Eison Lyles - Slave Narrative

THE INNOCENT CAUSE, OR HOW SNORING BROKE OFF A MATCH.
A TALE OF HOG KILLING TIME

Dear Colonel. — Here is a letter written to me long ago by my esteemed friend, Belt: Seebub, or Belzebub, as he was more generally known. What he records may be true, or it may not: my opinion is, that there is something in it.

My Dear Sir: — After spendin an agreeable time among you down there, jest as I was mountin my boss to bid you adiew, you requested me to write to you a long letter narratin some adventure of my own personal occurrunce. It seems that fate was aware many centuries ago, that you was goin to make sech a request, for I had'nt been home here more then two weeks when the very thing, the all-firedest, cussedest thing tuk place as ever yet had tukken place in relation to me. I'll write it down jest as it all happened.

You know Micheal Ann Hull, the cousin of Liza Paul what you kissed so much in playin Sister Phebe when you was up here? Well I tuk a likin to her, becase we was raised together, and her mother has been, next to my own, the kindest soul ever sense I can recollect myself and before I could, if what folks ses is true. I have been in love with Micheal Ann now more than a year, and it is amusin to trace the imperceptabilaties of the rise and progress of my affections and hern. She first begun by puttin young kittens in my coat pocket, but she soon quit that, for one night when I was'nt aware of any thing bein in my coat pocket, I set down in the arm cheer and mashed the little innocent so ded that it had'nt time to squawl nor scratch. — She cried a good deal about it, but it was'nt two months before she commenced pokin straws up my nose while I'd be pertendin to be asleep by the fire; and once Liza Paul told her if she was in her place she'd kiss me, and Micheal Ann exclaimed "La, Liza Paul, aint you ashamed of yourself." Well things went on so ontel I and Micheal Ann got to kissin one another when we was both as wide awake as old Wilks when he is affected with the delirius tremendus. This fetches me perty nigh up to the matters what are goin to interest you.

You know my name is Belton Seebub, or Belt. Seebubb, as the boys hereabouts call me; but Mr. Dukes, the Universalist preacher, calls me Belzebub, becase, ses he, I am the only devil the existence of which he is convinced of. If the galls had'nt to laughed at it as a good thing. I'd have licked him for sayin of it. It is true, as you very well know, that I am a devilish fellow, fond of fun, and that I am often sorry, as most terrestrial devils are, for the pranks I perpetrate.

Now old Mrs. Hull got to hear of some of my scrapes, and she give it to me in a spent of wrath that was dredful. I reconciled her in a few days, however, and got a regular bloodsuckin kiss of reconciliation from Micheal Ann who had tuk it in her hed to git angry with me at the same time and on account of the same circumstances. Well a week afterwards Mrs. Hull give me an invitation to cum down to her house to superintend the butcherin of twenty hogs. Good! that was jest what I wanted. Thinks I to myself I'll do things so nice, and be so industrious that the old woman cant find in her hart to defer mine and Micheal Ann's weddin day any longer. So down I goes with my oldest breeches on and a red flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up over my elbows. I was on the place by three o'clock, had all the fires kindled, water made hot, hogs killed, scraped and gutted, before Michael Ann got up, and I give her a lecture on laziness right before her mother. By twelve o'clock I was so greasy all over that neither Lizy Paul nor Micheal Ann would let me git nigh 'em. In the course of the day I made myself useful in a thousand different ways, sech as seperatin the fat from the intustynes, choppin sawsudge meat and saltin away poke.

Night come on, and we all sot round a big poplar tray filled with sawsudge meat and intustynes, and we commenced stuffin saw sudges and makin merry. I was up to the bizziness of stuffin; so with my broad thumb and goard handle stuffer, I beat Micheal Ann and Liza Paul all to pieces. Old Mrs. Hull got down a musheene made out of tin and sed she was goin to beat us all, but she busted the intustynes so frightfully that she flung the thing at Ranger, (one of the savudgest dogs I ever saw,) jest as he was stickin his nose inte the sawsudge meat. The old woman cum mighty nigh bustin out in wrath, but I told a funny joke, and jest then a traveler hollered at the gate —.

That was the eend of my happiness. I have often sence more than a hundred times wished that the Kentucky hog driver what hollered at the gate that night, had been the driver of the lot of hogs what are sed in the days of the Apossels to have taken the devil in their heds and run into the Yeuxyne see. But he could'nt help it. He was only the innosent cause of my truble. It is my opinion ser, that these fellers who are the innosent causes of misfortune, are the most detestebul of all fellers; becase there is no possibility of gittin any revenge out of 'em. A morulist would tell you that you might as well skin your knuckles aginst a stump over which you stumbled, as to chestize a man what had innosently injured you.

As soon as the Kentuckian hollered, Liza Paul, Micheal Ann and her mother all jumped up, and run into the house to entertain him. I got all-fired mad. There was no more use of Micheal Ann's going into the house than there was of me goin, and there was no use of that, as you will see in the sequil. Well I got to bustin intestynes myself, and Liza Paul's mammy had to reprove me for it. That made me hot. Jest then Ranger come into the kitchen, and I kicked him clean out of the door into a barrel of feathers, where he yelped most pitiously. I herd the winder sash in the house go up, and out cum Mrs. Hull's voice — she is a terribul woman when she is inraged. "Who on y earth is that abusin that poor dog?" says she. "He is hoUerin mam, from the effects of the blow you give him with the sawsudge stuffer," ses 1. Down goes the sash, open comes the door, and out springs the old lady into the Piazzer. "You're a lier," ses she, "an unmannerly, good-for-nothin lier, for I missed him. Look here Belt you've been a good feller all day, now do'nt go kickin up any shines in there sens I aint there." — I coiled up my fingers into the knottiest sort of a fist, fetch it down against the edge of the old tray, and knocked out a smart sized little rollin target. At the same time I got up, and sed I'd be dumed to dumnation if I'd stuff any more sawsudges that night. "You'll cetch it tomorrow momin, my cherip," sed Liza Paul's mammy, as I went out of the kitchen.

When I got into the house, the old woman was by herself, the Kaintuckian havin gone out to see about his boss. "Now Belt, why will you do so, you know I love you as I do my own son," sed she, with tears in her eyes. I threw myself into her arms, and sheddin abundence of tears, exclaimed "my dear mother forgive me and I will never do any thing agin to offend you." — "That's a good boy," ses she, pressin me to her bussum. "You shall have Micheal Ann as soon as you like." My extussy was more than I can describe. Just then the Kaintuckian cum in, and I caught sight of Liza Paul becconin to me to go there. She and Micheal Ann had been all the time in the little shed room fryin sawsudges. — I rushed into the room, and told Liza that her mammy was goin to injure me in the estimation of Mrs. Hull, and that she should go to the kitchin, and remunstrate with her, and Liza Paul was gone in an instant.

"Why did'nt you foller me out of the kitchin Belt? you might have known that I cum out on purpus for you to foller me," sed Micheal Ann, settin down on my nee.

"Becase," ses I, "it was predestyned from infinity that at times I should make a fool of myself: and it seems to me that tonight I am so full of devil that it chokes me."

Micheal Ann put her mouth right on mine to prevent me, as she sed, from blasphemin. I squeezed the dear gall to my buzzum, and we both busted into tears.

"Micheal Ann," ses I, "you cant begin to conceive how much I love you. It's jest as far above your comprehension as the doctryne of the Trinity."

"And yet Belt, I believe in the Holy Trinity notwithstandin I cant see into it."

Here Micheal Ann put one eend of a sawsudge into her mouth, and tumin her face towards me, I bit off the sawsudge even with her teeth.

"You'l quit all your devilment won't you?"

"Yes, honey, after we are married. And speakin of marry in, your mammy ses we may git married whenever we like."

"Now Belt. when did you ax mammy?"

"Never you mind," I responded, "you jest say when you are willin to become mine, wholly mine, and nothin but mine so help you God."

"Belt aint you ashamed of yourself?"

"I never was ashamed of any thing in all my life," ses I.

Here she commenced enumeratin a great many biergrafickal purtickularities concernin myself, which she sed I ought to be ashamed of, if I was'nt. She laid sum stress upon that scrape you herd talk of when you was up here about me and Betsy Hardwick. I call God to witness that I am as innosent of it as the child itself. — But all I could say would'nt convince Micheal Ann, and now I suppose I never can convince her.

"You jest hush Belt," ses she, "mammy ses it's jest as much like you when you was a baby as any two pattridge eggs - "

"All babies are as much alike as all the pattridge eggs as ever was laid," I answered. "But settin all that aside let's get married before Chrismus, and then you know you'll prevent me from frolickin the Chrismus hollerdays."

"Well, Belt, whenever you want to," sed the charmin gall.

"Next Thursday a week we'll get married then — , eh?"

"Well."

I and Micheal Ann drew nearer to the fire and eat sawsudges out of one another's mouth until two o'clock, when I axed her where I was to sleep.

"In the garret room where the Kaintuckian is."

"Good!" ses I, and I kissed her, tuk up a candle, and went up stairs.

If ever I git to be as happy agin as I was while I was goin up them stairs, I will appint a day of thanksgivin and keep it as strictly as a preacher keeps Sunday. Ah, little did I think that the next mornin I would see Micheal Ann pleadin for me on her nees before her inraged mother. And that durned Kaintuckian was the innosent cause of it all.

When I reached the door of the garret room, I herd the hog driver snorin most dredfully. He did'nt wake when I went in, and I walked right up to him with the candle in my hand, jest to see how a man did look while he was snorin, for out of all the folks I ever herd snore, I never yet had seen one.

His face wore a terribul expression. He lay flat upon his back, with his hed berried in the piller, his eyes sot and half open, and his under jaw hung down tel his tung could be seen as dry as a swinged pig tail. In fact, his mouth looked like a steel trap set for a otter and baited with a piece of dried beef. The diffikulty of respuration under which he labored made my flesh crawl. There was a little stove at the hed of his bed, and the stove pipe passed about three feet over his face out through a hole in the wall. It was an old stove, and had not been used for a long time. I sot the candle down upon it, pulled off my clothes, and hopped into bed. I wanted to go to sleep as soon as possabul, so that I might dream about Micheal Ann, but it was onpossabul, for the Kaintuckian snored so loud that the candlestick rattled upon the stove as it would have done from the jar of distant thunder.

I stuck my thumbs into my ears, but it did no good, for I do not think there is a man living who can go to sleep with his thumbs stickin in his ears. I lay I recken an hour waitin for the hog driver to quit snorin, until at last the devil in me got of such a consistence that I was forced to cast it out. The stove pipe came into my mind — quick as a thought I leaped out of bed, and runnin up to the stove, raised the eend of the stove pipe from the stove and clapt it right over his mouth, includin his nostruls, his eyes, and his chin. In the same moment I hopped back into my bed. The snorin instantly stopped, and I was beginnin to place the pillow so that I could easily get hold of it in case I should need it to hug while dreamin about Micheal Ann, when lookin through the window by the light of the full moon, I saw issuin out of the mouth of the stove pipe, out side of the house, an awful torrunt of sut. Thinks I, he has remarkabul strong powers of respurration to create such a purterbition in the sut, I wonder, thinks I, if he draws as much sut into his lungs out of one eend of the stove pipe as he forces out at the other. It amused me very much, but that was the very beginnin of trubulation; for all at once a sound accumpined the sut out of the stove pipe, that made the very hairs in my nostruls move like the legs of a sentipede. It was the most unyearthly noise that ever yet was beam on yearth or ever will again be hearn this side of the general resserrection day. If I would attempt to describe it, I would say it was surnthin between the howl of lettin off steam and the scream of a circular saw cutting through a hard pine-knot.

It is no use for me to tell you that it was the Kaintuckian snorin through the stove pipe, and before I could jump up and take it from his mouth he had effected the following important results upon the plantation, that is to say, the bosses in the stable tuk fright at the second sound and commenced kickin and whickerin most dreadfully. — Ranger barked purty savrdgely at the first sound but at the second he changed the tone of his barkin so that it was easy for a child to tell that his tail was stuck between his legs. He tuck a strait course for the creek swamp and Liza Paul told me yisterday that he has not been hearn of since. The old muscofy drake that was made a present to Micheal Ann before she commenced sheddin teeth, tuk alarm at the third sound, and fluttered across the yard like a whole flock. He got tangled amung some boards, as well as I could judge from the noise and his flutterin grew weeker and weeker tel it ceased altogether. At the fourth sound Mrs. Hull gave a shriek and hoppin out of bed, I heard her scream out "you Bill, you Alford, I say, some of you out there in the kitckin, what on yearth is that noise?" There was considerable disturbence down stairs but after half an hour every thing became quiet. I tell you the cold pusperation busted from every pore in my body when I heard Mrs. Hull, but at length I went to sleep myself.

The next morning I was waked up about day light by the voice of Mrs. Hull, she was abusin somebody most dreadfully, and I thought I heard Eliza Paul and Micheal Ann crying. Thinks I, what has the gals been doin.

"Jest go up stairs and wake up the retch," exclaimed Mrs. Hull down stairs, and I knew from the ernfussis of her voice that she was tearin mad. I thought it was the Kaintuckian she alluded to, and that he had been doin somethin he ought'nt to. I hops up and runs to his bed with the dutiful intention of suffocatin him, but he was gone. I put on my clothes and went down stairs.

"You infernal rascal." Screamed my mother-in-law apparent, "clear out, leave this place, you triflin scoundrul."

"Oh, mammy mammy" exclaimed Micheal Ann, "there's no great harm dun, we can wash 'em again this very day."

I looked about and begun to see what was the matter. There was a nice white diepper towel hanging on the piazzer, with the great biggest ugliest blackest spot in the middle of it immadgunabul. It was where the Kaintuckian had wiped his face before he went away. The wind had biowed the sut in little drifts all about the yard and there was all Micheal Ann's perty white stiff starched petty coats on the clothes line ruinationed by the cussed sut. The old woman was becommin appeased when Liza Paul's little brother cum in draggin the old muscofy drake. — He was completely ded and covered over with hog's fat.

"Where did you get that, you little imp." — Asked Mrs. Hull in a terribul voice, that set the little feller cryin.

"In the fat pot mam out side the smoke house door."

There was a mistery explained. The old drake in his fright had flew up against the boards coverm the big pot filled with melted lard that had been left out to cool, and fallin into the fat, had died in laudibul exertions to extricate hiself. As soon as I saw it, I sprang out of the piazzer and run for my life, but I was'nt swift enough to escape the vituperatin expressions she sent after me, for she looked upon my flight as an acknowledgement of guilt.

"Begone you scape gallus, clear out — never do you put your foot on this place again, you vagabone you, what jest runs from one place to another in hog killin time jist to eat the nabers' back bones and spare ribs! — A-i-n-t you ashamed of yourself? Jist think of it now. — Oh you good for nothin stinkin villian, to treat me so — me who suckled you for three months when your mammy could'nt give enuff of milk to keep you from starvin, and the marks is on my breast yet where you bit me, you good for nothin impertinunt rascul you."

The pleadins of Micheal Ann rose up in this storm of rage like a rainbow in a tempist. I run for a quarter of a mile and laid down on the ground and rolled over and kicked and snorted in my unsupportabul despair. I wish you would write to me and give me some advice, for advice from a friend is comfort, and God knows I need it.

Yours every inch.

Belton Seebub.

N.B. Liza Paul ses she would take a hankerin after you if you was'nt so cussed proud.

B.S.

I am happy to add, that the difficulties under which my friend Seebub found himself at the close of his letter have since been happily removed and that Mrs. Hull was proud of him as a son in law to her last day. I have several letters from Belt: relating the circumstances of the reconciliation, and describing his wedding, but they are unfortunately mislaid. If I should ever find them they shall be at your service. — If in twenty years my friend Belt be not the patriarchal centre of a thriving family circle, appearances are deceitful, for I and Liza Paul were sponsors last Sunday three weeks to the last twins Micheal Ann presented him. (Kibler, 1984)