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Mingo - And Other Sketches in Black and White
by Joel Chandler Harris
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The machinery of the law was not as difficult to set in motion in those days as it is now. There was no delay. Pinetuoky was greatly interested in the trial, and during the two days of its continuance delegations of Pinetuckians were present as spectators. Some of these were summoned to testify to the good character of young Carew, and this they did with a simplicity that was impressive; but neither their testimony nor the efforts of the distinguished counsel for the defence, Colonel Peyton Poindexter, had any effect. The facts and the tacit admissions of Jack were against him. Colonel Poindexter's closing speech was long remembered, and indeed is alluded to even now, as the most eloquent and impressive ever delivered in the court-house in Rockville; but it failed to convince the jury. A verdict in accordance with the facts and testimony was brought in, and Jack Carew was sentenced to serve a term in the penitentiary at Milledgeville.

The first to bring this information to Pinetucky was Bradley Gaither himself. He stopped at Squire Inehly's for his daughter, and went in.

"What's the news?" asked Miss Jane.

"Bad, very bad news," said Bradley Gaither.

"Jack ain't hung, I reckon," said Miss Jane. "My mind tells me, day and night, that the poor boy in innocent as the child that's unborn."

"Innocent or guilty," said Bradley Gaither, "he has been sent to the penitentiary."

Miss Jane gave a quick glance at Rose, and was just in time to catch her as she fell from her chair.

"Ah, poor child!" cried Miss Jane, "her heart is broke!"

"Rose!—Daughter!—Darling!" exclaimed Bradley Gaither, dropping on his knees beside her. "Oh, what is this? What have I done? Speak to her, Miss Inchly! What shall I do?" He was pale as death, and his features worked convulsively.

"Do nothin', Mr. Gaither. You've done more 'n you can undo a'ready. You've took and give that poor boy over for to be persecuted, Mr. Gaither, and now the innocent suffers and the wicked goes scotch-free."

Bradley Gaither covered his face with his hands and groaned aloud.

"What have I done? What have I done?" he cried.

Miss Jane supported the girl in her strong arms with a grim display of affection, but her attitude towards Bradley Gaither was uncompromising.

"Don't alarm yourself, Mr. Gaither," she said; "this poor child'll come too, quick enough. Folks don't fling off the'r misery this easy!"

Rose revived after a while, but she seemed to have no desire to talk to her father. After a copious use of camphor, Miss Jane fixed Rose comfortably on the lounge, and the girl lay there and gazed at the ceiling, the picture of wide-eyed despair. Bradley Gaither paced the room like one distracted. His sighs were heart-rending. When Miss Jane succeeded in getting him out of the room, he paced up and down the entry, moving his lips and groaning as though in great mental agony. Failing to understand what emotions he was at the mercy of, Miss Jane failed to sympathise with him. To her mind his display of grief bore no sort of proportion to the cause, and she had a woman's contempt for any manifestation of weakness in man, even the weakness of grief.

"I'll pray to the Lord to forgive me!" he cried out piteously.

"That's right," exclaimed Miss Jane, in her decisive way. "But if the grace of pra'r was in the hinges of the knee, I know a heap of folks that'd be easy in the mind."

Every word she spoke cut like a knife, but not until long after did Miss Inchly realise the fact. When she did realise it, it is to be feared she hugged the remembrance of it to her bosom with a sort of grim thankfulness that Providence had so happily fashioned her words and directed her tongue.

As time passed on, the Pinetuckians became aware that a great change had come over both Bradley Gaither and his daughter. The father grew old before his time, and fell into a decline, as his neighbours expressed it. The daughter grew more beautiful, but it was beauty of a kind that belonged to devoutness; so that in contemplating it the minds of men were led in the direction of mercy and charity and all manner of good deeds.

One night, a year or more after the trial and sentence of Jack Carew, a negro on horseback rode to Squire Inchly's door, and said that his master, Bradley Gaither, desired the Squire to come to him at once. The worthy magistrate was prompt to obey the summons; and when he arrived at the Gaither place, he found that the preacher and other neighbours had also been summoned. Bradley Gaither lay upon his bed, surrounded by these, and it was plain to see that his sands of life had about run out. He presented a spectacle of dissolution calculated to arouse the sympathies of those who stood around his bed.

When Squire Inchly had arrived, Bradley Gaither lay a little while with his eyes closed as in a dream. Then he motioned to his daughter, who drew from beneath his pillow a few sheets of letter-paper stained and blotted with ink. This she handed to the minister.

"Read it aloud," said Bradley Gaither. The minister, with some degree of embarrassment, adjusted his spectacles and read:—

"With this paper will be found my last will and testament. I am unhappy, but I should be less miserable if I knew I could put such meaning in these lines as no man could misunderstand. I have sinned against an innocent man, I have sinned against my dear daughter, I have sinned against myself, I have sinned against God. I have been guilty of a great wrong, and though I cannot forgive myself, yet I hope to be forgiven. John Carew, who is now in prison, is an innocent man. I coveted his land. In my worldly-mindedness I set my heart upon his possessions. I offered him double their value. I thought he treated me with contempt, and then I hit upon a plan to drive him out. I carried the cotton to his barn and hid it. He knew no more about it than any honest man. But as God is my judge, I did not foresee the end. I thought he would compromise and sell the land and go away. At the last the law took the matter out of my hands. John Carew believes that he is suffering punishment in place of his father; but William Carew is as honest as his son, and no man could be honester than that. I, Bradley Gaither, being in my right mind and of sound memory, do hereby charge myself with the crime for which John Carew has been adjudged guilty. Let the disgrace of it be attached to me alone. The sin of it I hope a merciful God will forgive."

This document was duly signed and witnessed. When the preacher reached the end, he said, "Let us pray;" and while that prayer, as fervent as simplicity could make it, was ascending heavenward, the soul of Bradley Gaither took its flight.

"I glanced at him arter the breath left him," said Squire Inchly, relating the facts to his sister, "and he looked like a man that had shook hisself free from a heap of worriment. I hope he's at peace. I do, from the bottom of my heart."

The confession was received with great wonder in Pinetucky; but there was not one among the Pinetuckians who did not believe that Bradley Gaither was a better man at bottom than his life had shown him to be, not one, indeed, who did not believe that his grievous errors were among the dispensations which an all-wise Providence employs to chasten the proud and humble the vainglorious.

When Jack Carew returned to his friends, he made his way straight to Squire Inchly's. He was not much changed, but the sight of him gave Miss Jane the cue for tears. These, however, she dried immediately, and, with a smile that Jack remembered long, motioned towards the little sitting-room.

"Go in there, Jack. A man oughtn't to grumble at waitin' for his dinner, if he knows he'll git pie."

In the little sitting-room Rose Gaither was waiting for him.



BLUE DAVE

I.

THE atmosphere of mystery that surrounds the Kendrick Place in Putnam County is illusive, of course; but the illusion is perfect. The old house, standing a dozen yards from the roadside, is picturesque with the contrivances of neglect and decay. Through a door hanging loose upon its hinges the passer-by may behold the evidences of loneliness and gloom,—the very embodiment of desolation,—a void, a silence, that is almost portentous. The roof, with its crop of quaint gables, in which proportion has been sacrificed to an effort to attain architectural liveliness, is covered with a greenish-grey moss on the north side, and has long been given over to decay on all sides. The cat-squirrels that occasionally scamper across the crumbling shingles have as much as they can do, with all their nimbleness, to find a secure foot-hold. The huge wooden columns that support the double veranda display jagged edges at top and bottom, and no longer make even a pretence of hiding their grim hollowness. The well, hospitably placed within arm's reach of the highway, for the benefit of the dead and buried congregation that long ago met and worshipped at Bethesda meeting-house, is stripped of windlass, chain, and bucket. All the outhouses have disappeared, if they ever had an existence; and nothing remains to tell the story of a flourishing era, save a fig-tree, which is graciously green and fruitful in season. This fig-tree has grown to an extraordinary height, and covers a large area with its canopy of limbs and leaves, giving a sort of Oriental flavour to the illusion of mystery and antiquity. It is said of this fig-tree that sermons have been preached and marriages solemnised under its wide-spreading branches; and there is a vague tradition to the effect that a duel was once fought in its shadow by some of the hot-bloods. But no harm will come of respectfully but firmly doubting this tradition; for it is a fact, common to both memory and observation, that duels, even in the old days, when each and every one of us was the pink of chivalry and the soul of honour, were much rarer than the talk of them. Nevertheless, the confession may be made that without such a tradition a fig-tree surrounded by so many evidences of neglect and decay would be a tame affair indeed.

The house, with its double veranda, its tall chimneys, and its curious collection of gables, was built as late as 1836 by young Felix Kendrick, in order, as Grandsir Kendrick declared, to show that "some folks was as good as other folks." Whether Felix succeeded in this or not, it is impossible to gather from either local history or tradition; but there is no doubt that the house attracted attention, for its architectural liveliness has never to this day been duplicated in that region. In those days the Kendrick family was a new one, so to speak, but ambitious. Grandsir Kendrick—a fatal title in itself—was a hatter by trade, who had come to Georgia in search of a precarious livelihood. He obtained permission to build him a little log hut by the side of a running stream; and, for a year or two, people going along the road could hear the snap and twang of his bowstring as he whipped wool or rabbit fur into shape. Some said he was from North Carolina; others said he was from Connecticut; but whether from one State or the other, what should a hatter do away off in the woods in Putnam County? Grandsir Kendrick, who was shrewd, close-fisted, and industrious, did what any sensible man would have done: he became an overseer. In this business, which required no capital, he developed considerable executive ability. The plantations he had charge of paid large profits to their owners, and he found his good management in demand. He commanded a large salary, and saved money. This money he invested in negroes, buying one at a time and hiring them out. He finally came to be the owner of seven or eight stout field hands; whereupon he bought two hundred acres of choice land, and set himself up as a patriarch.

Grandsir Kendrick kept to his sober ways, continued his good management, and, in the midst of much shabbiness, continued to put aside money in the shape of negroes. He also reared a son, who contrived somehow to have higher notions than his father. These notions of young Felix Kendrick were confirmed and enlarged by his marriage to the daughter of a Methodist circuit-rider. This young lady had been pinched by poverty often enough to know the value of economy, while the position of her father had given her advantages which the most fortunate young ladies of that day might have envied. In short, Mrs. Felix turned out to be a very superior woman in all respects. She was proud as well as pretty, and managed to hold her own with the element which Grandsir Kendrick sometimes dubiously referred to as "the quality." The fact that Mrs. Felix's mother was a Barksdale probably had something to do with her energy and tact; but whatever the cause of her popularity may have been, Grandsir Kendrick was very proud of his son's wife. He had no sympathy with, and no part in, her high notions; but their manifestation afforded him the spectacle of an experience entirely foreign to his own. Here was his son's wife stepping high, and compelling his son to step high. So far as Grandsir Kendrick was concerned, however, it was merely a spectacle. To the day of his death, he never ceased to higgle over a thrip, and it was his constant boast that in his own experience it had always been convenient to give prudence the upper hand of pride.

In 1850 the house was not showing many signs of decay, but young Mrs. Felix had become the widow Kendrick, her daughter Kitty bad grown to be a beautiful young woman, and her son Felix was a lad of remarkable promise. The loss of her husband was a great blow to Mrs. Kendrick. With all her business qualities, her affection for her family and her home was strongly marked, and her husband stood first as the head and centre of each. Felix Kendrick died in the latter part of November 1849, and his widow made him a grave under the shadow of a tree he had planted when a boy, and in full view of her window. The obsequies were very simple. A prayer was said, and a song was sung; that was all. But it was understood that the funeral sermon would be preached at the house by Mrs. Kendrick's brother, who was on his way home from China, where he had been engaged in converting (to use a neighbourhood phrase) the "squinch-eyed heathen."

The weeks went by, and the missionary brother returned; and one Sunday morning in February it was given out at Bethesda that "on the first Sabbath after the second Tuesday in March, the funeral sermon of Brother Felix Kendrick will be preached at the house by Brother Garwood." On the morning of this particular Sunday, which was selected because it did not conflict with the services of the Bethesda congregation, two neighbours met in the forks of the public road that leads to Rockville. Each had come from a different direction. One was riding and one was walking; and both were past the middle time of life.

"Well met, Brother Roach!" exclaimed the man on horseback.

"You've took the words from my mouth, Brother Brannum. I hope you are well. I'm peart myself, but not as peart as I thought I was, bekaze I find that the two or three miles to come is sticking in my craw."

"Ah, when it comes to that, Brother Roach," said the man on horseback, "you and me can be one another's looking-glass. Look on me, and you'll see what time has done for you."

"Not so, Brother Brannum! Not so!" exclaimed the other. "There's some furrows on your forrud, and a handful of bird-tracks below your eyes that would ill become me; and I'm plumper in the make-up, you'll allow."

"Yes, yes, Brother Johnny Roach," said Brother Brannum, frowning a little; "but what of that? Death takes no time to feel for wrinkles and furrows, and nuther does plumpness stand in the way. Look at Brother Felix Kendrick,—took off in the very pulse and power of his prime, you may say. Yet, Providence permitting, I am to hark to his funeral to-day."

"Why, so am I,—so am I," exclaimed Brother Roach. "We seem to agree, Brother Brannum, like the jay-bird and the joree,—one in the tree and t'other on the ground."

Brother Brannum's grim sense of superiority showed itself in his calm smile.

"Yet I'll not deny," continued Brother Roach, flinging his coat, which he had been carrying on his arm, across his shoulder, "that sech discourses go ag'in the grain It frets me in the mind for to hear what thundering great men folks git to be arter they are dead, though I hope we may both follow suit, Brother Brannum."

"But how, Brother Johnny Roach?"

"Why, by the grace of big discourses, Brother Brannum. There 'a many a preacher could close down the Bible on his hankcher and make our very misdeeds smell sweet as innocence. It's all in the lift of the eyebrow, and the gesticures of the hand. So old Neighbour Harper says, and he's been a lawyer and a schoolmaster in his day and time.".

"Still," said Brother Brannum, as if acknowledging the arguments, "I think Sister Kendrick is jestified in her desires."

"Oh, yes,—oh, yes!" replied Brother Roach, heartily; "none more so. Felix Kendrick's ways is in good shape for some preacher wi' a glib tongue. Felix was a good man; he wanted his just dues, but not if to take them would hurt a man. He was neighbourly; who more so? And, sir, when you got to rastlin' wi' trouble, he'd find you and fetch you out. I only hope the Chinee preacher'll be jedgmatical enough for to let us off wi' the simple truth."

"They say," said Brother Brannum, "that he's a man full of grace and fire."

"Well, sir," said Johnny Roach, "if he but makes me disremember that I left the bay mar' at home, I'll thank him kindly."

"Mercy, Brother Roach," exclaimed Brother Brannum, taking this as a neighbourly hint, "mount up here and rest yourself, whilst I stretch my legs along this level piece of ground."

"I'd thank you kindly, Brother Branuum, if you wouldn't so misjudge me! It's my will to walk; but if I git my limbs sot to the saddle here and now, they'd ache and crack might'ly when next I called upon 'em. I'll take the will for the deed, Brother Brannum."

Thus these neighbours jogged along to Felix Kendrick's funeral. They found a great crowd ahead of them when they got there, though they were not too late for the services; but the house was filled with sympathetic men and women, and those who came late were compelled to find such accommodations as the yard afforded; and these accommodations were excellent in their way, for there was the cool green grass under the trees, and there were the rustic seats in the shadow of the fig-tree of which mention has been made.

Coming together, Brother Brannum and Brother Roach stayed together; and they soon found themselves comfortably seated under the fig-tree,—a point of view from which they could observe everything that was going on. Brother Brannum, who was a pillar of Bethesda church, and extremely officious withal, seemed to regret that he had not arrived soon enough to find a place in the house near the preacher, but Brother Roach appeared to congratulate himself that he had been crowded out of ear-shot.

"We can set here," he declared in great good-humour, "and hear the singing, and then whirl in and preach each man his own sermon. I know better than the furrin preacher what'd be satisfactual to Felix Kendrick. I see George Denham sailing in and out and flying around; and if the pinch comes, as come it must, Brother Brannum, we can up and ast George for to fetch us sech reports as a hongry man can stomach."

Brother Brannum frowned heavily, but made no response. Presently Brother Roach beckoned to the young man whom he had called George Denham. "Howdy, George! How is Kitty Kendrick? Solemn as the season is, George, I lay 'twould be wrong for to let Beauty pine."

The young man suppressed a smile, and raised his hands in protest.

"Uncle Johnny! to joke me at such a time! I shall go to-morrow and cut your mill-race, and you will never know who did it."

"Ah, George! if death changes a man no more'n they say it does, little does Felix Kendrick need to be holp by these dismal takings-on. From first to last, he begrudged no man his banter. But here we are, and yan's the preacher. The p'int wi' me, George, is, how kin we-all setting on the back seats know when the preacher gits to his 'amen,' onless his expoundance is too loud to be becoming?"

"Come, now, Uncle Johnny," said young Denham, "no winking, and I'll tell you. I was talking to Miss Kitty just now, and all of a sudden she cried out, 'Why, yonder's Uncle Johnny Roach, and he's walking, too. Uncle Johnny must stay to dinner;' and Mrs. Kendrick says, 'Yes, and Brother Branmim too.' And so there you are."

"Well, sir," exclaimed Brother Roach, "Kitty always had a piece of my heart, and now she has it all."

"A likely young man, that George Denham," said Brother Brannum, as Denham moved towards the house.

"You never spoke a truer word, Brother Brannum," said Brother Roach, enthusiastically. "Look at his limbs, look at his gait, look at his eye. If the world, the flesh, and the devil don't freeze out his intents, you'll hear from that chap. He's a-gitting high up in the law, and where'll you find a better managed plantation than his'n?"

What else Brother Roach said or might have said must be left to conjecture. In the midst of his eulogy on the living, the preacher in the house began his eulogy of the dead. Those who heard what he said were much edified, and those who failed to hear made a decorous pretence of listening intently. In the midst of the sermon Brother Roach felt himself touched on the arm. Looking up, he saw that Brother Brannum was gazing intently at one of the gables on the roof. Following the direction of Brother Brannum's eyes, Brother Roach beheld, with astonishment not unmixed with awe, the head and shoulders of a powerfully built negro. The attitude of the negro was one of attention. He was evidently trying to hear the sermon. His head was bent, and the expression of his face was indicative of great good-humour. His shirt was ragged and dirty, and had fallen completely away from one arm and shoulder, and the billowy muscles glistened in the sun. While Brother Brannum and Brother Roach were gazing at him with some degree of amazement, an acorn dropped upon the roof from one of the tall oaks. Startled by the sudden noise, the negro glanced hurriedly around, and dropped quickly below the line of vision.

"Well, well, well!" exclaimed Brother Roach, after exchanging a look of amazement with Brother Brannum. "Well, well, well! Who'd 'a' thought it? Once 'twas the nigger in the wood-pile; now it's the nigger in the steeple, and arter a while they'll be a-flying in the air,—mark my words. I call that the impidence of the Old Boy. Maybe you don't know that nigger, Brother Brannum?"

"I disremember if I do, Brother Roach."

"Well, sir, when one of 'em passes in front of your Uncle Johnny, you may up and sw'ar his dagarrytype is took. That nigger, roosting up there so slick and cool, is Bledser's Blue Dave. Nuther more, nuther less."

"Bledser's Blue Dave!" exclaimed Brother Brannum in a voice made sepulchral by amazement.

"The identical nigger! I'd know him if I met him arm-in-arm with the King and Queen of France."

"Why, I thought Blue Dave had made his disappearance five year ago," said Brother Brannum.

"Well, sir, my two eyes tells me different. Time and time ag'in I've been told he's a quare creetur. Some say he's strong as a horse and venomous as a snake. Some say he's swifter than the wind and slicker than a red fox. And many's the time by my own h'a'th-stone I've had to pooh-pooh these relations; yet there's no denying that for mighty nigh seven year that nigger's been trolloping round through the woods foot-loose and scotch-free, bidding defiance to the law of the State and Bill Brand's track dogs."

"Well, sir," said Brother Brannum, fetching his hand down on his knee with a thwack, "we ought to alarm the assemblage."

"Jes so," replied Brother Roach, with something like a chuckle; "but you forgit the time and the occasion, Brother Brannum. I'm a worldly man myself, as you may say, but 'twill be long arter I'm more worldlier than what I am before you can ketch me cuttin' sech a scollop as to wind up a funeral sermon wi' a race arter a runaway nigger."

Brother Brannum agreed with this view, but it was with a poor grace. He had a vague remembrance of certain rewards that had from time to time been offered for the capture of Blue Dave, and he was anxious to have a hand in securing at least a part of these. But he refrained from sounding the alarm. With Brother Roach, he remained at the Kendrick Place after the sermon was over, and took dinner. He rode off shortly afterwards, and the next day Bill Brand and his track dogs put in an appearance; but Blue Dave was gone.

It was a common thing to hear of fugitive negroes; but Blue Dave (so called because of the inky blackness of his skin) had a name and a fame that made him the terror of the women and children, both white and black; and Kitty Kendrick and her mother were not a little disturbed when they learned that he had been in hiding among the gables of their house. The negro's success in eluding pursuit caused the ignorant-minded of both races to attribute to him the possession of some mysterious power. He grew into a legend; he became a part of the folk-lore of the section. According to popular belief, he possessed strange powers and great courage; he became a giant, a spirit of evil. Women frightened their children into silence by calling his name, and many a youngster crept to bed in mortal fear that Blue Dave would come in the night and whisk him away into the depths of the dark woods. Whatever mischief was done was credited to Blue Dave. If a horse was found in the lot spattered with mud, Blue Dave had ridden it; if a cow was crippled, a hog missing, or a smoke-house robbed, Blue Dave was sure to be at the bottom of it all, so far as popular belief was concerned. The negroes had many stories to tell of him. One had seen him standing by a tall poplar-tree. He was about to speak to him when there came a flash of lightning and a crash of thunder, and Blue Dave disappeared, leaving a sulphurous smell behind him. He had been seen by another negro. He was standing in the middle of the Armour's Ferry road. He was armed with a gleaming reaphook, and accompanied by a big black dog. As soon as the dog saw the new-comer, it bristled up from head to foot, its eyes shone like two coals of fire, and every hair on its back emitted a fiery spark.

Very little was known of the history of Blue Dave. He was brought to the little village of Rockville in chains in a speculator's train,—the train consisting of two Conestoga wagons and thirty or forty forlorn-looking negroes. The speculator explained that he had manacled Blue Dave because he was unmanageable; and he put him on the block to sell him after making it perfectly clear to everybody that whoever bought the negro would get a bad bargain. Nevertheless Blue Dave was a magnificent specimen of manhood, straight as an arrow, as muscular as Hercules, and with a countenance as open and as pleasant as one would wish to see. He was bought by General Alfred Bledser, and put on his River Place. He worked well for a few weeks, but got into trouble with the overseer, and finally compromised matters by taking to the woods. He seemed born for this particular business; for the track dogs failed to find him, and all the arts and artifices employed for capturing and reclaiming runaways failed in his case. It was a desperate sort of freedom he enjoyed; but he seemed suited to it, and he made the most of it.

As might be supposed, there was great commotion in the settlement, and particularly at the Kendrick homestead, when it was known that Blue Dave had been hiding among the gables of the Kendrick house. Mrs. Kendrick and her daughter Kitty possessed their full share of what Brother Roach would have called "spunk;" but there is a large and very important corner of the human mind—particularly if it happens to be a feminine mind—which devotes itself to superstition; and these gentle ladies, while they stood in no terror of Blue Dave as a runaway negro simply, were certainly awed by the spectral figure which had grown up out of common report. The house negroes stood in mortal dread of Blue Dave, and their dismay was not without its effect upon Mrs. Kendrick and her daughter. Jenny, the house-girl, refused to sleep at the quarters; and when Aunt Tabby, the cook, started for her cabin after dark, she was accompanied by a number of little negroes bearing lightwood torches. All the stories and legends that clustered around Blue Dave's career were brought to the surface again; and, as we have seen, the great majority of them were anything but reassuring.

II.

WHILE the commotion in the settlement and on the Kendrick Place was at its height, an incident occurred that had a tendency to relieve Kitty Kendrick's mind. Shortly after the funeral the spring rains had set in, and for several days great floods came down from the skies. One evening shortly after dark, Kitty Kendrick stepped out upon the veranda, in an aimless sort of way, to look at the clouds. The rain had ceased, but the warm earth was reeking with moisture. The trees and the ground were smoking with fog, and great banks of vapour were whirling across the sky from the south-west. Kitty sighed. After a while George Denham would go rattling by in his buggy from his law office in Rockyille to his plantation, and it was too dark to catch a glimpse of him. At any rate, she would do the best she could. She would put the curtains of the sitting-room back, so the light could shine out, and perhaps George would stop to warm his hands and say a word to her mother. Kitty turned to go in when she heard her name called—

"Miss Kitty!"

"Well, what is it?" Kitty was startled a little in spite of herself.

"Please, ma'am, don't be skeer'd."

"Why should I be frightened? What do you want?"

"Miss Kitty, I des come by fer ter tell you dat Murder Creek done come way out er its banks, en ef Mars. George Denham come by w'en he gwine on home, I wish you please, ma'am, be so good ez ter tell 'im dat dey ain't no fordin'-place fer ter be foun' dar dis night."

The voice was that of a negro, and there was something in the tone of it that arrested Kitty Kendrick's attention.

"Who sent you?" she asked.

"Nobody ain't sont me; I des come by myse'f. I laid off fer ter tell Mars. George, but I year talk he mighty headstrong, en I speck he des laugh at me."

"Are you one of our hands?"

"No, 'm; I don't b'long on de Kendrick Place."

"Come out of the shadow there where I can see you."

"I mos' fear'd, Miss Kitty."

"What is your name?"

"Dey calls me Blue Dave, ma'am."

The tone of the voice was something more than humble. There was an appeal in it for mercy. Kitty Kendrick recognised this; but in spite of it she could scarcely resist an impulse to rush into the house, lock the door, and take steps to rouse the whole plantation. By a great effort she did resist it, and the negro went on:—

"Please, ma'am, don't be skeer'd er me, Miss Kitty. De Lord years me w'en I say it, dey ain't a ha'r er yo' head dat I'd hurt, dat dey ain't. I ain't bad like dey make out I is, Miss Kitty. Dey tells some mighty big tales, but dey makes um up dey se'f. Manys en manys de time is I seed you w'en you gwine atter sweet-gum en w'en you huntin' flowers, en I allers say ter myse'f, I did, 'Nobody better not pester Miss Kitty w'iles Blue Dave anywhars 'roun'.' Miss Kitty, I 'clar' 'fo' de Lord I ain't no bad nigger," Blue Dave continued in a tone of the most emphatic entreaty. "You des ax yo' little br'er. Little Mars. Felix, he knows I ain't no bad nigger."

"Why don't you go home, instead of hiding out in the woods?" said Kitty, striving to speak in a properly indignant tone.

"Bless yo' soul, Miss Kitty, hit ain't no home fer me," said Blue Dave, sadly. "Hit mought be a home fer some niggers, but hit ain't no home fer me. I year somebody comin'. Good-bye, Miss Kitty; don't fergit 'bout Mars. George."

As noiselessly as the wind that faintly stirs the grass, Blue Dave glided away in the darkness, leaving Kitty Kendrick standing upon the veranda half frightened and wholly puzzled. Her little brother Felix came out to see where she had gone. Felix was eight years old, and had views of his own.

"Sister Kit, what are you doing? Watching for Mr. George to go by?"

"Don't speak to me, you naughty boy!" exclaimed Kitty. "You've disgraced us all. You knew Blue Dave was hiding on top of the house all the while. What would be done with us if people found out we had been harbouring a runaway negro?" Kitty pretended to be terribly shocked. Felix gave a long whistle, indicative of astonishment.

"You are awful smart," he said. "How did you find that out? Yes, I did know it," he went on, desperately, "and I don't care if I did. If you tell anybody, I'll never run up the road to see if Mr. George is coming as long as I live; I won't never do anything for you."

Kitty's inference was based on what Blue Dave had said; but it filled her with dismay to find it true. She caught the child by the shoulder and gave him a little shake. "Brother Felix, how dare you do such a thing? If mother knew of it, it would break her heart."

"Well, go and tell her and break her heart," said the boy, sullenly. "It wasn't my fault that Blue Dave was up there. I didn't tote him up, I reckon."

"Oh, how could you do such a thing?" reiterated Kitty, putting her handkerchief to her eyes, as if by this means to expiate her brother's folly.

"Well," said the child, still speaking sullenly, "I heard something moving on top of the house one day when I was in the garret, and I kept on hearing it until I opened the window and went out on the roof. Then, when I got out there, I saw a great big nigger man."

"Weren't you frightened?" exclaimed Kitty, catching her breath. "What did you say?"

"I said 'Hello!' and then he jumped like he was shot. I asked him his name, and he said he was named Blue Dave, and he begged me so hard I promised not to tell he was up there. And then, after that, he used to come in the garret and tell me no end of tales, and I've got a trunk full of chestnuts that he brought me. He 'a the best nigger man I ever saw, less'n it's old Uncle Manuel, and he'll be as good as Uncle Manuel when he gets that old, 'cause Uncle Manuel said so. And I know it ain't my fault; and if you want to tell mother you can come and tell her right now, and then you won't never be my sister any more, never, never!"

"I think you have acted shamefully," said Kitty. "Suppose he had come in the garret, and made his way down-stairs, and murdered us all while we were asleep."

"Well," said Felix, "he could have come any time. I wouldn't be afraid to go out in the woods and stay with Blue Dave this very night, and if I had my way he wouldn't be running from old Bill Brand and his dogs. When I get a man I'm going to save up money and buy Blue Dave: I thought at first I wanted a pony, but I wouldn't have a pony now."

While they were talking, Kitty heard the rattle of buggy wheels. The sound came nearer and nearer. Whoever was driving was singing, to pass the time away, and the quick ear of Kitty recognised the voice of George Denham. He went dashing by; but he must have seen the girl standing on the veranda, for he cried out, "Good night, Miss Kitty!" and then caught up the burden of his song again as he went whirling down the road. Kitty wrung her hands. She went in to her mother with tears in her eyes.

"O mother! George has gone by without stopping. What shall we do?"

Mrs. Kendrick was a very practical woman. Knowing nothing of the freshet in Murder Creek, she was amazed as well as amused at Kitty's tragic attitude.

"Well, it's most too soon for George to begin to take his meals here, I reckon," she said dryly. "You'd better make you a cup of ginger-tea and go to bed."

"But, mother, there's a freshet in Murder Creek. Oh, why didn't he stop?"

Mrs. Kendrick was kneeling on the floor cutting out clothes for the plough-hands,—"slaving for her niggers," as she called it. She paused in her work and looked at Kitty, as if to see whether she had heard her aright.

"Well, upon my word!" she exclaimed, after critically surveying her daughter, "I don't see how girls can be so weak-minded. Many a man as good as George Denham has crossed Murder Creek in a freshet. I don't see but what he's big enough and ugly enough to take care of himself."

"Oh," exclaimed Kitty, going from window to window, and vainly endeavouring to peer out into the darkness, "why didn't he stop?"

"Well," said Mrs. Kendrick, resuming the use of her shears, "if you'll try to worry along and stand it this time, I'll send out and have a fence built across the big road, and get the niggers to light a bonfire; and we'll stop him the next time he comes along. I'll have to do my duty by my own children, I reckon. But don't be alarmed," she continued, perceiving that Kitty's distress was genuine. "You may have to fly around here and get George some supper, after all. I've been waiting on niggers all day; and even if I hadn't, I'm too old and fagged out to be rushing in amongst the pots and kettles to please George Denham."

George Denham rattled down the road, singing of "Barbara Allen," but thinking of Kitty Kendrick. Suddenly his horse shied, and then he heard somebody call him.

"Mars. George! Is dat you, Mars. George?"

"Unless you want to make a ghost of me by frightening my horse," exclaimed the young man, checking the animal with some difficulty. "What do you want?"

"Mars. George, is you see Miss Kitty w'en you come by des now?"

"No, I didn't stop. Is anything the matter?"

"No, sir, nothin' in 'tickler ain't de matter, 'ceppin' dat Miss Kitty had sump'n' ter tell you."

"Are you one of the Kendrick negroes?"

"No, sir; I don't b'long dar."

"Who are you?"

"I 'clar' ter goodness, I skeer'd ter tell you, Mars. George; kaze you mought fly up en git mad."

The young man laughed with such genuine heartiness that it did the negro good to hear it.

"Well, I know who you are," he said; "you are Blue Dave, and you've come to tell me that you want me to carry you to jail, where Bill Brand can get his hands on you."

The negro was thunderstruck. "To' de Lord, Mars. George! how you know who I is?"

"Why, I know by your looks. You've got horns and a club foot. That's the way the Old Boy fixes himself."

"Now, Mars. George," said the negro in a grieved tone, "ef you could see me good you wouldn't set dar en say I'm a bad-lookin' nigger."

"Are you really Blue Dave?" the young man asked, dropping his bantering tone and speaking seriously.

"Yasser, Mars. George; I'm dat ve'y nigger."

"What do you want with me?"

"I des wanter tell you, Mars. George, dat dey's a freshet come fum 'bove, en Murder Creek is 'way out'n hits banks. You can't cross dar wid no hoss en buggy dis night."

The young man reflected a moment. He was more interested in the attitude of the negro than he was in the extent of the freshet or the danger of an attempt to cross the creek.

"I've a knack of crossing Murder Creek in a freshet," he said. "But why should you want to keep me out of it?"

"Well, sir, fer one thing," said Blue Dave, shifting about on his feet uneasily, "you look so much like my young marster w'at died in Perginny. En den dat day w'en de speckerlater put me up on de block, you 'uz settin' dar straddle er yo' pony, en you 'lowed dat he oughter be 'shame er hisse'f fer ter chain me up dat a-way."

"Oh, I remember. I made quite a fool of myself that day."

"Yasser; en den w'en de man say sump'n' sassy back, little ez you wuz, you spurred de pony at 'im en tole 'im you'd slap 'im in de jaw. He 'uz de skeer'dest w'ite man I ever see. I say ter myse'f den dat I hope de day'd come w'en dat little boy'd grow up en buy me; en dat make I say w'at I does. I want you to keep out 'n dat creek dis night, en den I want you ter buy me. Please, sir, buy me, Mars. George; I make you de bes' nigger you ever had."

"Why, great Jerusalem! you wouldn't be on my place a week before you'd get your feelings hurt and rush off to the woods, and I'd never see you any more."

"Des try me, Mars. George! des try me. I'll work my arms off ter de elbows, en den I'll work wid de stumps. Des try me, Mars. George!"

"I expect you would be a right good hand if you hadn't been free so long. Go home and let me see how you can work for your master, and then maybe I'll think about buying you."

"Eh-eh, Mars. George! I better go jump in a burnin' bresh-pile. Ain't you gwine ter tu'n back, Mars. George?"

"Not to-night. Go home and behave yourself."

With that George Denham clucked to his restive horse, and went clattering down the road in the direction of Murder Creek, which crossed the highway a mile further on. Blue Dave stood still a moment, scratching his head and looking after the buggy.

"Is anybody ever see de beat er dat?" he exclaimed. "Ef Mars. George gits in dat creek, dey's got ter be a merakel come 'bout ef he gits out." He stood in the road a moment longer, still scratching his head as if puzzled. Then he addressed himself indignantly. "Looky yer, nigger, w'at you stan'in' yer fer? Whar yo' manners, whar yo' perliteness?"

Thus, half—humorously, half—seriously, talking to himself, Blue Dave went trotting along in the direction taken by George Denham. He moved without apparent exertion, but with amazing swiftness. But the young man in the buggy had also moved swiftly; and, go as fast as he might, Blue Dave could not hope to overtake him before he reached the creek.

For George Denham was impatient to get home,—as impatient as his horse, which did not need even the lightest touch of the whip to urge it forward. He paid no attention to the familiar road. He was thinking of pretty Kitty Kendrick, and of the day, not very far in the future, he hoped, when, in going home, he should be driving towards her instead of away from her. He paid no attention to the fact that, as he neared the creek, his horse subsided from a swinging trot to a mincing gait that betrayed indecision; nor did it strike him as anything unusual that the horse should begin to splash water with his feet long before he had reached the banks of the creek; no doubt it was a pool left standing in the road after the heavy rains. But the pool steadily grew deeper; and while George Denham was picturing Kitty Kendrick sitting on one side of his fireplace and his old mother on the other,—his old mother, with her proud face and her stately ways,—his horse stopped and looked around. Young Denham slapped the animal with the reins, without taking note of his surroundings. Thus reassured, the horse went on; but the water grew deeper and deeper, and presently the creature stopped again. This time it smelt of the water and emitted the low, deeply-drawn snort by which horses betray their uneasiness; and when George Denham would have urged it forward, it struck the water impatiently with its forefoot. Aroused by this, the young man looked around; but there was nothing to warn him of his danger. The fence that would otherwise have been a landmark was gone. There was no loud and angry roaring of the floods. Behind him the shifting clouds, the shining stars, and the blue patches of sky mirrored themselves duskily and vaguely in the slow creeping waters; before him the shadows of the trees that clustered somewhere near the banks of the creek were so deep and heavy that they seemed to merge the dark waters of the flood into the gloom of the night. When the horse was quiet, peering ahead, with its sharp little ears pointed forward, there was no sound save the vague sighing of the wind through the tops of the scrub pines and the gentle ripple of the waters.

As George Denham urged his horse forward, confident of his familiarity with the surroundings, Blue Dave ran up on the little ridge to the left through which the road had been cut or worn.

"Mars. George!" he shouted, "don't you see wharbouts you is? Wait, Mars. George! Pull dat hoss up!"

But Blue Dave was too late. As he spoke, the horse and buggy plunged into the flood, and for a moment they were lost to view. Then the struggling animal seemed to strike rising ground; but the buggy was caught in the resistless current, and, with George Denham clinging to it, it dragged the horse down, and the swirling waters seemed to sweep over and beyond them. Blue Dave lost not a moment. Flinging himself into the flood from the vantage-ground on which he stood, a few strokes of his sinewy arms carried him to where he saw George Denham disappear. That young man was an expert swimmer; and though the sudden immersion had taken him at a disadvantage, he would have made his way out with little difficulty but for the fact that a heavy piece of driftwood had been hurled against his head. Stunned, but still conscious, he was making an ineffectual attempt to reach the shore, when he was caught by Blue Dave and borne safely back to land. The horse, in its struggles, had succeeded in tearing itself loose from the buggy, and they heard it crawl up the bank on the other side and shake itself. Blue Dave carried George Denham out of the water as one would carry a child. When he had set the young man down in a comparatively dry place, he exclaimed with a grin—

"Dar now, Mars. George! w'at I tell you? Little mo' en de tarrypins would 'a' bin a-nibblin' atter you."

George Denham was dazed as well as weak. He put his hand to his head and tried to laugh.

"You were just in time, old fellow," he said.

Then he got on his feet, and tried to walk, but he would have sunk down again but for Blue Dave's arm.

"Why, I'm as weak as a stray cat," he exclaimed, feebly. "Let me lie down here a moment."

"Dat I won't, Mars. George! dat I won't! I tuck 'n' brung you out, en now I'm a-gwineter take 'n' ca'er you back dar whar Miss Kitty waitin'."

"Well, you'll have to wait until I can walk."

"No, sir; I'll des squat down, en you kin crawl up on my back des like you useter play hoss."

"Why, you can't carry me, old fellow; I'm too heavy for that."

"Shoo! don't you b'leeve de half er dat, Mars. George. I toted bigger turns dan w'at you is long 'fo' I had de strenk w'at I got now. Grab me 'roun' de neck, Mars. George; git up little higher. Now, den, don't you be fear'd er fallin'."

Blue Dave rose from his stooping posture, steadied himself a moment, and then moved on with his living burden. He moved slowly and cautiously at first, but gradually increased his pace to a swinging walk that carried him forward with surprising swiftness.

To George Denham it all seemed like a dream. He suffered no pain, and it was with a sort of queer elation of mind that he felt the huge muscles of the negro swell and subside under him with the regularity of machinery, and knew that every movement carried him toward Kitty Kendrick and rest. He was strangely tired, but not otherwise uncomfortable. He felt abundantly grateful to this poor runaway negro, and thought that if he could overcome his mother's prejudices (she had a horror of runaway negroes) he would buy Blue Dave and make him comfortable. Thus they swung along until the negro's swift stride brought them to Mrs. Kendrick's gate. There Blue Dave deposited George Denham, and exclaimed with a laugh as he leaned against the fence—

"You'er right smart chunk er meat, Mars. George, ez sho ez de worl'!"

George Denham also leaned against the fence, but he didn't laugh. He was thinking of what seemed to him a very serious matter.

"Mother will be frightened to death when that horse gets home," he said.

"You go in dar en get worn, Mars. George," said Blue Dave. "I'm gwine 'roun' by de High Bridge en tell um whar you is."

"Why, you'll break yourself down," said George Deuham.

"Ah, Lord, Mars. George!" said the negro, laughing, "time you bin in de woods long ez I is de four mile 'twix' yer en yo' house'll look mighty short. Go in dar, Mars. George, 'fo' you git col'!"

Shortly after this, George Denham was in bed and fast asleep. He had been met at the door by Kitty Kendrick, in whose telltale face the blushes of that heartiest of all welcomes had chased away the pallor of dread and anxiety. Mrs. Kendrick was less sympathetic in word than in deed. She had known George Denham since he was a little boy in short clothes; and while she approved of him, and had a sort of motherly affection for him, she was disposed to be critical, as are most women who have the knack of management.

"And so you've come back dripping, have you? Well, you ain't the first head-strong, high-strung chap that's found out water is wet when the creek blots out the big road, I reckon. I'm no duck myself. When I see water, I'm like the old cat in the corner; I always feel like shaking my foot. Kitty, call Bob and tell him to make a fire in the big room. He's asleep, I reckon, and you'll have to holler. Set a nigger down and he's snoring directly. You look pale," Mrs. Kendrick continued, turning to George. "You must have gone in over your ears. I should think a drenching like that would take all the conceit out of a man."

"Well, it has taken it all out of me, ma'am," said George, laughing. Then the young man told Mrs. Kendrick of his misadventure, and of the part Blue Dave had borne in it.

"He's the nigger that roosted on top of my house," said Mrs. Felix, bustling around and putting a kettle of water on the fire. "Well, it's a roundabout way to pay for his lodging, but it's the best he could do, I reckon. Now, don't you worry yourself, George; in ten minutes you'll be snug in bed, and then you'll drink a cup of composition tea, and to-morrow morning you'll have forgotten all about trying to make a spring branch out of Murder Creek."

As the successful mistress of a household, Mrs. Kendrick knew precisely what was necessary to be done. There was no hitch in her system, no delay in her methods, and no disputing her remedies. George Denham was ordered to bed as if he had been a child; and though the "composition" tea was hot in the month and bitter to the palate, it was useless to protest against it. As a consequence of all this, the young man was soon in the land of dreams.

When everything was quiet, Kitty prepared a very substantial lunch. Then, calling her little brother Felix, she went across the yard to the quarters, and stopped at Uncle Manuel's cabin. The door was ajar, and Kitty could see the venerable old negro nodding before the flickering embers. She went in and called his name—

"Uncle Manuel!"

"Eh! Who dat?" Then, looking around and perceiving Kitty, the old negro's weather-beaten face shone with a broad smile of surprise and welcome. "Why, honey! Why, little Mistiss! How come dis? You makes de ole nigger feel proud; dat you does. I fear'd ter ax you ter set down, honey, de cheer so rickety."

"Uncle Manuel," said Kitty, "do you know Blue Dave?"

Uncle Manuel was old, and wise, and cunning. He hesitated a moment before replying, and even then his caution would not allow him to commit himself.

"Blue Dave, he's dat ar runaway nigger, ain't he, honey? I done year talk un 'im lots er times."

"Well," said Kitty, placing her basket upon Uncle Manuel's tool-chest, "here is something for Blue Dave to eat. If you don't see him yourself, perhaps you can send it to him by some one."

Uncle Manuel picked up the basket, weighed it in his hand, and then placed it on the chest again. Then he looked curiously at Kitty, and said—

"Honey, how come you gwine do dis? Ain't you year tell hit's ag'in de law fer ter feed a runaway nigger?"

Kitty blushed as she thought of George Denham. "I send Blue Dave the victuals because I choose to, Uncle Manuel," she said. "The law has nothing to do with that little basket."

She started to go, but Uncle Manuel raised both hands heavenwards.

"Wait, little Mistiss," he cried, the tears running down his furrowed face; "des wait, little Mistiss. 'Twou't hurt you, honey. De ole nigger wuz des gwine ter git down ter his pra'rs 'fo' you come in. Dey ain't no riper time dan dis."

Uncle Manuel's voice was husky with suppressed emotion. With his hands still stretched toward the skies, and the tears still running down his face, he fell upon his knees and exclaimed—

"Saviour en Marster er de worl'! draw nigh dis night en look down into dis ole nigger's heart; lissen ter de humblest er de humble. Blessed Marster! some run wild eh some go stray, some go hether en some go yan'; but all un um mus' go befo' dy mercy-seat in de een'. Some'll fetch big works, en some'll fetch great deeds, but po' ole Manuel won't fetch nothiu' but one weak, sinful heart. Dear, blessed Marster! look in dat heart en see w'at in dar. De sin dat's dar, Lord, blot it out wid dy wounded han'. Dear Marster, bless my little Mistiss. Her comin's en her gwines is des like one er dy angels er mercy; she scatters bread en meat 'mongs' dem w'at's lonesome in der ways, en dem w'at runs up en down in de middle er big tribalation. Saviour! Marster! look down 'pon my little Mistiss; gedder her 'nead dy hev'mly wings. Ef trouble mus' come, let it come 'pon me. I'm ole, but I'm tough; I'm ole, but I got de strenk. Lord! let de troubles en de trials come 'pon de ole nigger w'at kin stan' um, en save my little Mistiss fum sheddin' one tear. En den, at de las' fetch us all home ter hev'm, whar dey's res' fer de w'ary. Amen."

Never in her life before had Kitty felt so thrilling a sense of nearness to her Creator as when Uncle Manuel was offering up his simple prayer; and she went out of the humble cabin weeping gently.

III.

THE four-mile run to the Denham Plantation was fun for Blue Dave. He was wet and cold, and the exercise acted as a lively invigorant. Once, as he sped along, he was challenged by the patrol; but he disappeared like a shadow, and came into the road again a mile away, singing to himself—

Run, nigger, run! patter-roller ketch you; Run, nigger, run! hit's almos' day!

He was well acquainted with the surroundings at the Denham Plantation, having been fed many a time by the well-cared-for negroes; and he had no hesitation in approaching the premises. The clouds had whirled themselves away, and the stars told him it was ten o'clock. There was a light in the sitting-room, and Blue Dave judged it best to go to the back door. He rapped gently, and then a little louder. Ordinarily the door would have been opened by the trim black housemaid; but to-night it was opened by George Denham's mother, a prim old lady of whom everybody stood greatly in awe without precisely knowing why. She looked out, and saw the gigantic negro looming up on the doorsteps.

"Do you bring news of my son?" she asked. The voice was low, but penetrating; and the calm, even tones told the story of a will too strong to tolerate opposition, or even contradiction.

Blue Dave hesitated out of sheer embarrassment at finding such cool serenity where he had probably expected to find grief or some such excitement.

"Did you hear me speak?" the prim old lady asked, before the negro had time to gather his wits. "Do you bring me news of my son?"

"Yessum," said Blue Dave, scratching his head; "dat w'at I come fer. Mars. George gwine ter stay at de Kendrick Place ter-night. I speck he in bed by dis time," he added, reassuringly.

"His horse has come home without buggy or harness. Is my son hurt? Don't be afraid to tell me the truth. What has happened to him?"

How could the poor negro—how could anybody—know what a whirlwind of yearning affection, dread, and anxiety was raging behind these cool, level tones?

"Mistiss, I tell you de trufe: Mars. George is sorter hurted, but he ain't hurted much. I met 'im in de road, en I tuck 'n' tole 'im dey wuz a freshet in Murder Creek; but he des laugh at me, en he driv' in des like dey wa'n't no water dar; en den w'en he make his disappearance, I tuck 'n' splunge in atter 'im, en none too soon, n'er, kaze he got strucken on de head wid a log, an w'en I fotch 'im out, he 'uz all dazzle up like. Yit he ain't hurted much, Mistiss."

"What is your name?" the prim old lady asked.

"Blue Dave, ma'am."

"The runaway?" The negro hesitated, looked around, and then hung down his head. He knew the calm, fearless eyes of this gentlewoman were upon him; he felt the influence of her firm tones. She repeated her question—

"Are you Blue Dave, the runaway?"

"Yessum."

The answer seemed to satisfy the lady. She turned and called Eliza, the housemaid.

"Eliza, your master's supper is in the dining-room by the fire. Here are the keys. Take it into the kitchen." Then she turned to Blue Dave. "David," she said, "go into the kitchen and eat your supper."

Then Eliza was sent after Ellick, the negro foreman; and Ellick was not long in finding Blue Dave a suit of linsey-woolsey clothes, a little warmer and a little drier than those the runaway was in the habit of wearing. Then the big greys were put to the Denham carriage, shawls and blankets were thrown in, and Blue Dave was called.

"Have you had your supper, David?" said Mrs. Denham, looking grimmer than ever as she stood on her veranda arrayed in bonnet and wraps.

"Thanky, Mistiss! thanky, ma'am. I ain't had no meal's vittles like dat, not gence I lef Ferginny."

"Can you drive a carriage, David?" the old lady asked.

"Dat I kin, Mistiss." Whereupon he seized the reins and let down the carriage steps. Mrs. Denham and her maid got in; but when everything was ready, Blue Dave hesitated.

"Mistiss," he said, rather sheepishly, "w'en I come 'long des now, de patter-rollers holler'd atter me."

"No matter, David," the grim old lady replied; "your own master wouldn't order you off of my carriage."

"Keep yo' eye on dat off boss!" exclaimed Ellick, as the carriage moved off.

"Hush, honey," Blue Dave cried, as exultantly as a child; "'fo' dey gits ter de big gate, I'll know deze yer bosses better dan ef dey wuz my br'er."

After that, nothing more was said. The road had been made firm and smooth by the heavy beating rain, and the carriage swung along easily and rapidly. The negro housemaid fell back against the cushions, and was soon sound asleep; but Mrs. Denham sat bolt upright. Hers was an uncompromising nature, it had been said, and certainly it seemed so; but as the carriage rolled along, there grew before her mind's eye the vague, dim outlines of a vision,—a vision of a human creature hiding in the dark swamps, fleeing through the deep woods, and creeping swiftly through the pine thickets. It was a pathetic figure, this fleeing human creature, whether chased by dogs and men or pursued only by the terrors that hide themselves behind the vast shadows of the night; and the figure grew more pathetic when, as it seemed, it sprang out of the very elements themselves to snatch her son from the floods. The old lady sighed and pressed her thin lips together. She had made up her mind.

Presently the carriage drew up at the Kendrick Place; and in a little while, after effusive greetings all around, Mrs. Denham was sitting at Mrs. Kendrick's hearth listening to the story of her son's rescue. She wanted to go in and see George at once, but Mrs. Kendrick would consent only on condition that he was not to be aroused.

"It is foolish to say it," said the old lady, smiling at Kitty as she came out of the room in which her son was sleeping; "but my son seems to look to-night just as he did when a baby."

Kitty smiled such a responsive smile, and looked so young and beautiful, that the proud old lady stooped and kissed her.

"I think I shall love you, my dear."

"I reckon I'll have to get even with you," said Mrs. Kendrick, who had a knack of hiding her own emotion, "by telling George that I've fallen in love with him."

This gave a light and half-humorous turn to affairs, and in a moment Mrs. Denham was as prim and as uncompromising in appearance as ever.

"Well!" exclaimed Mrs. Kendrick, after she and Kitty had retired for the night, "the day's worth living if only to find out that Rebecca Denham has got a heart in her insides. I believe actually she'd 'a' cried for a little."

"She did cry, mother," said Kitty, solemnly. "There were tears in her eyes when she leaned over me."

"Well, well, well!" said Mrs. Kendrick, "she always put me in mind of a ghost that can't be laid on account of its pride. But we're what the Lord made us, I reckon, and people deceive their looks. My old turkey gobbler is harmless as a hound puppy; but I reckon he'd bust if he didn't up and strut when strangers are in the front porch."

With that Mrs. Kendrick addressed herself to her prayers and to slumber; but Kitty lay awake a long time, thinking and thinking, until finally her thoughts became the substance of youth's sweetest dreams.

IV.

BUT why should the tender dreams of this pure heart be transcribed here? Indeed, why should these vague outlines be spun out to the vanishing-point, like the gossamer threads that float and glance and disappear in the September skies? Some of the grandchildren of George Denham and Kitty Kendrick will read these pages, and wonder, romantic youngsters that they are, why all the love passages have been suppressed; other readers, more practical, and perhaps severer, will ask themselves what possible interest there can be in the narrative of a simple episode in the life of a humble fugitive. What reply can be made, what explanation can be offered? Fortunately, what remains to be told may mostly be put in the sententious language of Brother Johnny Roach.

One day, shortly after the events which have been described, Brother Branuum rode up to Brother Roach's mill, dismounted, and hitched his horse to the rack.

"You're mighty welcome, Brother Brannum," said Brother Roach from the door, as cheerful under his covering of meal dust as the clown in the pantomime; "you're mighty welcome. I had as lief talk to my hopper as to most folks; but the hopper knows me by heart, and I dassent take too many liberties wi' it. Come in, Brother Brannum; there's no great head of water on, and the gear is running soberly. Sat'days, when all the rocks are moving, my mill is a female woman; the clatter is turrible. I'll not deny it. I hope you're well, Brother Brannum. And Sister Brannum. I'll never forgit the savour of her Sunday dumplings, not if I live a thousand year."

"We're well as common, Brother Roach, well as common. Yit a twitch here and a twinge there tells us we're moving along to'rds eternity. It's age that's a-feeling of us, Brother Roach; and when we're ripe it'll pluck us."

"It's age rutherthan the dumplings, that I'll take the stand on," exclaimed Brother Roach. "Yit, when it comes to that, look at Mizzers Denham; that woman kin look age out of countenance any day. Then there's Giner'l Bledser; who more nimble at a muster than the Giner'l? I see 'era both this last gone Sat'day, and though I was in-about up to my eyes in the toll-bin, I relished the seeing and the hearing of 'em. But I reckon you've heard the news, Brother Brannum," said Brother Roach, modestly deprecating his own sources of information.

"Bless you! Not me, Brother Roach," said Brother Brannum; "I've heard no news. Down in my settlement I'm cut off from the world. Let them caper as they may, we're not pestered wi' misinformation."

"No, nor me nuther, Brother Brannum," said Brother Roach, "bekaze it's as much as I can do for to listen at the racket of my mill. Yit there are some sights meal dust won't begin to hide, and some talk the clatter of the hopper won't nigh drown."

"What might they be, Brother Roach?" Brother Brannum brushed the dust off a box with his coat-tails, and sat down.

"Well, sir," said Brother Roach, pushing his hat back, and placing his thumbs behind his suspenders, "last Sat'day gone I was a-hurrying to and fro, when who should pop in at the door but Giner'l Bledser?

"'Hello, Johnny!' says he, free and familiar.

"'Howdy, Giner'l,' says I. 'You look holp up, speaking off-hand,' says I.

"'That I am, Johnny, that I am,' says he; 'I've made a trade that makes me particular proud,' says he.

"'How's that, Giner'l?' says I.

"'Why, I've sold Blue Dave,' says he; 'eight year ago, I bought him for five hundred dollars, and now I've sold him to Mizzerg Denham for a thousand,' says he. 'I've got the cold cash in my pocket, and now let 'em ketch the nigger,' says he.

"'Well, Giner'l,' says I, 'it'll be time for to marvel arter you seethe outcome, bekaze,' says I, 'when there's business in the wind, Mizzers Denham is as long-headed and as cle'r-sighted as a Philedelphia lawyer,' says I.

"And (would you believe it, Brother Brannum?) the outcome happened then and there right before our very face and eyes."

"In what regards, Brother Roach?" said Brother Brannum, rubbing his bony hands together.

"Well, sir, I glanced my eye out of the door, and I see the Denham carriage coming down yan hill. I p'inted it out to the Giner'l, and he ups and says, says he—

"'Davy, though she may be a-going to town for to sue me for damages, yit, if Mizzers Denham's in that carriage, I'll salute her now,' says he; and then he took his stand in the door, as frisky as a colt and as smiling as a basket of chips. As they come up, I tetch'd the Giner'l on the shoulder.

"'Giner'l,' says I, 'look clost at that nigger on the carriage,—look clost at him,' says I.

"'Why, what the thunderation!' says he.

"'To be certain!' says I; 'that's your Blue Dave, and he looks mighty slick,' says I.

"The Giner'l forgot for to say howdy," continued Brother Roach, laughing until he began to wheeze; "but Mizaers Denham, she leant out of the carriage window, and said, says she—

"'Good morning, Giner'l, good morning I David is a most excellent driver,' says she.

"The Giner'l managed for to take off his hat, but he was in-about the worst-whipped-out white man I ever see. And arter the carriage got out of hearing, sir, he stood in that there door there and cussed plump tell he couldn't cuss. When a man's been to Congress and back, he's liable for to know how to take the name of the Lord in vain. But don't tell me about the wimmen, Brother Brannum. Don't!"

Blue Dave was happy at last. He became a great favourite with everybody. His voice was the loudest at the corn-shucking, his foot was the nimblest at the plantation frolics, his row was the straightest and the cleanest in the cotton-patch, his hand was the firmest on the carriage-seat, his arm was the strongest at the log-rolling. When his old mistress came to die, her wandering mind dwelt upon the negro who had served her so faithfully. She fancied she was making a journey.

"The carriage goes smoothly along here," she said. Then, after a little pause, she asked, "Is David driving?" and the weeping negro cried out from a corner of the room—

"'Tain't po' Dave, Mistiss! De good Lord done tuck holt er de lines."

And so, dreaming as a little child would dream, the old lady slipped from life into the beatitudes, if the smiles of the dead mean anything.

THE END

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