THE FOURTH OF JULY.
“The glorious Fourth” was always a holiday on every Southern plantation, and, of course, Major Waldron’s was no exception to the rule. His negroes not only had holiday, but a barbecue, and it was a day of general mirth and festivity.
On this particular “Fourth” the barbecue was to be on the banks of the creek formed by the back-waters of the river, and was to be a “fish-fry” as well as a barbecue.
All hands on the plantation were up by daylight, and preparing for the frolic. Some of the negro men, indeed, had been down to the creek all night setting out their fish-baskets and getting the “pit” ready for the meats. The pit was a large hole, in which a fire was kindled to roast the animals, which were suspended over it; and they must commence the barbecuing very early in the morning, in order to get everything ready by dinner-time. The children were as much excited over it as the negroes were, and Mammy could hardly keep them still enough to dress them, they were so eager to be off. Major and Mrs. Waldron were to go in the light carriage, but the little folks were to go with Mammy and Aunt Milly in the spring-wagon, along with the baskets of provisions for the “white folks’ tables;” the bread and vegetables and cakes and pastry for the negroes’ tables had been sent off in a large wagon, and were at the place for the barbecue long before the white family started from home. The negroes, too, had all gone. Those who were not able to walk had gone in wagons, but most of them had walked, for it was only about three miles from the house.
Despite all their efforts to hurry up Mammy, it was nearly nine o’clock before the children could get her off; and even then she didn’t want to let Cherubim and Seraphim go, and Uncle Snake-bit Bob, who was driving the wagon, had to add his entreaties to those of the little folks before she would consent at all; and after that matter had been decided, and the baskets all packed in, and the children all comfortably seated, and Dilsey and Chris and Riar squeezed into the back of the wagon between the ice-cream freezer and the lemonade buckets, and Cherubim and Seraphim in the children’s laps, and Mammy and Aunt Milly on two split-bottomed chairs, just back of the driver’s seat, and Uncle Snake-bit Bob, with the reins in his hands, just ready to drive off—whom should they see but Old Daddy Jake coming down the avenue, and waving his hat for them to wait for him.
“Dar now!” said Mammy; “de folks done gone an’ lef Ole Daddy, an’ we got ter stuff ’im in hyear somewhar.”
“They ain’t no room in hyear,” said Dumps, tightening her grasp on Cherubim, for she strongly suspected that Mammy would insist on leaving the puppies to make room for Daddy.
“Well, he ain’t got ter be lef’,” said Mammy; “I wuz allers larnt ter ‘spect ole folks myse’f, an’ ef’n dis wagin goes, why den Daddy Jake’s got ter go in it;” and, Major and Mrs. Waldron having gone, Mammy was the next highest in command, and from her decision there was no appeal.