Written for the New York “Spirit of the Times” by “Spinning Bait.”

Of late years there has been a vigorous effort made by the various denominations of Christians to enlighten and direct the minds of our population in the “up country,” by having “camp” and “protracted meetings.’ On one occasion the meetings wrought many changes, some equal to that of “Capt. Simon Suggs,” only there being no pecuniary temptation, far more lasting. Now the time selected for these efforts being after the “crop is laid by,” the negroes, in many cases, participate largely, and enthusiastic as well as musical by nature, their enjoyment is always proportionate with the vigor of the preacher and the length and melody of the hymn.

A parcel of fun-loving young men, attended by their respective “boys”—who only came “for fancy”—by “force of reasoning” returned home quite impressed; and one F.X. undertook to work a similar change in his boy Randall. Now Ran was one of the “niggas sah wot you reads of,” black as ebony, cute as a fox, supple as a cat, and one of the best ‘possom or coon hunters. Being a hunter, he also loved a “drop o’ summat,” and would risk his hide to get it; but, sad to relate, Ran stood in perpetual dread of seeing the devil. Many a gourd, with candle brightly shining through the eye-holes, has been contrived for his benefit, and sadly have the youths racked their brains to scare Ran, but hitherto the personation of “Nick the first” has been but partially successful. Long and seriously did Fred now reason and explain to Ran the dangers surrounding him; and having grown up together, the boy seemed to feel that he should do “like massa” as near as he could.

“Massa Fred, how I gwine to do? Can’t turn ‘ligious right off! ‘Sides, how I know when I got ‘ligion, arter done tried like hell?”

“You black rascal, don’t let me hear another such word out of your mouth, unless you want fifty lashes.”

“Ax yer pardon, sah,” exclaimed the boy, his eyes rolled up in fright; “but massa, ‘spose I tries to pray, and while I tries debbil come and run me off foh fear I gets ‘ligious and saves my poor soul, eh?”

“Never cease praying, Ran, and the old fellow can do you no harm; that is, if you pray honestly and desire to change.”

The same night several of the negroes met and sang a hymn or two, and then commenced praying in a serious manner. Ran, feeling a desire to be private in his first attempt, slipped out of the cabin and took his way in the dark, around by the horse-lot. He owned “that he was ‘fraid them galls would laugh at him,” and “he didn’t want to git mad when he was tryin’ to dodge the old one.” After walking some time he began to be a little uneasy. He was now “a peart chance off,” and the night was as dark as his hide; occasional fears that now, if ever, his enemy would attack him, grew so into a mental conviction, that down he dropped on his knees, and in a rapid manner he began to pray. Not selecting his locality with care, he had only got a start as far as “De good Lord save Mass Fred,” when he felt “hot breff a pourin’ in his face,” and an unearthly snort saluted his ears. He paused only a second, then broke out with “Now I lay me down to sleep,” when rip! something took his pants in a fly and sadly grained his skin. “Oh! Lord, heah de debbil foh troo,” he shouted, and started off at a two-minute lick for a few paces, when, striking full length against the fence, down he went, while the enemy pranced over him. Daylight revealed the prostrate Ran lying where he had fallen with eyes hard shut to keep out the awful sight, the sweat standing in big beads over his face, praying for dear life—and, coolly surveying the scene, stood a fine Cashmere goat, of the “Billy” species! When the “hands” found Ran’s condition out, they sent off for Mass Ned, and stood by in agonies of suppressed mirth until his arrival. He came:

“Ran, Ran, what do you mean, sleeping in such a place—at this time of day, too?” cried Fred.

“Oh! Lord, don’t try to fool me, Mr. Debbil. You see I knows Mass Fred ain’t her; he run you, quicker.”

“Ran, don’t be a fool; I’m your master—be a sensible boy, and open your eyes.”

Ran opened his eyes only in time to receive a severe butt from the goat as he raised from the ground, and relapsing into his former state, he “sosted de subjec.” Fred made the goat leave, and had Ran placed on his feet before his reason returned; but to this day Ran swears he “seed de debbil, and felt him too, but prar saved him.”


Source: New York Spirit of the Times 29.33 (24 September 1859): 386. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

We would like to thank the staff of the Library of Virginia Archives and Special Collections, Alderman Library, and Barrett Collection for their assistance. This page contains material in the public domain and it may be reproduced in its entirety or cited for courses, scholarship, or other non-commercial uses. We ask that users cite the source and support the archives that have provided materials to the Spirit site.