way. And it certainly was a significant fact that the ladies of our camp, when we were so fortunate as to have such guests,--the young wives, especially, of the adjutant and quartermaster,--used to go among the tents when the men were off duty, in order to hear their big pupils read and spell, without the slightest fear of annoyance, I do not mean direct annoyance or insult, for no man who valued his life would have ventured that in presence of the others, but I mean the annoyance of accidentally seeing or hearing improprieties not intended for them.
They both declared that they would not have moved about with anything like the same freedom in any white camp they had ever entered, and it always roused their indignation to hear the negro race called brutal or depraved.
This came partly from natural good manners, partly from the habit of deference, partly from ignorance of the refined and ingenious evil which is learned in large towns; but a large part came from their strongly religious temperament.
Their comparative freedom from swearing, for instance,--an abstinence which I fear military life did not strengthen,--was partly a matter of principle.
Once I heard one of them say to another, in a transport of indignation, “Ha-a-a, boy, s'pose I no be a Christian, I cuss you so!” --which was certainly drawing pretty hard upon the bridle.
“Cuss,” however, was a generic term for all manner of evil speaking; they would say, “He cuss me fool,” or “He cuss me coward,” as if the essence of propriety were in harsh and angry speech,--which I take to be good ethics.
But certainly, if Uncle Toby could have recruited his army in Flanders
from our ranks, their swearing would have ceased to be historic.