Casually Explaining The Unique Latin Motto Of An Ancient House; But Chiefly Devoted To A Brilliant Chivalric Tournament, And Showing How The Nobility And Gentry Demeaned Themselves On That Knightly Occasion.
Chipmunk Court House, June 15,1868.
It is only in the South, that our distracted Republic possesses any of that dignity of ancestry and pride of castellated outbuildings, which are familiarly described by those more celebrated American travellers who have been admitted to the principal kitchens of Europe. Here, as I sit musing before the grand old chateau of Captain Munchausen, with the Conic Section of the Mackerel Brigade encampment upon the lawn beyond me, and at my right, the Provisional Governor, on a barrel, trying four members of the freed-negro race for refusing to work for four dollars and a half a year, - as I sit thus surrounded by all the exciting richness of a land's affecting redemption from error, methinks I can see far back into the antiquity of this chivalric people, and hold spiritual converse with the grand old cavaliers. Methinks I see the celebrated and high-spirited Duke of Lee, in his rich corduroy mantle and Vandyke hat with turnpike tickets in the band, guiding the blooded steeds of his chariotful of early cabbages to market. Methinks I behold the Earl of Hunter, attired in the rim of a straw hat and robes slashed with white under-clothing, bending pensively over the sweet-potato patch and reckoning the probable profit on his jewelled fingers. Methinks I observe the brilliant Marquis of Pendleton, in his plumed helmet of ventilated white beaver and toga of alpaca, making boots and shoes for the nobility and gentry of the castles adjoining his own.
Then, as I look up at the patrimonial chateau of Munchausen, with four mortgages upon it, and a Dutch oven sticking out of the side, I at once feel that there is an unspeakable lowness about everything but hunting, and experience an inordinate desire to be supported by a colored man.
Taking the arm of Captain Villiam Brown, who had just been shaving himself with a bit of glass sent to his room for that purpose, and following the direction of the aged seneschal who was carrying in the hoe-cake on a dustpan, I proceeded to the sall a manger, where Captain Munchausen, Matilda, P. Penruthers, and the Provisional Governor were awaiting us. Each being pointed to his proper inverted peach-basket by the master of the revel, we seated ourselves thereon around the groaning board.
Wishing to promote conversation, I helped myself to some hard-tack, and said I, - •
"Tell me, my mirror of knighthood, what mean these letters ' U. S.,' which I find imprinted upon the crackers, the tomato can, the claret cork, upon every eatable on this wassail board, except the hoe-cake ? "
Captain Munchausen drew closer around his shoulders the calico window-curtain which formed his robe de cham-bre, and says he, -
" By Chivalry ! they mean ' Unum Semper,' or ' One Always,' which is the Latin motto of my family".
" Ah! " says Villiam, dreamily, " give us this day our daily Unum Semper. Do you know, my fren'," says Villiam, pleasantly, " that all the meals of our Mackerel beings are Unum Sempers too? "
"Sir Vandal," said Captain Munchausen, "your remarks must not be tolerated. Will you have a clean knife and fork?"
" Yes, sarah," says Villiam, majestically, " and another spoonful of motto, if you please".
"Seneschal," said Captain Munchausen, "go to the armory and bring some more knives and forks".
" Stop, brother," said the Provisional Governor, observing that our haughty host was making movements as though to stab Villiam in the back with a butter-knife; " this is no time for the South to bluster. Let us rather stand by our noble President in his conflict with the scorpions of the North".
"Sir," responded the proud Virginian, "you teach me my jooty. And now what say you? - shall we invite the vipers to our tournamong, that they may witness the ancient knightly pastime of the superior race whom they have - ha! ha!-conquered?"
Here Captain Munchausen laughed horridly; and would have grown hysterical with scorn had he not suddenly remembered that his knees, "which he had drawn up to the rim of the wassail-board, were looking forth like a couple of bald-headed prisoners through the airy interstices of their respective sable dungeons. Whereupon he arose quickly to his feet, and says he, "Seneschal, how stands our ancestral treasury ? "
The aged servitor stopped cleaning the knives, and says he, -
" S' help me gad, Mars'r, I hab done got only two shillings for workin' de whole day yerserday for one of dem Yankees down yar".
A terrible smile trickled over those of Captain Munchausen's features which illuminated his whiskers like lamps in a forest, and says he, -
"Will the Messieurs Vandal be good enough to note the - ha! ha! - blessing of Freedom to the colored race ? Will they note how the freedman is able to support himself ? Two shillings a day ! ! Seneschal," said Captain-Munchausen, hastily, "give me the two shillings, then, and I will to try to get along with them".
The venerable retainer passed the largesse to his lord, and soon we all started for the field of chivalric adventure, after the manner of several Ivanhoes.
Now, spirit of Orlando, thou matchless paladin and sturdy hater of cold water in any application, come to my aid with as much brass helmet as possible, while I describe the scene of Arturian splendor which exploded upon our vision when we reached the field of tournay.
A piece of historical ground, which had proved upon trial to be unfavorable to potatoes, had been set apart for the knightly pageant; and all four sides of it were supplied with an ancient staging of four descending seats, which ended at short intervals in pillars driven into the ground." A lavish baron of the olden time, who did quite a good thing in the oyster trade, had bequeathed the interest of seven dollars per annum as a fund for keeping the staging impregnable to vagrant cows, and the fact that only a few roasting pigs were grazing in the lists, when we arrived, spoke well for the use of the legacy.