Last evening, after hard labor at pulling molasses candy, needing some relaxation after our severe exertions, we determined to have some fun, though the sun was just setting in clouds as watery as New Orleans milk, and promised an early twilight. All day it had been drizzling, but that was nothing; so Anna Badger, Miriam, and I set off, through the mud, to get up the little cart to ride in, followed by cries from the elder ladies of “Girls! Soap is a dollar and a half a bar! Starch a dollar a pound! Take up those skirts!” We had all started stiff and clean, and it did seem a pity to let them drag; so up they went —you can imagine how high when I tell you my answer to Anna’s question as to whether hers were in danger of touching the mud, was, “ Not unless you sit down.”
The only animal we could discover that was not employed was a poor old pony, most appropriately called “Tom Thumb,” and him we seized instantly, together with a man to harness him. We accompanied him from the stable to the quarter where the cart was, through mud and water, urging him on with shouts and cries, and laughing until we could laugh no longer, at the appearance of each. The cart had been hauling wood, but that was nothing to us. In we tumbled, and with a driver as diminutive as the horse, started off for Mr. Elder’s, where we picked up all the children to be found, and went on. All told, we were twelve, drawn by that poor horse, who seemed at each step about to undergo the ham process, and leave us his hind quarters, while he escaped with the fore ones and harness. I dare say we never enjoyed a carriage as much, though each was holding a muddy child. Riding was very fine; but soon came the question, “How shall we turn?” — which was not so easily solved, for neither horse nor boy understood it in the least. Every effort to describe a circle brought us the length of the cart farther up the road, and we promised fair to reach Bayou Sara before morning, at that rate. At last, after fruitless efforts to dodge under the harness and escape, pony came to a standstill, and could not be induced to move. The children took advantage of the pause to tumble out, but we sat still. Bogged, and it was very dark already! Would n’t we get it when we got home! Anna groaned, “Uncle Albert!” Miriam laughed, “the General!” I sighed, “Mrs. Carter!” We knew what we deserved; and darker and darker it grew, and pony still inflexible!
At last we beheld a buggy on a road near by and in answer to Morgan’s shouts of “Uncle! Uncle! come turn our cart!” a gentleman jumped out and in an instant performed the Herculean task. Pony found motion so agreeable that it was with the greatest difficulty we prevailed on him to stop while we fished seven children out of the mud, as they pursued his flying hoofs. Once more at Mr. Elder’s, we pitched them out without ceremony, and drove home as fast as possible, trying to fancy what punishment we would receive for being out so late.
Miriam suggested, as the most horrible one, being sent to bed supperless; Anna’s terror was the General’s displeasure; I suggested being deprived of rides in future; when all agreed that mine was the most severe yet. So as we drove around the circle, those two set up what was meant for a hearty laugh to show “they were not afraid,” which, however, sounded rather shaky to me. I don’t think any of us felt like facing the elders; Miriam suggested anticipating our fate by retiring voluntarily to bed; Anna thought we had best run up and change our shoes, anyway; but at last, with her dare-devil laugh, Miriam sauntered into the room, where they all were, followed by us, and thrusting her wet feet into the fire that was kindled to drive away the damp (followed also by us), commenced a laughable account of our fun — in which we, of course, followed, too. If I had fancied we were to escape scot free, we would most surely have got a scolding. It is almost an inducement to hope always for the — worst! The General did not mention the hour! did not prohibit future rides!
While we were yet toasting, a negro came in with what seemed a bank-note, and asked his master to see how much it was, as one of the women had sold some of her watermelons to the three soldiers of the morning, who had given that to her for a dollar. The General opened it. It was a pass! So vanish all faith in human nature! They looked so honest! I could never have believed it of them! But it looked so much like the “shinplasters” we are forced to use, that no wonder they made the mistake. To discover who had played so mean a trick on the poor old woman, the General asked me if I could decipher the name. I threw myself on my knees by the hearth, and by the flickering light read “S. Kimes. By order of C! H!! Luzenberg!!! Provost Marshal!!!! Onolona, Miss.,” with a gasp of astonishment that raised a burst of laughter against me. Thought he was taken prisoner long ago! At all events, I did n’t know he had turned banker, or that his valuable autograph was worth a dollar!