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OLE MAMMY'S TORMENT


* * * * * * *


Works of
ANNIE FELLOWS JOHNSTON


=The Little Colonel Series=

(_Trade Mark, Reg. U.S. Pat. Of._)

Each one vol., large 12mo, cloth, illustrated

The Little Colonel Stories $1.50
(Containing in one volume the three stories, "The
Little Colonel," "The Giant Scissors," and "Two
Little Knights of Kentucky.")

The Little Colonel's House Party 1.50
The Little Colonel's Holidays 1.50
The Little Colonel's Hero 1.50
The Little Colonel at Boarding-School 1.50
The Little Colonel in Arizona 1.50
The Little Colonel's Christmas Vacation 1.50
The Little Colonel: Maid of Honor 1.50
The Little Colonel's Knight Comes Riding 1.50
Mary Ware: The Little Colonel's Chum 1.50
The above 10 vols., _boxed_ 15.00
_In Preparation_: A new "Little Colonel" Book.

* * *

The Little Colonel Good Times Book 1.50


=Illustrated Holiday Editions=

Each one vol., small quarto, cloth, illustrated, and printed in
colour

The Little Colonel $1.25
The Giant Scissors 1.25
Two Little Knights of Kentucky 1.25
Big Brother 1.25

=Cosy Corner Series=
Each one vol., thin 12mo, cloth, illustrated

The Little Colonel $.50
The Giant Scissors .50
Two Little Knights of Kentucky .50
Big Brother .50
Ole Mammy's Torment .50
The Story of Dago .50
Cicely .50
Aunt 'Liza's Hero .50
The Quilt that Jack Built .50
Flip's "Islands of Providence" .50
Mildred's Inheritance .50

=Other Books=

Joel: A Boy of Galilee $1.50
In the Desert of Waiting .50
The Three Weavers .50
Keeping Tryst .50
The Legend of the Bleeding Heart .50
The Rescue of the Princess Winsome .50
The Jester's Sword .50
Asa Holmes 1.00
Songs Ysame (Poems, with Albion Fellows Bacon) 1.00

* * *

L.C. PAGE & COMPANY
53 Beacon Street Boston, Mass.


* * * * * * *



[Illustration: Bud and Ivy]




OLE MAMMY'S TORMENT

by

ANNIE FELLOWS JOHNSTON

Illustrated by Mary G. Johnston and Amy M. Sacker







[Illustration: Publisher's crest]



Boston
L. C. Page and Company
(Incorporated)
Publishers
_Copyright, 1897_
by L. C. Page and Company
(Incorporated)
Thirteenth Impression, February, 1907
Fourteenth Impression, March, 1909
Fifteenth Impression, August, 1910
=Colonial Press:=
Electrotyped and Printed by C.H. Simonds & Co.
Boston, Mass., U.S.A.




TO
TWO TORMENTS WHOM I KNOW



[Illustration: Illustrations]




ILLUSTRATIONS


PAGE
BUD AND IVY _Frontispiece_

JOHN JAY 2

"'WOT WE ALL GWINE DO NOW?'" 7

MARS' NAT 29

"A GROUP OF PRETTY GIRLS SAT ON THE PORCH" 37

"FILLED BOTH HIS HANDS" 41

UNDER THE APPLE-TREE 52

UNCLE BILLY 65

"THE GANDERS HAD CHASED HIM AROUND" 76

"GEORGE CAME OUT AND LOCKED THE DOOR" 93

"SAT ALONE BY THE CHURCH STEPS" 111

[Illustration: Cabin]




OLE MAMMY'S TORMENT.

CHAPTER I.


Uncle Billy rested his axe on the log he was chopping, and turned his
grizzly old head to one side, listening intently. A confusion of sounds
came from the little cabin across the road. It was a dilapidated negro
cabin, with its roof awry and the weather-boarding off in great patches;
still, it was a place of interest to Uncle Billy. His sister lived there
with three orphan grandchildren.

Leaning heavily on his axe-handle, he thrust out his under lip, and
rolled his eyes in the direction of the uproar. A broad grin spread over
his wrinkled black face as he heard the rapid spank of a shingle, the
scolding tones of an angry voice, and a prolonged howl.

"John Jay an' he gran'mammy 'peah to be havin' a right sma't difference
of opinion togethah this mawnin'," he chuckled.

He shaded his eyes with his stiff, crooked fingers for a better view. A
pair of nimble black legs skipped back and forth across the open
doorway, in a vain attempt to dodge the descending shingle, while a
clatter of falling tinware followed old Mammy's portly figure, as she
made awkward but surprising turns in her wrathful circuit of the crowded
room.

[Illustration: John Jay]

"Ow! I'll be good! I'll be good! Oh, Mammy, don't! You'se a-killin' me!"
came in a high shriek.

Then there was a sudden dash for the cabin door, and an eight-year-old
colored boy scurried down the path like a little wild rabbit, as fast as
his bare feet could carry him. The noise ended as suddenly as it had
begun; so suddenly, indeed, that the silence seemed intense, although
the air was full of all the low twitterings and soft spring sounds that
come with the early days of April.

Uncle Billy stood chuckling over the boy's escape. The situation had
been made clear to him by the angry exclamations he had just overheard.
John Jay, left in charge of the weekly washing, flapping on the line,
had been unfaithful to his trust. A neighbor's goat had taken advantage
of his absence to chew up a pillowcase and two aprons.

Really, the child was not so much to blame. It was the fault of the
fish-pond, sparkling below the hill. But old Mammy couldn't understand
that. She had never been a boy, with the water tempting her to come and
angle for its shining minnows; with the budding willows beckoning her,
and the warm winds luring her on. But Uncle Billy understood, and felt
with a sympathetic tingle in every rheumatic old joint, that it was a
temptation beyond the strength of any boy living to resist.

His chuckling suddenly stopped as the old woman appeared in the doorway.
He fell to chopping again with such vigor that the chips flew wildly in
all directions. He knew from the way that her broad feet slapped along
the beaten path that she was still angry, and he thought it safest to
take no notice of her, beyond a cheery "Good mawnin', sis' Sheba."

"Huh! Not much good about it that I can see!" was her gloomy reply.
Lowering the basket she carried from her head to a fence-post, she began
the story of her grievances. It was an old story to Uncle Billy,
somewhat on the order of "The house that Jack built;" for, after telling
John Jay's latest pranks, she always repeated the long line of misdeeds
of which he had been guilty since the first day he had found a home
under her sagging rooftree.

Usually she found a sympathetic listener in Uncle Billy, but this
morning the only comfort he offered was an old plantation proverb,
spoken with brotherly frankness.

"Well, sis' Sheba, I 'low it'll be good for you in the long run.
'Troubles is seasonin'. 'Simmons ain't good twel dey er fros'bit,' you
know."

He stole a sidelong glance at her from under his bushy eyebrows, to see
the effect of his remark. She tossed her head defiantly. "I 'low if the
choice was left to the 'simmon or you eithah, brer Billy, you'd both
take the greenness an' the puckah befo' the fros'bite every time." Then
a tone of complaint trembled in her voice.

"I might a needed chastenin' in my youth, I don't 'spute that; but why
should I now, a trim'lin' on the aidge of the tomb, almos', have to put
up with that limb of a John Jay? If my poah Ellen knew what a tawment
her boy is to her ole mammy, I know she couldn't rest easy in her
grave."

"John Jay, he don't mean to be bad," remarked Uncle Billy soothingly.
"It's jus' 'cause he's so young an' onthinkin'. An' aftah all, it ain't
what he _does_. It's mo' like what the white folks say in they church up
on the hill. 'I have lef' undone the things what I ought to 'uv done.'"

Doubled up out of sight, behind the bushes that lined the roadside
ditch, John Jay held his breath and listened. When the ringing strokes
of the axe began again, he ventured to poke out his woolly head until
the whites of his eyes were visible. Sheba was trudging down the road
with her basket on her head, to the place where she always washed on
Tuesdays, she was far enough on her way now to make it safe for him to
come out of hiding.

The tears had dried on the boy's long curling lashes, but his bare legs
still smarted from the blows of the shingle, as he climbed slowly out of
the bushes and started back to the cabin.

"Hey, Bud! Come on, Ivy!" he called cheerfully. Nobody answered. It was
a part of the programme, whenever John Jay was punished, for the little
brother and sister to run and hide under the back-door step. There they
cowered, with covered heads, until the danger was over. Old Sheba had
never frowned on the four-year-old Bud, or baby Ivy, but they scuttled
out of sight like frightened mice at the first signal of her gathering
wrath.

Ivy lay still with her thumb in her mouth, but Bud began solemnly
crawling out from between the steps. Everything that Bud did seemed
solemn. Even his smiles were slow-spreading and dignified. Some people
called him Judge; but John Jay, wise in the negro lore of their
neighborhood Uncle Remus, called him "Brer Tarrypin" for good reasons of
his own.

"Wot we all gwine do now?" drawled Bud, with a turtle-like stretch of
his little round head as he peered through the steps.

[Illustration: 'Wot we all gwine do now?']

John Jay scanned the horizon on all sides, and thoughtfully rubbed his
ear. His quick eyes saw unlimited possibilities for enjoyment, where
older sight would have found but a dreary outlook; but older sight is
always on a strain for the birds in the bush. It is never satisfied with
the one in the hand. Older sight would have seen only a poor shanty set
in a patch of weeds and briers, and a narrow path straggling down to
the dust of the public road. But the outlook was satisfactory to John
Jay. So was it to the neighbor's goat, standing motionless in the warm
sunshine, with its eyes cast in the direction of a newly-made garden. So
was it to the brood of little yellow goslings, waddling after their
mother. They were out of their shells, and the world was wide.

Added to this same feeling of general contentment with his lot, John Jay
had the peace that came from the certainty that, no matter what he might
do, punishment could not possibly overtake him before nightfall. His
grandmother was always late coming home on Tuesday.

"Wot we all gwine do now?" repeated Bud.

John Jay caught at the low branch of the apple-tree to which the
clothes-line was tied, and drew himself slowly up. He did not reply
until he had turned himself over the limb several times, and hung head
downward by the knees.

"Go snake huntin', I reckon."

"But Mammy said not to take Ivy in the briah-patch again," said Bud
solemnly.

"That's so," exclaimed John Jay, "an' shingle say so too," he added,
with a grin, for his legs still smarted. Loosening the grip of his
knees on the apple-bough, he turned a summersault backward and landed on
his feet as lightly as a cat.

"Ivy'll go to sleep aftah dinnah," suggested Bud. "She always do." It
seemed a long time to wait until then, but with the remembrance of his
last punishment still warm in mind and body, John Jay knew better than
to take his little sister to the forbidden briar-patch.

"Well, we can dig a lot of fishin' worms," he decided, "an' put 'em in
those tomato cans undah the ash-hoppah. Then we'll make us a mud oven
an' roast us some duck aigs. Nobody but me knows where the nest is."

Bud's eyes shone. The prospect was an inviting one.

Most of the morning passed quickly, but the last half-hour was spent in
impatiently waiting for their dinner. They knew it was spread out under
a newspaper on the rickety old table, but they had strict orders not to
touch it until Aunt Susan sounded her signal for Uncle Billy. So they
sat watching the house across the road.

"Now it's time!" cried Bud excitedly. "I see Aunt Susan goin' around the
end of the house with her spoon."

An old cross-cut saw hung by one handle from a peg in the stick chimney.
As she beat upon it now with a long, rusty iron spoon, the din that
filled the surrounding air was worse than any made by the noisiest gong
ever beaten before a railroad restaurant. Uncle Billy, hoeing in a
distant field, gave an answering whoop, and waved his old hat.

The children raced into the house and tore the newspaper from the table.
Under it were three cold boiled potatoes, a dish of salt, a cup of
molasses, and a big pone of corn-bread. As head of the family, John Jay
divided everything but the salt exactly into thirds, and wasted no time
in ceremonies before beginning. As soon as the last crumb was finished
he spread an old quilt in front of the fireplace, where the embers,
though covered deep in ashes, still kept the hearth warm.

No coaxing was needed to induce Ivy to lie down. Even if she had not
been tired and sleepy she would have obeyed. John Jay's word was law in
his grandmother's absence. Then he sat down on the doorstep and waited
for her to go to sleep.

"If she wakes up and gets out on the road while we're gone, won't I
catch it, though!" he exclaimed to Bud in an undertone.

"Shet the doah," suggested Bud.

"No, she'd sut'n'ly get into some devilmint if she was shet in by
herself," he answered.

"How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done!" John
Jay's roving eyes fell on a broken teacup on the window-sill, that Mammy
kept as a catch-all for stray buttons and bits of twine. He remembered
having seen some rusty tacks among the odds and ends. A loose brickbat
stuck up suggestively from the sunken hearth. The idea had not much
sooner popped into his head than the deed was done. Bending over
breathlessly to make sure that the unsuspecting Ivy was asleep, he
nailed her little pink dress to the floor with a row of rusty tacks.
Then cautiously replacing the bit of broken brick, he made for the door,
upsetting Bud in his hasty leave-taking.

Over in the briar-patch, out of sight of the house, two happy little
darkeys played all the afternoon. They beat the ground with the stout
clubs they carried. They pried up logs in search of snakes. They
whooped, they sang, they whistled. They rolled over and over each
other, giggling as they wrestled, in the sheer delight of being alive on
such a day. When they finally killed a harmless little chicken-snake, no
prince of the royal blood, hunting tigers in Indian jungles, could have
been prouder of his striped trophies than they were of theirs.

Meanwhile Ivy slept peacefully on, one little hand sticking to her
plump, molasses-smeared cheek, the other holding fast to her headless
doll. Beside her on the floor lay a tattered picture-book, a big bottle
half full of red shelled corn, and John Jay's most precious treasure, a
toy watch that could be endlessly wound up. He had heaped them all
beside her, hoping they would keep her occupied until his return, in
case she should waken earlier than usual.

The sun was well on its way to bed when the little hunters shouldered
their clubs, with a snake dangling from each one, and started for the
cabin.

"My! I didn't know it was so late!" exclaimed John Jay ruefully, as they
met a long procession of home-going cows. "Ain't it funny how soon
sundown gets heah when yo' havin' a good time, and how long it is
a-comin' when yo' isn't!"

A dusky little figure rose up out of the weeds ahead of them. "Land
sakes! Ivy Hickman!" exclaimed John Jay, dropping his snake in surprise.
"How did you get heah?"

Ivy stuck her thumb in her mouth without answering. He took her by the
shoulder, about to shake a reply from her, when Bud exclaimed, in a
frightened voice, "Law, I see Mammy comin'. Look! There she is now, in
front of Uncle Billy's house!"

Throwing away his club, and catching Ivy up in his short arms, John Jay
staggered up the path leading to the back of the house as fast as such a
heavy load would allow, leaving Brer Tarrypin far in the rear. Just as
he sank down at the back door, all out of breath, old Sheba reached the
front one.

"John Jay," she called, "what you doing', chile?"

"Heah I is, Mammy," he answered. "I'se jus' takin' keer o' the chillun!"

"That's right, honey, I've got somethin' mighty good in my basket fo' we
all's suppah. Hurry up now, an' tote in some kin'lin' wood."

Never had John Jay sprung to obey as he did then. He shivered when he
thought of his narrow escape. His arms were piled so full of wood that
he could scarcely see over them, when he entered the poorly lighted
little cabin. He stumbled over the bottle of corn and the picture-book.
Maybe he would not have kicked them aside so gaily had he known that his
precious watch was lying in the cow-path on the side of the hill where
Ivy had dropped it.

Mammy was bending over, examining something at her feet. Five ragged
strips of pink calico lay along the floor, each held fast at one end by
a rusty tack driven into the puncheons. Ivy had grown tired of her
bondage, and had tugged and twisted until she got away. The faithful
tacks had held fast, but the pink calico, grown thin with long wear and
many washings, tore in ragged strips. Mammy glanced from the floor to
Ivy's tattered dress, and read the whole story.

Outside, across the road, Uncle Billy leaned over his front gate in the
deepening twilight, and peacefully puffed at his corn-cob pipe. As the
smoke curled up he bent his head to listen, as he had done in the early
morning. The day was ending as it had begun, with the whack of old
Mammy's shingle, and the noise of John Jay's loud weeping.




CHAPTER II.


It was a warm night in May. The bright moonlight shone in through the
chinks of the little cabin, and streamed across Ivy's face, where she
lay asleep on Mammy's big feather bed. Bud was gently snoring in his
corner of the trundle-bed below, but John Jay kicked restlessly beside
him. He could not sleep with the moonlight in his eyes and the frogs
croaking so mournfully in the pond back of the house. To begin with, it
was too early to go to bed, and in the second place he wasn't a bit
sleepy.

Mammy sat on a bench just outside of the door, with her elbows on her
knees. She was crooning a dismal song softly to herself, - something
about

"Mary and Martha in deep distress,
A-grievin' ovah brer Laz'rus' death."

It gave him such a creepy sort of feeling that he stuck his fingers in
his ears to shut out the sound. Thus barricaded, he did not hear slow
footsteps shuffling up the path; but presently the powerful fumes of a
rank pipe told of an approaching visitor. He took his fingers from his
ears and sat up.

Uncle Billy and Aunt Susan had come over to gossip a while. Mammy groped
her way into the house to drag out the wooden rocker for her
sister-in-law, while Uncle Billy tilted himself back against the cabin
in a straight splint-bottomed chair. The usual opening remarks about the
state of the family health, the weather, and the crops were of very
little interest to John Jay; indeed he nearly fell asleep while Aunt
Susan was giving a detailed account of the way she cured the misery in
her side. However, as soon as they began to discuss neighborhood
happenings, he was all attention.

The more interested he grew, it seemed to him, the lower they pitched
their voices. Creeping carefully across the floor, he curled up on his
pillow just inside the doorway, where the shadows fell heaviest, and
where he could enjoy every word of the conversation, without straining
his ears to listen.

"Gawge Chadwick came home yestiddy," announced Uncle Billy.

"Sho now!" exclaimed Mammy. "Not lame Jintsey's boy! You don't mean it!"

"That's the ve'y one," persisted Uncle Billy. "Gawge Washington
Chadwick. He's a ministah of the gospel now, home from college with a
Rev'und befo' his name, an' a long-tailed black coat on. He doesn't look
much like the little pickaninny that b'long to Mars' Nat back in wah
times."

"And Jintsey's dead, poah thing!" exclaimed Aunt Susan. "What a day it
would have been for her, if she could have lived to see her boy in the
pulpit!"

Conversation never kept on a straight road when these three were
together. It was continually turning back by countless by-paths to the
old slavery days. The rule of their master, Nat Chadwick, had been an
easy one. There had always been plenty in the smoke-house and
contentment in the quarters. These simple old souls, while rejoicing in
their freedom, often looked tenderly back to the flesh-pots of their
early Egypt.

John Jay had heard these reminiscences dozens of times. He knew just
what was coming next, when Uncle Billy began telling about the day that
young Mars' Nat was christened. Mis' Alice gave a silver cup to
Jintsey's baby, George Washington, because he was born on the same day
as his little Mars' Nat. John Jay knew the whole family history. He was
very proud of these people of gentle birth and breeding, whom Sheba
spoke of as "ou' family." One by one they had been carried to the little
Episcopal churchyard on the hill, until only one remained. The great
estate had passed into the hands of strangers. Only to Billy and Susan
and Sheba, faithful even unto death, was it still surrounded by the halo
of its old-time grandeur.

Naturally, young Nat Chadwick, the last of the line, had fallen heir to
all the love and respect with which they cherished any who bore the
family name. To other people he was a luckless sort of fellow, who had
sown his wild oats early, and met disappointment at every turn. It was
passed about, too, that there was a romance in his life which had
changed and embittered it. Certain it is, he suddenly seemed to lose all
ambition and energy. Instead of making the brilliant lawyer his friends
expected, he had come down at last to be the keeper of the toll-gate on
a country turnpike.

Lying on his pillow in the dense shadow, John Jay looked out into the
white moonlight, and listened to the old story told all over again. But
this time there was added the history of Jintsey's boy, who seemed to
have been born with the ambition hot in his heart to win an education.
He had done it. There was a quiver of pride in Uncle Billy's voice as he
told how the boy had outstripped his young master in the long race; but


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