a persistent huskiness and stood up.
"Before we purceed to the regular routine,"
he piped, "I desire to present a certain matter
to a couple of our members." He came down
off the little platform, where the flags were
draped, with a step that was almost light,
and into Captain Abner Tilghman's hand he
put a copy of a city paper, turned and folded
at a certain place, where a column of printed
matter was scored about with heavy pencil
bracketings. "Cap'n," he said, "ez a personal
favour to me, suh, would you please read this
here article? the one that's marked" he
pointed with his finger "not aloud read it
to yourself, please."
It was characteristic of the paralytic to say
[ 396 ]
A BEAUTIFUL EVENING
nothing. Without a word he adjusted his
glasses and without a word he began to read.
So instantly intent was he that he did not see
what followed next and that was Judge
Priest crossing over to Mr. Edward Tilghman's
side with another copy of the same paper in
"Ed," he bade him, "read this here article,
won't you? Read it clear through to the end
it mout interest you mebbe." The deaf
man looked up at him wonderingly, but took
the paper in his slightly palsied hand and bent
his head close above the printed sheet.
Judge Priest stood in the middle aisle, mak
ing no move to go back to his own place. He
watched the two silent readers. All the others
watched them too. They read on, making
slow progress, for the light was poor and their
eyes were poor. And the watchers could hardly
contain themselves; they could hardly wait.
Sergeant Jimmy Bagby kept bobbing up and
down like a pudgy jack-in-the-box that is
slightly stiff in its joints. A small, restrained
rustle of bodies accompanied the rustle of the
folded newspapers held in shaky hands.
Unconscious of all scrutiny, the brothers
read on. Perhaps because he had started first
perhaps because his glasses were the more
expensive and presumably therefore the more
helpful Captain Abner Tilghman came to
the concluding paragraph first. He read it
through and then Judge Priest turned his
OLD JUDGE PRIEST
head away, for a moment almost regretting he
had chosen so public a place for this thing.
He looked back again in t^ime to see Captain
Abner getting upon his feet. Dragging his
dead leg behind him, the paralytic crossed the
bare floor to where his brother's grey head
was bent to his task. And at his side he halted,
making no sound or sign, but only waiting.
He waited there, trembling all over, until the
sitter came to the end of the column and read
what was there and lifted a face all glorified
with a perfect understanding.
"Eddie!" said the older man "Eddie!"
H uttered a name of boyhood affection that
none there had heard uttered for fifty years
nearly; and it was as though a stone had been
rolled away from a tomb as though out of the
grave of a dead past a voice had risen resur
rected. "Eddie!" he said a third time, plead
ingly, abjectly, humbly, craving for forgiveness.
"Brother Abner!" said the other man. "Oh,
Brother Abner!" he said and that was all
he did say all he had need to say, for he was
on his feet now, reaching out with wide-spread,
Sergeant Jimmy Bagby tried to start a yell,
but could not make it come out of his throat
only a clicking, squeaking kind of sound
came. Considered as a yell it was a miserable
Side by side, each with his inner arm tight
gripped about the other, the brothers, bare-
A BEAUTIFUL EVENING
headed, turned their backs upon their friends
and went away. Slowly they passed out
through the doorway into the darkness of the
stair landing, and the members of the Gideon
K. Irons Camp were all up on their feet.
"Mind that top step, Abner!" they heard the
younger man say. "Wait! I'll help you down."
And that was all except a scuffling sound of
uncertainly placed feet, growing fainter and
fainter as the two brothers passed down the
long stairs of Kamleiter's Hall and out into
the night together that was all, unless you
would care to take cognisance of a subdued
little chorus such as might be produced by
twelve or thirteen elderly men snuffling in a
large bare room. As commandant of the
Camp it was fitting, perhaps, that Judge Priest
should speak first.
"The trouble with this here Camp is jest
this," he said: "it's got a lot of snifflm' old
fools in it that don't know no better than to
bust out cry in' when they oughter be happy!"
And then, as if to prove how deeply he felt the
shame of such weakness on the part of others,
Judge Priest blew his nose with great violence,
and for a space of minutes industriously mopped
at his indignant eyes with an enormous pocket
In accordance with a rule, Jeff Poindexter
waited up for his employer. Jeff expected
him by nine-thirty at the latest; but it was
OLD JUDGE PRIEST
actually getting along toward ten-thirty before
Jeff, who had been dozing lightly in the dim-lit
hall, oblivious to the fanged attentions of some
large mosquitoes, roused 'as he heard the sound
of a rambling but familiar step clunking along
the wooden sidewalk of Clay Street. The
latch on the front gate clicked, and as Jeff
poked his nose out of the front door he heard,
down the aisle of trees that bordered the gravel
walk, the voice of his master uplifted in solitary
In the matter of song the judge had a pecul
iarity. It made no difference what the words
might be or the theme he sang every song
and all songs to a fine, thin, tuneless little air
of his own. At this moment Judge Priest, as
Jeff gathered, showed a wide range of selection.
One second he was announcing that his name
it was Joe Bowers and he was all the way from
Pike, and the next, stating, for the benefit of
all who might care to hear these details, that
they presumably certain horses were bound
to run all night bound to run all day; so you
could bet on the bobtailed nag and he'd bet
on the bay. Nearer to the porch steps it
boastingly transpired that somebody had
jumped aboard the telegraf and steered her by
the triggers, whereat the lightnin' flew and 'lectri-
fied and killed ten thousand niggers! But even
so general a catastrophe could not weigh down
the singer's spirits. As he put a fumbling foot
upon the lowermost step of the porch, he threw
[ 400 ]
A BEAUTIFUL EVENI
his head far back and shrilly issued the following
blanket invitation to ladies resident in a far
Oh, Bowery gals, won't you come out to-night?
Won't you come out to-night?
Oh, Bowery gals, won't you come out to-night 9
And dance by the light of the moon?
I danced with a gal wtih a hole in her stockin 9 ;
And her heel it kep' a-rockin' kep 9 a-rockin 9 !
She was the purtiest gal in the room!
Jeff pulled the front door wide open. The
song stopped and Judge Priest stood in the
opening, teetering a little on his heels. His
face was all a blushing pink glow pinker even
"Evenin', Jedge!" greeted Jeff. "You're
"Jeff," said Judge Priest slowly, "it's a
Amazed, Jeff stared at him. As a matter of
fact, the drizzle of the afternoon had changed,
soon after dark, to a steady downpour. The
judge's limpened hat brim dripped raindrops
and his shoulders were sopping wet, but Jeff
had yet to knowingly and wilfully contradict
a prominent white citizen.
"Yas, suh!" he said, half affirmatively, hah*
questioningly. "Is it?"
"It is so!" said Judge Priest. "Every star
in the sky shines like a diamond! Jeff, it's the
most beautiful evenin' I ever remember!"
THIS BOOK IS DUB ON THE LAST DATE
AN INITIAL FINE OF 25 CENTS
WILL BE ASSESSED FOR FAILURE TO RETURN
THIS BOOK ON THE DATE DUE. THE PENALTY
WILL INCREASE TO SO CENTS ON THE FOURTH
DAY AND TO $1.OO ON THE SEVENTH DAY
OCT 1 5 1935
APS I 3 1936
HIM 96 1936
i > 1937
HAK 2 8 1939
BRANCH OF THE COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE
Old Judge Priest,
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA