When I spent the night at the plantation, I generally slept on a pile of cotton-seed, in an out-building to which I had secretly conveyed a pair of blankets and a flour-bag. This bag, filled with seed, served as my pillow, and though my bed lacked the elasticity of a spring mattress, it was really quite comfortable. My sleeping-place was at the foot of a huge pile of seed, containing many hundred bushels. One night I amused myself by making a tunnel into this pile in much the same way as a squirrel digs into a hillside. With a minute’s warning I could have “hunted my hole,” taking my blankets with me. By filling the entrance with seed, I could have escaped any ordinary search of the building. I never had occasion to use my tunnel.
Generally, however, we staid in Waterproof, leaving there early in the morning, taking breakfast at the upper plantation, inspecting the work on both plantations, and, after dinner, returning to Waterproof. We could obtain a better dinner at the plantation than Waterproof was able to furnish us. Strawberries held out until late in the season, and we had, at all times, chickens, eggs, and milk in abundance. Whenever we desired roast lamb, our purveyor caused a good selection to be made from our flock. Fresh pork was much too abundant for our tastes, and we astonished the negroes and all other natives of that region, by our seemingly Jewish propensities. Pork and corn-bread are the great staples of life in that hot climate, where one would naturally look for lighter articles of food.
Once I was detained on the plantation till after dark. As I rode toward Waterproof, expecting the negro sentinel to challenge and halt me, I was suddenly brought to a stand by the whistling of a bullet close to my ear, followed by several others at wider range.
“Who comes there?”
“A friend, with the countersign.”
“If that’s so, come in. We thought you was the Rebels.”
As I reached the picket, the corporal of the guard explained that they were on duty for the first time, and did not well understand their business. I agreed with him fully on the latter point. To fire upon a solitary horseman, advancing at a walk, and challenge him afterward, was something that will appear ridiculous in the eyes of all soldiers. The corporal and all his men promised to do better next time, and begged me not to report them at head-quarters. When I reached the center of the town, I found the garrison had been alarmed at the picket firing, and was turning out to repel the enemy. On my assurance that I was the “enemy,” the order to fall into line of battle was countermanded.
THE NEGROES AT A MILITARY POST.
The Soldiers at Waterproof.—The Black Man in Blue.—Mutiny and Desertion.—Their Cause and Cure.—Tendering a Resignation.—No Desire for a Barber.—Seeking Protection.—Falsehood and Truth.—Proneness to Exaggeration.—Amusing Estimates.