Sonny, A Christmas Guest
Ruth McEnery Stuart
Produced by Suzanne Shell, David Garcia and the Online Distributed
[Illustration: "I reckon the thing sort o' got started last summer."]
SONNY, A CHRISTMAS GUEST
BY RUTH McENERY STUART
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY FANNY Y. CORY
TO MY SON STIRLING McENERY STUART
A Christmas Guest
Sonny "Keepin' Company"
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"I reckon the thing sort o' got started last summer"
"Seem to me _he_ favors her a little thess aroun' the mouth"
"Quick ez he see the clock, he come thoo"
"She does make 'im _so_ contented an' happy"
"Name this child"
"An' then Sonny, seein' it all over, he come down"
"He was watchin' a bird-nest on the way to that school"
"He had been playin' out o' doors bare-feeted"
"Any question he missed was to be passed on to them thet had been
grad'jatin' so fast"
"'This orange is the earth, an' this here apple is the sun'"
"What could be sweeter 'n little Mary Elizabeth?"
"When I set here by myself on this po'ch so much these days an' think"
"Seem like a person don't no mo''n realize he's a descendant befo' he's
A CHRISTMAS GUEST
Boy, you say, doctor? An' she don't know it yet? Then what 're you
tellin' _me_ for? No, sir--take it away. I don't want to lay my eyes
on it till she's saw it--not if I _am_ its father. She's its _mother_,
Better lay it down somew'eres an' go to _her_--not there on the
rockin'-cheer, for somebody to set on--'n' not on the trunk, please.
That ain't none o' yo' ord'nary new-born bundles, to be dumped on a box
that'll maybe be opened sudden d'rec'ly for somethin' needed, an' be
dropped ag'in' the wall-paper behind it.
_It's hers_, whether she knows it or not. _Don't_, for _gracious_ sakes,
lay 'im on the _table! Anybody_ knows _that's_ bad luck.
You think it might bother her on the bed? She's that bad? An' they ain't
no fire kindled in the settin'-room, to lay it in there.
_S-i-r?_ Well, yas, I--I reck'n I'll _haf_ to hold it, ef you say
so--that is--of co'se--
_Wait_, doctor! _Don't_ let go of it _yet!_ Lordy! but I'm thess _shore_
to drop it! Lemme set down _first, doctor_, here by the fire an' git
het th'ugh. Not yet! My ol' shin-bones stan' up thess like a pair o'
dog-irons. Lemme bridge 'em over first 'th somethin' soft. That'll do.
She patched that quilt herself. Hold on a minute, 'tel I git the aidges
of it under my ol' boots, to keep it f'om saggin' down in the middle.
There, now! Merciful goodness, but I never! I'd rather trus' myself with
a whole playin' fountain in blowed glass'n sech ez this.
Stoop down there, doctor, please, sir, an' shove the end o' this quilt
a leetle further under my foot, won't you? Ef it was to let up sudden,
I wouldn't have no more lap 'n what any other fool man's got.
'N' now--you go to _her_.
I'd feel a heap safeter ef this quilt was nailed to the flo' on each
side o'my legs. They're trimblin' so I dunno what minute my feet'll let
go their holt.
An' she don't know it yet! An' he layin' here, dressed up in all the
little clo'es she sewed! She mus' be purty bad. I dunno, though; maybe
that's gen'ally the way.
They're keepin' mighty still in that room. Blessed ef I don't begin to
feel 'is warmth in my ol' knee-bones! An' he's a-breathin' thess ez
reg'lar ez that clock, on'y quicker. Lordy! An' she don't know it yet!
An' he a boy! He taken that after the Joneses; we've all been boys in
our male branch. When that name strikes, seem like it comes to stay.
Now for a girl--
Wonder if he ain't covered up mos' too close-t. Seem like he snuffles
purty loud--for a beginner.
Doctor! _oh_, doctor! I say, _doctor!_
Strange he don't hear--'n' I don't like to holler no louder. Wonder
ef she could be worse? Ef I could thess reach somethin' to knock with!
I daresn't lif' my foot, less'n the whole business'd fall through.
Oh, doc'! Here he comes now--_Doctor_, I say, don't you think maybe he's
covered up too--
How's _she_, doctor? "Thess the same," you say? 'n' she don't know
yet--about him? "In a couple o' hours," you say? Well, don't lemme keep
you, doctor. But, tell me, don't you think maybe he's covered up a
leetle too close-t?
That's better. An' now I've saw him befo' she did! An' I didn't want to,
Poor leetle, teenchy, weenchy bit of a thing! Ef he ain't the _very_
littlest! Lordy, Lordy, Lor_dy!_ But I s'pose all thet's needed in a
baby is a startin'-p'int big enough to hol' the fam'ly ch'racteristics.
I s'pose maybe he is, but the po' little thing mus' feel sort o'
scrouged with 'em, ef he's got 'em all--the Joneses' an' the Simses'.
Seem to me he favors her a little thess aroun' the mouth.
An' she don't know it yet!
[Illustration: "Seem to me _he_ favors her a little thess aroun' the
Lord! But my legs ache like ez if they was bein' wrenched off. I've got
'em on sech a strain, somehow. An' he on'y a half hour ol', an' two
hours mo' 'fo' I can budge! Lord, Lord! how _will_ I stand it!
_God bless 'im!_ Doc! He's a-sneezin'! Come quick! Shore ez I'm here,
he snez twice-t!
Don't you reckon you better pile some mo' wood on the fire an'--
What's that you say? "Fetch 'im along"? An' has she ast for 'im? Bless
the Lord! I say. But a couple of you 'll have to come help me loosen up
'fo' I can stir, doctor.
Here, you stan' on that side the quilt, whiles I stir my foot to the
flo' where it won't slip--an' Dicey--where's that nigger Dicey? You
Dicey, come on here, an' tromp on the other side o' this bedquilt till
I h'ist yo' young marster up on to my shoulder.
No, you don't take 'im, neither. I'll tote 'im myself.
Now, go fetch a piller till I lay 'im on it. That's it. And now git
me somethin' stiff to lay the piller on. There! That lapboa'd 'll do.
Why didn't I think about that befo'? It's a heap safeter 'n my ole
knee-j'ints. Now, I've got 'im secure. _Wait_, doctor--hold on! I'm
afeered you 'll haf to ca'y 'im in to her, after all. I'll cry ef I do
it. I'm trimblin' like ez ef I had a'ager, thess a-startin' in with
'im--an seein' me give way might make her nervious. You take 'im to her,
and lemme come in sort o' unconcerned terreckly, after she an' him've
kind o' got acquainted. Dast you hold 'im that-a-way, doctor, 'thout no
support to 'is spinal colume? I s'pose he _is_ too sof' to snap, but
I wouldn't resk it. Reckon I can slip in the other do' where she won't
see me, an' view the meetin'.
Yas; I 'm right here, honey! (The idea o' her a-callin' for me--an'
_him_ in 'er arms!) I 'm right here, honey--_mother!_ Don't min' me
a-cryin'! I'm all broke up, somehow; but don't you fret. I 'm right here
by yo' side on my knees, in pure thankfulness.
Bless His name, I say! You know he's a boy, don't yer? I been a holdin'
'im all day--'t least ever sence they dressed 'im, purty nigh a' hour
ago. An' he's slep'--an' waked up--an' yawned--an' snez--an' wunk--an'
sniffed--'thout me sayin' a word. Opened an' shet his little fist,
once-t, like ez ef he craved to shake hands, howdy! He cert'n'y does
perform 'is functions wonderful.
Yas, doctor; I'm a-comin', right now.
Go to sleep now, honey, you an' him, an' I'll be right on the spot when
needed. Lemme whisper to her thess a minute, doctor?
I thess want to tell you, honey, thet you never, even in yo' young days,
looked ez purty to my eyes ez what you do right now. An' that boy is
_yo' boy_, an' I ain't a-goin' to lay no mo' claim to 'im 'n to see thet
you have yo' way with 'im--you hear? An' now good night, honey, an' go
* * * * *
They wasn't nothin' lef for me to do but to come out here in this ol'
woodshed where nobody wouldn't see me ac' like a plumb baby.
An' now, seem like I _can't_ git over it! The idee o' me, fifty year
ol', actin' like this!
An' she knows it! An' she's got 'im--_a boy_--layin' in the bed
"Mother an' child doin' well!" Lord, Lord! How often I've heerd that
said! But it never give me the all-overs like it does now, some way.
Guess I'll gether up a' armful o' wood, an' try to act unconcerned--an'
laws-a-mercy me! Ef--to-day--ain't--been--Christmas! My! my! my! An' it
come an' gone befo' I remembered!
I'll haf to lay this wood down ag'in _an' think_.
I've had many a welcome Christmas gif' in my life, but the idee o' the
good Lord a-timin' _this_ like that!
Christmas! An' a boy! An' she doin' well!
No wonder that ol' turkey-gobbler sets up on them rafters blinkin' at me
so peaceful! He knows he's done passed a critical time o' life.
You've done crossed another bridge safe-t, ol' gobbly, an' you can
_afford_ to blink--an' to set out in the clair moonlight, 'stid o'
roostin' back in the shadders, same ez you been doin'.
You was to 've died by ax-ident las' night, but the new visitor thet's
dropped in on us ain't cut 'is turkey teeth yet, an' his mother--
Lord, how that name sounds! Mother! I hardly know 'er by it, long ez
I been tryin' to fit it to 'er--an' fearin' to, too, less'n somethin'
might go wrong with either one.
I even been callin' him "it" to myself all along, so 'feerd thet ef I
set my min' on either the "he" or the "she" the other one might take a
notion to come--an' I didn't want any disappointment mixed in with the
But now he's come,--_an'_ registered, ez they say at the polls,--I know
I sort o' counted on the boy, some way.
Lordy! but he's little! Ef he hadn't 'a' showed up so many of his
functions spontaneous, I'd be oneasy less'n he mightn't have 'em; but
they're there! Bless goodness, they're there!
An' he snez prezac'ly, for all the world, like my po' ol' pap--a reg'lar
little cat sneeze, thess like all the Joneses.
Well, Mr. Turkey, befo' I go back into the house, I'm a-goin' to make
you a solemn promise.
You go free till about this time next year, _anyhow_. You an' me'll
celebrate the birthday between ourselves with that contrac'. You needn't
git oneasy Thanksgivin', or picnic-time, or Easter, or no other time
'twixt this an' nex' Christmas--less'n, of co'se, you stray off an' git
An' this here reprieve, I want you to understand, is a present from the
junior member of this firm.
Lord! but I'm that tickled! This here wood ain't much needed in the
house,--the wood-boxes 're all full,--but I can't _de_vise no other
excuse for vacatin'--thess at this time.
S'pose I _might_ gether up some eggs out 'n the nestes, but it'd look
sort o' flighty to go egg-huntin' here at midnight--an' he not two hours
I dunno, either, come to think; she might need a new-laid egg--sof
b'iled. Reckon I'll take a couple in my hands--an' one or two sticks o'
wood--an' I'll draw a bucket o' water too--an' tote _that_ in.
Goodness! but this back yard is bright ez day! Goin' to be a clair, cool
night--moon out, full an' white. Ef _this ain't the stillest_ stillness!
Thess sech a night, for all the world, I reckon, ez the first Christmas,
when He come--
When shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel o' the Lord come down,
An' glory shone around--
thess like the hymn says.
The whole o' this back yard is full o' glory this minute. Th' ain't
nothin' too low down an' mean for it to shine on, neither--not even the
well-pump or the cattle-trough--'r the pig-pen--or even me.
Thess look at me, covered over with it! An' how it does shine on the
roof o' the house where they lay--her an' him!
I suppose that roof has shined that-a-way frosty nights 'fo' to-night;
but some way I never seemed to see it.
Don't reckon the creakin' o' this windlass could disturb her--or him.
Reckon I might go turn a little mo' cotton-seed in the troughs for them
cows--an' put some extry oats out for the mules an' the doctor's
mare--an' onchain Rover, an' let 'im stretch 'is legs a little. I'd like
everything on the place to know _he's_ come, an' to feel the diff'ence.
Well, now I'll load up--an' I do hope nobody won't notice the
_re_dic'lousness of it.
You say she's asleep, doctor, an' th' ain't nothin' mo' needed to be
did--an' yo' 're goin'!
Don't, for gracious sakes! go, doctor, an' leave me! I wont know what on
top o' the round earth to do, ef--ef--You know she--she might wake
You say Dicey she knows. But she's on'y a nigger, doctor. Yes; I know
she's had exper'ence with the common run o' babies, but--
Lemme go an' set down this bucket, an' lay this stick o' wood on the
fire, an' put these eggs down, so's I can talk to you free-handed.
Step here to the do', doctor. I say, doc, ef it's a question o' the size
o' yo' bill, you can make it out to suit yo'self--or, I'll tell you what
I'll do. You stay right along here a day or so--tell to-morrer or nex'
day, anyhow--an' I'll sen' you a whole bale o' cotton--an' you can sen'
back any change you see fit--or none--_or none_, I say. Or, ef you'd
ruther take it out in pertaters an' corn an' sorghum, thess say so, an'
how much of each.
But _what_? "It wouldn't be right? Th' ain't no use," you say? An'
you'll _shore_ come back to-morrer? Well. But, by the way, doctor, did
you know to-day was Christmas? Of co'se I might've knew you did--but _I_
never. An' now it seems to me like Christmas, an' Fo'th o' July, an'
"Hail Columbia, happy lan'," all b'iled down into one big jubilee!
But tell me, doctor, confidential--sh!--step here a leetle further
back--tell me, don't you think he's to say a leetle bit undersized?
Speak out, ef he is.
Wh--how'd you say? "Mejum," eh? Thess mejum! An' they do come even
littler yet? An' you say mejum babies're thess ez liable to turn out
likely an' strong ez over-sizes, eh? Mh-hm! Well, I reckon you
_know_--an' maybe the less they have to contend with at the start the
Oh, thanky, doctor! Don't be afeered o' wrenchin' my wris'! A thousand
thankies! Yo' word for it, he's a fine boy! An' you've inspected a good
many, an' of co'se you know--yas, yas! Shake ez hard ez you like--up an'
down--up an' down!
An' now I'll go git yo' horse--an' don't ride 'er too hard to-night,
'cause I've put a double po'tion of oats in her trough awhile ago. The
junior member he give instructions that everything on the place was to
have a' extry feed to-night--an' of co'se I went and obeyed orders.
Now--'fo' you start, doctor--I ain't got a thing stronger 'n raspberry
corjal in the house--but ef you'll drink a glass o' that with me? (Of
co'se he will!)
She made this 'erself, doctor--picked the berries an' all--an' I raised
the little sugar thet's in it. Well, good-night, doctor! To-morrer,
How that do'-latch does click! Thess like thunder!
Sh-h! Dicey, you go draw yo' pallet close-t outside the do', an' lay
down--an' I'll set here by the fire an' keep watch.
How my ol' stockin'-feet do tromp! Do lemme hurry an' set down! Seem
like this room's awful rackety, the fire a-poppin' an' tumblin', an'
me breathin' like a porpoise. Even the clock ticks ez excited ez I
feel. Wonder how they sleep through it all! But they do. He beats her
a-snorin' a'ready, blest ef he don't! Wonder ef he knows he's born into
the world, po' little thing! I reckon not; but they's no tellin'. Maybe
that's the one thing the good Lord gives 'em _to_ know, so's they'll
realize what to begin to study about--theirselves an' the world--how to
fight it an' keep friends with it at the same time. Ef I could giggle
an' sigh both at once-t, seem like I'd be relieved. Somehow I feel sort
o' tight 'roun' the heart--an' wide awake an'--
How that clock _does_ travel--an' how they all keep time, he--an'
she--an' it--an' me--an' the fire roa'in' up the chimbley, playin' a
tune all around us like a' organ, an' he--an' she--an' he--an' it--an'
Blest ef I don't hear singing--an' how white the moonlight is! They's
angels all over the house---an' their robes is breshin' the roof whilst
His head had fallen. He was dreaming.
Here's the doctor, now! Hello, Doc, come right in! Here's yo' patient,
settin' up on the po'ch, big ez life; but when we sent for you this
mornin' it seemed thess hit an' miss whether he'd come thoo or not.
Thess the same sort o' spells he's had all along, doctor,--seems you
can't never see 'im in one,--all brought on by us a-crossin' 'im. His
gran'ma insisted on hidin' the clock when he wanted it; but I reckon
she'll hardly resk it ag'in, she's that skeert. He's been settin' on the
flo' there thess the way you see 'im now, with that clock in his lap,
Of co'se it thess took him about ten minutes to bu'st all the little
things his gran'ma give him to play with, 'n' then he nachelly called
for the clock; 'n' when she wasn't forthcomin' _immejate_, why, he thess
stiffened out in a spell.
Of co'se we put the timepiece into his hands quick ez we could onclinch
'em, an' sent for you. But quick ez he see the clock, he come thoo. But
you was already gone for, then.
His gran'ma she got considerable fretted because he's broke off the long
han' o' the clock; but I don't see much out o' the way about that. Ef a
person thess remembers thet the long han' is the short han'--why, 't
ain't no trouble.
An' she does make 'im _so_ contented an' happy! Thess look at his face,
now! What is the face-vally of a clock, I like to know, compared to
[Illustration: "Quick ez he see the clock, he come thoo."]
But of co'se the ol' lady she's gettin' on in years, and then she's
my wife's mother, which makes her my _di_rec' mother-in-law; an' so
I'm slow to conterdic' anything she says, an' I guess her idees o'
regulatin' childern--not to say clocks--is sort o' diff'rent to wife's
an' mine. She goes in for reg'lar dis_cip_line, same ez she got an'
survived in her day; an' of co'se, ez Sonny come to her ez gran'son the
same day he was born to us ez plain son, we never like to lift our
voices ag'in anything she says.
She loves him thess ez well ez we do, only on a diff'rent plan. She give
him the only spankin' he's ever had--an' the only silver cup.
Even wife an' me we had diff'rent idees on the subjec' o' Sonny's
raisin'; but somehow, in all our ca'culations, we never seemed to
realize that _he'd_ have idees.
Why, that two-year-old boy settin' there regulatin' that clock warn't no
mo' 'n to say a pink spot on the piller 'fo' he commenced to set fo'th
his idees, and he ain't never backed down on no principle thet he set
fo'th, to this day.
For example, wife an' me, why, we argued back an' fo'th consider'ble on
the subjec' of his meal-hours, ez you might say, she contendin' for
promiskyus refreshment an' me for schedule time.
This, of co'se, was thess _proj_eckin' 'fo' the new boa'der ac-chilly
arrived, He not bein' here yet, we didn't have much to do _but_
speculate about him. Lookin' back'ards now, it seems to me we
couldn't'a' had nothin' to do, day or night, 'fo' he come.
But, ez I was sayin', she was for meals at all hours, an' I was for the
twenty-minutes-for-refreshment plan, an' we discussed it consider'ble,
me always knowin', but never lettin' on, thet of co'se she, havin' what
you might call a molopoly on the restaurant, could easy have things her
own way, ef she'd choose.
But, sir, from the time he looked over that bill o' fare an' put his
finger on what he'd have, _an' when_, that boy ain't never failed to
call for it, an' get it, day 'r night.
But, talkin' 'bout the clock, it did seem funny for him to keep her
goin' 'thout no key.
But somehow he'd work it thet that alarm 'd go off in the dead hours o'
night, key or no key, an' her an' me we'd jump out o' bed like ez ef we
was shot; and do you b'lieve thet that baby, not able to talk, an'
havin' on'y half 'is teeth, he ain't never failed to wake up an' roa'
out a-laughin' ever' time that clock 'd go off in the night!
Why, sir, it's worked on me so, sometimes, thet I've broke out in a col'
sweat, an' set up the balance o' the night--an' I ain't to say
No, sir, we ain't never named 'im yet. Somehow, we don't seem to be able
to confine ourselves to no three or four names for 'im, for so we thess
decided to let it run along so--he thess goin' by the name o' "Sonny"
tell sech a time ez he sees fit to name 'isself.
Of co'se I sort o' ca'culate on him takin' the "Junior," an' lettin' me
tack a capital "S" an' a little "r" to my name 'fo' I die; which would
nachelly call attention to him _di_rec' eve'y time I'd sign my
Deuteronomy Jones ain't to say a purty name, maybe; but it's
scriptu'al--so far ez my parents could make it. Of co'se the
Jones--well, they couldn't help that no mo' 'n I can help it, or Sonny,
_or his junior_, thet, of co'se, may never be called on to appear in the
flesh, Sonny not bein' quite thoo with his stomach-teeth yet, an' bein'
subject to croup, both of which has snapped off many a fam'ly tree fore
to-day. But I reckon the Joneses ain't suffered much that a-way. I doubt
ef any of 'em has ever left 'thout passin' the name on--not knowin'
positive, but thess _jedgin'_. None o' mine ain't, I _know_, leastwise
none of my _di_rec' ancestors--they couldn't have, an' me here, an'
_Don't_ jump, doctor! That's the supper-bell. 'Tis purty loud, but
that's on account o' my mother-in-law. She's stone-deef--can't hear
thunder; but I told wife thet I thought we owed it to her to do the best
we could to reach her, and I had that bell made a-purpose.
Now, some men they'd slight a mother-in-law like that, an' maybe ring a
dummy at her; but that's thess where I differ. I don't forget where I
get my benefits, an' ef it hadn't 'a' been for her, the family circle o'
Deuteronomy Jones would be quite diff'rent to what it is. She's handed
down some of Sonny's best traits to him, too.
I don't say she give him his hearin', less'n she give 'm all she
had--which, of co'se, I'm thess a-jokin', which is a sin, an' her
stone-deef, and Sonny thess come thoo a death-spell!
Me havin' that extry sized bell made thess out of respects to her
tickled her mightily.
Come along, Sonny! He heerd the bell, an' he knows what it means. That's
right--fetch the clock along.
Sonny's cheer is toler'ble low, an' he's took a notion to set on the
clock mealtimes. I thess lay 'er face down'ards in his cheer, 'n' I
don't know ez it hurts her any; 'n' then it saves the dictionary, too.
She did strike that a-way one day, and Sonny was so tickled he purty
near choked on a batter-cake, he laughed so. He has broke sev'ral
casters tryin' to jostle her into doin' it again, but somehow she won't.
Seem like a clock kin be about ez contrary ez anything else, once't git
her back up.
He got so worked up over her not strikin' that a-way one day thet he
stiffened out in a spell, then an' there.
You say they ain't apt to be fatal, doctor--them spells!
Well--but you ain't never saw him in one yet. They're reg'lar
Tell you the truth, they was the 'casion of us j'inin' the church, them
Says I to wife--standin' beside him one day, and he black in the
face--says I, "Wife," says I, "I reckon you an' me better try to live
mo' righteously 'n what we've been doin', or he'll be took from us."
An', sir, the very nex' communion we both up an' perfessed. An' I
started sayin' grace at table, an' lef' off the on'y cuss-word I ever
did use, which was "durn." An', maybe I oughtn't to say it, but I miss
that word yet. I didn't often call on it, but I always knowed 't was
there when needed, and it backed me up, somehow--thess the way knowin' I
had a frock-coat in the press has helped me wear out ol' clo'es. I ain't
never had on that frock-coat sence I was married in it seventeen year
ago; but, sir, ever sence I've knew the moths had chawed it up, th'
ain't been a day but I've felt shabby.
[Illustration: "She does make 'im _so_ contented an' happy."]
Sir? Yas, sir; we've waited a long time. It's seventeen year, come this
spring, sence we married. Our first child could easy 'a' been sixteen
year ol', 'stid o' two, ef Sonny'd come on time, but he ain't never been
known to hurry hisself. But it does look like, with seventeen year for
reflection, an' nothin' to do but study up other folks's mistakes with
their childern, we ought to be able to raise him right. Wife an' me we
fully agree upon one p'int, 'n' that is, thet mo' childern 'r' sp'iled
thoo bein' crossed an' hindered 'n any other way. Why, sir, them we 've
see' grow up roun' this country hev been fed on daily rations of
"dont's!" an' "stops!" an' "quits!"--an' most of 'em brought up by hand
An' so, ez I say, we don't never cross Sonny, useless. Of co'se when
he's been sick we have helt his little nose an' insisted on things; but
I reckon we 've made it up to him afterwards, so's he wouldn't take it
Oh, yas, sir; he called me "daddy" hisself, 'n' I never learned it to
him, neither. I _was_ layin' out to learn 'im to say "papa" to me, in
time; but I 'lowed I 'd hol' back tell he called _her_ name first.
Seemed like that was her right, somehow, after all thet had passed
'twixt him an' her; an' in all her baby-talk to him I took notice she'd
bring the "mama" in constant.
So of co'se I laid low, hopin' some day he 'd ketch it--an' he did. He
wasn't no mo' 'n 'bout three months ol' when he said it; 'n' then, 'fo'
I could ketch my breath, hardly, an put in my claim, what does he do but
square aroun', an', lookin' at me direc', say "dada!" thess like that.
There's the secon' bell, doctor. 'Sh! _Don't_ ring no mo', Dicey! We're
At the first bell the roller-towel an' basin gen'ally holds a reception;
but to-day bein' Sunday--
What? Can't stay? But you _must_. Quick ez Sonny come thoo this mornin',
wife took to the kitchen, 'cause, she says, says she, "Likely ez not the
doctor 'll miss his dinner on the road, 'n' I 'll turn in with Dicey an'
see thet he makes it up on supper."
"Eat an' run?" Why not, I like to know? Come on out. Wife's at the
roller-towel now, and she 'll be here in a minute.
Come on, Sonny. Let "dada" tote the clock for you. No? Wants to tote 'er
hisself? Well, he shall, too.
But befo' we go out, doc, say that over ag'in, please.
Yas, I understan'. Quick ez he's took with a spell, you say, th'ow col'
water in his face, an' "never min' ef he cries"!
I'll try it, doctor; but, 'twixt me an' you, I doubt ef anybody on the
lot'll have the courage to douse 'im. Maybe we might call in somebody
passin', an' git them to do it. But for the rest,--the bath an' the
mustard,--of co'se it shall be did correct. You see, the trouble hez
always been thet befo' we could git any physic measured out, he come
Many's the time that horse hez been saddled to sen' for you befo'
to-day. He thess happened to get out o' sight to-day when Sonny seemed
to feel the clock in his hands, an' he come thoo 'thout us givin' him
anything _but_ the clock--an' it external.
Walk out, doctor.
Yas, sir, wife an' me, we've turned 'Piscopals--all on account o' Sonny.
He seemed to perfer that religion, an' of co'se we wouldn't have the
family divided, so we're a-goin' to be ez good 'Piscopals ez we can.
I reckon it'll come a little bit awkward at first. Seem like I never
will git so thet I can sass back in church 'thout feelin' sort o'
impident--but I reckon I'll chirp up an' come to it, in time.
I never was much of a hand to sound the amens, even in our own Methodist
Sir? How old is he? Oh, Sonny's purty nigh six--but he showed a
pref'ence for the 'Piscopal Church long fo' he could talk.
When he wasn't no mo' 'n three year old we commenced a-takin' him round
to church wherever they held meetin's,--'Piscopals, Methodists or
Presbyterians,--so's he could see an' hear for hisself. I ca'yed him
to a baptizin' over to Chinquepin Crik, once-t, when he was three.
I thought I'd let him see it done an' maybe it might make a good
impression; but no, sir! The Baptists didn't suit him! Cried ever'
time one was douced, an' I had to fetch him away. In our Methodist
meetin's he seemed to git worked up an' pervoked, some way. An' the
Presbyterians, he didn't take no stock in them at all. Ricollect, one
Sunday the preacher, he preached a mighty powerful disco'se on the
doctrine o' lost infants not 'lected to salvation--an' Sonny? Why, he
slep' right thoo it.
The first any way lively interest he ever seemed to take in religious
services was at the 'Piscopals, Easter Sunday. When he seen the lilies
an' the candles he thess clapped his little hands, an' time the folks
commenced answerin' back he was tickled all but to death, an' started
answerin' hisself--on'y, of co'se he 'd answer sort o' hit an' miss.
I see then thet Sonny was a natu'al-born 'Piscopal, an' we might ez well
make up our minds to it--an' I told _her_ so, too. They say some is born
so. But we thought we'd let him alone an' let nature take its co'se
for awhile--not pressin' him one way or another. He never had showed
no disposition to be christened, an' ever sence the doctor tried to
vaccinate him he seemed to git the notion that christenin' an'
vaccination was mo' or less the same thing; an' sence that time,
he's been mo' opposed to it than ever.
Sir? Oh no, sir. He didn't vaccinate him; he thess tried to do it; but
Sonny, he wouldn't begin to allow it. We all tried to indoose 'im. I
offered him everything on the farm ef he'd thess roll up his little
sleeve an' let the doctor look at his arm--promised him thet he wouldn't
tech a needle to it tell he said the word. But he wouldn't. He 'lowed
thet me an' his mama could git vaccinated ef we wanted to, but he
Then we showed him our marks where we had been vaccinated when we was
little, an' told him how it had kep' us clair o' havin' the smallpock
all our lives.
Well, sir, it didn't make no diff'ence whether we'd been did befo' or
not, he 'lowed thet he wanted to see us vaccinated ag'in.
An' so, of co'se, thinkin' it might encour'ge him, we thess had it did
over--tryin' to coax him to consent after each one, an' makin' pertend
like we enjoyed it.
Then, nothin' would do but the nigger, Dicey, had to be did, an' then he
'lowed thet he wanted the cat did, an' I tried to strike a bargain with
him thet if Kitty got vaccinated he would. But he wouldn't comp'omise.
He thess let on thet Kit had to be did whe'r or no. So I ast the doctor
ef it would likely kill the cat, an' he said he reckoned not, though it
might sicken her a little. So I told him to go ahead. Well, sir, befo'
Sonny got thoo, he had had that cat an' both dogs vaccinated--but let it
tech hisself he would not.
I was mighty sorry not to have it did, 'cause they was a nigger thet had
the smallpock down to Cedar Branch, fifteen mile away, an' he didn't
die, neither. He got well. An' they say when they git well they're more
fatal to a neighborhood 'n when they die.
That was fo' months ago now, but to this day ever' time the wind blows
from sou'west I feel oneasy, an' try to entice Sonny to play on the far
side o' the house.
Well, sir, in about ten days after that we was the down-in-the-mouthest
crowd on that farm, man an' beast, thet you ever see. Ever' last one o'
them vaccinations took, sir, an' took severe, from the cat up.
But I reckon we 're all safe-t guarded now. They ain't nothin' on the
place thet can fetch it to Sonny, an' I trust, with care, he may never
But I set out to tell you about Sonny's christenin' an' us turnin'
'Piscopal. Ez I said, he never seemed to want baptism, though he had
heard us discuss all his life both it an' vaccination ez the two ordeels
to be gone thoo with some time, an' we'd speculate ez to whether
vaccination would take or not, an' all sech ez that, an' then, ez
I said, after he see what the vaccination was, why he was even mo'
prejudyced agin' baptism 'n ever, an' we 'lowed to let it run on tell
sech a time ez he'd decide what name he'd want to take an' what
denomination he'd want to bestow it on him.
Wife, she's got some 'Piscopal relations thet she sort o' looks up
to,--though she don't own it,--but she was raised Methodist an' I was
raised a true-blue Presbyterian. But when we professed after Sonny come
we went up together at Methodist meetin'. What we was after was
righteous livin', an' we didn't keer much which denomination helped us
An' so, feelin' friendly all roun' that-a-way, we thought we'd leave
Sonny to pick his church when he got ready, an' then they wouldn't be
nothin' to undo or do over in case he went over to the 'Piscopals, which
has the name of revisin' over any other church's performances--though
sence we've turned 'Piscopals we've found out that ain't so.
Of co'se the preachers, they used to talk to us about it once-t in a
while,--seemed to think it ought to be did,--'ceptin', of co'se, the
Well, sir, it went along so till last week. Sonny ain't but, ez I said,
thess not quite six year old, an' they seemed to be time enough. But
last week he had been playin' out o' doors bare-feeted, thess same ez he
always does, an' he tramped on a pine splinter some way. Of co'se, pine,
it's the safe-t-est splinter a person can run into a foot, on account
of its carryin' its own turpentine in with it to heal up things; but
any splinter thet dast to push itself up into a little pink foot is a
messenger of trouble, an' we know it. An' so, when we see this one, we
tried ever' way to coax him to let us take it out, but he wouldn't, of
co'se. He never will, an' somehow the Lord seems to give 'em ambition to
work their own way out mos' gen'ally.
But, sir, this splinter didn't seem to have no energy in it. It thess
lodged there, an' his little foot it commenced to swell, an' it swole
an' swole tell his little toes stuck out so thet the little pig thet
went to market looked like ez ef it wasn't on speakin' terms with the
little pig thet stayed home, an' wife an' me we watched it, an' I reckon
she prayed over it consider'ble, an' I read a extry psalm at night befo'
I went to bed, all on account o' that little foot. An' night befo' las'
it was lookin' mighty angry an' swole, an' he had limped an' "ouched!"
consider'ble all day, an' he was mighty fretful bed-time. So, after he
went to sleep, wife she come out on the po'ch where I was settin', and
she says to me, says she, her face all drawed up an' workin', says she:
"Honey," says she, "I reckon we better sen' for him an' have it did."
Thess so, she said it. "Sen' for who, wife?" says I, "an' have what
did?" "Why, sen' for him, the 'Piscopal preacher," says she, "an' have
Sonny christened. Them little toes o' hisn is ez red ez cherry tomatoes.
They burnt my lips thess now like a coal o' fire an'--an' lockjaw is
goin' roun' tur'ble.
"Seems to me," says she, "when he started to git sleepy, he didn't gap
ez wide ez he gen'ly does--an' I'm 'feered he's a-gittin' it now." An',
sir, with that, she thess gathered up her apron an' mopped her face in
it an' give way. An' ez for me, I didn't seem to have no mo' backbone
down my spinal colume 'n a feather bolster has, I was that weak.
I never ast her why she didn't sen' for our own preacher. I knowed then
ez well ez ef she'd 'a' told me why she done it--all on account o' Sonny
bein' so tickled over the 'Piscopals' meetin's.
It was mos' nine o'clock then, an' a dark night, an' rainin', but I
never said a word--they wasn't no room round the edges o' the lump in my
throat for words to come out ef they'd 'a' been one surgin' up there to
say, which they wasn't--but I thess went out an' saddled my horse an' I
rid into town. Stopped first at the doctor's an' sent him out, though I
knowed 't wouldn't do no good; Sonny wouldn't 'low him to tech it; but
I sent him out anyway, to look at it, an', ef possible, console wife a
little. Then I rid on to the rector's an' ast him to come out immejate
an' baptize Sonny. But nex' day was his turn to preach down at Sandy
Crik, an' he couldn't come that night, but he promised to come right
after services nex' mornin'--which he done--rid the whole fo'teen mile
from Sandy Crik here in the rain, too, which I think is a evidence o'
Christianity, though no sech acts is put down in my book o' "evidences"
where they ought rightfully to be.
Well, sir, when I got home that night, I found wife a heap cheerfuler.
The doctor had give Sonny a big apple to eat an' pernounced him free
from all symptoms o' lockjaw. But when I come the little feller had
crawled 'way back under the bed an' lay there, eatin' his apple, an'
they couldn't git him out. Soon ez the doctor had teched a poultice to
his foot he had woke up an' put a stop to it, an' then he had went off
by hisself where nothin' couldn't pester him, to enjoy his apple in
peace. An' we never got him out tell he heered us tellin' the doctor
I tried ever' way to git him out--even took up a coal o' fire an' poked
it under at him; but he thess laughed at that an' helt his apple agin'
it an' made it sizz. Well, sir, he seemed so tickled thet I helt that
coal o' fire for him tell he cooked a good big spot on one side o' the
apple, an' et it, an' then, when I took it out, he called for another,
but I didn't give it to him. I don't see no use in over-indulgin' a
child. An' when he knowed the doctor was gone, he come out an' finished
roastin' his apple by the fire--thess what was left of it 'round the
Well, sir, we was mightily comforted by the doctor's visit, but nex'
mornin' things looked purty gloomy ag'in. That little foot seemed a heap
worse, an' he was sort o' flushed an' feverish, an' wife she thought she
heard a owl hoot, an' Rover made a mighty funny gurgly sound in his
th'oat like ez ef he had bad news to tell us, but didn't have the
courage to speak it.
An' then, on top o' that, the nigger Dicey, she come in an' 'lowed she
had dreamed that night about eatin' spare-ribs, which everybody knows to
dream about fresh pork out o' season, which this is July, is considered
a shore sign o' death. Of co'se, wife an' me, we don't b'lieve in no
sech ez that, but ef you ever come to see yo' little feller's toes stand
out the way Sonny's done day befo' yesterday, why, sir, you'll be ready
to b'lieve anything. It's so much better now, you can't judge of its
looks day befo' yesterday. We never had even so much ez considered it
necessary thet little children should be christened to have 'em saved,
but when things got on the ticklish edge, like they was then, why, we
felt thet the safest side is the wise side, an', of co'se, we want Sonny
to have the best of everything. So, we was mighty thankful when we see
the rector comin'. But, sir, when I went out to open the gate for him,
what on top o' this round hemisp'ere do you reckon Sonny done? Why,
sir, he thess took one look at the gate an' then he cut an' run hard
ez he could--limped acrost the yard thess like a flash o' zig-zag
lightnin'--an' 'fore anybody could stop him, he had clumb to the tip top
o' the butter-bean arbor--clumb it thess like a cat--an' there he set,
a-swingin' his feet under him, an' laughin', the rain thess a-streakin'
his hair all over his face.
That bean arbor is a favoryte place for him to escape to, 'cause it's
too high to reach, an' it ain't strong enough to bear no grown-up
Well, sir, the rector, he come in an' opened his valise an' 'rayed
hisself in his robes an' opened his book, an' while he was turnin' the
leaves, he faced 'round an' says he, lookin' at me _di_rec', says he:
"Let the child be brought forward for baptism," says he, thess
Well, sir, I looked at wife, an' wife, she looked at me, an' then we
both thess looked out at the butter-bean arbor.
I knowed then thet Sonny wasn't never comin' down while the rector was
there, an' rector, he seemed sort o' fretted for a minute when he see
how things was, an' he did try to do a little settin' fo'th of opinions.
He 'lowed, speakin' in a mighty pompious manner, thet holy things wasn't
to be trifled with, an' thet he had come to baptize the child accordin'
to the rites o' the church.
[Illustration: "Name this child."]
Well, that sort o' talk, it thess rubbed me the wrong way, an' I up an'
told him thet that might be so, but thet the rites o' the church didn't
count for nothin', on our farm, to the rights o' the boy!
I reckon it was mighty disrespec'ful o' me to face him that-a-way, an'
him adorned in all his robes, too, but I'm thess a plain up-an'-down man
an' I hadn't went for him to come an' baptize Sonny to uphold the
granjer of no church. I was ready to do that when the time come, but
right now we was workin' in Sonny's interests, an' I intended to have it
understood that way. An' it was.
Rector, he's a mighty good, kind-hearted man, git down to the man inside
the preacher, an' when he see thess how things stood, why, he come
'round friendly, an' he went out on the po'ch an' united with us in
tryin' to help coax Sonny down. First started by promisin' him speritual
benefits, but he soon see that wasn't no go, and he tried worldly
persuasion; but no, sir, stid o' him comin' down, Sonny started orderin'
the rest of us christened thess the way he done about the vaccination.
But, of co'se, we had been baptized befo', an' we nachelly helt out
agin' that for some time. But d'rec'ly rector, he seemed to have a
sudden idee, an' says he, facin' 'round, church-like, to wife an' me,
"Have you both been baptized accordin' to the rites o' the church?"
An' me, thinkin' of co'se he meant the 'Piscopal Church, says: "No,
sir," says I, thess so. And then we see that the way was open for us to
be did over ag'in ef we wanted to. So, sir, wife an' me we was took into
the church, then an' there. We wouldn't a yielded to him, thoo an' thoo,
that-a-way ag'in ef his little foot hadn't a' been so swole, an' he
maybe takin' his death o' cold settin' out in the po'in'-down rain; but
things bein' as they was, we went thoo it with all due respects.
Then he commenced callin' for Dicey, an' the dog, an' the cat, to be
did, same ez he done befo'; but, of co'se, they's some liberties thet
even a innocent child can't take with the waters o' baptism, an' the
rector he got sort o' wo'e-out and disgusted an' 'lowed thet 'less'n
we could get the child ready for baptism he'd haf to go home.
Well, sir, I knowed we wouldn't never git 'im down, an' I had went for
the rector to baptize him, an' I intended to have it did, ef possible.
So, says I, turnin' 'round an' facin' him square, says I: "Rector," says
I, "why not baptize him where he is? I mean it. The waters o' Heaven are
descendin' upon him where he sets, an' seems to me ef he's favo'bly
situated for anything it is for baptism." Well, parson, he thess looked
at me up an' down for a minute, like ez ef he s'picioned I was wanderin'
in my mind, but he didn't faze me. I thess kep' up my argiment. Says I:
"Parson," says I, speakin' thess ez ca'm ez I am this minute--"Parson,"
says I, "his little foot is mighty swole, an' so'e, an' that
splinter--thess s'pose he was to take the lockjaw an' die--don't you
reckon you might do it where he sets--from where you stand?"
Wife, she was cryin' by this time, an' parson, he claired his th'oat an'
coughed, an' then he commenced walkin' up an' down, an' treckly he
stopped, an' says he, speakin' mighty reverential an' serious:
"Lookin' at this case speritually, an' as a minister o' the Gospel,"
says he, "it seems to me thet the question ain't so much a question of
_doin'_ ez it is a question of _withholdin'_. I don't know," says he,
"ez I've got a right to withhold the sacrament o' baptism from a child
under these circumstances or to deny sech comfort to his parents ez lies
in my power to bestow."
An', sir, with that he stepped out to the end o' the po'ch, opened
his book ag'in, an' holdin' up his right hand to'ards Sonny, settin'
on top o' the bean-arbor in the rain, he commenced to read the
service o' baptism, an' we stood proxies--which is a sort o' a dummy
substitutes--for whatever godfather an' mother Sonny see fit to choose
in after life.
Parson, he looked half like ez ef he'd laugh once-t. When he had thess
opened his book and started to speak, a sudden streak o' sunshine shot
out an' the rain started to ease up, an' it looked for a minute ez ef he
was goin' to lose the baptismal waters. But d'rec'ly it come down stiddy
ag'in an he' went thoo the programme entire.
An' Sonny, he behaved mighty purty; set up perfec'ly ca'm an' composed
thoo it all, an' took everything in good part, though he didn't
p'intedly know who was bein' baptized, 'cause, of co'se, he couldn't
hear the words with the rain in his ears.
He didn't rightly sense the situation tell it come to the part where it
says: "Name this child," and, of co'se, I called out to Sonny to name
hisself, which it had always been our intention to let him do.
"Name yo'self, right quick, like a good boy," says I.
Of co'se Sonny had all his life heered me say thet I was Deuteronomy
Jones, Senior, an' thet I hoped some day when he got christened he'd be
the junior. He knowed that by heart, an' would agree to it or dispute
it, 'cordin' to how the notion took him, and I sort o' ca'culated thet
he'd out with it now. But no, sir! Not a word! He thess sot up on thet
bean-arbor an' grinned.
An' so, feelin' put to it, with the services suspended over my head, I
spoke up, an' I says: "Parson," says I, "I reckon ef he was to speak his
little heart, he'd say Deuteronomy Jones, Junior." An' with thet what
does Sonny do but conterdic' me flat! "No, not Junior! I want to be
named Deuteronomy Jones, Senior!" says he, thess so. An' parson, he
looked to'ards me, an' I bowed my head an' he pernouneed thess one
single name, "Deuteronomy," an' I see he wasn't goin' to say no more an'
so I spoke up quick, an' says I: "Parson," says I, "he has spoke his
heart's desire. He has named hisself after me entire--Deuteronomy Jones,
An' so he was obligated to say it, an' so it is writ in the family
record colume in the big Bible, though I spelt his Senior with a little
s, an' writ him down ez the only son of the Senior with the big S, which
it seems to me fixes it about right for the time bein'.
[Illustration: "An' then Sonny, seein' it all over, he come down."]
Well, when the rector had got thoo an' he had wropped up his robes an'
put 'em in his wallet, an' had told us to prepare for conformation, he
pernounced a blessin' upon us an' went.
Then Sonny seein' it was all over, why, _he come down_. He was wet ez a
drownded rat, but wife rubbed him off an' give him some hot tea an' he
come a-snuggin' up in my lap, thess ez sweet a child ez you ever see in
yo' life, an' I talked to him ez fatherly ez I could, told him we was
all 'Piscopals now, an' soon ez his little foot got well I was goin' to
take him out to Sunday-school to tote a banner--all his little 'Piscopal
friends totes banners--an' thet he could pick out some purty candles for
the altar, an' he 'lowed immejate thet he'd buy pink ones. Sonny always
was death on pink--showed it from the time he could snatch a pink
rose--an' wife she ain't never dressed him in nothin' else. Ever' pair
o' little breeches he's got is either pink or pink-trimmed.
Well, I talked along to him till I worked 'round to shamin' him a little
for havin' to be christened settin' up on top a bean-arbor, same ez a
crow-bird, which I told him the parson he wouldn't 'a' done ef he 'd 'a'
felt free to 've left it undone. 'Twasn't to indulge him he done it, but
to bless him an' to comfort our hearts. Well, after I had reasoned with
him severe that-a-way a while, he says, says he, thess ez sweet an'
mild, says he, "Daddy, nex' time y'all gits christened, I'll come down
an' be elms-tened right--like a good boy."
Th' ain't a sweeter child in'ardly 'n what Sonny is, nowheres, git him
to feel right comf'table, an' I know it, an' that's why I have patience
with his little out'ard ways.
"Yes, sir," says he; "nex' time I 'll be christened like a good boy."
Then, of co'se, I explained to him thet it couldn't never be did no mo',
'cause it had been did, an' did 'Piscopal, which is secure. An' then
what you reckon the little feller said?
Says he, "Yes, daddy, but _s'pos'in' mine don't take_. How 'bout that?"
An' I didn't try to explain no further. What was the use? Wife, she had
drawed a stool close-t up to my knee, an' set there sortin' out the
little yaller rings ez they 'd dry out on his head, an' when he said
that I thess looked at her an' we both looked at him, an' says I,
"Wife," says I, "ef they's anything in heavenly looks an' behavior, I
b'lieve that christenin' is started to take on him a'ready."
An' I b'lieve it had.
Well, sir, we're tryin' to edjercate him--good ez we can. Th' ain't
never been a edjercational advantage come in reach of us but we've give
it to him. Of co'se he's all we've got, that one boy is, an' wife an'
me, why, we feel the same way about it.
They's three schools in the county, not countin' the niggers', an' we
send him to all three.
Sir? Oh, yas, sir; he b'longs to all three schools--to fo' for that
matter, countin' the home school.
You see, Sonny he's purty ticklish to handle, an' a person has to know
thess how to tackle him. Even wife an' me, thet's been knowin' him
f'om the beginnin', not only knowin' his traits, but how he come by
'em,--though some is hard to trace to their so'ces,--why, sir, even
we have to study sometimes to keep in with him, an' of co'se a
teacher--why, it's thess hit an' miss whether he'll take the right tack
with him or not; an' sometimes one teacher'll strike it one day, an'
another nex' day; so by payin' schoolin' for him right along in all
three, why, of co'se, ef he don't feel like goin' to one, why, he'll
go to another.
Once-t in a while he'll git out with the whole of 'em, an' that was
how wife come to open the home school for him. She was determined his
edjercation shouldn't be interrupted ef she could help it. She don't
encour'ge him much to go to her school, though, 'cause it interrupts her
in her housekeepin' consider'ble, an' she's had extry quilt-patchin' on
hand ever since he come. She's patchin' him a set 'ginst the time he'll
'An' then I reckon he frets her a good deal in school. Somehow, seems
like he thess picks up enough in the other schools to be able to
conterdic' her ways o' teachin'.
F' instance, in addin' up a colume o' figgers, ef she comes to a
aught--which some calls 'em naughts--she'll say, "Aught's a aught," an'
Sonny ain't been learned to say it that a-way; an' so maybe when she
says, "Aught's a aught," he'll say, "Who said it wasn't!" an' that puts
her out in countin'.
He's been learned to thess pass over aughts an' not call their names;
and once-t or twice-t, when wife called 'em out that a-way, why, he got
so fretted he thess gethered up his things an' went to another school.
But seem like she's added aughts that a-way so long she can't think to
add 'em no other way.
I notice nights after she's kept school for Sonny all day she talks
consider'ble in her sleep, an' she says, "Aught's a aught" about ez
often ez she says anything else.
Oh, yas, sir; he's had consider'ble fusses with his teachers, one way
an' another, but they ever'one declare they think a heap of 'im.
Sir? Oh, yas, sir; of co'se they all draw their reg'lar pay whether he's
a day in school du'in' the month or not. That's right enough, 'cause you
see they don't know what day he's li'ble to drop in on 'em, an' it's
worth the money thess a-keepin' their nerves strung for 'im.
Well, yas, sir; 't is toler'ble expensive, lookin' at it one way,
but lookin' at it another, it don't cost no mo' 'n what it would to
edjercate three child'en, which many poor families have to do--_an'
more_--which in our united mind Sonny's worth 'em all.
Yas, sir; 't is confusin' to him in some ways, goin' to all three
schools at once-t.
F' instance, Miss Alviry Sawyer, which she's a single-handed maiden lady
'bout wife's age, why, of co'se, she teaches accordin' to the old rules;
an' in learnin' the child'en subtraction, f' instance, she'll tell 'em,
ef they run short to borry one f'om the nex' lef' han' top figur', an'
pay it back to the feller underneath him.
Well, this didn't suit Sonny's sense o' jestice no way, borryin' from
one an' payin' back to somebody else; so he thess up an argued about
it--told her thet fellers thet borried nickels f'om one another couldn't
pay back that a-way; an' of co'se she told him they was heap o'
difference 'twix' money and 'rithmetic--which I wish't they was more in
my experience; an' so they had it hot and heavy for a while, till at
last she explained to him thet that way of doin' subtraction _fetched
the answer_, which, of co'se, ought to satisfy any school-boy; an' I
reckon Sonny would soon 'a' settled into that way 'ceptin' thet he got
out o' patience with that school in sev'al ways, an' he left an' went
out to Sandy Crik school, and it thess happened that he struck a
subtraction class there the day he got in, an' they was workin' it the
_other_ way--borry one from the top figur' an' never pay it back at all,
thess count it off (that's the way I 've worked my lifelong subtraction,
though wife does hers payin' back), an' of co'se Sonny was ready to
dispute this way, an' he didn't have no mo' tac' than to th'ow up Miss
Alviry's way to the teacher, which of co'se he wouldn't stand,
particular ez Miss Alviry's got the biggest school. So they broke up in
a row, immejate, and Sonny went right along to Miss Kellogg's school
down here at the cross-roads.
She's a sort o' reformed teacher, I take it; an' she gets at her
subtraction by a new route altogether--like ez ef the first feller thet
had any surplus went sort o security for them thet was short, an' passed
the loan down the line. But I noticed he never got his money back, for
when they come to him, why, they docked him. I reckon goin' security is
purty much the same in an out o' books. She passes the borryin' along
some way till it gits to headquarters, an' writes a new row o' figur's
over the heads o' the others. Well, my old brain got so addled watchin'
Sonny work it thet I didn't seem to know one figur' f'om another 'fo' he
got thoo; but when I see the answer come, why, I was satisfied. Ef a man
can thess git his answers right all his life, why nobody ain't a-goin'
to pester him about how he worked his figur's.
I did try to get Sonny to stick to one school for each rule in
'rithmetic, an' havin' thess fo' schools, why he could learn each o' the
fo' rules by one settled plan. But he wont promise nothin'. He'll quit
for lessons one week, and maybe next week somethin' else 'll decide him.
(He's quit ever' one of 'em in turn when they come to long division.)
He went thoo a whole week o' disagreeable lessons once-t at one school
'cause he was watchin' a bird-nest on the way to that school. He was
determined them young birds was to be allowed to leave that nest without
bein' pestered, an' they stayed so long they purty nigh run him into
long division 'fo' they did fly. Ef he'd 'a' missed school one day he
knowed two sneaky chaps thet would 'a' robbed that nest, either goin'
Of co'se Sonny goes to the exhibitions an' picnics of all the schools.
Last summer we had a time of it when it come picnic season. Two schools
set the same day for theirs, which of co'se wasn't no ways fair to
Sonny. He payin' right along in all the schools, of co'se he was
entitled to all the picnics; so I put on my Sunday clo'es, an' I went
down an' had it fixed right. They all wanted Sonny, too, come down to
the truth, 'cause besides bein' fond of him, they knowed thet Sonny
always fetched a big basket.
[Illustration: "He was watchin' a bird-nest on the way to that school."]
Trouble with Sonny is thet he don't take nothin' on nobody's say-so,
don't keer who it is. He even commenced to dispute Moses one Sunday when
wife was readin' the Holy Scriptures to him, tell of co'se she made him
understand thet that wouldn't do. Moses didn't intend to _be_
An' ez to secular lessons, he ain't got no espec' for 'em whatsoever.
F' instance, when the teacher learned him thet the world was round, why
he up an' told him _'t warn't so_, less'n we was on the inside an' it
was blue-lined, which of co'se teacher he insisted thet we was _on the
outside_, walkin' over it, all feet todes the center--a thing I've
always thought myself was mo' easy said than proved.
Well, sir, Sonny didn't hesitate to deny it, an' of co'se teacher he
commenced by givin' him a check--which is a bad mark--for conterdictin'.
An' then Sonny he 'lowed thet he didn't conterdic' to _be_
aconterdictin', but he _knowed't_ warn't so. He had walked the whole
len'th o' the road 'twix' the farm an' the school-house, an' they warn't
_no bulge in it_; an' besides, he hadn't never saw over the edges of it.
An' with that teacher he give him another check for speakin' out o'
turn. An' then Sonny, says he, "Ef a man was tall enough he could see
around the edges, couldn't he?" "No," says the teacher; "a man couldn't
grow that tall," says he; "he'd be deformed."
An' Sonny, why, he spoke up again, an' says he, "But I'm thess a-sayin'
_ef_," says he. "An' teacher," says he, "we ain't a-studyin' _efs_;
we're studyin' geoger'phy." And then Sonny they say he kep' still a
minute, an' then he says, says he, "Oh, maybe he couldn't see over the
edges, teacher, 'cause ef he was tall enough his head might reach up
into the flo' o' heaven." And with that teacher he give him another
check, an' told him not to dare to mix up geoger'phy an' religion, which
was a sackerlege to both studies; an' with that Sonny gethered up his
books an' set out to another school.
I think myself it 'u'd be thess ez well ef Sonny wasn't quite so quick
to conterdic'; but it's thess his way of holdin' his p'int.
Why, one day he faced one o' the teachers down thet two an' two didn't
_haf_ to make _fo_', wh'er or no.
This seemed to tickle the teacher mightily, an' so he laughed an' told
him he was goin' to give him rope enough to hang hisself now, an' then
he dared him to show him any two an' two thet didn't make fo', and Sonny
says, says he, "Heap o' two an' twos don't make four, 'cause they're
kep' sep'rate," says he.
"An' then," says he, "I don't want my two billy-goats harnessed up with
nobody else's two billys to make fo' billys."
"But," says the teacher, "suppose I _was_ to harness up yo' two goats
with Tom Deems's two, there'd be fo' goats, I reckon, whether you wanted
'em there or not."
"No they wouldn't," says Sonny. "They wouldn't be but two. 'T wouldn't
take my team more 'n half a minute to butt the life out o' Tom's team."
An' with that little Tommy Deems, why, he commenced to cry, an' 'stid o'
punishin' him for bein' sech a cry-baby, what did the teacher do but
give Sonny another check, for castin' slurs on Tommy's animals, an'
gettin' Tommy's feelin's hurted! Which I ain't a-sayin' it on account o'
Sonny bein' my boy, but it seems to me was a mighty unfair advantage.
No boy's feelin's ain't got no right to be that tender--an' a goat is
the last thing on earth thet could be injured by a word of mouth.
Sonny's pets an' beasts has made a heap o' commotion in school one way
an' another, somehow. Ef 't ain't his goats it's somethin' else.
Sir! Sonny's pets? Oh, they're all sorts. He ain't no ways partic'lar
thess so a thing is po' an' miser'ble enough. That's about all he seems
to require of anything.
He don't never go to school hardly 'thout a garter-snake or two or a
lizard or a toad-frog somewheres about him. He's got some o' the little
girls at school that nervous thet if he thess shakes his little sleeve
at 'em they'll squeal, not knowin' what sort o' live critter'll jump out
Most of his pets is things he's got by their bein' hurted some way.
One of his toad-frogs is blind of a eye. Sonny rescued him from the old
red rooster one day after he had nearly pecked him to death, an' he had
him hoppin' round the kitchen for about a week with one eye bandaged up.
When a hurted critter gits good an' strong he gen'ally turns it loose
ag'in; but ef it stays puny, why he reg'lar 'dopts it an' names it
Jones. That's thess a little notion o' his, namin' his pets the family
The most outlandish thing he ever 'dopted, to my mind, is that old
yaller cat. That was a miser'ble low-down stray cat thet hung round the
place a whole season, an' Sonny used to vow he was goin' to kill it,
'cause it kep' a-ketchin' the birds.
Well, one day he happened to see him thess runnin' off with a young
mockin'-bird in his mouth, an' he took a brickbat an' he let him have
it, an' of co'se he dropped the bird an' tumbled over--stunted. The bird
it got well, and Sonny turned him loose after a few days; but that cat
was hurted fatal. He couldn't never no mo' 'n drag hisself around from
that day to this; an' I reckon ef Sonny was called on to give up every
pet he's got, that cat would be 'bout the last thing he'd surrender. He
named him Tommy Jones, an' he never goes to school of a mornin', rain or
shine, till Tommy Jones is fed f'om his own plate with somethin' he's
left for him special.
Of co'se Sonny he's got his faults, which anybody 'll tell you; but th'
ain't a dumb brute on the farm but'll foller him around--an' the nigger
Dicey, why, she thinks they never was such another boy born into the
world--that is, not no human child.
An' wife an' me--
But of co'se he's ours.
I don't doubt thet he ain't constructed thess exac'ly ez the
school-teachers would have him, ef they had their way. Sometimes I have
thought I'd like his disposition eased up a little, myself, when he
taken a stand ag'in my jedgment or wife's.
Takin' 'em all round, though, the teachers has been mighty patient with
At one school the teacher did take him out behind the school-house one
day to whup him; an' although teacher is a big strong man, Sonny's
mighty wiry an' quick, an' some way he slipped his holt, an' fo' teacher
could ketch him ag'in he had clumb up the lightnin'-rod on to the roof
thess like a cat. An' teacher he felt purty shore of him then, 'cause he
'lowed they wasn't no other way to git down (which they wasn't, the
school bein' a steep-sided buildin'), an' he 'd wait for him.
So teacher he set down close-t to the lightnin'-rod to wait. He wouldn't
go back in school without him, cause he didn't want the child'en to know
he'd got away. So down he set; but he hadn't no mo' 'n took his seat
sca'cely when he heerd the child'en in school roa'in' out loud, laughin'
fit to kill theirselves.
He lowed at first thet like ez not the monitor was cuttin' up some sort
o' didoes, the way monitors does gen'ally, so he waited a-while; but it
kep' a-gittin' worse, so d'rectly he got up, an' he went in to see what
the excitement was about; an'lo and beholt! Sonny had slipped down the
open chimbly right in amongst 'em--come out a-grinnin', with his face
all sooted over, an', says he, "Say, fellers," says he, "I run up the
lightnin'-rod, an' he's a-waitin' for me to come down." An' with that he
went an' gethered up his books, deliberate, an'fetched his hat, an'
picked up a nest o' little chimbly-swallows he had dislodged in comin'
down (all this here it happened thess las' June), an' he went out an'
harnessed up his goat-wagon, an' got in. An' thess ez he driv' out the
school-yard into the road the teacher come in, an' he see how things
Of co'se sech conduct ez that is worrisome, but I don't see no, to say,
bad principle in it. Sonny ain't got a bad habit on earth, not a-one.
They'll ever' one o' the teachers tell you that. He ain't never been
knowed to lie, an' ez for improper language, why he wouldn't know how to
select it. An' ez to tattlin' at home about what goes on in school, why,
he never has did it. The only way we knowed about him comin' down the
school-house chimbly was wife went to fetch his dinner to him, an' she
found it out.
[Illustration: "He had been playin' out o' doors bare-feeted."]
She knowed he had went to that school in the mornin', an' when she
got there at twelve o'clock, why he wasn't there, an' of co'se she
questioned the teacher, an' he thess told her thet Sonny had been
present at the mornin' session, but thet he was now absent. An' the
rest of it she picked out o' the child'en.
Oh, no, sir; she don't take his dinner to him reg'lar--only some days
when she happens to have somethin' extry good, or maybe when she
'magines he didn't eat hearty at breakfast. The school-child'en they
always likes to see her come, because she gen'ally takes a extry lot o'
fried chicken thess for him to give away. He don't keer much for nothin'
but livers an' gizzards, so we have to kill a good many to get enough
for him; an' of co'se the fryin' o' the rest of it is mighty little
Sonny is a bothersome child one way: he don't never want to take his
dinner to school with him. Of co'se thess after eatin' breakfas' he
don't feel hungry, an' when wife does coax him to take it, he'll seem to
git up a appetite walkin' to school, an' he'll eat it up 'fo' he gits
Sonny's got a mighty noble disposition, though, take him all round.
Now, the day he slipped down that chimbly an' run away he wasn't a bit
flustered, an' he didn't play hookey the balance of the day neither. He
thess went down to the crik, an' washed the soot off his face, though
they say he didn't no more 'n smear it round, an' then he went down to
Miss Phoebe's school, an' stayed there till it was out. An' she took him
out to the well, an' washed his face good for him. But nex' day he up
an' went back to Mr. Clark's school--walked in thess ez pleasant an'
kind, an' taken his seat an' said his lessons--never th'owed it up to
teacher at all. Now, some child'en, after playin' off on a teacher that
a-way would a' took advantage, but he never. It was a fair fight, an'
Sonny whupped, an' that's all there was to it; an' he never put on no
air about it.
Wife did threaten to go herself an' make the teacher apologize for
gittin' the little feller all sooted up an' sp'iln' his clo'es; but she
thought it over, an' she decided thet she wouldn't disturb things ez
long ez they was peaceful. An', after all, he didn't exac'ly send him
down the chimbly nohow, though he provoked him to it.
Ef Sonny had 'a' fell an' hurted hisself, though, in that chimbly, I'd
'a' helt that teacher responsible, shore.
Sonny says hisself thet the only thing he feels bad about in that
chimbly business is thet one o' the little swallers' wings was broke by
the fall. Sonny's got him yet, an' he's li'ble to keep him, cause he'll
never fly. Named him Swally Jones, an' reg'lar 'dopted him soon ez he
see how his wing was.
Sonny's the only child I ever see in my life thet could take young
chimbly-swallers after their fall an' make em' live. But he does it
reg'lar. They ain't a week passes sca'cely but he fetches in some hurted
critter an' works with it. Dicey says thet half the time she's afeerd to
step around her cook-stove less'n she'll step on some critter thet's
crawled back to life where he's put it under the stove to hatch or thaw
out, which she bein' bare-feeted, I don't wonder at.
An' he has did the same way at school purty much. It got so for a-while
at one school thet not a child in school could be hired to put his hand
in the wood-box, not knowin' ef any piece o' bark or old wood in it
would turn out to be a young alligator or toad-frog thawin' out. Teacher
hisself picked up a chip, reckless, one day, an' it hopped up, and
knocked off his spectacles. Of cose it wasn't no chip. Hopper-toad frogs
an' wood-bark chips, why, they favors consider'ble--lay 'em same side
It was on account o' her takin' a interest in all his little beasts
an' varmints thet he first took sech a notion to Miss Phoebe Kellog's
school. Where any other teacher would scold about sech things ez he'd
fetch in, why, she'd encourage him to bring 'em to her; an' she'd fix
a place for 'em, an' maybe git out some book tellin' all about 'em, an'
showin' pictures of 'em.
She's had squir'l-books, an' bird-books, an' books on nearly every sort
o' wild critter you'd think too mean to _put_ into a book, at that
school, an' give the child'en readin'-lessons on 'em an' drawin'-lessons
an' clay-moldin' lessons.
Why, Sonny has did his alligator so nach'l in clay thet you'd most
expec' to see it creep away. An' you'd think mo' of alligators forever
afterward, too. An' ez to readin', he never did take no interest in
learnin' how to read out'n them school-readers, which he declares don't
no more'n git a person interested in one thing befo' they start on
another, an' maybe start _that_ in the middle.
The other teachers, they makes a heap o' fun o' Miss Phoebe's way
o' school-teachin', 'cause she lets the child'en ask all sorts of
outlandish questions, an' make pictures in school hours, an' she
don't requi' 'em to fold their arms in school, neither.
Maybe she is foolin' their time away. I can't say ez I exac'ly see how
she's a workin' it to edjercate 'em that a-way. I had to set with my
arms folded eight hours a day in school when I was a boy, to learn the
little I know, an' wife she got her edjercation the same way. An' we
went clean thoo f'om the _a-b abs_ an' _e-b ebs_ clair to the end o' the
An' we learned to purnounce a heap mo' words than either one of us has
ever needed to know, though there has been times, sech ez when my wife's
mother took the phthisic an' I had the asthma, thet I was obligated to
write to the doctor about it, thet I was thankful for my experience in
the blue-back speller. Them was our brag-words, phthisic and asthma was.
They's a few other words I've always hoped to have a chance to spell in
the reg'lar co'se of life, sech ez y-a-c-h-t, yacht, but I suppose,
livin' in a little inland town, which a yacht is a boat, a person
couldn't be expected to need sech a word--less'n he went travelin'.
I've often thought thet ef at the Jedgment the good Lord would only
examine me an' all them thet went to school in my day, in the old
blue-back speller 'stid o' tacklin' us on the weak pints of our pore
mortal lives, why, we'd stand about ez good a chance o' gettin' to
heaven ez anybody else. An' maybe He will--who knows?
But ez for book-readin', wife an' me aint never felt called on to read
no book save an' exceptin' the Holy Scriptures--an', of cose, the seed
An' here Sonny, not quite twelve year old, has read five books thoo, an'
some of 'em twice-t an' three times over. His "Robinson Crusoe" shows
mo' wear'n tear'n what my Testament does, I'm ashamed to say. I've done
give Miss Phoebe free license to buy him any book she wants him to have,
an' he's got 'em all 'ranged in a row on the end o' the mantel-shelf.
Quick ez he'd git thoo readin' a book, of co'se wife she'd be for
dustin' it off and puttin' up on the top closet shelf where a book
nach'ally belongs; but seem like Sonny he wants to keep 'em in sight.
So wife she'd worked a little lace shelf-cover to lay under 'em, an'
we've hung our framed marriage-c'tificate above 'em, an' the corner
looks right purty, come to see it fixed up.
Sir? Oh, no; we ain't took him from none o' the other schools yet. He's
been goin' to Miss Phoebe's reg'lar now--all but the exhibition an'
picnic days in the other schools--for nearly five months, not countin'
off-an'-on days he went to her befo' he settled down to it stiddy.
He says he's a-goin' there reg'lar from this time on, an' I b'lieve he
will; but wife an' me we talked it over, an' we decided we'd let things
stand, an' keep his name down on all the books till sech a time ez he
come to long division with Miss Kellog.
An' ef he stays thoo that, we'll feel free to notify the other schools
thet he's quit.
Yas, sir; this is it. This here's Sonny's diplomy thet you've heerd so
much about--sheepskin they call it, though it ain't no mo' sheepskin 'n
what I am. I've skinned too many not to know. Thess to think o' little
Sonny bein' a grad'jate--an' all by his own efforts, too! It is a
plain-lookin' picture, ez you say, to be framed up in sech a fine gilt
frame; but it's worth it, an' I don't begrudge it to him. He picked out
that red plush hisself. He's got mighty fine taste for a country-raised
child, Sonny has.
Seem like the oftener I come here an' stan' before it, the prouder I
feel, an' the mo' I can't reelize thet he done it.
I'd 'a' been proud enough to've had him go through the reg'lar co'se
o' study, an' be awarded this diplomy, but to 've seen 'im thess walk
in an' demand it, the way he done, an' to prove his right in a fair
fight--why, it tickles me so thet I thess seem to git a spell o' the
giggles ev'y time I think about it.
Sir? How did he do it? Why, I thought eve'ybody in the State of Arkansas
knowed how Sonny walked over the boa'd o' school directors, an' took a
diplomy in the face of Providence, at the last anniversary.
I don't know thet I ought to say that either, for they never was a
thing done mo' friendly an' amiable on earth, on his part, than the
takin' of this dockiment. Why, no; of co'se he wasn't goin' to that
school--cert'n'y not. Ef he had b'longed to that school, they wouldn't
'a' been no question about it. He 'd 'a' thess gradj'ated with the
others. An' when he went there with his ma an' me, why, he'll tell you
hisself that he hadn't no mo' idee of gradj'atin' 'n what I have this
An' when he riz up in his seat, an' announced his intention, why, you
could 'a' knocked me down with a feather. You see, it took me so sudden,
an' I didn't see thess how he was goin' to work it, never havin' been to
Of co'se eve'ybody in the county goes to the gradj'atin', an' we was all
three settin' there watchin' the performances, not thinkin' of any
special excitement, when Sonny took this idee.
It seems thet seein' all the other boys gradj'ate put him in the notion,
an' he felt like ez ef he ought to be a-gradj'atin', too.
You see, he had went to school mo' or less with all them fellers, an'
he knowed thet they didn't, none o' 'em, know half ez much ez what he
did,--though, to tell the truth, he ain't never said sech a word, not
even to her or me,--an', seein' how easy they was bein' turned out, why,
he thess reelized his own rights--an' demanded 'em then an' there.
Of co'se we know thet they is folks in this here community thet says
thet he ain't got no right to this dipiomy; but what else could you
expect in a jealous neighborhood where eve'ybody is mo' or less kin?
The way I look at it, they never was a diplomy earned quite so upright
ez this on earth--never. Ef it wasn't, why, I wouldn't allow him to have
it, no matter how much pride I would 'a' took, an' do take, in it. But
for a boy o' Sonny's age to've had the courage to face all them people,
an' ask to be examined then an' there, an' to come out ahead, the way he
done, why, it does me proud, that it does.
You see, for a boy to set there seein' all them know-nothin' boys
gradj'ate, one after another, offhand, the way they was doin', was
mighty provokin', an' when Sonny is struck with a sense of injestice,
why, he ain't never been known to bear it in silence. He taken that from
_her_ side o' the house.
I noticed, ez he set there that day, thet he begin to look toler'ble
solemn, for a festival, but it never crossed my mind what he was
a-projeckin' to do. Ef I had 'a' suspicioned it, I'm afeered I would've
opposed it, I'd 'a' been so skeert he wouldn't come out all right; an'
ez I said, I didn't see, for the life o' me, how he was goin' to work
That is the only school in the county thet he ain't never went to,
'cause it was started after he had settled down to Miss Phoebe's school.
He wouldn't hardly 'v went to it, nohow, though--less'n, of co'se, he 'd
'a' took a notion. Th' ain't no 'casion to send him to a county school
when he's the only one we've got to edjercate. They ain't been a thing
I've enjoyed ez much in my life ez my sackerfices on account o' Sonny's
edjercation--not a one. Th' ain't a patch on any ol' coat I've got but
seems to me to stand for some advantage to him.
Well, sir, it was thess like I'm a-tellin' you. He set still ez long ez
he could, an' then he riz an' spoke. Says he, "I have decided thet I'd
like to do a little gradj'atin' this evenin' myself," thess that a-way.
An' when he spoke them words, for about a minute you could 'a' heerd a
pin drop; an' then eve'ybody begin a-screechin' with laughter. A person
would think thet they'd 'a' had some consideration for a child standin'
up in the midst o' sech a getherin', tryin' to take his own part; but
they didn't. They thess laughed immod'rate. But they didn't faze him.
He had took his station on the flo', an' he helt his ground.
Thess ez soon ez he could git a heerin', why, he says, says he: "I don't
want anybody to think thet I'm a-tryin' to take any advantage. I don't
expec' to gradj'ate without passin' my examination. An', mo' 'n that,"
says he, "I am ready to pass it now." An' then he went on to explain
thet he would like to have anybody present _thet was competent to do it_
to step forward an' examine him--then an' there. An' he said thet ef he
was examined fair and square, to the satisfaction of eve'ybody--_an'
didn't pass_--why, he 'd give up the p'int. An' he wanted to be examined
oral--in eve'ybody's hearin'--free-handed an' outspoke.
[Illustration: "Any question he missed was to be passed on to them thet
had been grad'jatin' so fast."]
Well, sir, seem like folks begin to see a little fun ahead in lettin'
him try it--which I don't see thess how they could 'a' hindered him,
an' it a free school, an' me a taxpayer. But they all seemed to be in a
pretty good humor by this time, an' when Sonny put it to vote, why, they
voted unanymous to let him try it. An' all o' them unanymous votes
wasn't, to say, friendly, neither. Heap o' them thet was loudest in
their unanimosity was hopefully expectin' to see him whipped out at the
first question. Tell the truth, I mo' 'n half feared to see it myself.
I was that skeert I was fairly all of a trimble.
Well, when they had done votin', Sonny, after first thankin' 'em,--which
I think was a mighty polite thing to do, an' they full o' the giggles at
his little expense that minute,--why, he went on to say thet he requie'd
'em to make _thess one condition_, an' that was thet any question he
missed was to be passed on to them thet had been a-gradj'atin' so fast,
an' ef they missed it, it wasn't to be counted ag'inst him.
Well, when he come out with that, which, to my mind, couldn't be beat
for fairness, why, some o' the mothers they commenced to look purty
serious, an' seem like ez ef they didn't find it quite so funny ez it
had been. You see, they _say_ thet them boys had eve'y one had reg'lar
questions give' out to 'em, an' eve'y last one had studied his own word;
an' ef they was to be questioned hit an' miss, why they wouldn't 'a'
stood no chance on earth.
Of co'se they couldn't give Sonny the same questions thet had _been_
give' out, because he had heerd the answers, an' it wouldn't 'a' been
fair. So Sonny he told 'em to thess set down, an' make out a list of
questions thet they'd all agree was about of a' equal hardness to them
thet had been ast, an' was of thess the kind of learnin' thet all the
reg'lar gradj'ates's minds was sto'ed with, an' thet either he knowed
'em or he didn't--one.
It don't seem so excitin', somehow, when I tell about it now; but I tell
you for about a minute or so, whilst they was waitin' to see who would
undertake the job of examinin' him, why, it seemed thet eve'y minute
would be the next, ez my ol' daddy used to say. The only person present
thet seemed to take things anyway ca'm was Miss Phoebe Kellog, Sonny's
teacher. She has been teachin' him reg'lar for over two years now, an'
ef she had 'a' had a right to give diplomies, why, Sonny would 'a' thess
took out one from her; but she ain't got no license to gradj'ate nobody.
But she knowed what Sonny knowed, an' she knowed thet ef he had a fair
show, he'd come thoo creditable to all hands. She loves Sonny thess
about ez much ez we do, I believe, take it all round. Th' ain't never
been but one time in these two years thet she has, to say, got me out o'
temper, an' that was the day she said to me thet her sure belief was
thet Sonny was goin' to _make somethin' out'n hisself some day_--like ez
ef he hadn't already made mo' 'n could be expected of a boy of his age.
Tell the truth, I never in my life come so near sayin' somethin' I'd 'a'
been shore to regret ez I did on that occasion. But of co'se I know she
didn't mean it. All she meant was thet he would turn out even mo' 'n
what he was now, which would be on'y nachel, with his growth.
Everybody knows thet it was her that got him started with his
collections an' his libr'y. Oh, yes; he's got the best libr'y in the
county, 'cep'n', of co'se, the doctor's 'n' the preacher's--everybody
round about here knows about that. He's got about a hund'ed books an'
over. Well, sir, when he made that remark, thet any question thet he
missed was to be give to the class, why, the whole atmosp'ere took on a
change o' temp'ature. Even the teacher was for backin' out o' the whole
business square; but he didn't thess seem to dare to say so. You see,
after him a-favorin' it, it would 'a' been a dead give-away.
Eve'ybody there had saw him step over an' whisper to Brother Binney when
it was decided to give Sonny a chance, an' they knowed thet he had asked
_him_ to examine him. But now, instid o' callin' on Brother Binney, why,
he thess said, says he: "I suppose I ought not to shirk this duty. Ef
it's to be did," says he, "I reckon I ought to do it--an' do it I will."
You see, he daresn't allow Brother Binney to put questions, for fear
he'd call out some thet his smarty grad'jates couldn't answer.
So he thess claired his th'oat, an' set down a minute to consider. An'
then he riz from his seat, an' remarked, with a heap o' _hems_ and
_haws_, thet of co'se everybody knowed thet Sonny Jones had had unusual
advantages in some respec's, but thet it was one thing for a boy to
spend his time a-picnickin' in the woods, getherin' all sorts of natural
curiosities, but it was quite another to be a scholar accordin' to
books, so's to be able to pass sech a' examination ez would be a credit
to a State institution o' learnin', sech ez the one over which he was
proud to preside. That word struck me partic'lar, "proud to preside,"
which, in all this, of co'se, I see he was castin' a slur on Sonny's
collections of birds' eggs, an' his wild flowers, an' wood specimens,
an' min'rals. He even went so far ez to say thet ol' Proph', the
half-crazy nigger thet tells fortunes, an' gethers herbs out 'n the
woods, an' talks to hisself, likely knew more about a good many things
than anybody present, but thet, bein' ez he didn't know _b_ from a
bull's foot, why, it wouldn't hardly do to grad'jate him--not castin' no
slurs on Master Sonny Jones, nor makin' no invijus comparisons, of
Well, sir, there was some folks there thet seemed to think this sort o'
talk was mighty funny an' smart. Some o' the mothers acchilly giggled
over it out loud, they was so mightily tickled. But Sonny he thess stood
his ground an' waited. Most any boy o' his age would 'a' got flustered,
but he didn't. He thess glanced around unconcerned at all the people
a-settin' around him, thess like ez ef they might 'a' been askin' him to
a picnic instid o' him provokin' a whole school committee to wrath.
Well, sir, it took that school-teacher about a half-hour to pick out the
first question, an' he didn't pick it out _then_. He 'd stop, an' he'd
look at the book, an' then he'd look at Sonny, an' then he'd look at the
class,--an' then he'd turn a page, like ez ef he couldn't make up his
mind, an' was afeerd to resk it, less'n it might be missed, an' be
referred back to the class. I never did see a man so overwrought
over a little thing in my life--never. They do say, though, that
school-teachers feels mighty bad when their scholars misses any p'int
Well, sir, he took so long that d'reckly everybody begin to git wo'e
out, an' at last Sonny, why, he got tired, too, an' he up an' says, says
he, "Ef you can't make up your mind what to ask me, teacher, why 'n't
you let me ask myself questions? An' ef my questions seem too easy, why,
I'll put 'em to the class."
An', sir, with that he thess turns round, an' he says, says he, "Sonny
Jones," says he, addressin' hisself, "what's the cause of total eclipses
of the sun?" Thess that a-way he said it; an' then he turned around, an'
he says, says he:
"Is that a hard enough question?"
"Very good," says teacher.
An', with that, Sonny he up an' picks up a' orange an' a' apple off the
teacher's desk, an' says he, "This orange is the earth, an' this here
apple is the sun." An', with that, he explained all they is to total
eclipses. I can't begin to tell you thess how he expressed it, because I
ain't highly edjercated myself, an' I don't know the specifactions. But
when he had got thoo, he turned to the teacher, an' says he, "Is they
anything else thet you'd like to know about total eclipses?" An' teacher
says, says he, "Oh, no; not at all."
They do say thet them graduates hadn't never went so far _ez_ total
eclipses, an' teacher wouldn't 'a' had the subject mentioned to 'em for
nothin'; but I don't say that's so.
Well, then, Sonny he turned around, an' looked at the company, an' he
says, "Is everybody satisfied?" An' all the mothers an' fathers nodded
their heads "yes."
An' then he waited thess a minute, an' he says, says he, "Well, now I'll
put the next question:
"Sonny Jones," says he, "what is the difference between dew an' rain an'
fog an' hail an' sleet an' snow!
"Is that a hard enough question?"
[Illustration: "'This orange is the earth, an' this here apple is the
Well, from that he started in, an' he didn't stop tell he had expounded
about every kind of dampness that ever descended from heaven or rose
from the earth. An' after that, why, he went on a-givin' out one
question after another, an' answerin 'em, tell everybody had declared
theirselves entirely satisfied that he was fully equipped to
gradj'ate--an', tell the truth, I don't doubt thet a heap of 'em felt
their minds considerably relieved to have it safe-t over with without
puttin' their grad'jates to shame, when what does he do but say, "Well,
ef you're satisfied, why, I am--an' yet," says he, "I think I would like
to ask myself one or two hard questions more, thess to make shore." An'
befo' anybody could stop him, he had said:
"Sonny Jones, what is the reason thet a bird has feathers and a dog has
hair?" An' then he turned around deliberate, an' answered: "I don't
know. Teacher, please put that question to the class."
Teacher had kep' his temper purty well up to this time, but I see he was
mad now, an' he riz from his chair, an' says he: "This examination has
been declared finished, an' I think we have spent ez much time on it ez
we can spare." An' all the mothers they nodded their heads, an' started
An' at that, Sonny, why, he thess set down as modest an' peaceable ez
anything; but ez he was settin' he remarked that he was in hopes thet
some o' the reg'lars would 'a' took time to answer a few questions thet
had bothered his mind f'om time to time--an' of c'ose they must know;
which, to my mind, was the modes'est remark a boy ever did make.
Well, sir, that's the way this diplomy was earned--by a good, hard
struggle, in open daylight, by unanymous vote of all concerned--an'
unconcerned, for that matter. An' my opinion is thet if they are those
who have any private opinions about it, an' they didn't express 'em that
day, why they ain't got no right to do it underhanded, ez I am sorry to
say has been done.
But it's _his_ diplomy, an' it's handsomer fixed up than any in town,
an' I doubt ef they ever was one _anywhere_ thet was took more paternal
Wife she ain't got so yet thet she can look at it without sort o'
cryin'--thess the look of it seems to bring back the figure o' the
little feller, ez he helt his ground, single-handed, at that gradj'atin'
Well, sir, we was so pleased to have him turned out a full gradj'ate
thet, after it was all over, why, I riz up then and there, though I
couldn't hardly speak for the lump in my th'oat, an' I said thet I
wanted to announce thet Sonny was goin' to have a gradj'atin' party out
at our farm that day week, an' thet the present company was all invited.
An' he did have it, too; an' they all come, every mother's son of
'em--from _a_ to _izzard_--even to them that has expressed secret
dissatisfactions; which they was all welcome, though it does seem to me
thet, ef I 'd been in their places, I'd 'a' hardly had the face to come
an' talk, too.
I'm this kind of a disposition myself: ef I was ever to go to any kind
of a collation thet I expressed disapproval of, why, the supper couldn't
be good enough not to choke me.
An' Sonny, why, he's constructed on the same plan. We ain't never told
him of any o' the remarks thet has been passed. They might git his
little feelin's hurted, an' 't wouldn't do no good, though some few has
been made to his face by one or two smarty, ill-raised boys.
Well, sir, we give 'em a fine party, ef I do say it myself, an' they
all had a good time. Wife she whipped up eggs an' sugar for a week
befo'hand, an' we set the table out under the mulberries. It took
eleven little niggers to wait on 'em, not countin' them thet worked
the fly-fans. An' Sonny he ast the blessin'.
Then, after they'd all et, Sonny he had a' exhibition of his little
specimens. He showed 'em his bird eggs, an' his wood samples, an' his
stamp album, an' his scroll-sawed things, an' his clay-moldin's, an' all
his little menagerie of animals an' things. I rather think everybody was
struck when they found thet Sonny knowed the botanical names of every
one of the animals he's ever tamed, an' every bird. Miss Phoebe, she
didn't come to the front much. She stayed along with wife, an' helped
'tend to the company, but I could see she looked on with pride; an' I
don't want nothin' said about it, but the boa'd of school directors was
so took with the things she had taught Sonny thet, when the evenin' was
over, they ast her to accept a situation in the academy next year, an'
she's goin' to take it.
An' she says thet ef Sonny will take a private co'se of instruction in
nachel sciences, an' go to a few lectures, why, th' ain't nobody on
earth that she 'd ruther see come into that academy ez teacher,--that
is, of co'se, in time. But I doubt ef he'd ever keer for it.
I've always thought thet school-teachin', to be a success, has to run in
families, same ez anythin' else--yet, th' ain't no tellin'.
I don't keer what he settles on when he's grown; I expect to take pride
in _the way he'll do it_--an' that's the principal thing, after all.
It's the "Well done" we're all a-hopin' to hear at the last day; an' the
po' laborer thet digs a good ditch'll have thess ez good a chance to
hear it ez the man that owns the farm.
SONNY "KEEPIN' COMPANY"
Hello, doc'; come in! Don't ask me to shake hands, though; 't least, not
tell I can drop this 'ere piece o' ribbin.
I never reelized how much shenanigan it took to tie a bow o' ribbin tell
I started experimentin' with this here buggy-whup o' Sonny's.
An' he wants it tied _thess so_. He's a reg'lar Miss Nancy, come to
All the boys, nowadays, they seem to think thet ez soon ez they
commence to keep company, they must have ribbin bows tied on their
buggy-whups--an' I reckon it's in accordance, ef anything is. I thess
called you in to look at his new buggy, doctor. You've had your first
innin's, ez the base-ball fellers says, at all o' his various an' sundry
celebrations, from his first appearance to his gradj'atin', and I'll
call your attention to a thing I wouldn't mention to a' outsider.
Sence he taken a notion to take the girls out a-ridin', why, I intend
for him to do it in proper style; an' I went an' selected this buggy
It is sort o' fancy, maybe, for the country, but I knew he'd like it
fancy--at his age. I got it good an' high, so's it could straddle stumps
good. They's so many tree-stumps in our woods, an' I know Sonny ain't
a-goin' to drive nowhere _but_ in the woods so long ez they's a livin'
thin' to scurry away at his approach, or a flower left in bloom, or a
last year's bird's nest to gether. An' the little Sweetheart, why, she's
got so thet she's ez anxious to fetch home things to study over ez he
Yas; I think it is, ez you say, a fus'-class little buggy.
Sonny ain't never did nothin' half-ways,--not even mischief,--an'
I ain't a-goin' in, at this stage o' his raisin', to stint him.
List'n at me sayin' "raisin'" ag'in, after all Miss Phoebe has preached
to me about it! She claims thet folks has to be fetched up,--or "brung
up" I believe she calls it,--an' I don't doubt she knows.
She allows thet pigs is raised, an' potaters, an' even chickens; an' she
said, one day, thet ef I insisted on "raisin'" child'en, she'd _raise a
row_. She's a quick hand to turn a joke, Miss Phoebe is.
Nobody thet ever lived in Simpkinsville would claim thet rows couldn't
be raised, I'm shore, after all the fuss thet's been made over puttin'
daytime candles in our 'piscopal church. Funny how folks'll fuss about
sech a little thing when, ef they'd stop to think, they's so many mo'
important subjec's thet they could git up diffe'nces of opinion on.
I didn't see no partic'lar use in lightin' the candles myself, bein' ez
we didn't need 'em to see by, an' shorely the good Lord thet can speak
out a sun any time he needs a extry taper couldn't be said to take no
pleasure in a Simpkinsville home-dipped candle. But the way I look at
it, seem like ef some wants em, why not?
Th' ain't nothin' mo' innercent than a lighted candle,--kep' away up on
the wall out o' the draft, the way they are in church,--an' so, when it
come to votin' on it, why, I count peace an' good-will so far ahead o'
taller thet I voted thet I was good for ez many candles ez any other man
would give. An' quick ez I said them words, why, Enoch Johnson up an'
doubled his number. It tickled me to see him do it, too.
Enoch hates me thess because he's got a stupid boy--like ez ef that was
any o' my fault. His Sam failed to pass at the preliminar' examination,
an' wasn't allowed to try for a diplomy in public; an' Enoch an' his
wife, why, they seem to hold it ag'in' me thet Sonny could step in at
the last moment an' take what their boy could n't git th'oo the trials
an' tribulations of a whole year o' bein' teached lessons at home an'
wrestled in prayer over.
I ain't got a thing ag'in' Enoch, not a thing--not even for makin' me
double my number o' candles. Mo' 'n that, I'd brighten up Sam's mind for
'im in a minute, ef I could.
I never was jealous-hearted. An' neither is Sonny.
He sent Sam a special invite to his gradj'atin' party, an' give him a
seat next to hisself so's he could say "Amen" to his blessin', thess
because he had missed gittin' his diplomy. Everybody there knowed why
he done it.
But talkin' about Sonny being "raised," I told Miss Phoebe thet we'd
_haf_ to stop sayin' it about _him_, right or wrong, ez a person can't
raise nothin' higher 'n what he is hisself, an Sonny's taller 'n either
wife or me, an' he ain't but sixteen. Ef we raised 'im partly, we must
'a' sent 'im up the rest o' the way. It's a pleasure to pass a little
joke with Miss Phoebe; she's got sech a good ear to ketch their p'ints.
But, come to growin', Sonny never asked nobody no odds. He thess stayed
stock-still ez long ez he found pleasure in bein' a little runt, an'
then he humped hisself an' shot up same ez a sparrer-grass stalk. It
gives me pleasure to look up to him the way I haf to.
Fact is, he always did require me to look _up_ to 'im, even when I
looked _down_ at 'im.
Yas, sir; ez I said, Sonny has commenced keepin'
company,--outspoke,--an' I can't say thet I'm opposed to it, though some
would say he was a little young, maybe. I know when I was his age I had
been in love sev'al times. Of co'se these first little puppy-dog loves,
why, th' ain't no partic'lar harm in 'em--less'n they're opposed.
An' we don't lay out to oppose Sonny--not in nothin' thet he'll
attemp'--after him bein' raised an' guided up to this age.
There goes that word "raisin'" agi'n.
He's been in love with his teacher, Miss Phoebe, most three years--an'
'cep'n' thet I had a sim'lar experience when I was sca'cely out o' the
cradle, why, I might 'a' took it mo' serious.
That sort o' fallin' in love, why, it comes same ez the measles or
the two-year-old teeth, an' th' ain't nothin' sweeter ef it's took
It's mighty hard, though, for parents, thet knows thess how recent a
child is, to reconcile the facts o' the case with sech things ez him
takin' notice to the color o' ribbin on a middle-aged school-teacher's
hair--an' it sprinkled with gray.
Sonny was worse plegged than most boys, because, havin' two lady
teachers at that time, it took him sort o' duplicated like.
I suppose ef he'd had another, he'd 'a' been equally distributed on
The way I look at it, a sensible, serious-minded woman thet starts out
to teach school--which little fellers they ain't got no sense on earth,
nohow--ain't got no business with ribbin-bows an' ways an' moles on
their cheek-bones. An' ef they've got knuckles, they ought to be like
wife's or mine, pointed outward for useful service, instid o' bein'
turned inside out to attract a young child's admiration--not thet I hold
it against Miss Phoebe thet her knuckles is reversed. Of co'se she can't
be very strong-fingered. No finger could git much purchase on a dimple.
'T ain't none of her fault, I know. But Sonny has seen the day thet seem
like he couldn't talk about another thing but her an' her dimpled
knuckles--them an' that little brown mole thet sets out on the aidge of
I think myself thet that mole looks right well, for a blemish, which
wife says it is, worst kind. But of co'se a child couldn't be expected
to know that. It did seem a redic'lous part o' speech the first time he
mentioned sech a thing to his mother, but a boy o' twelve couldn't be
expected to know the difference between a mountain an' a mole-hill.
I ricollec' he used to talk in his sleep consider'ble when he was a
little chap, an' it always fretted wife turrible. She'd git up out o'
bed thess ez soon ez he'd begin to hold fo'th, an' taller him over.
Whenever she didn't seem to know what else to do, why, she'd taller him;
an' I don't reckon there's anything less injurious to a child, asleep or
awake, _than_ taller.
She's tallored him for his long division, an' she's tallered him for
that blemish on Miss Phoebe's cheek, an' she's tallered him for clairin'
of his th'oat. His other lady teacher, Miss Alviry Sawyer, she was a
single-handed maiden lady long'bout wife's age, an' she didn't have a
feature on earth thet a friend would seem to have a right to mention,
she not bein' to blame; but she had a way o' clairin' her th'oat, sort
o' polite, befo' she'd open her mouth to speak. Sonny, he seemed to
think it was mighty graceful the way she done it, an' he's often
imitated it in his little sleep--nights when he'd eat hot waffles for
An' wife she'd always jump up an' git the mutton taller. I never took it
serious myself, 'cause I know how a triflin' thing 'll sometimes turn a
level-headed little chap into a drizzlin' ejiot. I been there myself.
But th' ain't no danger in it, not less'n he's made a laughin'-stalk
of--which is cruelty to animals, an' shouldn't be allowed.
I know when I went to school up here at Sandy Cri'k, forty year ago, I
was teached by a certain single lady that has subsequently died a nachel
death of old age an' virtuous works, an' in them days she wo'e a knitted
collar, an' long curls both sides of her face; an' I've seen many a
night, after the candle was out, thet she'd appear befo' me. She'd seem
to come an' hang over my bed-canopy same ez a chandelier, with them side
curls all a-jinglin' like cut-glass dangles. It's true, she used mostly
to appear with a long peach-switch in her hand, but that was nachel
enough, that bein' the way she most gen'ally approached me in life.
But of co'se I come th'oo without taller. My mother had thirteen of us,
an' ef she'd started anointin' us for all our little side-curled
nightmares, she'd 'a' had to go to goose raisin'.
You see, in them days they used goose grease.
I never to say admired that side-curled lady much, though she's made
some lastin' impressions on me. Why, I could set down now, an' make a
drawin' of that knitted collar she used to wear, an' it over forty year
ago. I ricollec' she was cross-eyed, too, in the eye todes the foot o'
the class, where I'd occasionally set; an', tell the truth, it was the
strongest reason for study thet I had--thess to get on to the side of
her certain eye. Th' ain't anything much mo' tantalizin' to a person
than uncertainty in sech matters.
She was mighty plain, an' yet some o' the boys seemed to see beauty in
her. I know my brother Bob, he confided to mother once-t thet he thought
she looked thess precizely like the Queen o' Sheba must'a' looked, an'
I ricollec' thet he cried bitter because mother told it out on him at
the dinner-table. It was turrible cruel, but she didn't reelize.
I reckon, ef the truth was known, most of us nine has seen them side
curls in our sleep. An' nobody but God an' his angels will ever
know how many of us passed th'oo the valley o' the shadder o' that
singular-appearin' lady, or how often we notified the other eight of the
fact, unbeknowinst to his audience, while they was distributed in their
I sometimes wonder ef they ain't no account took of little child'en's
trials. Seems to me they ought to be a little heavenly book kep'
a-purpose; an' 't wouldn't do no harm ef earthly fathers an' mothers
was occasionally allowed to look over it.
My brother Bob, him thet likened Miss Alviry to the Queen o' Sheba,
always was a sensitive-minded child, an' we all knowed it, too; and yet,
we never called him a thing for months after that but Solomon. We ought
to've been whupped good for it.
Bob ain't never married, an' for a bachelor person of singular habits,
he's kep' ez warm a heart ez ever I see.
I've often deplo'ed him not marryin'. In fact, sense I see what comfort
is to be took in a child, why, I deplo' all the singular numbers--though
the Lord couldn't be expected to have a supply on hand thess like Sonny
to distribute 'round on demand.
But I doubt ef parents knows the difference.
I've noticed thet when they can't take pleasure in extry smartness in a
child, why, they make it up in tracin' resemblances. I suppose they's
parental comfort to be took to in all kinds o' babies. I know I've seen
some dull-eyed ones thet seemed like ez ef they wasn't nothin' for 'em
to do _but_ resemble.
But talkin' about Sonny a-fallin' in love with his teachers, why, they
was a time here when he wanted to give away every thing in the house to
first one an' then the other. The first we noticed of it was him tellin'
us how nice Miss Alviry thought his livers and gizzards was. Now,
everybody knows thet they ain't been a chicken thet has died for our
nourishment sence Sonny has cut his eye-teeth but has give up its vitals
to him, an' give 'em willin'ly, they bein' the parts of his choice; an'
it was discouragin', after killin' a useless number o' chickens to git
enough to pack his little lunch-bucket, to have her eat 'em up--an' she
forty year old ef she's a day, an' he not got his growth yet. An' yet, a
chicken liver is thess one o' them little things thet a person couldn't
hardly th'ow up to a school-teacher 'thout seemin' small-minded.
I never did make no open objection to him givin' away anything to his
teachers tell the time he taken a notion to give Miss Phoebe the plush
album out o' the parlor. We was buyin' it on instalments at twenty-five
cents a week, and it wasn't fully installed at the time, an' I told him
it wouldn't never do to give away what wasn't ours.
When it comes to principle, why, I always take a stand. I thought likely
by the time it was ours in full he'd've recovered from his attackt, an'
be willin' for his ma to keep it; an' he was.
An' besides, sence his pet squir'l has done chawed the plush clean off
one corner of it, he says he wouldn't part with it for nothin'. Of co'se
a beast couldn't be expected to reelize the importance o' plush. An'
that's what seems to tickle Sonny so.
We had bought it chiefly on his account, so ez to git 'im accustomed to
seein' handsome things around, so thet when he goes out into the world
he won't need to be flustered by finery.
Wife she's been layin' by egg money all spring to buy a swingin',
silver-plated ice-pitcher, so he'll feel at home with sech things, an'
capable of walkin' up to one an' tiltin' it unconcerned, which is more'n
I can do _to this day_. I always feel like ez ef I ought to go home an'
put on my Sunday clo'es befo' I can approach one of 'em.
Sech ez that has to be worked into a person's constitution in youth.
The motions of a gourd-dipper, kep' in constant practice for years,
is mighty hard to reverse.
How does that look now, doctor? Yas; I think so, too. It's tied in a
right good bow for a ten-thumbed man, which I shorely am, come to
He chose blue because she's got blue eyes--pore little human! Sir? _Who
is she_, you say? Why, don't you know? She's Joe Wallace's little Mary
Elizabeth--a nice, well-mannered child ez ever lived.
[Illustration: "What could be sweeter 'n little Mary Elizabeth?"]
Wife has had her over here to supper sev'al nights lately, an' Sonny
he's took tea over to the Wallaces' once-t or twice-t, an' they say he
shows mighty good table manners, passin' things polite, an' leavin'
proper amounts on his plate. His mother has always teached him keerful.
It's good practice for 'em both. Of co'se Mary Elizabeth she's a year
older 'n what Sonny is, an' she's thess gittin' a little experience out
o' him--though she ain't no ways conscious of it,--an' he 'll gain a
good deal o' courage th'oo keepin' company with a ladylike girl like
Mary Elizabeth. That's the way it goes, an' I think th' ain't nothin'
mo' innercent or sweet.
How'd you say that, doctor? S'posin' it wasn't to turn out that-a-way?
Well, bless yo' heart, ef it was to work out in _all seriousness, what
could be sweeter 'n little Mary Elizabeth_? Sonny ain't got it in his
power to displease us, don't keer what he was to take a notion to,
less'n, of co'se, it was wrong, which it ain't in him to do--not
You know, Sonny has about decided to take a trip north, doctor--to New
York State. Sir? Oh, no; he ain't goin' to take the co'se o' lectures
thet Miss Phoebe has urged him to take--'t least, that ain't his
No; he sez thet he don't crave to fit his-self to teach. He sez he feels
like ez ef it would smother him to teach school in a house all day. He
taken that after me.
No; he's goin a-visitin'. Oh, no, sir; we ain't got no New York kin.
He's a-goin' all the way to that strange an' distant State to call on a
man thet he ain't never see, nor any of his family. He's a gentle man by
the name o' Burroughs--John Burroughs. He's a book-writer. The first
book thet Sonny set up nights to read was one o' his'n--all about dumb
creatures an' birds. Sonny acchilly wo'e that book out a-readin' it.
Yas, sir; Sonny says thet ef he could thess take one long stroll th'oo
the woods with him, he'd be willin' to walk to New York State if
necessary. An' we're a-goin' to let 'im go. The purtiest part about it
is thet this here great book-writer has invited him to pay him a visit.
Think o' that, will you? Think of a man thet could think up a whole row
o' books a-takin' sech a' int'res' in our plain little Arkansas Sonny.
But he done it; an' 'mo' 'n that, he remarked in the letter thet it
would give him great pleasure to meet the boy thet had so many mutual
friends in common with him, or some sech remark. Of co'se, in this he
referred to dumb brutes, an' even trees, so Sonny says. Oh, cert'n'y;
Sonny writ him first. How would he've knew about Sonny? Miss Phoebe she
encouraged him to write the letter, but it was Sonny's first idee. An'
the answer, why, he's got it framed an' hung up above his bookshelves
between our marriage c'tif'cate an' his diplomy.
He's done sent Sonny his picture, too. He's took a-settin' up in a'
apple-tree. You can tell from a little thing like that thet a person
ain't no dude, an' I like that. We 've put that picture in the front
page of the plush album, an' moved the bishop back one page.
Sonny has sent him a photograph of all our family took together, an'
likely enough he'll have it framed time Sonny arrives there.
When he goes, little Mary Elizabeth, why, she's offered to take keer of
all his harmless live things till he comes back, an' I s'pose they'll be
letters a-passin' back and fo'th. It does seem so funny, when I think
about it. 'Pears like thess the other day thet Mis' Wallace fetched
little Mary Elizabeth over to look at Sonny, an' he on'y three days old.
I ricollec' when she seen 'im she took her little one-year-old finger
an' teched 'im on the forehead, an' she says, says she, "Howdy?"--thess
that-a-way. I remember we all thought it was so smart. Seemed like ez ef
she reelized thet he had thess arrived--an' she had thess learned to say
"Howdy," an' she up an' says it.
An' she's ap' at speech yet, so Sonny says. She don't say much when wife
or I are around, which I think is showin' only right an' proper
Th' ain't nothin' purtier, to my mind, than for a young girl to set up
at table with her elders, an' to 'tend strictly to business. Mary
Elizabeth'll set th'oo a whole meal, an' sca'cely look up from her
plate. I never did see a little girl do it mo' modest.
Of co'se, Sonny, he bein' at home, an' she bein' his company, why, he
talks constant, an' she'll glance up at him sort o' sideways occasional.
Wife an' me, we find it ez much ez we can do, sometimes, to hold in; we
feel so tickled over their cunnin' little ways together. To see Sonny
politely take her cup o' tea an' po' it out in her saucer to cool for
her so nice, why, it takes all the dignity we can put on to cover our
amusement over it. You see, they've only lately teethed together, them
I reckon the thing sort o' got started last summer. I know he give her a
flyin' squir'l, an' she embroidered him a hat-band. I suspicioned then
what was comin', an' I advised wife to make up a few white-bosomed
shirts for him, an' she didn't git 'em done none too soon. 'Twasn't no
time befo' he called for 'em.
A while back befo' that I taken notice thet he 'd put a few idees down
on sheets o' paper for her to write her compositions by. Of co'se, he
wouldn't _write_ 'em. He's too honest. He'd thess sugges' idees
She's got words, so he says, an' so she'd write out mighty nice
compositions by his hints. I taken notice thet in this world it's often
that-a-way; one'll have idees, an' another'll have words. They ain't
always bestowed together. When they are, why, then, I reckon, them are
the book-writers. Sonny he's got purty consider'ble o' both for his age,
but, of co'se, he wouldn't never aspire to put nothin' he could think up
into no printed book, I don't reckon; though he's got three blank books
filled with the routine of "out-door housekeeping," ez he calls it, the
way it's kep' by varmints an' things out o' doors under loose tree-barks
an' in all sorts of outlandish places. I did only last week find a piece
o' paper with a po'try verse on it in his hand-write on his little
table. I suspicioned thet it was his composin', because the name "Mary
Elizabeth" occurred in two places in it, though, of co'se, they's other
Mary Elizabeths. He's a goin' to fetch that housekeepin' book up north
with him, an' my opinion is thet he's a-projec'ing to show it to Mr.
Burroughs. But likely he won't have the courage.
Yas; take it all together, I'm glad them two child'en has took the
notion. It'll be a good thing for him whilst he's throwed in with all
sorts o' travelin' folks goin' an' comin' to reelize thet he's got a
little sweetheart at home, an' thet she's bein' loved an' cherished by
his father an' mother du'in' his absence.
Even after they've gone their sep'rate ways, ez they most likely will in
time, it'll be a pleasure to 'em to look back to the time when they was
I know I had a number, off an' on, when I was a youngster, an' they're
every one hung up--in my mind, of co'se--in little gilt frames, each one
to herself. An' sometimes, when I think 'em over, I imagine thet they's
sweet, bunches of wild vi'lets a-settin' under every one of 'em--all
'cep'n' one, an' I always seem to see pinks under hers.
An' she's a grandmother now. Funny to think it all over, ain't it?
At this present time she's a tall, thin ol' lady thet fans with a
turkey-tail, an' sets up with the sick. But the way she hangs in her
little frame in my mind, she's a chunky little thing with fat ankles an'
wrisses, an' her two cheeks they hang out of her pink caliker sunbonnet
thess like a pair o' ripe plumgranates.
She was the pinkest little sweetheart thet a pink-lovin' school-boy ever
picked out of a class of thirty-five, I reckon.
Seemed to me everything about her was fat an' chubby, thess like
herself. Ricollec', one day, she dropped her satchel, an' out rolled the
fattest little dictionary I ever see, an' when I see it, seem like she
couldn't nachelly be expected to tote no other kind. I used to take
pleasure in getherin' a pink out o' mother's garden in the mornin's when
I'd be startin' to school, an' slippin' it on to her desk when she
wouldn't be lookin', an' she'd always pin it on her frock when I'd have
my head turned the other way. Then when she'd ketch my eye, she'd turn
pinker'n the pink. But she never mentioned one o' them pinks to me in
her life, nor I to her.
Yas; I always think of her little picture with a bunch o' them
old-fashioned garden pinks a settin' under it, an' there they'll stay ez
long ez my old mind is a fitten place for sech sweet-scented pictures to
They've been a pleasure to me all my life, an' I'm glad to see Sonny's
a-startin' his little picture-gallery a'ready.
That you, doctor? Hitch up, an' come right in.
You say Sonny called by an' ast you to drop in to see me?
But I ain't sick. I'm thess settin'out here on the po'ch, upholstered
with pillers this-a-way on account o' the spine o' my back feelin' sort
o' porely. The way I ache--I reckon likely ez not it's a-fixin' to rain.
Ef I don't seem to him quite ez chirpy I ought to be, why Sonny he gets
oneasy an' goes for you, an' when I object--not thet I ain't always glad
to see you, doctor--why, he th'ows up to me thet that's the way we
always done about him when de was in his first childhood. An' ef you
ricollec'--why, it's about true. He says he's boss now, an' turn about
is fair play.
My pulse ain't no ways discordant, is it? No, I thought not. Of co'se,
ez you say, I s'pose it's sort o' different to a younger person's, an'
then I've been so worked up lately thet my heart's bound to be more or
less frustrated, and Sonny says a person's heart reg'lates his pulse.
I reckon I ain't ez strong ez I ought to be, maybe, or I wouldn't cry so
easy ez what I do. I been settin' here, pretty near boo-hoo-in' for the
last half-hour, over the weddin' presents Sonny has thess been a-givin'
Last week it was a daughter, little Mary Elizabeth--an' now it's his
They was to 've come together. The book was printed and was to 've been
received here on Sonny's weddin'-day, but it didn't git in on time. But
I counted it in ez one o' my weddin' presents from Sonny, give to me on
the occasion of his marriage, thess the same, though I didn't know about
the inscription thet he's inscribed inside it tell it arrived--an' I'm
glad I didn't.
Ef I'd 've knew that day, when my heart was already in my win'-pipe,
thet he had give out to the world by sech a printed declaration ez that
thet he had to say dedicated all his work in life, _in advance_, to my
ol' soul, I couldn't no mo' 've kep' up my behavior 'n nothin'.
I'm glad you think I don't need no physic, doctor. I never was no hand
to swaller medicine when I was young, and the obnoxion seems to grow on
me ez I git older.
Not all that toddy? You'll have me in a drunkard's grave yet,--you an'
Sonny together,--ef I don't watch out.
That nutmeg gives it a mighty good flavor, doc'. Ef any thing ever does
make me intemp'rate, why, it'll be the nutmeg an' sugar thet you all
smuggle the liquor to me in.
It does make me see clairer, I vow it does, either the nutmeg or the
There's Sonny's step, now. I can tell it quick ez he sets it on the back
steps. Sence I'm sort o' laid up, Sonny gits into the saddle every day
an' rides over the place an' gives orders for me.
Come out here, son, an' shake hands with the doctor.
Pretty warm, you say it is, son! An' th' ain't nothin' goin' astray on
the place? Well, that's good. An', doc', here, he says thet his bill for
this visit is a unwarranted extravagance 'cause they ain't a thing I
need but to start on the downward way thet leads to ruin. He's got me
all threatened with the tremens now, so thet I hardly know how to match
my pronouns to suit their genders an' persons. He's give me fully a
tablespoonful o' the reverend stuff in one toddy. I tell him he must
write out a prescription for the gold cure an' leave it with me, so's in
case he should drop off befo' I need it, I could git it, 'thout applyin'
to a strange doctor an' disgracin' everybody in America by the name o'
Do you notice how strong he favors _her_ to-day, doctor?
I don't know whether it's the toddy I've took thet calls my attention to
it or not.
[Illustration: "When I set here by myself on this po'ch so much these
days an' think."]
She always seemed to see me in him--but I never could. Far ez I can
see, he never taken nothin' from me but his sect--an' yo' name, son, of
co'se. 'Cep'in' for me, you couldn't 'a' been no Jones--'t least not in
Put yo' hand on my forr'd, son, an' bresh it up'ards a few times, while
I shet my eyes.
Do you know when he does that, doc', I couldn't tell his hand from hers.
He taken his touch after her, exact--an' his hands, too, sech good firm
fingers, not all plowed out o' shape, like mine. I never seemed to
reelize it tell she'd passed away.
That'll do now, boy. I know you want to go in an' see where the little
wife is, an' I've no doubt you'll find her with a wishful look in her
eyes, wonderin' what keeps you out here so long.
Funny, doctor, how seein' him and little Mary Elizabeth together brings
back my own youth to me--an' wife's.
From the first day we was married to the day we laid her away under the
poplars, the first thing I done on enterin' the house was to wonder
where she was an' go an' find her. An' quick ez I'd git her located,
why, I'd feel sort o' rested, an' know things was all right.
Heap of his ma's ways I seem to see in Sonny since she's went.
An' what do you think, doc'? He's took to kissin' me nights and mornin's
since she's passed away, an' I couldn't tell you how it seems to comfort
Maybe that sounds strange to you in a grown-up man, but it don't come no
ways strange to me--not from Sonny. Now he's started it, seems like ez
ef I'd 've missed it if he hadn't.
Ez I look back, they ain't no lovin' way thet a boy could have thet
ain't seemed to come nachel to him--not a one. An' his little wife, Mary
Elizabeth, why, they never was a sweeter daughter on earth.
An' ef I do say it ez shouldn't, their weddin' was the purtiest thet has
ever took place in this county--in my ricollection, which goes back
distinc' for over sixty year.
Everybody loves little Mary Elizabeth, an' th' aint a man, woman, or
child in the place but doted on Sonny, even befo' he turned into a
book-writer. But, of co'se, all the great honors they laid on him--the
weddin' supper an' dance in the Simpkins's barn, the dec'rations o'
the church that embraced so many things he's lectured about an' all
that--why they was all meant to show fo'th how everybody took pride in
him, ez a author o' printed books.
You see he has give' twelve lectures in the academy each term for the
last three years, after studyin' them three winters in New York, each
year's lectures different, but all relatin' to our own forests an' their
dumb population. That's what he calls 'em. Th' ain't a boy thet has
attended the academy, sence he's took the nachel history to teach,
but'll tell you thess what kind o' inhabitants to look for on any
particular tree. Nearly every boy in the county's got a cabinet--an'
most of 'em have carpentered 'em theirselves, though I taught 'em how to
do that after the pattern Sonny got me to make his by--an' you'll find
all sorts o' specimens of what they designate ez "summer an' winter
resorts" in pieces of bark an' cobweb an' ol' twisted tree-leaves in
every one of 'em.
The boys thet dec'rated the barn for the dance say thet they ain't a
tree Sonny ever lectured about but was represented in the ornaments
tacked up ag'inst the wall, an' they wasn't a space big ez yo' hand, ez
you know, doctor, thet wasn't covered with some sort o' evergreen or
berry-branch, or somethin'.
An' have you heerd what the ol' nigger Proph' says? Of co'se he's all
unhinged in the top story ez anybody would be thet lived in the woods
an' e't sca'cely anything but herbs an' berries. But, anyhow, he's got
a sort o' gift o' prophecy an' insight, ez we all know.
Well, Proph', he sez that while the weddin' march was bein' played in
the church the night o' Sonny's weddin' thet he couldn't hear his own
ears for the racket among all the live things in the woods. An' he says
thet they wasn't a frog, or a cricket, or katydid, or nothin', but up
an' played on its little instrument, an' thet every note they sounded
fitted into the church music--even to the mockin'-bird an' the
Of co'se, I don't say it's so, but the ol' nigger swears to it, an' ef
you dispute it with him an' ask him how it come thet nobody else didn't
hear it, why he says that's because them thet live in houses an' eat
flesh ain't got the love o' Grod in their hearts, an' can't expect to
hear the songs of the songless an' speech of the speechless.
That's a toler'ble high-falutin figgur o' speech for a nigger, but it's
thess the way he expresses it.
You know he's been seen holdin' conversation with dumb brutes, more 'n
once-t--in broad daylight.
Of co'se, we can't be shore thet they was rejoicin' expressed in the
underbrush an' the forests, ez he says, but I do say, ez I said before,
thet Sonny an' the little girl has had the purtiest an' joyfulest
weddin' I ever see in this county, an' a good time was had by everybody
present. An' it has made me mighty happy--it an' its results.
They say a son is a son till he gets him a wife, but 't ain't so in this
case, shore. I've gained thess ez sweet a daughter ez I could 'a' picked
out ef I'd 'a' had the whole world to select from.
Little Mary Elizabeth has been mighty dear to our hearts for a long
time, an' when wife passed away, although the weddin' hadn't took place
yet, she bestowed a mother's partin' blessin' on her, an' give Sonny a
lot o' private advice about her disposition, an' how he ought to
reg'late hisself to deal with it.
You see, Mary Elizabeth stayed along with us so much durin' the seasons
he was away in New York, thet we got to know all her crotchets an'
quavers, an' she ain't got a mean one, neither.
But _they're there_. An' they have to be dealt with, lovin'. Fact is,
th' ain't no other proper way to deal with nothin', in my opinion.
We was ruther glad to find out some little twists in her disposition,
wife an' me was, 'cause ef we hadn't discovered none, why we'd 'a' felt
shore she had some in'ard deceit or somethin'. No person can't be
perfec', an' when I see people always outwardly serene, I mistrust their
But little Mary Elizabeth, why, she ain't none too angelic to git a good
healthy spell o' the pouts once-t in a while, but ef she's handled kind
an' tender, why, she'll come thoo without havin' to humble herself with
It depends largely upon how a pout is took, whether it'll contrac'
itself into a hard knot an' give trouble or thess loosen up into a
good-natured smile, an' the oftener they are let out that-a-way, the
seldomer they'll come.
Little Mary Elizabeth, why, she looks so purty when she pouts, now, that
I've been tempted sometimes to pervoke her to it, thess to witness the
new set o' dimples she'll turn out on short notice; but I ain't never
done it. I know a dimple thet's called into bein' too often in youth is
li'ble to lay the foundation of a wrinkle in old age.
But takin' her right along stiddy, day in an' day out, she's got a good
sunny disposition an' is mighty lovin' and kind.
An' as to character and dependableness, why, she's thess ez sound ez
In a heap o' ways she nears up to us, sech, f' instance, ez when she
taken wife's cook-receipt book to go by in experimentin' with Sonny's
likes an' dislikes. 'T ain't every new-married wife thet's willin' to
sample her husband's tastes by his ma's cook-books.
They seem to think they 're too dictatorial.
But, of co'se, wife's receipts was better 'n most, an' Mary Elizabeth,
she knows that.
She ain't been married but a week, but she's served up sev'al self-made
dishes a'ready--all constructed accordin' to wife's schedule.
Of co'se I could see the diff'ence in the mixin'--but it only amused me.
An' Sonny seemed to think thet, ef anything, they was better 'n they
ever had been--which is only right and proper.
Three days after she was married, the po' little thing whipped up a
b'iled custard for dinner an', some way or other, she put salt in it
'stid o' sugar, and poor Sonny--Well, I never have knew him to lie
outright, befo', but he smacked his lips over it an' said it was the
most delicious custard he had ever e't in his life, an' then, when he
had done finished his first saucer an' said, "No, thank you, I won't
choose any more," to a second helpin', why, she tasted it an' thess bust
But I reckon that was partly because she was sort o' on edge yet from
the excitement of new housekeepin' and the head o' the table.
Well, I felt mighty sorry to see her in tears, an' what does Sonny do
but insist on eatin' the whole dish o' custard, an' soon ez I could git
a chance, I took him aside an' give him a little dose-t o' pain-killer,
an' I took a few drops myself.
I had felt obligated to swaller a few spoonfuls o' the salted custard
when she'd be lookin' my way, an' I felt like ez ef I was pizened, an'
so I thess took the painkiller ez a sort o' anecdote.
Another way Mary Elizabeth shows sense is the way she accepts
discipline from the ol' nigger, Dicey.
She's mighty old an' strenuous now, Dicey is, an' she thinks because she
was present at Sonny's birth an' before it, thet she's privileged to
correct him for anything he does, and we've always indulged her in it,
an' thess ez soon as she knowed what was brewin' 'twix' him an' Mary
Elizabeth, why, she took her into the same custody, an' it's too cute
for anything the way the little girl takes a scoldin' from her--thess
winkin' at Sonny an' me while she receives it.
An' the ol' nigger'd lay down her life for her most ez quick ez she
would for Sonny.
She was the first to open our eyes to the state of affairs 'twixt the
two child'en, that ol' nigger was. It was the first year Sonny went
North. He had writ home to his ma from New York State, and said thet Mr.
Burroughs had looked over his little writings an' said they was good
enough to be printed an' bound up in a book.
Wife, she read the letter out loud, ez she always done, an' we noticed
thet when we come to that, Mary Elizabeth slipped out o' the room; but
we didn't think nothin' of it tell direc'ly ol' Dicey, she come in
tickled all but to death to tell us thet the little girl was out on the
po'ch with her face hid in the honeysuckle vines, cryin' thess ez hard
as we was. So then, of co'se, we knowed that ef the co'se of true love
could be allowed to run smooth for once-t, she was fo'-ordained to be
our little blessin'--an' his--that is, so far as she was concerned.
Of co'se we was even a little tenderer todes her, after that, than we
had been befo'.
That was over five year ago, an' th' ain't been a day sca'cely sence
then but we've seen her, an' in my jedgment they won't be nothin'
lackin' in her thet's needful in a little wife--not a thing.
Ef they's anything in long acquaintance, they've certainly knowed one
another all the time they've had.
Of co'se Mary Elizabeth, she ain't to say got Sonny's thoughts, exac'ly,
where it comes to sech a thing ez book-writin', but he says she's a heap
better educated 'n what he is.
She's got all her tuition repo'ts du'in' the whole time she attended
school, an' mostly all her precentages was up close onto the hund'eds.
Sonny never was no hand on earth to git good reports at school.
They was always so low down in figgurs thet he calls 'em his "misconduc'
But they ain't a one he's ever got, takin' 'em from the beginnin' clean
up to the day o' his gradjuatin', thet ain't got some lovin' remark
inscribed acrost it from his teacher--not a one.
Even them that wrastled with him most severe has writ him down friendly
An' little Mary Elizabeth--why, she's took every last one of 'em an'
she's feather-stitched 'em aroun' the edges an' sewed 'em up into a sort
o' little book, an' tied a ribbin' bow acrost it. I don't know whether
she done it on account o' the teacher's remarks or not--but she cert'n'y
does prize that pamphlet.
She thinks so much of it thet I been advisin' her to take out a fire
insu'ance on it.
In a heap o' ways she thess perzacly suits Sonny. Lookin' at it from one
p'int o' view, she's a sort o' dictionary to him.
Whenever Sonny finds hisself short of a date, f' instance, or some
unreasonable spellin' 'll bother 'im, why, he'll apply to her for it an'
she'll hand it out to him, intac'. I ain't never knew her to fail.
You see, while Sonny's thoughts is purty far-reachin' in some ways, he's
received his education so sort o' hit an' miss thet the things he knows
ain't to say catalogued in his mind, an' while he'll know one fac',
maybe he won't be able to recall another thet seems to belong hand in
hand with it. An' that's one reason why I say thet little Mary Elizabeth
is thess the wife for him.
She may not bother about the whys an' wherefores, but she's got the
It's always well, in a married couple, to have either one or the other
statistical, so thet any needed fac' can be had on demand.
Wife, she was a heap more gifted that-a-way 'n what I was, but of co'se
hers wasn't so much book statistics.
She could give the name an' age of every cow an' calf on the farm, an'
relate any circumstance thet has took place within her recollection or
mine without the loss of a single date or any gain through imagination,
I don't know but I think that's a greater gif' than the other, to be
able to reproduce a event after a long time without sort o' thess
techin' it up with a little exaggeration.
Th' ain't no finer trait, in my opinion, _in man or woman_, than
dependableness, an' that's another reason I take sech special delight in
the little daughter, Mary Elizabeth.
If she tells you a thing's black, why you may know it don't lean todes
brown or gray. It's thess a dismal black.
She may hate to say it, an' show her hatred in a dozen lovin', regretful
ways, but out it'll come.
An' I think thet any man thet can count on a devoted wife for
_exactitude_ is blessed beyond common.
So many exac' women is col'-breasted an' severe. An' ef I had to take
one or the other, why, I'd let my wife prevaricate a little, ef need
be, befo' I'd relinquish warmheartedness, an' the power to command
peacefulness an' rest, an' make things comfortable an' homely, day in
an' day out.
Maybe I'm unprincipled in that, but life is so short, an' ef we didn't
have lovin' ways to lengthen out our days, why I don't think I'd keer to
bother with it, less'n, of co'se, I might be needful to somebody else.
Yas, doc', I 'm mighty happy in the little daughter--an' the book--an'
the blessed boy hisself. Maybe I'm too talkative on the subject, but the
way I feel about him, I might discuss him forever, an' then they'd be
thess a little sweetness left over thet I couldn't put into words about
Not thet he's faultless. I don't suppose they ever was a boy on earth
thet had mo' faults 'n Sonny, but they ain't one he's got thet I don't
seem to cherish because I know it's rooted in honest soil.
You may strike a weed now an' ag'in, but he don't grow no pizen vines in
his little wilderness o' short-comin's. Th' ain't no nettles in his
garden o' faults. That ain't a bad figgur o' speech for a ol' man like
me, is it, doctor?
But nex' time he stops an' tells you I'm sick, you thess tell him to go
about his business.
I'm failin' in stren'th ez the days go--an' I know it--an' it's all
I don't ask no mo' 'n thess to pass on whenever the good Lord wills.
But of co'se I ain't in no hurry, an' they's one joy I'd like to feel
befo' that time comes.
I'd love to hol' Sonny's baby in my ol' arms--his an' hers--an' to see
thet the good ol' name o' Jones has had safe transportation into one mo'
generation of honest folks.
Sonny an' Mary Elizabeth are too sweet-hearted an' true not to be
reproduced in detail, an' passed along.
This here ol' oak tree thet gran'pa planted when I was a kid, why, it'd
be a fine shady place for healthy girls an' boys to play under.
[Illustration: "Seem like a person don't no mo' 'n realize he's a
descendant befo' he's a' ancestor."]
When I set here by myself on this po'ch so much these days an'
think,--an' remember,--why I thess wonder over the passage o' time.
I ricollec' thess ez well when gran'pa planted that oak saplin'. My pa
he helt it stiddy an' I handed gran'pa the spade, an' we took off our
hats whilst he repeated a Bible tex'.
Yes, that ol' oak was religiously planted, an' we've tried not to offend
its first principles in no ways du'in' the years we've nurtured it.
An' when I set here an' look at it, an' consider its propensities,--it's
got five limbs that seem thess constructed to hold swings,--maybe it's
'cause I was raised Presbyterian an' sort o' can't git shet o' the
doctrine o' predestination, but I can't help seemin' to fo'-see them
friendly family limbs all fulfillin' their promises.
An' when I imagine myself a-settin' there with one little one a-climbin'
over me while the rest swings away, why, seem like a person don't no mo'
'n realize he's a descendant befo' he's a' ancestor.
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