the river, the urchins
were already dismounted, and each had his pony fastened to the swing-
ing limb of a tree; and here the object which had brought them to this
point was at once presented conspicuously to the sight. Here, com-
manding the river, which was a broad and turbid stream, with a vast
stretch of drowned swamp spreading away on the opposite side, was
a tiny fortress, a redoubt of earth, with its bastions and its merlons,
and a neat little two-pounder, looking out with impudent aspect upon
the raftsmen going down the stream. In a moment, the colonel
unrolled a nice silken banner upon which the fair hands of Bessy
Clinton had wrought a palmetto, and it was soon run up the staff
and floating gayly above the juvenile ramparts. And it was to hear
the thunder of this piece, and to see the smoke and fire issue from
its jaws, that our boys, Tom, Dick and Harry, would at any time
abandon the more staid and regular amusements of the household.
The smaller piece at home, manufactured from an old ship's blunder-