T.S. Stribling.

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Asked for an opinion, Tump began twiddling military medal and corrugated
the skin on his inch-high brow.

"Now you puts it to me lak dat, Peter," he answered with importance, "I
wonders ef dat gimlet-haided white man ain't put some stoppers in dat
deed he guv you. He mout of."

Such remarks as that from Tump always annoyed Peter. Tump's intellectual
method was to talk sense just long enough to gain his companion's ear,
and then produce something absurd and quash the tentative interest.

Siner turned away from him and said, "Piffle."

Tump was defensive at once.

"'T ain't piffle, either! I's talkin' sense, nigger."

Peter shrugged, and walked a little way in silence, but the soldier's
nonsense stuck in his brain and worried him. Finally he turned, rather
irritably.

"Stoppers - what do you mean by stoppers?"

Tump opened his jet eyes and their yellowish whites. "I means nigger-
stoppers," he reiterated, amazed in his turn.

"Negro-stoppers - " Peter began to laugh sardonically, and abruptly quit
the conversation.

Such rank superiority irritated the soldier to the nth power.

"Look heah, black man, I knows I _is_ right. Heah, lonme look at
dat-aiuh, deed. Maybe I can find 'em. I knows I suttinly is right."

Peter walked on, paying no attention to the request Until Tump caught
his arm and drew him up short.

"Look heah, nigger," said Tump, in a different tone, "I faded dad deed
fuh ten iron men, an' I reckon I got a once-over comin' fuh my money."

The soldier was plainly mobilized and ready to attack. To fight Tump, to
fight any negro at all, would be Peter's undoing; it would forfeit the
moral leadership he hoped to gain. Moreover, he had no valid grounds for
a disagreement with Tump. He passed over the deed, and the two negroes
moved on their way to Niggertown.

Tump trudged forward with eyes glued to paper, his face puckered in the
unaccustomed labor of reading.

His thick lips moved at the individual letters, and constructed them
bunglingly into syllables and words. He was trying to uncover the verbal
camouflage by which the astute white brushed away all rights of all
black men whatsoever.

To Peter there grew up something sadly comical in Tump's efforts. The
big negro might well typify all the colored folk of the South,
struggling in a web of law and custom they did not understand,
misplacing their suspicions, befogged and fearful. A certain penitence
for having been irritated at Tump softened Peter.

"That's all right, Tump; there's nothing to find."

At that moment the soldier began to bob his head.

"Eh! eh! eh! W-wait a minute!" he stammered. "Whut dis? B'lieve I done
foun' it! I sho is! Heah she am! Heah's dis nigger-stopper, jes lak I
tol' you!" Tump marked a sentence in the guaranty of the deed with a
rusty forefinger and looked up at Peter in mixed triumph and accusation.

Peter leaned over the deed, amused.

"Let's see your mare's nest."

"Well, she 'fo' God is thaiuh, an' you sho let loose a hundud dollars uv
our 'ciety's money, an' got nothin' fuh hit but a piece o' paper wid a
nigger-stopper on hit!"

Tump's voice was so charged with contempt that Peter looked with a
certain uneasiness at his find. He read this sentence switched into the
guaranty of the indenture:


"Be it further understood and agreed that no negro, black man, Afro-
American, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, or any person whatsoever of
colored blood or lineage, shall enter upon, seize, hold, occupy, reside
upon, till, cultivate, own or possess any part or parcel of said
property, or garner, cut, or harvest therefrom, any of the usufruct,
timber, or emblements thereof, but shall by these presents be estopped
from so doing forever."


Tump Pack drew a shaken, unhappy breath.

"Now, I reckon you see whut a nigger-stopper is."

Peter stood in the sunshine, looking at the estoppel clause, his lips
agape. Twice he read it over. It held something of the quality of those
comprehensive curses that occur in the Old Testament. He moistened his
lips and looked at Tump.

"Why that can't be legal." His voice sounded empty and shallow.

"Legal! 'Fo' Gawd, nigger, whauh you been to school all dese yeahs,
never to heah uv a nigger-stopper befo'!"

"But - but how can a stroke of the pen, a mere gesture, estop a whole
class of American citizens forever?" cried Peter, with a rising voice.
"Turn it around. Suppose they had put in a line that no white man should
own that land. It - it's empty! I tell you, it's mere words!"

Tump cut into his diatribe: "No use talkin' lak dat. Our 'ciety thought
you wuz a aidjucated nigger. We didn't think no white man could put
nothin' over on you."

"Education!" snapped Siner. "Education isn't supposed to keep you away
from shysters!"

"Keep you away fum 'em!" cried Tump, in a scandalized voice. "'Fo' Gawd,
nigger, you don' know nothin'! O' co'se a aidjucation ain't to keep you
away fum shysters; hit's to mek you one 'uv 'em!"

Peter stood breathing irregularly, looking at his deed. A determination
not to be cheated grew up and hardened in his nerves. With unsteady
hands he refolded his deed and put it into his pocket, then he turned
about and started back up the village street toward the bank.

Tump stared after him a moment and presently called out:

"Heah, nigger, whut you gwine do?" A moment later he repeated to his
friend's back: "Look heah, nigger, I 'vise you ag'inst anything you's
gwine do, less'n you's ready to pass in you' checks!" As Peter strode on
he lifted his voice still higher: "Peter! Hey, Peter, I sho' 'vise you
'g'inst anything you's 'gwine do!"

A pulse throbbed in Siner's temples. The wrath of the cozened heated his
body. His clothes felt hot. As he strode up the trash-piled street, the
white merchants lolling in their doors began smiling. Presently a laugh
broke out at one end of the street and was caught up here and there. It
was the undying minstrel jest, the comedy of a black face. Dawson Bobbs
leaned against the wide brick entrance of the livery-stable, his red
face balled into shining convexities by a quizzical smile.

"Hey, Peter," he drawled, winking at old Mr. Tomwit, "been investin' in
real estate?" and broke into Homeric laughter.

As Peter passed on, the constable dropped casually in behind the brown
man and followed him up to the bank.

To Peter Siner the walk up to the bank was an emotional confusion. He
has a dim consciousness that voices said things to him along the way and
that there was laughter. All this was drowned by desperate thoughts and
futile plans to regain his lost money, flashing through his head. The
cashier would exchange the money for the deed; he would enter suit and
carry it to the Supreme Court; he would show the money had not been his,
he had had no right to buy; he would beg the cashier. His head seemed to
spin around and around.

He climbed the steps into the Planter's Bank and opened the screen-door.
The cashier glanced up briefly, but continued busily at his ledger.

Peter walked shakenly to the barred window in the grill.

"Mr. Hooker."

"Very busy now, Peter," came the high voice.

"I want to know about this deed."

The banker was nimbly setting down long rows of figures. "No time to
explain deeds, Peter."

"But - but there is a clause in this deed, Mr. Hooter, estopping colored
persons from occupying the Dillihay place."

"Precisely. What about it?" Mr. Hooker snapped out his inquiry and
looked up suddenly, catching Peter full in the face with his narrow-set
eyes. It was the equivalent of a blow.

"According to this, I - I can't establish a school on it."

"You cannot."

"Then what can I do with it?" cried Peter.

"Sell it. You have what lawyers call a cloud on the title. Sell it. I'll
give you ten dollars for your right in it, just to clear up my title."

A queer trembling seized Peter. The little banker turned to a fantastic
caricature of a man. His hatchet face, close-set eyes, harsh, straight
hair, and squeaky voice made him seem like some prickly, dried-up gnome
a man sees in a fever.

At that moment the little wicket-door of the window opened under the
pressure of Peter's shoulder. Inside on the desk, lay neat piles of
bills of all denominations, ready to be placed in the vault. In a
nervous tremor Peter dropped in his blue-covered deed and picked up a
hundred-dollar bill.

"I - I won't trade," he jibbered. "It - it wasn't my money. Here's your
deed!" Peter was moving away. He felt a terrific impulse to run, but he
walked.

The banker straightened abruptly. "Stop there, Peter!" he screeched.

At that moment Dawson Bobbs lounged in at the door, with his perpetual
grin balling up his broad red face. He had a toothpick, in his mouth.

"'S matter?" he asked casually.

"Peter there," said the banker, with a pale, sharp face, "doesn't want
to stick to his trade. He is just walking off with one of my hundred-
dollar bills."

"Sick o' yo' deal, Peter?" inquired Bobbs, smiling and shifting the
toothpick. He bit down on it. "Well, whut-chu want done, Henry?"

"Oh," hesitated the cashier in a quandary, "nothing, I suppose. Siner
was excited; you know how niggers are. We can't afford to send every
nigger to the pen that breaks the law." He stood studying Peter out of
his close-set eyes. "Here's your deed, Peter." He shoved it back under
the grill. "And lemme give you a little friendly advice. I'd just run an
ordinary nigger school if I was you. This higher education don't seem to
make a nigger much smarter when he comes back than when he starts out."
A faint smile bracketed the thin nose.

Dawson Bobbs roared with sudden appreciation, took the bill from Peter's
fingers, and pushed it back under the grill.

The cashier picked up the money, casually. He considered a moment, then
reached for a long envelop. As he did so, the incident with Peter
evidently passed from his mind, for his hatchet face lighted up as with
some inward illumination.

"Bobbs," he said warmly, "that was a great sermon Brother Blackwater
preached. It made me want to help according as the Lord has blessed me.
Couldn't you spare five dollars, Bobbs, to go along with this?"

The constable tried to laugh and wriggle away, but the cashier's gimlet
eyes kept boring him, and eventually he fished out a five-dollar bill
and handed it in. Mr. Hooker placed the two bills in the envelop, sealed
it, and handed it to the constable.

"Jest drop that in the post-office as you go down the street, Bobbs," he
directed in his high voice. Peter caught a glimpse of the type-written
address.

It was

Rev. Lemuel Hardiman,
c/o United Missions,
Katuako Post,
Bahr el Ghazal,
Sudan,
East Africa.




CHAPTER III


The white population of Hooker's Bend was much amused and gratified at
the outcome of the Hooker-Siner land deal. Every one agreed that the
cashier's chicanery was a droll and highly original turn to give to a
negro exclusion clause drawn into a deed. Then, too, it involved several
legal points highly congenial to the Hooker's Bend intellect Could the
Sons and Daughters of Benevolence recover their hundred dollars? Could
Henry Hooker force them to pay the remaining seven hundred? Could not
Siner establish his school on the Dillihay place regardless of the
clause, since the cashier would be estopped from obtaining an injunction
by his own instrument?

As a matter of fact, the Sons and Daughters of Benevolence sent a
committee to wait on Mr. Hooker to see what action he meant to take on
the notes that paid for his spurious deed. This brought another harvest
of rumors. Street gossip reported that Henry had compromised for this,
that, and the other amount, that he would not compromise, that he had
persuaded the fool niggers into signing still other instruments. Peter
never knew the truth. He was not on the committee.

But high above the legal phase of interest lay the warming fact that
Peter Siner, a negro graduate of Harvard, on his first tilt in Hooker's
Bend affairs had ridden to a fall. This pleased even the village women,
whose minds could not follow the subtle trickeries of legal disputation.
The whole affair simply proved what the white village had known all
along: you can't educate a nigger. Hooker's Bend warmed with pleasure
that half of its population was ineducable.

White sentiment in Hooker's Bend reacted strongly on Niggertown. Peter
Siner's prestige was no more. The cause of higher education for negroes
took a mighty slump. Junius Gholston, a negro boy who had intended to go
to Nashville to attend Fisk University, reconsidered the matter, packed
away his good clothes, put on overalls, and shipped down the river as a
roustabout instead.

In the Siner cabin old Caroline Siner berated her boy for his stupidity
in ever trading with that low-down, twisting snake in the grass, Henry
Hooker. She alternated this with floods of tears. Caroline had no
sympathy for her offspring. She said she had thrown away years of self-
sacrifice, years of washing, a thousand little comforts her money would
have bought, all for nothing, for less than nothing, to ship a fool
nigger up North and to ship him back.

Of all Niggertown, Caroline was the most unforgiving because Peter had
wounded her in her pride. Every other negro in the village felt that
genial satisfaction in a great man's downfall that is balm to small
souls. But the old mother knew not this consolation. Peter was her
proxy. It was she who had fallen.

The only person in Niggertown who continued amiable to Peter Siner was
Cissie Dildine. The octoroon, perhaps, had other criteria by which to
judge a man than his success or mishaps dealing with a pettifogger.

Two or three days after the catastrophe, Cissie made an excursion to the
Siner cabin with a plate of cookies. Cissie was careful to place her
visit on exactly a normal footing. She brought her little cakes in the
role of one who saw no evil, spoke no evil, and heard no evil. But
somehow Cissie's visit increased the old woman's wrath. She remained
obstinately in the kitchen, and made remarks not only audible, but
arresting, through the thin partition that separated it from the poor
living-room.

Cissie was hardly inside when a voice stated that it hated to see a gal
running after a man, trying to bait him with a lot of fum-diddles.

Cissie gave Peter a single wide-eyed glance, and then attempted to
ignore the bodiless comment.

"Here are some cookies, Mr. Siner," began the girl, rather nervously. "I
thought you and Ahnt Carolin' - "

"Yeah, I 'magine dey's fuh me!" jeered the spectral voice.

"Might like them," concluded the girl, with a little gasp.

"I suttinly don' want no light-fingered hussy ma'yin' my son," proceeded
the voice, "an' de whole Dildine fambly 'll bear watchin'."

[Illustration: In the Siner cabin old Caroline Siner berated her boy.]

"Won't you have a seat?" asked Peter, exquisitely uncomfortable.

Cissie handed him her plate in confusion.

"Why, no, Mr. Siner," she hastened on, in her careful grammar, "I just -
ran over to - "

"To fling herse'f in a nigger's face 'cause he's been North and got
made a fool uv," boomed the hidden censor.

"I must go now," gasped Cissie.

Peter made a harried gesture.

"Wait - wait till I get my hat."

He put the plate down with a swift glance around for his hat. He found
it, and strode to the door, following the girl. The two hurried out into
the street, followed by indistinct strictures from the kitchen. Cissie
breathed fast, with open lips. They moved rapidly along the semicircular
street almost with a sense of flight. The heat of the early autumn sun
stung them through their clothes. For some distance they walked in a
nervous silence, then Cissie said:

"Your mother certainly hates me, Peter."

"No," said Peter, trying to soften the situation; "it's me; she's
terribly hurt about - " he nodded to-ward the white section - "that
business."

Cissie opened her clear brown eyes.

"Your own mother turned against you!"

"Oh, she has a right to be," began Peter, defensively. "I ought to have
read that deed. It's amazing I didn't, but I - I really wasn't expecting
a trick, Mr. Hooker seemed so - so sympathetic - " He came to a lame halt,
staring at the dust through which they picked their way.

"Of course you weren't expecting tricks!" cried Cissie, warmly. "The
whole thing shows you're a gentleman used to dealing with gentlemen. But
of course these Hooker's Bend negroes will never see that!"

Peter, surprised and grateful, looked at Cissie. Her construction of the
swindle was more flattering than any apology he had been able to frame
for himself.

"Still, Cissie, I ought to have used the greatest care - "

"I'm not talking about what you 'ought,'" stated the octoroon, crisply;
"I'm talking about what you are. When it comes to 'ought,' we colored
people must get what we can, any way we can. We fight from the bottom."
The speech held a viperish quality which for a moment caught the brown
man's attention; then he said:

"One thing is sure, I've lost my prestige, whatever it was worth."

The girl nodded slowly.

"With the others you have, I suppose."

Peter glanced at Cissie. The temptation was strong to give the
conversation a personal turn, but he continued on the general topic:

"Well, perhaps it's just as well. My prestige was a bit too flamboyant,
Cissie. All I had to do was to mention a plan. The Sons and Daughters
didn't even discuss it. They put it right through. That wasn't healthy.
Our whole system of society, all democracies are based on discussion.
Our old Witenagemot - "

"But it wasn't _our_ old Witenagemot," said the girl.

"Well - no," admitted the mulatto, "that's true."

They moved along for some distance in silence, when the girl asked:

"What are you going to do now, Peter?"

"Teach, and keep working for that training-school," stated Peter, almost
belligerently. "You didn't expect a little thing like a hundred dollars
to stop me, did you?"

"No-o-o," conceded Cissie, with some reserve of judgment in her tone.
Presently she added, "You could do a lot better up North, Peter."

"For whom?"

"Why, yourself," said the girl, a little surprised.

Siner nodded.

"I thought all that out before I came back here, Cissie. A friend of
mine named Farquhar offered me a place with him up in Chicago, - a string
of garages. You'd like Farquhar, Cissie. He's a materialist with an
absolutely inexorable brain. He mechanizes the universe. I told him I
couldn't take his offer. 'It's like this,' I argued: 'if every negro
with a little ability leaves the South, our people down there will never
progress.' It's really that way, Cissie, it takes a certain mental
atmosphere to develop a people as a whole. A few individuals here and
there may have the strength to spring up by themselves, but the run of
the people - no. I believe one of the greatest curses of the colored race
in the South is the continual draining of its best individuals North.
Farquhar argued - " just then Peter saw that Cissie was not attending his
discourse. She was walking at his side in a respectful silence. He
stopped talking, and presently she smiled and said:

"You haven't noticed my new brooch, Peter." She lifted her hand to her
bosom, and twisted the face of the trinket toward him. "You oughtn't to
have made me show it to you after you recommended it yourself." She made
a little _moue_ of disappointment.

It was a pretty bit of old gold that complimented the creamy skin. Peter
began admiring it at once, and, negro fashion, rather overstepped the
limits white beaux set to their praise, as he leaned close to her.

At the moment the two were passing one of the oddest houses in
Niggertown. It was a two-story cabin built in the shape of a steamboat.
A little cupola represented a pilot-house, and two iron chimneys served
for smoke-stacks.

This queer building had been built by a negro stevedore because of a
deep admiration for the steamboats on which he had made his living.
Instead of steps at the front door, this boat-like house had a stage-
plank. As Peter strolled down the street with Cissie, admiring her
brooch, and suffused with a sense of her nearness, he happened to glance
up, and saw Tump Pack walk down the stage-plank, come out, and wait for
them at the gate.

There was something grim in the ex-soldier's face and in the set of his
gross lips as the two came up, but the aura of the girl prevented Peter
from paying much attention to it. As the two reached Tump, Peter had
just lifted his hand to his hat when Tump made a quick step out at the
gate, in front of them, and swung a furious blow at Peter's head.

Cissie screamed. Siner staggered back with flames dancing before his
eyes. The soldier lunged after his toppling man with gorilla-like blows.
Hot pains shot through Peter's body. His head roared like a gong. The
sunlight danced about him in flashes. The air was full of black fists
smashing him, and not five feet away, the bullet head of Tump Pack
bobbed this way and that in the rapid shifts of his attack. A stab of
pain cut off Peter's breath. He stood with his diaphragm muscles tense
and paralyzed, making convulsive efforts to breathe. At that moment he
glimpsed the convexity of Tump's stomach. He drop-kicked at it with
foot-ball desperation. Came a loud explosive groan. Tump seemed to rise
a foot or two in air, turned over, and thudded down on his shoulders in
the dust. The soldier made no attempt to rise, but curled up, twisting
in agony.

Peter stood in the dust-cloud, wabbly, with roaring head. His open mouth
was full of dust. Then he became aware that negroes were running in from
every direction, shouting. Their voices whooped out what had happened,
who it was, who had licked. Tump Pack's agonized spasms brought howls of
mirth from the black fellows. Negro women were in the crowd, grinning, a
little frightened, but curious. Some were in Mother-Hubbards; one had
her hair half combed, one side in a kinky mattress, the other lying flat
and greased down to her scalp.

When Peter gradually became able to breathe and could think at all,
there was something terrible to him in Tump's silent attack and in this
extravagant black mirth over mere suffering. Cissie was gone, - had fled,
no doubt, at the beginning of the fight.

The prostrate man's tortured abdomen finally allowed him to twist around
toward Peter. His eyes were popped, and seemed all yellows and streaked
with swollen veins.

"I'll git you fuh dis," he wheezed, spitting dust "You did n' fight
fair, you - "

The black chorus rolled their heads and pounded one another in a gale of
merriment.

Peter Siner turned away toward his home filled with sick thought. He had
never realized so clearly the open sore of Niggertown life and its great
need of healing, yet this very episode would further bar him, Peter,
from any constructive work. He foresaw, too plainly, how the white town
and Niggertown would react to this fight. There would be no
discrimination in the scandal. He, Peter Siner, would be grouped with
the boot-leggers and crap-shooters and women-chasers who filled
Niggertown with their brawls. As a matter of simple fact, he had been
fighting with another negro over a woman. That he was subjected to an
attack without warning or cause would never become a factor in the
analysis. He knew that very well.

Two of Peter's teeth were loose; his left jaw was swelling; his head
throbbed. With that queer perversity of human nerves, he kept biting his
sore teeth together as he walked along.

When he reached home, his mother met him at the door. Thanks to the
swiftness with which gossip spreads among black folk, she had already
heard of the fight, and incidentally had formed her judgment of the
matter. Now she looked in exasperation at her son's swelling face.

"I 'cla' 'fo' Gawd! - ain't been home a week befo' he's fightin' over a
nigger wench lak a roustabout!"

Peter's head throbbed so he could hardly make out the details of
Caroline's face.

"But, Mother - " he began defensively, "I - "

"Me sweatin' over de wash-pot," the negress went on, "so's you could go
up North an' learn a lil sense; heah you comes back chasin' a dutty
slut!"

"But, Mother," he begged thickly, "I was simply walking home with Miss
Dildine."

"Miss Dildine! Miss Dildine!" exploded the ponderous woman, with an
erasing gesture. "Ef you means dat stuck-up fly-by-night Cissie Dildine,
say so, and don' stan' thaiuh mouthin', 'Miss Dildine, Miss Dildine'!"

"Mother," asked Peter, thickly, through his swelling mouth, "do you want


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