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Title: Moriah's Mourning and Other Half-Hour Sketches
Author: Stuart, Ruth McEnery, -1917
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  [Illustration: "'THANK THE LORD! _NOW I CAN SEE TO LOOK FOR 'EM!_'"]



MORIAH'S MOURNING

and Other Half-Hour Sketches



By RUTH MCENERY STUART

_Author of "In Simpkinsville"
"A Golden Wedding" etc._



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS



LONDON AND NEW YORK
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
1898


Copyright, 1898, by Harper & Brothers.
_All rights reserved._

_Printed in New York, U.S.A._



CONTENTS


                                                                 PAGE

MORIAH'S MOURNING                                                   3

AN OPTICAL DILEMMA                                                 19

THE SECOND MRS. SLIMM                                              37

APOLLO BELVEDERE. A CHRISTMAS EPISODE OF THE PLANTATION            53

NEAREST OF KIN (ON THE PLANTATION)                                 71

THE DEACON'S MEDICINE                                              93

TWO GENTLEMEN OF LEISURE                                          113

THE REV. JORDAN WHITE'S THREE GLANCES                             131

LADY. A MONOLOGUE OF THE COW-PEN                                  157

A PULPIT ORATOR                                                   165

AN EASTER SYMBOL. A MONOLOGUE OF THE PLANTATION                   175

CHRISTMAS AT THE TRIMBLES'                                        181

A MINOR CHORD                                                     211



ILLUSTRATIONS


"'THANK THE LORD! _NOW I CAN SEE TO LOOK FOR
'EM!_'"                                                 _Frontispiece_

"A SURPRISED AND SMILING MAN WAS SITTING AT HER
POLISHED KITCHEN TABLE"                         _Facing p._         8

"'I'M AC-CHILLY MOST AFEERD _TO_ SEE
YOU CONVERTED'"                                     "              40

"'I PROMISED HIM I'D PUT ON MO'NIN' FOR HER
SOON AS I MARRIED INTO DE FAMILY'"                  "              74

"SAYS SHE, 'OPEN YORE MOUTH!' AN' OF CO'SE
I OPENED IT"                                        "              98

"I DES LETS 'EM LOOSE P'OMISKYUS, TELL
EV'YBODY SEE BLUE LIGHTNIN'"                        "             134

"SALVATION'S KYAR IS MOVIN'!"                       "             148

"'WON'T YER, PLEASE, SIR, SPELL DAT WORD
OUT FUR ME SLOW?'"                                  "             168



MORIAH'S MOURNING


Moriah was a widow of a month, and when she announced her intention of
marrying again, the plantation held its breath. Then it roared with
laughter.

Not because of the short period of her mourning was the news so
incredible. But by a most exceptional mourning Moriah had put herself
upon record as the most inconsolable of widows.

So prompt a readjustment of life under similar conditions was by no
means unprecedented in colored circles.

The rules governing the wearing of the mourning garb are by no means
stringent in plantation communities, and the widow who for reasons of
economy or convenience sees fit to wear out her colored garments during
her working hours is not held to account for so doing if she appear at
all public functions clad in such weeds as she may find available. It is
not even needful, indeed, that her supreme effort should attain any
definite standard. Anybody can collect a few black things, and there is
often an added pathos in the very incongruity of some of the mourning
toilettes that pass up the aisles of the colored churches.

Was not the soul of artlessness expressed in the first mourning of a
certain young widow, for instance, who sewed upon her blue gown all the
black trimming she could collect, declaring that she "would 'a' dyed de
frock th'oo an' th'oo 'cep'n' it would 'a' swunked it up too much"? And
perhaps her sympathetic companions were quite as _naïve_ as she, for,
as they aided her in these first hasty stitches, they poured upon her
wounded spirit the healing oil of full and sympathetic approval, as the
following remarks will testify.

"Dat frock mo'ns all right, now de black bows is on it."

"You kin put any colored frock in mo'nin' 'cep'n' a red one. Sew black
on red, an' it laughs in yo' face."

"I'm a-sewin' de black fringe on de josey, Sis Jones, 'case fringe hit
mo'ns a heap mo'nfuler 'n ribbon do."

Needless to say, a license so full and free as this found fine
expression in a field of flowering weeds quite rare and beautiful to
see.

Moriah had proven herself in many ways an exceptional person even before
the occasion of her bereavement, and in this, contrary to all precedent,
she had rashly cast her every garment into the dye-pot, sparing not even
so much as her underwear.

Moriah was herself as black as a total eclipse, tall, angular, and
imposing, and as she strode down the road, clad in the sombre vestments
of sorrow, she was so noble an expression of her own idea that as a
simple embodiment of dignified surrender to grief she commanded respect.

The plantation folk were profoundly impressed, for it had soon become
known that her black garb was not merely a thing of the surface.

"Moriah sho' does mo'n for Numa. She mo'ns f'om de skin out." Such was
popular comment, although it is said that one practical sister, to whom
this "inward mo'nin'" had little meaning, ventured so far as to protest
against it.

"Sis Moriah," she said, timidly, as she sat waiting while Moriah
dressed for church--"Sis Moriah, look ter me like you'd be 'feerd dem
black shimmies 'd draw out some sort o' tetter on yo' skin," to which
bit of friendly warning Moriah had responded, with a groan, and in a
voice that was almost sepulchral in its awful solemnity, "_When I mo'n
I mo'n!_"

Perhaps an idea of the unusual presence of this great black woman may be
conveyed by the fact that when she said, as she was wont to do in
speaking of her own name, "I'm named Moriah--after a Bible mountain,"
there seemed a sort of fitness in the name and in the juxtaposition
neither the sacred eminence or the woman suffered a loss of dignity.

And this woman it was who, after eight years of respectable wifehood and
but four weeks of mourning her lost mate, calmly announced that she was
to be married again.

The man of her choice--I use the expression advisedly--was a neighbor
whom she had always known, a widower whose bereavement was of three
months' longer standing than her own.

The courtship must have been brief and to the point, for it was
positively known that he and his _fiancée_ had met but three times
in the interval when the banns were published.

He had been engaged to whitewash the kitchen in which she had pursued
her vocation as cook for the writer's family.

The whitewashing was done in a single morning, but a second coating was
found necessary, and it is said by one of her fellow-servants, who
professes to have overheard the remark, that while Pete was putting the
finishing-touches to the bit of chimney back of her stove, Moriah, who
stooped at the oven door beside him, basting a roast turkey, lifted up
her stately head and said, archly, breaking her mourning record for the
first time by a gleaming display of ivory and coral as she spoke,

"Who'd 'a' thought you'd come into my kitchen to do yo' _secon'
co'tin'_, Pete?"

At which, so says our informant, the whitewash brush fell from the
delighted artisan's hands, and in a shorter time than is consumed in the
telling, a surprised and smiling man was sitting at her polished kitchen
table chatting cosily with his mourning hostess, while she served him
with giblets and gravy and rice and potatoes "an' coffee b'iled
expressly."

  [Illustration: "A SURPRISED AND SMILING MAN WAS SITTING AT HER
  POLISHED KITCHEN TABLE"]

It was discovered that the kitchen walls needed a third coating. This
took an entire day, "because," so said Pete, "de third coat, hit takes
mo' time to soak in."

And then came the announcement. Moriah herself, apparently in nowise
embarrassed by its burden, bore the news to us on the following morning.
There was no visible change of front in her bearing as she presented
herself--no abatement of her mourning.

"Mis' Gladys," she said, simply, "I come ter give you notice dat I gwine
take fo' days off, startin' nex' Sunday."

"I hope you are not in any new trouble, Moriah?" I said,
sympathetically.

"Well, I don' know ef I is or not. Me an' Pete Pointdexter, we done
talked it over, an' we come ter de conclusion ter marry."

I turned and looked at the woman--at her black garments, her still
serious expression. Surely my hearing was playing me false. But catching
my unspoken protest, she had already begun to explain.

"Dey ain't no onrespec' ter de dead, Mis' Gladys, in _marryin'_,"
she began. "De onrespec' is in de _carryin's on_ folks does _when_
dey marry. Pete an' me, we 'low ter have eve'ything quiet an'
solemncholy--an' pay all due respects--right an' left. Of co'se Pete's
chillen stands up fur dey mammy, an' dey don't take no stock in him
ma'yin' ag'in. But Ca'line she been dead _long enough_--mos' six
mont's--countin' fo' weeks ter de mont'. An' as fur me, I done 'ranged
ter have eve'ything did ter show respec's ter Numa." (Numa was her
deceased husband.) "De organ-player he gwine march us in chu'ch by de
same march he played fur Numa's fun'al, an' look like dat in itse'f is
enough ter show de world dat I ain't forgot Numa. An', tell de trufe,
Mis' Gladys, ef Numa was ter rise up f'om his grave, I'd sen' Pete
a-flyin' so fast you could sen' eggs to market on his coat tail.

"You see, de trouble is I done had my eye on Pete's chillen ever sence
dey mammy died, an' ef dey ever was a set o' onery, low-down, sassy,
no-'count little niggers dat need takin' in hand by a able-bodied
step-mammy, dey a-waitin' fur me right yonder in Pete's cabin. My hand
has des nachelly itched to take aholt o' dat crowd many a day--an' ever
sence I buried Numa of co'se I see de way was open. An' des as soon
as I felt like I could bring myse'f to it, I--well--Dey warn't no
use losin' time, an' so I _tol' you, missy, dat de kitchen need'
white-washin'_."

"And so you sent for him--and proposed to him, did you?"

"P'opose to who, Mis' Gladys? I'd see Pete in de sinkin' swamp 'fo' I'd
p'opose to him!"

"Then how did you manage it, pray?"

"G'way, Mis' Gladys! Any wide-awake widder 'oman dat kin get a widder
man whar he can't he'p but see her move round at her work for two days
hand-runnin', an' can't mesmerize him so's he'll ax her to marry
him--Um--hm! I'd ondertake ter do dat, even ef I warn't no cook; but wid
seasonin's an' flavors to he'p me--Law, chile! dey warn't no yearthly
'scape fur dem chillen!

"I would 'a' waited," she added, presently--"I would 'a' waited a
reas'nable time, 'cep'n dat Pete started gwine ter chu'ch, an' you know
yo'se'f, missy, when a well-favored widder man go ter seek consolation
f'om de pulpit, he's might' ap' ter find it in de congergation."

As I sat listening to her quiet exposition of her scheme, it seemed
monstrous.

"And so, Moriah," I spoke now with a ring of real severity in my
voice--"and so you are going to marry a man that you confess you don't
care for, just for the sake of getting control of his children? I
wouldn't have believed it of you."

"Well--partly, missy." She smiled a little now for the first time.
"Partly on dat account, an' partly on his'n. Pete's wife Ca'line, she
was a good 'oman, but she was mighty puny an' peevish; an' besides dat,
she was one o' deze heah naggers, an' Pete is allus had a purty hard
pull, an' I lay out ter give him a better chance. Eve'y bit o'
whitewashin' he'd git ter do 'roun' town, Ca'line she'd swaller it in
medicine. But she was a good 'oman, Ca'line was. Heap o' deze heah
naggers is good 'omans! Co'se I don't say I _loves_ Pete, but I looks
ter come roun' ter 'im in time. Ef I didn't, I wouldn't have him."

"And how about his loving you?"

"Oh, Mis' Gladys, you is so searching!" She chuckled. "Co'se he _say_
he loves me already better'n he love Ca'line, but of co'se a widder man
he feels obleeged ter talk dat-a-way. An' ef he didn't have the manners
ter say it, I wouldn't have him, to save his life; but _ef he meant it,
I'd despise him_. After Ca'line lovin' de groun' he tread fur nine long
yeahs, he ain't got no right ter love _no_ 'oman better'n he love her
des 'caze he's a-projec'in' ter git married to 'er. But of co'se, Mis'
Gladys, I ca'culates ter outstrip Ca'line in co'se o' time. Ef I
couldn't do dat--an' she in 'er grave--_an' me a cook_--I wouldn't
count myse'f much. An' den, time I outstrips her an' git him over,
heart _an'_ soul, I'll know it by de signs."

"Why will you know it more than you know it now? He can but swear it to
you."

"Oh no, missy. When de rock bottom of a man's heart warms to a 'oman, he
eases off f'om swearin' 'bout it. Deze heah men wha' swear so much, dey
swear des as much ter convince deyselves as dey does ter ketch a 'oman's
ear. No, missy. Time I got him heart _an'_ soul, I looks for him to
commence to th'ow up Ca'line's ways ter me. Heap of 'em does dat des ter
ease dey own consciences an' pacify a dead 'oman's ghost. Dat's de way a
man nachelly do. But he won't faze me, so long as I holds de fort! An'
fur de chillen, co'se quick as I gits 'em broke in I'll see dat dey
won't miss Ca'line none. Dat little teether, I done tol' Pete ter fetch
her over ter me right away. Time I doctors her wid proper teas, an'
washes her in good warm pot-liquor, I'll make a fus'-class baby out'n
her."

Moriah had always been a good woman, and as she stood before me, laying
bare the scheme that, no matter what the conditions, had in it the
smallest selfish consideration, I felt my heart warm to her again, and I
could not but feel that the little whitewasher--a kindly, hard-pressed
family man of slight account--would do well to lay his brood upon her
ample bosom.

Of course _she_ was marrying _him_, and her acquisition of family would
inevitably become pensioners upon our bounty; but this is not a great
matter in a land where the so-called "cultivation" of the soil is
mainly a question of pruning and selection, and clothes grow upon the
commonest bush.

As she turned to go, I even offered her my best wishes, and when I
laughingly asked her if I might help her with her wedding-dress, she
turned and looked at me.

"Bless yo' heart, Mis' Gladys," she exclaimed, "_I ain't gwine out o'
mo'nin'_! I gwine marry Pete in des what I got on my back. I'll _marry_
him, an' I'll take dem little no-'counts o' his'n, an' I'll make
_folks_ out'n 'em 'fo' I gits th'ough wid 'em, ef Gord spares me; but
he nee'n't ter lay out ter come in 'twix' me an' my full year o'
mo'nin' fur Numa. When I walks inter dat chu'ch, 'cep'n' fur de owange
wreaf, which of co'se in a Christian ma'iage I'm boun' ter wear, folks
'll be a heap mo' 'minded o' Numa 'n dey will o' de bridegroom. An' dem
chillen o' his'n, which ain't nuver is had no proper mo'nin' fur dey
mammy--no mo' 'n what color Gord give 'em in dey skins--I gwine put 'em
in special secon' mo'nin', 'cordin' to de time dey ought ter been
wearin' it; an' when we walks up de island o' de chu'ch, dey got ter
foller, two by two, keepin' time ter de fun'al march. You come ter de
weddin', Mis' Gladys, an' I lay you'll 'low dat I done fixed it so dat,
while I'm a-lookin' out fur de livin', de dead ain't gwine feel
slighted, right nur left."

She was starting away again, and once more, while I wished her joy, I
bade her be careful to make no mistake. A note of sympathy in my voice
must have touched the woman, for she turned, and coming quite up to me,
laid her hand upon my lap.

"Missy," she said, "I don't believe I gwine make no mistake. You know I
allus did love chillen, an' I ain't nuver is had none o' my own, an'
dis heah seemed like my chance. An' I been surveyin' de lan'scape o'er
tryin' ter think about eve'ything I can do _ter start right_. I'm
a-startin' wid dem chillen, puttin' 'em in mo'nin' fur Ca'line. Den,
fur Pete, I gwine ring de changes on Ca'line's goodness tell he ax me,
_for Gord sake, ter stop_, so, in years ter come, he won't have nothin'
ter th'ow up ter me. An' you know de reason I done tooken fo' days off,
missy? I gwine on a weddin'-trip down ter Pine Bluff, an' I wants time
ter pick out a few little weddin'-presents to fetch home ter Pete."

"Pete!" I cried. "Pete is going with you, of course?"

"Pete gwine wid me? Who sesso? No, ma'am! Why, missy, how would it look
fur me ter go a-skylarkin' roun' de country wid Pete--_an' me in
mo'nin'_?

"No, indeedy! I gwine leave Pete home ter take keer dem chillen, an' I
done set him a good job o' whitewashin' to do while I'm gone, too. De
principles' weddin'-present I gwine fetch Pete is a fiddle. Po' Pete
been wantin' a good fiddle all his life, an' he 'ain't nuver is had one.
But, of co'se, I don't 'low ter let him play on it tell de full year of
mo'nin' is out."



AN OPTICAL DILEMMA


Elder Bradley had lost his spectacles, and he was in despair. He was
nearly blind without them, and there was no one at home to hunt them for
him. His wife had gone out visiting for the afternoon; and he had just
seen Dinah, the cook, stride gleefully out the front gate at the end of
the lane, arrayed in all her "s'ciety uniform," on her way to a church
funeral. She would not be home until dark.

It was growing late in the afternoon, and the elder had to make out his
report to be read at the meeting of the session this evening. It _had
to be done_.

He could not, from where he sat, distinguish the pink lion's head from
the purple rose-buds on the handsome new American Brussels rug that his
wife had bought him as a Christmas gift--to lay under her
sewing-machine--although he could put out his boot and touch it. How
could he expect to find anything so small as a pair of spectacles?

The elder was a very old man, and for years his focal point had been
moving off gradually, until now his chief pleasures of sight were to be
found out-of-doors, where the distant views came gratefully to meet him.

He could more easily distinguish the dark glass insulators from the
little sparrows that sometimes came to visit them upon the telegraph
pole a quarter of a mile away than he could discriminate between the
beans and the pie that sometimes lay together on his dinner plate.

Indeed, when his glasses stayed lost over mealtimes, as they had
occasionally done, he had, after vainly struggling to locate the various
viands upon his plate and suffering repeated palatal disappointments,
generally ended by stirring them all together, with the declaration that
he would at least get one certain taste, and abide by it.

This would seem to show him to have been an essentially amiable man,
even though he was occasionally mastered by such outbursts of impatience
as this; for, be it said to his credit, he always left a clean plate.

The truth is, Elder Bradley was an earnest, good man, and he had tried
all his life, in a modest, undeclared way, to be a Christian
philosopher. And he would try it now. He had been, for an hour after his
mishap, walking more rapidly than was his habit up and down the entire
length of the hall that divided the house into two distinct sides, and
his head had hung low upon his bosom. He had been pondering. Or perhaps
he had been praying. His dilemma was by no means a thing to be taken
lightly.

Suddenly realizing, however, that he had squandered the greater part of
a valuable afternoon in useless repining, he now lifted his head and
glanced about him.

"I'm a-goin' to find them blame spec's--eyes or no eyes!" He spoke with
a steady voice that had in it the ring of the invincible spirit that
dares failure. And now, having resolved and spoken, he turned and
entered the dining-room--and sat down. It was here that he remembered
having last used the glasses. He would sit here and think.

It was a rather small room, which would have been an advantage in
ordinary circumstances. But to the elder its dimensions were an
insurmountable difficulty. How can one compass a forty-rod focus within
the limits of a twelve by sixteen foot room?

But if his eyes could not help him, his hands must. He had taken as few
steps as possible in going about the room, lest he should tread upon the
glasses unawares; and now, stepping gingerly, and sometimes merely
pushing his feet along, he approached his writing-table and sat down
before it. Then he began to feel. It was a tedious experiment and a
hazardous one, and after a few moments of nervous and fruitless groping,
he sought relief in expression.

"That's right! turn over!" he exclaimed. "I s'pose you're the red ink!
Now if I could jest capsize the mucilage-bottle an' my bag o' snuff, an'
stir in that Seidlitz-powder I laid out here to take, it would be purty
cheerful for them fiddle-de-dees an' furbelows thet's layin' everywhere.
I hope they'll ketch it ef anything does! They's nothin' I feel so much
like doin' ez takin' a spoon to the whole business!"

The elder was a popular father, grandfather, uncle, husband, and
Bible-class teacher to a band of devoted women of needle-work and
hand-painting proclivities, and his writing-table was a favorite target
for their patiently wrought love-missiles.

One of the strongest evidences of the old man's kindliness of nature was
that it was only when he was wrought up to the point of desperation, as
now, that he spoke his mind about the gewgaws which his soul despised.

There are very few good old elders in the Presbyterian Church who care
to have pink bows tied on their penholders, or to be reminded at every
turn that they are hand-painted and daisy-decked "Dear Grandfathers." It
is rather inconvenient to have to dodge a daisy or a motto every time
one wants to dry a letter on his blotting-pad, and the hand-painted
paper-cutter was never meant to cut anything.

"Yes," the good old man repeated, "ef I knowed I could stir in every
blame thing thet's got a ribbon bow or a bo'quet on it, I'd take a spoon
to this table now--an' stir the whole business up--an' start fresh!"

Still, as his hand tipped a bottle presently, he caught it and set it
cautiously back in its place.

He had begun now to systematically feel over the table, proceeding
regularly with both hands from left to right and back again, until on a
last return trip he discerned the edge of the mahogany next his body.
And then he said--and he said it with spirit:

"Dod blast it! They ain't here--nowheres!"

He sat still now for a moment in thought. And then he began to remember
that he had sat talking to his wife at the sewing-machine just before
she left the house. He rose and examined the table of the machine and
the floor beneath it. Then he tried the sideboard and the window-sill,
where he had read his morning chapter from St. Paul's Epistle to the
Romans, chapter viii.

He even shook out the leaves of his Testament upon the floor between his
knees and felt for them there. There had been a Biblical surrender of
this sort more than once in the past, and he never failed to go to the
Good Book for relief, even when, as now, he distinctly remembered having
worn the glasses after his daily reading.

Failing to find them here, he suddenly ran his hand over his forehead
with an eager movement. Many a time these very spectacles had come back
to him there, and, strange to say, it was always one of the last places
he remembered to examine. But they were not there now.

He chuckled, even in his despair, as he dropped his hand.

"I'll look there ag'in after a while. Maybe when he's afeerd I'll clair
lose my soul, he'll fetch 'em back to me!"

The old man had often playfully asserted that his "guardeen angel" found
his lost glasses, and laid them back on his head for him when he saw him
tried beyond his strength. And maybe he was right. Who can tell? That
there is some sort of so-called "supernatural" intervention in such
matters there seems to be little doubt.

There is a race--of brownies, probably, or maybe they are imps--whose
business in life seems to be to catch up any needed trifle--a suddenly
dropped needle, the very leaf in the morning paper that the reader held
a moment ago and that holds "continuations," the scissors just now at
his elbow, his collar button--and to hide it until the loser swears his
ultimate, most desperate swear!

When the profanity is satisfactory, the little fellows usually fetch
back the missing article, lay it noiselessly under the swearer's nose,
and vanish.

At other times, when the victim persistently declines profanity, they
have been known to amiably restore the articles after a reasonable time,
and to lay them so absurdly in evidence that the hitherto forbearing man
breaks his record in a volley of imprecations.

When this happens, if one has presence of mind to listen, he can
distinctly hear a fine metallic titter along the tops of the furniture
and a hasty scamper, as of tiny scurrying feet.

This may sound jocund, but the writer testifies that it is true.

Of course when the victim is a lady the pixies do not require of them
men's oaths. But they will have only her best.

When the elder had tried in vain all the probable places where the
glasses might be hidden, he began to realize that there was only one
thing left for him to do. He must feel all over the floor.

He was a fat old man and short of neck.

For five years he had realized a feeling of thankfulness that the
Presbyterian form of worship permitted standing in prayer. It hurt him
to kneel. But nothing could hurt him so much as to fail to hand in his
report to-night. Indeed, the missionary collection would be affected by
it. It _must be written_.

He found a corner in the room and got down on his marrow-bones, throwing
his hands forward and bringing them back in far-reaching curves, as one
swimming. This was hard work, and before many minutes great drops of
perspiration were falling upon the carpet and the old man's breath came
in quick gasps.

"Ef I jest had the blame things _for a minute_ to slip on my eyes, why,
_I could find 'em_--easy enough!" he ejaculated--desperation in his
voice.

And then he proceeded to say a number of things that were lacking in
moderation, and consequently very sinful--in an elder of the church.

The "bad words" spoken in the vacant house fell accusingly upon the
speaker's ears, and they must have startled him, for he hastened to add:
"I don't see where no sense o' jestice comes in, nohow, in allowin' a
man on the very eve of doin' his Christian duty to lose his most
important wherewithal!"

This plea was no doubt in mild extenuation of the explosive that had
preceded it, and as he turned and drew himself forward by his elbows to
compass a new section of the room, which, by-the-way, seemed suddenly
expanded in size, he began to realize that the plea was in itself most
sinful--even more so than the outburst, perhaps, being an implication of
divine injustice.

A lump came into his throat, and as he proceeded laboriously along on
his dry swim, he felt for a moment in danger of crying.

Of course this would never do, but there was just so much emotion within
him, and it had begun to ferment.

Before he realized his excitement his arms were flying about wildly and
he was shrieking in a frenzy.

"But _I must have 'em_! I _must have 'em_! I must, I say; O Lord, I
must--I MUST HAVE THEM SPECTACLES! Lor-r-d, I have work to do--FOR
THEE--an' I am eager to perform it. All I ask is FIVE MINUTES' USE O'
MY EYES, so thet I may pursue this search in patience--"

His voice broke in a sob.

And just now it was that his left hand, fumbling over the foot of the
sewing-machine treadle, ran against a familiar bit of steel wire.

If it had connected with an ordinary electric battery, the resulting
shock could scarcely have been more pronounced.

There was something really pathetic in the spasmodic grasp with which he
seized the glasses, and as he rose to a sitting posture and lifted them
to his eyes, his hand shook pitifully.

"Thank the Lord! _Now I can see to look for 'em!_" And as he
tremblingly brought the curved ends of the wire around his ears he
exclaimed with fervor, "Yas, Lord, with Thy help I will keep my
vow--an' pursue this search in patience." His wet, red face beamed
with pleasure over the recovery of his near vision. So happy was he,
indeed, in the new possession, that, instead of rising, he sat still
in the middle of the floor, running his eyes with rapid scrutiny over
the carpet near him. He sat here a long time--even forgetting his
discomfort, while he turned as on a pivot as the search required.
Though the missing articles did not promptly appear at his side,
Bradley felt that he was having a good time, and so he was,
comparatively. Of course he would find the glasses presently. He
looked at his watch. What a joy to see its face! He would still have
time to do the report, if he hurried a little. He began to rise by
painful stages.

"Lemme see! The last thing I done was to open the sideboa'd an' cut
a piece o' pie an' eat it. I _must_ o' had my glasses on then. I
ricollec' it was sweet-potato pie, an' it was scorched on one side.
Lordy! but what a pleasure it is to look for a thing when a person
_can_ look!" He crossed over to the sideboard.

"Yas"--he had opened the door and was cutting another piece of pie.
"Yas. Sweet-potato pie, an' burnt on one side--the side thet's left.
Yas, an' I'll leave it ag'in!" He chuckled as he took a deep bite.

"Of co'se I _must 'a'_ had 'em on _when I cut the pie_, or I couldn't
've _saw_ it so distinc'--'an I finished that slice a-settin' down
talkin' to her at the sewin'-machine. Ricollec' I told _her_ how mother
used to put cinnamon in hers. I'll go set there ag'in, an' maybe by
lookin' 'round--They might 'a' dropped in her darnin'-basket."

It was while he sat here, running one hand through the basket and
holding the slice of pie in the other, that he heard a step, and,
looking up, he saw his wife standing in the door.

"Why, Ephraim! What on earth!" she exclaimed. "I lef you there eatin'
that pie fo' hours ago, an' I come back an' find you settin' there yet!
You cert'n'y 'ain't forgot to make out yo' report?"

"Forgot nothin', Maria." He swallowed laboriously as he spoke. "I 'ain't
done a thing sence you been gone but look for my glasses--not a blame
thing. An' I'm a-lookin' for 'em yet."

Mrs. Bradley was frightened. She walked straight up to her husband and
took his hand. "Ephraim," she said, gently, and as she spoke she drew
the remainder of the pie from his yielding fingers--"Ephraim, I
wouldn't eat any mo' o' that heavy pie ef I was you. You ain't well.
Ef you can't make no mo' headway'n that on yo' favor_ite_ pie in fo'
hours, you're shorely goin' to be took sick." She took her handkerchief
and wiped his forehead. And then she added, with a sweet, wifely
tenderness: "To prove to you thet you ain't well, honey, yo' glasses
are on yo' nose right now. You better go lay down."

Bradley looked straight into her face for some moments, but he did not
even blink. Then he said, in an awe-stricken voice: "Ef what you say
is true, Maria--an' from the clairness with which I see the serious
expression of yo' countenance I reckon it must be so--ef it _is_ so--"
He paused here, and a new light came into his eyes, and then they
filled with tears. "Why, Maria honey, _of co'se it's so_! I know when
I found 'em! But I was so full o' the thought thet _ef I jest had
my sight_ I could _look for 'em_ thet I slipped 'em on my nose an'
continued the search. Feel my pulse, honey; I've no doubt you're right.
I'm a-goin' to have a spell o' sickness."

"Yes, dearie, I'm 'feered you are."

The good woman drew him over to the lounge and carefully adjusted a
pillow to his head. "Now take a little nap, an' I'll send word over to
Elder Jones's thet you ain't feelin' well an' can't come to
prayer-meetin' to-night. What you need is rest, an' a change o' subject.
I jest been over to May Bennett's, an' she's give out thet she an' Pete
Sanders has broke off their engagement--an' Joe Legget, why his leg's
amputated clean off--an' Susan Tucker's baby had seven spasms an'--"

"That so? I'm glad to hear it, wife. But ef you send word over to him
thet I ain't well, don't send tell the last minute, please. Ef you was
to, he'd come by here, shore--an' they'd be questions ast, an' I
couldn't stand it. Jest send word when the second bell starts a-ringin'
thet I ain't well. _An' I ain't_, Maria."

"I'm convinced o' that, Ephraim--or I wouldn't send the message--an' you
know it. We ain't so hard pressed for excuses thet we're goin' to lie
about it. I knowed you wasn't well ez soon ez I see that piece o' pie."

Bradley coughed a little. "Appearances is sometimes deceitful, Maria. I
hadn't wrastled with that pie ez unsuccessful ez I seemed. That was the
second slice I'd et sence you left. No, the truth is, I lost my glasses,
an' I got erritated an' flew into a temper an' said things. An' the
Lord, He punished me. He took my reason away. He gimme the glasses an'
denied me the knowledge of 'em. But I'm thankful to Him for lettin' me
have 'em--anyhow. Ef I was fo'ordained to search for 'em, it was mighty
merciful in Him to loan 'em to me to do it with."



THE SECOND MRS. SLIMM


Ezra Slimm was a widower of nearly a year, and, as a consequence, was in
a state of mind not unusual in like circumstances.

True, the said state of mind had not in his case manifested itself in
the toilet bloomings, friskiness of demeanor, and protestations of youth
renewed which had characterized the first signs of the same in the usual
run of Simpkinsville widowers up to date. If he had for several months
been mentally casting about for another wife, he had betrayed it by no
outward and visible sign. The fact is Ezra's case was somewhat
exceptional, as we shall presently see.

Although he was quite diminutive in size, there was in his bearing, as
with hands clasped behind him he paced up and down before his lonely
fireside, a distinct dignity that was not only essentially manly--it was
_gentlemanly_.

The refinement of feeling underlying this no doubt aggravated the
dilemma in which he found himself, and which we cannot sooner comprehend
than by attending to his soliloquy as he reviewed his trials in the
following somewhat rambling fashion:

"No, 'twouldn't never do in the world--never, never. 'Twouldn't never do
to marry any o' these girls round here thet knows all my ups an' downs
with--with pore Jinny. 'Twouldn't never do. Any girl thet knew thet her
husband had been chastised by his first wife the way I've been would
think thet ef she got fretted she was lettin' 'im off easy on a
tongue-lashin'. An' I s'pose they is times when any woman gits sort o'
wrought up, livin' day in an' day out with a man. No, 'twouldn't never
do," he repeated, as, thrusting both hands in his pockets, he stopped
before the fire, and steadying the top of his head against the mantel,
studied the logs for a moment.

"An' so the day pore Jinny took it upon herself to lay me acrost her lap
an' punish me in the presence of sech ill-mannered persons ez has seen
fit to make a joke of it--though I don't see where the fun comes
in--well, that day she settled the hash for number two so fur ez this
town goes.

"No, 'twouldn't never do in the world! Even ef she never throwed it up
to me, I'd be suspicious. She couldn't even to say clap her hands
together to kill a mosquito less'n I'd think she was insinuatin'. An'
jest ez quick ez any man suspicions thet his wife is a-naggin' him
intentional, it's good-by happiness.

"Ef 'twasn't for that, of co'se they's more'n one young woman roun' this
county thet any man might go further an' do worse than git.

"Not thet I hold it agin Jinny, now she's gone, but--"

He had resumed his promenade, extending it through a second room as he
proceeded:

"--but it does seem strange how a woman gifted in prayer ez she was,
an' with all her instinc's religious the way hers was, should o' been
allowed to take sech satisfaction in naggin' the very one she agonized
most over in prayer, which I _know_ she done over me, _for I've heerd
'er_. An' ef she had o' once-t mentioned me to the Lord confidential
ez a person fitten to commingle with the cherubim an' seraphim, 'stid
of a pore lost sinner not fitten to bresh up their wing-feathers for
'em, I b'lieve I might o' give in. I don't wonder I 'ain't never had a
call to enter the Kingdom on her ricommendation. 'Twouldn't o' been
fair to the innocent angels thet would 'a' been called on to associate
with me. That's the way I look at it.

"An' yit Jinny 'lowed herself thet my _out'ard ac's_ was good, but
bein' ez they didn't spring from a converted _heart_, they was jest
nachel _hypocercy_, an' thet ef I'd o' lied an' stole, _or even
answered her back_, she'd o' had more hope for me, because, sez she,
a 'consistent sinner is ap' to make a consistent Christian.'

"She even tol' me one day--pore Jinny! I can see her face light up now
when she said it--sez she, 'I'm ac-chilly most afeerd _to_ see you
converted, less'n you'll break out in some devilment you hadn't never
thought about before-you're that inconsistent.'

  [Illustration: "'I'M AC-CHILLY MOST AFEERD _TO_ SEE YOU CONVERTED'"]

"Sometimes I feel mean to think I don't miss 'er more'n what I do--an'
she so lively, too. Tell the truth, I miss them little devils she used
to print on the butter pads she set at my plate ez a warnin' to me--seem
to me I miss them jest about ez much ez I miss her.

"The nearest I ever _did_ come to answerin' her back--'cept, of co'se,
the time she chastised me--was the way I used regular to heat my
knife-blade good an' hot 'twix' two batter-cakes an' flatten that devil
out _de_lib'rate. But he'd be back nex' day, pitchfork an' all.

"But with it all Jinny loved me--in her own way, of co'se. Doubt if I'll
ever git another to love me ez well; 'n' don't know ez I crave it,
less'n she was different dispositioned.

"I've done paid her all the respec's I know--put up a fine Bible-texted
tombstone for her, an' had her daguerre'type enlarged to a po'tr'it. I
don't know's I'm obligated to do any more, 'cep'n, of co'se, to wait
till the year's out, which, not havin' no young children in need of a
mother, I couldn't hardly do less than do."

It was about a week after this that Ezra sat beside his fire reading his
paper, when his eye happened to fall upon the following paragraph among
the "personals":

    "The Claybank Academy continues to thrive under the able management
    of Miss Myrtle Musgrove. That accomplished and popular young lady
    has abolished the use of the rod, and by substituting the law of
    kindness she has built up the most flourishing academy in the
    State."

Ezra read the notice three times. Then he laid the paper down, and
clapping his hand upon it, exclaimed: "Well, I'll be doggoned ef that
ain't the woman for me! _Any_ girl thet could teach a county school an'
abolish whuppin'--not only a chance to do it, but a crowd o' young
rascals _needin_' it all around 'er, an' her _not doin' it_! An' yit
some other persons has been known to strain a p'int to whup a person
they 'ain't rightly got no business _to_ whup." He read the notice
again. "Purty name that, too, Myrtle Musgrove. Sounds like a girl to go
out walkin' with under the myrtle-trees in the grove moonlight nights,
Myrtle Musgrove does.

"I declare, I ain't to say religious, but I b'lieve that notice was
sent to me providential.

"Of co'se, maybe she wouldn't look at me ef I ast her; but one thing
shore, she _can't if I don't_.

"Claybank is a good hund'ed miles from here 'n' I couldn't leave the
farm now, noways; besides, the day I start a-makin' trips from home,
talk'll start, an' I'll be watched close-ter'n what I'm watched now--ef
that's possible. But th' ain't nothin' to hender me _writin_'--ez I
can see."

This idea, once in his mind, lent a new impulse to Ezra's life, a fresh
spring to his gait, so evident to solicitous eyes that during the next
week even his dog noticed it and had a way of running up and sniffing
about him, as if asking what had happened.

An era of hope had dawned for the hitherto downcast man simply because
Miss Myrtle Musgrove, a woman he had never seen, had abolished whipping
in a distant school.

Two weeks passed before Ezra saw his way clearly to write the proposed
letter, but he did, nevertheless, in the interval, walk up and down his
butter-bean arbor on moonlight nights, imagining Miss Myrtle beside
him--Miss Myrtle, named for his favorite flower. He _had_ preferred
the violet, but he had changed his mind. Rose-colored crêpe-myrtles were
blooming in his garden at the time. Maybe this was why he began to think
of her as a pink-faced laughing girl, typified by the blushing flower.
Everything was so absolutely real in her setting that the ideal girl
walked, a definite embodiment of his fancy, night after night by his
side, and whether it was from his life habit or an intuitive fancy, he
looked _upward_ into her face. He had always liked tall women.

And all this time he was trying to frame a suitable letter to the real
"popular and accomplished Miss Musgrove," of Claybank Academy.

Finally, however, the ambitious and flowery document was finished.

It would be unfair to him whose postscript read, "For Your Eyes alone,"
to quote in full, for the vulgar gratification of prying eyes, the
pathetic missive that told again the old story of a lonely home, the
needed woman. But when it was sent, Ezra found the circuit of the
butter-bean arbor too circumscribed a promenade, and began taking the
imaginary Miss Myrtle with him down through his orchard and
potato-patch.

It was during these moonlight communings that he seemed to discover that
she listened while he talked--a new experience to Ezra--and that even
when he expressed his awful doubts as to the existence of a personal
devil she only smiled, and thought he might be right.

Oh, the joy of such companionship! But, oh, the slowness of the mails!

A month passed, and Ezra was beginning to give up all hope of ever
having an answer to his letter, when one day it came, a dainty envelope
with the Claybank postmark.

Miss Musgrove thanked him for his letter. She would see him. It would
not be convenient now, but would he not come down to the academy's
closing exercises in June--a month later? Until then she was very
respectfully his friend, Myrtle Musgrove.

The next month was the longest in Ezra's life. Still, the Lord's
calendar is faithful, and the sun not a waiter upon the moods of men.

In twenty-nine days exactly a timid little man stood with throbbing
heart at the door of Claybank Academy, and in a moment more he had
slipped into a back seat of the crowded room, where a young orator was
ringing Poe's "Bells" through all the varying cadences of his changing
voice to a rapt audience of relations and friends. Here unobserved Ezra
hoped to recover his self-possession, remove the beads of perspiration
one by one from his brow with a corner of his neatly folded
handkerchief, and perhaps from this vantage-ground even enjoy the
delight of recognizing Miss Myrtle without an introduction.

He had barely deposited his hat beneath his chair when there burst upon
his delighted vision a radiant, dark-eyed, red-haired creature in pink,
sitting head and shoulders above her companions on a bench set at right
angles with the audience seats, in front of the house. There were a
number of women in the row, and they were without bonnets. Evidently
these were the teachers, and of course the pink goddess was Miss Myrtle
Musgrove.

Ezra never knew whether the programme was long or short. The bells had
tintinabulated and musically welled into "Casabianca" which, in turn,
had merged into "The Queen o' the May," and presently before he realized
it Freedom was ringing in the closing notes of "America," and everybody
was standing up, pupils filing out, guests shaking hands, babel
reigning, and he had seen only a single, towering, handsome woman in all
the assembly.

Indeed, it had never occurred to him to doubt his own intuition, until
suddenly he heard his own name quite near, and turning quickly, he saw a
stout matronly woman of forty years or thereabouts standing beside him,
extending her hand.

Every unmarried woman is a "young lady" by courtesy south of Mason and
Dixon's line.

"I knew you as soon as I saw you, Mr. Slimm," she was saying. "I am Miss
Musgrove. But you didn't know me," she added, archly, while Ezra made
his bravest effort at cordiality, seizing her hand in an agony which it
is better not to attempt to describe.

Miss Musgrove's face was wholesome, and so kindly that not even a
cross-eye had power to spoil it. But Ezra saw only the plain middle-aged
woman--the contrast to the blooming divinity whose image yet filled his
soul. And he was committed to her who held his hand, unequivocally
committed in writing. If he sent heavenward an agonized prayer for
deliverance from a trying crisis, his petition was soon answered. And
the merciful instrument was even she of the cross-eye. Before he had
found need of a word of his own, she had drawn him aside, and was
saying:

"You see, Mr. Slimm, the only trouble with me is that I am already
married."

"Married!" gasped Ezra, trying in vain to keep the joy out of his voice.
"Married, you--you don't mean--"

"Yes, married to my profession--the only husband I shall ever take. But
your letter attracted me. I am a Normal School psychology student--a
hard name for a well-meaning woman--and it seemed to me you were worth
investigating. So I investigated. Then I knew you ought to be helped.
And so I sent for you, and I am going to introduce you to three of the
sweetest girls in Dixie; and if you can't find a wife among them, then
you are not so clever as I think you--that's all about it. And here
comes one of them now. Kitty, step here a minute, please. Miss Deems, my
friend, Mr. Slimm."

And Miss Myrtle Musgrove was off across the room before Ezra's gasp had
fully expanded into the smile with which he greeted Miss Kitty Deems, a
buxom lass with freckles and dimples enough to hold her own anywhere.

Two other delightful young women were presented at intervals during the
afternoon in about the same fashion, and but for a certain pink Juno who
flitted about ever in sight, Ezra would have confessed only an
embarrassment of riches.

"And how do you get on with my girls?" was Miss Musgrove's greeting
when, late in the evening, she sought Ezra for a moment's _tête-à-tête_.

He rubbed his hands together and hesitated.

"'Bout ez fine a set o' young ladies ez I ever see," he said, with real
enthusiasm; "but, tell the truth, I--but you've a'ready been so
kind--but--There she is now! That tall, light-complected one in pink--"

"Why, certainly, Mr. Slimm. If you say so, I'll introduce her. A fine,
thorough-going girl, that. You know we have abolished whipping in the
academy, and that girl thought one of her boys needed it, and she
followed him home, and gave it to him there, and his father interfered,
and--well, _she whipped him too_. Fine girl. Not afraid of anything
on earth. Certainly I'll introduce you, if you say so."

She stopped and looked at Ezra kindly. And he saw that she knew all.

"Well, I ain't particular. Some other time," he began to say; then
blushing scarlet, he seized her hand, and pressing it, said, fervently,
"God bless you!"

                  *          *          *          *

The second Mrs. Slimm is a wholesome little body, with dimples and
freckles, whom Ezra declares "God A'mighty couldn't o' made without
thinkin' of Ezra Slimm an' his precize necessities."

No one but himself and Miss Musgrove ever knew the whole story of his
wooing, nor why, when in due season a tiny dimpled Miss Slimm came into
the family circle, it was by Ezra's request that she was called Myrtle.



APOLLO BELVEDERE

A CHRISTMAS EPISODE OF THE PLANTATION


He was a little yellow man with a quizzical face and sloping shoulders,
and when he gave his full name, with somewhat of a flourish, as if it
might hold compensations for physical shortcomings, one could hardly
help smiling. And yet there was a pathos in the caricature that
dissipated the smile half-way. It never found voice in a laugh. The
pathetic quality was no doubt a certain serious ingenuousness--a
confiding look that always met your eye from the eager face of the
diminutive wearer of second-hand coats and silk hats.

"Yas, I'm named 'Pollo Belvedere, an' my marster gi'e me dat intitlemint
on account o' my shape," he would say, with a strut, on occasion, if he
were bantered, for he had learned that the name held personal
suggestions which it took a little bravado to confront. Evidently
Apollo's master was a humorist.

Apollo had always been a house-servant, and had for several years served
with satisfaction as coachman to his master's family; but after the
breaking up, when the place went into other hands, he failed to find
favor with the new-comers, who had an eye for conventional form, and so
Apollo was under the necessity of accepting lower rank on the place as a
field-hand. But he entered plantation circles with his head up. He had
his house rearing, his toilets, and his education--all distinguishing
possessions in his small world--and he was, in his way, quite a
gentleman. Apollo could read a chapter from the Bible without stopping
to spell. He seized his words with snap-shots and pronounced them with
genius. Indeed, when not limited by the suggestions of print, as when on
occasion he responded to an invitation to lead in public prayer, he was
a builder of words of so noble and complex architecture that one hearing
him was pleased to remember that the good Lord, being omniscient, must
of course know all tongues, and would understand.

That the people of the plantation thought well of Apollo will appear
from the fact that he was more than once urged to enter the ministry;
but this he very discreetly declined to do, and for several reasons. In
the first place he didn't feel "called to preach"; and in the second
place he did feel called or impelled to play the fiddle; and more than
that, he liked to play dance music, and to have it "danced by."

As Apollo would have told you himself, the fact that he had never
married was not because he couldn't get anybody to have him, but simply
that he hadn't himself been suited. And, indeed, it is because of the
romance of his life that Apollo comes at all into this little sketch
that bears his name. Had he not been so pathetic in his serious and
grotesque personality, the story would probably have borne the name of
its heroine, Miss Lily Washington, of Lone Oak Plantation, and would
have concerned a number of other people.

Lily was a beauty in her own right, and she was belle of the plantation.
She stood five feet ten in her bare feet, and although she tipped the
scales at a hundred and sixty, she was as slim and round as a reed, and
it was well known that the grip of her firm fingers applied to the
closed fist of any of the young fellows on the place would make him
howl. She was an emotional creature, with a caustic tongue on occasion,
and when it pleased her mood to look over her shoulder at one of her
numerous admirers and to wither him with a look or a word, she did not
hesitate to do it. For instance, when Apollo first asked her to marry
him--it had been his habit to propose to her every day or so for a year
or two past--she glanced at him askance from head to foot, and then she
said: "Why, yas. Dat is, I s'pose, of co'se, you's de sample. I'd order
a full-size by you in a minute." This was cruel, and seeing the pathetic
look come into his face, she instantly repented of it, and walked home
from church with him, dismissing a handsome black fellow, and saying
only kind things to Apollo all the way. And while he walked beside her,
he told her that, although she couldn't realize it, he was as tall as
she, for his feet were not on the ground at all; which was in a manner
true, for when Lily was gracious to him, he felt himself borne along on
wings that the common people could not see.

Of course no one took Apollo seriously as Lily's suitor, much less the
chocolate maid herself. But there were other lovers. Indeed, there were
all the others, for that matter, but in point of eligibility the number
to be seriously regarded was reduced to about two. These were Pete
Peters, a handsome griff, with just enough Indian in his blood to give
him an air of distinction, and a French-talking mulatto who had come up
from New Orleans to repair the machinery in the sugar-house, and who was
buying land in the vicinity, and drove his own sulky. Pete was less
prosperous than he, but although he worked his land on shares, he owned
two mules and a saddle-horse, and would be allowed to enter on a
purchase of land whenever he should choose to do so. Although Pete and
the New Orleans fellow, whose name was also Peter, but who was called
Pierre, met constantly in a friendly enough way, they did not love each
other. They both loved Lily too much for that. But they laughed
good-naturedly together at Apollo and his "case," which they inquired
after politely, as if it were a member of his family.

"Well, 'Pollo, how's yo' case on Miss Lily comin' on?" either one would
say, with a wink at the other, and Apollo would artlessly report the
state of the heavens with relation to his particular star, as when he
once replied to this identical question,

"Well, Miss Lily was mighty obstropulous 'istiddy, but she is mo'
cancelized dis mornin'."

It was Pete who had asked the question, and he laughed aloud at the
answer. "Mo' cancelized dis mornin', is she?" he replied. "How you know
she is?"

"'Caze she lemme tote her hoe all de way up f'om de field," answered the
ingenuous Apollo.

"She did, did she? An' who was walkin' by her side all dat time, I like
to know?"

Apollo winced a little at this, but he answered, bravely, "I don't kyah
ef Pier was walkin' wid her; I was totin' her hoe, all de samee."

At this Pete seemed to forget all about Apollo and his case, and he
remarked that he never could see what some folks saw in city niggers,
nohow--and neither could Apollo. And they felt a momentary sense of
nearness to each other that was not exactly a bond, but they did not
talk any more as they walked along.

It is probable that the coming of the "city fellow" into her circle
hastened to culmination more than one pending romance, and there were
now various and sundry coldnesses existing between Lily and a number of
the boys on the place, where there had recently existed only warm and
hopeful friendships. The intruder, who had a way of shrugging his
shoulders and declaring of almost any question, "Well, me, I dun'no',"
seemed altogether _too sure_ when it came to a question of Lily. At
least so he appeared to her more timid rural lovers.

                  *          *          *          *

The Christmas-eve dance in the sugar-house had been for years an annual
function on the plantation. At this, since her début, at fourteen,
three Christmases before, Lily had held undisputed sway, and all former
belles amiably accepted their places as lesser lights. But there had
been some quarrelling and even a fight or two on Lily's account,
indirectly, and the church people had declared against the ball, on the
score of domestic peace on the place. They had fought dancing _per se_
as long as they could, but Terpsichore finally waltzed up the church
aisle, figuratively speaking, and flaunted her ruffled skirts in the
very faces of elders and minister, and they had had to smile and give
her a pew to keep her still. And she was in the church yet, a
troublemaker sometimes, and a disturber of spiritual peace--but still
there.

If they had forcibly ejected her, some of their most promising and
important members would have followed. But they could preach to her, and
so they did. Mayhap in time they would convert her and have her and her
numerous votaries for their own. As the reverend brother thundered out
his denunciations of the ungodly goddess he cast his eyes often in the
direction of the leading dancer, and from her they would wander to the
small fiddler who sat beside the tall hat in a back pew. But somehow
neither Lily nor Apollo seemed in the least conscious of any personal
appeal in his glance, and when finally the question of the Christmas
ball was put to vote, they both rose and unequivocally voted for it. So,
for that matter, did so large a majority that one of the elders got up
and proposed that the church hold revival meetings, in the hope of
rousing her people to a realization of her dangers. And then Lily
whispered something to her neighbor, a good old man of the church, and
he stood up and announced that Miss Lily Washington proposed to have the
revival _after Christmas_. There was some laughter at this, and the
pastor very seriously objected to it as thwarting the very object for
which the meetings would be held; and then, seeing herself in danger of
being vanquished in argument, Lily, blushing a fine copper-color in real
maidenly embarrassment, rose in the presence of the congregation, to say
that when she proposed to have the revival after Christmas, she "didn't
mean no harm." She was only thinking that "it was a heap better to
repent 'n to backslide."

This brought down the house, an expression not usually employed in this
connection, but which seems to force its way here as particularly
fitting. As soon as he could get a hearing the reverend brother gave out
a hymn, followed it with a short prayer, and dismissed the congregation.
And on the Sunday following he gave notice that for several reasons it
had been decided as expedient to postpone the revival meetings in the
church until _after Christmas_. No doubt he had come over to Lily's
way of thinking.

Lily was perfectly ravishing in her splendor at the dance. The white
Swiss frock she wore was high in the neck, but her brown shoulders and
arms shone through the thin fabric with fine effect. About her slim
waist she tied a narrow ribbon of blue, and she carried a pink feather
fan, and the wreath about her forehead was of lilies-of-the-valley. She
had done a day's scouring for them, and they had come out of the summer
hat of one of the white ladies on the coast. This insured their quality,
and no doubt contributed somewhat to the quiet serenity with which she
bore herself as, with her little head held like that of the Venus of
Milo, she danced down the centre of the room, holding her flounces in
either hand, and kicking the floor until she kicked both her slippers to
pieces, when she finished the figure in her stocking feet.

She had a relay of slippers ready, and there was a scramble as to who
should put them on; but she settled that question by making 'Pollo rise,
with his fiddle in his arms, and lend her his chair for a minute while
she pulled them on herself. Then she let Pete and Pierre each have one
of the discarded slippers as a trophy. Lily had always danced out
several pairs of slippers at the Christmas dance, but she had never
achieved her stocking feet in the first round until now, and she was in
high glee over it. If she had been admired before, she was looked upon
as a raving, tearing beauty to-night--and so she was. Fortunately 'Pollo
had his fiddling to do, and this saved him from any conspicuous folly.
But he kept his eyes on her, and when she grew too ravishingly lovely to
his fond vision, and he couldn't stand it a minute longer in silence, he
turned to the man next him, who played the bones, and remarked, "Ef--ef
anybody but Gord A'mighty had a-made anything as purty as Miss Lily,
dey'd 'a' stinted it somewhar," and, watching every turn, he lent his
bow to her varying moods while she tired out one dancer after another.
It was the New Orleans fellow who first lost his head utterly. He had
danced with her but three times, but while she took another's hand and
whizzed through the figures he scarcely took his eyes from her, and
when, at about midnight, he succeeded in getting her apart for a
promenade, he poured forth his soul to her in the picturesque English of
the quadroon quarter of New Orleans. "An' now, to proof to you my lorv,
Ma'm'selle Lee-lee"--he gesticulated vigorously as he spoke--"I am
geeving you wan beau-u-tiful Christmas present--I am goin' to geeve
you--w'at you t'ink? My borgee!" With this he turned dramatically and
faced her. They were standing now under the shed outside the door in the
moonlight, and, although they did not see him, Apollo stood within
hearing, behind a pile of molasses-barrels, where he had come "to cool
off."

Lily had several times been "buggy-ridin'" with Pierre in this same
"borgee," and it was a very magnificent affair in her eyes. When he told
her that it was to be hers she gasped. Such presents were unknown on the
plantation. But Lily was a "mannerly" member of good society, if her
circle was small, and she was not to be taken aback by any compliment a
man should pay her. She simply fanned herself, a little flurriedly,
perhaps, with her feather fan, as she said: "You sho' must be jokin',
Mr. Pier. You cert'n'y must." But Mr. Pierre was not joking. He was
never more in earnest in his life, and he told her so, and there is no
telling what else he would have told her but for the fact that Mr. Pete
Peters happened to come out to the shed to cool off about this time, and
as he almost brushed her shoulder, it was as little as Lily could do to
address a remark to him, and then, of course, he stopped and chatted a
while; and after what appeared a reasonable interval, long enough for it
not to seem that she was too much elated over it, she remarked, "An'
by-de-way, Mr. Peters, I must tell you what a lovely Christmas gif' I
have just received by de hand of Mr. Pier. He has jest presented me wid
his yaller-wheeled buggy, an' I sho' is proud of it." Then, turning to
Pierre, she added, "You sho' is a mighty generous gen'leman, Mr.
Pier--you cert'n'y is."

Peters gave Lily one startled look, but he instantly realized, from her
ingenuous manner, that there was nothing back of the gift of the
buggy--that is, it had been, so far as she was concerned, simply a
Christmas present. Pierre had not offered himself with the gift. And if
this were so, well, he reckoned he could match him.

He reached forward and took Lily's fan from her hand. He hastened to do
this to keep Pierre from taking it. Then, while he fanned her, he said,
"Is dat so, Miss Lily, dat Mr. Pier is give you a buggy? Dat sholy is a
fine Christmas gif'--it sho' is. An' sence you fin' yo'se'f possessed of
a buggy, I trust you will allow me de pleasure of presentin' you wid a
horse to drive _in_ de buggy." He made a graceful bow as he spoke, a
bow that would have done credit to the man from New Orleans. It was so
well done, indeed, that Lily unconsciously bowed in return, as she
said, with a look that savored a little of roguishness: "Oh, hursh, Mr.
Peters! You des a-guyin' me--dat what you doin'."

"Guyin' nothin'," said Peters, grinning broadly as he noted the
expression of Pierre's face. "Ef you'll jes do me de honor to accep' of
my horse, Miss Lily, I'll be de proudest gen'leman on dis plantation."

At this she chuckled, and took her fan in her own hand. And then she
turned to Pierre. "You sho' has set de style o' mighty expensive
Christmas gif's on dis plantation, Mr. Pier--you cert'n'y has. An' I
wants to thank you bofe mos' kindly--I cert'n'y does."

Having heard this much, 'Pollo thought it time to come from his hiding,
and he strolled leisurely out in the other direction first, but soon
returned this way. And then he stopped, and reaching over, took the
feather fan--and for a few moments he had his innings. Then some one
else came along and the conversation became impersonal, and one by one
they all dropped off--all except 'Pollo. When the rest had gone he and
Lily found seats on the cane-carrier, and they talked a while, and when
a little later supper was announced, it was the proud fiddler who took
her in, while Pierre and Peters stood off and politely glared at each
other; and after a while Pierre must have said something, for Peters
suddenly sprang at him and tumbled him out the door and rolled him over
in the dirt, and they had to be separated. But presently they laughed
and shook hands, and Pierre offered Pete a cigarette, and Pete took it,
and gave Pierre a light--and it was all over.

                  *          *          *          *

It was next day--Christmas morning--and the young people were standing
about in groups under the China-trees in the campus, when Apollo joined
them, looking unusually chipper and beaming. He was dressed in his
best--Prince Albert, beaver, and all--and he sported a bright silk
handkerchief tied loosely about his neck.

He was altogether a delightful figure, absolutely content with himself,
and apparently at peace with the world. No sooner had he joined the
crowd than the fellows began chaffing him, as usual, and presently some
one mentioned Lily's name and spoke of her presents. The two men who had
broken the record for generosity in the history of plantation lovers
were looked upon as nabobs by those of lesser means. Of course everybody
knew the city fellow had started it, and they were glad Peters had come
to time and saved the dignity of the place; indeed he was about the only
one on the plantation who could have done it.

As they stood talking it over the two heroes had nothing to say, of
course, and 'Pollo began rolling a cigarette--an art he had learned from
the man from New Orleans.

Finally he remarked, "Yas, Miss Lily got sev'al mighty nice presents
last night."

At this Pierre turned, laughing, and said, "I s'pose you geeve 'er
somet'ing too, eh?"

"Pity you hadn't a-give her dat silk hankcher. Hit'd become her a heap
better'n it becomes you," Peters said, laughing.

"Yas, I reckon it would," said 'Pollo; "but de fact is _she_ gi' _me_
dis hankcher--an' of co'se I accepted it."

"But why ain't you tellin' us what you give her?" insisted Peters.

'Pollo put the cigarette to his lips, deliberately lit it, puffed
several times, and then, removing it in a leisurely way, he drawled:

"Well, de fact is I heerd Mr. Pier here give her a buggy, an'--an' Mr.
Peters, he up an' handed over a horse,--an' so, quick as I got a
chance, I des balanced my ekalub'ium an' went an' set down beside her
an' ast her ef she wouldn't do me de honor to accep' of a _driver_,
an'--an' _she say yas_.

"You know I'm a coachman by trade.

"An' dat's huccome I come to say she got sev'al presents las' night."

And he took another puff of his cigarette.



NEAREST OF KIN

(ON THE PLANTATION)


When Tamar the laundress was married to the coachman Pompey, there was a
big time on the plantation. Tamar wore white tarlatan and an orange
wreath--although it was her severalth marriage--and she had six
bridemaids and a train-bearer. The last, a slim little black girl of
about ten years, was dressed somewhat after the fashion of the ballet,
in green tarlatan with spangles, and her slender legs were carefully
wrapped with gilt paper that glistened through the clocked stockings
with fine effect. Otherwise the "clockings" in the black stockinet would
have lost their value.

Pompey, as groom, was resplendent in the full glare of a white duck
suit, and he wore a rosette of satin ribbon--"so's to 'stinguish him out
f'om de groomsmen," each of whom was likewise "ducked" out in immaculate
linen; and if there were some suggestive misfits among them, there were
ample laundry compensations in the way of starch and polish--a proud
achievement of the bride.

There was a good deal of marching up and down the aisles of the church
by the entire party before the ceremony, which was, altogether, really
very effective. Pompey was as black as his bride, and his face was as
carefully oiled and polished for the occasion as hers, which is saying a
good deal, both as to color and shine.

After the ceremony everybody repaired, for a supper and dance, to the
sugar-house, where there was a bride's cake, with all the usual
accessories, such as the ring and thimble, to be cut for. And of course,
before the end of the evening, there was the usual distribution of bits
of cake to be "dreamed on." This last, indeed, was so important that
nearly every girl on the plantation slept in a neighbor's cabin that
night, so as to command the full potency of the charm by dreaming her
great dream in a strange bed. The whole wedding was, in fact, so
disturbing a social function that everything on the place was more or
less disarranged by it--even the breakfast hour at the great house,
which was fully three-quarters of an hour late next morning. But that
was no great matter, as all the family had been witnesses to the wedding
and were somewhat sleepy in consequence--and the "rising-bell" was a
movable form anyway.

Perhaps if the nuptials had been less festive the demeanor of the bride
immediately afterwards would not have been so conspicuous. As it was,
however, when she appeared at the wash-house, ready for duty, on the
second morning following, dressed in heavy mourning, and wearing,
moreover, a pseudo-sorrowful expression on her every-otherwise shining
face, they wondered, and there was some nudging and whispering among the
negroes. Some hastily concluded that the marriage had been rashly
repudiated as a failure; but when presently the groom strolled into the
yard, smiling broadly, and when he proceeded with many a flourish to
devotedly fill her wash-tubs from the well for his bride, they saw that
there must be some other explanation. The importance of the central
figure in so recent a pageant still surrounded her with somewhat of a
glamour in the eyes of her companions, setting her apart, so that they
were slow to ask her any questions.

Later in the day, though, when her mistress, happening to pass through
the yard, saw the black-gowned figure bending low over the tubs, she
hastened to the wash-shed.

"Why, Tamar," she exclaimed, "what on earth--"

At this Tamar raised her face and smiled faintly. Then, glancing down at
her dress to indicate that she understood, she drawled, demurely:

"Ain't nothin' de matter, missy. I jes mo'nin' for Sister Sophy-Sophia."

"Sophy-Sophia! You don't mean--"

"Yas, 'm, I does. I means Pompey's las' wife, Sis' Sophy-Sophia. She
didn't have no kinfolks to go in mo'nin' for her, an' time Pompey an' me
got ingaged he made known his wushes to me, an' I promised him I'd put
on mo'nin' for her soon as I married into de family. Co'se I couldn't do
it 'fo' I was kin to her."

  [Illustration: "'I PROMISED HIM I'D PUT ON MO'NIN' FOR HER, SOON AS
  I MARRIED INTO DE FAMILY.'"]

"Kin to her!" the mistress laughed. "Why, Tamar, what relation on earth
are you to Pompey's former wife, I'd like to know?"

The black woman dropped the garment she was wringing and thought a
moment.

"Well, missy," she said, presently, "looks to me like I'm a speritu'l
foster-sister to her, ef I ain't no mo'--an' I done inherited all her
rights an' privileges, so Pompey say--an' ef I 'ain't got a right to
mo'n for her, _who is_? Dey tell me a 'oman is got a right to go in
mo'nin' for her husband's kin anyway; but of co'se, come down to it,
she warn't no blood-kin to Pompey, nohow. Howsomever, eve'ybody knows a
widder or a widderer is intitled to wear _all de mo'nin' dey is_; an'
his wife, why, she's intitled to a equal sheer in it, if she choose to
seize her rights. I'd 'a' put it on befo' de weddin', 'cep'n I didn't
have no title to it, an' it wouldn't 'a' been no comfort to her noways.
Set down, missy." She began wiping off one of her wash-benches with her
apron as she spoke. "Set down, mistus, an' lemme talk to you."

The situation was interesting, and the mistress sat down.

"You see, missy"--she had come nearer now, and assumed a confidential
tone--"you see, Sister Sophy-Sophia she 'ain't nuver found rest yit, an'
dat frets Pompey. Hit troubles 'im in de sperit--an' I promised him to
try to pacify her."

"Pacify her! Why, Tamar! How can you pacify a person who is dead? And
how do you know that her spirit isn't at rest?"

The black woman turned and looked behind her to make sure that no one
should overhear. Then, lowering her voice, she whispered:

"Her grave 'ain't nuver settled yit, mistus. She been buried ever sence
befo' Christmus, an' hit ain't evened down yit. An' dat's a shore sign
of a onrestless sperit--yas, 'm."

Her face had grown suddenly anxious as she spoke. And presently she
added:

"Of co'se, when a grave settles _too_ quick, dat's a sign dey'll soon
be another death, an' nobody don't crave to see a grave sink too
sudden. But it'll ease down gradual--ef de dead sleeps easy--yas, 'm.
No, Sister Sophy-Sophia she 'ain't took no comfort in her grave yit.
An' Pompey, righteously speakin', ought to pacified her befo' he set
out to marry ag'in. Heap o' 'omans would 'a' been afeerd to marry a man
wid a unsunk grave on his hands--'feerd she'd ha'nt her. But I done had
'spe'unce, an' I'm mo' 'feerd o' live ha'nts 'n I is o' dead ones. I
know Sis' Sophy-Sophia she's _layin' dar_--an' she _can't git out_. You
know, she died o' de exclammatory rheumatism, an' some say hit was a
jedgmint f'om heaven. You know, Sis' Sophy-Sophia she was a devil for
fun. She would have her joke. An' some say Gord A'mighty punished her
an' turned eve'y bone in 'er body into funny-bones, jes to show her dat
eve'y funny thing ain't to be laughed at. An' ef you ever got a sudden
whack on de funny-bone in yo' elbow, missy, you know how she suffered
when she was teched. An' she ain't at rest yit. She done proved dat. Of
co'se, ef she died wid some'h'n' on 'er mind, we can't do nothin' for
her; but ef she jes need soothin', I'll git her quieted down."

She leaned forward and resumed her washing--that is to say, she raised a
garment from the suds and looked at it, turned it over idly in her hands
several times, and dipped it languidly.

Her visitor watched her in amused silence for a while.

"And how are you going to soothe her, Tamar?" she asked, presently.
"Tell me all about it."

At this the woman began wiping her hands upon her apron, and dropping
into a seat between two of the tubs and resting her arms upon their
rims, she faced her mistress.

"Of co'se, honey," she began, "de fust thing is to _wear mo'nin_'--an'
dat ain't no special trouble to me--I got consider'ble black frocks
lef' over from my widderhoods. An' in addition to dat, I gwine carry it
around in my countenance--an' _ef she sees it_--an' I b'lieve de dead
does see--_maybe it'll ease her mind_. Of co'se, when a pusson ain't
able to sorrer in her heart, dey 'bleeged to wear it in dey face--"

There was something in her voice as she said these last words--an
indescribable note that seemed to express detachment from all feeling in
the matter--that made her listener turn and look narrowly into her face.
Still, she was not in the least prepared for the hearty laughter that
greeted her question.

"And don't you mourn for her in your heart, Tamar?" She eyed her
narrowly as she put the question.

The black woman did not even attempt an answer. Nor did she apparently
even try to control her mirth. But, after a while, when she had laughed
until she was tired, she suddenly rose to her feet, and as she gathered
up a handful of wet garments, and began rubbing them on the wash-board,
she exclaimed, still chuckling:

"Lemme git to my washin', honey, befo' I disgrace my mo'nin'."

In a little while, however, she grew serious again, and although she
still seemed to have trouble with her shoulders, that insisted upon
expressing merriment, she said:

"I 'clare, I talks like a plumb hycoprite, missy--I sho' does. But I
ain't. No, 'm, I ain't. Of co'se I grieves for Sis' Sophy-Sophia. I'd
grieve for any po' human dat can't find rest in 'er grave--an' I'm gwine
to consolate her, good as I kin. Soon as de dark o' de moon comes, I
gwine out an' set on her grave an' moan, an' ef dat don't ease her,
maybe when her funer'l is preached she'll be comforted."

"And hasn't she had her funeral sermon yet, Tamar?"

"Oh no, 'm. 'Tain't time, hardly, yit. We mos' gin'ly waits two or
three years after de bury-in' befo' we has members' funer'ls preached.
An' we don't nuver, sca'cely, have 'em under a year. You see, dey's a
lot o' smarty folks dat 'ain't got nothin' better to do 'n to bring up
things ag'in dead folks's cha'acter, so we waits tell dey been restin'
in de groun' a year or so. Den a preacher he can expec' to preach dey
funer'ls in peace. De fac' is, some o' our mos' piousest elders an'
deacons is had so many widders show up at dey funer'ls dat de chu'ches
is most of 'em passed a law dat dey compelled to wait a year or so an'
give all dese heah p'omiscu'us widders time to marry off--an' save
scandalizement. An' Pompey an' Sophy-Sophia dey didn't have no mo'n a
broomstick weddin' nohow--but of co'se _dey did have de broomstick. I'm
a witness to dat, 'caze dey borried my broom--yas, 'm._ Ricollec', I
had one o' dese heah green-handle sto'e brooms, an' Pompey he come over
to my cabin one mornin' an' he say, 'Sis' Tamar,' he say, 'would you
mind loandin' Sis' Sophy-Sophia dat green-handle straw broom dat you
sweeps out de chu'ch-house wid?' You 'member, I was married to Wash
Williams dat time--Wash Williams wha' live down heah at de cross-roads
now. He's married to Yaller Silvy now. You know dat red-head
freckled-face yaller gal dat use to sew for Mis' Ann Powers--always
wear a sailor hat--wid a waist on her no thicker'n my wris'--an' a
hitch in her walk eve'y time she pass a man? Dat's de gal. She stole
Wash f'om me--an' she's welcome to 'im. Any 'oman is welcome to any man
she kin git f'om me. Dat's my principle. But dese heah yaller freckle
niggers 'ain't got no principle _to_ 'em. I done heerd dat all my
life--an' Silvy she done proved it. Time Wash an' me was married he was
a man in good chu'ch standin'--a reg'lar ordained sexton, at six
dollars a month--an' I done de sweepin' for him. Dat's huccome I
happened to have dat green-handle sto'e broom. Dat's all I ever did git
out o' his wages. Any day you'd pass Rose-o'-Sharon Chu'ch dem days you
could see him settin' up on de steps, like a gent'eman, an' I sho' did
take pride in him. An' now, dey tell me, Silvy she got him down to
shirt-sleeves--splittin' rails, wid his breeches gallused up wid twine,
while she sets in de cabin do' wid a pink caliker Mother Hubbard
wrapper on fannin' 'erse'f. An' on Saturdays, when he draw his pay,
you'll mos' gin'ally see 'em standin' together at de hat an' ribbon
show-case in de sto'e--he grinnin' for all he's worth. An' my belief is
he grins des to hide his mizry."

"You certainly were very good to do his sweeping for him." Tamar's
graphic picture of a rather strained situation was so humorous that it
was hard to take calmly. But her mistress tried to disguise her
amusement so far as possible. To her surprise, the question seemed to
restore the black woman to a fresh sense of her dignity in the
situation.

"Cert'ny I done it," she exclaimed, dramatically. "Cert'ny. You reckon
I'd live in de house wid a man dat 'd handle a broom? No, ma'am. Nex'
thing I'd look for him to sew. No, ma'am. But I started a-tellin' you
huccome I come to know dat Pompey an' Sis' Sophy-Sophia was legally
married wid a broom. One day he come over to my cabin, jes like I
commenced tellin' you, an' he s'lute me wid, 'Good-mornin', Sis' Tamar;
I come over to see ef you won't please, ma'am, loand Sister Sophy-Sophia
Sanders dat straw broom wha' you sweeps out de chu'ch-house wid, please,
ma'am?' An' I ricollec's de answer I made him. I laughed, an' I say,
'Well, Pompey,' I say, 'I don't know about loandin' out a chu'ch broom
to a sinner like you.' An' at dat he giggle, 'Well, we wants it to
play preacher--an' dat seems like a mighty suitable job for a chu'ch
broom.' An' of co'se wid dat I passed over de broom, wid my best
wushes to de bride; an' when he fetched it back, I ricollec', he
fetched me a piece o' de weddin'-cake--but it warn't no mo'n common
one-two-three-fo'-cup-cake wid about seventeen onfriendly reesons
stirred into it wid brown sugar. I 'clare, when I looks back, I sho'
is ashamed to know dat dey was ever sech a po' weddin'-cake in my
family--I sho' is. Now you know, missy, of co'se, dese heah
broom--weddin's dey ain't writ down in nuther co't-house nur chu'ch
books--an' so ef any o' dese heah smarty meddlers was to try to bring
up ole sco'es an' say dat Sister Sophy-Sophia wasn't legally married,
dey wouldn't be no witnesses _but me an' de broom_, an' I'd have to
witness _for it_, an'--an' _I_ wouldn't be no legal witness."

"Why wouldn't you be a legal witness, Tamar?"

"'_Caze I got de same man_--an' dat's de suspiciouses' thing dey kin
bring up ag'ins' a witness--so dey tell me. Ef 'twarn't for dat, I'd
'a' had her fun'al preached las' month."

"But even supposing the matter had been stirred up--and you had been
unable to prove that everything was as you wished--wouldn't your
minister have preached a funeral sermon anyway?"

"Oh yas, 'm, cert'n'y. On'y de fun'al he'd preach wouldn't help her to
rest in her grave--dat's de on'ies' diffe'ence. Like as not dey'd git
ole Brother Philemon Peters down f'om de bottom-lands to preach
wrath--an' I wants grace preached at Sister Sophy-Sophia's fun'al, even
ef I has to wait ten years for it. She died in pain, but I hope for her
to rest in peace--an' not to disgrace heaven wid crutches under her
wings, nuther. I know half a dozen loud-prayers, now, dat 'd be on'y too
glad to 'tract attention away f'om dey own misdoin's by rakin' out
scandalizemint on a dead 'oman. Dey'd 'spute de legalness of dat
marriage in a minute, jes to keep folks f'om lookin' up dey own weddin'
papers--yas, 'm. But me an' de broom--we layin' low, now, an' keepin'
still, but we'll speak when de time comes at de jedgmint day, ef she
need a witness."

"But tell me, Tamar, why didn't Pompey take his bride to the church if
they wanted a regular wedding?"

"Dey couldn't, missy. Dey couldn't on account o' Sis' Sophy-Sophia's
secon' husband, Sam Sanders. He hadn't made no secon' ch'ice yit--an',
you know, when de fust one of a parted couple marries ag'in, dey
'bleeged to take to de broomstick--less'n dey go whar 'tain't known on
'em. Dat's de rule o' divo'cemint. When Yaller Silvy married my Joe wid
a broomstick, dat lef' me free for a chu'ch marriage. An' I tell you,
_I had it, too_. But ef she had a'tempted to walk up a chu'ch aisle
wid Joe--an' me still onmarried--well, I wush dey'd 'a' tried it! I'd
'a' been standin' befo' de pulpit a-waitin' for 'em--an' I'd 'a' quoted
some Scripture at 'em, too. But dey acted accordin' to law. Dey married
quiet, wid a broomstick, an' de nex' Sunday walked in chu'ch together,
took de same pew, an' he turned her pages mannerly for her--an' dat's de
ladylikest behavior Silvy ever been guilty of in her life, I reckon. She
an' him can't nair one of 'em read, but dey sets still an' holds de book
an' turns de pages--an' Gord Hisself couldn't ax no mo' for chu'ch
behavior. But lemme go on wid my washin', missy--for Gord's sake."

Laughing again now, she drew a match from the ledge of one of the
rafters, struck it across the sole of her bare foot, and began to light
the fire under her furnace. And as she flattened herself against the
ground to blow the kindling pine, she added, between puffs, and without
so much as a change of tone:

"Don't go, please, ma'am, tell I git dis charcoal lit to start dese
shirts to bile. I been tryin' to fix my mouf to ax you is you got air
ole crêpe veil you could gimme to wear to chu'ch nex' Sunday--please,
ma'am? I 'clare, I wonder what's de sign when you blowin' one way an' a
live coal come right back at yer 'gins' de wind?" And sitting upon the
ground, she added, as she touched her finger to her tongue and rubbed a
burnt spot upon her chin: "Pompey 'd be mighty proud ef I could walk in
chu'ch by his side in full sisterly mo'nin' nex' Sunday for po' Sister
Sophy-Sophia--yas, 'm. I hope you kin fin' me a ole crêpe veil, please,
ma'am."

Unfortunately for the full blossoming of this mourning flower of
Afro-American civilization, as it is sometimes seen to bloom along the
by-ways of plantation life, there was not a second-hand veil of crêpe
forth-coming on this occasion. There were small compensations, however,
in sundry effective accessories, such as a crêpe collar and bonnet, not
to mention a funereal fan of waving black plumes, which Pompey
flourished for his wife's benefit during the entire service. Certainly
the "speritu'l foster-sister" of the mourning bride, if she witnessed
the tribute paid her that Sunday morning in full view of the entire
congregation--for the bridal pair occupied the front pew under the
pulpit--would have been obdurate indeed if she had not been somewhat
mollified.

Tamar consistently wore her mourning garb for some months, and, so far
as is known, it made no further impression upon her companions than to
cause a few smiles and exchanges of glances at first among those of
lighter mind among them, some of whom were even so uncharitable as to
insinuate that Sis' Tamar wasn't "half so grieved as she let on." The
more serious, however, united in commending her act as "mos'
Christian-like an' sisterly conduc'." And when, after the gentle
insistence of the long spring rains, added to the persuasiveness of
Tamar's mourning, the grave of her solicitude sank to an easy level,
bespeaking peace to its occupant, Tamar suddenly burst into full flower
of flaming color, and the mourning period became a forgotten episode of
the past. Indeed, in reviewing the ways and doings of the plantation in
those days, it seems entitled to no more prominence in the retrospect
than many another incident of equal ingenuousness and novelty. There was
the second wooing of old Aunt Salina-Sue, for instance, and Uncle
'Riah's diseases; but, as Another would say, these are other stories.

Another year passed over the plantation, and in the interval the always
expected had happened to the house of Pompey the coachman. It was a tiny
girl child, black of hue as both her doting parents, and endowed with
the name of her sire, somewhat feminized for her fitting into the rather
euphonious Pompeylou. Tamar had lost her other children in infancy, and
so the pansy-faced little Pompeylou of her mid-life was a great joy to
her, and most of her leisure was devoted to the making of the pink
calico slips that went to the little one's adorning.

On her first journey into the great world beyond the plantation,
however, she was not arrayed in one of these. Indeed, the long gown she
wore on this occasion was, like that of her mother, as black as the
rejuvenated band of crêpe upon her father's stovepipe hat; for, be it
known, this interesting family of three was to form a line of chief
mourners on the front pew of Rose-of-Sharon Church on the occasion of
the preaching of the funeral of the faithfully mourned and long-lamented
Sophy-Sophia, whose hour of posthumous honor had at length arrived. The
obsequies in her memory had been fixed for an earlier date, but in
deference to the too-recent arrival of her "nearest of kin" was then too
young to attend, they had been deferred by Tamar's request, and it is
safe to say that no child was ever brought forward with more pride at
any family gathering than was the tiny Miss Pompeylou when she was
carried up the aisle "to hear her step-mammy's funeral preached."

It was a great day, and the babe, who was on her very best
six-months-old behavior, listened with admirable placidity to the
"sermon of grace," on which at a future time she might, perhaps, found a
genealogy. Her only offence against perfect church decorum was a
sometimes rather explosive "Agoo!" as she tried to reach the
ever-swaying black feather fan that was waved by her parents in turn for
her benefit. Before the service was over, indeed, she had secured and
torn the proud emblem into bits; but Tamar only smiled at its demolition
by the baby fingers. It was a good omen, she said, and meant that the
day of mourning was over.



THE DEACON'S MEDICINE


When the doctor drove by the Gregg farm about dusk, and saw old Deacon
Gregg perched cross-legged upon his own gatepost, he knew that something
was wrong within, and he could not resist the temptation to drive up and
speak to the old man.

It was common talk in the neighborhood that when Grandmother Gregg made
things too warm for him in-doors, the good man, her spouse, was wont to
stroll out to the front gate and to take this exalted seat.

Indeed, it was said by a certain Mrs. Frequent, a neighbor of prying
proclivities and ungentle speech, that the deacon's wife sent him there
as a punishment for misdemeanors. Furthermore, this same Mrs. Frequent
did even go so far as to watch for the deacon, and when she would see
him laboriously rise and resignedly poise himself upon the narrow area,
she would remark:

"Well, I see Grandma Gregg has got the old man punished again. Wonder
what he's been up to now?"

Her constant repetition of the unkind charge finally gained for it such
credence that the diminutive figure upon the gate-post became an object
of mingled sympathy and mirth in the popular regard.

The old doctor was the friend of a lifetime, and he was sincerely
attached to the deacon, and when he turned his horse's head towards the
gate this evening, he felt his heart go out in sympathy to the old man
in durance vile upon his lonely perch.

But he had barely started to the gate when he heard a voice which he
recognized as the deacon's, whereupon he would have hurried away had not
his horse committed him to his first impulse by unequivocally facing the
gate.

"I know three's a crowd," he called out cheerily as he presently drew
rein, "but I ain't a-goin' to stay; I jest--Why, where's grandma?" he
added, abruptly, seeing the old man alone. "I'm shore I heard--"

"You jest heerd me a-talkin' to myself, doctor--or not to myself,
exactly, neither--that is to say, when you come up I was addressin' my
remarks to this here pill."

"Bill? I don't see no bill." The doctor drew his buggy nearer. He was a
little deaf.

"No; I said this pill, doctor. I'm a-holdin' of it here in the pa'm o'
my hand, a-studyin' over it."

"What's she a-dosin' you for now, Enoch?"

The doctor always called the deacon by his first name when he approached
him in sympathy. He did not know it. Neither did the deacon, but he felt
the sympathy, and it unlocked the portals of his heart.

"Well"--the old man's voice softened--"she thinks I stand in need of
'em, of co'se. The fact is, that yaller-spotted steer run ag'in her
clo'esline twice-t to-day--drug the whole week's washin' onto the
ground, an' then tromped on it. She's inside a-renchin' an' a-starchin'
of 'em over now. An' right on top o' that, I come in lookin' sort o'
puny an' peaked, an' I happened to choke on a muskitty jest ez I come
in, an' she declared she wasn't a-goin' to have a consumpted man sick on
her hands an' a clo'es-destroyin' steer at the same time. An' with that
she up an' wiped her hands on her apron, an' went an' selected this here
pill out of a bottle of assorted sizes, an' instructed me to take it.
They never was a thing done mo' delib'rate an' kind--never on earth. But
of co'se you an' she know how it plegs me to take physic. You could
mould out ice-cream in little pill shapes an' it would gag me, even ef
'twas vanilly-flavored. An' so, when I received it, why, I jest come out
here to meditate. You can see it from where you set, doctor. It's a
purty sizeable one, and I'm mighty suspicious of it."

The doctor cleared his throat. "Yas, I can see it, Enoch--of co'se."

"Could you jedge of it, doctor? That is, of its capabilities, I mean?"

"Why, no, of co'se not--not less'n I'd taste it, an' you can do that ez
well ez I can. If it's quinine, it'll be bitter; an' ef it's soggy
an'--"

"Don't explain no mo', doctor. I can't stand it. I s'pose it's jest ez
foolish to investigate the inwardness of a pill a person is bound to
take ez it would be to try to lif the veil of the future in any other
way. When I'm obligated to swaller one of 'em, I jest take a swig o'
good spring water and repeat a po'tion of Scripture and commit myself
unto the Lord. I always seem foreordained to choke to death, but I
notice thet ef I recover from the first spell o' suffocation, I always
come through. But I 'ain't never took one yet thet I didn't in a manner
prepare to die."

"Then I wouldn't take it, Enoch. Don't do it." The doctor cleared his
throat again, but this time he had no trouble to keep the corners of his
mouth down. His sympathy robbed him for the time of the humor in the
situation. "No, I wouldn't do it--doggone ef I would."

The deacon looked into the palm of his hand and sighed. "Oh yas, I
reckon I better take it," he said, mildly. "Ef I don't stand in need of
it now, maybe the good Lord'll sto'e it up in my system, some way,
'g'inst a future attackt."

"Well"--the doctor reached for his whip--"well, _I_ wouldn't do
it--_steer or no steer_!"

"Oh yas, I reckon you would, doctor, ef you had a wife ez worrited over
a wash-tub ez what mine is. An' I had a extry shirt in wash this week,
too. One little pill ain't much when you take in how she's been
tantalized."

The doctor laughed outright.

"Tell you what to do, Enoch. Fling it away and don't let on. She don't
question you, does she?"

"No, she 'ain't never to say questioned me, but--Well, I tried that
once-t. Sampled a bitter white capsule she gave me, put it down for
quinine, an' flung it away. Then I chirped up an' said I felt a heap
better--and that wasn't no lie--which I suppose was on account o' the
relief to my mind, which it always did seem to me capsules was jest
constructed to lodge in a person's air-passages. Jest lookin' at a box
of 'em'll make me low-sperited. Well, I taken notice thet she'd look at
me keen now an' ag'in, an' then look up at the clock, an' treckly I see
her fill the gou'd dipper an' go to her medicine-cabinet, an' then she
come to me an' she says, says she, 'Open yore mouth!' An' of co'se I
opened it. You see that first capsule, ez well ez the one she had jest
administered, was mostly morphine, which she had give me to ward off a
'tackt o' the neuraligy she see approachin', and here I had been tryin'
to live up to the requi'ements of quinine, an' wrastlin' severe with a
sleepy spell, which, ef I'd only knew it, would o' saved me. Of co'se,
after the second dose-t, which I swallered, I jest let nature take its
co'se, an' treckly I commenced to doze off, an' seemed like I was a
feather-bed an' wife had hung me on the fence to sun, an' I remember how
she seemed to be a-whuppin' of me, but it didn't hurt. Of co'se nothin'
couldn't hurt me an' me all benumbed with morphine. An' I s'pose what
put the feather-bed in my head was on account of it bein' goose-pickin'
time, an' she was werrited with windy weather, an' she tryin' to fill
the feather-beds. No, I won't never try to deceive her ag'in. It never
has seemed to me thet she could have the same respect for me after
ketchin' me at it, though she 'ain't never referred to it but once-t,
an' that was the time I was elected deacon, an' even then she didn't do
it outspoke. She seemed mighty tender over it, an' didn't no mo'n remind
me thet a officer in a Christian church ought to examine hisself mighty
conscientious an' be sure he was free of deceit, which, seemed to me,
showed a heap 'o' consideration. She 'ain't got a deceitful bone in her
body, doctor."

  [Illustration: "SAYS SHE, 'OPEN YORE MOUTH.' AN' OF CO'SE I OPENED
  IT"]

"Why, bless her old soul, Enoch, you know thet I think the world an' all
o' Grandma Gregg! She's the salt o' the earth--an' rock-salt at that.
She's saved too many o' my patients by her good nursin', in spite o' my
poor doctorin', for me not to appreciate her. But that don't reconcile
me to the way she doses you for her worries."

"It took me a long time to see that myself, doctor. But I've reasoned it
out this a-way: I s'pose when she feels her temper a-risin' she's 'feerd
thet she might be so took up with her troubles thet she'd neglect my
health, an' so she wards off any attackt thet might be comin' on. I
taken notice that time her strawberry preserves all soured on her hands,
an' she painted my face with iodine, a man did die o' the erysipelas
down here at Battle Creek, an' likely ez not she'd heerd of it. Sir? No,
I didn't mention it at the time for fear she'd think best to lay on
another coat, an' I felt sort o' disfiggured with it. Wife ain't a
scoldin' woman, I'm thankful for that. An' some o' the peppermints an'
things she keeps to dole out to me when she's fretted with little
things--maybe her yeast'll refuse to rise, or a thunder-storm'll kill a
settin' of eggs--why, they're so disguised thet _'cep'n thet I know
they're medicine_--"

"Well, Kitty, I reckon we better be a-goin'." The doctor tapped his
horse. "Be shore to give my love to grandma, Enoch. An' ef you're bound
to take that pill--of co'se I can't no mo'n speculate about it at this
distance, but I'd advise you to keep clear o' sours an' acids for a day
or so. Don't think, because your teeth are adjustable, thet none o' yore
other functions ain't open to salivation. _Good_-night, Enoch."

"Oh, she always looks after that, doctor. She's mighty attentive, come
to withholdin' harmful temptations. Good-bye, doctor. It's did me good
to open my mind to you a little.

"Yas," he added, looking steadily into his palm as the buggy rolled
away--"yas, it's did me good to talk to him; but I ain't no more
reconciled to you, you barefaced, high-foreheaded little roly-poly, you.
Funny how a pill thet 'ain't got a feature on earth can look me out o'
countenance the way it can, and frustrate my speech. Talk about whited
sepulchures, an' ravenin' wolves! I don't know how come I to let on thet
I was feelin' puny to-night, nohow. I might've knew--with all them
clo'es bedaubled over--though I can't, ez the doctor says, see how me
a-takin' a pill is goin' to help matters--but of co'se I wouldn't let on
to him, an' he a bachelor."

He stopped talking and felt his wrist.

"Maybe my pulse is obstropulous, an' ought to be sedated down. Reckon
I'll haf to kill that steer--or sell him, one--though I swo'e I
wouldn't. But of co'se I swo'e that in a temper, an' temp'rate vows
ain't never made 'cep'in' to be repented of."

Several times during the last few minutes, while the deacon spoke, there
had come to him across the garden from the kitchen the unmistakable odor
of fried chicken.

He had foreseen that there would be a good supper to-night, and that the
tiny globule within his palm would constitute for him a prohibition
concerning it.

Grandmother Gregg was one of those worthy if difficult women who never
let anything interfere with her duty as she saw it magnified by the
lenses of pain or temper. It usually pleased her injured mood to make
waffles on wash-day, and the hen-house owed many renovations, with a
reckless upsetting of nests and roosts, to one of her "splittin'
headaches." She would often wash her hair in view of impending company,
although she averred that to wet her scalp never failed to bring on the
"neuraligy." And her "neuraligy" in turn meant medicine for the deacon.

It was probably the doctor's timely advice, augmented, possibly, by the
potencies of the frying-pan, with a strong underlying sympathy with the
worrying woman within--it was, no doubt, all these powers combined that
suddenly surprised the hitherto complying husband into such
unprecedented conduct that any one knowing him in his old character, and
seeing him now, would have thought that he had lost his mind.

With a swift and brave fling he threw the pill far into the night. Then,
in an access of energy born of internal panic, he slid nimbly from his
perch and started in a steady jog-trot into the road, wiping away the
tears as he went, and stammering between sobs as he stumbled over the
ruts:

"No, I won't--yas, I will, too--doggone shame, and she frettin' her life
out--of co'se I will--I'll sell 'im for anything he'll fetch--an' I'll
be a better man, yas, yas I will--but I won't swaller another one o'
them blame--not ef I die for it."

This report, taken in long-hand by an amused listener by the road-side,
is no doubt incomplete in its ejaculatory form, but it has at least the
value of accuracy, so far as it goes, which may be had only from a
verbatim transcript.

It was perhaps three-quarters of an hour later when Enoch entered the
kitchen, wiping his face, nervous, weary, embarrassed. Supper was on the
table. The blue-bordered dish, heaped with side bones and second joints
done to a turn, was moved to a side station, while in its accustomed
place before Enoch's plate there sat an ominous bowl of gruel. The old
man did not look at the table, but he saw it all. He would have realized
it with his eyes shut. Domestic history, as well as that of greater
principalities and powers, often repeats itself.

Enoch's fingers trembled as he came near his wife, and standing with his
back to the table, began to untie a broad flat parcel that he had
brought in under his arm. She paused in one of her trips between the
table and stove, and regarded him askance.

"Reckon I'll haf to light the lantern befo' I set down to eat, wife," he
said, by way of introduction. "Isrul'll be along d'rec'ly to rope that
steer. I've done sold him." The good woman laid her dish upon the table
and returned to the stove.

"Pity you hadn't 'a' sold 'im day befo' yesterday. I'd 'a' had a heap
less pain in my shoulder-blade." She sniffed as she said it; and then
she added, "That gruel ought to be e't warm."

By this time the parcel was open. There was a brief display of colored
zephyrs and gleaming card-board. Then Enoch began re-wrapping them.

"Reckon you can look these over in the morn-in', wife. They're jest a
few new cross-stitch Bible texts, an' I knowed you liked Scripture
motters. Where'll I lay 'em, wife, while I go out an' tend to lightin'
that lantern? I told Isrul I'd set it in the stable door so's he could
git that steer out o' the way immejate."

The proposal to lay the mottoes aside was a master-stroke.

The aggrieved wife had already begun to wipe her hands on her apron.
Still, she would not seem too easily appeased.

"I do hope you 'ain't gone an' turned that whole steer into perforated
paper, Enoch, even ef 'tis Bible-texted over."

Thus she guarded her dignity. But even as she spoke she took the parcel
from his hands. This was encouragement enough. It presaged a thawing
out. And after Enoch had gone out to light the lantern, it would have
amused a sympathetic observer to watch her gradual melting as she looked
over the mottoes:

    "A VIRTUOUS WIFE IS FAR ABOVE RUBIES."

    "A PRUDENT WIFE IS FROM THE LORD."

    "BETTER A DINNER OF HERBS WHERE LOVE IS--"

She read them over and over. Then she laid them aside and looked at
Enoch's plate. Then she looked at the chicken-dish, and now at the bowl
of gruel which she had carefully set on the back of the stove to keep
warm.

"Don't know ez it would hurt 'im any ef I'd thicken that gruel up into
mush. He's took sech a distaste to soft food sense he's got that new
set."

She rose as she spoke, poured the gruel back into the pot, sifted and
mixed a spoonful of meal and stirred it in. This done, she hesitated,
glanced at the pile of mottoes, and reflected. Then with a sudden
resolve she seized the milk-pitcher, filled a cup from it, poured the
milk into the little pot of mush, hastily whipped up two eggs with some
sugar, added the mixture to the pot, returned the whole to the yellow
bowl, and set it in the oven to brown.

And just then Enoch came in, and approached the water-shelf.

"Don't keer how you polish it, a brass lantern an' coal ile is like
murder on a man's hands. It will out."

He was thinking of the gruel, and putting off the evil hour. It had been
his intention to boldly announce that he hadn't taken his medicine, that
he never would again unless he needed it, and, moreover, that he was
going to eat his supper to-night, and always, as long as God should
spare him, etc., etc., etc.

But he had no sooner found himself in the presence of long-confessed
superior powers than he knew that he would never do any of these things.

His wife was thinking of the gruel too when she encouraged delay by
remarking that he would better rest up a bit before eating.

"And I reckon you better soak yo' hands good. Take a pinch o' that bran
out o' the safe to 'em," she added, "and ef that don't do, the Floridy
water is in on my bureau."

When finally Enoch presented himself, ready for his fate, she was able
to set the mush pudding, done to a fine brown, before him, and her tone
was really tender as she said:

"This ain't very hearty ef you're hungry; but you can eat it all. There
ain't no interference in it with anything you've took."

The pudding was one of Enoch's favorite dishes, but as he broke its
brown surface with his spoon he felt like a hypocrite. He took one long
breath, and then he blurted:

"By-the-way, wife, this reminds me, I reckon you'll haf to fetch me
another o' them pills. I dropped that one out in the grass--that is, ef
you think I still stand in need of it. I feel consider'ble better'n I
did when I come in this evenin'."

The good woman eyed him suspiciously a minute. Then her eyes fell upon
the words "ABOVE RUBIES" lying upon the table. Reaching over, she lifted
the pudding-bowl aside, took the dish of fried chicken from its
sub-station, and set it before her lord.

"Better save that pudd'n' for dessert, honey, an' help yo'self to some
o' that chicken, an' take a potater an' a roll, and eat a couple o' them
spring onions--they're the first we've had. Sence you're a-feelin'
better, maybe it's jest ez well thet you mislaid that pill."

                  *          *          *          *

The wind blows sometimes from the east in Simkinsville, as elsewhere,
and there are still occasional days when the deacon betakes himself to
the front gate and sits like a nineteenth-century Simon Stilites on his
pillar, contemplating the open palm of his own hand, while he enriches
Mrs. Frequent's _répertoire_ of gossip by a picturesque item.

But the reverse of the picture has much of joy in it; for, in spite of
her various tempers, Grandmother Gregg is a warm-hearted soul--and she
loves her man. And he loves her.

Listen to him to-night, for instance, as, having finished his supper, he
remarks:

"An' I'm a-goin' to see to it, from this on, thet you ain't fretted with
things ez you've been, ef I can help it, wife. Sometimes, the way I act,
I seem like ez ef I forgit you're all I've got--on earth."

"Of co'se I reelize that, Enoch," she replies. "We're each one all the
other's got--an' that's why I don't spare no pains to keep you in
health."



TWO GENTLEMEN OF LEISURE


One could see at a glance that they were gentlemen as they strolled
leisurely along, side by side, through Madison Square, on Christmas
morning.

A certain subtle charm--let us call it a dignified aimlessness--hung
about them like an easy garment, labelling them as mild despisers of
ambitions, of goals, of destinations, of conventionalities.

The observer who passed from casual contemplation of their unkempt locks
to a closer scrutiny perceived, even in passing them, that their shoes
were not mates, while the distinct bagging at the knees of their
trousers was somewhat too high in one case, and too low in the other, to
encompass the knees within which were slowly, but surely, gaining tardy
secondary recognitions at points more or less remote from the first
impressions.

One pair was a trifle short in the legs, while the other--they of the
too-low knee-marks--were turned up an inch or two above the shoes: a
style which in itself may seem to savor of affectation, and yet, taken
with the wearer on this occasion, dispelled suspicion.

It seemed rather a cold day to sit on a bench in Madison Square, and yet
our two gentlemen, after making a casual tour of the walks, sat easily
down; and, indeed, though passers hurried by in heavy top-coats and
furs, it seemed quite natural that these gentlemen should be seated.

One or two others, differing more or less as individuals from our
friends, but evidently members of the same social caste, broadly
speaking, were also sitting in the square, apparently as oblivious to
the cold as they.

"The hardest thing to bear," the taller one, he of the short trousers,
was saying, as he dropped his shapely wrist over the iron arm of the
bench, "the hardest thing for the individual, under the present system,
is the arbitrariness of the assignments of life. The chief advantage of
the Bellamy scheme seems to me to be in its harmonious adjustments, so
to speak. Every man does professionally what he can best do. If you and
I had been reared under that system, now--"

"What, think you, would Bellamy the prophet have made of you, Humphrey?"

"Well, sir, his government would have taken pains to discover and
develop my tendency, my drift--"

"Ah, I see. I should judge that nature had endowed you with a fine bump
of drift, Humphrey. But has it not been rather well cared for? The
trouble with drifting is, so say the preachers, that it necessarily
carries one downstream."

"To the sea, the limitless, the boundless, the ultimatum--however, this
is irrelevant and frivolous. I am serious--and modest, I assure
you--when I speak of my gifts. I have, as you know, a pronounced gift at
repartee. Who knows what this might have become under proper
development? But it has been systematically snubbed, misunderstood,
dubbed impertinence, forsooth."

"If I remember aright, it was your gift of repartee that--wasn't it
something of that sort which severed your connection with college?"

"Yes, and here I am. That's where the shoe pinches. Ha! and by way of
literal illustration, speaking of the mal-adjustments of life, witness
this boot."

The speaker languidly extended his right foot.

"The fellow who first wore it had bunions, blast him, and I come into
his bunion-bulge with a short great toe. As a result, here I am in New
York in December, instead of absorbing sunshine and the odor of violets
in Jackson Square in New Orleans, with picturesqueness and color all
about me. No man could start South with such a boot as that.

"I do most cordially hope that the beastly vulgarian who shaped it has
gone, as my friend Mantalini would express it, 'to the demnition
bow-wows.' You see the beauty of the Bellamy business is that all
callings are equally worthy. As a social factor I should have made a
record, and would probably have gone into history as a wit."

"Condemn the history! You'd have gone into life, Humphrey. That's
enough. You'd have gone into the home--into your own bed at night--into
dinner in a dress-coat--into society, your element--into posterity in
your brilliant progeny, paterfamilias--"

"Enough, Colonel. There are some things--even from an old comrade like
yourself--"

"Beg pardon, Humphrey. No offence meant, I assure you.

"It's only when life's fires are burning pretty low that we may venture
to stir the coals and knock off the ashes a little.

"For myself, I don't mind confessing, Humphrey, that there have been
women--Don't start; there isn't even a Yule-log smouldering on my
heart's hearth to-day. I can stir the smoking embers safely. I say there
have been women--a woman I'll say, even--a nursemaid, whom I have seen
in this park--a perfect Juno. She was well-born I'd swear, by her
delicate ears, her instep, her curved nostrils--"

"Did you ever approach your goddess near enough to catch her curved
articulation, Colonel? Or doubtless it flowed in angles, Anglo-Saxon
pura."

"You are flippant, Humphrey. I say if this woman had had educational
advantages and--and if my affairs had looked up a little, well--there's
no telling! And yet, to tell you this to-day does not even warm my
heart."

"Nor rattle a skeleton within its closet?"

"Not a rattle about me, sir, excepting the rattle of these beastly
newspapers on my chest. Have a smoke, Humphrey?"

The Colonel presented a handful of half-burned cigar-stubs.

"No choice. They're all twenty-five-centers, assorted from a Waldorf
lot."

"Thanks."

Humphrey took three. The Colonel, reserving one for his own use, dropped
the rest into his outer pocket.

And now eleven men passed, smoking, eleven unapproachables, before one
dropped a burning stump.

As Humphrey rose and strode indolently forward to secure the fragment,
there was a certain courtliness about the man that even a pair of short
trousers could not disguise. It was the same which constrains us to
write him down Sir Humphrey.

"I never appropriate the warmth of another man's lips," said he, as,
having first presented the light to his friend, he lit a fragment for
himself. Then, pressing out the fire of the last acquisition, he laid it
beside him to cool before adding it to his store.

"Nor I," responded the Colonel--"at least, I never did but once. I
happened to be walking behind General Grant, and he dropped a smoking
stub--"

"Which you took for Granted--"

"If you will, yes. It was a bit sentimental, I know, but I rather
enjoyed placing it warm from his lips to mine. It was to me a sort of
calumet, a pipe of peace, for rebel that I was, and am, I always
respected Grant. Then, too, I fancied that I might deceive the fragment
into surrendering its choicest aroma to me, since I surprised it in the
attitude of surrender, and I believe it did."

"Sentimental dog that you are!" said Sir Humphrey, smiling, as he
inserted the remaining bit of his cigar into an amber tip and returned
it to his lips.

"You have never disclosed to me, Humphrey, where you procured that piece
of bric-à-brac?"

"Haven't I? That is because of my Bostonian reticence. No secret, I
assure you. I found it, sir, in the lining of this coat. The fair donor
of this spacious garment on one occasion, at least, gave a _tip_ to
a beggar unawares."

"Exceptional woman. Seems to me the exceptional beggar would have
returned the article."

"Exceptional case. Didn't find the tip for a month. I was in Mobile at
the time. I should have written my benefactress had stationery been
available and had I known her name. When I returned to New York in the
spring there was a placard on the house. Otherwise I should have
restored the tip, and trusted to her courtesy for the reward of virtue."

"You have forgotten that that commodity is its own reward?"

"Yes, and the only reward it ever gets, as a New Orleans wit once
remarked. Hence, here we are. However, returning to my fair
benefactress, I haven't much opinion of her. Any woman who would mend
her husband's coat-sleeve with glue--look at this! First moist spell,
away it went. Worst of it was I happened to have no garment under it at
the time. However, the incident secured me quite a handsome acquisition
of linen. Happened to run against a clever little tub-shaped woman whose
ample bosom, I take it, was ordered especially for the accommodation of
assorted sympathies. She, perceiving my azure-veined elbow, invited me
to the dispensing-room of the I. O. U. Society, of which she was a
member, and presented me with a roll of garments, and--would you believe
it?--there wasn't a tract or leaflet in the bundle--and as to my soul,
she never mentioned the abstraction to me. Now, that is what I call
Christianity. However, I may come across a motto somewhere, yet. Of
course, at my first opportunity, I put on those shirts--one to wear, and
the other three to carry. So I've given them only a cursory examination
thus far."

"Which one do you consider yourself wearing, Humphrey, and which do you
carry?"

"I wear the _outside_ one, of course--and carry the others."

"Do you, indeed? Well, now, if I were in the situation, I should feel
that I was wearing the one next my body--and carrying the other three."

"That's because you are an egotist and can't project yourself. I have
the power the giftie gi'e me, and see myself as others see me. How's
that for quick adaptation?"

"Quite like you. If the Scotch poet had not been at your elbow with his
offering, no doubt you'd have originated something quite as good. So you
may be at this moment absorbing condensed theology, _nolens
volens_."

"For aught I know, yes, under my armpits. However, I sha'n't object,
just so the dogmas don't crowd out my morals. My moral rectitude is the
one inheritance I proudly retain. I've never sold myself--to anybody."

"Nor your vote?"

"Nor my vote. True, I have accepted trifling gratuities on election
occasions; but they never affected my vote. I should have voted the same
way, notwithstanding."

"Well, sir, I am always persuaded to accept a bonus on such occasions
for _abstaining_. I have been under pay from both parties, each
suspecting me of standing with the opposition. Needless to say, I have
religiously kept my contract. I never vote. It involves too much
duplicity for a man of my profession."

"Not necessarily. I resided comfortably for quite a period in the
basement of the dwelling of a certain political leader in this
metropolis, once. He wished to have me register for his butler, but I
stickled for private secretary, and private secretary I was written,
sir, though I discovered later that the rogue had registered me as
secretary to his coachman. However, the latter was the better man of the
two--dropped his h's so fast that his master seemed to feel constrained
to send everything to H---- for repairs."

"What else could you expect for a man of _aspirations_?"

"By thunder, Humphrey, that's not bad. But do you see, by yon clock,
that the dinner-hour approacheth?"

The Colonel took from his waistcoat-pocket two bits of paper.

"Somehow, I miss Irving to-day. There's nothing Irving enjoyed so much
as a free dinner-ticket. I see the X. Y. Z.'s are to entertain us at 1
P.M., and the K. R. G.'s at 4."

Sir Humphrey produced two similar checks.

"Well, sir, were Irving here to-day I'd willingly present him with this
Presbyterian chip. There are some things to which I remain sensitive,
and I look this ticket in the face with misgivings. It means being
elbowed by a lot of English-slaying mendicants in a motto-bedecked
saloon, where every bite at the Presbyterian fowl seems a confession of
faith that that particular gobbler, or hen, as the case may be, was
fore-ordained, before the beginning of time, to be chewed by
yourself--or eschewed, should you decline it. Somehow theology takes the
zest out of the cranberries for me. However, _de gustibus_--"

"Well, sir, I am a philosopher, and so was Irving. Poor Irving! He was
never quite square. It was he, you know, who perpetrated that famous
roach fraud that went the rounds of the press. I've seen him do it. He
would enter a restaurant, order a dinner, and, just before finishing,
discover a huge roach, a Croton bug, floating in his plate. Of course
the insects were his own contribution, but the fellow had a knack of
introducing them. He could slip a specimen into his omelette soufflé,
for instance, dexterously slicing it in half with his knife, with a
pressure that left nothing to be desired. The interloper, compactly
imbedded, immediately imparted such an atmosphere to his vicinity that
even the cook would have sworn he was baked in. I blush to say I was
Irving's guest on one such occasion."

"And Sir Roach paid for both dinners?"

"Bless you, yes. Sir Roach, F.R.S. (fried, roasted, or stewed). Indeed,
his hospitality did not end here. We were pressed to call again, and
begged not to mention the incident. Of course, this was in our more
prosperous days, before either of us had taken on the stamp of our
exclusiveness. Even Irving would hesitate to try it now, I fancy."

"Poor Irving! A good fellow, but morally insane. In Baton Rouge now, I
believe?"

"Yes. He changed overcoats with a gentleman.

"I wonder how the cooking is in that State institution, Humphrey? Irving
is such an epicure--"

"Oh, he's faring well enough, doubtless. Trust those Louisianians for
cookery. When Irving is in New Orleans there are special houses where
he drops in on Fridays, just for _court-bouillon_. I've known him to
weed a bed of geraniums rather than miss it."

"Such are the vicissitudes of pedestrianism. Well, _tempus fugit_; let
us be going. We have just an hour to reach our dining-hall. Here come
the crowd from church. The Christmas service is very beautiful. Do you
recall it, Humphrey?"

"Only in spots--like the varioloid."

They were quite in the crowd now, and so ceased speaking, and presently
the Colonel was considerably in advance of his companion. So it happened
that he did not see Humphrey stop a moment, put his foot on a bit of
green paper, drop his handkerchief, and in recovering it gather the
crumpled bill into it.

Thus it came about that when Sir Humphrey overtook his friend, and,
tapping him upon the shoulder, invited him to follow him into a famous
saloon, the Colonel raised his eyes in mild surprise.

Sir Humphrey paid for the drinks with a ten-dollar note, and then the
two proceeded to the side door of a well-known restaurant.

"Private dining-room, please," he said, and he dropped a quarter into
the hands of the servant at the door as he led the way.

                  *          *          *          *

It was two hours later when, having cast up his account from the bill of
fare, Sir Humphrey, calling for cigars, said: "Help yourself, Colonel.
If my arithmetic is correct, we shall enjoy our smoke, have a half
dollar for the waiter, and enter the Square with a whole cigar apiece in
our breast pockets--at peace with the world, the flesh, and his Satanic
majesty. Allow me to give you a light."

He handed the Colonel one of the free dinner-tickets of the X. Y. Z.
Society.

"The Presbyterian blue-light I reserve for my own use. Witness it burn.

"Well, Colonel, I hope you have enjoyed your dinner?"

"Thoroughly, sir, thoroughly. This is one of the many occasions in my
life, Humphrey, when I rejoice in my early good breeding. Were it not
for that, I should feel constrained to inquire whom you throttled and
robbed in crossing Fifth Avenue, two hours ago, during the forty seconds
when my back was turned."

"And my pious rearing would compel me to answer, 'No one.'

"The wherewithal to procure this Christmas dinner dropped straight from
heaven, Colonel. I saw it fall, and gratefully seized it, just in the
middle of the crossing."

"Thanks. I have taken the liberty of helping myself to the rest of the
matches, Humphrey."

"Quite thoughtful of you. We'll use one apiece for the other cigars. Do
you know I really enjoyed the first half of that smoke. It was quite
like renewing one's youth."

And so, in easy converse, they strolled slowly down Fifth Avenue.

As Sir Humphrey hesitated in his walk, evidently suffering discomfort
from his right boot, he presently remarked:

"I say, Colonel, I think I'll call around tomorrow at a few of my
friends' houses, and see if some benevolent housewife won't let me have
a shoe for this right foot."

"Or why not try your cigar on the ebony janitor of the apartment-house
across the way. He has access to the trash-boxes, and could no doubt
secure you a shoe--maybe a pair."

"Thanks, Colonel, for the suggestion, but there are a few things I never
do. I never fly in the face of Providence. I shall smoke that cigar
intact."

And they walked on.



THE REV. JORDAN WHITE'S THREE GLANCES


The Reverend Jordan White, of Cold Spring Baptist Church, was so utterly
destitute of color in his midnight blackness of hue as to be considered
the most thoroughly "colored" person on Claybank plantation, Arkansas.

That so black a man should have borne the name of White was one of the
few of such familiar misfits to which the world never becomes insensible
from familiarity. From the time when Jordan, a half-naked urchin of six,
tremblingly pronounced his name before the principal's desk in the
summer free Claybank school to the memorable occasion of his
registration as an Afro-American voter, the announcement had never
failed to evoke a smile, accompanied many times by good-humored
pleasantry.

"Well, sir," so he had often laughed, "I reck'n dey must o' gimme de
name o' White fur a joke. But de Jordan--I don' know, less'n dey named
me Jordan 'caze ev'ybody was afeerd ter cross me."

From which it seems that the surname was not an inheritance.

In his clerical suit of black, with standing collar and shirt-front
matched in fairness only by his marvellously white teeth and eyeballs,
Jordan was a most interesting study in black and white.

There were no intermediate shades about him. Even his lips were black,
or of so dark a purple as to fail to maintain an outline of color. They
looked black, too.

Jordan was essentially ugly, too, with that peculiar genius for ugliness
which must have inspired the familiar saying current among plantation
folk, "He's so ogly tell he's purty."

There is a certain homeliness of person, a combined result of type and
degree, which undeniably possesses a peculiar charm, fascinating the eye
more than confessed beauty of a lesser degree or more conventional form.

Jordan was ugly in this fashion, and he who glanced casually upon his
ebony countenance rarely failed to look again.

He was a genius, too, in more ways than one.

If nature gave him two startling eyes that moved independently of each
other, Jordan made the most of the fact, as will be seen by the
following confession made on the occasion of my questioning him as to
the secret of his success as a preacher.

"Well, sir," he replied, "yer see, to begin wid: I got three glances,
an' dat gimme three shots wid ev'y argimint.

"When I'm a preachin' I looks straight at one man an' lays his case out
so clair he can't miss it, but, you see, all de time I'm a-layin' him
out, my side glances is takin' in two mo'."

"But," I protested, "I should think he whom you are looking at and
describing in so personal a manner would get angry, and--"

"So he would, sir, if he knowed I was lookin' at him. _But he don't
know it_. You know, dat's my third glance an' hit's my secret glance.
You see, if my reel glance went straight, I'd have ter do like de rest
o' you preachers, look at one man while yer hittin' de man behin' 'im,
an' dat's de way dey _think I is doin_', whiles all de time I'm a
watchin' 'im wriggle.

"Of cose, sometimes I uses my glances diff'ent ways. Sometimes I des
lets 'em loose p'omiskyus fur a while tell ev'ybody see blue lightnin'
in de air, an' de mo'ner's bench is full, an' when I see ev'ybody is
ready ter run fur 'is life, of co'se I eases up an' settles down on
whatever sinner seem like he's de leastest skeered tell I nails 'im
fast."

  [Illustration: "'I DES LETS 'EM LOOSE P'OMISKYUS, TELL EV'YBODY SEE
  BLUE LIGHTNIN''"]

He hesitated here a moment.

"De onies' trouble," he resumed, presently. "De onies' trouble wid
havin' mixed glances is 'dat seem like hit confines a man ter preach
wrath.

"So long as I tried preachin' Heaven, wid golden streets an' harp
music, I nuver fe'ched in a soul, but 'cep'n' sech as was dis a-waitin'
fur de open do' _to_ come in. Dat's my onies' drawback, Brer Jones.
Sometimes seem like when Heaven comes inter my heart I does crave ter
preach it in a song. Of cose, I does preach Heaven yit, but _I bleege
ter preach it f'om de Hell side, an' shoo 'em in_!"

There was, I thought, the suspicion of a twinkle lurking in the corners
of his eyes throughout his talk, but it was too obscure for me to
venture to interpret it by a responsive smile, and so the question was
put with entire seriousness when I said:

"And yet, Jordan, didn't I hear something of your going to an oculist
last summer?"

"Yas, sir. So I did. Dat's true." He laughed foolishly now.

"I did talk about goin' ter one o' deze heah occular-eye doctors las'
summer, _and I went once-t_, but I ain't nuver tol' nobody, an' you
mustn't say nothin' 'bout it, please, sir.

"But yer see, sir." He lowered his voice here to a confidential whisper.
"Yer see dat was on account o' de ladies. I was a widder-man den, an',
tell de trufe, my mixed glances was gettin' me in trouble. Yer know in
dealin' wid de ladies, yer don' keer how many glances you got, yer wants
ter use 'em _one at a time_. Why dey was a yaller lady up heah at de
crossroads wha' 'blongs ter my church who come purty nigh ter suein' me
in de co't-house, all on account o' one o' my side glances, an' all de
time, yer see, my _reel_ glance, hit was settled on Mis' White, wha'
sot in de middle pew--but in cose she warn't Mis' White den; she was de
Widder Simpson."

"And so you have been recently married," I asked; "and how does your
wife feel about the matter?

"Well, yer see, sir," he answered, laughing, "she can't say nothin',
'caze she's cross-eyed 'erse'f.

"An' lemme tell you some'h'n', boss." He lowered his tone again,
implying a fresh burst of confidence, while his whole visage seemed
twinkling with merriment.

"Lemme tell yer some'h'n', boss. You ain't a ma'ied man, is yer?"

I assured him that I was not married.

"Well, sir, I gwine gi'e you my advice. An' I'm a man o' 'spe'unce. I
been ma'ied three times, an' of cose I done consider'ble co'tin' off'n
an' on wid all three, not countin' sech p'omiskyus co'tin' roun' as any
widder gemman is li'ble ter do, an' I gwine gi'e you some good advice.

"Ef ever you falls in love wid air cross-eyed lady, an' craves ter
co't'er, you des turn down de lamp low 'fo' yer comes ter de fatal
p'int, ur else set out on de po'ch in de fainty moonlight, whar yer
can't see 'er eyes, caze dey's nothin' puts a co'tin' man out, and meek
'im lose 'is pronouns wuss 'n a cross-eye. An' ef it hadn't o' been dat
_I knowed what a cook she was_, tell de trufe, de Widder Simpson's
cross-eye would o' discour'ged me off enti'ely.

"But now," he continued, chuckling; "but now I done got usen ter it;
it's purty ter me--seem like hit's got a searchin' glance dat goes out'n
its way ter fin' me."

Needless to say, I found the old man amusing, and when we parted at the
cross-roads I was quite willing to promise to drop in some time to hear
one of his sermons.

Although somewhat famed as a preacher, Jordan had made his record in
the pulpit not so much on account of any powers of oratory, _per se_,
as through a series of financial achievements.

During the two years of his ministry he had built a new church edifice,
added the imposing parsonage which he occupied, and he rode about the
country on his pastoral missions, mounted on a fine bay horse--all the
result of "volunteer" contributions.

And Jordan stood well with his people; the most pious of his fold
according him their indorsement as heartily as they who hung about the
outskirts of his congregation, and who indeed were unconsciously
supplying the glamour of his distinguished career; for the secret of
Jordan's success lay especially in his power of collecting money from
_sinners_. So it came about that, without adding a farthing to their
usual donations, the saints reclined in cushioned pews and listened to
the words of life from a prosperous, well-fed preacher, who was
manifestly an acceptable sower of vital seed--seed which took root in
brick and mortar, branched out in turret and gable, and flowered before
their very eyes in crimson upholstery.

The truth was that Cold Spring was the only colored church known to its
congregation that boasted anything approaching in gorgeousness its
pulpit furnishings of red cotton velvet, and never a curious sinner
dropped in during any of its services for a peep at its grandeur without
leaving a sufficient quota of his substance to endow him with a
comfortable sense of proprietorship in it all.

The man who has given a brick to the building of the walls of a
sanctuary has always a feeling of interest in the edifice, whether he be
of its fold or not, and if he return to it an old man, it will seem to
yield him a sort of welcoming recognition. The brick he gave is
somewhere doing its part in sustaining the whole, and the uncertainty of
its whereabouts seems to bestow it everywhere.

I was not long in finding my way to Jordan's church. It was in summer
time, and a large part of his congregation was composed of young girls
and their escorts on the afternoon when I slipped into the pew near the
door.

The church was crowded within, while the usual contingent of idlers hung
about the front door and open windows.

I searched Jordan's face for a few moments, in the hope of discovering
whether he recognized me or not, but for the life of me I could not
decide. If his "secret glance" ever discerned me in my shadowed corner,
neither of the other two betrayed it.

I soon discovered that there was to be no sermon on this occasion, for
which I was sorry, as I supposed that his most ambitious effort would
naturally take shape in this form. Of this, however, I now have my
doubts.

After the conventional opening of service with prayer, Scripture
reading, and song, he passed with apparent naturalness to the
collection, the ceremony to which everything seemed to tend.

The opening of this subject was again conventional, the only deviation
from the ordinary manner of procedure being that, instead of the hat's
passing round it was inverted upon the table beside the pulpit, while
contributors, passing up the aisles, deposited their contributions and
returned to their seats.

This in itself, it will be seen, elevated the collection somewhat in the
scale of ceremonial importance.

For some time the house was quite astir with the procession which moved
up one side and down the other, many singing fervently as they went, and
dramatically holding their coins aloft as they swayed in step with the
music, while above all rose the exhortations of the preacher which waxed
in fervor as the first generous impulse began to wane.

"Drap in yo' dollar!" he was shouting. "Drap in yo' half dollar! Drap in
yo' dime! Drap in yo' nickel. Drap in yo' nickel, I say, an' ef yer
ain't got a nickel, come up an' let's pray fur yer!

"Ef yer ain't got a nickel," he repeated, encouraged by the titter that
greeted this; "ef yer ain't got a nickel, come up an' let de whole
congergation pray fur yer! We'll teck up a collection fur any man dat 'l
stan' up an' confess he ain't wuth a nickel."

A half dozen grinning young fellows stepped up now with coins concealed
in the palms of their hands.

"Come on! Come on, all you nickel boys! Come on.

"Ev'y nickel is a wheel ter keep salvation's train a-movin'! Come on, I
say; bring yo' wheels!

"Ef you ain't got a big wheel fur de ingine fetch a little wheel fur de
freight train! We needs a-plenty o' freight kyars on dis salvation
train. 'Caze hit's loaded up heavy wid Bibles fur de heathen, an' brick
an' lumber to buil' churches, an' medicine fur de sick, an' ole clo'es
fur de po'--heap ob 'em wid de buttons cut off'n 'em, but dat ain't our
fault, we bleeged ter sen' 'em on! Fetch on yo' little wheels, I say,
fur de freight train."

There had been quite a respectable response to this appeal thus far, but
again it spent itself and there was a lull when Jordan, folding his
arms, and looking intently before him, in several directions apparently,
exclaimed in a most tragic tone:

"My Gord! Is de salvation train done stallded right in front o' Claybank
chu'ch, an' we can't raise wheels ter sen' it on?

"Lord have mussy, I say! I tell yer, my brers an' sisters, you's
a-treatin' de kyar o' glory wuss'n you'd treat a ole cotton mule wagon!
You is, fur a fac'!

"Ef air ole mule wagon ur a donkey-kyart was stallded out in de road in
front o' dis chu'ch--don' keer ef it was loaded up wid pippy chickens,
much less'n de Lord's own freight--dey ain't one o' yer but 'd raise a
wheel ter sen' it on! You know yer would! An' heah de salvation train
is stuck deep in de mud, an' yer know Arkansas mud _hit's mud_; hit
ain't b'iled custard; no, it ain't, an' hit sticks like glue! Heah de
glory kyar is stallded in dis tar-colored Arkansas glue-mud, I say, an'
I can't raise wheels enough out'n dis congergation ter sen' it on! An'
dis is de Holy Sabbath day, too, de day de Lord done special set apart
_fur_ h'istin' a oxes out'n a ditch, es much less'n salvation's train.

"Now, who gwine fetch in de nex' wheel, my brothers, my sisters, my
sinner-frien's? Who gwine fetch a wheel? Dat's it! Heah come a
wheel--two wheels--three wheels; fetch one mo'; heah, a odd wheel; de
train's a-saggin' down lop-sided fur _one mo' wheel_! Heah it
come--f'om a ole 'oman, too! Shame on you, boys, ter let po' ole Aunt
Charity Pettigrew, wha' nussed yo' mammies, an' is half-blin' an' deef
at dat--shame on yer ter let 'er lif' dis train out'n de mud! An' yer
know she kyant heah me nuther. She des brung a wheel 'caze she felt de
yearth trimble, an' knowed de train was stallded!

"Oh, my brers, de yearth gwine trimble wuss'n dat one o' deze days, an'
look out de rocks don't kiver you over! Don't hol' back dis train ef you
c'n he'p it on! I ain't axin' yer fur no paper greenbacks to-day _to
light de ingine fire_!

"I ain't a-beggin' yer fur no gol' an' silver wheels fur de passenger
trains for de saints, 'caze yer know de passenger kyars wha' ride inter
de city o' de King, dey 'bleege ter have gol' and silver wheels ter
match de golden streets; but, I say, I ain't axin' yer fur no gol' an'
silver wheels to-day, nur no kindlin'! De train is all made up an' de
ingine is a steamin', an' de b'ilers is full. I say _de b'ilers is
full_, my dear frien's.

"Full o' what? Whar do dey git water ter run dis gorspil train? Dis
heah's been a mighty dry season, an' de cotton-fiel's is a-beggin' now
fur water, an' I say _whar do de salvation train git water fur de
ingine_?

"Oh, my po' sinner-frien's, does you want me ter tell yer?

"De cisterns long de track is bustin' full o' water, an' _so long as a
sinner got o' tear ter shed_ de water ain't gwine run out!"

"Yas, Lord!" "Glory!" "Amen!" and "Amen!" with loud groans came from
various parts of the house now, and many wheels were added to Glory's
train by the men about the door, while Jordan continued:

"Don't be afeerd ter weep! De ingine o' Glory's kyar would o' gi'en out
o' water long 'fo' now in deze heah summer dry-drouths if 'twarn't fur
de tears o' sinners, an' de grief-stricken an' de heavy-hearted! I tell
yer Glory's train stops ter teck in water at de mo'ner's bench eve'y
day! So don't be afeerd to weep. But bring on de wheels!"

He paused here and looked searchingly about him.

There was no response. Stepping backward now and running both hands deep
into his pockets, he dropped his oratorical tone, and, falling easily
into the conversational, continued:

"Well, maybe you right! Maybe you right, my frien's settin' down by de
do', an' my frien's leanin' 'gins' de choir banisters, an' I ain' gwine
say no mo'. I was lookin' fur you ter come up wid some sort o' wheel,
an' maybe a silver wheel ter match dat watch-chain hangin' out'n yo'
waistcoat-pocket; but maybe you right!

"When a man set still an' say nothin' while de voice is a callin' I
reck'n he knows what he's a-doin'.

"He knows whether de wheels in his pocket is _fitt'n_ fur de gorspil
kyar ur not! An' I say ter you to-day dat ef dat money in yo' pocket
ain't _clean money_, don't you _dare_ ter fetch it up heah!

"Ef you made dat money sneakin' roun' henrooses in de dark o' de
moon--I don't say you is, but _ef_ you is--you set right still in yo'
seat an' don't _dare_ ter offer it ter de Lord, I say!

"Ef you backed yo' wagon inter somebody else's watermillion patch by de
roadside an' loaded up on yo' way ter town 'fo' sunup--I don't say you
is, mind yer, but _ef you is_--set right whar you is, an' do des like
you been doin', 'caze de money you made on dat early mornin' wagon load
ain't fitt'n fur wheels fur de gorspil train!

"An' deze yo'ng men at de winders, I say, ef de wheels in _yo_' pockets
come f'om _matchin' nickels on de roadside, or kyard-playin', or maybe
drivin' home de wrong pig_. (You nee'n't ter laugh. De feller dat
spo'ts de shinies' stovepipe hat of a Sunday sometimes cuts de ears
off'n de shoat he kills of a Sa'day, 'caze de ears got a tell-tale mark
on 'em.) _An', I say, ef you got yo' money dat a-way_, won't you des
move back from de winders, please, an' meck room fur some o' dem
standin' behin' yer dat got good hones' wheels ter pass in!"

This secured the window crowds intact, and now Jordan turned to the
congregation within.

"An' now, dear beloved." He lowered his voice. "For sech as I done
specified, _let us pray_!"

He had raised his hands and was closing his eyes in prayer, when a man
rose in the centre of the church.

"Brer Jordan," he began, laughing with embarrassment. "Ef some o' de
brers ur sisters'll change a dime fur me--"

Jordan opened his eyes and his hands fell.

"Bless de Lord!" he exclaimed, with feeling.

"Bless de Lord, one man done claired 'isse'f! Glory, I say! Come on up,
Brer Smiff, 'n' I'll gi'e you yo' change!"

"Ef--Brer Smiff'll loan _me_ dat nickel?" said a timid voice near the
window.

Smith hesitated, grinning broadly.

"Ef--ef I could o' spared de dime, Mr. Small, I'd a put it in myse'f,
but--but--"

"_But nothin'_! Put de dime in de hat!"

The voice came from near the front now. "Put it all in de hat, Brer
Smiff. You owes me a nickel an' I'll loan'd it to Mr. Small."

And so, amid much laughter, Smith reluctantly deposited his dime.

Others followed so fast that when Jordan exclaimed, "Who gwine be de
nex'?" his words were almost lost in the commotion. Still his voice had
its effect.

"Heah one mo'--two mo'--fo' mo'--eight mo'! Glory, I say! An' heah dey
come in de winder! Oh, I'm proud ter see it, yo'ng men! I'm proud ter
see it!"

Borrowing or making change was now the order of the moment, as every
individual present who had not already contributed felt called upon thus
to exonerate himself from so grave a charge.

Amid the fresh stir a tremulous female voice raised a hymn, another
caught it up, and another--voices strong and beautiful; alto voices soft
as flute notes blended with the rich bass notes and triumphant tenors
that welled from the choir, and floated in from the windows, until the
body of the church itself seemed almost to sway with the rhythmic
movement of the stirring hymn

    "Salvation's kyar is movin'."

  [Illustration: "SALVATION'S KYAR IS MOVIN'!"]

Still, above all, Jordan's voice could be distinguished--as a fine
musical instrument, and whether breaking through the tune in a volley
of exhortations, or rising superior to it all in a rich tenor--his
words thrown in snatches, or drawn out to suit his purpose--never once
did it mar the wonderful harmony of the whole.

It was a scene one could not easily forget.

The shaft of low sunlight that now filled the church, revealing a
bouquet of brilliant color in gay feathers and furbelows, with a
generous sprinkling of white heads, lit up a set of faces at once so
serious and so happy, so utterly forgetful of life's frettings and
cares, that I felt as I looked upon them, that their perfect vocal
agreement was surely but a faint reflection of a sweet spiritual
harmony, which even if it did not survive the moment, was worth a long
journey thither, for in so hearty a confession of fellowship, in so
complete a laying down of life's burdens, there is certainly rest and
a renewal of strength.

Feeling this to be a good time to slip out unobserved, I noiselessly
secured my hat from beneath the pew before me, but I had hardly risen
when I perceived a messenger hurrying towards me from the pulpit, with
a request that I should remain a moment longer, and before I could
take in the situation the singing was over and Jordan was speaking.

What he said, as nearly as I can recall it, was as follows:

"Befo' I pernounces de benediction, I wants ter 'spress de thanks o'
dis chu'ch ter de 'oner'ble visitor wha' set 'isse'f so modes' in de
las' pew dis evenin', _an' den sen' up de bigges' conterbutiom_,
fulfillin' de words o' de Scripture, which say _de las' shill be fus'
an' de fus' shill be las_'.

"Brer Chesterfiel' Jones, please ter rise an' receive de thanks o' de
congergation fur dat gen'rous five-dollar bill wha' you sont up by Brer
Phil Dolittle."

He paused here, and feeling all eyes turned upon me, I was constrained
to rise to my feet, and I think I can truly say that I have never been
surprised by greater embarrassment than I felt as I hurriedly subsided
to the depths of my corner. Addressing himself now to Dolittle, Jordan
continued:

"I 'ain't see you walk so biggoty in a _long_ time, Brer Dolittle, as
you walked when you fetched up dat five dollars. Ef dis heah 'd been a
cake walk yo'd o' tooken de prize, sho'.

"De nex' time dy' all gets up a cake walk on dis plantation, lemme
advise you ter borry a five-dollar note _f'om somebody dat don't know
yer_, ter tote when yer walk. Hit'll he'p yer ter keep yo' chin up.

"_An' dat ain't all_. Hit'll he'p _me_ ter keep _my chin up_ when I
ca'ys dis greenback bill to de grocery to-morrer an' I'll turn it into
a wheel, too--two wheels, wid a bulge between 'em. Now guess wha' dat
is?"

The congregation were by this time convulsed with laughter, and some one
answered aloud:

"A flour-bar'l!"

"Dat's it, Joe, a flour-bar'l! You's a good guesser.

"An' so now, in de name o' Col' Spring Chu'ch, Brer Jones, I thanks you
ag'in fur a bar'l o' flour, an' I tecks it mighty kin' o' you too,
'caze I knows deys a heap o' 'Piscopalpalian preachers _wha' wouldn't
o' done it!_ Dey'd be 'feerd dat ef dey gi'e any o' de high-risin'
'Piscopalpalian flour ter de Baptists dat dey'd ruin it wid _col'
water!_"

There was so much laughter here that Jordan had to desist for a moment,
but he had not finished.

"_But_," he resumed, with renewed seriousness--"_But ef Christians on'y
knowed it_, dey kin put a _little leaven o' solid Christianity_ in all
de charity flour dey gi'es away, an' hit'll _leaven de whole lot_ so
strong dat _too much water can't spile it_, nur _too much fire can't
scorch it_, nur _too much fore-sight_ (ur whatever dis heah is de
P'esberteriums mixes in dey bread) _can't set it so stiff it can't
rise_, 'caze hit's got de strong leaven o' de spirit in it, an' hit's
_boun' ter come up_!

"I see de sun's gitt'n low, an' hit's time ter let down de bars an'
turn de sheeps loose, an' de goats too--not sayin' deys any goats in
dis flock, an' not sayin' dey ain't--but 'fo' we goes out, I wants
ter say one mo' word ter Brer Dolittle."

His whole face was atwinkle with merriment now.

"Dey does say, Brer Dolittle, dat riches is mighty 'ceitful an'
mighty ap' ter turn a man's head, an' I tookin' notice dat arter you
fetched up Brer Chesterfiel' Jones's five dollars to-day you nuver
corndescended ter meck no secon' trip to de hat on Brer Dolittle's
'count.

"I did think I'd turn a searchin' glance on yer fur a minute an'
shame yer up heah, but you looked so happy an' so full o' biggoty I
spared yer, but yer done had time ter cool off now, an' I 'bleeged
ter bring yer ter de scratch.

"Now, ef you done teched de five-dollar notch an' can't git down,
we'll git somebody ter loan'd yer a greenback bill ter fetch up, an'
whils' de congergation is meditatin' on dey sins I'll gi'e you back
fo' dollars an' ninety-five cents."

Amid screams of laughter poor little Dolittle, a comical, wizen-faced
old man, nervously secured a nickel from the corner of his handkerchief,
and, grinning broadly, walked up with it.

"De ve'y leastest a man _kin_ do," Jordan continued, as leaning forward
he presented the hat--"de ve'y _leastest_ he kin do is ter _live up ter
'is name_, an' ef my name was _Dolittle_ I sho' would try ter _live up
ter dat, ef I didn't pass beyond it_!"

And as he restored the hat to the table beside him, he added, with a
quizzical lift of his brow:

"I does try ter live up ter _my_ name even, an' yer know, my
feller-sinners, hit does look like a hard case fur a man o' my color
ter live up ter de name o' White."

He waited again for laughter to subside.

"At leas'," he resumed, seriously, "hit did look like a hard case _at
fust_, but by de grace o' Gord I done 'skivered de way ter do it!

"Ef we all had ter live up ter our skins, hit'd be purty hard on a heap
of us; but, bless de Lord! he don't look at de skins; he looks at de
_heart_!

"I tries ter keep my _heart_ white, an' my _soul_ white, an' my
_sperit_ white! Dat's how I tries ter live up ter _my_ name wid a
_white cornscience, bless de Lord_! An' I looks fur my people ter he'p
me all dey kin."

And now, amid a hearty chorus of "Amens!" and "Glorys!" he raised his
hands for a benediction, which in its all-embracing scope did not fail
to invoke Divine favor upon "our good 'Piscopalpalian brother, Riviren'
Chesterfiel' Jones--Gord bless him."



LADY

A MONOLOGUE OF THE COW-PEN


Umh! Fur Gord sake, des look at dem cows! All squez up together 'g'ins'
dem bars in dat sof' mud--des like I knowed dey gwine be--an' me late at
my milkin'! You Lady! Teck yo' proud neck down f'om off dat heifer's
head! Back, I tell yer! Don't tell me, Spot! Yas, I know she impose on
you--yas she do. Reachin' her monst'ous mouf clair over yo' po' little
muley head. Move back, I say, Lady! Ef you so biggoty, why don't you
fool wid some o' dem horn cows? You is a lady, eve'y inch of yer! You
knows who to fool wid. You is de uppishes' cow I ever see in all my
life--puttin' on so much style--an' yo' milk so po' an' blue, I could
purty nigh blue my starch clo'es wid it. Look out dar, Peggy, how you
squeeze 'g'ins' Lady! She ain' gwine teck none o' yo' foolishness. Peggy
ain't got a speck o' manners! Lady b'longs ter de cream o' s'ciety, I
have yer know,--an' bless Gord, I b'lieve dat's all de cream dey is
about her. Hyah! fur Gord's sake lis'n at me, passin' a joke on Lady!

I does love to pleg dem cows--dey teck it so good-natured. Heap o' us
'omans mought teck lessons in Christianity f'om a cow--de way she stan'
so still an' des look mild-eyed an' chaw 'er cud when anybody sass 'er.
Dey'd be a heap less fam'ly quar'lin on dis plantation ef de 'omans had
cuds ter chaw--dat is ef dey'd be satisfied ter chaw dey own. But ef dey
was ter have 'em 'twouldn't be no time befo' dey'd be cud fights eve'y
day in de week, eve'y one thinkin' de nex' one had a sweeter moufful 'n
what she had. Reckon we got 'nough ter go to law 'bout, widout
cuds--ain't we Lady? Don't start pawin' de groun' now, des caze yer heah
me speculatin' at yo' feed-trough. I kin talk an' work too. I ain't like
you--nuver do n'air one.

I ain't gwine pay no 'tention ter none o' y' all no mo' now tell I git
yo' supper ready. Po' little Brindle! Stan' so still, an' ain't say a
word. I'm a-fixin' yo' feed now, honey--yas, I is! I allus mixes yo's
fust, caze I know you nuver gits in till de las' one an' some o' de rest
o' de greedies mos' gin'ally eats it up fo' you gits it.

She's a Scriptu'al cow, Brindle is--she so meek.

Yas, I sho' does love Brindle. Any cow dat kin walk in so 'umble, after
all de res' git done, an' pick up a little scrap o' leavin's out'n
de trough de way she do--an' turn it eve'y bit into good yaller
butter--_dat what I calls a cow!_ Co'se I know Lady'll git in here
ahead o' yer, honey, an' eat all dis mash I'm a-mixin' so good fur you.
It do do me good to see 'er do it, too. I sho' does love Lady--de way
'er manners sets on 'er. She don't count much at de churn--an' she
ain't got no conscience--an' no cha'acter--_but she's a lady!_ Dat's
huccome I puts up wid 'er. Yas, I'm a-talkin' 'bout you, Lady, an' I'm
a-lookin' at yer, too, rahin' yo' head up so circumstantial. But you
meets my eye like a lady! You ain't shame-faced, is yer! You too well
riz--you is. _You_ know dat _I_ know dat yo' po' measly sky-colored
milk sours up into mighty fine clabber ter feed yo'ng tukkeys wid--you
an' me, we knows dat, don't we?

Hyah! Dar, now, we done turned de joke on all you yaller-creamers--ain't
we, Lady?

Lordy! I wonder fo' gracious ef Lady nod her head to me accidental!

Is you 'spondin' ter me, Lady? Tell de trufe, I spec's Lady ter twis' up
'er tongue an' talk some day--she work 'er mouf so knowin'!

Dis heah cotton-seed ought ter be tooken out'n her trough, by rights. Ef
I could feed her on bran an' good warm slops a while, de churn would
purty soon 'spute her rights wid de tukkeys!

A high-toned cow, proud as Lady is, ought ter reach white-folk's table
somehow-ma-ruther. But you gits dar all the same, don't yer Lady? You
gits dar in tukkey-meat _ef dey don't reco'nize yer_!

Well! I'm done mixin' now an' I turns my back on de trough--an' advance
ter de bars. Lordy, how purty dem cows does look--wid dat low sun
'g'ins' dey backs! So patient an' yit so onpatient.

Back, now, till I teck out dese rails!

Soh, now! Easy, Spot! Easy, Lady! I does love ter let down dese bars wid
de sun in my eyes. I loves it mos' as good as I loves ter milk.

Down she goes!

Step up quick, now, Brindle, an' git yo' place.

Lord have mussy! Des look how Brindle meck way fur Lady! I know'd Lady'd
git dar fust! I know'd it!

An' dat's huccome I mixed dat feed so purtic'lar.

I does love Lady!



A PULPIT ORATOR


Old Reub' Tyler, pastor of Mount Zion Chapel, Sugar Hollow Plantation,
was a pulpit orator of no mean parts. Though his education, acquired
during his fifty-ninth, sixtieth, and sixty-first summers, had not
carried him beyond the First Reader class in the local district school,
it had given him a pretty thorough knowledge of the sounds of simple
letter combinations. This, supplemented by a quick intuition and a
correct musical ear, had aided him to really remarkable powers of
interpretation, and there was now, ten years later, no chapter in the
entire Bible which he hesitated to read aloud, such as contained long
strings of impossible names hung upon a chain of "begats" being his
favorite achievements.

A common tribute paid Reub's pulpit eloquence by reverential listeners
among his flock was, "Brer Tyler is got a black face, but his speech
sho' is white." The truth was that in his humble way Reub' was something
of a philologist. A new word was to him a treasure, so much stock in
trade, and the longer and more formidable the acquisition, the dearer
its possession.

Reub's unusual vocabulary was largely the result of his intimate
relations with his master, Judge Marshall, whose body-servant he had
been for a number of years. The judge had long been dead now, and the
plantation had descended to his son, the present incumbent.

Reub' was entirely devoted to the family of his former owners, and
almost any summer evening now he might be seen sitting on the lowest of
the five steps which led to the broad front veranda of the great house
where Mr. John Marshall sat smoking his meerschaum. If Marshall felt
amiably disposed he would often hand the old man a light, or even his
own tobacco-bag, from which Reub' would fill his corn-cob pipe, and the
two would sit and smoke by the hour, talking of the crops, the weather,
politics, religion, anything--as the old man led the way; for these
evening communings were his affairs rather than his "Marse John's." On a
recent occasion, while they sat talking in this way, Marshall was
congratulating him upon his unprecedented success in conducting a
certain revival then in progress, when the old man said:

"Yassir, de Lord sho' is gimme a rich harves'. But you know some'h'n',
Marse John? All de power o' language th'ough an' by which I am enable
ter seize on de sperit is come to me th'ough ole marster. I done tooken
my pattern f'om him f'om de beginnin,' an' des de way I done heerd him
argify de cases in de co't-house, dat's de way I lay out ter state my
case befo' de Lord.

"I nuver is preached wid power yit on'y but 'cep' when I sees de sinner
standin' 'fo' de bar o' de Lord, an' de witnesses on de stan', an' de
speckletators pressin' for'ard to heah, an' de jury listenin', an
_me--I'm de prosecutin' 'torney_!

"An' when I gits dat whole co't-room 'ranged 'fo' my eyes in my min',
an' de pris'ner standin' in de box, I des reg'lar _lay 'im out_! You
see, I knows all de law words ter do it _wid_! I des open fire on 'im,
an' prove 'im a crim'nal, a law-breaker, a vagabone, a murderer in ev'y
degree dey is--fus', secon', _an_' third--a reperbate, an' a blot on de
face o' de yearth, tell dey ain't a chance lef' fur 'im but ter fall on
'is knees an' plead guilty!

"An' when I got 'im down, _I got 'im whar I want 'im_, an' de work's
half did. Den I shif's roun' an' ac' _pris'ner's 'torney_, an' preach
grace tell I gits 'im shoutin'--des de same as ole marster use ter
do--clair a man whe'r or no, guilty or no guilty, step by step, nuver
stop tell he'd have de last juryman blowin' 'is nose an' snifflin'--an'
he'd do it wid swellin' dic'sh'nary words, too!

"Dat's de way I works it--fus' argify fur de State, den plead fur de
pris'ner.

"I tell yer, Marse John," he resumed, after a thoughtful pause, "dey's
one word o' ole marster's--I don'no' huccome it slipped my min', but hit
was a long glorified word, an' I often wishes hit'd come back ter me. Ef
I could ricollec' dat word, hit'd holp me powerful in my preachin'.

"Wonder ef you wouldn't call out a few dic'sh'nary words fur me, please,
sir? Maybe you mought strike it."

Without a moment's reflection, Marshall, seizing at random upon the
first word that presented itself, said, "How about _ratiocination_?"

The old man started as if he were shot. "Dat's hit!" he exclaimed.
"Yassir, dat's hit! How in de kingdom come is you struck it de fust pop?
Rasheoshinatiom! I 'clare! Dat's de ve'y word, sho's you born! Dat's
what I calls a high-tone word; ain't it, now, Marse John?"

"Yes, Uncle Reub'; ratiocination is a good word in its place." Marshall
was much amused. "I suppose you know what it means?"

"Nemmine 'bout dat," Reub' protested, grinning all over--"nemmine
'bout dat. I des gwine fetch it in when I needs a thunder-bolt!
Rasheoshinatiom! Dat's a bomb-shell fur de prosecutiom! But I can't git
it off now; I'm too cool. Wait tell I'm standin' in de pulpit on
tip-toes, wid de sweat a-po'in' down de spine o' my back, an' fin'
myse'f _des one argimint short_! Den look out fur de locomotive!

"Won't yer," he added, after a pause--"won't yer, please, sir, spell dat
word out fur me slow tell I writes it down 'fo' I forgits it?"

  [Illustration: "'WON'T YER, PLEASE, SIR, SPELL DAT WORD OUT FUR ME
  SLOW?'"]

Reaching deep into his trousers pocket, he brought forth a folded scrap
of tobacco-stained paper and a bit of lead-pencil.

Notwithstanding his fondness for the old man, there was a twinkle in
Marshall's eye as he began to spell for him, letter by letter, the
coveted word of power.

"R," he began, glancing over the writer's shoulder.

"R," repeated Reub', laboriously writing.

"A," continued Marshall.

"R-a," repeated Reub'.

"T," said the tutor.

"R-a-t," drawled the old man, when, suddenly catching the sound of the
combination, he glanced first at the letters and then with quick
suspicion up into Marshall's face. The suppressed smile he detected
there did its work. He felt himself betrayed.

Springing tremulously from his seat, the very embodiment of abused
confidence and wrath, he exclaimed:

"Well! Hit's come ter dis, is it? One o' ole marster's chillen settin'
up makin' spote o' me ter my face! I didn't spect it of yer, Marse
John--I did not. It's bad enough when some o' deze heah low-down
po'-white-trash town-boys hollers 'rats' at me--let alone my own white
chillen what I done toted in my arms! Lemme go home an' try ter forgit
dis insult ole marster's chile insulted me wid!"

It was a moment before Marshall saw where the offence lay, and then,
overcome with the ludicrousness of the situation, he roared with
laughter in spite of himself.

This removed him beyond the pale of forgiveness, and as Reub' hobbled
off, talking to himself, Marshall felt that present protest was useless.
It was perhaps an hour later when, having deposited a bag of his best
tobacco in his coat pocket, and tucked a dictionary under his arm,
Marshall made his way to the old man's cabin, where, after many
affectionate protestations and much insistence, he finally induced him
to put on his glasses and spell the word from the printed page.

He was not easily convinced. However, under the force of Marshall's
kindly assurances and the testimony of his own eyes, he finally melted,
and as he set back the candle and removed his glasses, he remarked, in a
tone of the utmost humility,

"Well--dat's what comes o' nigger educatiom! Des let a nigger git fur
enough along ter spell out c-a-t, cat, an' r-a-t, rat, an' a few Fus'
Reader varmints, an' he's ready ter conterdic' de whole dic'sh'nary.

"Des gimme dat word a few times _in my ear_ good, please, sir. I
wouldn't dare ter teck it in thoo my eye, 'caze don' keer what you say,
when a word sets out wid r-a-t, I gwine see a open-eyed rat settin'
right at de head of it blinkin' at me ev'y time I looks at it."



AN EASTER SYMBOL

A MONOLOGUE OF THE PLANTATION

_Speaker_: A Black Girl.
_Time_:    Easter Morning.


"'Scuse me knockin' at yo' do' so early, Miss Bettie, but I'se in
trouble. Don't set up in bed. Jes' lay still an' lemme talk to yer.

"I come to ax yer to please ma'am loand me a pair o' wings, mistus.
No'm, I ain't crazy. I mean what I say.

"You see, to-day's Easter Sunday, Miss Bettie, an' we havin' a high time
in our chu'ch. An' I'se gwine sing de special Easter carol, wid Freckled
Frances an' Lame Jane jinin' in de chorus in our choir. Hit's one o'
deze heah visible choirs sot up nex' to de pulpit in front o' de
congergation.

"Of co'se, me singin' de high solo makes me de principlest figgur, so we
'ranged fur me to stan' in de middle, wid Frances an' Jake on my right
an' lef' sides, an' I got a bran new white tarlton frock wid spangles on
it, an' a Easter lily wreath all ready. Of co'se, me bein' de fust
singer, dat entitles me to wear de highest plumage, an' Frances, she
knows dat, an' she 'lowed to me she was gwine wear dat white nainsook
lawn you gi'n 'er, an' des a plain secondary hat, an' at de p'inted time
we all three got to rise an' courtesy to de congergation, an' den bu'st
into song. Lame Jake gwine wear dat white duck suit o' Marse John's an'
a Easter lily in his button-hole.

"Well, hit was all fixed dat-a-way, peaceable an' proper, but you know
de trouble is Freckled Frances is jealous-hearted, an' she ain't got no
principle. I tell you, Miss Bettie, when niggers gits white enough to
freckle, you look out for 'em! Dey jes advanced fur enough along to show
white ambition an' nigger principle! An' dat's a dange'ous mixture!

"An' Frances--? She ain't got no mo' principle 'n a suck-aig dorg! Ever
sence we 'ranged dat Easter programme, she been studyin' up some
owdacious way to outdo me to-day in de face of eve'ybody.

"But I'm jes one too many fur any yaller freckled-faced nigger. I'm
black--but dey's a heap o' trouble come out o' ink bottles befo' to-day!

"I done had my eye on Frances! An' fur de las' endurin' week I taken
notice ev'ry time we had a choir practisin', Frances, she'd fetch in
some talk about butterflies bein' a Easter sign o' de resurrection o' de
dead, an' all sech as dat. Well, I know Frances don't keer no mo' 'bout
de resurrection o' de dead 'n nothin'. Frances is too tuck up wid dis
life fur dat! So I watched her. An' las' night I ketched up wid 'er.

"You know dat grea' big silk paper butterfly dat you had on yo'
_pi_anner lamp, Miss Bettie? She's got it pyerched up on a wire on
top o' dat secondary hat, an' she's a-fixin' it to wear it to church
to-day. But she don't know I know it. You see, she knows I kin sing all
over her, an' dat's huccome she's a-projectin' to ketch de eyes o' de
congergation!

"But ef you'll he'p me out, Miss Bettie, we'll fix 'er. You know dem
yaller gauzy wings you wo'e in de tableaux? Ef you'll loand 'em to me
an' help me on wid 'em terreckly when I'm dressed, I'll _be_ a _whole
live butterfly_, an' I bet yer when I flutters into dat choir, Freckled
Frances'll feel like snatchin' dat lamp shade off her hat, sho's you
born! An' fur once-t I'm proud I'm so black complected, caze black an'
yaller, dey goes together fur butterflies!

"Frances 'lowed to kill me out to-day, but I lay when she sets eyes on
de yaller-winged butterfly she'll 'preciate de resurrection o' de dead
ef she never done it befo' in her life."



CHRISTMAS AT THE TRIMBLES'

                  *          *          *          *

Part I

_Time_:  Daylight, the day before Christmas.
_Place_: Rowton's store, Simpkinsville.


_First Monologue, by Mr. Trimble_:

"Whoa-a-a, there, ck, ck, ck! Back, now, Jinny! Hello, Rowton! Here we
come, Jinny an' me--six miles in the slush up to the hub, an' Jinny with
a unweaned colt at home. Whoa-a-a, there!

"It's good Christmas don't come but once-t a year--ain't it, Jinny?

"Well, Rowton, you're what I call a pro-gressive business man, that's
what you are. Blest ef he ain't hired a whole row o' little niggers to
stand out in front of 'is sto'e an' hold horses--while he takes his
customers inside to fleece 'em.

"Come here, Pop-Eyes, you third feller, an' ketch aholt o' Jinny's
bridle. I always did like pop-eyed niggers. They look so God-forsaken
an' ugly. A feller thet's afflicted with yo' style o' beauty ought to
have favors showed him, an' that's why I intend for you to make the
first extry to-day. The boy thet holds my horse of a Christmus Eve
always earns a dollar. Don't try to open yo' eyes no wider--I mean what
I say. How did Rowton manage to git you fellers up so early, I wonder.
Give out thet he'd hire the first ten that come, did he? An' gives each
feller his dinner an' a hat.

"I was half afeered you wouldn't be open yet, Rowton--but I was
determined to git ahead o' the Christmus crowd, an' I started by
starlight. I ca'culate to meet 'em all a-goin' back.

"Well, I vow, ef yo' sto'e don't look purty. Wish _she_ could see it.
She'd have some idee of New York. But, of co'se, I couldn't fetch her
to-day, an' me a-comin' specially to pick out her Christmus gif'. She's
jest like a child. Ef she s'picions befo' hand what she's a-goin' to
git, why, she don't want it.

"I notice when I set on these soap-boxes, my pockets is jest about even
with yo' cash-drawer, Rowton. Well, that's what we're here for. Fetch
out all yo' purties, now, an' lay 'em along on the counter. You know
_her_, an' she ain't to be fooled in quality. Reckon I _will_ walk
around a little an' see what you've got. I 'ain't got a idee on earth
what to buy, from a broach to a barouche. Let's look over some o' yo'
silver things, Rowton. Josh Porter showed me a butter-dish you sold him
with a silver cow on the led of it, an' I was a-wonderin' ef, maybe,
you didn't have another.

"That's it. That's a mighty fine idee, a statue like that is. It sort o'
designates a thing. D'rec'ly a person saw the cow, now, he'd s'picion
the butter inside the dish. Of co'se, he'd know they wouldn't hardly be
hay in it--no, ez you say, 'nor a calf.' No doubt wife'll be a-wantin'
one o' these cow-topped ones quick ez she sees Josh's wife's. She'll see
the p'int in a minute--of the cow, I mean. But, of co'se, I wouldn't
think o' gittin' her the same thing Josh's got for Helen, noways. We're
too near neighbors for that. Th' ain't no fun in borryin' duplicates
over a stile when company drops in sudden, without a minute's warnin'.

"No, you needn't call my attention to that tiltin' ice-pitcher. I seen
it soon ez I approached the case. Didn't you take notice to me a-liftin'
my hat? That was what I was a-bowin' to, that pitcher was. No, that's
the thing wife hankers after, an' I know it, an' it's the one thing I'll
never buy her. Not thet I'd begrudge it to her--but to tell the truth
it'd pleg me to have to live with the thing. I wouldn't mind it on
Sundays or when they was company in the house, but I like to take off my
coat, hot days, an' set around in my shirt-sleeves, an' I doubt ef I'd
have the cheek to do it in the face of sech a thing as that.

"Fact is, when I come into a room where one of 'em is, I sort o' look
for it to tilt over of its own accord an' bow to me an' ask me to 'be
seated.'

"You needn't to laugh. Of co'se, they's a reason for it--but it's so.
I'm jest that big of a ninny. Ricollec' Jedge Robinson, he used to have
one of 'em--jest about the size o' this one--two goblets an' a
bowl--an' when I'd go up to the house on a errand for pa, time pa was
distric' coroner, the jedge's mother-in-law, ol' Mis' Meredy, she'd be
settin' in the back room a-sewin,' an' when the black gal would let me
in the front door she'd sort o' whisper: 'Invite him to walk into the
parlor and be seated.' I'd overhear her say it, an' I'd turn into the
parlor, an' first thing I'd see'd be that ice-pitcher. I don't think
anybody can _set down_ good, noways, when they're ast to 'be seated,'
an' when, in addition to that, I'd meet the swingin' ice-pitcher half
way to the patent rocker, I didn't have no mo' consciousness where I
was a-settin' than nothin'. An' like ez not the rocker'd squawk first
strain I put on it. She wasn't no mo'n a sort o' swingin' ice-pitcher
herself, ol' Mis' Meredy wasn't--walkin' round the house weekdays
dressed in black silk, with a lace cap on her head, an' half insultin'
his company thet he'd knowed all his life. I did threaten once-t to
tell her, 'No, thank you, ma'am, I don't keer to be seated--but I'll
_set down_ ef it's agreeable,' but when the time would come I'd turn
round an' there'd be the ice-pitcher. An' after that I couldn't be
expected to do nothin' but back into the parlor over the Brussels
carpet an' chaw my hat-brim. But, of co'se, I was young then.

"Reckon you've heerd the tale they tell on Aleck Turnbull the day he
went there in the old lady's time. She had him ast into the cushioned
sanctuary--an' Aleck hadn't seen much them days--an' what did he do but
gawk around an' plump hisself down into that gilt-backed rocker with a
tune-playin' seat in it, an', of co'se, quick ez his weight struck it,
it started up a jig tune, an' they say Aleck shot out o' that door like
ez ef he'd been fired out of a cannon. An' he never did go back to say
what he come after. I doubt ef he ever knew.

"How much did you say for the ice-pitcher, Rowton? Thirty dollars--an'
you'll let me have it for--hush, now, don't say that. I don't see how
you could stand so close to it an' offer to split dollars. Of co'se
I ain't a-buyin' it, but ef I was I wouldn't want no reduction on it,
I'd feel like ez ef it would always know it an' have a sort of contemp'
for me. They's suitableness in all things. Besides, I never want no
reduction on anything I buy for _her_, someways. You can charge me
reg'lar prices an' make it up on the Christmas gif' she buys for
me--that is, ef she buys it from you. Of co'se it'll be charged.
That's a mighty purty coral broach, that grape-bunch one, but she's
so pink-complected, I don't know ez she'd become it. I like this
fish-scale set, myself, but she might be prejerdyced ag'in' the idee
of it. You say she admired that hand-merror, an' this pair o'
side-combs--an' she 'lowed she'd git 'em fur my Christmus gif' ef she
dared? But, of co'se, she was jokin' about that. Poor little thing, she
ain't never got over the way folks run her about that side-saddle she
give me last Christmus, though I never did see anything out o' the way
in it. She knew thet the greatest pleasure o' my life was in makin' her
happy, and she was jest simple-hearted enough to do it--that's all--an'
I can truly say thet I ain't never had mo' pleasure out of a Christmus
gif' in my life than I've had out o' that side-saddle. She's been so
consistent about it--never used it in her life without a-borryin' it of
me, an' she does it so cunnin'. Of co'se I don't never loand it to her
without a kiss. They ain't a cunnin'er play-actor on earth 'n she is,
though she ain't never been to a theatre--an' wouldn't go, bein' too
well raised.

"You say this pitcher wasn't there when she was here--no, for ef it had
'a' been, I know she'd 'a' took on over it. Th' ain't never been one
for sale in Simpkinsville before. They've been several of 'em brought
here by families besides the one old Mis' Meredy presided over--though
that was one o' the first. But wife is forever a-pickin' out purty
patterns of 'em in the catalogues. Ef that one hadn't 'a' give me such
a setback in my early youth I'd git her this, jest to please her. Ef I
was to buy this one, it an' the plush album would set each other off
lovely. She's a-buyin' _it_ on instalments from the same man thet
enlarged her photograph to a' ile-painted po'trait, an' it's a dandy!
She's got me a-settin' up on the front page, took with my first wife,
which it looks to me thet if she'd do that much to please me, why, I
might buy almost anything to please her, don't it? Of co'se I don't
take no partic'lar pleasure in that photograph--but she seems to think
I might, an' no doubt she's put it there to show thet she ain't
small-minded. You ricollec' Mary Jane was plain-featured, but Kitty
don't seem to mind that ez much ez I do, now thet she's gone an' her
good deeds ain't in sight. I never did see no use in throwin' a
plain-featured woman's looks up to her _post mortem_.

"This is a mighty purty pitcher, in my judgment, but to tell the truth
I've made so much fun o' the few swingin' pitchers thet's been in this
town that I'd be ashamed to buy it, even ef I could git over my own
obnoxion to it. But of co'se, ez you say, everybody'd know thet I done
it jest to please her--an' I don't know thet they's a more worthy object
in a married man's life than that.

"I s'pose I'll haf to git it for her. An' I want a bold, outspoke
dedication on it, Rowton. I ain't a-goin' about it shamefaced. Here,
gimme that pencil. Now, I want this inscription on it, word for word.
I've got to stop over at Paul's to git him to regulate my watch, an'
I'll tell him to hurry an' mark it for me, soon ez you send it over.

"Well, so long. Happy Christmus to you an' yo' folks.

"Say, Rowton, wrap up that little merror an' them side-combs an' send
'em along, too, please. So long!"


Part II

_Time_:  Same morning.
_Plate_: Store in Washington.

_Second Monologue, by Mrs. Trimble_:


"Why, howdy, Mis' Blakes--howdy, Mis' Phemie--howdy, all. Good-mornin',
Mr. Lawson. I see yo' sto'e is fillin' up early. Great minds run in the
same channel, partic'larly on Christmus Eve.

"My old man started off this mornin' befo' day, an' soon ez he got out
o' sight down the Simpkinsville road, I struck out for Washin'ton, an'
here I am. He thinks I'm home seedin' raisins. He was out by starlight
this mornin' with the big wagon, an', of co'se, I know what that means.
He's gone for my Christmus gif', an' I'm put to it to know what
tremenjus thing he's a-layin' out to fetch me--thet takes a cotton-wagon
to haul it. Of co'se I imagine everything, from a guyaskutus down. I
always did like to git things too big to go in my stockin'. What you
say, Mis' Blakes? Do I hang up my stockin'? Well, I reckon. I hadn't
quit when I got married, an' I think that's a poor time to stop, don't
you? Partic'larly when you marry a man twice-t yo' age, an' can't
convince him thet you're grown, noways. Yas, indeedy, that stockin' goes
up to-night--not mine, neither, but one I borry from Aunt Jane Peters. I
don't wonder y' all laugh. Aunt Jane's foot is a yard long ef it's a'
inch, but I'll find it stuffed to-morrer mornin', even ef the guyaskutus
has to be chained to the mantel. An' it'll take me a good hour to empty
it, for he always puts a lot o' devilment in it, an' I give him a
beatin' over the head every nonsensical thing I find in it. We have a
heap o' fun over it, though.

"He don't seem to know I'm grown, an' I know I don't know he's old.

"Listen to me runnin' on, an' you all nearly done yo' shoppin'. Which do
you think would be the nicest to give him, Mr. Lawson--this silver
card-basket, or that Cupid vase, or--?

"Y' all needn't to wink. I seen you, Mis' Blakes. Ef I was to pick out a
half dozen socks for him like them you're a-buyin' for Mr. Blakes, how
much fun do you suppose we'd have out of it? Not much. I'd jest ez lief
'twasn't Christmus--an' so would he--though they do say his first wife
give him a bolt o' domestic once-t for Christmus, an' made it up into
night-shirts an' things for him du'in' the year. Think of it. No, I'm
a-goin' to git him somethin' thet's got some git-up to it, an'--an'
it'll be either--that--Cupid vase--or--lordy, Mr. Lawson, don't fetch
out that swingin' ice-pitcher. I glimpsed it quick ez I come in the
door, an', says I, 'Get thee behind me, Satan,' an' turned my back on it
immejiate.

"But of co'se I ca'culated to git you to fetch it out jest for me to
look at, after I'd selected his present. Ain't it a beauty? Seems to me
they couldn't be a more suitable present for a man--ef he didn't hate
'em so. No, Mis' Blakes, it ain't only thet he don't never drink
ice-water. I wouldn't mind a little thing like that.

"You ricollec' ol' Mis' Meredy, she used to preside over one thet they
had, an' somehow he taken a distaste to her an' to ice-pitchers along
with her, an' he don't never lose a chance to express his disgust. When
them new folks was in town last year projec'in' about the railroad, he
says to me, 'I hope they won't stay, they'd never suit Simpkinsville on
earth. They're the regular swingin' ice-pitcher sort. Git folks like
that in town an' it wouldn't be no time befo' they'd start a-chargin'
pew rent in our churches.' We was both glad when they give out thet they
wasn't a-goin' to build the road. They say railroads is mighty
corrupting an' me, with my sick headaches, an' a' ingine whistle in
town, no indeed! Besides, ef it was to come I know I'd be the first one
run over. It's bad enough to have bulls in our fields without turnin'
steam-ingines loose on us. Jest one look at them cow-ketchers is enough
to frustrate a person till he'd stand stock still an' wait to be run
over--jest like poor crazy Mary done down here to Cedar Springs.

"They say crazy Mary looked that headlight full in the face, jes' the
same ez a bird looks at a snake, till the thing caught her, an' when the
long freight train had passed over her she didn't have a single remain,
not a one, though I always thought they might've gethered up enough to
give her a funeral. When I die I intend to have a funeral, even if I'm
drownded at sea. They can stand on the sho'e, an' I'll be jest ez likely
to know it ez them thet lay in view lookin' so ca'm. I've done give him
my orders, though they ain't much danger o' me dyin' at sea, not ef we
stay in Simpkinsville.

"How much are them willer rockers, Mr. Lawson? I declare that one favors
my old man ez it sets there, even without him in it. Nine dollars?
That's a good deal for a pants'-tearin' chair, seems to me, which them
willers are, the last one of 'em, an' I'm a mighty poor hand to darn.
Jest let me lay my stitches in colors, in the shape of a flower, an' I
can darn ez well ez the next one, but I do despise to fill up holes jest
to be a-fillin'. Yes, ez you say, them silver-mounted brier-wood pipes
is mighty purty, but he smokes so much ez it is, I don't know ez I want
to encourage him. Besides, it seems a waste o' money to buy a Christmus
gif' thet a person has to lay aside when company comes in, an' a
silver-mounted pipe ain't no politer to smoke in the presence o' ladies
than a corncob is. An' ez for when we're by ourselves--shucks.

"Ef you don't mind, Mr. Lawson, I'll stroll around through the sto'e
an' see what you've got while you wait on some o' them thet know their
own minds. I know mine well enough. _What I want_ is _that swingin'
ice-pitcher_, an' my judgment tells me thet they ain't a more suitable
present in yo' sto'e for a settled man thet has built hisself a
residence an' furnished it complete the way _he_ has, but of co'se
'twouldn't never do. I always think how I'd enjoy it when the minister
called. I wonder what Mr. Lawson thinks o' me back here a-talkin' to
myself. I always like to talk about the things I'm buyin'. That's a
mighty fine saddle-blanket, indeed it is. He was talkin' about a new
saddle-blanket the other day. But that's a thing a person could pick up
almost any day, a saddle-blanket is. A' ice-pitcher now--

"Say, Mr. Lawson, lemme look at that tiltin'-pitcher again, please,
sir. I jest want to see ef the spout is gold-lined. Yes, so it is--an'
little holes down in the throat of it, too. It cert'n'y is well made,
it cert'n'y is. I s'pose them holes is to strain out grasshoppers or
anything thet might fall into it. That musician thet choked to death at
the barbecue down at Pump Springs last summer might 'a' been livin' yet
ef they'd had sech ez this to pass water in, instid o' that open pail.
_He's_ got a mighty keerless way o' drinkin' out o' open dippers, too.
No tellin' what he'll scoop up some day. They'd be great safety for him
in a pitcher like this--ef I could only make him see it. It would seem
a sort o' awkward thing to pack out to the well every single time, an'
he won't drink no water but what he draws fresh. An' I s'pose it would
look sort o' silly to put it in here jest to drink it out again.

"Sir? Oh yes, I saw them saddle-bags hang-in' up back there, an' they
are fine, mighty fine, ez you say, an' his are purty near wo'e out, but
lordy, I don't want to buy a Christmus gif' thet's hung up in the
harness-room half the time. What's that you say? Won't you all never
git done a-runnin' me about that side-saddle? You can't pleg me about
that. I got it for his pleasure, ef it was for my use, an', come to
think about it, I'd be jest reversin' the thing on the pitcher. It
would be for his use an' my pleasure. I wish I could see my way to buy
it for him. Both goblets go with it, you say--an' the slop bowl? It
cert'n'y is handsome--it cert'n'y is. An' it's expensive--nobody could
accuse me o' stintin' 'im. Wonder why they didn't put some polar bears
on the goblets, too. They'd 'a' had to be purty small bears, but they
could 'a' been cubs, easy.

"I don't reely believe, Mr. Lawson, indeed I don't, thet I could find a
mo' suitable present for him ef I took a month, an' I don't keer what
he's a-pickin' out for me this minute, it can't be no handsomer 'n
this. Th' ain't no use--I'll haf to have it--for 'im. Jest charge it,
please, an' now I want it marked. I'll pay cash for the markin', out of
my egg money. An' I want his full name. Have it stamped on the iceberg
right beside the bear. 'Ephraim N. Trimble.' No, you needn't to spell
out the middle name. I should say not. Ef you knew what it was you
wouldn't ask me. Why, it's Nebuchadnezzar. It'd use up the whole
iceberg. Besides, I couldn't never think o' Nebuchadnezzar there an'
not a spear o' grass on the whole lan'scape. You needn't to laugh. I
know it's silly, but I always think o' sech ez that. No, jest write it,
'Ephraim N. Trimble, from his wife, Kitty.' Be sure to put in the
Kitty, so in after years it'll show which wife give it to him. Of
co'se, them thet knew us both would know which one. Mis' Mary Jane
wouldn't never have approved of it in the world. Why, she used to rip
up her old crocheted tidies an' things an' use 'em over in bastin'
thread, so they tell me. She little dremp' who she was a-savin' for,
poor thing. She was buyin' this pitcher then, but she didn't know it.
But I keep a-runnin' on. Go on with the inscription, Mr. Lawson. What
have you got? 'From his wife, Kitty'--what's the matter with
'affectionate wife'? You say affectionate is a purty expensive word?
But 'lovin'' 'll do jest ez well, an' it comes cheaper, you say? An'
plain 'wife' comes cheapest of all? An' I don't know but what it's mo'
suitable, anyhow--at his age. Of co'se, you must put in the date, an'
make the 'Kitty' nice an' fancy, please. Lordy, well, the deed's
done--an' I reckon he'll threaten to divo'ce me when he sees it--till
he reads the inscription. Better put in the 'lovin',' I reckon, an' put
it in capitals--they don't cost no more, do they? Well, goodbye, Mr.
Lawson, I reckon you'll be glad to see me go. I've outstayed every last
one thet was here when I come. Well, good-bye! Have it marked
immediate, please, an' I'll call back in an hour. Good-bye, again!"


Part III

When old man Trimble stood before the fireplace at midnight that night,
stuffing little parcels into the deep, borrowed stocking, he chuckled
noiselessly, and glanced with affection towards the corner of the room
where his young wife lay sleeping. He was a fat old man, and as he stood
with shaking sides in his loose, home-made pajamas, he would have done
credit to a more conscious impersonation of old Santa himself.

His task finally done, he glanced down at a tall bundle that stood on
the floor almost immediately in front of him, moved back with his hands
resting on his hips, and thoughtfully surveyed it.

"Well, ef anybody had 'a' told it on me I never would 'a' believed it,"
he said, under his breath. "The idee o' me, Ephe Trimble, settin' up
sech a thing ez that in his house--at my time o' life." Then, glancing
towards the sleeper, he added, with a chuckle, "an' ef they'd 'a'
prophesied it I wouldn't 'a' believed sech ez _thet_, neither--at
my time o' life--bless her little curly head."

He sat down on the floor beside the bundle, clipped the twine, and
cautiously pushed back the wrappings. Then, rising, he carefully set
each piece of the water-set up above the stocking on the mantel. He did
not stop to examine it. He was anxious to get it in place without noise.

It made a fine show, even in the dim, unsteady light of the single taper
that burned in its tumbler of oil close beside the bed. Indeed, when it
arose in all its splendor, he was very much impressed.

"A thing like that ought to have a chandelier to set it off right," he
thought--"yas, and she'll have one, too--she'll have anything she
wants--thet I can give her."

Sleep came slowly to the old man that night, and even long after his
eyes were closed, the silver things seemed arrayed in line upon his
mental retina. And when, after a long while, he fell into a troubled
slumber, it was only to dream. And in his dream old Judge Robinson's
mother-in-law seemed to come and stand before him--black dress, side
curls, and all--and when he looked at her for the first time in his life
unabashed--she began to bow, over and over again, and to say with each
salutation, "Be seated"--"be seated"--"be seated," getting farther and
farther away with each bow until she was a mere speck in the
distance--and then the speck became a spot of white, and he saw that the
old lady had taken on a spout and a handle, and that she was only an
ice-pitcher, tilting, and tilting, and tilting--while from the yellow
spout came a fine metallic voice saying, "Be seated"--"be seated"--again
and again. Then there would be a change. Two ladies would appear
approaching each other and retreating--turning into two ice-pitchers,
tilting to each other, then passing from tilting pitchers to bowing
ladies, until sometimes there seemed almost to be a pitcher and a lady
in view at the same time. When he began to look for them both at once
the dream became tantalizing. Twin ladies and twin pitchers--but never
quite clearly a lady and a pitcher. Even while the vision tormented him
it held him fast--perhaps because he was tired, having lost his first
hours of sleep.

He was still sleeping soundly, spite of the dissolving views of the
novel panorama, when above the two voices that kept inviting him to "be
seated," there arose, in muffled tones at first, and then with
distressing distinctness, a sound of sobbing. It made the old man turn
on his pillow even while he slept, for it was the voice of a woman, and
he was tender of heart. It seemed in the dream and yet not of it--this
awful, suppressed sobbing that disturbed his slumber, but was not quite
strong enough to break it. But presently, instead of the muffled sob,
there came a cumulative outburst, like that of a too hard-pressed
turkey-gobbler forced to the wall. He thought it was the old black
gobbler at first, and he even said, "Shoo," as he sprang from his bed.
But a repetition of the sound sent him bounding through the open door
into the dining-room, dazed and trembling.

Seated beside the dining-table there, with her head buried in her arms,
sat his little wife. Before her, ranged in line upon the table, stood
the silver water-set--her present to him. He was beside her in a
moment--leaning over her, his arms about her shoulders.

"Why, honey," he exclaimed, "what on earth--"

At this she only cried the louder. There was no further need for
restraint. The old man scratched his head. He was very much distressed.

"Why, honey," he repeated, "tell its old man all about it. Didn't it
like the purty pitcher thet its old husband bought for it? Was it too
big--or too little--or too heavy for it to tote all the way out here
from that high mantel? Why didn't it wake up its lazy ol' man and make
him pack it out here for it?"

It was no use. She was crying louder than ever. He did not know what to
do. He began to be cold and he saw that she was shivering. There was no
fire in the dining-room. He must do something. "Tell its old man what it
would 'a' ruther had," he whispered in her ear, "jest tell him, ef it
don't like its pitcher--"

At this she made several efforts to speak, her voice breaking in real
turkey-gobbler sobs each time, but finally she managed to wail:

"It ain't m-m-m-mi-i-i-ne!"

"Not yours! Why, honey. What can she mean? Did it think I bought it for
anybody else? Ain't yours! Well, I like that. Lemme fetch that lamp over
here till you read the writin' on the side of it, an' I'll show you
whose it is." He brought the lamp.

"Read that, now. Why, honey! Wh--wh--wh--what in thunder an' lightnin'!
They've done gone an' reversed it. The fool's put my name first--'
Ephraim N. Trimble. From--his--'

"Why, Jerusalem jinger!

"No wonder she thought I was a low-down dog--to buy sech a thing an'
mark it in my own name--no wonder--here on Christmus, too. The idee o'
Rowton not seein' to it thet it was done right--"

By this time the little woman had somewhat recovered herself. Still, she
stammered fearfully.

"R-r-r-owton ain't never s-s-s-saw that pitcher. It come from
L-l-l-awson's, d-d-down at Washin'ton, an' I b-bought it for y-y-y-you!"

"Why, honey--darlin'--" A sudden light came into the old man's eyes. He
seized the lamp and hurried to the door of the bed-chamber, and looked
in. This was enough. Perhaps it was mean--but he could not help it--he
set the lamp down on the table, dropped into a chair, and fairly howled
with laughter.

"No wonder I dremp' ol' Mis' Meredy was twins!" he screamed. "Why,
h-h-honey," he was nearly splitting his old sides--"why, honey, I ain't
seen a thing but these two swingin' pitchers all night. They've been
dancin' before me--them an' what seemed like a pair o' ol' Mis' Meredys,
an' between 'em all I ain't slep' a wink."

"N-n-either have I. An' I dremp' about ol' Mis' M-m-m-eredy, too. I
dremp' she had come to live with us--an' thet y-y-you an' me had moved
into the back o' the house. That's why I got up. I couldn't sleep easy,
an' I thought I might ez well git up an' see wh-wh-what you'd brought
me. But I didn't no mor'n glance at it. But you can't say you didn't
sleep, for you was a-s-s-snorin' when I come out here--"

"An' so was you, honey, when I 'ranged them things on the mantel. Lemme
go an' git the other set an' compare 'em. That one I picked out is
mighty purty."

"I'll tell you befo' you fetch 'em thet they're exactly alike"--she
began to cry again--"even to the p-p-polar bear. I saw that at a glance,
an' it makes it s-s-so much more ridic'--"

"Hush, honey. I'm reely ashamed of you--I reely am. Seems to me ef
they're jest alike, so much the better. What's the matter with havin' a
pair of 'em? We might use one for buttermilk."

"Th-that would be perfectly ridiculous. A polar bear'd look like a fool
on a buttermilk pitcher. N-n-no, the place for pitchers like them is in
halls, on tables, where anybody comin' in can see 'em an' stop an' git a
drink. They couldn't be nothin' tackier'n pourin' buttermilk out of a'
ice-pitcher."

"Of co'se, if you say so, we won't--I jest thought maybe--or, I tell you
what we might do. I could easy take out a panel o' banisters out of the
side po'ch, an' put in a pair o' stairsteps, so ez to make a sort o'
side entrance to the house, an' we could set one of 'em in _it_. It
would make the pitcher come a little high, of co'se, but it would set
off that side o' the house lovely, an' ef you say so--

"Lemme go git 'em all out here together."

As he trudged in presently loaded up with the duplicate set he said, "I
wonder ef you know what time it is, wife?"

She glanced over her shoulder at the clock on the wall.

"Don't look at that. It's six o'clock last night by that. I forgot to
wind her up. No. It's half-past three o'clock--that's all it is." By
this time he had placed his water-set beside hers upon the table. "Why,
honey," he exclaimed, "where on earth? I don't see a sign of a'
inscription on this--an' what is this paper in the spout? Here, you read
it, wife, I ain't got my specs."

    "'Too busy to mark to-day--send back after Christmas--sorry.

    ROWTON.'"

"Why, it--an' here's another paper. What can this be, I wonder?"

    "'To my darling wife, from her affectionate husband.'"

The little wife colored as she read it.

"Oh, that ain't nothin' but the motter he was to print on it. But ain't
it lucky thet he didn't do it? I'll change it--that's what I'll do--for
anything you say. There, now. Don't that fix it?"

She was very still for a moment--very thoughtful. "An' affectionate is a
mighty expensive word, too," she said, slowly, glancing over the
intended inscription, in her husband's handwriting. "Yes. Your pitcher
don't stand for a thing but generosity--an' mine don't mean a thing but
selfishness. Yes, take it back, cert'nly, that is ef you'll get me
anything I want for it. Will you?"

"Shore. They's a cow-topped butter-dish an' no end o' purty little
things out there you might like. An' ef it's goin' back, it better be
a-goin'. I can ride out to town an' back befo' breakfast. Come, kiss me,
wife."

She threw both arms around her old husband's neck, and kissed him on one
cheek and then on the other. Then she kissed his lips. And then, as she
went for pen and paper, she said: "Hurry, now, an' hitch up, an' I'll be
writin' down what I want in exchange--an' you can put it in yo' pocket."

In a surprisingly short time the old man was on his way--a heaped basket
beside him, a tiny bit of writing in his pocket. When he had turned into
the road he drew rein for a moment, lit a match, and this is what he
read:

    "MY DEAR HUSBAND,--I want one silver-mounted brier-wood pipe and
    a smoking set--a nice lava one--and I want a set of them fine
    overhauls like them that Mis Pope give Mr. Pope that time I said
    she was too extravagant, and if they's any money left over I want
    some nice tobacco, the best. I want all the price of the ice-set
    took up even to them affectionate words they never put on.

    "Your affectionate and loving wife,

    "KITTY."

When Ephraim put the little note back in his pocket, he took out his
handkerchief and wiped his eyes.

Her good neighbors and friends, even as far as Simpkinsville and
Washington, had their little jokes over Mis' Trimble's giving her
splendor-despising husband a swinging ice-pitcher, but they never knew
of the two early trips of the twin pitcher, nor of the midnight comedy
in the Trimble home.

But the old man often recalls it, and as he sits in his front hall
smoking his silver-mounted pipe, and shaking its ashes into the lava
bowl that stands beside the ice-pitcher at his elbow, he sometimes
chuckles to himself.

Noticing his shaking shoulders as he sat thus one day his wife turned
from the window, where she stood watering her geraniums, and said:

"What on earth are you a-laughin' at, honey?" (She often calls him
"honey" now.)

"How did you know I was a-laughin'?" He looked over his shoulder at her
as he spoke.

"Why, I seen yo' shoulders a-shakin'--that's how." And then she added,
with a laugh, "An' now I see yo' reflection in the side o' the
ice-pitcher, with a zig-zag grin on you a mile long--yo' smile just
happened to strike a iceberg."

He chuckled again.

"Is that so? Well, the truth is, I'm just sort o' tickled over things in
general, an' I'm a-settin' here gigglin', jest from pure contentment."



A MINOR CHORD


I am an old bachelor, and I live alone in my corner upper room of an
ancient house of _Chambres garnies_, down on the lower edge of the
French quarter of New Orleans.

When I made my nest here, forty years ago, I felt myself an old man, and
the building was even then a dilapidated old rookery, and since then
we--the house and I--have lapsed physically with the decline of the
neighborhood about us, until now our only claims to gentility are
perhaps our memories and our reserves.

The habit of introspection formed by so isolated an existence tends to
develop morbid views of life, and throws one out of sympathetic
relations with the world of progress, we are told; but is there not some
compensation for this in the acquisition of finer and more subtle
perception of things hidden from the social, laughing, hurrying world?
So it seems to me, and even though the nicer discernment bring pain, as
it often does--as all refinement must--who would yield it for a grosser
content resulting from a duller vision?

To contemplate the procession that passes daily beneath my window, with
its ever-shifting pictures of sorrow, of decrepitude ill-matched with
want, new motherhood, and mendicancy, with uplifted eye and palm--to
look down upon all this with only a passing sigh, as my worthy but
material fat landlady does, would imply a spiritual blindness infinitely
worse than the pang which the keener perception induces.

There are in this neighborhood of moribund pretensions a few special
objects which strike a note of such sadness in my heart that the most
exquisite pain ensues--a pain which seems almost bodily, such as those
for which we take physic; yet I could never confuse it with the
neuralgic dart which it so nearly resembles, so closely does it follow
the sight or sound which I know induces it.

There is a young lawyer who passes twice a day beneath my window.... I
say he is young, for all the moving world is young to me, at eighty--and
yet he seems old at five-and-forty, for his temples are white.

I know this man's history. The only son of a proud house, handsome,
gifted--even somewhat of a poet in his youth--he married a soulless
woman, who began the ruin which the wine-cup finished. It is an old
story. In a mad hour he forged another man's name--then, a wanderer on
the face of the earth, he drifted about with never a local habitation or
a name, until his aged father had made good the price of his honor, when
he came home--"tramped home," the world says--and, now, after years of
variable steadiness, he has built upon the wreck of his early life a
sort of questionable confidence which brings him half-averted
recognition; and every day, with the gray always glistening on his
temples and the clear profile of the past outlining itself--though the
high-bred face is low between the shoulders now--he passes beneath my
window with halting step to and from the old courthouse, where, by
virtue of his father's position, he holds a minor office.

Almost within a stone's throw of my chamber this man and his aged
father--the latter now a hopeless paralytic--live together in the ruins
of their old home.

Year by year the river, by constant cavings, has swallowed nearly all
its extensive grounds, yet beyond the low-browed Spanish cottage that
clings close within the new levee, "the ghost of a garden" fronts the
river. Here, amid broken marbles--lyreless Apollos, Pegasus bereft of
wings, and prostrate Muses--the hardier roses, golden-rod, and
honeysuckle run riot within the old levee, between the comings of the
waters that at intervals steal in and threaten to swallow all at a gulp.

The naked old house, grotesquely guarded by the stately skeleton of a
moss-grown oak, is thus bereft, by the river in front and the public
road at its back, of all but the bare fact of survival.

No visitor ever enters here; but in the summer evenings two old men may
be seen creeping with difficult steps from its low portal up to the brow
of the bank, where they sit in silence and watch the boats go by.

The picture is not devoid of pathos, and even the common people whisper
together as they look upon the figures of father and son sitting in the
moonlight; and no one likes to pass the door at night, for there are
grewsome tales of ghosts afloat, in which decapitated statues are said
to stalk about the old garden at nightfall.

A sigh always escapes me as I look upon this desolate scene; but it is
not now, but when the old-young man, the son, passes my door each day,
carrying in his pale hands a bunch of flowers which he keeps upon his
desk in the little back office, that my mysterious pain possesses me.

Why does this hope-forsaken man carry a bunch of flowers? Is it the
surviving poet within him that finds companionship in them, or does he
seem to see in their pure hearts, as in a mirror, a reflection of his
own sinless youth?

These questions I cannot answer; but every day, as he passes with the
flowers, I follow him with fascinated eye until he is quite lost in the
distance, my heart rent the while with this incisive pain.

Finally, he is lost to view. The dart passes through and out my breast,
and, as I turn, my eye falls upon a pretty rose-garden across the way,
where live a mother and her two daughters.

                  *          *          *          *

Seventeen years ago this woman's husband--the father--went away and
never returned. The daughters are grown, and they are poor. The elder
performs some clerical work up in Canal Street, and I love to watch her
trig little figure come and go--early and late.

The younger, who is fairer, has a lover, and the two sit together on a
little wrought-iron bench, or gather roses from the box-bordered beds in
the small inland garden, which lies behind the moss-grown wall and
battened gate; and sometimes the mother comes out and smiles upon the
pair.

The mother is a gentlewoman, and though she wears a steel thimble with
an open top, like a tailor's, and her finger is pricked with the needle,
she walks and smiles, even waters her roses, with a lady's grace; but it
seems to me that the pretty pink daughter's lover is less a gentleman
than this girl's lover should be--less than her grandfather must have
been when he courted her grandmother in this same rose-garden--less than
this maid's lover would be if her father had not gone to India, and her
mother did not sew seams for a living.

As I sit and watch this peaceful fragment of a family, my heart seems to
find repose in its apparent content; but late at night, when the lover
has gone and the mother and daughters are asleep, when I rise to close
my shutters I perceive, between the parted curtains in the mother's
window, a light dimly burning. When I see this beacon in the deserted
wife's chamber, and remember that I have seen it burning there, like the
faint but steadfast hope that refuses to be extinguished, for seventeen
years, the pain of pains comes into my heart.

                  *          *          *          *

There is a little old man with a hump upon his shoulder who passes often
in the crowd, and a sight of him always awakens this pain within me.

It is not the tragedy of senility which his extreme age pictures, nor
yet the hump upon his back, which stirs my note of pain.

Years ago this man left his wife, for a price, to another who had
betrayed her, and disappeared from the scene of his ignominy. When the
woman was dead and her betrayer gone, the husband came back, an old man;
and now, as I see him bending beneath its weight, the hump upon his
shoulder seems to be labelled with this price which, in my imagination,
though originally the bag of gold, has by a slow and chemically
unexplained process of ossification, become a part of himself, and will
grotesquely deform his skeleton a hundred years to come. When, morning
and evening, I see this old man trudge laboriously, staggering always
towards the left, down the street, until he disappears in the clump of
willows that overshadow the cemetery gate, and I know that he is going
for a lonely vigil to the grave of the dishonored woman, his lost wife,
pain, keen as a Damascus blade, enters my heart.

                  *          *          *          *

I close my window and come in, for the night dews are falling and I am
rheumatic and stiff in the legs.

So, every night, musing, I go early to my bed, but before I lie down,
after my prayer is said, I rise to put fresh water in the vase of
flowers, which are always fresh, beneath the picture upon my wall.

For one moment I stand and gaze into a pure, girlish face, with a pallid
brow and far-away blue eyes.

She was only fifteen years old, and I twice as many, when we quarrelled
like foolish children.

The day she married my brother--my youngest, best-beloved brother
Benjamin--I laid this miniature, face downward, in a secret drawer of my
desk.

In the first year she died, and in another Benjamin had taken to himself
a new wife, with merrier eyes and ruddier lips.

My heart leaped within me when I kissed my new sister, but she knew not
that my joy was because she was giving me back my love.

Trembling with ecstasy, I took this image from its hiding-place, and for
nearly fifty years the flowers beneath it have not withered.

As I stood alone here one night, ere I knew he had entered, my little
brother's hand was upon my shoulder. For a moment only he was silent,
awe-stricken.

"She was always yours, my brother," he said, presently, in a tremulous
whisper. "I did not know until it was too late. She had
misunderstood--but God was very merciful," and turning he left her to
me.

And still each day I lay fresh flowers at her shrine, cherishing the
dart that rends my heart the while, for its testimony to the immortality
of my passion.

Do you smile because a trembling old man feasts his failing eyes on a
fair woman's face and prates of love and flowers and beauty? Smile if
you will, but if you do it is because you, being of the earth, cannot
understand.

These things are of the spirit; and palsy and rheumatism and waning
strength are of the flesh, which profiteth nothing.


THE END





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