He believed that an ounce of prevention was better than a pound of cure, as it certainly is under all circumstances, and especially during a water voyage down such a treacherous stream as the Mississippi.
They began to have adventures with strolling darkies who visited them after they had tied up for the night; and once when a noisy crowd had threatened to do them bodily harm because the boys had declined to make them a present of tobacco and strong drink, both of them had to do guard duty during the night for fear of an attack.
All these things told them that they were now getting down into the sunny South, and that they would meet with disappointments there as well as in other places, for true it is things seem more alluring at a distance. But both boys were sturdy in body and determined in spirit, so that they were not apt to be discouraged by a few backsets of this character.
On A plantation in Dixie land.
Once below Vicksburg and the two boys felt that they were doing well.
True, many difficulties had arisen to give them a chance to show their grit and backbone. Maurice was of the opinion that they had come out of these conflicts with flying colors, and each victory seemed to renew their self confidence, as though that were the true reason for the encounter.
There was no lack of shooting in this region, for ducks traded between the river and adjacent lagoons at all hours of the day, and many times Maurice was able to bring down a feathered pilgrim of the air with a shot from the deck of the shanty-boat itself, retrieving the same with a nail fastened to the end of one of the poles.
What interested the boys most were the cotton fields that they began to see.
Of course, both were familiar with cotton: in many of its aspects, having been born and brought up close to the Kentucky border; but these big fields where they could see myriads of the open bolls not yet culled, late as the season was, caused them much pleasure.
And the negroes became more jovial the farther south they went. It seemed as if the black man in migrating north left his natural condition behind, and assumed many of the cares of the white man. Down in the cotton country he was at his best, full of laughter, careless of tomorrow so long as he had a dime in his ragged trousers, and of course light-fingered when he saw a chance to lift anything and no one appeared to be looking.
The boys had a lot of fun with some of these good natured darkies who came about the fire they were accustomed to starting on shore when the occasion allowed.
Sometimes they bribed them to dance a hoedown, or sing songs as the spirit moved.
Maurice was surprised to find that they favored the sentimental songs of the day, such as were being sung in the North. He wondered so at this that finally he asked one fellow, a gray-headed old chap, what had become of the negro melodies once so famous, and now so seldom heard.