In Old Plantation Days

Dizzy-Headed Dick

Those were troublous times on the plantation, both for master and for man. The master only should have been concerned; but nothing ever went on at the “big house” that “the quarters” did not feel and know. And they had good reason to know this. The master had been specially irritable that morning, and Dinah told Aunt Fannie that he had driven Jim, the valet, from the room, and had shaved himself—an unprecedented happening, for Bradley Fairfax had never before been known to refuse the delicate attentions of his favorite serving-man.

There was another reason, too, why the quarters should know all about the trouble, for was not Dinah herself the weathervane whose gyrations in the quarters had only to be watched to know which way the wind blew at the big house, and when Big Ben from the Norton plantation came over to visit her Emily, as he had been doing for a year past, had she not driven him from the place?

“I ain’t a-raisin’ darters,” she said indignantly, “to th’ow away on de likes o’ dem No’ton niggahs; w’en Em’ly m’ay, I spec’ huh to look fu’ biggah game in tallah trees.”

“But, Dinah,” said Aunt Fannie, “yo’ been lettin’ Ben gallant Em’ly right erlong fu’ mos’ nigh a yeah; huccome yo’ done change so quick?”

Dinah turned upon her interlocutor the look of disgust which is only possible with a match making matron as she replied: “La, A’nt Fannie, chile, you don’ know? I let huh go ‘long o’ him case I hadn’t ‘skivered yit dat de niggah had any ‘tentions. Soon ez I did, I made him faihly fly.”

Aunt Fannie laughed significantly, because she knew her people so well, and said with apparent irrelevance: “I ain’t seed Mas’ Tawm No’ton up to de big house fu’ a day er so.”

It was irrelevant, but confidential.

“Heish, honey; Mas’ Bradley done driv’ him away too long ‘go to talk ’bout. He ‘lows how ef Mis’ Marg’et cain’t find no bettah match fu’ huhse’f dan Tawm No’ton she kin des’ be a ol’ maid, lak huh A’nt Marg’et.”

“Whut’s de mattah wid Mas’ Tawm? He good quality an’ mighty well off?”

“Whut’s de mattah? W’y, he wil’ ez a young deeh; whut wid hoss-racin’ an’ gwine down de ribber to Noo Cleans, he des’ taihin’ up awful Jackl”

“But hol’ on; I don’ see de rights o’ dat. Phoebe say dat Mas’ hisse’f was one o’ de hoss-racin’est, travelin’-erroun’est young mans in de country w’en he was a-comm’ erlong.”

“Sh-sh; maybe he done been dat, but den Mas’ he settled down.”

“Den w’y don’ he give Mas’ Tawm a chanst? A hoss got to be a colt fus’, ain’t he?”

“Look hyeah, A’nt Fannie, whut’s de mat-tah’d you? I don’t keer ef a hoss uz got to be a colt fus’; nobody ain’t gwine to buy no colt w’en he want a ca’ige hoss.”

“No, indeedy, an’ yo’ cain’t tell me I No ca’ige hoss ain’t gwine to ‘mount to nuffin’ ‘less’n he been a purty lively colt.”

“Go ‘long, A’nt Fannie!”

“Clah out, Dinah!”

Aunt Fannie was wiser than she seemed. She was the cook for the big house, and from the vantage ground of her kitchen, which sat just a little way off the back veranda, she saw many things. Besides, her son Dick was a house boy, and he told her others.

She and Dick had special reasons for loving and cherishing the young Miss Margaret, for, when angry at some misdemeanor of the black boy’s, Bradley Fairfax had threatened to sell him down the river, it had been the young woman’s prayers rather than Aunt Fannie’s wailings that had turned him from his determination. So they worshiped her, and Dick would have died for her.

On the day that the storm rose to its height Dick slipped down to his mother s kitchen with the new 7 s.

“Whut’s de mattah’d you, Dick?” asked his mother.

“Sh, mammy, but dey’s goin’s on up dah.”

“Wha kin’ o’ gwine on, huh?”

“I hyeahd Mas’ Bradley talkin’ to young Mis’ dis mo’nin’, an’ I tell you fu’ a little w’ile it was mannahs.”

“Whut’d he say to my little lammy?”

“Dey was talkin’ ’bout Mas’ Tawm No’ton, an’ she tol’ him dat Mas’ Tawm wasn’t so wi’ ez he used to be, an’ he uz a-settlin’ down. Mas’ he up an’ said dat Tawm No’ton didn’t come o’ a settlin-down fambly, an’ dey wouldn’t be no weddin’ in his house ‘tween huh an’ a No’ton.” Den she ax him ef he an’ Mas’ Tawm’s pa wa’n’t great frien’s w’en dey was young, an’ he say, c’ose; but dey had come to de pa’tin’ o’ de ways long befo’ ol’ man Tawm No’ton died.

“Mis’ Marg’et, she ‘plied up, ‘Well, fathah, I hope you won’t fo’cc yo’ darter to steal away lak a thief in de night to ma’y de man she loves.'”

“‘I ain’t ‘fraid, ol Mas’ says; ‘no Fairfax lady have evah done dat.’ ‘Den watch th’oo de day,’ she answeh back, an’ den I didn’t hyeah no mo’. It ‘pears lak to me Mas’ Bradley ain’t so sot ag’in Mas’ Tawm No’ton, case he come out putty soon an’ kicked Jim, an’ w’en he right mad he don’t ac’ dat a-way. Seem lak he des’ kin’ o’ whimsy an’ stubbo’n; but it’s goin’ to mek somep’n happen.”

“How yo’ know whut it gwine to do?”

“‘Case I saw Mis’ Marg’et ride down to de big gate, an’ w’en she thought nobody was look-in’ tek a lettah out o’ de post, an’ w’en she rode back huh lips was a-set in de Fairfax way, so I’m gwine to keep my eye peeled th’oo de day.”

“Oomph, is dat all you know?”


“Well, you clah out, you black rascal; you been eavesdrappin’ ag’in, dat’s whut you been doin’. You ought to be ashamed o’ yo’se’f. Don’ you come hyeah a’tellin’ me no mo’ o’ yo’ eavesdrappin’ trash; clah out!”

“Yes’m, I’m a-goin’, but you keep yo’ eahs open, mammy, an’ yo’ eyes, too; an’ mammy,’ membah hit’s ouah Mis’ Marg’et!”

“Clah out, I tell you!” and Dick went his way. “Ouah Mis’ Marg’et; sic himpidence!” mused the old woman as she began to beat the dough for the biscuits; “ouah Mis’ Marg’et—my po’ little lamb!”

If Tom Norton had only known it, he had two strong allies in any designs he might have.

Aunt Fannie affected to ignore Dick’s injunctions. Nevertheless, in the ensuing days she followed his advice and kept her eyes open. They were so wide open and so busy with diverse things that on two mornings she sent in burned biscuits to the big house, and was like to lose her reputation.

However, all waiting must sometime end, and Aunt Fannie’s watchfulness was rewarded when she saw one morning a carriage and pair dash up the front drive, circle the house, and halt at the back veranda.

“I couldn’t mek out whut was de mattah,” she afterward told Dinah, “w’en I seed dat ca’ige fiyin’ roun’ de house widout stoppin’; den all of a suddint I seed my lammy come a’runnin’ out wid a mantilly ovah huh haid, an’ I look at de ca’ige ag’in, an’ lo an’ behoF; dah stood young Mas’ Tawm No’ton, hol’in’ out his ahms to huh. She runned right past de kitchen, an’ whut you think dat blessed chile do? She stop an’ fling huh ahms roun’ my ol’ naik an’ kiss me, an’ hit’s de livin trufe, I’d ‘a’ died fu’ huh right dah. She wa’n’t no mo’ den ha’f way to de ca’ige w’en ol’ Mas’ come des’ a-ragm’ an’ a-sto’min’ to de do’, an’ Lawd, chile, ‘fo’ I knowed it I was a-hol-lerin’, ‘Run, baby, run I’ She did run, too, an’ Mas’ Tawm he run to meet huh and tuk huh by de han.’

“Den I seed my Dick runnin’, too, an’ I hyeahed Mas’ Bradley hollah: ‘Cut de traces, Dick; cut de traces!’ I stepped back an’ reached fu’ my meat cleavah. Ef dat boy’d ‘a’ teched dem traces I’s mighty ‘feahed I’d ‘a’ th’owed it at him an’ cut ouah ‘lationship in two, but I see Mis’ Marg’et tu’n an’ look back ovah huh shoulder at him des’ as she step in de ca’ige. She gin him a kin’ o’ ‘pealin look, but hit a ‘fidin’ look, too, an’ all of a suddint dat rascal’s han’s went up in de aih an’ he fell flat on de grass. Ol’ Mas’ kept a screamin’ to him to cut de traces, but c’ose, ‘fo’ he could git up de bosses was a-sailin’ down de road, an’ Mis’ Marg’et was a wavin’ huh han’ kin’ o’ sad lak outen de ca’ige windah; but la’ Mas’ Tawm gin one look at Dick a-layin’ dab in de grass an’ faihly split his sides wid laffin’. De las’ I seed o’ dem ez dey made de tu’n he was still a’hol’in’ hisse’f.

“Well, Mas’ Bradley he come a sto’min’ down an’ kick Dick. ‘Git up,’ he say, ‘git up, you black scoun’el, an’ Dick raise his haid kin’ o’ weak lak, an’ say ‘Huh?’ Well, I lak to died; I didn’t know de boy had so much dev’ment in him.

“Ol Mas’ he grab him an’ yank him up, an’ he say: W’yn’t you cut dem traces?’ An’ Dick he look up ‘an ‘ply, des’ ez innercent: ‘W’y, Mas’ Bradley, I was tuk wid sich a dizz’ness in my haid all o’ de sudden hit seemed lak I was tu’nin’ roun’ and roun’.

“‘I give you dizz’ness in yo’ haid,’ ol’ Mas’ hollah; ‘tek him up on de po’ch an’ tie him to one o’ dem pillahs!’ So Bob an’ Jim tuk him up an’ tied him to one o’ de pillahs, an’ ol’ Mas’ went inter de house.”

Here Dinah broke in: “I was in dab. w’en he corned. Me an’ ol’ Mis’ had des’ got back f’om town, an’ Mas’ Bradley he say, ‘Well, a fellah dat’ll drive right up in a man’s ya’d an’ tek his darter f’om under his nose mus’ have some’p’n in him,’ an’ ol’ Mis’ she laff an’ cry altogethah. I spec’ she uz in de secret. I am’ so down on Big Ben ez I was.”

“La, Dinah, you is de beatenes’— But wait; lemme tell you—”

“Don’ I know de res’?”

“You don’t know ’bout de coffee?”

“No; whut ’bout de coffee?”

“Aftah w’ile Mas’ Bradley sent a whole string o’ little darkies down to my kitchen an’ mek me give each of ’em a cup o’ coffee; den he ma’ched ’em all in line up to Dick an’ mek him drink all de coffee.

“‘Whut you want me drink all dis coffee fu’? Dick say, an’ Mas’ Bradley he look mighty se’ious an’ ‘ply: ‘I’s tryin’ to cuoah dat dizzy haid o’ yo’n.’ Well, suh, I wish’t yo’d V hyeahed dern little rascalHons. Dey des’ rolled on de grass an’ hollahed, ‘Dizzy-haided Dick! Dizzy-haided Dick!’ an’ Mas’ he tu’ned an’ went in de house. I reckon dat name’ll stick to de boy ‘twell he die; but I don’t keer, he didn’t go back on his young Mis’, dizzy haid er no dizzy haid, an’ Mas’ Bradley he gwine fu’give de young folks anyhow. Ef he ain’t, huccome he didn’t taih Dick all to pieces?”


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This work (In Old Plantation Days by Paul Laurence Dunbar) is free of known copyright restrictions.