Frank Richard Stockton.

The novels and stories of Frank R. Stockton . (Volume 1) online

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over the well-worn body of a black woollen dress
which lay in her lap instead of the crazy-quilt on
which she was usually occupied, "to see if it's done
gib way in any ob de seams or de elbers. 'Twas a
right smart good frock once, an' Pse gwine to wear it
ter-morrer."

" To-morrow ! " exclaimed Annie. " You don't
mean to say you are going to church ! "

" Dat's jes wot Pse gwine to do, Miss Annie. Pse
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gwine to chu'ch to-morrer mawnin'. Dar's gwine to
be a big preachin'. Brudder Enick Hines is to be
dar, an 7 dey tell me dey allus has pow'ful wakenin's
when Brudder Enick preaches. I ain't ever heared
Brudder Enick yit, cos he was a little boy when I
use to go to chu'ch."

" Will it be in the old church, in the woods just
beyond Hewlett's ? " asked Annie.

" Right dar," replied Aunt Patsy, with an approv
ing glance towards the young lady. " You 'members
dem ar places fus'-rate, Miss Annie. Why you didn't
tole me, when you fus' come h'yar, dat you was dat
little Miss Annie dat I use to tote roun' afore I gin
up walkin' t "

" Oh, that's too long a story," said Miss Annie, with
a laugh. "You know, I hadn't seen Aunt Keswick
then. I couldn't go about introducing myself to other
people before I had seen her."

Aunt Patsy gave a sagacious nod of her head. " I
reckon you thought she'd be right much disgruntled
when she heared you was mar'ed, an' you wanted to
tell her yo'se'f. But I'se pow'ful glad dat it's all right
now. You-all don' know how pow'ful glad I is."
And she looked at Mr. Croft and Miss Annie with a
glance as benignant as her time-set countenance was
capable of.

"But, Aunt Patsy," said Annie, quite willing to
change the conversation, although she did not know
the import of the old woman's last remark, "I
thought you were not able to go out."

The old woman gave a little chuckle. " Dat's wot
eberybody thought 5 an', to tell you de truf, Miss
Annie, I thought so too. But ef I was strong 'nuf to

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go to de pos' -office, an' I did dat, Miss Annie, an 7 not
long ago, nuther, I reckon I'se strong 'nuf to go to
chu'ch ; an 7 Uncle Isham is a-comin' wid de ox-cart to
take me to-morrer mawnin'. Dar'll be pow'ful wak-
enin's, an 7 1 ain't seen de Jerus'lum Jump in a mighty
long time."

"Are they going to have the Jerusalem Jump?"
asked Miss Annie.

" Oh, yaas, Miss Annie," said the old woman ; " dey's
sartin shuh to hab dat when dey gits wakened."

" I should so like to see the Jerusalem Jump again,"
said Miss Annie. " I saw it once, when I was a little
girl. Did you ever see it?" she said, turning to Mr.
Croft.

" I have not," he answered. " I never even heard
of it."

"Suppose we go to-morrow and hear Brother
Enoch," she said.

" I should like it very much," answered Lawrence.

"Aunt Patsy," said Miss Annie, "would there be
any objection to our going to your church to-mor
row f "

The old woman gave her head a little shake.
" Dunno," she said. " As a gin'ral rule we don't like
white folks at our preachings. Dey's got dere chu'ches
an' dere ways, an' we's got our chu'ches an' our ways.
But den, it's dif rent wid you-all. An' you-all's not
like white folks in gin'ral, an' specially strawngers.
You-all isn't strawngers now. I don't reckon dar'll
be no 'jections to your comin', ef you set solemn ; an' I
know you'll do dat, Miss Annie, cos you did it when
you was a little gal. An' I reckon it'll be de same
wid him 1 " looking at Mr. Croft.

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Miss Annie assured her that she and her companion
would be certain to " set solemn," and that they would
not think of such a thing as going to church and
behaving indecorously.

" Dere is white folks/' said Aunt Patsy, " wot comes
to a cullud chu'ch fur nothin' else but to larf. De
debbil gits dem folks ; but dat don' do us no good, Miss
Annie, an 7 we'd rudder dey stay away. But you-all's
not dat kin'. I knows dat, sartin shuh."

When the two had taken leave of the old woman,
and Miss Annie had gone out of the door, Aunt Patsy
leaned very far forward, and stretching out her long
arm, seized Mr. Croft by the skirt of his coat. He
stepped back, quite surprised, and then she said to
him, in a low but very earnest voice : " I reckon dat
dat ar sprain ankle was nuffin but a acciden' ; but you
look out, sah, you look out ! Hab you got dem little
shoes handy ? "

"Oh, yes," said Lawrence, "I have them in my
trunk."

"Keep 'em whar you kin put your han' on 'em,"
said Aunt Patsy, impressively. " You may want 'em
yit. You min' my wuhds."

" I shall be sure to remember," said Lawrence, as he
hastened out to rejoin Annie.

"What in the world had Aunt Patsy to say to
you?" asked that somewhat surprised young lady.

Then Lawrence told her how some time before
Aunt Patsy had given him a pair of blue shoes, which
she said would act as a preventive charm in case
Mrs. Keswick should ever wish to do him harm, and
that she had now called him back to remind him not
to neglect this means of personal protection. "I

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can't imagine," said Lawrence, " that your aunt would
ever think of such a thing as doing me a harm, or how
those little shoes would prevent her, if she wanted to ;
but I suppose Aunt Patsy is crack-brained on some
subjects, and so I thought it best to humor her, and
took the shoes."

"Do you know," said Miss Annie, after walking a
little distance in silence, "that I am afraid Aunt
Patsy has done a dreadful thing, and one I never
should have suspected her of. Aunt Keswick had a
little baby once, and it died very young. She keeps
its clothes in a box, and I remember when I was a
little girl that she once showed them to me, and told
me I was to take the place of that little girl, and that
frightened me dreadfully, because I thought that I
would have to die, and have my clothes put in a box.
I recollect perfectly that there was a pair of little
blue shoes among these clothes, and Aunt Patsy must
have stolen them."

" That surprises me," said Lawrence. " I supposed,
from what I had heard of the old woman, that she
was perfectly honest."

" So she is," said Annie. " She has been a trusted
servant in our family nearly all her life. But some
negroes have very queer ideas about taking certain
things, and I suppose Aunt Patsy had some particular
reason for taking those shoes, for of course they could
be of no value to her."

"I am very sorry," said Lawrence, "that such
sacred relics should have come into my possession,
but I must admit that I would not like to give them
back to your aunt."

" Oh, no," said Annie, " that would never do ; and
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I wouldn't dare to try to find her box and put them
in it. It would seem like a desecration for any hand
but her own to touch those things."

" That is true," said Lawrence, " and you might get
yourself into a lot of trouble by endeavoring to repair
the mischief. Before I leave here, we may think of
some plan of disposing of the little trotters. It might
be well to give them back to Aunt Patsy and tell her
to restore them."

" I don't know," said Miss Annie, with a slowness
of reply and an irrelevance of demeanor which indi
cated she was not thinking of the words she was
speaking.

The sun was now very near the horizon, and that
evening coolness which, in the autumn, comes on so
quickly after the sunshine fades out of the air, made
Lawrence give a little shrug with his shoulders. He
proposed that they should quicken their pace, and as
his companion made no objection, they soon reached
the house.

The next day being Sunday, breakfast was rather
later than usual, and as Lawrence looked out on the
bright morning, with the mists just disengaging them
selves from the many-hued foliage which crowned the
tops of the surrounding hills, and on the recently
risen sun, hanging in an atmosphere of gray and lilac,
with the smile of Indian summer on its face, he
thought he would like to take a stroll before that
meal ; but either the length of his walk on the pre
vious day, or the rapidity of the latter portion ol it,
had been rather too much for the newly recovered
strength of his ankle, which now felt somewhat stiff
and sore. When he mentioned this at the breakfast-

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table, lie received a good deal of condolence from the
two ladies, especially Mrs. Keswick ; and at first it
was thought that it might be well for him to give up
his proposed attendance at the negro church. But to
this Lawrence strongly objected, for he very much
desired to see some of the peculiar religious services
of the negroes. He had been talking on the subject
the evening before with Mrs. Keswick, who had told
him that in this part of the country, which lay in the
" black belt " of Virginia, where the negro population
had always been thickest, these ceremonies were more
characteristic of the religious disposition of the Afri
can than in those sections of the State where the
white race exerted a greater influence upon the man
ners and customs of the colored people.

" But it will not be necessary to walk much," said
Miss Annie. "We can take the spring- wagon, and
you can go with us, aunt."

The old lady permitted herself a little grin. " When
I go to church," she said, "I go to a white folks'
church, and try to see what I can of white folks 7
Christianity, though I must say that Christianity of
the other color is often just as good, as far as works
go. But it is natural that a stranger should want to
see what kind of services the colored people have, so
you two might as well get into the spring-wagon and
go along."

"But shall we not deprive you of the vehicle!"
said Lawrence.

"I never go to church in the spring-wagon," said
the old lady, "so long as I am able to walk. And,
besides, this is not our Sunday for preaching."

It seemed to Lawrence that an elderly person who
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went about in a purple calico sunbonnet, and with an
umbrella of the same material, might go to church in
a wheelbarrow, so far as appearances were concerned ;
but he had long ceased to wonder at Mrs. Keswick's
idiosyncrasies.

" I remember very well," said Miss Annie, after the
old lady had left the table, which she always did as
soon as she had finished a meal, "when Aunt Kes-
wick used to go to church in a big family carriage,
which is now sleeping itself to pieces out there in the
barn. But then she had a pair of big gray horses,
one of them named Doctor and the other Colonel.
But now she has only one horse, and I am going to
tell Uncle Isham to harness that one up before he
goes to church himself. You know, he is to take
Aunt Patsy in the ox-cart, so he will have to go
early."

They went to the negro church in the spring-
wagon, Lawrence driving the jogging sorrel, and Miss
Annie on the seat beside him. When they reached
the old frame edifice in the woods beyond Hewlett's,
they found gathered there quite a large assemblage,
for this was one of those very attractive occasions
called a "big preaching." Horses and mules, and
wagons of various kinds, many of the latter containing
baskets of refreshments, were standing about under
the trees ; and Mrs. Keswick's cart and oxen, tethered
to a little pine-tree, gave proof that Aunt Patsy had
arrived. The inside of the church was nearly full,
and outside, around the door, stood a large number of
men and boys. The white visitors were looked upon
with some surprise, but way was made for them to
approach the door, and as soon as they entered the

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building two of the officers of the church came for
ward to show them to one of the uppermost seats.
But this honor Miss Annie strenuously declined. She
preferred a seat near the open door, and therefore she
and Mr. Croft were given a bench in that vicinity, of
which they had sole possession.

To Lawrence, who had never seen anything of the
sort, the services which now began were exceedingly
interesting; and as Annie had not been to a negro
church since she was a little girl, and very seldom
then, she gave very earnest and animated attention to
what was going on. The singing, as it always is
among the negroes, was powerful and melodious, and
the long prayer of Brother Enoch Hines was one of
those spirited and emotional statements of personal
condition, and wild and ardent supplication, which
generally pave the way for a most powerful awakening
in an assemblage of this kind. Another hymn, sung
in more vigorous tones than the first one, warmed up
the congregation to such a degree that when Brother
Hines opened the Bible, and made preparations for
his discourse, he looked out upon an audience as anx
ious to be moved and stirred as he was to move and
stir it. The sermon was intended to be a long one,
for, had it been otherwise, Brother Hines had lost his
reputation; and therefore the preacher, after a few
prefatory statements, delivered in a grave and solemn
manner, plunged boldly into the midst of his exhorta
tions, knowing that he could go either backward or
forward, presenting, with equal acceptance, fresh
subject-matter or that already used, so long as his
strength held out.

He had not preached half an hour before his hear-
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ers were so stirred and moved that a majority of them
found it utterly impossible to merely sit still and listen.
In different ways their awakening was manifested :
some began to sing in a low voice ; others gently
rocked their bodies 5 while fervent ejaculations of
various kinds were heard from all parts of the church.
From this beginning arose gradually a scene of re
ligious activity such as Lawrence had never ima
gined. Each individual allowed his or her fervor to
express itself according to the method which best
pleased the worshipper. Some kept to their seats
and listened to the words of the preacher, interrupting
him occasionally by fervent ejaculations ; others sang
and shouted, sometimes standing up, clapping their
hands, and stamping their feet ; while a large propor
tion of the able-bodied members left their seats and
pushed their way forward to the wide, open space
which surrounded the preacher's desk, and prepared
to engage in the exhilarating ceremony of the " Jeru
salem Jump."

Two concentric rings were formed around the
preacher, the inner one composed of women, the
outer one of men, the faces of those forming the inner
ring being turned towards those in the outer. As
soon as all were in place, each brother reached forth
his hand and took the hand of the sister opposite to
him, and then each couple began to jump up and
down violently, shaking hands and singing at the top
of their voices. After about a minute of this, the
two circles moved, one one way and one another, so
that each brother found himself opposite a different
sister. Hands were again immediately seized, and
the jumping, hand-shaking, and singing went on.

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Minute by minute the excitement increased ; faster
the worshippers jumped, and louder they sang.
Through it all Brother Enoch Hines kept on with
his sermon. It was very difficult now to make him
self heard, and the time for explanation or elucida
tion had long since passed 5 all he could do was to
shout forth certain important and moving facts, and
this he did over and over again, holding his hand at
the side of his mouth, as if he were hailing a vessel in
the wind. Much of what he said was lost in the din
of the jumpers, but ever and anon could be heard
ringing through the church the announcement : " De
wheel ob time is a-turnin ? roun 7 ! "

In a group by themselves, in an upper corner of the
congregation, were four or five very old women, who
were able to manifest their pious enthusiasm in no
other way than by rocking their bodies backward
and forward, and singing with their cracked voices
a grewsome and monotonous chant. This rude song
had something of a wild and uncivilized nature, as if
it had come down to these old people from the savage
rites of their African ancestors. They did not sing in
unison, but each squeaked or piped out her "Yi,
wiho, yi, hoo ! " according to the strength of her lungs
and the degree of her exaltation. Prominent among
these was old Aunt Patsy ; her little black eyes spar
kling through her great iron-bound spectacles ; her
head and body moving in unison with the wild air of
the unintelligible chant she sang ; her long, skinny
hands clapping up and down upon her knees ; while
her feet, incased in their great green-baize slippers,
unceasingly beat time upon the floor.

So many persons being absent from their seats, the
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THE LATE MRS. NULL

group of old women was clearly visible to Annie and
Lawrence, and Aunt Patsy also could easily see them.
Whenever her head, in its ceaseless moving from side
to side, allowed her eyes to fall upon the two white
visitors, her ardor and fervency increased, and she
seemed to be expressing a pious gratitude that Miss
Annie and he whom she supposed to be her husband
were still together in peace and safety.

Annie was much affected by all she saw and heard.
Her face was slightly pale, and occasionally she was
moved by a little nervous tremor. Mr. Croft, too,
was very attentive. His soul was not moved to en
thusiasm, and he did not feel, as his companion did
now and then, that he would like to jump up and
join in the dancing and the shouting ; but the scene
made a very strong impression upon him.

Around and around went the two rings of men and
women, jumping, singing, and hand-shaking. Out
from the centre of them came the stentorian shout :
" De wheel ob time is a-turnin ? roun> ! " From all
parts of the church rose snatches of hymns, exultant
shouts, groans, and prayers ; and, in the corner, the
shrill chants of the old women were fitfully heard
through the storm of discordant worship.

In the midst of all the wild din and hubbub, the
soul of Aunt Patsy looked out from the habitation
where it had dwelt so long, and, without giving the
slightest notice to any one, or attracting the least
attention by its movements, it silently slipped
away.

The old habitation of the soul still sat in its chair,
but no one noticed that it no longer sang, or beat
time with its hands and feet.

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Not long after this, Lawrence looked round at his
companion, and noticed that she was slightly trem
bling. "Don't you think we have had enough of
this?" he whispered.

" Yes," she answered, and they rose and went out.
They thought they were the first who had left.



311



CHAPTER XXV

WHEN Mr. Croft and Miss Annie got into the spring-
wagon, and the head of the sorrel was turned away
from the church, Lawrence looked at his watch, and
remarked that, as it was still quite early, there might
be time for a little drive before going back to the
house for dinner. The face of the young lady beside
him was still slightly pale, and the thought came to
him that it would be very well for her if her mind
could be diverted from the abnormally inspiriting
scene she had just witnessed.

" Dinner will be late to-day," she said, "for J saw
Letty doing her best among the Jerusalem Jumpers."

" Very well," said he, " we will drive. And now,
where shall we go ? "

" If we take the cross-road at the store," said Miss
Annie, " and go on for about half a mile, we can turn
into the woods, and then there is a beautiful road
through the trees which will bring us out on the
other side of Aunt Keswick's house. Junius took me
that way not long ago."

So they turned at the store, much to the disgust of
the plodding sorrel, who thought he was going directly
home, and they soon reached the road that led through
the woods. This was hard and sandy, as are many of
the roads through the forests in that part of the coun-

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try, and it would have been a very good driving road,
had it not been for the occasional protrusion of tree-
roots, which gave the wheels a little bump, and for the
branches which, now and then, hung down somewhat
too low for the comfort of a lady and gentleman rid
ing in a rather high spring- wagon without a cover.
But Lawrence drove slowly, and so the root bumps
were not noticed ; and when the low-hanging boughs
were on his side, he lifted them so that his companion's
head could pass under, and when they happened to
be on her side, Annie ducked her head, and her hat
was never brushed off. But at times they drove
quite a distance without overhanging boughs, and the
pine-trees, surrounded by their smooth carpet of
brown spines, gave forth a spicy fragrance in the
warm but sparkling air ; the oak-trees stood up still
dark and green, while the chestnuts were all dressed
in rich yellow, with the chinquapin bushes by the
roadside imitating them in color, as they tried to do
in fruit. Sometimes a spray of purple flowers could
be seen among the trees, and great patches of sunlight,
which here and there came through the thinning
foliage, fell, now upon the brilliantly scarlet leaves of
a sweet-gum, and now upon the polished and brown-
red dress of a neighboring black-gum.

The woods were very quiet. There was no sound
of bird or insect, and the occasional hare, or " Molly
Cottontail," as Annie delightedly called it, who
hopped across the road, made no noise at all. A
gentle wind among the tops of the taller trees made
a sound as of a distant sea ; but, besides this, little was
heard but the low, crunching noise of the wheels, and
the voices of Lawrence and Miss Annie.

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Beaching a place where the road branched, Law
rence stopped the horse, and looked up each leafy
lane. They were completely deserted. White people
seldom walked abroad at this hour on Sunday, and
the negroes of the neighborhood were at church. " Is
not this a frightfully lonely place?" he said. "One
might imagine himself in a desert."

" I like it/ 7 replied Annie. " It is so different from
the wild, exciting tumult of that church. I am glad
you took me away. At first I would not have missed
it for the world, but there seemed to come into the
stormy scene something oppressive and almost terri
fying."

" I am glad I took you away," said Lawrence, " but
it seems to me that your impression was not alto
gether natural. I thought that, amid all that mad
enthusiasm, you were over-excited, not depressed. A
solemn solitude like this would, to my thinking, be
much more likely to lower your spirits. I don't like
solitude myself, and therefore I suppose it is that I
thought an impressible nature like yours would find
something sad in the loneliness of these silent woods."

Annie turned and fixed on him her large gray eyes.
" But I am not alone," she said.

As Lawrence looked into her eyes he saw that they
were as clear as the purest crystal, and that he could
look through them straight into her soul, and there
he saw that this woman loved him. The vision was
as sudden as if it had been a night scene lighted up
by a flash of lightning, but it was as clear and plain as
if it had been that same scene under the noonday sun.

There are times in the life of a man when the god
dess of Reasonable Impulse raises her arms above her

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liead and allows herself a little yawn. Then she
takes off her crown and hangs it on the back of her
throne ; after which she rests her sceptre on the floor,
and, rising, stretches herself to her full height, and
goes forth to take a long, refreshing walk by the
waters of Unreflection. Then her minister, Pru
dence, stretches himself upon a bench, and, with his
handkerchief over his eyes, composes himself for a
nap. Discretion, Worldly Wisdom, and other trusted
officers of her court, and even, sometimes, that agile
page called Memory, no sooner see their royal mis
tress depart, than, by various doors, they leave the
palace and wander far away. Then, silently, with
sparkling eyes and parted lips, comes that fair being,
Unthinking Love. She puts one foot upon the lower
step of the throne ; she looks about her $ and, with a
quick bound, she seats herself. Upon her tumbled
curls she hastily puts the crown ; with her small
white hand she grasps the sceptre ; and then, rising,
waves it, and issues her commands. The crowd of
emotions which serve as her satellites seize the great
seal from the sleeping Prudence, and the new Queen
reigns !

All this now happened to Lawrence. Never before
had he looked into the eyes of a woman who loved
him ; and leaning over towards this one, he put his
arm around her and drew her towards him. "And
never shall you be alone," he said.


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