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Edward Payson Roe
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 334 pages of information about Taken Alive.
did not even know what the word meant, but when his cheek rested lovingly against his violin he felt that he was made of different clay from other “niggahs.”  During the day he indulged in moods by the divine right and impulse of genius, imitating his gifted brothers unconsciously.  In waiting on the table, washing dishes, and hoeing the garden, he was as great a laggard as Pegasus would have been if compelled to the labors of a cart-horse; but when night came, and uncongenial toil was over, his soul expanded.  His corrugated brow unwrinkled itself; his great black fingers flew back and forth over the strings as if driven by electricity; and electric in effect were the sounds produced by his swiftly-glancing bow.

While the spirit of music so filled his heart that he could play to the moon and silent stars, an audience inspired him with tenfold power, especially if the floor was cleared or a smooth sward selected for a dance.  Rarely did he play long before all who could trip a measure were on their feet, while even the superannuated nodded and kept time, sighing that they were old.  His services naturally came into great demand, and he was catholic in granting them—­his mistress in good-natured tolerance acceding to requests which promised many forgetful hours at a time when the land was shadowed by war.  So it happened that Jeff was often at the more pretending residences of the neighborhood, sometimes fiddling in the detached kitchen of a Southern mansion to the shuffle of heavy feet, again in the lighted parlor, especially when Confederate troops were quartered near.  It was then that his strains took on their most inspiring and elevated character.  He gave wings to the dark-eyed Southern girls; their feet scarcely touched the floor as they whirled with their cavaliers in gray, or threaded the mazes of the cotillon then and there in vogue.

Nor did he disdain an invitation to a crossroads tavern, frequented by poor whites and enlisted men, or when the nights were warm, to a moonlit sward, on which he would invite his audience to a reel which left all breathless.  While there was a rollicking element in the strains of his fiddle which a deacon could not resist, he, with the intuition of genius, adapted himself to the class before him.  In the parlor, he called off the figures of a quadrille with a “by-yer-leave-sah” air, selecting, as a rule, the highest class of music that had blessed his ears, for he was ear-taught only.  He would hold a half-washed dish suspended minutes at a time while listening to one “ob de young missys at de pianny.  Dat’s de way I’se pick up my most scrumptious pieces.  Dey cyant play nuffin in de daytime dat I cyant ’prove on in de ebenin’;” and his vanity did not lead him much astray.  But when with those of his own color, or with the humbler classes, he gave them the musical vernacular of the region—­rude traditional quicksteps and songs, strung together with such variations of his own as made him the envy and despair of all

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