Sis’ Becky’s Pickaninny

We had not lived in North Carolina very long before I was able to note a marked improvement in my wife’s health. The ozone-laden air of the surrounding piney woods, the mild and equable climate, the peaceful leisure of country life, had brought about in hopeful measure the cure we had anticipated. Toward the end of our second year, however, her ailment took an unexpected turn for the worse. She became the victim of a settled melancholy, attended with vague forebodings of impending misfortune.

“You must keep up her spirits,” said our physician, the best in the neighboring town. “This melancholy lowers her tone too much, tends to lessen her strength, and, if it continue too long, may be fraught with grave consequences.”

I tried various expedients to cheer her up. I read novels to her. I had the hands on the place come up in the evening and serenade her with plantation songs. Friends came in sometimes and talked, and frequent letters from the North kept her in touch with her former home. But nothing seemed to rouse her from the depression into which she had fallen.

One pleasant afternoon in spring, I placed an armchair in a shaded portion of the front piazza, and filling it with pillows led my wife out of the house and seated her where she would have the pleasantest view of a somewhat monotonous scenery. She was scarcely placed when old Julius came through the yard, and, taking off his tattered straw hat, inquired, somewhat anxiously:⁠—

“How is you feelin’ dis atternoon, ma’m?”

“She is not very cheerful, Julius,” I said. My wife was apparently without energy enough to speak for herself.

The old man did not seem inclined to go away, so I asked him to sit down. I had noticed, as he came up, that he held some small object in his hand. When he had taken his seat on the top step, he kept fingering this object⁠—what it was I could not quite make out.

“What is that you have there, Julius?” I asked, with mild curiosity.

“Dis is my rabbit foot, suh.”

This was at a time before this curious superstition had attained its present jocular popularity among white people, and while I had heard of it before, it had not yet outgrown the charm of novelty.

“What do you do with it?”

“I kyars it wid me fer luck, suh.”

“Julius,” I observed, half to him and half to my wife, “your people will never rise in the world until they throw off these childish superstitions and learn to live by the light of reason and common sense. How absurd to imagine that the forefoot of a poor dead rabbit, with which he timorously felt his way along through a life surrounded by snares and pitfalls, beset by enemies on every hand, can promote happiness or success, or ward off failure or misfortune!”

“It is ridiculous,” assented my wife, with faint interest.

“Dat’s w’at I tells dese niggers roun’ heah,” said Julius. “De fo’-foot ain’ got no power. It has ter be de hin’-foot, suh⁠—de lef’ hin’-foot er a grabe-ya’d rabbit, killt by a cross-eyed nigger on a da’k night in de full er de moon.”

“They must be very rare and valuable,” I said.

“Dey is kinder ska’ce, suh, en dey ain’ no ’mount er money could buy mine, suh. I mought len’ it ter anybody I sot sto’ by, but I wouldn’ sell it, no indeed, suh, I wouldn’.”

“How do you know it brings good luck?” I asked.

“ ’Ca’se I ain’ had no bad luck sence I had it, suh, en I’s had dis rabbit foot fer fo’ty yeahs. I had a good marster befo’ de wah, en I wa’n’t sol’ erway, en I wuz sot free; en dat ’uz all good luck.”

“But that doesn’t prove anything,” I rejoined. “Many other people have gone through a similar experience, and probably more than one of them had no rabbit’s foot.”

“Law, suh! you doan hafter prove ’bout de rabbit foot! Eve’ybody knows dat; leas’ways eve’ybody roun’ heah knows it. But ef it has ter be prove’ ter folks w’at wa’n’t bawn en raise’ in dis naberhood, dey is a’ easy way ter prove it. Is I eber tol’ you de tale er Sis’ Becky en her pickaninny?”

“No,” I said, “let us hear it.” I thought perhaps the story might interest my wife as much or more than the novel I had meant to read from.

“Dis yer Becky,” Julius began, “useter b’long ter ole Kunnel Pen’leton, who owned a plantation down on de Wim’l’ton Road, ’bout ten miles fum heah, des befo’ you gits ter Black Swamp. Dis yer Becky wuz a fiel’-han’, en a monst’us good ’un. She had a husban’ oncet, a nigger w’at b’longed on de nex’ plantation, but de man w’at owned her husban’ died, en his lan’ en his niggers had ter be sol’ fer ter pay his debts. Kunnel Pen’leton ’lowed he’d ’a’ bought dis nigger, but he had be’n bettin’ on hoss races, en didn’ hab no money, en so Becky’s husban’ wuz sol’ erway ter Fuhginny.

“Co’se Becky went on some ’bout losin’ her man, but she couldn’ he’p herse’f; en ’sides dat, she had her pickaninny fer ter comfo’t her. Dis yer little Mose wuz de cutes’, blackes’, shiny-eyedes’ little nigger you eber laid eyes on, en he wuz ez fon’ er his mammy ez his mammy wuz er him. Co’se Becky had ter wuk en didn’ hab much time ter was’e wid her baby. Ole Aun’ Nancy, de plantation nuss down at de qua’ters, useter take keer er little Mose in de daytime, en atter de niggers come in fum de cotton-fiel’ Becky ’ud git her chile en kiss ’im en nuss ’im, en keep ’im ’tel mawnin’; en on Sundays she’d hab ’im in her cabin wid her all day long.

“Sis’ Becky had got sorter useter gittin’ ’long widout her husban’, w’en one day Kunnel Pen’leton went ter de races. Co’se w’en he went ter de races, he tuk his hosses, en co’se he bet on ’is own hosses, en co’se he los’ his money; fer Kunnel Pen’leton didn’ nebber hab no luck wid his hosses, ef he did keep hisse’f po’ projeckin’ wid ’em. But dis time dey wuz a hoss name’ Lightnin’ Bug, w’at b’longed ter ernudder man, en dis hoss won de sweep-stakes; en Kunnel Pen’leton tuk a lackin’ ter dat hoss, en ax’ his owner w’at he wuz willin’ ter take fer ’im.

“ ‘I’ll take a thousan’ dollahs fer dat hoss,’ sez dis yer man, who had a big plantation down to’ds Wim’l’ton, whar he raise’ hosses fer ter race en ter sell.

“Well, Kunnel Pen’leton scratch’ ’is head, en wonder whar he wuz gwine ter raise a thousan’ dollahs; en he didn’ see des how he could do it, fer he owed ez much ez he could borry a’ready on de skyo’ity he could gib. But he wuz des boun’ ter hab dat hoss, so sezee:⁠—

“ ‘I’ll gib you my note fer’ ’leven hund’ed dollahs fer dat hoss.’

“De yuther man shuck ’is head, en sezee:⁠—

“ ‘Yo’ note, suh, is better ’n gol’, I doan doubt; but I is made it a rule in my bizness not ter take no notes fum nobody. Howsomeber, suh, ef you is kinder sho’t er fun’s, mos’ lackly we kin make some kin’ er bahg’in. En w’iles we is talkin’, I mought ’s well say dat I needs ernudder good nigger down on my place. Ef you is got a good one ter spar’, I mought trade wid you.’

“Now, Kunnel Pen’leton didn’ r’ally hab no niggers fer ter spar’, but he ’lowed ter hisse’f he wuz des bleedzd ter hab dat hoss, en so he sez, sezee:⁠—

“ ‘Well, I doan lack ter, but I reckon I’ll haf ter. You come out ter my plantation ter-morrer en look ober my niggers, en pick out de one you wants.’

“So sho’ ’nuff nex’ day dis yer man come out ter Kunnel Pen’leton’s place en rid roun’ de plantation en glanshed at de niggers, en who sh’d he pick out fum ’em all but Sis’ Becky.

“ ‘I needs a noo nigger ’oman down ter my place,’ sezee, ‘fer ter cook en wash, en so on; en dat young ’oman’ll des fill de bill. You gimme her, en you kin hab Lightnin’ Bug.’ ”

“Now, Kunnel Pen’leton didn’ lack ter trade Sis’ Becky, ’ca’se she wuz nigh ’bout de bes’ fiel’-han’ he had; en ’sides, Mars Kunnel didn’ keer ter take de mammies ’way fum dey chillun w’iles de chillun wuz little. But dis man say he want Becky, er e’se Kunnel Pen’leton couldn’ hab de race hoss.

“ ‘Well,’ sez de kunnel, ‘you kin hab de ’oman. But I doan lack ter sen’ her ’way fum her baby. W’at’ll you gimme fer dat nigger baby?’

“ ‘I doan want de baby,’ sez de yuther man. ‘I ain’ got no use fer de baby.’

“ ‘I tell yer w’at I’ll do,’ ’lows Kunnel Pen’leton, ‘I’ll th’ow dat pickaninny in fer good measure.’

“But de yuther man shuck his head. ‘No,’ sezee, ‘I’s much erbleedzd, but I doan raise niggers; I raises hosses, en I doan wanter be both’rin’ wid no nigger babies. Nemmine de baby. I’ll keep dat ’oman so busy she’ll fergit de baby; fer niggers is made ter wuk, en dey ain’ got no time fer no sich foolis’ness ez babies.’

“Kunnel Pen’leton didn’ wanter hu’t Becky’s feelin’s⁠—fer Kunnel Pen’leton wuz a kin’-hea’ted man, en nebber lack’ ter make no trouble fer nobody⁠—en so he tol’ Becky he wuz gwine sen’ her down ter Robeson County fer a day er so, ter he’p out his son-in-law in his wuk; en bein’ ez dis yuther man wuz gwine dat way, he had ax’ ’im ter take her ’long in his buggy.

“ ‘Kin I kyar little Mose wid me, marster?’ ax’ Sis’ Becky.

“ ‘N-o,’ sez de kunnel, ez ef he wuz studyin’ whuther ter let her take ’im er no; ‘I reckon you better let Aun’ Nancy look atter yo’ baby fer de day er two you’ll be gone, en she’ll see dat he gits ernuff ter eat ’tel you gits back.’

“So Sis’ Becky hug’ en kiss’ little Mose, en tol’ ’im ter be a good little pickaninny, en take keer er hisse’f, en not fergit his mammy w’iles she wuz gone. En little Mose put his arms roun’ his mammy en lafft en crowed des lack it wuz monst’us fine fun fer his mammy ter go ’way en leabe ’im.

“Well, dis yer hoss trader sta’ted out wid Becky, en bimeby, atter dey’d gone down de Lumbe’ton Road fer a few miles er so, dis man tu’nt roun’ in a diffe’nt d’rection, en kep’ goin’ dat erway, ’tel bimeby Sis’ Becky up ’n ax’ ’im ef he wuz gwine’ ter Robeson County by a noo road.

“ ‘No, nigger,’ sezee, ‘I ain’ gwine ter Robeson County at all. I’s gwine ter Bladen County, whar my plantation is, en whar I raises all my hosses.’

“ ‘But how is I gwine ter git ter Mis’ Laura’s plantation down in Robeson County?’ sez Becky, wid her hea’t in her mouf, fer she ’mence’ ter git skeered all er a sudden.

“ ‘You ain’ gwine ter git dere at all,’ sez de man. ‘You b’longs ter me now, fer I done traded my bes’ race hoss fer you, wid yo’ ole marster. Ef you is a good gal, I’ll treat you right, en ef you doan behabe yo’se’f⁠—w’y, w’at e’se happens’ll be yo’ own fault.’

“Co’se Sis’ Becky cried en went on ’bout her pickaninny, but co’se it didn’ do no good, en bimeby dey got down ter dis yer man’s place, en he put Sis’ Becky ter wuk, en fergot all ’bout her habin’ a pickaninny.

“Meanw’iles, w’en ebenin’ come, de day Sis’ Becky wuz tuk ’way, little Mose mence’ ter git res’less, en bimeby, w’en his mammy didn’ come, he sta’ted ter cry fer ’er. Aun’ Nancy fed ’im en rocked ’im en rocked ’im, en fin’lly he des cried en cried ’tel he cried hisse’f ter sleep.

“De nex’ day he didn’ ’pear ter be as peart ez yushal, en w’en night come he fretted en went on wuss ’n he did de night befo’. De nex’ day his little eyes ’mence’ ter lose dey shine, en he wouldn’ eat nuffin, en he ’mence’ ter look so peaked dat Aun’ Nancy tuk ’n kyared ’im up ter de big house, en showed ’im ter her ole missis, en her ole missis gun her some med’cine fer ’im, en ’lowed ef he didn’ git no better she sh’d fetch ’im up ter de big house ag’in, en dey’d hab a doctor, en nuss little Mose up dere. Fer Aun’ Nancy’s ole missis ’lowed he wuz a lackly little nigger en wu’th raisin’.

“But Aun’ Nancy had l’arn’ ter lack little Mose, en she didn’ wanter hab ’im tuk up ter de big house. En so w’en he didn’ git no better, she gethered a mess er green peas, and tuk de peas en de baby, en went ter see ole Aun’ Peggy, de cunjuh ’oman down by de Wim’l’ton Road. She gun Aun’ Peggy de mess er peas, en tol’ her all ’bout Sis’ Becky en little Mose.

“ ‘Dat is a monst’us small mess er peas you is fotch’ me,’ sez Aun’ Peggy, sez she.

“ ‘Yas, I knows,’ ’lowed Aun’ Nancy, ‘but dis yere is a monst’us small pickaninny.’

“ ‘You’ll hafter fetch me sump’n mo’,’ sez Aun’ Peggy, ‘fer you can’t ’spec’ me ter was’e my time diggin’ roots en wukkin’ cunj’ation fer nuffin.’

“ ‘All right,’ sez Aun’ Nancy, ‘I’ll fetch you sump’n mo’ nex’ time.’

“ ‘You bettah,’ sez Aun’ Peggy, ‘er e’se dey’ll be trouble. Wat dis yer little pickaninny needs is ter see his mammy. You leabe ’im heah ’tel ebenin’ en I’ll show ’im his mammy.’

“So w’en Aun’ Nancy had gone ’way, Aun’ Peggy tuk ’n wukked her roots, en tu’nt little Mose ter a hummin’-bird, en sont ’im off fer ter fin’ his mammy.

“So little Mose flewed, en flewed, en flewed away, ’tel bimeby he got ter de place whar Sis’ Becky b’longed. He seed his mammy wukkin’ roun’ de ya’d, en he could tell fum lookin’ at her dat she wuz trouble’ in her min’ ’bout sump’n, en feelin’ kin’ er po’ly. Sis’ Becky heared sump’n hummin’ roun’ en roun’ her, sweet en low. Fus’ she ’lowed it wuz a hummin’-bird; den she thought it sounded lack her little Mose croonin’ on her breas’ way back yander on de ole plantation. En she des ’magine’ it wuz her little Mose, en it made her feel bettah, en she went on ’bout her wuk pearter ’n she’d done sence she’d be’n down dere. Little Mose stayed roun’ ’tel late in de ebenin’, en den flewed back ez hard ez he could ter Aun’ Peggy. Ez fer Sis’ Becky, she dremp all dat night dat she wuz holdin’ her pickaninny in her arms, en kissin’ him, en nussin’ him, des lack she useter do back on de ole plantation whar he wuz bawn. En fer th’ee er fo’ days Sis’ Becky went ’bout her wuk wid mo’ sperrit dan she’d showed sence she’d be’n down dere ter dis man’s plantation.

“De nex’ day atter he come back, little Mose wuz mo’ pearter en better ’n he had be’n fer a long time. But to’ds de een’ er de week he ’mence’ ter git res’less ag’in, en stop’ eatin’, en Aun’ Nancy kyared ’im down ter Aun’ Peggy once mo’, en she tu’nt ’im ter a mawkin’-bird dis time, en sont ’im off ter see his mammy ag’in.

“It didn’ take him long fer ter git dere, en w’en he did, he seed his mammy standin’ in de kitchen, lookin’ back in de d’rection little Mose wuz comin’ fum. En dey wuz tears in her eyes, en she look’ mo’ po’ly en peaked ’n she had w’en he wuz down dere befo’. So little Mose sot on a tree in de ya’d en sung, en sung, en sung, des fittin’ ter split his th’oat. Fus’ Sis’ Becky didn’ notice ’im much, but dis mawkin’-bird kep’ stayin’ roun’ de house all day, en bimeby Sis’ Becky des ’magine’ dat mawkin’-bird wuz her little Mose crowin’ en crowin’, des lack he useter do w’en his mammy would come home at night fum de cotton-fiel’. De mawkin’-bird stayed roun’ dere ’mos’ all day, en w’en Sis’ Becky went out in de ya’d one time, dis yer mawkin’-bird lit on her shoulder en peck’ at de piece er bread she wuz eatin’, en fluttered his wings so dey rub’ up agin de side er her head. En w’en he flewed away ’long late in de ebenin’, des ’fo’ sundown, Sis’ Becky felt mo’ better ’n she had sence she had heared dat hummin’-bird a week er so pas’. En dat night she dremp ’bout ole times ag’in, des lack she did befo’.

“But dis yer totin’ little Mose down ter ole Aun’ Peggy, en dis yer gittin’ things fer ter pay de cunjuh ’oman, use’ up a lot er Aun’ Nancy’s time, en she begun ter git kinder ti’ed. ’Sides dat, w’en Sis’ Becky had be’n on de plantation, she had useter he’p Aun’ Nancy wid de young uns ebenin’s en Sundays; en Aun’ Nancy ’mence’ ter miss ’er monst’us, ’speshly sence she got a tech er de rheumatiz herse’f, en so she ’lows ter ole Aun’ Peggy one day:⁠—

“ ‘Aun’ Peggy, ain’ dey no way you kin fetch Sis’ Becky back home?’

“ ‘Huh!’ sez Aun’ Peggy, ‘I dunno ’bout dat. I’ll hafter wuk my roots en fin’ out whuther I kin er no. But it’ll take a monst’us heap er wuk, en I can’t was’e my time fer nuffin. Ef you’ll fetch me sump’n ter pay me fer my trouble, I reckon we kin fix it.’

“So nex’ day Aun’ Nancy went down ter see Aun’ Peggy ag’in.

“ ‘Aun’ Peggy,’ sez she, ‘I is fotch’ you my bes’ Sunday head-hankercher. Will dat do?’

“Aun’ Peggy look’ at de head-hankercher, en run her han’ ober it, en sez she:⁠—

“ ‘Yas, dat’ll do fus’-rate. I’s be’n wukkin’ my roots sence you be’n gone, en I ’lows mos’ lackly I kin git Sis’ Becky back, but it’s gwine take fig’rin’ en studyin’ ez well ez cunj’in’. De fus’ thing ter do’ll be ter stop fetchin’ dat pickaninny down heah, en not sen’ ’im ter see his mammy no mo’. Ef he gits too po’ly, you lemme know, en I’ll gib you some kin’ er mixtry fer ter make ’im fergit Sis’ Becky fer a week er so. So ’less’n you comes fer dat, you neenter come back ter see me no mo’ ’tel I sen’s fer you.’

“So Aun’ Peggy sont Aun’ Nancy erway, en de fus’ thing she done wuz ter call a hawnet fum a nes’ unner her eaves.

“You go up ter Kunnel Pen’leton’s stable, hawnet,’ sez she, ‘en sting de knees er de race hoss name’ Lightnin’ Bug. Be sho’ en git de right one.’

“So de hawnet flewed up ter Kunnel Pen’leton’s stable en stung Lightnin’ Bug roun’ de laigs, en de nex’ mawnin’ Lightnin’ Bug’s knees wuz all swoll’ up, twice’t ez big ez dey oughter be. W’en Kunnel Pen’leton went out ter de stable en see de hoss’s laigs, hit would ’a’ des made you trimble lack a leaf fer ter heah him cuss dat hoss trader. Howsomeber, he cool’ off bimeby en tol’ de stable boy fer ter rub Lightnin’ Bug’s laigs wid some linimum. De boy done ez his marster tol’ ’im, en by de nex’ day de swellin’ had gone down consid’able. Aun’ Peggy had sont a sparrer, w’at had a nes’ in one er de trees close ter her cabin, fer ter watch w’at wuz gwine on ’roun’ de big house, en w’en dis yer sparrer tol’ ’er de hoss wuz gittin’ ober de swellin’, she sont de hawnet back fer ter sting ’is knees some mo’, en de nex’ mawnin’ Lightnin’ Bug’s laigs wuz swoll’ up wuss ’n befo’.

“Well, dis time Kunnel Pen’leton wuz mad th’oo en th’oo, en all de way ’roun’, en he cusst dat hoss trader up en down, fum A ter Izzard. He cusst so ha’d dat de stable boy got mos’ skeered ter def, en went off en hid hisse’f in de hay.

“Ez fer Kunnel Pen’leton, he went right up ter de house en got out his pen en ink, en tuk off his coat en roll’ up his sleeves, en writ a letter ter dis yer hoss trader, en sezee:⁠—

“ ‘You is sol’ me a hoss w’at is got a ringbone er a spavin er sump’n, en w’at I paid you fer wuz a soun’ hoss. I wants you ter sen’ my nigger ’oman back en take yo’ ole hoss, er e’se I’ll sue you, sho ’s you bawn.’

“But dis yer man wa’n’t skeered a bit, en he writ back ter Kunnel Pen’leton dat a bahg’in wuz a bahg’in; dat Lightnin’ Bug wuz soun’ w’en he sol’ ’im, en ef Kunnel Pen’leton didn’ knowed ernuff ’bout hosses ter take keer er a fine racer, dat wuz his own fune’al. En he say Kunnel Pen’leton kin sue en be cusst fer all he keer, but he ain’ gwine ter gib up de nigger he bought en paid fer.

“W’en Kunnel Pen’leton got dis letter he wuz madder ’n he wuz befo’, ’speshly ’ca’se dis man ’lowed he didn’ know how ter take keer er fine hosses. But he couldn’ do nuffin but fetch a lawsuit, en he knowed, by his own ’spe’ience, dat lawsuits wuz slow ez de seben-yeah eetch and cos’ mo’ d’n dey come ter, en he ’lowed he better go slow en wait awhile.

“Aun’ Peggy knowed w’at wuz gwine on all dis time, en she fix’ up a little bag wid some roots en one thing en ernudder in it, en gun it ter dis sparrer er her’n, en tol’ ’im ter take it ’way down yander whar Sis’ Becky wuz, en drap it right befo’ de do’ er her cabin, so she’d be sho’ en fin’ it de fus’ time she come out’n de do’.

“One night Sis’ Becky dremp’ her pickaninny wuz dead, en de nex’ day she wuz mo’nin’ en groanin’ all day. She dremp’ de same dream th’ee nights runnin’, en den, de nex’ mawnin’ atter de las’ night, she foun’ dis yer little bag de sparrer had drap’ in front her do’; en she ’lowed she’d be’n cunju’d, en wuz gwine ter die, en ez long ez her pickaninny wuz dead dey wa’n’t no use tryin’ ter do nuffin nohow. En so she tuk ’n went ter bed, en tol’ her marster she’d be’n cunju’d en wuz gwine ter die.

“Her marster lafft at her, en argyed wid her, en tried ter ’suade her out’n dis yer fool notion, ez he called it⁠—fer he wuz one er dese yer w’ite folks w’at purten’ dey doan b’liebe in cunj’in’⁠—but hit wa’n’t no use. Sis’ Becky kep’ gittin’ wusser en wusser, ’tel fin’lly dis yer man ’lowed Sis’ Becky wuz gwine ter die, sho’ ’nuff. En ez he knowed dey hadn’ be’n nuffin de matter wid Lightnin’ Bug w’en he traded ’im, he ’lowed mebbe he could kyo’ ’im en fetch ’im roun’ all right, leas’ways good ’nuff ter sell ag’in. En anyhow, a lame hoss wuz better ’n a dead nigger. So he sot down en writ Kunnel Pen’leton a letter.

“ ‘My conscience,’ sezee, ‘has be’n troublin’ me ’bout dat ringbone’ hoss I sol’ you. Some folks ’lows a hoss trader ain’ got no conscience, but dey doan know me, fer dat is my weak spot, en de reason I ain’ made no mo’ money hoss tradin’. Fac’ is,’ sezee, ‘I is got so I can’t sleep nights fum studyin’ ’bout dat spavin’ hoss; en I is made up my min’ dat, w’iles a bahg’in is a bahg’in, en you seed Lightnin’ Bug befo’ you traded fer ’im, principle is wuth mo’ d’n money er hosses er niggers. So ef you’ll sen’ Lightnin’ Bug down heah, I’ll sen’ yo’ nigger ’oman back, en we’ll call de trade off, en be ez good frien’s ez we eber wuz, en no ha’d feelin’s.’

“So sho’ ’nuff, Kunnel Pen’leton sont de hoss back. En w’en de man w’at come ter bring Lightnin’ Bug tol’ Sis’ Becky her pickaninny wa’n’t dead, Sis’ Becky wuz so glad dat she ’lowed she wuz gwine ter try ter lib ’tel she got back whar she could see little Mose once mo’. En w’en she retch’ de ole plantation en seed her baby kickin’ en crowin’ en holdin’ out his little arms to’ds her, she wush’ she wuzn’ cunju’d en didn’ hafter die. En w’en Aun’ Nancy tol’ ’er all ’bout Aun’ Peggy, Sis’ Becky went down ter see de cunjuh ’oman, en Aun’ Peggy tol’ her she had cunju’d her. En den Aun’ Peggy tuk de goopher off’n her, en she got well, en stayed on de plantation, en raise’ her pickaninny. En w’en little Mose growed up, he could sing en whistle des lack a mawkin’-bird, so dat de w’ite folks useter hab ’im come up ter de big house at night, en whistle en sing fer ’em, en dey useter gib ’im money en vittles en one thing er ernudder, w’ich he alluz tuk home ter his mammy; fer he knowed all ’bout w’at she had gone th’oo. He tu’nt out ter be a sma’t man, en l’arnt de blacksmif trade; en Kunnel Pen’leton let ’im hire his time. En bimeby he bought his mammy en sot her free, en den he bought hisse’f, en tuk keer er Sis’ Becky ez long ez dey bofe libbed.”

My wife had listened to this story with greater interest than she had manifested in any subject for several days. I had watched her furtively from time to time during the recital, and had observed the play of her countenance. It had expressed in turn sympathy, indignation, pity, and at the end lively satisfaction.

“That is a very ingenious fairy tale, Julius,” I said, “and we are much obliged to you.”

“Why, John!” said my wife severely, “the story bears the stamp of truth, if ever a story did.”

“Yes,” I replied, “especially the hummingbird episode, and the mockingbird digression, to say nothing of the doings of the hornet and the sparrow.”

“Oh, well, I don’t care,” she rejoined, with delightful animation; “those are mere ornamental details and not at all essential. The story is true to nature, and might have happened half a hundred times, and no doubt did happen, in those horrid days before the war.”

“By the way, Julius,” I remarked, “your story doesn’t establish what you started out to prove⁠—that a rabbit’s foot brings good luck.”

“Hit’s plain ’nuff ter me, suh,” replied Julius. “I bet young missis dere kin ’splain it herse’f.”

“I rather suspect,” replied my wife promptly, “that Sis’ Becky had no rabbit’s foot.”

“You is hit de bull’s-eye de fus’ fire, ma’m,” assented Julius. “Ef Sis’ Becky had had a rabbit foot, she nebber would ’a’ went th’oo all dis trouble.”

I went into the house for some purpose, and left Julius talking to my wife. When I came back a moment later, he was gone.

My wife’s condition took a turn for the better from this very day, and she was soon on the way to ultimate recovery. Several weeks later, after she had resumed her afternoon drives, which had been interrupted by her illness, Julius brought the rockaway round to the front door one day, and I assisted my wife into the carriage.

“John,” she said, before I had taken my seat, “I wish you would look in my room, and bring me my handkerchief. You will find it in the pocket of my blue dress.”

I went to execute the commission. When I pulled the handkerchief out of her pocket, something else came with it and fell on the floor. I picked up the object and looked at it. It was Julius’s rabbit’s foot.