Frank Richard Stockton.

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that could be done. " It was dreadfully hard for me
to get the money to come down here/' she said to him,
" you not helping me a bit, as ordinary husbands do,
and I can't afford to go back until I have accom
plished something. It's very strange that she stays
away so long, without telling anybody where she has
gone to, but I know she is queer, and I suppose she has
her own reasons for what she does. She can't be stay
ing away on my account, for she doesn't know who I
am, and wouldn't have any objections to me if she did
know. I suspect it is something about Junius which
keeps her away, and I suppose she thinks he is still
here. But one of them must soon come back, and if I
can see him, or find out from her where he is, it will
be all right. It seems to me, Freddy, that if I could
have a good talk with Junius things would begin to
look better for you and me. And then I want to put
him on his guard about this gentleman who is looking
for him. By the way, I suppose I ought to write a
letter to Mr. Croft, or he'll think I have given up the
job, and will set somebody else on the track, and that
is what I don't want him to do. I can't say that I
have positively anything to report, but I can say that
I have strong hopes of success, considering where I am.
As soon as I found that Junius had really left the
North, I concluded that this would be the best place
to come to for him. And now, Freddy, there's nothing
for us to do but to wait, and if we can make ourselves
useful here I'm sure we will be glad to do it. We
both hate being lazy, and a little housekeeping and
farm-managing will be good practice for us during our



Putting on her hat, she went down into the garden
where Uncle Isham was at work. She could find little
to do there, for he was merely pulling turnips, and she
could see nothing to suggest in regard to his method
of work. She had found, too, that the old negro had
not much respect for her agricultural opinions. He
attended to his work as if his mistress had been at
home, and although, in regard to the ploughing, he
had carried out the orders of Mrs. Null, he had done
it because it ought to be done, and because he was
very glad for some one else to take the responsibility.

" Uncle Isham," said she, after she had watched the
process of turnip-pulling for a few minutes, " if you
haven't anything else to do when you get through
with this, you might come up to the house, and I will
talk to you about the flower-beds. I suppose they
ought to be made ready for the winter."

" Miss Null," said the old man, slowly unbending his
back, and getting himself upright, " dar's allus sumfin
else to do. Ebber sence I was fus' bawn dar was sum-
fin else to do, an' I 'spec's it'll keep on dat ar way till
de day I dies."

" Of course there will be nothing else to do then but
to die," observed Mrs. Null ; " but I hope that day is
far off, Uncle Isham."

" Dunno 'bout dat, Miss Null," said he. " But den
some people do lib dreffle long. Look at ole Aun'
Patsy. I'se got to lib a long time afore I'se as ole as
Aun' Patsy is now."

"You don't mean to say," exclaimed Mrs. Null,
" that Aunt Patsy is alive yet ! "

"Ob course she is, Miss Null," said Uncle Isham.
"If she'd died sence you've been here we'd 'a' tole



you, sartin. She was gwine to die las' week, but two
or free days don' make much dif rence to Aun' Patsy,
she done lib so long anyhow."

" Aunt Patsy alive ! " exclaimed Mrs. Null again.
" I'm going straight off to see her."

When she had reached the house, and had informed
Letty where she was going, the rotund maid expressed
high approbation of the visit, and offered to send Plez
to show Mrs. Null the way.

"I don't need any one to go with me," said that
lady, and away she started.

" She don 7 nebber want nobody to show her nowhar,"
said Plez, returning with looks of much disapprobation
to his business of peeling potatoes for dinner.

When Mrs. Null reached the cabin of Aunt Patsy,
after about fifteen minutes' walk, she entered without
ceremony, and found the old woman sitting on a very
low chair by the window, with the much-talked-of,
many-colored quilt in her lap. Her white woolly head
was partially covered with a red-and-yellow handker
chief, and an immense pair of iron-bound spectacles
obstructed the view of her small black face, lined and
seamed in such a way that it appeared to have shrunk
to half its former size. In her long, bony fingers, rusty
black on the outside and a very pale tan on the inside,
she held a coarse needle and thread and a corner of
the quilt. Near by, in front of a brick-paved fire
place, was one of her great-granddaughters, a girl about
eighteen years old, who was down upon her hands and
knees, engaged with lungs, more powerful than ordinary
bellows, in blowing into flame a coal upon the hearth.

"How d'ye, Aunt Patsy?" said Mrs. Null. "I
didn't expect to see you looking so well."



"Dat's Miss Null," said the girl, raising her eyes
from the fire, and addressing her ancestor.

The old woman stuck her needle into the quilt, and
reached out her hand to her visitor, who took it cor

"How d'ye, miss?' 7 said Aunt Patsy, in a thin but
quite firm voice, while the young woman got up and
brought Mrs. Null a chair, very short in the legs, very
high in the back, and with its split-oak bottom very
much sunken.

"How are you feeling to-day, Aunt Patsy?" asked
Mrs. Null, gazing with much interest on the aged

"'Bout as common," replied the old woman. "I
didn't 'spec' to be libin' dis week, but I ain't got my
quilt done yit, an' I can't go 'mong de angels wrop in
a shroud wid one corner off."

"Certainly not," answered Mrs. Null. "Haven't
you pieces enough to finish it?"

"Oh, yaas, I got bits enough, but de trouble is to
sew 'em up. I can't sew very fas' nowadays."

" It's a pity for you to have to do it yourself," said
Mrs. Null. "Can't this young person, your daughter,
do it for you?"

" Dat's not my darter," said the old woman. " Dat's
my son Tom's yaller boy Bob's chile. Bob's dead.
She can't do no sewin' for me. I'm not gwine ter hab
folks sayin' Aun' Patsy done got so ole she can't do her
own sewin'."

" If you are not going to die till you get your quilt
finished, Aunt Patsy," said Mrs. Null, " I hope it won't
be done for a long time."

" Don' do to be waitin' too long, miss. De fas' thing


you know some oder cullud pusson'll be dyin' wrop
up in a quilt like dis, and git dar fits'."

Mrs. Null now looked about her with much interest,
and asked many questions in regard to the old woman's
comfort and ailments. To these the answers, though
on the whole satisfactory, were quite short, Aunt Patsy,
apparently, much preferring to look at her visitor than
to talk to her. And a very pretty young woman she
was to look at, with a face which had grown brighter
and plumper during every day of her country sojourn.

When Mrs. Null had gone, promising to send Aunt
Patsy something nice to eat, the old woman turned to
her great-granddaughter, and said : " Did anybody
come wid her?"

" Nobody corned," said the girl. " Reckon she done
git herse'f los' some o' dese days."

The old woman made no answer, but folding up the
maniac coverlet, she handed it to the girl, and told
her to put it away.

That night Uncle Isham, by Mrs. Null's orders, car
ried to Aunt Patsy a basket containing various good
things considered suitable for an aged colored woman
without teeth.

" Miss Annie sen' dese h'yar 1 " asked the old woman,
taking the basket and lifting the lid.

" Miss Annie ! " exclaimed Uncle Isham. " Who

" Git out, Uncle Isham ! " said Aunt Patsy, somewhat
impatiently. " She was h'yar dis mawnin'."

" Dat was Miss Null," said Isham.

" Miss Annie all de same," said Aunt Patsy, " on'y
growed up an' married. D'ye mean to stan' dar,
Uncle Isham, an' tell me you don' know de little gal



wot Mails' John use ter carry in he arms ter feed de
tukkies? 77

" She and she mudder dead long ago," said Isham.
"You is pow'ful ole, Aun 7 Patsy, an 7 you done forgit
dese things."

" Done forgit nuffin, 77 curtly replied the old woman.
"Don 7 tell me no mo 7 fool stuff. Dat Miss Annie,
growed up an 7 married. 77

" Did she tell you dat? 77 asked Isham.

" She didn 7 t tell me nuffin. She kep 7 her mouf shet
7 bout dat, an 7 I kep 7 my mouf shet. Don 7 talk to me !
Dat 7 s Miss Annie, shuh as shootin 7 . Ef she hadn 7 t fotch
nuffin 7 long wid her but her eyes I 7 d 7 a 7 knowed dem ;
same ole eyes dey all had. An 7 , 7 sides dat, you fool
Isham, ef she not Miss Annie, wot she come down h 7 yar
fur! 77

" Nebber thinked o 7 dat ! 77 said Uncle Isham, reflec
tively. ' l Ef y ou 7 s so po w 7 ful shuh, Aun 7 Patsy, I reckon
dat is Miss Annie. Couldn 7 t 7 spec 7 me to 7 member her.
I wasn 7 t much up at de house in dem times, an 7 she
was took away 7 fore I give much 7 tention ter her. 77

"Don 7 ole miss know she dar? 77 asked Aunt Patsy.

"She dunno nuffin 7 bout it, 77 answered Isham.
"She 7 s stay in 7 away cos she think Mahs 7 Junius dar


"Why don 7 you tell her, now you knows it 7 s Miss
Annie wot 7 s dar ? 77

" You don 7 ketch me tellin 7 her nuffin, 77 replied the
old man, shaking his head. " Wish you was spry 7 nuf
ter go, Ann 7 Patsy. She 7 d b 7 lieve you ; an 7 she couldn 7 t
r 7 ar an 7 charge inter a ole pusson like you, nohow. 77

" Ain 7 t dar nobody else in dis h 7 yar place to go tell
her? 77 asked Aunt Patsy.



" Not a pusson," was Isham's decided answer.

" Well, den, 1 is spry 'nuf ! " exclaimed Aunt Patsy,
with a vigorous nod of her head which sent her spec
tacles down to her mouth, displaying a pair of little
eyes sparkling with a fire long thought to be extinct.
" Ef you'll carry me dar, to Miss Harriet Corvey's, I'll
tell ole miss myse'f. I didn't 'spec' to go out dat dohr
till de fun'ral, but I'll go dis time. I 'spected dar was
sumfin crooked when Miss Annie didn't tole me who
she was. I'se not 'feared to tell ole miss, an 7 you jes
carry me up dar, Uncle Isham."

" I'll do dat," said the old man, much delighted with
the idea of doing something which he supposed would
remove the clouds which overhung the household of
his mistress. " I'll fotch de hoss an' de spring- waggin,
an' dribe you ober dar."

" No, you don' do no sech thing ! " exclaimed Aunt
Patsy, angrily. " I ain't gwine to hab no hosses to run
away an' chuck me out on de road. Ef you kin fotch
de oxen an' de cart, I go 'long wid you, but I don'
want no hosses."

" Dat's fus'-rate," said Isham. " I'll fotch de ox-cart,
an' carry you ober. When you want ter go? "

" Dunno jes now," said Aunt Patsy, pushing away a
block of wood which served for a footstool, and mak
ing elaborate preparations to rise from her chair.
" I'll sen' fur you when I'se ready."

The next morning was a very busy one for Aunt
Patsy's son Tom's yellow boy Bob's child ; and by
afternoon it was necessary to send for two colored
women from a neighboring cabin to assist in the prep
arations which Aunt Patsy was making for her pro
jected visit. An old hair-covered trunk, which had



not been opened for many years, was brought out, and
the contents exposed to the unaccustomed light of
day ; two coarse cotton petticoats were exhumed and
ordered to be bleached and ironed ; a yellow-flannel
garment of the same nature was put aside to be mended
with some red pieces which were rolled up in it ; out
of several yarn stockings of various ages and lengths
two were selected as being pretty much alike, and laid
by to be darned ; an old black frock with full " bishop
sleeves," a good deal mended and dreadfully wrinkled,
was given to one of the neighbors, expert in such
matters, to be ironed ; and the propriety of making
use of various other ancient duds was eagerly and
earnestly discussed. Aunt Patsy, whose vitality had
been wonderfully aroused, now that there was some
opportunity for making use of it, spent nearly two
hours turning over, examining, and reflecting upon a
pair of old-fashioned corsets, which, although they
had been long cherished, she had never worn. She
now hoped that the occasion for their use had at last
arrived, but the utter impossibility of getting herself
into them was finally made apparent to her, and she
mournfully returned them to the trunk.

Washing, starching, ironing, darning, patching, and
an immense deal of talk and consultation, occupied
that and a good deal of the following day, the rest of
which was given up to the repairing of an immense
pair of green-baize shoes, without which Aunt Patsy
could not be persuaded to go into the outer air. It
was Saturday morning when she began to dress for the
trip, and although Isham, wearing a high silk hat, and
a long black coat which had once belonged to a clergy
man, arrived with the ox-cart about noon, the old



woman was not ready to start till two or three hours
afterwards. Her assistants, who had increased in
number, were active and assiduous. Aunt Patsy was
very particular as to the manner of her garbing, and
gave them a great deal of trouble. It had been fifteen
years since she had set foot outside of her house, and
ten more since she had ridden in any kind of vehicle.
This was a great occasion, and nothing concerning it
was to be considered lightly.

" 'Tain't right," she said to Uncle Isham, when he
arrived, " fur a pow'ful ole pusson like me to set out
on a jarney ob dis kin' 'thout 'ligious sarvices. 'Tain't

Uncle Isham rubbed his head a good deal at this
remark. " Dunno wot we gwine to do 'bout dat," he
said. "Brudder Jeemes lib free miles off, an' mos'
like he's out ditchin'. Couldn't git him h'yar dis
ebenin', nohow."

" Well, den," said Aunt Patsy, " you conduc' sarvices
yourse'f, Uncle Isham, an' we kin have pra'r-meetin',

Uncle Isham having consented to this, he put his
oxen under the care of a small boy, and collecting in
Aunt Patsy's room the five colored women and girls
who were in attendance upon her, he conducted
" pra'rs," making an extemporaneous petition which
comprehended all the probable contingencies of the
journey, even to the accident of the right wheel of the
cart coming off, which the old man very reverently
asserted he would have linched with a regular pin
instead of a broken poker-handle, if he could have
found one. After the prayer, with which Aunt Patsy
signified her entire satisfaction by frequent amens,



the company joined in the vigorous singing of a hymn,
in which they stated that they were " gwine down to
Jurdun, an' though the road is rough, when once we
shuh we git dar, we all be glad enough ; de rocks an 7
de stones, an 7 de jolts to de bones, will be nuffin to de
glory an 7 de j 7 y. 77

The hymn over, Uncle Isham clapped on his hat,
and hurried menacingly after the small boy, who had
let the oxen wander along the roadside until one
wheel of the cart was nearly in the ditch. Aunt Patsy
now partook of a collation, consisting of a piece of
hoe-cake dipped in pork fat, and a cup of coffee, which
having finished, she declared herself ready to start.
A chair was put into the cart, and secured by ropes to
keep it from slipping j and then, with two women on
one side and Uncle Isham on the other, while another
woman stood in the cart to receive and adjust her, she
was placed in position.

Once properly disposed she presented a figure which
elicited the lively admiration of her friends, whose
number was now increased by the arrival of a couple
of negro boys on mules, who were going to the post-
office, it being Saturday, and mail-day. Around Aunt
Patsy 7 s shoulders was a bright-blue worsted shawl, and
upon her head a voluminous turban of vivid red k and
yellow. Since their emancipation, the negroes in that
part of the country had discarded the positive and
gaudy colors that were their delight when they were
slaves, and had transferred their fancy to delicate
pinks, pale blues, and similar shades. But Aunt Patsy 7 s
ideas about dress were those of bygone days, and she
was too old now to change them, and her brightest
handkerchief had been selected for her head on this



important day. Above her she held a parasol, which
had been graciously loaned by her descendant of the
fourth generation. It was white, and lined with pink,
and on the edges still lingered some fragments of cot
ton lace.

Uncle Isham now took his position by the side of
his oxen, and started them ; and slowly creaking, Aunt
Patsy's vehicle moved off, followed by the two boys on
mules, three colored women and two girls on foot, and
by two little black urchins who were sometimes on
foot, but invariably on the tail of the cart when they
could manage to evade the backward turn of Uncle
Isham's eye.

" Ef I should go to glory on de road, Uncle Isham,"
said Aunt Patsy, as the right wheel of the cart emerged
from a rather awkward rut, " I don' want no fuss made
'bout me. You kin jes bury me in de clothes I got
on, 'cep'n' de pararsol, ob course, which is 'Liza's. Jes
wrop de quilt all roun' me, an' hab a extry-size coffin.
You needn't do nuffin more'n dat."

" Oh, you's not gwine to glory dis time, Ann' Patsy,"
replied Uncle Isham, who did not want to encourage
the idea of the old woman's departure from life while
in his ox-cart. But after this remark of the old woman
he was extraordinarily careful in regard to jolts and

When the procession reached the domain of Miss
Harriet Corvey, there was gathered inside the yard
quite a number of the usual attendants on mail-days
awaiting the arrival of Wesley Green with his wad
dling horse and leather bag. But all interest in the
coming of the mail was lost in the surprise and ad
miration excited by the astounding apparition of old



Aunt Patsy in the ox- cart, attended by her retinue.
As the oxen, skilfully guided by Uncle Isham's long
prod, turned into the yard, everybody came forward
to find out the reason of this unlooked-for occurrence.
Even old Madison Chalkley, his stout legs swaddled
in home-made overalls, dismounted from his horse,
and Colonel Iston raised his tall form from the porch
step, where he had been sitting, and approached the

"Upon my word," said a young fellow with high
boots, slouched hat, and a riding- whip, " if here ain't
old Aunt Patsy come after a letter ! Where do you
expect a letter from, Aunt Patsy ? "

The old woman fixed her spectacles on him for an
instant, and then said in a clear voice which could be
heard by all the little crowd : " 'Tain't from nobody
dat I owes any money to, nohow, Mahs' Bill Trimble."

A general laugh followed this rejoinder, and Uncle
Isham grinned with gratified pride in the enduring
powers of his charge. The old woman now put down
her parasol, and made as if she would descend from
the cart.

"You needn't git out, Aun' Patsy," said several
negro boys at once. "We'll fotch your letters to

" Git 'long wid you ! " said the old woman, angrily.
"I didn't come here fur no letters. Ef I wanted
letters I'd sen' 'Liza fur 'em. Git out de way."

A chair was now brought, and placed near the cart ;
a woman mounted into the vehicle to assist her ; Uncle
Isham and another colored man stood ready to receive
her, and Aunt Patsy began her descent. This, to her
mind, was a much more difficult and dangerous pro-



ceeding than getting into the cart, and she was very
slow and cautious about it. First, one of her great
green-baize feet was put over the tail of the cart, and
resting her weight upon the two men, Aunt Patsy
allowed it to descend to the chair, where it was grad
ually followed by the other foot. Having safely
accomplished this much, the old woman ejaculated :
" Bress de Lor' ! " When, in the same prudent man
ner, she had reached the ground, she heaved a sigh of
relief, and fervently exclaimed : " De Lor 7 be bressed ! "

Supported by Uncle Isham and the other man, Aunt
Patsy now approached the steps. She was so old, so
little, so bowed, and so apparently feeble, that several
persons remonstrated with her for attempting to go
into the house when anything she wanted would be
gladly done for her. "Much 'bliged," said the old
woman, " but I don' want no letters nor nuffin. Fse
come to make a call on de white folks, an' Fse gwine in."

This announcement was received with a laugh, and
she was allowed to proceed without further hindrance.
She got up the porch steps without much difficulty,
her supporters taking upon themselves most of the
necessary exertion ; but when she reached the top, she
dispensed with their assistance. Shuffling to the front
door, she there met Miss Harriet Corvey, who greeted
the old woman with much surprise, but shook hands
with her very cordially.

"Ebenin', Miss Har'et," said Aunt Patsy. And
then, lowering her voice, she asked : "Is ole miss

Miss Harriet hesitated a moment, and then she an
swered : " Yes, she is $ but I don't believe she'll come
down to see you."



"Oh, Til go up-sta'rs," said Aunt Patsy. "Whar

"She's in the spare chamber," said Miss Harriet;
and Aunt Patsy, with a nod of the head signifying that
she knew all about that room, crossed the hall, and
began, slowly but steadily, to ascend the stairs. Miss
Harriet gazed upon her with amazement, for Aunt
Patsy had been considered chair-ridden when the post
mistress was a young woman. Arrived at the end of
her toilsome ascent, Aunt Patsy knocked at the door
of the spare chamber, and as the voice of her old mis
tress said, " Come in ! " she went in.



Lawrence Croft reached the Green Sulphur
Springs, after his interview with Miss March, his soul
was still bubbling and boiling with emotion, and it
continued in that condition all night, at least during
that great part of the night of which he was conscious.
The sight of the lady he loved, under the new cir
cumstances in which he found her, had determined
him to throw prudence and precaution to the winds,
and to ask her at once to be his wife.

But the next morning Lawrence arose very late.
His coffee had evidently been warmed over, and his
bacon had been cooked for a long, long time. The
world did not appear to him in a favorable light, and
he was obliged to smoke two cigars before he was at
all satisfied with it. While he was smoking he did a
good deal of thinking, and it was then that he came
to the conclusion that he would not go over to Mid-
branch and propose to Roberta March. Such precipi
tate action would be unjust to himself and unjust to
her. In her eyes it would probably appear to be the
act of a man who had been suddenly spurred to action
by the sight of a rival, and this, if Eoberta was the
woman he believed her to be, would prejudice her
against him. And yet he knew very well that these



reasons would avail nothing if lie should see her as
he intended. He had found that he was much more
in love with her than he had supposed, and he felt
positively certain that the next time he was alone with
her he would declare his passion.

Another thing that he felt he should consider was
that the presence of Keswick, if looked upon with a
philosophic eye, was not a reason for immediate action.
If the old engagement had positively been broken off,
he was at the house merely as a family friend ; while,
on the other hand, if the rupture had not been abso
lute, and if Eoberta really loved this tall Southerner
and wished to marry him, there was a feeling of honor
about Lawrence which forbade him to interfere at this
moment. When she came to New York he would
find out how matters really stood, and then he would
determine on his own action.

And yet he would have proposed to Roberta that
moment if he had had the opportunity. Her personal
presence would have banished philosophy, and even

Lawrence was a long time in coming to these con
clusions, and it was late in the afternoon when he
despatched his note. Having now given up his North
Carolina trip, one object of which had been still an
other visit to Midbranch on his return, he was obliged
to wait until the next day for a train to the North ;
and, consequently, he had another evening to devote
to reflections. These, after a time, became unsatisfac
tory. He had told the exact truth in his note to
Eoberta, for he felt that it was necessary for him to

Online LibraryFrank Richard StocktonThe novels and stories of Frank R. Stockton . (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 26)