Call number 813.49 D262E 1897
(Perkins Library, Duke University)
edition is a part of the UNC-CH
digitization project, Documenting
the American South, or, The Southern Experience in
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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st
LC Subject Headings:
Southern States -- Social life and customs -- Fiction.
Dialect literature, American.
1998-05-05, Natalia Smith,
project manager, finished
TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
THE SONG OF THE OPAL . . . . .
55 AT LA GLORIEUSE . . . . .
89 THE SOUL OF ROSE DÉDÉ . . . . .
126 A MIRACLE . . . . .
141 AT THE CORNER OF ABSINTHE
AND ANISETTE . . . . .
153 THE CLOVEN HEART . . . . .
FROM THE QUARTER
A HEART-LEAF FROM STONY CREEK BOTTOM . . . . .
175 A BAMBOULA . . . . .
188 MR. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN GISH'S BALL . . . . .
210 "THE CENTRE FIGGER" . . . .
227 THE "ZARK" . . . . .
244 THE LOVE-STRANCHE . . . . .
"SHE TURNED SLOWLY" . . . . .
Frontispiece " 'YOU BETTER PUT
ON A THICKER COAT,
BUD' " . . . . .Facing p.
22 " 'THE BALANCE OF
'EM MUST OF GOT LOST' " . . . . .
28 " 'FLEE FROM THE
WRATH TO COME' " . . . . .
32 MADAME RAYMONDE-ARNAULT . . . . .
88 "SHE FLUSHED AND HER
BROWN EYES DROOPED" . . . . .
92 "IT WAS ONLY FELICE" . . . . .
106 "HE THREW HIMSELF AGAINST THE DOOR" . . . . .
110 "IT YIELDED SUDDENLY, AS IF
OPENED FROM WITHIN" . . . . .
114 " 'WHAR MEK YOU WANTER GO IN
SWIMMIN'?' " . . . . .
120 THE BAMBOULA . . . . .
202 "THEY WERE COMING HOME
PRAYER-MEETING" . . . . .
"HE FACED ABOUT WITH A LOW BOW" . . . . .
220 "AND THEN HE DANCED" . . . . .
222 "BENJY HAD NO HEART FOR FURTHER
CONCEALMENTS" . . . . .
224 "MRS. MANNING
STUMBLED FORWARD" . . . . .
AN ELEPHANT'S TRACK
"IT kin be done,
Nance, an' I'm agoin' to do
it ef it busts me." Newt Pinson brought the
forelegs of his raw-hide-bottomed chair down on
the puncheon floor with a thump, and slapped
his knees emphatically with his hairy hands.
"Five dollars air a mighty heap to spen' fer
sech foolishness, Newt," replied his wife, turning
the squalling baby over on its stomach and
pounding it vigorously on the back. "Mo'over,"
she added, after a pause, "I don't see ez ye've
got the five dollars, nohow."
Mr. Pinson stretched out one long leg and
thrust a hand into his trousers-pocket. "Ye're
mighty right, Nance, I 'ain't," he admitted, blowing
the loose tobacco from the handful of coin
fetched up from the honest home-made depths;
"I've got jes three dollars and a half lef' outn
what Sam Leggett paid me fer the yearlin'. But
me an' the childern hev been a-talkin' of it over,
an' they hev conclusioned to th'ow in ther aigg
money; Dan fo' bits, an' Pete fo'; Joe an' Jed
hez two bits betwix 'em, an' Polly M'riar says
ez how she hev fifteen cents. I'm lackin' of a
dime, but I reckin I kin scratch thet up somewhers."
"Thar's my two bits up yan in the clock," Mrs.
Pinson remarked, with pretended indifference;
"ye kin take that ef ye air sech a plumb fool ez
to pike the whole passel of us inter town to see
"Shucks, Nance!" he returned, indignantly;
"I ain't agoin' to tech yo'
two bits." Nevertheless
he got up and fumbled about in the clock-case
on the high mantel-shelf until he found it.
"Anyhow," he added, as he reseated himself, "I
kin pay it back when ye git ready fer yo' nex'
bottle o' snuff."
"Will they be a el'phunt?" demanded one of
the freckle-faced urchins gathered around the
heads of the family, listening, breathless, to the
"A dollar fer Nance, en' a dollar fer me," Mr.
Pinson counted, gravely, taking no notice of the
interruption, "an' fo' bits apiece fer Beck an'
Dan an' Pete an' Polly M'riar an' Joe an' Jed.
Childern half price" - he glanced casually at the
flaming circus poster tacked against the chinked
wall in the chimney corner - "not countin' of the
baby. An' fifteen cents lef', by jing!"
"Do ye reckin I kin git in fer half price,
paw?" This question, which came from Becky,
the oldest of the Pinson brood, who stood five
feet six and a half inches in her bare feet, might
have been meant as a bit of covert sarcasm, had
not the eager voice belied any such intention.
Her father's eyes travelled slowly up from the
hem of her homespun frock, as she stood leaning
against the chimney jamb, to her pretty round
face framed in its shock of frizzly red hair.
"Waal, I be dinged, Beck!" he exclaimed, in
dismay, "I keep fergittin' ez how ye air growed
up!" His face clouded, and he looked ruefully
at the pile of dimes and half-dimes lying in his
"An' Sam Leggett's gone to Kansas on a cattle
drive," murmured the twelve-year-old Dan,
with a meaning leer at Becky. A vivid blush
overspread her face; she dropped her eyelids
and squirmed her shapely toes. But Mr. Pinson
was absorbed in a mute recalculation, which ended
presently in a beat-out whistle and a mournful
shake of the head.
Mrs. Pinson, with the colicky baby laid over
her shoulder, was jolting her rockerless chair to
and fro, and singing, in a sweet, drawling
ye git to hev-ven ye will pa-art n-o-o m-o-o'!"
She interrupted herself
to observe, quietly,
"Ye kin tote the baby, Beck; an' I kin tote
Joe; an' yo' paw he kin tote Jed, twel we git
inside the tent. They ain't no charge fer children
in arms. It says so."
"Lord, Nance!" exclaimed her husband, in
an ecstasy of admiration, "ye air the beatenes'
white woman on Jim-Ned Creek! Thet settles it
oncet mo'! Fetch me a coal fer my pipe, Polly
Becky heaved a deep sigh of relief, and sank
down on her heels, reaching under her mother's
chair at the same time for the snuff-bottle.
"Will they be a el'phunt?" persisted Jed, the
tow-headed boy next to the baby, already in long
trousers, which were hitched up to his shoulders
with a single white cotton "gallus."
"Of co'se. They is al'uz a el'phunt with a
circus," replied his father.
"I 'ain't nuver seen no circus," said Mrs. Pinson,
in jerks between the long-drawn swells of
her mournful lullaby.
"Nuther hev I," admitted Newt; "but I jes
natchly know that ever' circus has got to hev a
el'phunt an' a clown."
"Didn' I tell ye so!" cried Dan, triumphantly,
following with a dirty forefinger the head-lines
of the poster. "Ain't the el'phunts right here,
a-dancin' an' a stan'in' on they heads, an' a-rollin'
o' barrils? An' ez for clowns! they is four
mirth-pro-vo-king clowns in this here show. It
says so. An' five beau-ti-ful and ac-com-plished
lady bare-back riders;" and he continued to
spell out laboriously the manifold and unrivalled
attractionns of Riddler's Mammoth Circu and
Menagerie, billed - for one performance only - in
Comanche at two o'clock P.M., Monday, the 18th
of October. Come One. Come All.
Becky, struck by a sudden thought, stared at
him, shifting the brush uneasily from one corner
of her mouth to the other. "Like ez not," she
broke out, abruptly, "Brother Skaggs'll preach
agin it nex' Sunday. Sho's yo' bawn, Brother
Skaggs air a-goin ter preach agin it."
Mrs. Pinson stopped singing; Polly Maria and
the boys turned stricken faces upon their father.
His eyes twinkled under their bushy red brows,
but his voice was decorously sober as he drawled:
"Brother Skaggs hes gone to Confunce, an' he
won't be back twel Sat'day week. Ye min',
Nance," he continued, "it air thirty-one mile to
town, an' ef we lay to git ther in time fer the
show Monday, we got to camp somewhers 'bout
Blanket Sunday night."
"Jes to think o' me goin' to town oncet mo'!"
said Mrs. Pinson, meditatively, that night, when
she and Becky were getting supper in the brush
arbor behind the cabin. "I 'ain't been sence you
was a baby, Beck. Yo' paw an' me went to Wash
Dingwall's infair - he died with his boots on four
year ago; en' Tempunce Loo - thet's his widder
- she's married agin to Bijy Green. I rid behin'
him, an' he toted you on his lap. Town folks air
mighty bigaty," she added, warningly; "'n' ye
mus' do up thet pu'ple caliker o'yourn, Beck, an'
put on yo' shoes an' stockin's."
"Seems lak fo' days won't nuver go," fretted
Beck, "an' ole Baldy air sho to lame hisse'f, or
sump'n'. It's alluz that a-way whence a body air
plumb sot on doin' a thing."
But the four days did go, and when the eventful
Sunday afternoon came, old Baldy, unusually
sound and spirited, was with Jinny, the gaunt
gray mule, harnessed to the wagon; the patched
and dingy cover was drawn over the bows, a
bundle or two of fodder and a few ears of corn
were thrown into the hinder part, and Mr. Pinson
drove gayly alongside of the rail-fence in
front of the cabin. The rickety house door was
drawn to with a rock behind it to keep it shut.
A couple of chairs were handed up for Mrs. Pinson
and Becky, and they clambered in with the
baby. The yellow cotton poke, well stuffed
with corn-bread and bacon, and the battered
coffee-pot and frying-pan, were stowed under the
chairs. Polly Maria and the boys sat on a quilt
spread over the sweet-smelling fodder; Rove,
Ring, and Spot, the lean, long- eared brown
hounds, yelped and whined against the wheels.
They jolted away, serious, as became a perfessin'
fambly on a Sunday, but full of inward excitement.
At night they camped on the pecan-fringed
banks of Rastler's, and were off betimes
in the morning. But not too soon to find the
road lively with friends and acquaintances from
all the settlements around, bound on the same
joyous errand as themselves. They passed Joe
Holder, with his wife and sister-in-law and the
thirteen children of the two families, creaking
along in a huge freighter's wagon drawn by five
yoke of gaunt, wide-horned oxen; they were
overtaken and outstripped by a noisy squad of
girls and young men on horseback from the Fork
Valley neighborhood; they kept within hailing
distance for a dozen miles or more of old Daddy
Gardenbrier and his wife, riding double on their
blind yellow mare. The Mount Zion folks, they
heard, were ahead of them by some hours, and an
impatient youngster who trotted by on a paint
pony threw over his shoulder the information
that the Big Puddle lay-out was coming on
"Lord, Nance!" Mr. Pinson exclaimed more
than once that morning, "I wouldn't of took five
dollars to of stayed at home."
"Nuther would I, Newt," Mrs. Pinson as often
returned, with a kind of solemn delight on her
thin, sallow face.
The long reaches of post-oak "rough" were
heavy with sand; the shinn-oak prairies between
were a tangle of roots that zigzagged across the
road, and made progress slow and painful; the
abrupt banks of the frequent "dry creeks" were
steep; the October sun was hot; and by noon
old Baldy had become utterly dispirited. He had,
moreover, fallen a little lame, and he moved
dejectedly along by Jinny, who long ago had flopped
her big ears downward in sign of weariness and
The Pinsons under the dingy wagon cover were
wellnigh speechless with impatience.
Suddenly Dan stood up, knocking his head
against the low wagon bows. "Jes over yan,"
he declared, "pas' one little bit o' shinn-oak
prery, an' crost a dry creek, an' up a hill, is
town." Dan had been to town once with Sam
Leggett to lay out his long-hoarded egg money
in a four-bladed knife and a pair of store
Polly Maria, slim and thin-legged, standing up
beside him, pitched backward into the fodder as
the wagon came to a sudden halt behind a group
of dismounted horsemen, who, with their bridles
over their arms, were squatting down, apparently
searching for something in a half-dried mud-puddle
to the right of the road. "Hullo, Jack!"
called Mr. Pinson; "what ye lost?" One of the
men looked over his shoulder. "Hy're, Newt?
Howdy, Mis' Pinson?" he cried, springing to his
feet and coming back to the side of the wagon,
where he shook hands all around. "We 'ain't
lost nothin'," he went on, putting a foot up on
the hub of the front wheel and resting his arms
on the hot tire; "we've found sump'n', though,
you bet! A genooine elephant track in the sof'
mud yonder, plain as daylight, an' no mistake."
Polly Maria and the boys scrambled in hot
haste over the tail-board. Mr. Pinson threw
down the reins, and held the baby while Becky
and her mother jumped out.
"Wish I may die ef it ain't a el'phunt track
sho!" he exclaimed, when he had joined the
wondering circle gathered about the huge
"It looks to me lak ez ef it were hine-side
afore somehow," said Mrs. Pinson, timidly.
"I have just been explaining to Mr. Jack
Cyarter here and these other gentlemen, madam,"
said Mr. Tolliver, the old Virginian who taught
the school at Ebenezer Church, "that it is a fact
in natural history that the track of the elephant
always presents that appearance." He removed
his hat as he spoke, and made an old-fashioned
Jack Carter and his friends mounted their
horses and dashed away, followed at a more sober
pace by Mr. Tolliver on his slab-sided plough-mule.
The Pinsons climbed back to their places and
jogged on, across the bit o' prery and over the
dry creek - where they came near getting stalled
- and up the hill. On its crest Newt Pinson
involuntarily drew up. "By jing! this beats me!"
he ejaculated, with widening eyes. The square
at the foot of the slope was in an uproar. Horses
stood nose to nose around the court-house fence,
and were hitched to the scraggy mesquite-trees
that shaded the town well. The dusty streets
leading away from the plaza were blocked with
wagons little and big, carts, ambulances,
dilapidated hacks, high-swung red-bodied stages -
every imaginable kind of vehicle - and all the
intervening spaces, as well as the irregular sidewalks
in front of the four in-facing rows of stores,
were alive with men, women, and children, who
elbowed one another, whooping, laughing,
gesticulating - surging about in a state of the wildest,
best-natured excitement. Beyond the unpainted
little Baptist church, on the farther side of the
square, the circus tents were visible. Flags and
streamers were flying from their poles, and a
vanishing burst of music came floating from them
up to the top of the hill.
"This beats me!" insisted Mr. Pinson again.
With a deep-drawn breath he gathered up the
ragged, homespun lines and drove down into the
square, picking his way dexterously through the
crowd until he halted alongside the shaky
platform in front of Bush Gaines's store. "Holloa
agin, Newt - that you?" grinned Jack Carter
from behind the counter within, where he was
helping himself to a plug of tobacco. "You're
jest a minit too late to see the procession. It
cert'nly is a fine show. The elephant was there,
mighty nigh as big as Ebenezer Church. An'
such a clown! You'd ha' laughed yourse'f to
death to ha' seen him. His breeches are more'n
a yard wide, and he 'ain't got a hair on his head!"
"Ef we hadn't of stopped to look at the el'phunt's
track -" began Newt, regretfully; "but
nuver min', Nance, it air a heap better to see it
fust off fum the inside."
"Oh, a heap better," responded Mrs. Pinson,
with cheerful alacrity. Bush Gaines, measuring
off some jeans for a Mount Zion matron, called
to Newt to bring his fambly in the sto' an' set
down, an' pass the time o' day. But after a
brief consultation with his wife, during which
Becky took mental note of some town girls in
looped overskirts and bangs - an observation
which bore fruit at the next Quarterly Meeting -
Mr. Pinson declined with thanks, and drove on
to the town well - all but gone dry from the
excessive strain put upon it - where Dan and Pete
watered the team.
Afterwards they crossed the square and stopped
by the Baptist church, in full view of the circus
tents, whence arose at that moment a prolonged
and sullen roar. "They're feedin' of the
nannimals," explained Mr. Pinson, in a familiar,
off-hand sort of way, whereat Mrs. Pinson shuddered
and hugged the sleeping baby closer to her bosom.
Old Baldy and Jinny were unhitched and fed
from the trough at the back of the wagon; the
panting dogs lay down in the shade of the
church; the children had a snack all around out
of the yellow poke, and Becky and her mother
fetched out the chairs and sat down to "have
"It air a haff'n hour yit twel the do's is open,"
said Mr. Pinson, finally. "Jes you an' the childern
stay right here, Nance. I'm goin' to tramp
down to the pos'-office an' git the las' 'lection
news, an' sich. I'll be back the minit it air time,
an' min' you all be ready, less'n we don't git no
Mrs. Pinson nodded, and he strolled away.
"This here beats me," he kept saying to himself.
Comanche was indeed in an unwonted state of
excitement. Riddler's was the first circus that
had ever quitted the line of railway and ventured
across the long sandy reaches of post-oak
rough to the little isolated town in West Texas.
And the whole surrounding country had pulled
to its doors like the Pinsons, and responded to
the invitation of the huge posters: "Come One.
Newt's progress was slow, owing to frequent
encountering of neighbors and the necessity of
inquiring after the health of their families. He
did at last, however, reach the post-office, a
ramshackle building next to the blacksmith shop.
As he turned the corner he came upon a
cake-and-lemonade stand. His hand went instantly
down into his pocket, and came up with the extra
fifteen cents, which he exchanged for three
solid slabs of mahogany-colored gingerbread.
"Fer Nance an' the childern," he explained, as
the woman in charge wrapped up his purchase.
The bleary old creature looked at him with a
sudden kindly smile, and slipped a stick of
peppermint candy into the parcel.
With one foot on the post-office step he paused
to look at a man who had planted a gigantic
yellow umbrella out in the dusty square, and standing
bareheaded beneath it, was yelling some
unintelligible jargon at the top of his lungs. Mr.
Pinson hurried over and joined the ring of
gaping spectators. On a bit of board in the
shadow of the umbrella a couple of odd little
marionettes of colored metal were circling in a kind of
grotesque waltz. "Lots
of fun for twenty-five
cents!" shouted the showman, stopping now and
then to touch up the figures with a stubby
forefinger. "Lots of fun for twenty-five cents! The
greatest toy invented in this age or any other.
So simple that a crawling child cannot fail to
manage it! Those who know the trick will please
say nothing. Cheap, gentlemen, for
cents. Oh, I see the gentleman is going to buy!"
Newt grinned and shook his head regretfully.
"One for one, two for
two, three gets the half
a dollah!" bawled another
individual who had set
up a table near-by covered with wooden ninepins.
Jack Carter and his crowd were throwing at these
with little painted balls. A cigar, Jack explained
to Newt, was the reward for one pin knocked
down at a throw; two cigars went to the player
who knocked down two; while the lucky thrower
who succeeded in knocking down three received
fifty cents. "One for one,
two for two, three gets
the half a dollah," went
on the proprietor,
monotonously. "Three throws for
five cents. Step
up, gentlemen, and try your luck! For a
One for one, two for
two, three gets the half a
"Lord! ef I hadn't of bought this durned
ginger-cake!" groaned Mr. Pinson in spirit,
gathering the paper parcel more securely under his
arm and moving on with the crowd.
A step or two brought him to an open wagon
from which a patent-medicine man was holding
forth. "Try the remedy,"
he whined, flourishing
a stout black bottle and a pewter spoon.
"Cures all diseases ! Try
the remedy! Administered
free of charge to any one in the crowd.
This superb bottle filled
with the remedy, only
fifty cents. The wise man tries, the fool dies.
Try the remedy!"
"This here beats me,"
mechanically wiping the perspiration from his
forehead and backing against the court-house fence,
where he leaned, fairly exhausted with the
variety and novelty of his emotions. "The haff'n hour
mus' be nigh 'bout up. Dinged ef I ain't glad,"
he continued, letting the crowd drift on without
him to where the health-lift man was exhorting
the cautious ranchmen to "try the machine;
try the wonderful
machine, gentlemen. Excellent
for the constitootion! Only five cents a trial.
Try the machine;"
and the reckless cowboys
were emptying their pockets at the invitation of
the vender of prize-boxes.
"Curious game that, sir," said
a smooth voice
at his elbow. He looked around, startled. A
seedy but respectable-looking personage was
standing by him with his arms crossed on the
low fence. He jerked his head as he spoke towards
a little knot of men hanging around the stile-steps
leading into the weed-grown court-house
Newt walked over and looked on. It was a
simple-enough-looking game at cards. An
innocent-faced little fellow with black hair and
curly mustache was manipulating the greasy
deck. The bet was five dollars. Two countrymen,
unknown to Newt, with suspiciously stiff
white collars above their coarse hickory shirts,
and scrupulously clean finger-nails, won successively
five dollars, and the dealer, much chagrined,
seemed on the point of giving up.
Newt made half a step forward. His heart
was beating violently and the blood was surging
in his ears. "I'm a perfessin' member," he
argued mentally with himself, while the cards
were once more shuffled and spread out, "yit
it air jes' 'bout the easies' thing in creation to
tell which one of them cyards air the right one.
An' Nance an' me'll hev mo'n time to trade
out the five dollars whence the show air over.
And he counted out and laid down his handful
of dimes and nickels, and hazarded a bet.
He bent forward eagerly, and unconsciously
stretched forth a hand. "This here monty air
a mighty deceivin' game," remarked the blacksmith,
with an air of conviction, as the dealer
raked Mr. Pinson's money into his own pocket
and walked jauntily away.
Newt turned about, half dazed by the suddenness
of the whole transaction, and bewildered by
the jeers of the by-standers. Just then, however,
a noisy burst of music from the circus tents
gave the signal for the opening of the doors; a
wild rush immediately began in that direction,
and in a few moments the square was deserted,
except by the patent-medicine man and the
owner of the big umbrella. These joked each
other loudly, and slapped significantly their
Newt passed them with his head bent, heedless
of the sneering laugh which they sent after
him. As he approached the church he saw that
Becky had the baby; she was holding him up
and smoothing the pink calico skirts over his
fat white legs. Mrs. Pinson looked at him with
an unwonted sparkle in her solemn black eyes as
he drew near, and lifted the chunky Jed in her
arms. "She looks lak she did whence I war
a-courtin' of her," he thought, with a sore pang.
Joe plunged towards him with a joyous whoop.
"Hurry, paw, hurry!" screamed Polly Maria;
"we ain't agoin' to git no seats less'n we hurry."
He put Joe aside roughly and strode on to his
wife. His face was set and hard, though his
mouth twitched convulsively.
"Lord-a-mighty, Newt Pinson, what ails ye?"
ejaculated Mrs. Pinson, letting Jed slip from her
"Nothin' ain't ailin' me ez I knows on," he
returned, in a dry, harsh voice; "we got to go
back home 'thout seein' o' the show, thet's all.
I done bet away ever' cent of ourn an' the childern's
circus money on a fool game o' cyards -
yander. Oh Lord!" he ended with a groan. A
single wild wail burst from Polly Maria and the
boys. Then they huddled against their mother's
skirts in mute agony.
A faint flush passed over Mrs. Pinson's thin
face and the light faded from her dark eyes.
"'Tain't no diffunce, Newt," she said, lightly,
catching the baby from Becky's limp and nerveless
arms. "Jes ye hitch up, quick ez ye kin,
an' le's get outn this here bigaty town. Me an'
the childern air plumb beat out wi' these stuckup
town folks, anyhow!"
Newt stared at her in silence, and slouched
away. Her gaze followed him to the rear of the
wagon; when he was beyond the reach of her
voice she whirled around and blazed in a threatening
half-whisper: "Ef ary one o' ye says a
word to yer paw 'bout this here misfortin o' hisn,
or 'bout hankerin' a'ter the show; er of ary one
o'ye ain't thet gamesome an' lively, lak ez ef they
wa'n't no sech a thing ez a circus, er a clown, er
a el'phunt in this here livin' worl' - sho's ye bawn
I'll shet the do' in Sam Leggett's face an' cowhide
the balance o' ye twel ye can't set down fer
Becky's ruddy cheeks grew pale. "Yes, maw,"
she returned, in a subdued tone.
"Yes, maw," echoed Polly Maria and the
boys, stolidly, not without squeezing back some
ungamesome tears, however, as they stood in a
row against the Baptist church and watched
their father bring around Jinny and old Baldy.
Had they only known it, they might have seen
while they waited, the Liliputian Lady and the
Fat Woman go by in a shaky hack with torn
curtains, and descend before the painted flaps
of one of the side shows. But they did not
The wagon was turned around; they climbed
over the wheels and settled themselves under the
dingy cover. As they moved slowly across the
silent square a tremendous shout from the spectators
within the tent, and a pompous fanfare
from the brass-band, announced that the Grand
Entry had begun.
Newt stalked along beside the tired team
downcast and miserable. "I've even fergot
wher' I lef' the childern's ginger-cake," he
muttered to himself, as his mind went over and over
the incidents of that fatal haff'n hour.
A curious hilarity prevailed that night around
the little camp-fire. Mrs. Pinson, usually silent
almost to taciturnity, had become all at once
loquacious. She painted to the family circle in
glowing colors the pride and wickedness of town
folks; she pictured the denunciatory wrath of
Brother Skaggs when he should learn that perfessin'
members of Ebenezer Church had been inside
of a circus tent; she related the experience
of sundry sinners who had been overtaken by
divine vengeance while in the very act of laughing
at the antics of a clown; she even lifted up
her voice and sang some particularly
flame-and-brimstone-promising hymn tunes. Becky,
mindful of Sam Leggett away off in Kansas, seconded
her efforts to keep the general cheerfulness up
to a proper pitch. If it showed signs of flagging,
however, a warning look, shot from beneath their
mother's drooping eyelids, acted like a charm on
Polly Maria and the boys.
Newt, who at first sat mournfully hugging his
knees and gazing into space, presently caught
the infection himself, and when, finally, he
unrolled a patch-quilt and threw himself thereon,
closing his eyes in peaceful slumber, it was
almost with the conviction that the five dollars
had been well lost in keeping a perfessin' fambly
out of the worldly and soul-destroying circus
Mrs. Pinson, sitting alone by the smouldering
fire with the baby in her arms, looked at his
unconscious face upturned in the dim moonlight;
her gaze travelled slowly from one muffled,
indistinct form huddled under the shadow of the
wagon, to another; she sighed heavily, and her face
relapsed into its usual sombre expression. "I
wisht -" she muttered; then after a long pause,
as she stretched herself on the quilt beside her
slumbering spouse and wrapped the baby's feet
in an old shawl, she concluded with a little touch
of triumph in her whispered tones, "Anyhow, I
hev seen the el'phunt's track!"
"I AIN'T sayin'
nothin' ag'inst the women o'
Jim-Ned Creek ez women," said Mr. Pinson;
"an' what's more, I'll spit on my hands an' lay
out any man ez 'll dassen to sass 'em. But ez
wives the women o' Jim-Ned air the outbeatenes'
critters in creation!"
These remarks, uttered in an oracular tone,
were received with grave approbation by the half
a dozen idlers gathered about the mesquite fire
in Bishop's store. Old Bishop himself, sorting
over some trace-chains behind the counter,
nodded grimly, and then smiled, his wintry face
grown suddenly tender.
"You've shore struck it, Newt," assented Joe
Trimble. "You never kin tell how ary one of
'em'll ack under any succumstances."
Jack Carter and Sid Northoutt, the only
bachelors present, grinned and winked slyly at
"You boys neenter be so brash," drawled Mr.
Pinson's son-in-law, Sam Leggett, from his perch
on a barrel of pecans; "jest you wait ontell
Minty Cullum an' Loo Slater gits a tight holt!
Them gals is ez meek ez lambs - now. But so
was Mis' Pinson an' Mis' Trimble in their day an'
time, I reckon. I know Becky Leggett was."
"The studdies'-goin' woman on Jim-Ned,"
continued Mr. Pinson, ignoring these interruptions,
"is Mis' Cullum. An' yit, Tobe Cullum
ain't no safeter than anybody else - considerin'
of Sissy Cullum ez a wife!"
Mr. Trimble opened his lips to speak, but shut
them again hastily, looking a little scared, and
an awkward silence fell on the group.
For the shadow of Mrs. Cullum herself had
advanced through the wide doorway, and lay
athwart the puncheon floor; and that lady, a
large, comfortable-looking, middle-aged person,
with a motherly face and a kindly smile, after a
momentary survey of the scene before her,
walked briskly in. She shook hands across the
counter with the storekeeper, and passed the
time of day all around.
Bud Hines, the new clerk, shuffled forward
eagerly to wait on her. Bud was a sallow-faced,
thin-chested, gawky youth from the States, who
had wandered into these parts in search of health
and employment. He was not yet used to the
somewhat drastic ways of Jim-Ned, and there
was a homesick look in his watery blue eyes; he
smiled bashfully at her while he measured off
calico and weighed sugar, and he followed her
out to the horse-block when she had concluded
her lengthy spell of shopping.
"You put on a thicker coat, Bud,"
she said, pushing back her elm-bonnet and looking
down at him from the saddle before she
moved off. "You've got a rackety cough. I
reckon I'll have to make you some mullein
"Oh, Mis' Cullum, don't trouble yourself
about me," Mr. Hines cried, gratefully, a lump
rising in his throat as he watched her ride away.
The loungers in the store had strolled out on
the porch. "Mis' Cullum cert'n'y is a sister in
Zion," remarked Mr. Trimble, gazing admiringly
at her retreating figure.
"M - m - m - y - e - e - s," admitted Mr. Pinson.
"But," he added, darkly, after a meditative
pause, "Sissy Cullum is a wife, an' the women
o' Jim-Ned, ez wives,
air liable to conniptions."
Mrs. Cullum jogged slowly along the brown,
wheel-rifted road which followed the windings
of the creek. It was late in November. A
brisk little norther was blowing, and the nuts
dropping from the pecan-trees in the hollows
filled in the dusky stillness with a continuous
rattling sound. There was a sprinkling of belated
cotton bolls on the stubbly fields to the right
of the road; a few ragged sunflowers were still
abloom in the fence corners, where the pokeberries
were red-ripe on their tall stalks.
"I must lay in some poke root for Tobe's
knee-j'ints," mused Mrs. Cullum, as she turned
into the lane which led to her own door-yard.