Azalia was a small town, but it was a comparatively comfortable one. For years and years before the war it had been noted as the meeting-place of the wagon-trains by means of which the planters transported their produce to market. It was on the highway that led from the cotton-plantations of Middle Georgia to the city of Augusta. It was also a stopping-place for the stage-coaches that carried the mails. Azalia was not a large town, even before the war, when, according to the testimony of the entire community, it was at its best; and it certainly had not improved any since the war. There was room for improvement, but no room for progress, because there was no necessity for progress. The people were contented. They were satisfied with things as they existed, though they had an honest, provincial faith in the good old times that were gone. They had but one regret—that the railroad station, four miles away, had been named Azalia. It is true, the station consisted of a water-tank and a little pigeon-house where tickets were sold; but the people of Azalia proper felt that it was in the nature of an outrage to give so fine a name to so poor a place. They derived some satisfaction, however, from the fact that the world at large found it necessary to make a distinction between the two places. Azalia was called "Big Azalia," and the railroad station was known as "Little Azalia."
Away back in the forties, or perhaps even earlier, when there was some excitement in all parts of the country in regard to railroad building, one of Georgia's most famous orators had alluded in the legislature to Azalia as "the natural gateway of the commerce of the Empire State of the South." This fine phrase stuck in the memories of the people of Azalia and their posterity; and the passing traveler, since that day and time, has heard a good deal of it. There is no doubt that the figure was fairly applicable before the railways were built; for, as has been explained, Azalia was the meeting-place of the wagon-trains from all parts of the State in going to market. When the cotton-laden wagons met at Azalia, they parted company no more until they had reached August. The natural result of this was that Azalia, in one way and another, saw a good deal of life—much that was entertaining, and a good deal that was exciting. Another result was that the people had considerable practise in the art of hospitality; for it frequently happened that the comfortable tavern, which Azalia's commercial importance had made necessary at a very early period of the town's history, was full to overflowing with planters accompanying their wagons, and lawyers traveling from court to court. At such times the worthy townspeople would come to the rescue, and offer the shelter of their homes to the belated wayfarer.
There was another feature of Azalia worthy of attention. It was in a measure the site and centre of a mission—the headquarters, so to speak, of a very earnest and patient effort to infuse energy and ambition into that indescribable class of people known in that region as the piny-woods "Tackies." Within a stone's throw of Azalia there was a scattering settlement of these Tackies. They had settled there before the Revolution, and had remained there ever since, unchanged and unchangeable, steeped in poverty of the most desolate description, and living the narrowest lives possible in this great Republic. They had attracted the attention of the Rev. Arthur Hill, an Episcopalian minister, who conceived an idea that the squalid settlement near Azalia afforded a fine field for missionary labor. Mr. Hill established himself in Azalia, built and furnished a little church in the settlement, and entered on a career of the most earnest and persevering charity. To all appearances his labor was thrown away; but he was possessed by both faith and hope, and never allowed himself to be disheartened. All his time, as well as the modest fortune left him by his wife who was dead, was devoted to the work of improving and elevating the Tackies; and he never permitted himself to doubt for an instant that reasonable success was crowning his efforts. He was gentle, patient, and somewhat finical.
This was the neighborhood toward which Miss Eustis and her aunt had journeyed. Fortunately for these ladies, Major Haley, the genial tavern-keeper, had a habit of sending a hack to meet every train that stopped at Little Azalia. It was not a profitable habit in the long run; but Major Haley thought little of the profits, so long as he was conscious that the casual traveler had abundant reason to be grateful to him. Major Haley himself was a native of Kentucky; but his wife was a Georgian, inheriting her thrift and her economy from a generation that knew more about the hand-loom, the spinning-wheel, and the cotton-cards, than it did about the piano. She admired her husband, who was a large, fine-looking man, with jocular tendencies; but she disposed of his opinions without ceremony when they came in conflict with her own. Under these circumstances it was natural that she should have charge of the tavern and all that appertained thereto.
General Garwood, riding by from Little Azalia, whither his saddle-horse had been sent to meet him, had informed the major that two ladies from the North were coming in the hack, and begged him to make them as comfortable as possible. This information Major Haley dutifully carried to his wife.
"Good Lord!" exclaimed Mrs. Haley, "what do you reckon they want here?"
"I've been a-studyin'," said her husband thoughtfully. "The gener'l says they're comin' fer their health."
"Well, it's a mighty fur cry for health," said Mrs. Haley emphatically. "I've seen some monst'ous sick people around here; and if anybody'll look at them Tackies out on the Ridge yonder, and then tell me there's any health in this neighborhood, then I'll give up. I don't know how in the wide world we'll fix up for 'em. That everlastin' nigger went and made too much fire in the stove, and tee-totally ruint my light-bread; I could 'a' cried, I was so mad; and then on top er that the whole dinin'-room is tore up from top to bottom."
"Well," said the major, "we'll try and make 'em comfortable, and if they ain't comfortable it won't be our fault. Jest you whirl in, and put on some of your Greene County style, Maria. That'll fetch 'em."
"It may fetch 'em, but it won't feed 'em," said the practical Maria.
The result was, that when Helen Eustis and her aunt became the guests of this poor little country tavern, they were not only agreeably disappointed as to their surroundings, but they were better pleased than they would have been at one of the most pretentious caravansaries. Hotel luxury is comfortable enough to those who make it a point to appreciate what they pay for; but the appointments of luxury can neither impart, nor compensate for the lack of, the atmosphere that mysteriously conveys some impression or reminiscence of home. In the case of Helen and her aunt, this impression was conveyed and confirmed by a quilt of curious pattern on one of the beds in their rooms.
"My dear," said Miss Tewksbury, after making a critical examination, "your grandmother had just such a quilt as this. Yes, she had two. I remember the first one was quite a bone of contention between your mother and me, and so your grandmother made two. I declare," Miss Tewksbury continued, with a sigh, "it quite carries me back to old times."
"It is well made," said Helen, giving the stitches a critical examination, "and the colors are perfectly matched. Really, this is something to think about, for it fits none of our theories. Perhaps, Aunt Harriet, we have accidentally discovered some of our long-lost relatives. It would be nice and original to substitute a beautiful quilt for the ordinary strawberry-mark."
"Well, the sight of it is comforting, anyhow," said Miss Tewksbury, responding to the half-serious humor of her niece by pressing her thin lips together, and tossing her gray ringlets.
As she spoke, a negro boy, apparently about ten years old, stalked unceremoniously into the room, balancing a large stone pitcher on his head. His hands were tucked beneath his white apron, and the pitcher seemed to be in imminent danger of falling; but he smiled and showed his white teeth.
"I come fer ter fetch dish yer pitcher er water, ma'm. Miss 'Ria say she speck you lak fer have 'im right fresh from de well."
"Aren't you afraid you'll drop it?" said Miss Eustis.
"Lor', no'm!" exclaimed the boy, emphasizing his words by increasing his grin. "I been ca'um dis away sence I ain't no bigger dan my li'l' buddy. Miss 'Ria, she say dat w'at make I so bow-legged."
"What is your name?" inquired Miss Tewksbury, with some degree of solemnity, as the boy deposited the pitcher on the wash-stand.
"Mammy she say I un name Willum, but Mars Maje en de turrer folks dey des calls me Bill. I run'd off en sot in de school-'ouse all day one day, but dat mus' 'a' been a mighty bad day, kaze I ain't never year um say wherrer I wuz name Willum, er wherrer I wuz des name Bill. Miss 'Ria, she say dat 'taint make no diffunce w'at folks' name is, long ez dey come w'en dey year turred folks holl'in' at um."
"Don't you go to school, child?" Miss Tewksbury inquired, with dignified sympathy.
"I start in once," said William, laughing, "but mos' time I git dar de nigger man w'at do de teachin' tuck'n snatch de book out'n my han' en say I got 'im upper-side down. I tole 'im dat de onliest way w'at I kin git my lesson, en den dat nigger man tuck'n lam me side de head. Den atter school bin turn out, I is hide myse'f side de road, en w'en dat nigger man come 'long, I up wid a rock en I fetched 'im a clip dat mighty nigh double 'im up. You ain't never is year no nigger man holler lak dat nigger man. He run't en tole Mars Peyt dat de Kukluckers wuz atter 'im. Mars Peyt he try ter quiet 'em, but dat nigger man done gone!"
"Don't you think you did wrong to hit him?" Miss Tewksbury asked.
"Dat w'at Miss 'Ria say. She say I oughter be shame er myse'f by good rights; but w'at dat nigger man wanter come hurtin' my feelin' fer w'en I settin' dar studyin' my lesson des hard ez I kin, right spank out'n de book? en spozen she wuz upper-side down, wa'n't de lesson in dar all de time, kaze how she gwine spill out?"
William was very serious—indeed, he was indignant—when he closed his argument. He turned to go out, but paused at the door, and said:
"Miss 'Ria say supper be ready 'mos' 'fo' you kin turn 'roun', but she say ef you too tired out she'll have it sont up." William paused, rolled his eyes toward the ceiling, smacked his mouth, and added: "I gwine fetch in de batter-cakes myse'f."
Miss Tewksbury felt in her soul that she ought to be horrified at this recital; but she was grateful that she was not amused.
"Aunt Harriet," cried Helen, when William had disappeared, "this is better than the seashore. I am stronger already. My only regret is that Henry P. Bassett, the novelist, is not here. The last time I saw him, he was moping and complaining that his occupation was almost gone, because he had exhausted all the types—that's what he calls them. He declared he would be compelled to take his old characters, and give them a new outfit of emotions. Oh, if he were only here!"
"I hope you feel that you are, in some sense, responsible for all this, Helen," said Miss Tewksbury solemnly.
"Do you mean the journey, Aunt Harriet, or the little negro?"
"My dear child, don't pretend to misunderstand me. I can not help feeling that if we had done and were doing our whole duty, this—this poor negro— Ah, well! it is useless to speak of it. We are on missionary ground, but our hands are tied. Oh, I wish Elizabeth Mappis were here! She would teach us our duty."
"She wouldn't teach me mine, Aunt Harriet," said Helen seriously. "I wouldn't give one grain of your common sense for all that Elizabeth Mappis has written and spoken. What have her wild theories to do with these people? She acts like a man in disguise. When I see her striding about, delivering her harangues, I always imagine she is wearing a pair of cowhide boots as a sort of stimulus to her masculinity. Ugh! I'm glad she isn't here."
Ordinarily, Miss Tewksbury would have defended Mrs. Elizabeth Mappis; but she remembered that a defense of that remarkable woman—as remarkable for her intellect as for her courage—was unnecessary at all times, and, in this instance, absolutely uncalled for. Moreover, the clangor of the supper-bell, which rang out at that moment, would have effectually drowned out whatever Miss Tewksbury might have chosen to say in behalf of Mrs. Mappis.
The bellringer was William, the genial little negro whose acquaintance the ladies had made, and he performed his duty with an unction that left nothing to be desired. The bell was so large that William was compelled to use both hands in swinging it. He bore it from the dining-room to the hall, and thence from one veranda to the other, making fuss enough to convince everybody that those who ate at the tavern were on the point of enjoying another of the famous meals prepared under the supervision of Mrs. Haley.
There was nothing in the dining-room to invite the criticism of Helen and her aunt, even though they had been disposed to be critical; there was no evidence of slatternly management. Everything was plain, but neat. The ceiling was high and wide; and the walls were of dainty whiteness, relieved here and there by bracket-shelves containing shiny crockery and glassware. The oil-lamps gave a mellow light through the simple but unique paper shades with which they had been fitted. Above the table, which extended the length of the room, was suspended a series of large fans. These fans were connected by a cord, so that when it became necessary to cool the room, or to drive away the flies, one small negro, by pulling a string, could set them all in motion.
Over this dining-room Mrs. Haley presided. She sat at the head of the table, serene, cheerful, and watchful, anticipating the wants of each and every one who ate at the board. She invited Helen and her aunt to seats near her own, and somehow managed to convince them, veteran travelers though they were, that hospitality such as hers was richly worth paying for.
"I do hope you'll make out to be comfortable in this poor little neighborhood," she said as the ladies lingered over their tea, after the other boarders—the clerks and the shopkeepers—had bolted their food and fare. "I have my hopes, and I have my doubts. Gener'l Garwood says you're come to mend your health," she continued, regarding the ladies with the critical eye of one who has had something to do with herbs and simples; "and I've been tryin' my best to pick out which is the sick one, but it's a mighty hard matter. Yet I won't go by looks, because if folks looked bad every time they felt bad, they'd be some mighty peaked people in this world off and on—William, run and fetch in some hot batter-cakes."
"I am the alleged invalid," said Helen. "I am the victim of a conspiracy between my aunt here and our family physician.—Aunt Harriet, what do you suppose Dr. Buxton would say if he knew how comfortable we are at this moment? I dare say he would write a letter, and order us off to some other point."
"My niece," said Miss Tewksbury, by way of explanation, "has weak lungs, but she has never permitted herself to acknowledge the fact."
"Well, my goodness!" exclaimed Mrs. Haley, "if that's all, we'll have her sound and well in a little or no time. Why, when I was her age I had a hackin' cough and a rackin' pain in my breast night and day, and I fell off till my own blood kin didn't know me. Everybody give me up; but old Miss Polly Flanders in Hancock, right j'inin' county from Greene, she sent me word to make me some mullein tea, and drink sweet milk right fresh from the cow; and from that day to this I've never know'd what weak lungs was. I reckon you'll be mighty lonesome here," said Mrs. Haley after William had returned with a fresh supply of batter-cakes, "but you'll find folks mighty neighborly, once you come to know 'em. And, bless goodness, here's one of 'em now!—Howdy, Emma Jane?"
A tall, ungainly-looking woman stood in the door of the dining-room leading to the kitchen. Her appearance showed the most abject poverty. Her dirty sunbonnet had fallen back from her head, and hung on her shoulders. Her hair was of a reddish-gray color, and its frazzled and tangled condition suggested that the woman had recently passed through a period of extreme excitement; but this suggestion was promptly corrected by the wonderful serenity of her face—a pale, unhealthy-looking face, with sunken eyes, high cheek-bones, and thin lips that seemed never to have troubled themselves to smile: a burnt-out face that had apparently surrendered to the past, and had no hope for the future. The Puritan simplicity of the woman's dress made her seem taller than she really was, but this was the only illusion about her. Though her appearance was uncouth and ungainly, her manner was unembarrassed. She looked at Helen with some degree of interest; and to the latter it seemed that Misery, hopeless but unabashed, gazed at her with a significance at once pathetic and appalling. In response to Mrs. Haley's salutation, the woman seated herself in the doorway, and sighed.
"You must be tired, Emma Jane, not to say howdy," said Mrs. Haley, with a smile. The woman raised her right hand above her head, and allowed it to drop helplessly into her lap.
"Ti-ud! Lordy, Lordy! how kin a pore creetur' like me be ti-ud? Hain't I thes natally made out'n i'on?"
"Well, I won't go so fur as to say that, Emma Jane," said Mrs. Haley, "but you're mighty tough. Now, you know that yourself."
"Yes'n—yes'n. I'm made out'n i'on. Lordy, Lordy! I thes natally hone fer some un ter come along an' tell me what makes me h'ist up an' walk away over yan'ter the railroad track, an' set thar tell the ingine shoves by. I wisht some un ud up an' tell me what makes me so restless an' oneasy, ef it hain't 'cause I'm hongry. I thes wisht they would. Passin' on by, I sez ter myself, s' I: 'Emma Jane Stucky,' s' I, 'ef you know what's good fer your wholesome,' s' I, 'you'll sneak in on Miss Haley, 'cause you'll feel better,' s' I, 'ef you don't no more'n tell 'er howdy,' s' I. Lordy, Lordy! I dunner what ud 'come er me ef I hadn't a bin made out'n i'on."
"Emma Jane," said Mrs. Haley, in the tone of one who is humoring a child, "these ladies are from the North."
"Yes'n," said the woman, glancing at Helen and her aunt with the faintest expression of pity; "yes'n, I hearn tell you had comp'ny. Hit's a mighty long ways fum this, the North, hain't it, Miss Haley—a long ways fuder'n Tennissy? Well, the Lord knows I pity um fum the bottom of my heart, that I do—a-bein' such a long ways fum home."
"The North is ever so much farther than Tennessee," said Helen pleasantly, almost unconsciously assuming the tone employed by Mrs. Haley; "but the weather is so very cold there that we have to run away sometimes."
"You're right, honey," said Mrs. Stucky, hugging herself with her long arms. "I wisht I could run away fum it myself. Ef I wa'n't made out'n i'on, I dunner how I'd stan' it. Lordy! when the win' sets in from the east, hit in-about runs me plum destracted. Hit kills lots an' lots er folks, but they hain't made out'n i'on like me."
While Mrs. Stucky was describing the vigorous constitution that had enabled her to survive in the face of various difficulties, and in spite of many mishaps, Mrs. Haley was engaged in making up a little parcel of victuals. This she handed to the woman.
"Thanky-do! thanky-do, ma'am! Me an' my son'll set down an' wallop this up, an' say thanky-do all the time, an' atter we're done we'll wipe our mouves, an' say thanky-do."
"I reckon you ladies'll think we're mighty queer folks down here," said Mrs. Haley, with an air of apology, after Mrs. Stucky had retired; "but I declare I can't find it in my heart to treat that poor creetur' out of the way. I set and look at her sometimes, and I wish I may never budge if I don't come mighty nigh cryin'. She ain't hardly fittin' to live, and if she's fittin' to die, she's lots better off than the common run of folks. But she's mighty worrysome. She pesters me lots mor'n I ever let on."
"The poor creature!" exclaimed Miss Tewksbury. "I am truly sorry for her—truly sorry."
"Ah! so am I," said Helen. "I propose to see more of her. I am interested in just such people."
"Well, ma'am," said Mrs. Haley dryly, "if you like sech folks it's a thousand pities you've come here, for you'll git a doste of 'em. Yes'm, that you will; a doste of 'em that'll last you as long as you live, if you live to be one of the patrioks. And you nee'nter be sorry for Emma Jane Stucky neither. Jest as you see her now, jesso she's been a-goin' on fer twenty year, an' jest as you see her now, jesso she's been a-lookin' ev'ry sence anybody around here has been a-knowin' her."
"Her history must be a pathetic one," said Miss Tewksbury with a sigh.
"Her what, ma'am?" asked Mrs. Haley.
"Her history, the story of her life," responded Miss Tewksbury. "I dare say it is very touching."
"Well, ma'am," said Mrs. Haley, "Emma Jane Stucky is like one of them there dead pines out there in the clearin'. If you had a stack of almanacs as high as a hoss-rack, you couldn't pick out the year she was young and sappy. She must 'a' started out as a light'd knot, an' she's been a-gittin' tougher year in an' year out, till now she's tougher'n the toughest. No'm," continued Mrs. Haley, replying to an imaginary argument, "I ain't predijiced ag'in' the poor creetur'—the Lord knows I ain't. If I was, no vittels would she git from me—not a scrimption."
"I never saw such an expression on a human countenance," said Helen. "Her eyes will haunt me as long as I live."
"Bless your soul and body, child!" exclaimed Mrs. Haley; "if you're going to let that poor creetur's looks pester you, you'll be worried to death, as certain as the world. There's a hunderd in this settlement jest like her, and ther' must be more'n that, old an' young, 'cause the children look to be as old as the'r grannies. I reckon maybe you ain't used to seein' piny-woods Tackies. Well, ma'am, you wait till you come to know 'em, and if you are in the habits of bein' ha'nted by looks, you'll be the wuss ha'nted mortal in this land, 'less'n it's them that's got the sperrit-rappin's after 'em."
Mrs. Stucky, making her way homeward through the gathering dusk, moved as noiselessly and as swiftly as a ghost. The soft white sand beneath her feet gave forth no sound, and she seemed to be gliding forward, rather than walking; though there was a certain awkward emphasis and decision in her movements altogether human in their suggestions. The way was lonely. There was no companionship for her in the whispering sighs of the tall pines that stood by the roadside, no friendliness in the constellations that burned and sparkled overhead, no hospitable suggestion in the lights that gleamed faintly here and there from the windows of the houses in the little settlement. To Mrs. Stucky all was commonplace. There was nothing in her surroundings as she went toward her home, to lend wings even to her superstition, which was eager to assert itself on all occasions.
It was not much of a home to which she was making her way—a little log-cabin in a pine thicket, surrounded by a little clearing that served to show how aimlessly and how hopelessly the lack of thrift and energy could assert itself. The surroundings were mean enough and squalid enough at their best, but the oppressive shadows of night made them meaner and more squalid than they really were. The sun, which shines so lavishly in that region, appeared to glorify the squalor, showing wild passion-flowers clambering along the broken-down fence of pine poles, and a wistaria vine running helter-skelter across the roof of the little cabin. But the night hid all this completely.
A dim, vague blaze, springing from a few charred pine-knots, made the darkness visible in the one room of the cabin; and before it, with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands, sat what appeared to be a man. He wore neither coat nor shoes, and his hair was long and shaggy.
"Is that you, Bud?" said Mrs. Stucky.
"Why, who'd you reckon it wuz, maw?" replied Bud, looking up with a broad grin that was not at all concealed by his thin, sandy beard. "A body'd sorter think, ef they 'uz ter ketch you gwine on that away, that you 'spected ter find some great somebody er nuther a-roostin' in here."
Mrs. Stucky, by way of responding, stirred the pine-knots until they gave forth a more satisfactory light, hung her bonnet on the bedpost, and seated herself wearily in a rickety chair, the loose planks of the floor rattling and shaking as she moved about.
"Now, who in the nation did you reckon it wuz, maw?" persisted Bud, still grinning placidly.
"Some great somebody," replied Mrs. Stucky, brushing her gray hair out of her eyes and looking at her son. At this Bud could contain himself no longer. He laughed almost uproariously.
"Well, the great Jemimy!" he exclaimed, and then laughed louder than ever.
"Wher've you been?" Mrs. Stucky asked, when Bud's mirth had subsided.
"Away over yander at the depot," said Bud, indicating Little Azalia. "An' I fotch you some May-pops too. I did that! I seed 'em while I wuz a-gwine 'long, an' I sez ter myself, sezee, 'You jess wait thar tell I come 'long back, an' I'll take an' take you ter maw,' sezee."
Although this fruit of the passion-flowers was growing in profusion right at the door, Mrs. Stucky gave this grown man, her son, to understand that May-pops such as he brought were very desirable indeed.
"I wonder you didn't fergit 'em," she said.
"Who? me!" exclaimed Bud. "I jess like fer ter see anybody ketch me fergittin' 'em. Now I jess would. I never eat a one, nuther—not a one."
Mrs. Stucky made no response to this, and none seemed to be necessary. Bud sat and pulled his thin beard, and gazed in the fire. Presently he laughed and said:
"I jess bet a hoss you couldn't guess who I seed; now I jess bet that."
Mrs. Stucky rubbed the side of her face thoughtfully, and seemed to be making a tremendous effort to imagine whom Bud had seen.
"'Twer'n't no man, en 'twer'n't no Azalia folks. 'Twuz a gal."
"A gal!" exclaimed Mrs. Stucky.
"Yes'n, a gal, an' ef she wa'n't a zooner you may jess take an' knock my chunk out."
Mrs. Stucky looked at her son curiously. Her cold gray eyes glittered in the firelight as she held them steadily on his face. Bud, conscious of this inspection, moved about in his chair uneasily, shifting his feet from one side to the other.
"'Twer'n't no Sal Badger," he said, after a while, laughing sheepishly; "'twer'n't no Maria Matthews, 'twer'n't no Lou Hornsby, an' 'twer'n't no Martha Jane Williams, nuther. She wuz a bran'-new gal, an' she went ter the tavern, she did."
"I've done saw 'er," said Mrs. Stucky placidly.
"You done saw 'er, maw!" exclaimed Bud. "Well, the great Jemimy! What's her name, maw?"
"They didn't call no names," said Mrs. Stucky. "They jess sot thar, an' gormandized on waffles an' batter-cakes, an' didn't call no names. Hit made me dribble at the mouf, the way they went on."
"Wuz she purty, maw?"
"I sot an' looked at um," Mrs. Stucky went on, "an' I 'lowed maybe the war moughter come betwixt the old un an' her good looks. The t'other one looks mighty slick, but, Lordy! She hain't nigh ez slick ez that ar Lou Hornsby; yit she's got lots purtier motions."
"Well, I seed 'er, maw," said Bud, gazing into the depths of the fireplace. "Atter the ingine come a-snortin' by, I jumped up behind the hack whar they puts the trunks, an' I got a right good glimp' un 'er; an' ef she hain't purty, then I dunner what purty is. What'd you say her name wuz, maw?"
"Lordy, jess hark ter the creetur! Hain't I jess this minute hollered, an' tole you that they hain't called no names?"
"I 'lowed maybe you moughter hearn the name named, an' then drapt it," said Bud, still gazing into the fire. "I tell you what, she made that ole hack look big, she did!"
"You talk like you er start crazy, Bud!" exclaimed Mrs. Stucky, leaning over, and fixing her glittering eyes on his face. "Lordy! what's she by the side er me? Is she made out'n i'on?"
Bud's enthusiasm immediately vanished, and a weak, flickering smile took possession of his face.
"No'm—no'm; that she hain't made out'n i'on! She's lots littler'n you is—lots littler. She looks like she's sorry."
"Sorry! What fer?"
"Sorry fer we-all."
Mrs. Stucky looked at her son with amazement, not unmixed with indignation. Then she seemed to remember something she had forgotten.
"Sorry fer we-all, honey, when we er got this great big pile er tavern vittles?" she asked with a smile; and then the two fell to, and made the most of Mrs. Haley's charity.
At the tavern Helen and her aunt sat long at their tea, listening to the quaint gossip of Mrs. Haley, which not only took a wide and entertaining range, but entered into details that her guests found extremely interesting. Miss Tewksbury's name reminded Mrs. Haley of a Miss Kingsbury, a Northern lady, who had taught school in Middle Georgia, and who had "writ a sure-enough book," as the genial landlady expressed it. She went to the trouble of hunting up this "sure-enough" book—a small school dictionary—and gave many reminiscences of her acquaintance with the author.
In the small parlor, too, the ladies found General Garwood awaiting them; and they held quite a little reception, forming the acquaintance, among others, of Miss Lou Hornsby, a fresh-looking young woman, who had an exclamation of surprise or a grimace of wonder for every statement she heard and for every remark that was made. Miss Hornsby also went to the piano, and played and sang "Nelly Gray" and "Lily Dale" with a dramatic fervor that could only have been acquired in a boarding school. The Rev. Arthur Hill was also there, a little gentleman, whose side-whiskers and modest deportment betokened both refinement and sensibility. He was very cordial to the two ladies from the North, and strove to demonstrate the liberality of his cloth by a certain gaiety of manner that was by no means displeasing. He seemed to consider himself one of the links of sociability, as well as master of ceremonies; and he had a way of speaking for others that suggested considerable social tact and versatility. Thus, when there was a lull in the conversation, he started it again, and imparted to it a vivacity that was certainly remarkable, as Helen thought. At precisely the proper moment, he seized Miss Hornsby, and bore her off home, tittering sweetly as only a young girl can; and the others, following the example thus happily set, left Helen and her aunt to themselves, and to the repose that tired travelers are supposed to be in need of. They were not long in seeking it.
"I wonder," said Helen, after she and her aunt had gone to bed, "if these people really regard us as enemies?"
This question caused Miss Tewksbury to sniff the air angrily.
"Pray, what difference does it make?" she replied.
"Oh, none at all!" said Helen. "I was just thinking. The little preacher was tremendously gay. His mind seemed to be on skates. He touched on every subject but the war, and that he glided around gracefully. No doubt they have had enough of war down here."
"I should hope so," said Miss Tewksbury. "Go to sleep, child: you need rest."
Helen did not follow this timely advice at once. From her window she could see the constellations dragging their glittering procession westward; and she knew that the spirit of the night was whispering gently in the tall pines, but her thoughts were in a whirl. The scenes through which she had passed, and the people she had met, were new to her; and she lay awake and thought of them until at last the slow-moving stars left her wrapped in sleep—a sleep from which she was not aroused until William shook the foundations of the tavern with his melodious bell, informing everybody that the hour for breakfast had arrived.
Shortly afterward, William made his appearance in person, bringing an abundance of fresh, clear water. He appeared to be in excellent humor.
"What did you say your name is?" Helen asked. William chuckled, as if he thought the question was in the nature of a joke.
"I'm name' Willum, ma'am, en my mammy she name' Sa'er Jane, en de baby she name' Phillypeener. Miss 'Ria she say dat baby is de likelies' nigger baby w'at she y'ever been see sence de war en I speck she is, kaze Miss 'Ria ain't been talk dat away 'bout eve'y nigger baby w'at come 'long."
"How old are you?" Miss Tewksbury inquired.
"I dunno'm," said William placidly. "Miss 'Ria she says I'm lots older dan w'at I looks ter be, en I speck dat's so, kaze mammy sey dey got ter be a runt 'mongst all folks's famblies."
Helen laughed, and William went on:
"Mammy say ole Miss gwine come see you all. Mars Peyt gwine bring er."
"Who is old Miss?" Helen asked.
William gazed at her with unfeigned amusement.
"Dunner who ole Miss is? Lordy! you de fus' folks w'at ain't know ole Miss. She Mars Peyt's own mammy, dat's who she is, en ef she come lak dey say she comin', hit'll be de fus' time she y'ever sot foot in dish yer tavern less'n 'twuz indurance er de war. Miss 'Ria say she wish ter goodness ole Miss 'ud sen' word ef she gwine stay ter dinner so she kin fix up somepin n'er nice. I dunno whe'er Miss Hallie comin' er no, but ole Miss comin', sho, kaze I done been year um sesso."
"And who is Miss Hallie?" Helen inquired, as William still lingered.
"Miss Hallie—she—dunno'm, ceppin' she des stays dar 'long wid um. Miss 'Ria say she mighty quare, but I wish turrer folks wuz quare lak Miss Hallie."
William stayed until he was called away, and at breakfast Mrs. Haley imparted the information which, in William's lingo, had sounded somewhat scrappy. It was to the effect that General Garwood's mother would call on the ladies during their stay. Mrs. Haley laid great stress on the statement.
"Such an event seems to be very interesting," Helen said rather dryly.
"Yes'm," said Mrs. Haley, with her peculiar emphasis, "it ruther took me back when I heard the niggers takin' about it this mornin'. If that old lady has ever darkened my door, I've done forgot it. She's mighty nice and neighborly," Mrs. Haley went on, in response to a smile which Helen gave her aunt, "but she don't go out much. Oh, she's nice and proud; Lord, if pride 'ud kill a body, that old 'oman would 'a' been dead too long ago to talk about. They're all proud—the whole kit and b'ilin'. She mayn't be too proud to come to this here tavern, but I know she ain't never been here. The preacher used to say that pride drives out grace, but I don't believe it, because that 'ud strip the Garwoods of all they've got in this world; and I know they're just as good as they can be."
"I heard the little negro boy talking of Miss Hallie," said Helen. "Pray, who is she?"
Mrs. Haley closed her eyes, threw her head back, and laughed softly.
"The poor child!" she exclaimed. "I declare, I feel like cryin' every time I think about her. She's the forlornest poor creetur the Lord ever let live, and one of the best. Sometimes, when I git tore up in my mind, and begin to think that everything's wrong-end foremost, I jess think of Hallie Garwood, and then I don't have no more trouble."
Both Helen and her aunt appeared to be interested, and Mrs. Haley went on:
"The poor child was a Herndon; I reckon you've heard tell of the Virginia Herndons. At the beginning of the war, she was married to Ethel Garwood; and, bless your life, she hadn't been married more'n a week before Ethel was killed. 'Twa'n't in no battle, but jess in a kind of skirmish. They fotch him home, and Hallie come along with him, and right here she's been ev'ry sence. She does mighty quare. She don't wear nothin' but black, and she don't go nowhere less'n it's somewheres where there's sickness. It makes my blood run cold to think about that poor creetur. Trouble hits some folks and glances off, and it hits some and thar it sticks. I tell you what, them that it gives the go-by ought to be monst'ous proud."
This was the beginning of many interesting experiences for Helen and her aunt. They managed to find considerable comfort in Mrs. Haley's genial gossip. It amused and instructed them, and, at the same time, gave them a standard, half-serious, half-comical, by which to measure their own experiences in what seemed to them a very quaint neighborhood. They managed, in the course of a very few days, to make themselves thoroughly at home in their new surroundings; and, while they missed much that tradition and literature had told them they would find, they found much to excite their curiosity and attract their interest.
One morning, an old-fashioned carriage, drawn by a pair of heavy-limbed horses, lumbered up to the tavern door. Helen watched it with some degree of expectancy. The curtains and upholstering were faded and worn, and the panels were dingy with age. The negro driver was old and obsequious. He jumped from his high seat, opened the door, let down a flight of steps, and then stood with his hat off, the November sun glistening on his bald head. Two ladies alighted. One was old, and one was young, but both were arrayed in deep mourning. The old lady had an abundance of gray hair that was combed straight back from her forehead, and her features, gave evidence of great decision of character. The young lady had large, lustrous eyes, and the pallor of her face was in strange contrast with her sombre drapery. These were the ladies from Waverly, as the Garwood place was called; and Helen and her aunt met them a few moments later.
"I am so pleased to meet you," said the old lady, with a smile that made her face beautiful. "And this is Miss Tewksbury. Really, I have heard my son speak of you so often that I seem to know you. This is my daughter Hallie. She doesn't go out often, but she insisted on coming with me to-day."
"I'm very glad you came," said Helen, sitting by the pale young woman after the greetings were over.
"I think you are lovely," said Hallie, with the tone of one who is settling a question that had previously been debated. Her clear eyes from which innocence, unconquered and undimmed by trouble, shone forth, fastened themselves on Helen's face. The admiration they expressed was unqualified and unadulterated. It was the admiration of a child. But the eyes were not those of a child: they were such as Helen had seen in old paintings, and the pathos that seemed part of their beauty belonged definitely to the past.
"I lovely?" exclaimed Helen in astonishment, blushing a little. "I have never been accused of such a thing before."
"You have such a beautiful complexion," Hallie went on placidly, her eyes still fixed on Helen's face. "I had heard—some one had told me—that you were an invalid. I was so sorry." The beautiful eyes drooped, and Hallie sighed gently.
"My invalidism is a myth," Helen replied, somewhat puzzled to account for the impression the pale young woman made on her. "It is the invention of my aunt and our family physician. They have a theory that my lungs are affected, and that the air of the pine-woods will do me good."
"Oh, I hope and trust it will," exclaimed Hallie, with an earnestness that Helen could trace to no reasonable basis but affectation. "Oh, 257 do hope it will! You are so young—so full of life."
"My dear child," said Helen, with mock gravity, "I am older than you are—ever so much older."
The lustrous eyes closed, and for a moment the long silken lashes rested against the pale cheek. Then the eyes opened, and gazed at Helen appealingly.
"Oh, impossible! How could that be? I was sixteen in 1862."
"Then," said Helen, "you are twenty-seven, and I am twenty-five."
"I knew it—I felt it!" exclaimed Hallie, with pensive animation.
Helen was amused and somewhat interested. She admired the peculiar beauty of Hallie; but the efforts of the latter to repress her feelings, to reach, as it were, the results of self-effacement, were not at all pleasing to the Boston girl.
Mrs. Garwood and Miss Tewksbury found themselves on good terms at once. A course of novel reading, seasoned with reflection, had led Miss Tewksbury to believe that Southern ladies of the first families possessed in a large degree the Oriental faculty of laziness. She had pictured them in her mind as languid creatures, with a retinue of servants to carry their smelling-salts, and to stir the tropical air with palm-leaf fans. Miss Tewksbury was pleased rather than disappointed to find that Mrs. Garwood did not realize her idea of a Southern woman. The large, lumbering carriage was something, and the antiquated driver threatened to lead the mind in a somewhat romantic direction; but both were shabby enough to be regarded as relics and reminders rather than as active possibilities.
Mrs. Garwood was bright and cordial, and the air of refinement about her was pronounced and unmistakable. Miss Tewksbury told her that Dr. Buxton had recommended Azalia as a sanitarium.
"Ephraim Buxton!" exclaimed Mrs. Garwood. "Why, you don't tell me that Ephraim Buxton is practising medicine in Boston? And do you really know him? Why, Ephraim Buxton was my first sweetheart!"
Mrs. Garwood's laugh was pleasant to hear, and her blushes were worth looking at as she referred to Dr. Buxton. Miss Tewksbury laughed sympathetically but primly.
"It was quite romantic," Mrs. Garwood went on, an a half-humorous, half-confidential tone. "Ephraim was the school teacher here, and I was his eldest scholar. He was young, green, and awkward, but the best-hearted, most generous mortal I ever saw. I made quite a hero of him."
"Well," said Miss Tewksbury, in her matter-of-fact way, "I have never seen anything very heroic about Dr. Buxton. He comes and goes, and prescribes his pills, like all other doctors."
"Ah, that was forty years ago," said Mrs. Garwood, laughing. "A hero can become very commonplace in forty years. Dr. Buxton must be a dear, good man. Is he married?"
"No," said Miss Tewksbury. "He has been wise in his day and generation."
"What a pity!" exclaimed the other. "He would have made some woman happy."
Mrs. Garwood asked many questions concerning the physician who had once taught school at Azalia; and the conversation of the two ladies finally took a range that covered all New England, and, finally, the South. Each was surprised at the remarkable ignorance of the other; but their ignorance covered different fields, so that they had merely to exchange facts and information and experiences in order to entertain each other. They touched on the war delicately, though Miss Tewksbury had never cultivated the art of reserve to any great extent. At the same time there was no lack of frankness on either side.
"My son has been telling me of the little controversies he had with you," said Mrs. Garwood. "He says you fairly bristle with arguments."
"The general never heard half my arguments," replied Miss Tewksbury. "He never gave me an opportunity to use them."
"My son is very conservative," said Mrs. Garwood, with a smile in which could be detected a mother's fond pride. "After the war he felt the responsibility of his position. A great many people looked up to him. For a long time after the surrender we had no law and no courts, and there was a great deal of confusion. Oh, you can't imagine! Every man was his own judge and jury."
"So I've been told," said Miss Tewksbury.
"Of course you know something about it, but you can have no conception of the real condition of things. It was a tremendous upheaval coming after a terrible struggle, and my son felt that some one should set an example of prudence. His theory was, and is, that everything was for the best, and that our people should make the best of it. I think he was right," Mrs. Garwood added with a sigh, "but I don't know."
"Why, unquestionably!" exclaimed Miss Tewksbury. She was going on to say more; she felt that here was an opening for some of her arguments: but her eyes fell on Hallie, whose pale face and sombre garb formed a curious contrast to the fresh-looking young woman who sat beside her. Miss Tewksbury paused.
"Did you lose any one in the war?" Hallie was asking softly.
"I lost a darling brother," Helen replied.
Hallie laid her hand on Helen's arm, a beautiful white hand. The movement was at once a gesture and a caress.
"Dear heart!" she said, "you must come and see me. We will talk together. I love those who are sorrowful."
Miss Tewksbury postponed her arguments, and after some conversation they took their leave.
"Aunt Harriet," said Helen, when they were alone, "what do you make of these people? Did you see that poor girl, and hear her talk? She chilled me and entranced me."
"Don't talk so, child," said Miss Tewksbury; "they are very good people, much better people than I thought we should find in this wilderness. It is a comfort to talk to them."
"But that poor girl," said Helen. "She is a mystery to me. She reminds me of a figure I have seen on the stage, or read of in some old book."
When Azalia heard that the Northern ladies had been called on by the mistress of Waverly, that portion of its inhabitants which was in the habit of keeping up the forms of sociability made haste to follow her example, so that Helen and her aunt were made to feel at home in spite of themselves. General Garwood was a frequent caller, ostensibly to engage in sectional controversies with Miss Tewksbury, which he seemed to enjoy keenly; but Mrs. Haley observed that when Helen was not visible the general rarely prolonged his discussions with her aunt.
The Rev. Arthur Hill also called with some degree of regularity; and it was finally understood that Helen would, at least temporarily, take the place of Miss Lou Hornsby as organist of the little Episcopal church in the Tacky settlement, as soon as Mr. Goolsby, the fat and enterprising book-agent, had led the fair Louisa to the altar. This wedding occurred in due time, and was quite an event in Azalia's social history. Goolsby was stout, but gallant; and Miss Hornsby made a tolerably handsome bride, notwithstanding a tendency to giggle when her deportment should have been dignified. Helen furnished the music, General Garwood gave the bride away, and the little preacher read the ceremony quite impressively; so that with the flowers and other favors, and the subsequent dinner—which Mrs. Haley called an "infair"—the occasion was a very happy and successful one.
Among those who were present, not as invited guests, but by virtue of their unimportance, were Mrs. Stucky and her son Bud. They were followed and flanked by quite a number of their neighbors, who gazed on the festal scene with an impressive curiosity that can not be described. Pale-faced, wide-eyed, statuesque, their presence, interpreted by a vivid imagination, might have been regarded as an omen of impending misfortune. They stood on the outskirts of the wedding company, gazing on the scene apparently without an emotion of sympathy or interest. They were there, it seemed, to see what new caper the townspeople had concluded to cut, to regard it solemnly, and to regret it with grave faces when the lights were out and the fantastic procession had drifted away to the village.
The organ in the little church was a fine instrument, though a small one. It had belonged to the little preacher's wife, and he had given it to the church. To his mind, the fact that she had used it sanctified it, and he had placed it in the church as a part of the sacrifice he felt called on to make in behalf of his religion. Helen played it with uncommon skill—a skill born of a passionate appreciation of music in its highest forms. The Rev. Mr. Hill listened like one entranced, but Helen played unconscious of his admiration. On the outskirts of the congregation she observed Mrs. Stucky, and by her side a young man with long, sandy hair, evidently uncombed, and a thin stubble of beard. Helen saw this young man pull Mrs. Stucky by the sleeve, and direct her attention to the organ. Instead of looking in Helen's direction, Mrs. Stucky fixed her eyes on the face of the young man and held them there; but he continued to stare at the organist. It was a gaze at once mournful and appealing—not different in that respect from the gaze of any of the queer people around him, but it affected Miss Eustis strangely. To her quick imagination, it suggested loneliness, despair, that was the more tragic because of its isolation. It seemed to embody the mute, pent-up distress of whole generations. Somehow Helen felt herself to be playing for the benefit of this poor creature. The echoes of the wedding-march sounded grandly in the little church, then came a softly played interlude, and finally a solemn benediction, in which solicitude seemed to be giving happiness a sweet warning. As the congregation filed out of the church, the organ sent its sonorous echoes after the departing crowd—echoes that were taken up by the whispering and sighing pines, and borne far into the night. Mrs. Stucky did not go until after the lights were out; and then she took her son by the hand, and the two went to their lonely cabin not far away. They went in, and soon had a fire kindled on the hearth. No word had passed between them; but after a while, when Mrs. Stucky had taken a seat in the corner, and lit her pipe, she exclaimed:
"Lordy! what a great big gob of a man! I dunner what on the face er the yeth Lou Hornsby could 'a' been a-dreamin' about. From the way she's been a-gigglin' aroun' I'd 'a' thought she'd 'a' sot her cap fer the giner'l."
"I say it!" said Bud, laughing loudly. "Whatter you reckon the giner'l 'ud 'a' been a-doin' all that time? I see 'er now, a-gigglin' an' a-settin' 'er cap fer the giner'l. Lordy, yes!"
"What's the matter betwixt you an' Lou?" asked Mrs. Stucky grimly. "'Taint been no time senst you wuz a-totin' water fer her ma, an' a-hangin' aroun' whilst she played the music in the church thar." Bud continued to laugh. "But, Lordy!" his mother went on, "I reckon you'll be a-totin' water an' a-runnin' er'n's fer thish yer Yankee gal what played on the orgin up thar jess now."
"Well, they hain't no tellin'," said Bud, rubbing his thin beard reflectively. "She's mighty spry 'long er that orgin, an' she's got mighty purty han's an' nimble fingers, an' ef she 'uz ter let down her ha'r, she'd be plum ready ter fly."
"She walked home wi' the giner'l," said Mrs. Stucky.
"I seed 'er," said Bud. "He sent some yuther gals home in the carriage, an' him an' the Yankee gal went a-walkin' down the road. He humped up his arm this away, an' the gal tuck it, an' off they put." Bud seemed to enjoy the recollection of the scene; for he repeated, after waiting a while to see what his mother would have to say: "Yes, siree! she tuck it, an' off they put."
Mrs. Stucky looked at this grown man, her son, for a long time without saying anything, and finally remarked with something very like a sigh: "Well, honey, you neenter begrudge 'em the'r walk. Hit's a long ways through the san'."
"Lordy, yes'n!" exclaimed Bud with something like a smile; "it's a mighty long ways, but the giner'l had the gal wi' 'im. He jess humped up his arm, an' she tuck it, an' off they put."
It was even so. General Garwood and Helen walked home from the little church. The road was a long but a shining one. In the moonlight the sand shone white, save where little drifts and eddies of pine-needles had gathered. But these were no obstruction to the perspective, for the road was an avenue, broad and level, that lost itself in the distance only because the companionable pines, interlacing their boughs, contrived to present a background both vague and sombre—a background that receded on approach, and finally developed into the village of Azalia and its suburbs. Along this level and shining highway Helen and General Garwood went. The carriages that preceded them, and the people who walked with them or followed, gave a sort of processional pomp and movement to the gallant Goolsby's wedding—so much so that if he could have witnessed it, his manly bosom would have swelled with genuine pride.
"The music you gave us was indeed a treat," said the general.
"It was perhaps more than you bargained for," Helen replied. "I suppose everybody thought I was trying to make a display, but I quite forgot myself. I was watching its effect on one of the poor creatures near the door—do you call them Tackies?"
"Yes, Tackies. Well, we are all obliged to the poor creature—man or woman. No doubt the fortunate person was Bud Stucky. I saw him standing near his mother. Bud is famous for his love of music. When the organ is to be played, Bud is always at the church; and sometimes he goes to Waverly, and makes Hallie play the piano for him while he sits on the floor of the veranda near the window. Bud is quite a character."
"I am so sorry for him," said Helen gently.
"I doubt if he is to be greatly pitied," said the general. "Indeed, as the music was for him, and not for us, I think he is to be greatly envied."
"I see now," said Helen laughing, "that I should have restrained myself."
"The suggestion is almost selfish," said the general gallantly.
"Well, your nights here are finer than music," Helen remarked, fleeing to an impersonal theme. "To walk in the moonlight, without wraps and with no sense of discomfort, in the middle of December, is a wonderful experience to me. Last night I heard a mocking-bird singing; and my aunt has been asking Mrs. Haley if watermelons are ripe."
"The mocking-birds at Waverly," said the general, "have become something of a nuisance under Hallie's management. There is a great flock of them on the place, and in the summer they sing all night. It is not a very pleasant experience to have one whistling at your window the whole night through."
"Mrs. Haley," remarked Helen, "says that there are more mocking-birds now than there were before the war, and that they sing louder and more frequently."
"I shouldn't wonder," the general assented. "Mrs. Haley is quite an authority on such matters. Everybody quotes her opinions."
"I took the liberty the other day," Helen went on, "of asking her about the Ku Klux."
"And, pray, what did she say?" the general asked with some degree of curiosity.
"Why, she said they were like the shower of stars—she had 'heard tell' of them, but she had never seen them. 'But,' said I, 'you have no doubt that the shower really occurred!'"
"Her illustration was somewhat unfortunate," the general remarked.
"Oh, by no means," Helen replied. "She looked at me with a twinkle in her eyes, and said she had heard that it wasn't the stars that fell, after all."
Talking thus, with long intervals of silence, the two walked along the gleaming road until they reached the tavern, where Miss Eustis found her aunt and Mrs. Haley waiting on the broad veranda.
"I don't think he is very polite," said Helen, after her escort had bade them good night, and was out of hearing. "He offered me his arm, and then, after we had walked a little way, suggested that we could get along more comfortably by marching Indian file."
Mrs. Haley laughed loudly. "Why, bless your innocent heart, honey! that ain't nothin'. The sand's too deep in the road, and the path's too narrer for folks to be a-gwine along yarm-in-arm. Lord! don't talk about perliteness. That man's manners is somethin' better'n perliteness."
"Well," said Helen's aunt, "I can't imagine why he should want to make you trudge through the sand in that style."
"It is probably an output of the climate," said Helen.
"Well, now, honey," remarked Mrs. Haley, "if he ast you to walk wi' 'im, he had his reasons. I've got my own idee," she added with a chuckle. "I know one thing—I know he's monstrous fond of some of the Northron folks. Ain't you never hearn, how, endurin' of the war, they fotch home a Yankee soldier along wi' Hallie's husband, an' buried 'em side by side? They tell me that Hallie's husband an' the Yankee was mighty nigh the same age, an' had a sorter favor. If that's so," said Mrs. Haley, with emphasis, "then two mighty likely chaps was knocked over on account of the everlastin' nigger."
All this was very interesting to Helen and her aunt, and they were anxious to learn all the particulars in regard to the young Federal soldier who had found burial at Waverly.
"What his name was," said Mrs. Haley, "I'll never tell you. Old Prince, the carriage-driver, can tell you lots more'n I can. He foun' 'em on the groun', an' he fotch 'em home. Prince use to be a mighty good nigger before freedom come out, but now he ain't much better'n the balance of 'em. You all 'ill see him when you go over thar, bekaze he's in an' out of the house constant. He'll tell you all about it if you're mighty perlite. Folks is got so they has to be mighty perlite to niggers sence the war. Yit I'll not deny that it's easy to be perlite to old Uncle Prince, bekaze he's mighty perlite hisself. He's what I call a high-bred nigger." Mrs. Haley said this with an air of pride, as if she were in some measure responsible for Uncle Prince's good breeding.