He could do duty as a messenger or as a porter between the great house a sumptuous palace in comparison with the slave-cabins and the fields where his elders were at work. With a horse he could also go on more distant errands, some of which, along lonely roads, were not unattended with danger.
At the edge of a clearing enclosed by a worm fence I came to a row of slave-cabins. Mongrel dogs barked through the fence, and in one angle of it a young white man with long straight hair showed himself so abruptly as to startle my horse. Only the one cabin was lighted, and thence came the rhythmic shuffle of bare-footed dancers while the fiddle played "I lay ten dollars down."
The slave-cabins were wholly unenclosed, and George had not failed to notice on his arrival upon the estate that, though it was certainly fenced in, the fencing consisted of nothing more than a common rough post-and-rail fence, evidently intended merely to keep out cattle, and in his innocence he began to think that escape from such a place would prove a very easy matter, after all.
I entered one of the slave-cabins and told the inmates I was lost, hungry, and tired, and asked them for something to eat. One of the colored men spoke to a woman who appeared to be his wife, and told her to get me something to eat, and that he would go and get some pine to put on the fire.
In many places the ground was thickly strewn with oranges, and the orange-groves were beautiful with golden fruit and silver flowers gleaming among the dark glossy green foliage. Here and there was the mansion of a wealthy planter, surrounded by whitewashed slave-cabins.
The sad or even strangely weird songs which had been sung by night with bated breath, as it were, in the slave-cabins could now be superseded by more cheerful hymns. The former had been the natural expression of bond-slaves, to whom life on earth was without hope; at last they were able to sing the triumphant note of freemen.
But the houses are the reverse of this, having much the aspect of slave-cabins of the olden time small, one-story, log and frame shanties, roof and gables shingled with "shakes," and little vegetable gardens inclosed by palings. The majority of these small farmers whose tracts seldom exceed a hundred acres rent their land, rather than own it.