Part 4 out of 6
Then it struck me mebby it is jest different parts
of the same story I been hearing of, and Martha
had got her part a little wrong.
"George," I says, "what did you say Miss Lucy
Buckner's gran-dad's name was?"
"Kunnel Hampton--des de same as MY Miss
Lucy befo' SHE done ma'hied Marse Willyum."
That made me sure of it. It was the same woman.
She had run away with David Armstrong from this
here same neighbourhood. Then after he got her
up North he had left her--or her left him. And
then she wasn't Miss Buckner no longer. And she
was mad and wouldn't call herself Mrs. Armstrong.
So she moved away from where any one was lible
to trace her to, and took her mother's maiden
name, which was Hampton.
"Well," I says, "what ever become of 'em after
they run off, George?"
But George has told about all he knows. They
went North, according to what everybody thinks,
he says. Prent McMakin, he follered and hunted.
And Col. Tom Buckner, he done the same. Fur
about a year Colonel Tom, he was always making
trips away from there to the North. But whether
he ever got any track of his sister and that David
Armstrong nobody knowed. Nobody never asked
him. Old Colonel Hampton, he grieved and he
grieved, and not long after the runaway he up and
died. And Tom Buckner, he finally sold all he
owned in that part of the country and moved
further south. George said he didn't rightly know
whether it was Alabama or Florida. Or it might
of been Georgia.
I thinks to myself that mebby Mrs. Davis would
like to know where her niece is, and that I better
tell her about Miss Hampton being in that there
little Indiany town, and where it is. And then I
thinks to myself I better not butt in. Fur Miss
Hampton has likely got her own reasons fur keeping
away from her folks, or else she wouldn't do it.
Anyhow, it's none of MY affair to bring the subject
up to 'em. It looks to me like one of them things
George has been gassing about--one of them
things that has settled itself, and it ain't fur me to
meddle and unsettle it.
It set me to thinking about Martha, too. Not
that I hadn't thought of her lots of times. I had
often thought I would write her. But I kept putting
it off, and purty soon I kind of forgot Martha. I
had seen a lot of different girls of all kinds since I
had seen Martha. Yet, whenever I happened to
think of Martha, I had always liked her best. Only
moving around the country so much makes it kind
of hard to keep thinking steady of the same girl.
Besides, I had lost that there half of a ring,
But knowing what I did now about Miss Hampton
being Miss Buckner--or Mrs. Armstrong--and
related to these Davises made me want to get away
from there. Fur that secret made me feel kind of
sneaking, like I wasn't being frank and open with
them. Yet if I had of told 'em I would of felt
sneakinger yet fur giving Miss Hampton away.
I never got into a mix up that-a-way betwixt my
conscience and my duty but what it made me feel
awful uncomfortable. So I guessed I would light
out from there. They wasn't never no kinder,
better people than them Davises, either. They
was so pleased with my bringing Bud home the night
he was shot they would of jest natcherally give
me half their farm if I had of ast them fur it. They
wanted me to stay there--they didn't say fur how
long, and I guess they didn't give a dern. But I
was in a sweat to ketch up with Doctor Kirby
I made purty good time, and in a couple of
days I was in Atlanta. I knowed the doctor
must of gone back into some branch of the
medicine game--the bottles told me that. I
knowed it must be something that he needed some
special kind of bottles fur, too, or he wouldn't
of had them shipped all that distance, but would of
bought them nearer. I seen I was a dern fool fur
rushing off and not inquiring what kind of bottles,
so I could trace what he was into easier.
It's hard work looking fur a man in a good-sized
town. I hung around hotel lobbies and places till
I was tired of it, thinking he might come in. And
I looked through all the office buildings and read
all the advertisements in the papers. Then the
second day I was there the state fair started up
and I went out to it.
I run acrost a couple I knowed out there the
first thing--it was Watty and the snake-charmer
woman. Only she wasn't charming them now.
Her and Watty had a Parisian Models' show. I
ast Watty where Dolly was. He says he don't
know, that Dolly has quit him. By which I guess
he means he has quit her. I ast where Reginald is,
and the Human Ostrich. But from the way they
answered my questions I seen I wasn't welcome
none around there. I suppose that Mrs. Ostrich
and Watty had met up agin somewheres, and had
jest natcherally run off with each other and left
their famblies. Like as not she had left poor old
Reginald with that idiotic ostrich feller to sell to
strangers that didn't know his disposition. Or
mebby by now Reginald was turned loose in the
open country to shift fur himself, among wild
snakes that never had no human education nor
experience; and what chancet would a friendly
snake like Reginald have in a gang like that? Some
women has jest simply got no conscience at all
about their husbands and famblies, and that there
Mrs. Ostrich was one of 'em.
Well, a feller can be a derned fool sometimes.
Fur all my looking around I wasted a lot of time
before I thought of going to the one natcheral
place--the freight depot of the road them bottles
had been shipped by. I had lost a week coming
down. But freight often loses more time than that.
And it was at the freight depot that I found him.
Tickled? Well, yes! Both of us.
"Well, by George," says he, "you're good for
Before he told me how he happened not to of
drownded or blowed away or anything he says
we better fix up a bit. Which he meant I better.
So he buys me duds from head to heel, and we goes
to a Turkish bath place and I puts 'em on. And
then we goes and eats. Hearty.
"Now," he says, "Fido Cut-up, how did you find
I told him about the bottles.
"A dead loss, those bottles," he says. "I wanted
some non-refillable ones for a little scheme I had
in mind, and I had to get them at a certain place
--and now the scheme's up in the air and I can't
The doctor had changed some in looks in the year
or more that had passed since I saw him floating
away in that balloon. And not fur the better.
He told me how he had blowed clean acrost Lake
Erie in that there balloon. And then when he got
over land agin and went to pull the cord that lets
the parachute loose it wouldn't work at first. He
jest natcherally drifted on into the midst of nowhere,
he said--miles and miles into Canada. When
he lit the balloon had lost so much gas and was
flying so low that the parachute didn't open out
quick enough to do much floating. So he lit hard,
and come near being knocked out fur good. But
*AUTHOR'S NOTE--Can it be that Danny struggles vaguely
to report some reference to FIDUS ACHATES?
that wasn't the worst of it, fur the exposure had
crawled into his lungs by the time he found a house,
and he got newmonia into them also, and like to
of died. Whilst I was laying sick he had been sick
also, only his'n lasted much longer.
But he tells me he has jest struck an idea fur a
big scheme. No little schemes go fur him any
more, he says. He wants money. Real money.
"How you going to get it?" I asts him.
"Come along and I'll tell you," he says. "We'll
take a walk, and I'll show you how I got my idea."
We left the restaurant and went along the brag
street of that town, which it is awful proud of,
past where the stores stops and the houses begins.
We come to a fine-looking house on a corner--a
swell place it was, with lots of palms and ferns
and plants setting on the verandah and showing
through the windows. And stables back of it;
and back of the stables a big yard with noises coming
from it like they was circus animals there. Which
I found out later they really was, kept fur pets.
You could tell the people that lived there had money.
"This," says Doctor Kirby, as we walked by,
"is the house that Jackson built. Dr. Julius Jack-
son--OLD Doctor Jackson, the man with an idea!
The idea made all the money you smell around here."
"The idea--the glorious humanitarian and
philanthropic idea--of taking the kinks and curls
out of the hair of the Afro-American brother,"
says Doctor Kirby, "at so much per kink."
This Doctor Jackson, he says, sells what he
calls Anti-Curl to the niggers. It is to straighten
out their hair so it will look like white people's
hair. They is millions and millions of niggers,
and every nigger has millions and millions of kinks,
and so Doctor Jackson has got rich at it. So rich
he can afford to keep that there personal circus
menagerie in his back yard, for his little boy to
play with, and many other interesting things. He
must be worth two, three million dollars, Doctor
Kirby says, and still a-making it, with more niggers
growing up all the time fur to have their hair un-
kinked. Especially mulattoes and yaller niggers.
Doctor Kirby says thinking what a great idea that
Anti-Curl was give him his own great idea. They
is a gold mine there, he says, and Dr. Julius Jackson
has only scratched a little off the top of it, but HE
is going to dig deeper.
"Why is it that the Afro-American brother buys
Anti-Curl?" he asts.
"Why?" I asts.
"Because," he says, "he wants to be as much
like a white man as he possibly can. He strives
to burst his birth's invidious bar, Danny. They
talk about progress and education for the Afro-
American brother, and uplift and advancement
and industrial education and manual training and
all that sort of thing. Especially we Northerners.
But what the Afro-American brother thinks about
and dreams about and longs for and prays
to be--when he thinks at all--is to be white.
Education, to his mind, is learning to talk like a
white man. Progress means aping the white man.
Religion is dying and going to heaven and being a
WHITE angel--listen to his prayers and sermons
and you'll find that out. He'll do anything he can,
or give anything he can get his Ethiopian grub-
hooks on, for something that he thinks is going to
make him more like a white man. Poor devil!
Therefore the millions of Doctor Jackson Anti-
"All this Doctor Jackson Anti-Curl has dis-
covered and thought out and acted upon. If he
had gone just one step farther the Afro-American
brother would have hailed him as a greater man
than Abraham Lincoln, or either of the Washing-
tons, George or Booker. It remains for me,
Danny--for US--to carry the torch ahead--to
take up the work where the imagination of Doctor
Jackson Anti-Curl has laid it down."
"How?" asts I.
"WE'LL PUT UP AND SELL A PREPARATION TO TURN THE
THAT was his great idea. He was more excited
over it than I ever seen him before about anything.
It sounded like so easy a way to get rich it made
me wonder why no one had ever done it before,
if it could really be worked. I didn't believe much
it could be worked.
But Doctor Kirby, he says he has begun his
experiments already, with arsenic. Arsenic, he
says, will bleach anything. Only he is kind of
afraid of arsenic, too. If he could only get hold of
something that didn't cost much, and that would
whiten them up fur a little while, he says, it wouldn't
make no difference if they did get black agin.
This here Anti-Curl stuff works like that--it
takes the kinks out fur a little while, and they come
back agin. But that don't seem to hurt the sale
none. It only calls fur MORE of Doctor Jackson's
The doctor takes me around to the place he boards
at, and shows me a nigger waiter he has been ex-
perimenting on. He had paid the nigger's fine in a
police court fur slashing another nigger some with
a knife, and kept him from going into the chain-
gang. So the nigger agreed he could use his hide
to try different kinds of medicines on. He was a
velvety-looking, chocolate-coloured kind of nigger
to start with, and the best Doctor Kirby had been
able to do so fur was to make a few little liver-
coloured spots come onto him. But it was making
the nigger sick, and the doctor was afraid to go
too fur with it, fur Sam might die and we would
be at the expense of another nigger. Peroxide of
hidergin hadn't even phased him. Nor a lot of
other things we tried onto him.
You never seen a nigger with his colour running
into him so deep as Sam's did. Sam, he was always
apologizing about it, too. You could see it made
him feel real bad to think his colour was so stubborn.
He felt like it wasn't being polite to the doctor and
me, Sam did, fur his skin to act that-a-way. He
was a willing nigger, Sam was. The doctor, he
says he will find out the right stuff if he has to start
at the letter A and work Sam through every drug
in the hull blame alphabet down to Z.
Which he finally struck it. I don't exactly know
what she had in her, but she was a mixture of some
kind. The only trouble with her was she didn't
work equal and even--left Sam's face looking
peeled and spotty in places. But still, in them
spots, Sam was six shades lighter. The doctor
says that is jest what he wants, that there passing-
look, as he calls it. The chocolate brown and the
lighter spots side by side, he says, made a regular
Before and After out of Sam's face, and was the
best advertisement you could have.
Then we goes and has a talk with Doctor Jackson
himself. Doctor Kirby has the idea mebby he
will put some money into it. Doctor Jackson was
setting on his front veranda with his chair tilted
back, and his feet, with red carpet slippers on 'em,
was on the railing, and he was smoking one of these
long black cigars that comes each one in a little
glass tube all by itself. He looks Sam over very
thoughtful, and he says:
"Yes, it will do the work well enough. I can see
that. But will it sell?"
Doctor Kirby makes him quite a speech. I never
hearn him make a better one. Doctor Jackson he
listens very calm, with his thumbs in the armholes
of his vest, and moving his eyebrows up and down
like he enjoyed it. But he don't get excited none.
Finally Doctor Kirby says he will undertake to
show that it will sell--me and him will take a trip
down into the black country ourselves and show
what can be done with it, and take Sam along fur
an object lesson.
Well, they was a lot of rag-chewing. Doctor
Jackson don't warm up none, and he asts a million
questions. Like how much it costs a bottle to
make it, and what was our idea how much it orter
sell fur. He says finally if we can sell a certain
number of bottles in so long a time he will put some
money into it. Only, he says, they will be a stock
company, and he will have to have fifty-one per
cent. of the stock, or he won't put no money into
it. He says if things go well he will let Doctor
Kirby be manager of that company, and let him
have some stock in it too, and he will be president
and treasurer of it himself.
Doctor Kirby, he didn't like that, and said so.
Said HE was going to organize that stock company,
and control it himself. But Doctor Jackson said
he never put money into nothing he couldn't run.
So it was settled we would give the stuff a try-out
and report to him. Before we went away from
there it looked to me like Doctor Kirby and me was
going to work fur this here Doctor Jackson, instead
of making all them there millions fur ourselves.
Which I didn't take much to that Anti-Curl man
myself; he was so cold-blooded like.
I didn't like the scheme itself any too well,
neither. Not any way you could look at it. In
the first place it seemed like a mean trick on the
niggers. Then I didn't much believe we could get
away with it.
The more I looked him over the more I seen
Doctor Kirby had changed considerable. When
I first knowed him he liked to hear himself talking
and he liked to live free and easy and he liked to
be running around the country and all them things,
more'n he liked to be making money. Of course,
he wanted it; but that wasn't the ONLY thing he
was into the Sagraw game fur. If he had money,
he was free with it and would help most any one
out of a hole. But he wasn't thinking it and talking
it all the time then.
But now he was thinking money and dream-
ing money and talking of nothing but how
to get it. And planning to make it out of
skinning them niggers. He didn't care a dern
how he worked on their feelings to get it. He
didn't even seem to care whether he killed Sam
trying them drugs onto him. He wanted MONEY,
and he wanted it so bad he was ready and
willing to take up with most any wild scheme
to make it.
They was something about him now that didn't
fit in much with the Doctor Kirby I had knowed.
It seemed like he had spells when he saw himself
how he had changed. He wasn't gay and joking
all the time like he had been before, neither. I
guess the doctor was getting along toward fifty
years old. I suppose he thought if he was ever
going to get anything out of his gift of the gab he
better settle down to something, and quit fooling
around, and do it right away. But it looked to
me like he might never turn the trick. Fur he was
drinking right smart all the time. Drinking made
him think a lot, and thinking was making him look
old. He was more'n one year older than he had
been a year ago.
He kept a quart bottle in his room now. The
night after we had took Sam to see Doctor Jackson
we was setting in his room, and he was hitting it
"Danny," he says to me, after a while, like he
was talking out loud to himself too, "what did you
think of Doctor Jackson?"
"I don't like him much," I says.
"Nor I," he says, frowning, and takes a drink.
Then he says, after quite a few minutes of frowning
and thinking, under his breath like: "He's a blame
sight more decent than I am, for all of that."
"Why?" I asts him.
"Because Doctor Jackson," he says, "hasn't
the least idea that he ISN'T decent, and getting his
money in a decent way. While at one time I
He breaks off and don't say what he was. I
asts him. "I was going to say a gentleman,"
he says, "but on reflection, I doubt if I was ever
anything but a cheap imitation. I never heard
a man say that he was a gentleman at one time,
that I didn't doubt him. Also," he goes on, work-
ing himself into a better humour again with the
sound of his own voice, "if I HAD ever been a gentle-
man at any time, enough of it would surely have
stuck to me to keep me out of partnership with a
man who cheats niggers."
He takes another drink and says even twenty
years of running around the country couldn't of
took all the gentleman out of him like this, if he
had ever been one, fur you can break, you can scatter
the vase if you will, but the smell of the roses will
stick round it still.
I seen now the kind of conversations he is always
having with himself when he gets jest so drunk
and is thinking hard. Only this time it happens
to be out loud.
"What is a gentleman?" I asts him, thinking
if he wasn't one it might take his mind off himself a
little to tell me. "What MAKES one?"
"Authorities differ," says Doctor Kirby, slouching
down in his chair, and grinning like he knowed a
joke he wasn't going to tell no one. "I heard
Doctor Jackson describe himself that way the other
Well, speaking personal, I never had smelled
none of roses. I wasn't nothing but trash myself,
so being a gentleman didn't bother me one way or
the other. The only reason I didn't want to see
them niggers bunked so very bad was only jest
because it was such a low-down, ornery kind of
"It ain't too late," I says, "to pull out of this
nigger scheme yet and get into something more
"I don't know," he says thoughtful. "I think
perhaps it IS too late." And he sets there looking
like a man that is going over a good many years
of life in his mind. Purty soon he says:
"As far as honesty goes--it isn't that so much,
O Daniel-come-to-judgment! It's about as honest
as most medicine games. It's--" He stopped
and frowned agin.
"What is it?"
"It's their being NIGGERS," he says.
That made the difference fur me, too. I dunno
how, nor why.
"I've tried nearly everything but blackmail,"
he says, "and I'll probably be trying that by this
time next year, if this scheme fails. But there's
something about their being niggers that makes
me sick of this thing already--just as the time
has come to make the start. And I don't know
WHY it should, either." He slipped another big
slug of whiskey into him, and purty soon he asts me:
"Do you know what's the matter with me?"
I asts him what.
"I'm too decent to be a crook," he says, "and
too crooked to be decent. You've got to be one
thing or the other steady to make it pay."
Then he says:
"Did you ever hear of the descent to Avernus,
"I might," I tells him, "and then agin I mightn't,
but if I ever did, I don't remember what she is.
What is she?"
"It's the chute to the infernal regions," he says.
"They say it's greased. But it isn't. It's really
no easier sliding down than it is climbing
Well, I seen this nigger scheme of our'n wasn't
the only thing that was troubling Doctor Kirby
that night. It was thinking of all the schemes
like it in the years past he had went into, and how
he had went into 'em light-hearted and more'n
half fur fun when he was a young man, and now he
wasn't fitten fur nothing else but them kind of
schemes, and he knowed it. He was seeing himself
how he had been changing, like another person
could of seen it. That's the main trouble with
drinking to fergit yourself. You fergit the wrong
part of yourself.
I left him purty soon, and went along to bed.
My room was next to his'n, and they was a door
between, so the two could be rented together if
wanted, I suppose. I went to sleep and woke up
agin with a start out of a dream that had in it
millions and millions and millions of niggers, every
way you looked, and their mouths was all open red
and their eyes walled white, fit to scare you out
of your shoes.
I hearn Doctor Kirby moving around in his
room. But purty soon he sets down and begins
to talk to himself. Everything else was quiet.
I was kind of worried about him, he had taken so
much, and hoped he wouldn't get a notion to go
downtown that time o' night. So I thinks I will
see how he is acting, and steps over to the door be-
tween the rooms.
The key happened to be on my side, and I un-
locked it. But she only opens a little ways, fur
his wash stand was near to the hinge end of the door.
I looked through. He is setting by the table,
looking at a woman's picture that is propped up on
it, and talking to himself. He has never hearn
me open the door, he is so interested. But somehow,
he don't look drunk. He looks like he had fought
his way up out of it, somehow--his forehead was
sweaty, and they was one intoxicated lock of hair
sticking to it; but that was the only un-sober-
looking thing about him. I guess his legs would
of been unsteady if he had of tried to walk, but his
intellects was uncomfortable and sober.
He is still keeping up that same old argument
with himself, or with the picture.
"It isn't any use," I hearn him say, looking at
Then he listened like he hearn it answering him.
"Yes, you always say just that--just that,"
he says. "And I don't know why I keep on listening
The way he talked, and harkened fur an answer,
when they was nothing there to answer, give me
"You don't help me," he goes on, "you don't
help me at all. You only make it harder. Yes,
this thing is worse than the others. I know that.
But I want money--and fool things like this HAVE
sometimes made it. No, I won't give it up. No,
there's no use making any more promises now.
I know myself now. And you ought to know me
by this time, too. Why can't you let me alone
altogether? I should think, when you see what I
am, you'd let me be.
"God help you! if you'd only stay away it
wouldn't be so hard to go to hell!"
There's a lot of counties in Georgia where
the blacks are equal in number to the
whites, and two or three counties where
the blacks number over the whites by two to one.
It was fur a little town in one of the latter that we
pinted ourselves, Doctor Kirby and me and Sam--
right into the blackest part of the black belt.
That country is full of big-sized plantations,
where they raise cotton, cotton, cotton, and then
MORE cotton. Some of 'em raises fruit, too, and
other things, of course; but cotton is the main
stand-by, and it looks like it always will be.
Some places there shows that things can't be
so awful much changed since slavery days, and
most of the niggers are sure enough country niggers
yet. Some rents their land right out from the
owners, and some of 'em crops it on the shares,
and very many of 'em jest works as hands. A lot of
'em don't do nigh so well now as they did when their
bosses was their masters, they tell me; and then
agin, some has done right well on their own hook.
They intrusted me, because I never had been use
to looking at so many niggers. Every way you
turn there they is niggers and then more niggers.
Them that thinks they is awful easy to handle
out of a natcheral respect fur white folks has got
another guess coming. They ain't so bad to get
along with if you keep it most pintedly shoved
into their heads they IS niggers. You got to do
that especial in the black belt, jest because they
IS so many of 'em. They is children all their lives,
mebby, till some one minute of craziness may
strike one of them, and then he is a devil temporary.
Mebby, when the crazy fit has passed, some white
woman is worse off than if she was dead, or mebby
she IS dead, or mebby a loonatic fur life, and that
nigger is a candidate fur a lynching bee and ginerally
elected by an anonymous majority.
Not that ALL niggers is that-a-way, nor HALF of
'em, nor very MANY of 'em, even--but you can
never tell WHICH nigger is going to be. So in the
black belt the white folks is mighty pertic'ler who
comes along fooling with their niggers. Fur you
can never tell what turn a nigger's thoughts will
take, once anything at all stirs 'em up.
We didn't know them things then, Doctor Kirby
and me didn't. We didn't know we was moving
light-hearted right into the middle of the biggest
question that has ever been ast. Which I disre-
member exactly how that nigger question is worded,
but they is always asting it in the South, and an-
swering of it different ways. We hadn't no idea
how suspicious the white people in them awful
black spots on the map can get over any one that
comes along talking to their niggers. We didn't
know anything about niggers much, being both
from the North, except what Doctor Kirby had
counted on when he made his medicine, and THAT
he knowed second-handed from other people. We
didn't take 'em very serious, nor all the talk we
hearn about 'em down South.
But even at that we mightn't of got into any
trouble if it hadn't of been fur old Bishop Warren.
But that is getting ahead of the story.
We got into that little town--I might jest as
well call it Cottonville--jest about supper time.
Cottonville is a little place of not more'n six hundred
people. I guess four hundred of 'em must be niggers.
After supper we got acquainted with purty
nigh all the prominent citizens in town. They was
friendly with us, and we was friendly with them.
Georgia had jest went fur prohibition a few months
before that, and they hadn't opened up these here
near-beer bar-rooms in the little towns yet, like
they had in Atlanta and the big towns. Georgia
had went prohibition so the niggers couldn't get
whiskey, some said; but others said they didn't
know WHAT its excuse was. Them prominent
citizens was loafing around the hotel and every
now and then inviting each other very mysterious
into a back room that use to be a pool parlour.
They had been several jugs come to town by express
that day. We went back several times ourselves,
and soon began to get along purty well with them
Talking about this and that they finally edges
around to the one thing everybody is sure to get
to talking about sooner or later in the South--
niggers. And then they gets to telling us about
this here Bishop Warren I has mentioned.
He was a nigger bishop, Bishop Warren was,
and had a good deal of white blood into him, they
say. An ashy-coloured nigger, with bumps on
his face, fat as a possum, and as cunning as a fox.
He had plenty of brains into his head, too; but his
brains had turned sour in his head the last few
years, and the bishop had crazy streaks running
through his sense now, like fat and lean mixed in a
slab of bacon. He used to be friends with a lot of
big white folks, and the whites depended on him at
one time to preach orderliness and obedience and
agriculture and being in their place to the niggers.
Fur years they thought he preached that-a-way.
He always DID preach that-a-way when any whites
was around, and he set on platforms sometimes
with white preachers, and he got good donations
fur schemes of different kinds. But gradual the
suspicion got around that when he was alone with
a lot of niggers his nigger blood would get the best
of him, and what he preached wasn't white su-
premacy at all, but hopefulness of being equal.
So the whites had fell away from him, and then
his graft was gone, and then his brains turned sour
in his head and got to working and fermenting in it
like cider getting hard, and he made a few bad
breaks by not being careful what he said before
white people. But the niggers liked him all the
better fur that.
They always had been more or less hell in the
bishop's heart. He had brains and he knowed it,
and the white folks had let him see THEY knowed
it, too. And he was part white, and his white
forefathers had been big men in their day, and yet,
in spite of all of that, he had to herd with niggers
and to pertend he liked it. He was both white and
black in his feelings about things, so some of his
feelings counterdicted others, and one of these
here race riots went on all the time in his own
insides. But gradual he got to the place where
they was spells he hated both whites and niggers,
but he hated the whites the worst. And now, in
the last two or three years, since his crazy streaks
had growed as big as his sensible streaks, or bigger,
they was no telling what he would preach to them
niggers. But whatever he preached most of them
would believe. It might be something crazy and
harmless, or it might be crazy and harmful.
He had been holding some revival meetings in
nigger churches right there in that very county,
and was at it not fur away from there right then.
The idea had got around he was preaching some
most unusual foolishness to the blacks. Fur the
niggers was all acting like they knowed something
too good to mention to the white folks, all about
there. But some white men had gone to one of
the meetings, and the bishop had preached one of
his old-time sermons whilst they was there, telling
the niggers to be orderly and agriculturous--he
was considerable of a fox yet. But he and the rest
of the niggers was so DERNED anxious to be thought
agriculturous and servitudinous that the whites
smelt a rat, and wished he would go, fur they didn't
want to chase him without they had to.
Jest when we was getting along fine one of them
prominent citizens asts the doctor was we there
figgering on buying some land?
"No," says the doctor, "we wasn't."
They was silence fur quite a little spell. Each
prominent citizen had mebby had his hopes of
unloading some. They all looks a little sad, and
then another prominent citizen asts us into the back
When we returns to the front room another promi-
nent citizen makes a little speech that was quite
beautiful to hear, and says mebby we represents
some new concern that ain't never been in them
parts and is figgering on buying cotton.
"No," the doctor says, "we ain't cotton buyers."
Another prominent citizen has the idea mebby
we is figgering on one of these here inter-Reuben
trolley lines, so the Rubes in one village can ride
over and visit the Rubes in the next. And another
one thinks mebby we is figgering on a telephone
line. And each one makes a very eloquent little
speech about them things, and rings in something
about our fair Southland. And when both of them
misses their guess it is time fur another visit to
the back room.
Was we selling something?
Was we selling fruit trees?
Finally, after every one has a chew of natcheral
leaf tobaccer all around, one prominent citizen
makes so bold as to ast us very courteous if he might
enquire what it was we was selling.
The doctor says medicine.
Then they was a slow grin went around that there
crowd of prominent citizens. And once agin we
has to make a trip to that back room. Fur they
are all sure we must be taking orders fur something
to beat that there prohibition game. When they
misses that guess they all gets kind of thoughtful
and sad. A couple of 'em don't take no more
interest in us, but goes along home sighing-like,
as if it wasn't no difference WHAT we sold as long as
it wasn't what they was looking fur.
But purty soon one of them asts:
"What KIND of medicine?"
The doctor, he tells about it.
When he finishes you never seen such a change
as had come onto the faces of that bunch. I
never seen such disgusted prominent citizens in
my hull life. They looked at each other embarrassed,
like they had been ketched at something ornery.
And they went out one at a time, saying good night
to the hotel-keeper and in the most pinted way
taking no notice of us at all. It certainly was a
chill. We sees something is wrong, and we begins
to have a notion of what it is.
The hotel-keeper, he spits out his chew, and goes
behind his little counter and takes a five-cent cigar
out of his little show case and bites the end off
careful. Then he leans his elbows onto his counter
and reads our names to himself out of the register
book, and looks at us, and from us to the names,
and from the names to us, like he is trying to figger
out how he come to let us write 'em there. Then
he wants to know where we come from before we
come to Atlanta, where we had registered from.
We tells him we is from the North. He lights
his cigar like he didn't think much of that cigar
and sticks it in his mouth and looks at us so long
in an absent-minded kind of way it goes out.
Then he says we orter go back North.
"Why?" asts the doctor.
He chewed his cigar purty nigh up to the middle
of it before he answered, and when he spoke it was
a soft kind of a drawl--not mad or loud--but
like they was sorrowful thoughts working in him.
"Yo' all done struck the wo'st paht o' the South
to peddle yo' niggah medicine in, sah. I reckon
yo' must love 'em a heap to be that concehned
over the colour of their skins."
And he turned his back on us and went into the
back room all by himself.
We seen we was in wrong in that town. The
doctor says it will be no use trying to interduce
our stuff there, and we might as well leave there
in the morning and go over to Bairdstown, which
was a little place about ten miles off the railroad,
and make our start there.
So we got a rig the next morning and drove
acrost the country. No one bid us good-bye,
neither, and Doctor Kirby says it's a wonder they
rented us the rig.
But before we started that morning we noticed
a funny thing. We hadn't so much as spoke to
any nigger, except our own nigger Sam, and he
couldn't of told ALL the niggers in that town about
the stuff to turn niggers white, even if he had set
up all night to do it. But every last nigger we
saw looked like he knowed something about us.
Even after we left town our nigger driver hailed
two or three niggers in the road that acted that-a-
way. It seemed like they was all awful polite to
us. And yet they was different in their politeness
than they was to them Georgia folks, which is their
natcheral-born bosses--acted more familiar, some-
how, as if they knowed we must be thinking about
the same thing they was thinking about.
About half-way to Bairdstown we stopped at a
place to get a drink of water. Seemingly the white
folks was away fur the day, and an old nigger come
up and talked to our driver while Sam and us was
at the well.
I seen them cutting their eyes at us, whilst they
was unchecking the hosses to let them drink too,
and then I hearn the one that belonged there say:
"Is yo' SUAH dat hit air dem?"
"SUAH!" says the driver.
"How-come yo' so all-powerful SUAH about hit?"
The driver pertended the harness needed some
fixing, and they went around to the other side of the
team and tinkered with one of the traces, a-talking
to each other. I hearn the old nigger say, kind of
"Is dey a-gwine dar NOW?"
Sam, he was pulling a bucket of water up out of
the well fur us with a windlass. The doctor says
"Sam, what does all this mean?"
Sam, he pertends he don't know what the doctor
is talking about. But Doctor Kirby he finally
pins him down. Sam hemmed and hawed considera-
ble, making up his mind whether he better lie to
us or not. Then, all of a sudden, he busted out into
an awful fit of laughing, and like to of fell in the
well. Seemingly he decided fur to tell us the truth.
From what Sam says that there bishop has been
holding revival meetings in Big Bethel, which is a
nigger church right on the edge of Bairdstown,
and niggers fur miles around has been coming night
after night, and some of them whooping her up
daytimes too. And the bishop has worked himself
up the last three or four nights to where he has
been perdicting and prophesying, fur the spirit
has hit the meeting hard.
What he has been prophesying, Sam says, is
the coming of a Messiah fur the nigger race--a
new Elishyah, he says, as will lead them from
out'n their inequality and bring 'em up to white
standards right on the spot. The whites has had
their Messiah, the bishop says, but the niggers
ain't never had none of their SPECIAL OWN yet.
And they needs one bad, and one is sure a-coming.
It seems the whites don't know yet jest what the
bishop's been a-preaching. But every nigger fur
miles on every side of Big Bethel is a-listening and
a-looking fur signs and omens, and has been fur
two, three days now. This here half-crazy bishop
has got 'em worked up to where they is ready
to believe anything, or do anything.
So the night before when the word got out in
Cottonville that we had some scheme to make the
niggers white, the niggers there took up with the
idea that the doctor was mebby the feller the
bishop had been prophesying about, and for a sign
and a omen and a miracle of his grace and powers
was going out to Big Bethel to turn 'em white.
Poor devils, they didn't see but what being turned
white orter be a part of what they was to get from
the coming of that there Messiah.
News spreads among niggers quicker than among
whites. No one knows how they do it. But I've
hearn tales about how when war times was there,
they would frequent have the news of a big fight
before the white folks' papers would. Soldiers
has told me that in them there Philippine Islands
we conquered from Spain, where they is so much
nigger blood mixed up with other kinds in the
islanders, this mysterious spreading around of
news is jest the same. And jest since nine o'clock
the night before, the news had spread fur miles
around that Bishop Warren's Messiah was on his
way, and was going fur to turn the bishop white
to show his power and grace, and he had with him
one he had turned part white, and that was Sam,
and one he had turned clear white, and that was me.
And they was to be signs and wonders to behold
at Big Bethel, with pillars of cloud and sounds of
trumpets and fire squirting down from heaven,
like it always use to be in them old Bible days, and
them there niggers to be led singing and shouting
and rejoicing into a land of milk and honey, forever-
That's what Sam says they are looking fur,
dozens and scores and hundreds of them niggers
round about. Sam, he had lived in town five or
six years, and he looked down on all these here
ignoramus country niggers. So he busts out laugh-
ing at first, and he pertends like he don't take no
stock in any of it. Besides, he knowed well enough
he wasn't spotted up by no Messiah, but it was the
dope in the bottles done it. But as he told about
them goings-on Sam got more and more interested
and warmed up to it, and his voice went into a kind
of a sing-song like he was prophesying himself.
And the other two niggers quit pertending to
fool around the team and edged a little closeter,
and a little closeter yet, with their mouths open
and their heads a-nodding and the whites of their
Fur my part, I never hearn such a lot of dern
foolishness in all my life. But the doctor, he says
nothing at all. He listens to Sam ranting and rolling
out big words and raving, and only frowns. He
climbs back into the buggy agin silent, and all the
rest of the way to Bairdstown he set there with
that scowl on his face. I guesses he was thinking
now, the way things had shaped up, he wouldn't
sell none of his stuff at all without he fell right in
with the reception chance had planned fur him.
But if he did fall in with it, and pertend like he was
a Messiah to them niggers, he could get all they
had. He was mebby thinking how much ornerier
that would make the hull scheme.
We got to Bairdstown early enough, but
we didn't go to work there. We wasted
all that day. They was something work-
ing in the doctor's head he wasn't talking about.
I supposed he was getting cold feet on the hull
proposition. Anyhow, he jest set around the little
tavern in that place and done nothing all afternoon.
The weather was fine, and we set out in front.
We hadn't set there more'n an hour till I could
tell we was being noticed by the blacks, not
out open and above board. But every now and
then one or two or three would pass along down
the street, and lazy about and take a look at us.
They pertended they wasn't noticing, but they was.
The word had got around, and they was a feeling
in the air I didn't like at all. Too much caged-up
excitement among the niggers. The doctor felt
it too, I could see that. But neither one of us said
anything about it to the other.
Along toward dusk we takes a walk. They was
a good-sized crick at the edge of that little place,
and on it an old-fashioned worter mill. Above
the mill a little piece was a bridge. We crossed it
and walked along a road that follered the crick
bank closte fur quite a spell.
It wasn't much of a town--something betwixt a
village and a settlement--although they was going
to run a branch of the railroad over to it before very
long. It had had a chancet to get a railroad once,
years before that. But it had said then it didn't
want no railroad. So until lately every branch
built through that part of the country grinned
very sarcastic and give it the go-by.
They was considerable woods standing along the
crick, and around a turn in the road we come onto
Sam, all of a sudden, talking with another nigger.
Sam was jest a-laying it off to that nigger, but he
kind of hushed as we come nearer. Down the
road quite a little piece was a good-sized wooden
building that never had been painted and looked
like it was a big barn. Without knowing it the
doctor and me had been pinting ourselves right
toward Big Bethel.
The nigger with Sam he yells out, when he sees
"Glory be! HYAH dey comes! Hyah dey comes
And he throwed up his arms, and started on a
lope up the road toward the church, singing out
every ten or fifteen yards. A little knot of niggers
come out in front of the church when they hearn
Sam, he stood his ground, and waited fur us to
come up to him, kind of apologetic and sneaking-
looking about something or other.
"What kind of lies have you been telling these
niggers, Sam?" says the doctor, very sharp and short
Sam, he digs a stone out'n the road with the toe
of his shoe, and kind of grins to himself, still looking
sheepish. But he says he opinionates he been telling
them nothing at all.
"I dunno how-come dey get all dem nigger notions
in dey fool haid," Sam says, "but dey all waitin'
dar inside de chu'ch do'--some of de mos' faiful
an' de mos' pra'rful ones o' de Big Bethel cong'gation
been dar fo' de las' houah a-waitin' an' a-watchin',
spite o' de fac' dat reg'lah meetin' ain't gwine ter
be called twell arter supper. De bishop, he dar
too. Dey got some dese hyah coal-ile lamps dar
des inside de chu'ch do' an' dey been keepin' on
'em lighted, daytimes an' night times, fo' two days
now, kaze dey say dey ain't gwine fo' ter be cotched
napping when de bridegroom COMeth. Yass, SAH!--
dey's ten o' dese hyah vergims dar, five of 'em
sleepin' an' five of 'em watchin', an' a-takin' tuhns
at hit, an' mebby dat how-come free or fouah dey
bes' young colo'hed mens been projickin' aroun'
dar all arternoon, a-helpin' dem dat's a-waitin'
twell de bridegroom COM eth!"
We seen a little knot of them, down the road there
in front of the church, gathering around the nigger
that had been with Sam. They all starts toward
us. But one man steps out in front of them all,
and turns toward them and holds his hands up, and
waves them back. They all stops in their tracks.
Then he turns his face toward us, and comes slow
and sollum down the road in our direction, walking
with a cane, and moving very dignified. He was
a couple of hundred yards away.
But as he come closeter we gradually seen him
plainer and plainer. He was a big man, and stout,
and dressed very neat in the same kind of rig as
white bishops wear, with one of these white collars
that buttons in the back. I suppose he was coming
on to meet us alone, because no one was fitten fur
to give us the first welcome but himself.
Well, it was all dern foolishness, and it was hard
to believe it could all happen, and they ain't so
many places in this here country it COULD happen.
But fur all of it being foolishness, when he come
down the road toward us so dignified and sollum
and slow I ketched myself fur a minute feeling like
we really had been elected to something and was
going to take office soon. And Sam, as the bishop
come closeter and closeter, got to jerking and
twitching with the excitement that he had been
keeping in--and yet all the time Sam knowed it
was dope and works and not faith that had made
him spotted that-a-way.
He stops, the bishop does, about ten yards from
us and looks us over.
"Ah yo' de gennleman known ter dis hyah sinful
genehation by de style an' de entitlemint o' Docto'
Hahtley Kirby?" he asts the doctor very ceremoni-
ous and grand.
The doctor give him a look that wasn't very
encouraging, but he nodded to him.
"Will yo' dismiss yo' sehvant in ordeh dat we
kin hol' convehse an' communion in de midst er
The doctor, he nods to Sam, and Sam moseys
along toward the church.
"Now, then," says the doctor, sudden and sharp,
"take off your hat and tell me what you want."
The bishop's hand goes up to his head with a jerk
before he thought. Then it stops there, while him
and the doctor looks at each other. The bishop's
mouth opens like he was wondering, but he slowly
pulls his hat off and stands there bare-headed in the
road. But he wasn't really humble, that bishop.
"Now," says the doctor, "tell me in as straight
talk as you've got what all this damned foolishness
among you niggers means."
A queer kind of look passed over the bishop's
face. He hadn't expected to be met jest that way,
mebby. Whether he himself had really believed
in the coming of that there new Messiah he had been
perdicting, I never could settle in my mind. Mebby
he had been getting ready to pass HIMSELF off fur
one before we come along and the niggers all got
the fool idea Doctor Kirby was it. Before the
bishop spoke agin you could see his craziness and
his cunningness both working in his face. But
when he did speak he didn't quit being ceremonious
"De wohd has gone fo'th among de faiful an'
de puah in heaht," he says, "dat er man has come
accredited wi' signs an' wi' mahvels an' de poweh
o' de sperrit fo' to lay his han' on de sons o' Ham
an' ter make 'em des de same in colluh as de yuther
sons of ea'th."
"Then that word is a lie," says the doctor. "I
DID come here to try out some stuff to change the
colour of negro skins. That's all. And I find
your idiotic followers are all stirred up and waiting
for some kind of a miracle monger. What you have
been preaching to them, you know best. Is that
all you want to know?"
The bishop hems and haws and fiddles with his
stick, and then he says:
"Suh, will dish yeah prepa'shun SHO'LY do de
wohk?" Doctor Kirby tells him it will do the
work all right.
And then the bishop, after beating around the
bush some more, comes out with his idea. Whether
he expected there would be any Messiah come or
not, of course he knowed the doctor wasn't him.
But he is willing to boost the doctor's game as long
as it boosts HIS game. He wants to be in on the
deal. He wants part of the graft. He wants to
get together with the doctor on a plan before the
doctor sees the niggers. And if the doctor don't
want to keep on with the miracle end of it, the bishop
shows him how he could do him good with no
miracle attachment. Fur he has an awful holt
on them niggers, and his say-so will sell thousands
and thousands of bottles. What he is looking fur
jest now is his little take-out.
That was his craftiness and his cunningness
working in him. But all of a sudden one of his
crazy streaks come bulging to the surface. It come
with a wild, eager look in his eyes.
"Suh," he cries out, all of a sudden, "ef yo' kin
make me white, fo' Gawd sakes, do hit! Do hit!
Ef yo' does, I gwine ter bless yo' all yo' days!
"Yo' don' know--no one kin guess or comper-
hen'--what des bein' white would mean ter me!
Lawd! Lawd!" he says, his voice soft-spoken,
but more eager than ever as he went on, and plead-
ing something pitiful to hear, "des think of all de
Caucasian blood in me! Gawd knows de nights
er my youth I'se laid awake twell de dawn come
red in de Eas' a-cryin' out ter Him only fo' ter be
white! DES TER BE WHITE! Don' min' dem black,
black niggers dar--don' think er DEM--dey ain't
wuth nothin' nor fitten fo' no fate but what dey
got-- But me! What's done kep' me from gwine
ter de top but dat one thing: _I_ WASN'T WHITE! Hit
air too late now--too late fo' dem ambitions I
done trifle with an' shove behin' me--hit's too
late fo' dat! But ef I was des ter git one li'l
year o' hit--ONE LI'L YEAR O' BEIN' WHITE!--befo'
And he went on like that, shaking and stuttering
there in the road, like a fit had struck him, crazy
as a loon. But he got hold of himself enough to
quit talking, in a minute, and his cunning come
back to him before he was through trembling.
Then the doctor says slow and even, but not severe:
"You go back to your people now, bishop, and
tell them they've made a mistake about me. And
if you can, undo the harm you've done with this
Messiah business. As far as this stuff of mine is
concerned, there's none of it for you nor for any
other negro. You tell them that. There's none
of it been sold yet--and there never will be."
Then we turned away and left him standing there
in the road, still with his hat off and his face
Walking back toward the little tavern the doctor
"Danny, this is the end of this game. These
people down here and that half-cracked, half-
crooked old bishop have made me see a few things
about the Afro-American brother. It wasn't a
good scheme in the first place. And this wasn't the
place to start it going, anyhow--I should have
tried the niggers in the big towns. But I'm out of
it now, and I'm glad of it. What we want to do is to
get away from here to-morrow--go back to Atlanta
and fix up a scheme to rob some widows and orphans,
or something half-way respectable like that."
Well, I drew a long breath. I was with Doctor
Kirby in everything he done, fur he was my friend,
and I didn't intend to quit him. But I was glad
we was out of this, and hadn't sold none of that
dope. We both felt better because we hadn't.
All them millions we was going to make--shucks!
We didn't neither one of us give a dern about them
getting away from us. All we wanted was jest to
get away from there and not get mixed up with
no nigger problems any more. We eat supper,
and we set around a while, and we went to bed
purty middling early, so as to get a good start
in the morning.
We got up early, but early as it was the devil had
been up earlier in that neighbourhood. About
four o'clock that morning a white woman about
a half a mile from the village had been attacked
by a nigger. They was doubt as to whether she
would live, but if she lived they wasn't no doubts
she would always be more or less crazy. Fur
besides everything else, he had beat her insensible.
And he had choked her nearly to death. The
country-side was up, with guns and pistols look-
ing fur that nigger. It wasn't no trouble guessing
what would happen to him when they ketched
"And," says Doctor Kirby, when we hearn of
it, "I hope to high heaven they DO catch him!"
They wasn't much doubt they would, either.
They was already beating up the woods and bushes
and gangs was riding up and down the roads, and
every nigger's house fur miles around was being
searched and watched.
We soon seen we would have trouble getting
hosses and a rig in the village to take us to the
railroad. Many of the hosses was being ridden in
the man-hunt. And most of the men who might
have done the driving was busy at that too. The
hotel-keeper himself had left his place standing
wide open and went out. We didn't get any break-
"Danny," says the doctor, "we'll just put enough
money to pay the bill in an envelope on the register
here, and strike out on shank's ponies. It's only
nine or ten miles to the railroad--we'll walk."
"But how about our stuff?" I asts him. We
had two big cases full of sample bottles of that dope,
besides our suit cases.
"Hang the dope!" says the doctor, "I don't
ever want to see it or hear of it again! We'll leave
it here. Put the things out of your suit case into
mine, and leave that here too. Sam can carry
mine. I want to be on the move."
So we left, with Sam carrying the one suit case.
It wasn't nine in the morning yet, and we was
starting out purty empty fur a long walk.
"Sam," says the doctor, as we was passing that
there Big Bethel church--and it showed up there
silent and shabby in the morning, like a old coloured
man that knows a heap more'n he's going to tell--
"Sam, were you at the meeting here last night?"
"I suppose it was a pretty tame affair after they
found out their Elisha wasn't coming after all?"
Sam, he walled his eyes, and then he kind of
"Well, suh," he says, "I 'spicions de mos' on 'em
don' know dat YIT!"
The doctor asts him what he means.
It seems the bishop must of done some thinking
after we left him in the road or on his way back to
that church. They had all begun to believe that
there Elishyah was on the way to 'em, and the
bishop's credit was more or less wrapped up with
our being it. It was true he hadn't started that
belief; but it was believed, and he didn't dare to
stop it now. Fur, if he stopped it, they would all
think he had fell down on his prophetics, even
although he hadn't prophesied jest exactly us.
He was in a tight place, that bishop, but I bet you
could always depend on him to get out of it with his
flock. So what he told them niggers at the meeting
last night was that he brung 'em a message from
Elishyah, Sam says, the Elishyah that was to come.
And the message was that the time was not ripe
fur him to reveal himself as Elishyah unto the eyes
of all men, fur they had been too much sinfulness
and wickedness and walking into the ways of evil,
right amongst that very congregation, and disobedi-
ence of the bishop, which was their guide. And
he had sent 'em word, Elishyah had, that the bishop
was his trusted servant, and into the keeping of the
bishop was give the power to deal with his people
and prepare them fur the great day to come. And
the bishop would give the word of his coming. He
was a box, that bishop was, in spite of his crazy
streaks; and he had found a way to make himself
stronger than ever with his bunch out of the very
kind of thing that would have spoiled most people's
graft. They had had a big meeting till nearly
morning, and the power had hit 'em strong. Sam
told us all about it.
But the thing that seemed to interest the doctor,
and made him frown, was the idea that all them
niggers round about there still had the idea he was
the feller that had been prophesied to come. All
except Sam, mebby. Sam had spells when he was
real sensible, and other spells when he was as bad
as the believingest of them all.
It was a fine day, and really joyous to be a-walking.
It would of been a good deal joyouser if we had had
some breakfast, but we figgered we would stop
somewheres at noon and lay in a good, square,
That wasn't such a very thick settled country.
But everybody seemed to know about the man-
hunt that was going on, here, there, and everywhere.
People would come down to the road side as we
passed, and gaze after us. Or mebby ast us if
we knowed whether he had been ketched yet.
Women and kids mostly, or old men, but now
and then a younger man too. We noticed they
wasn't no niggers to speak of that wasn't
busier'n all get out, working at something or
other, that day.
They is considerable woods in that country yet,
though lots has been cut off. But they was some-
times right long stretches where they would be
woods on both sides of the road, more or less thick,
with underbrush between the trees. We tramped
along, each busy thinking his own thoughts, and
having a purty good time jest doing that without
there being no use of talking. I was thinking that
I liked the doctor better fur turning his back on all
this game, jest when he might of made some sort
of a deal with the bishop and really made some
money out of it in the end. He never was so good
a business man as he thought he was, Doctor
Kirby wasn't. He always could make himself
think he was. But when it come right down
to brass tacks he wasn't. You give him a scheme
that would TALK well, the kind of a josh talk he liked
to get off fur his own enjoyment, and he would take
up with it every time instead of one that had more
promise of money to it if it was worked harder.
He was thinking of the TALK more'n he was of the
money, mostly; and he was always saying some-
thing about art fur art's sake, which was plumb
foolishness, fur he never painted no pictures. Well,
he never got over being more or less of a puzzle
to me. But fur some reason or other this morning
he seemed to be in a better humour with himself,
after we had walked a while, than I had seen him
in fur a long time.
We come to the top of one long hill, which it had
made us sweat to climb, and without saying nothing
to each other we both stopped and took off our
hats and wiped our foreheads, and drawed long
breaths, content to stand there fur jest a minute
or two and look around us. The road run straight
ahead, and dipped down, and then clumb up
another hill about an eighth of a mile in front of
us. It made a little valley. Jest about the middle,
between the two hills, a crick meandered through
the bottom land. Woods growed along the crick,
and along both sides of the road we was travelling.
Right nigh the crick they was another road come
out of the woods to the left-hand side, and switched
into the road we was travelling, and used the same
bridge to cross the crick by. They was three or
four houses here and there, with chimbleys built
up on the outside of them, and blue smoke coming
out. We stood and looked at the sight before us
and forgot all the troubles we had left behind, fur
a couple of minutes--it all looked so peaceful
and quiet and homeyfied and nice.
"Well," says the doctor, after we had stood
there a piece, "I guess we better be moving on again,
But jest as Sam, who was follering along behind
with that suit case, picks it up and puts it on his head
agin, they come a sound, from away off in the distance
somewheres, that made him set it down quick. And
we all stops in our tracks and looks at each other.
It was the voice of a hound dog--not so awful
loud, but clear and mellow and tuneful, and carried
to us on the wind. And then in a minute it come
agin, sharper and quicker. They yells like that
when they have struck a scent.
As we stood and looked at each other they come
a crackle in the underbrush, jest to the left of us.
We turned our heads that-a-way, jest as a nigger
man give a leap to the top of a rail fence that
separated the road from the woods. He was going
so fast that instead of climbing that fence and bal-
ancing on the top and jumping off he jest simply
seemed to hit the top rail and bounce on over, like
he had been throwed out of the heart of the woods,
and he fell sprawling over and over in the road,
right before our feet.
He was onto his feet in a second, and fur a minute
he stood up straight and looked at us--an ashes-
coloured nigger, ragged and bleeding from the under-
brush, red-eyed, and with slavers trickling from his
red lips, and sobbing and gasping and panting fur
breath. Under his brown skin, where his shirt
was torn open acrost his chest, you could see that
nigger's heart a-beating.
But as he looked at us they come a sudden change
acrost his face--he must of seen the doctor before,
and with a sob he throwed himself on his knees in
the road and clasped his hands and held 'em out
toward Doctor Kirby.
"ELISHyah! ELISHyah!" he sings out, rocking
of his body in a kind of tune, "reveal yo'se'f, reveal
yo'se'f an' he'p me NOW! Lawd Gawd ELISHyah,
beckon fo' a CHA'iot, yo' cha'iot of FIAH! Lif' me,
lif' me--lif' me away f'um hyah in er cha'iot o' FIAH!"
The doctor, he turned his head away, and I
knowed the thought working in him was the thought
of that white woman that would always be an
idiot for life, if she lived. But his lips was dumb,
and his one hand stretched itself out toward that
nigger in the road and made a wiping motion, like
he was trying fur to wipe the picture of him, and
the thought of him, off'n a slate forevermore.
Jest then, nearer and louder and sharper, and
with an eager sound, like they knowed they almost
had him now, them hounds' voices come ringing
through the woods, and with them come the mixed-
up shouts of men.
"RUN!" yells Sam, waving of that suit case round
his head, fur one nigger will always try to help
another no matter what he's done. "Run fo' de
branch--git yo' foots in de worter an' fling 'em
off de scent!"
He bounded down the hill, that red-eyed nigger,
and left us standing there. But before he reached
the crick the whole man-hunt come busting through
the woods, the dogs a-straining at their straps.
The men was all on foot, with guns and pistols in
their hands. They seen the nigger, and they all
let out a yell, and was after him. They ketched
him at the crick, and took him off along that road
that turned off to the left. I hearn later he was a
member of Bishop Warren's congregation, so they
hung him right in front of Big Bethel church.
We stood there on top of the hill and saw the
chase and capture. Doctor Kirby's face was
sweating worse than when we first clumb the hill.
He was thinking about that nigger that had pleaded
with him. He was thinking also of the woman.
He was glad it hadn't been up to him personal
right then and there to butt in and stop a lynching.
He was glad, fur with them two pictures in front
of him he didn't know what he would of done.
"Thank heaven!" I hearn him say to himself.
"Thank heaven that it wasn't REALLY in my power
Well, we had pork and greens fur dinner
that day, with the best corn-bread I ever
eat anywheres, and buttermilk, and sweet
potato pie. We got 'em at the house of a feller
named Withers--Old Daddy Withers. Which if
they was ever a nicer old man than him, or a nicer
old woman than his wife, I never run acrost 'em yet.
They lived all alone, them Witherses, with only
a couple of niggers to help them run their farm.
After we eats our dinner and Sam gets his'n out to the
kitchen, we sets out in front of the house and gets
to talking with them, and gets real well acquainted.
Which we soon found out the secret of old Daddy
Withers's life--that there innocent-looking old
jigger was a poet. He was kind of proud of it and
kind of shamed of it both to oncet. The way
it come out was when the doctor says one of them
quotations he is always getting off, and the old man
he looks pleased and says the rest of the piece it
dropped out of straight through.
Then they had a great time quoting it at each
other, them two, and I seen the doctor is good to
loaf around there the rest of the day, like as not.
Purty soon the old lady begins to get mighty proud-
looking over something or other, and she leans over
and whispers to the old man:
"Shall I bring it out, Lemuel?"
The old man, he shakes his head, no. But she
slips into the house anyhow, and fetches out a
little book with a pale green cover to it, and hands
it to the doctor.
"Bless my soul," says Doctor Kirby, looking at
the old man, "you don't mean to say you write
The old man, he gets red all over his face, and up
into the roots of his white hair, and down into his
white beard, and makes believe he is a little mad at
the old lady fur showing him off that-a-way.
"Mother," he says, "yo' shouldn't have done
that!" They had had a boy years before, and he
had died, but he always called her mother the same
as if the boy was living. He goes into the house
and gets his pipe, and brings it out and lights it,
acting like that book of poetry was a mighty small
matter to him. But he looks at Doctor Kirby out
of the corner of his eyes, and can't keep from getting
sort of eager and trembly with his pipe; and I could
see he was really anxious over what the doctor was
thinking of them poems he wrote. The doctor
reads some of 'em out loud.
Well, it was kind of home-made poetry, Old Daddy
Withers's was. It wasn't like no other poetry I ever
struck. And I could tell the doctor was thinking
the same about it. It sounded somehow like it
hadn't been jointed together right. You would
keep listening fur it to rhyme, and get all worked up
watching and waiting fur it to, and make bets with
yourself whether it would rhyme or it wouldn't.
And then it ginerally wouldn't. I never hearn
such poetry to get a person's expectances all worked
up, and then go back on 'em. But if you could
of told what it was all about, you wouldn't of minded
that so much. Not that you can tell what most
poetry is about, but you don't care so long as
it keeps hopping along lively. What you want in
poetry to make her sound good, according to my
way of thinking, is to make her jump lively, and
then stop with a bang on the rhymes. But Daddy
Withers was so independent-like he would jest
natcherally try to force two words to rhyme whether
the Lord made 'em fur mates or not--like as if
you would try to make a couple of kids kiss and
make up by bumping their heads together. They
jest simply won't do it. But Doctor Kirby, he
let on like he thought it was fine poetry, and he
read them pieces over and over agin, out loud, and
the old man and the old woman was both mighty
tickled with the way he done it. He wouldn't
of had 'em know fur anything he didn't believe it
was the finest poetry ever wrote, Doctor Kirby
They was four little books of it altogether. Slim
books that looked as if they hadn't had enough to
eat, like a stray cat whose ribs is rubbing together.
It had cost Daddy Withers five hundred dollars
apiece to get 'em published. A feller in Boston
charged him that much, he said. It seems he would
go along fur years, raking and scraping of his money
together, so as to get enough ahead to get out another
book. Each time he had his hopes the big news-
papers would mebby pay some attention to it, and
he would get recognized.
"But they never did," said the old man, kind of
sad, "it always fell flat."
"Why, FATHER!"--the old lady begins, and finishes
by running back into the house agin. She is out
in a minute with a clipping from a newspaper and
hands it over to Doctor Kirby, as proud as a kid
with copper-toed boots. The doctor reads it all
the way through, and then he hands it back without
saying a word. The old lady goes away to fiddle
around about the housework purty soon and the
old man looks at the doctor and says:
"Well, you see, don't you?"
"Yes," says the doctor, very gentle.
"I wouldn't have HER know for the world," says
Daddy Withers. "_I_ know and YOU know that news-
paper piece is just simply poking fun at my poetry,
and making a fool of me, the whole way through.
As soon as I read it over careful I saw it wasn't
really praise, though there was a minute or two I
thought my recognition had come. But SHE don't
know it ain't serious from start to finish. SHE was
all-mighty pleased when that piece come out in
print. And I don't intend she ever shall know it
ain't real praise."
His wife was so proud when that piece come out
in that New York paper, he said, she cried over it.
She said now she was glad they had been doing
without things fur years and years so they could
get them little books printed, one after the other,
fur now fame was coming. But sometimes, Daddy
Withers says, he suspicions she really knows he has
been made a fool of, and is pertending not to see it,
fur his sake, the same as he is pertending fur HER
sake. Well, they was a mighty nice old couple,
and the doctor done a heap of pertending fur both
their sakes--they wasn't nothing else to do.
"How'd you come to get started at it?" he asts.
Daddy Withers says he don't rightly know.
Mebby, he says, it was living there all his life and
watching things growing--watching the cotton
grow, and the corn and getting acquainted with
birds and animals and trees and things. Helping
of things to grow, he says, is a good way to under-
stand how God must feel about humans. For
what you plant and help to grow, he says, you are
sure to get to caring a heap about. You can't
help it. And that is the reason, he says, God can
be depended on to pull the human race through in
the end, even if appearances do look to be agin His
doing it sometimes, fur He started it to growing
in the first place and that-a-way He got interested
personal in it. And that is the main idea, he says,
he has all the time been trying to get into that there
poetry of his'n. But he reckons he ain't got her in.
Leastways, he says, no one has never seen her there
but the doctor and the old lady and himself. Well,
for my part, I never would of seen it there myself,
but when he said it out plain like that any one could
of told what he meant.
You hadn't orter lay things up agin folks if the
folks can't help 'em. And I will say Daddy Withers
was a fine old boy in spite of his poetry. Which
it never really done any harm, except being expensive
to him, and lots will drink that much up and never
figger it an expense, but one of the necessities of
life. We went all over his place with him, and we
noticed around his house a lot of tin cans tacked
up to posts and trees. They was fur the birds to
drink out of, and all the birds around there had
found out about it, and about Daddy Withers, and
wasn't scared of him at all. He could get acquainted
with animals, too, so that after a long spell sometimes
they would even let him handle them. But not if
any one was around. They was a crow he had made
a pet of, used to hop around in front of him, and try
fur to talk to him. If he went to sleep in the front
yard whilst he was reading, that crow had a favour-
ite trick of stealing his spectacles off'n his nose and
flying up to the ridgepole of the house, and cawing
at him. Once he had been setting out a row of
tomato plants very careful, and he got to the end
of the row and turned around, and that there crow
had been hopping along behind very sollum, pulling
up each plant as he set it out. It acted like it had
done something mighty smart, and knowed it,
that crow. So after that the old man named him
Satan, fur he said it was Satan's trick to keep things
from growing. They was some blue and white
pigeons wasn't scared to come and set on his shoul-
ders; but you could see the old man really liked
that crow Satan better'n any of them.
Well, we hung around all afternoon listening to
the old man talk, and liking him better and better.
First thing we knowed it was getting along toward
supper time. And nothing would do but we must
stay to supper, too. We was pinted toward a
place on the railroad called Smithtown, but when
we found we couldn't get a train from there till ten
o'clock that night anyhow, and it was only three
miles away, we said we'd stay.
After supper we calculated we'd better move.
But the old man wouldn't hear of us walking that
three miles. So about eight o'clock he hitched up
a mule to a one-hoss wagon, and we jogged along.
They was a yaller moon sneaking up over the
edge of the world when we started. It was so low
down in the sky yet that it threw long shadders
on the road, and they was thick and black ones, too.
Because they was a lot of trees alongside the road,
and the road was narrow, we went ahead mostly
through the darkness, with here and there patches
of moonlight splashed onto the ground. Doctor
Kirby and Old Man Withers was setting on the
seat, still gassing away about books and things,
and I was setting on the suit case in the wagon box
right behind 'em. Sam, he was sometimes in the
back of the wagon. He had been more'n half
asleep all afternoon, but now it was night he was
waked up, the way niggers and cats will do, and
every once in a while he would get out behind and
cut a few capers in a moonlight patch, jest fur
the enjoyment of it, and then run and ketch up
with the wagon and crawl in agin, fur it was going
The ground was sandy in spots, and I guess we
made a purty good load fur Beck, the old mule.
She stopped, going up a little slope, after we had
went about a mile from the Witherses'. Sam says
he'll get out and walk, fur the wheels was in purty
deep, and it was hard going.
"Giddap, Beck!" says the old man.
But Beck, she won't. She don't stand like she
is stuck, neither, but like she senses danger some-
wheres about. A hoss might go ahead into danger,
but a mule is more careful of itself and never goes
butting in unless it feels sure they is a way out.
"Giddap," says the old man agin.
But jest then the shadders on both sides of the
road comes to life. They wakes up, and moves all
about us. It was done so sudden and quiet it was
half a minute before I seen it wasn't shadders but
about thirty men had gathered all about us on
every side. They had guns.
"Who are you? What d'ye want?" asts the old
man, startled, as three or four took care of the
mule's head very quick and quiet.
"Don't be skeered, Daddy Withers," says a drawly
voice out of the dark; "we ain't goin' to hurt YOU.
We got a little matter o' business to tend to with
them two fellers yo' totin' to town."
Thirty men with guns would be consider-
able of a proposition to buck against, so we
didn't try it. They took us out of the
wagon, and they pinted us down the road, steering
us fur a country schoolhouse which was, I judged
from their talk, about a quarter of a mile away.
They took us silent, fur after we found they didn't
answer no questions we quit asking any. We
jest walked along, and guessed what we was up
against, and why. Daddy Withers, he trailed along
behind. They had tried to send him along home,
but he wouldn't go. So they let him foller and
paid no more heed to him.
Sam, he kept a-talking and a-begging, and
several men a-telling of him to shut up. And him
not a-doing it. Till finally one feller says very
"Boys, I'm going to turn this nigger loose."
"We'll want his evidence," says another one.
"Evidence!" says the first one. "What's the
evidence of a scared nigger worth?"
"I reckon that one this afternoon was consider-
able scared, when he give us that evidence against
himself--that is, if you call it evidence."
"A nigger can give evidence against a nigger,
and it's all right," says another voice--which it
come from a feller that had a-holt of my wrist on
the left-hand side of me--"but these are white
men we are going to try to-night. The case is too
serious to take nigger evidence. Besides, I reckon
we got all the evidence any one could need. This
nigger ain't charged with any crime himself, and
my idea is that he ain't to be allowed to figure one
way or the other in this thing."
So they turned Sam loose. I never seen nor
hearn tell of Sam since then. They fired a couple
of guns into the air as he started down the road,
jest fur fun, and mebby he is running yet.
The feller had been talking like he was a lawyer,
so I asts him what crime we was charged with. But
he didn't answer me. And jest then we gets in
sight of that schoolhouse.
It set on top of a little hill, partially in the moon-
light, with a few sad-looking pine trees scattered
around it, and the fence in front broke down.
Even after night you could see it was a shabby-
looking little place.
Old Daddy Withers tied his mule to the broken
down fence. Somebody busted the front door
down. Somebody else lighted matches. The first
thing I knowed, we was all inside, and four or five
dirty little coal oil lamps, with tin reflectors to 'em,
which I s'pose was used ordinary fur school exhibi-
tions, was being lighted.
We was waltzed up onto the teacher's platform,
Doctor Kirby and me, and set down in chairs there,
with two men to each of us, and then a tall, raw-
boned feller stalks up to the teacher's desk, and
raps on it with the butt end of a pistol, and says: