The Conjurer’s Revenge

Sunday was sometimes a rather dull day at our place. In the morning, when the weather was pleasant, my wife and I would drive to town, a distance of about five miles, to attend the church of our choice. The afternoons we spent at home, for the most part, occupying ourselves with the newspapers and magazines, and the contents of a fairly good library. We had a piano in the house, on which my wife played with skill and feeling. I possessed a passable baritone voice, and could accompany myself indifferently well when my wife was not by to assist me. When these resources failed us, we were apt to find it a little dull.

One Sunday afternoon in early spring⁠—the balmy spring of North Carolina, when the air is in that ideal balance between heat and cold where one wishes it could always remain⁠—my wife and I were seated on the front piazza, she wearily but conscientiously ploughing through a missionary report, while I followed the impossible career of the blonde heroine of a rudimentary novel. I had thrown the book aside in disgust, when I saw Julius coming through the yard, under the spreading elms, which were already in full leaf. He wore his Sunday clothes, and advanced with a dignity of movement quite different from his weekday slouch.

“Have a seat, Julius,” I said, pointing to an empty rocking-chair.

“No, thanky, boss, I’ll des set here on de top step.”

“Oh, no, Uncle Julius,” exclaimed Annie, “take this chair. You will find it much more comfortable.”

The old man grinned in appreciation of her solicitude, and seated himself somewhat awkwardly.

“Julius,” I remarked, “I am thinking of setting out scuppernong vines on that sand-hill where the three persimmon-trees are; and while I’m working there, I think I’ll plant watermelons between the vines, and get a little something to pay for my first year’s work. The new railroad will be finished by the middle of summer, and I can ship the melons North, and get a good price for them.”

“Ef you er gwine ter hab any mo’ ploughin’ ter do,” replied Julius, “I ’spec’ you’ll ha’ ter buy ernudder creetur, ’ca’se hit’s much ez dem hosses kin do ter ’ten’ ter de wuk dey got now.”

“Yes, I had thought of that. I think I’ll get a mule; a mule can do more work, and doesn’t require as much attention as a horse.”

“I wouldn’ ’vise you ter buy no mule,” remarked Julius, with a shake of his head.

“Why not?”

“Well, you may ’low hit’s all foolis’ness, but ef I wuz in yo’ place, I wouldn’ buy no mule.”

“But that isn’t a reason; what objection have you to a mule?”

“Fac’ is,” continued the old man, in a serious tone, “I doan lack ter dribe a mule. I’s alluz afeared I mought be imposin’ on some human creetur; eve’y time I cuts a mule wid a hick’ry, ’pears ter me mos’ lackly I’s cuttin’ some er my own relations, er somebody e’se w’at can’t he’p deyse’ves.”

“What put such an absurd idea into your head?” I asked.

My question was followed by a short silence, during which Julius seemed engaged in a mental struggle.

“I dunno ez hit’s wuf w’ile ter tell you dis,” he said, at length. “I doan ha’dly ’spec’ fer you ter b’lieve it. Does you ’member dat club-footed man w’at hilt de hoss fer you de yuther day w’en you was gittin’ out’n de rockaway down ter Mars Archie McMillan’s sto’?”

“Yes, I believe I do remember seeing a club-footed man there.”

“Did you eber see a club-footed nigger befo’ er sence?”

“No, I can’t remember that I ever saw a club-footed colored man,” I replied, after a moment’s reflection.

“You en Mis’ Annie wouldn’ wanter b’lieve me, ef I wuz ter ’low dat dat man was oncet a mule?”

“No,” I replied, “I don’t think it very likely that you could make us believe it.”

“Why, Uncle Julius!” said Annie severely, “what ridiculous nonsense!”

This reception of the old man’s statement reduced him to silence, and it required some diplomacy on my part to induce him to vouchsafe an explanation. The prospect of a long, dull afternoon was not alluring, and I was glad to have the monotony of Sabbath quiet relieved by a plantation legend.

“W’en I wuz a young man,” began Julius, when I had finally prevailed upon him to tell us the story, “dat club-footed nigger⁠—his name is Primus⁠—use’ ter b’long ter ole Mars Jim McGee ober on de Lumbe’ton plank-road. I use’ ter go ober dere ter see a ’oman w’at libbed on de plantation; dat’s how I come ter know all erbout it. Dis yer Primus wuz de livelies’ han’ on de place, alluz a-dancin’, en drinkin’, en runnin’ roun’, en singin’, en pickin’ de banjo; ’cep’n’ once in a w’ile, w’en he’d ’low he wa’n’t treated right ’bout sump’n ernudder, he’d git so sulky en stubborn dat de w’ite folks couldn’ ha’dly do nuffin wid ’im.

“It wuz ’gin’ de rules fer any er de han’s ter go ’way fum de plantation at night; but Primus didn’ min’ de rules, en went w’en he felt lack it; en de w’ite folks purten’ lack dey didn’ know it, fer Primus was dange’ous w’en he got in dem stubborn spells, en dey’d ruther not fool wid ’im.

“One night in de spring er de year, Primus slip’ off fum de plantation, en went down on de Wim’l’ton Road ter a dance gun by some er de free niggers down dere. Dey wuz a fiddle, en a banjo, en a jug gwine roun’ on de outside, en Primus sung en dance’ ’tel ’long ’bout two o’clock in de mawnin’, w’en he start’ fer home. Ez he come erlong back, he tuk a nigh-cut ’cross de cottonfiel’s en ’long by de aidge er de Min’al Spring Swamp, so ez ter git shet er de patteroles w’at rid up en down de big road fer ter keep de darkies fum runnin’ roun’ nights. Primus was sa’nt’rin’ ’long, studyin’ ’bout de good time he’d had wid de gals, w’en, ez he wuz gwine by a fence co’nder, w’at sh’d he heah but sump’n grunt. He stopped a minute ter listen, en he heared sump’n grunt ag’in. Den he went ober ter de fence whar he heard de fuss, en dere, layin’ in de fence co’nder, on a pile er pine straw, he seed a fine, fat shote.

“Primus look’ ha’d at de shote, en den sta’ted home. But somehow er ’nudder he couldn’ git away fum dat shote; w’en he tuk one step for’ards wid one foot, de yuther foot ’peared ter take two steps back’ards, en so he kep’ nachly gittin’ closeter en closeter ter de shote. It was de beatin’es’ thing! De shote des ’peared ter cha’m Primus, en fus’ thing you know Primus foun’ hisse’f ’way up de road wid de shote on his back.

“Ef Primus had ’a’ knowed whose shote dat wuz, he’d ’a’ manage’ ter git pas’ it somehow er ’nudder. Ez it happen’, de shote b’long ter a cunjuh man w’at libbed down in de free-nigger sett’ement. Co’se de cunjuh man didn’ hab ter wuk his roots but a little w’ile ’fo’ he foun’ out who tuk his shote, en den de trouble begun. One mawnin’, a day er so later, en befo’ he got de shote eat up, Primus didn’ go ter wuk w’en de hawn blow, en w’en de oberseah wen’ ter look fer him, dey wa’ no trace er Primus ter be ’skivered nowhar. W’en he didn’ come back in a day er so mo’, eve’ybody on de plantation ’lowed he had runned erway. His marster a’vertise’ him in de papers, en offered a big reward fer ’im. De nigger-ketchers fotch out dey dogs, en track’ ’im down ter de aidge er de swamp, en den de scent gun out; en dat was de las’ anybody seed er Primus fer a long, long time.

“Two er th’ee weeks atter Primus disappear’, his marster went ter town one Sad’day. Mars Jim was stan’in’ in front er Sandy Campbell’s bar-room, up by de ole wagon-ya’d, w’en a po’ w’ite man fum down on de Wim’l’ton Road come up ter ’im en ax’ ’im, kinder keerless lack, ef he didn’ wanter buy a mule.

“ ‘I dunno,’ says Mars Jim; ‘it ’pen’s on de mule, en on de price. Whar is de mule?’

“ ‘Des ’roun’ heah back er ole Tom McAllister’s sto’,’ says de po’ w’ite man.

“ ‘I reckon I’ll hab a look at de mule,’ says Mars Jim, ‘en ef he suit me, I dunno but w’at I mought buy ’im.’

“So de po’ w’ite man tuk Mars Jim ’roun’ back er de sto’, en dere stood a monst’us fine mule. W’en de mule see Mars Jim, he gun a whinny, des lack he knowed him befo’. Mars Jim look’ at de mule, en de mule ’peared ter be soun’ en strong. Mars Jim ’lowed dey ’peared ter be sump’n fermilyus ’bout de mule’s face, ’spesh’ly his eyes; but he hadn’ los’ naer mule, en didn’ hab no recommemb’ance er habin’ seed de mule befo’. He ax’ de po’ buckrah whar he got de mule, en de po’ buckrah say his brer raise’ de mule down on Rockfish Creek. Mars Jim was a little s’picious er seein’ a po’ w’ite man wid sech a fine creetur, but he fin’lly ’greed ter gib de man fifty dollars fer de mule⁠—’bout ha’f w’at a good mule was wuf dem days.

“He tied de mule behin’ de buggy w’en he went home, en put ’im ter ploughin’ cotton de nex’ day. De mule done mighty well fer th’ee er fo’ days, en den de niggers ’mence’ ter notice some quare things erbout him. Dey wuz a medder on de plantation whar dey use’ ter put de hosses en mules ter pastur’. Hit was fence’ off fum de corn-fiel’ on one side, but on de yuther side’n de pastur’ was a terbacker-patch w’at wa’n’t fence’ off, ’ca’se de beastisses doan none un ’em eat terbacker. Dey doan know w’at’s good! Terbacker is lack religion, de good Lawd made it fer people, en dey ain’ no yuther creetur w’at kin ’preciate it. De darkies notice’ dat de fus’ thing de new mule done, w’en he was turnt inter de pastur’, wuz ter make fer de terbacker-patch. Co’se dey didn’ think nuffin un it, but nex’ mawnin’, w’en dey went ter ketch ’im, dey ’skivered dat he had eat up two whole rows er terbacker plants. Atter dat dey had ter put a halter on ’im, en tie ’im ter a stake, er e’se dey wouldn’ ’a’ been naer leaf er terbacker lef’ in de patch.

“Ernudder day one er de han’s, name’ ’Dolphus, hitch’ de mule up, en dribe up here ter dis yer vimya’d⁠—dat wuz w’en ole Mars Dugal’ own’ dis place. Mars Dugal’ had kilt a yearlin’, en de naber w’ite folks all sont ober fer ter git some fraish beef, en Mars Jim had sont ’Dolphus fer some too. Dey wuz a winepress in de ya’d whar ’Dolphus lef’ de mule a-stan’in’, en right in front er de press dey wuz a tub er grape-juice, des pressed out, en a little ter one side a bairl erbout half full er wine w’at had be’n stan’in’ two er th’ee days, en had begun ter git sorter sha’p ter de tas’e. Dey wuz a couple er bo’ds on top er dis yer bairl, wid a rock laid on ’em ter hol’ ’em down. Ez I wuz a-sayin’, ’Dolphus lef’ de mule stan’in’ in de ya’d, en went inter de smoke-house fer ter git de beef. Bimeby, w’en he come out, he seed de mule a-stagg’rin’ ’bout de ya’d; en ’fo’ ’Dolphus could git dere ter fin’ out w’at wuz de matter, de mule fell right ober on his side, en laid dere des’ lack he was dead.

“All de niggers ’bout de house run out dere fer ter see w’at wuz de matter. Some say de mule had de colic; some say one thing en some ernudder; ’tel bimeby one er de han’s seed de top wuz off’n de bairl, en run en looked in.

“ ‘Fo’ de Lawd!’ he say, ‘dat mule drunk! he be’n drinkin’ de wine.’ En sho’ ’nuff, de mule had pas’ right by de tub er fraish grape-juice en push’ de kiver off’n de bairl, en drunk two er th’ee gallon er de wine w’at had been stan’in’ long ernough fer ter begin ter git sha’p.

“De darkies all made a great ’miration ’bout de mule gittin’ drunk. Dey never hadn’ seed nuffin lack it in dey bawn days. Dey po’d water ober de mule, en tried ter sober ’im up; but it wa’n’t no use, en ’Dolphus had ter take de beef home on his back, en leabe de mule dere, ’tel he slep’ off ’is spree.

“I doan ’member whe’r I tol’ you er no, but w’en Primus disappear’ fum de plantation, he lef’ a wife behin’ ’im⁠—a monst’us good-lookin’ yaller gal, name’ Sally. W’en Primus had be’n gone a mont’ er so, Sally ’mence’ fer ter git lonesome, en tuk up wid ernudder young man name’ Dan, w’at b’long’ on de same plantation. One day dis yer Dan tuk de noo mule out in de cotton-fiel’ fer ter plough, en w’en dey wuz gwine ’long de tu’n-row, who sh’d he meet but dis yer Sally. Dan look’ ’roun’ en he didn’ see de oberseah nowhar, so he stop’ a minute fer ter run on wid Sally.

“ ‘Hoddy, honey,’ sezee. ‘How you feelin’ dis mawnin’?’

“ ‘Fus’ rate,’ ’spon’ Sally.

“Dey wuz lookin’ at one ernudder, en dey didn’ naer one un ’em pay no ’tention ter de mule, who had turnt ’is head ’roun’ en wuz lookin’ at Sally ez ha’d ez he could, en stretchin’ ’is neck en raisin’ ’is years, en whinnyin’ kinder sof’ ter hisse’f.

“ ‘Yas, honey,’ ’lows Dan, ‘en you gwine ter feel fus’ rate long ez you sticks ter me. Fer I’s a better man dan dat low-down runaway nigger Primus dat you be’n wastin’ yo’ time wid.’

“Dan had let go de plough-handle, en had put his arm ’roun’ Sally, en wuz des gwine ter kiss her, w’en sump’n ketch’ ’im by de scruff er de neck en flung ’im ’way ober in de cotton-patch. W’en he pick’ ’isse’f up, Sally had gone kitin’ down de tu’n-row, en de mule wuz stan’in’ dere lookin’ ez ca’m en peaceful ez a Sunday mawnin’.

“Fus’ Dan had ’lowed it wuz de oberseah w’at had cotch’ ’im wastin’ ’is time. But dey wa’n’t no oberseah in sight, so he ’cluded it must ’a’ be’n de mule. So he pitch’ inter de mule en lammed ’im ez ha’d ez he could. De mule tuk it all, en ’peared ter be ez ’umble ez a mule could be; but w’en dey wuz makin’ de turn at de een’ er de row, one er de plough-lines got under de mule’s hin’ leg. Dan retch’ down ter git de line out, sorter keerless like, w’en de mule haul’ off en kick him clean ober de fence inter a brier-patch on de yuther side.

“Dan wuz mighty so’ fum ’is woun’s en scratches, en wuz laid up fer two er th’ee days. One night de noo mule got out’n de pastur’, en went down to de quarters. Dan wuz layin’ dere on his pallet, w’en he heard sump’n bangin’ erway at de side er his cabin. He raise’ up on one shoulder en look’ roun’, w’en w’at should he see but de noo mule’s head stickin’ in de winder, wid his lips drawed back over his toofs, grinnin’ en snappin’ at Dan des’ lack he wanter eat ’im up. Den de mule went roun’ ter de do’, en kick’ erway lack he wanter break de do’ down, ’tel bimeby somebody come ’long en driv him back ter de pastur’. W’en Sally come in a little later fum de big house, whar she’d be’n waitin’ on de w’ite folks, she foun’ po’ Dan nigh ’bout dead, he wuz so skeered. She ’lowed Dan had had de nightmare; but w’en dey look’ at de do’, dey seed de marks er de mule’s huffs, so dey couldn’ be no mistake ’bout w’at had happen’.

“Co’se de niggers tol’ dey marster ’bout de mule’s gwines-on. Fust he didn’ pay no ’tention ter it, but atter a w’ile he tol’ ’em ef dey didn’ stop dey foolis’ness, he gwine tie some un ’em up. So atter dat dey didn’ say nuffin mo’ ter dey marster, but dey kep’ on noticin’ de mule’s quare ways des de same.

“ ’Long ’bout de middle er de summer dey wuz a big camp-meetin’ broke out down on de Wim’l’ton Road, en nigh ’bout all de po’ w’ite folks en free niggers in de settlement got ’ligion, en lo en behol’! ’mongs’ ’em wuz de cunjuh man w’at own’ de shote w’at cha’med Primus.

“Dis cunjuh man wuz a Guinea nigger, en befo’ he wuz sot free had use’ ter b’long ter a gent’eman down in Sampson County. De cunjuh man say his daddy wuz a king, er a guv’ner, er some sorter w’at-you-may-call-’em ’way ober yander in Affiky whar de niggers come fum, befo’ he was stoled erway en sol’ ter de spekilaters. De cunjuh man had he’ped his marster out’n some trouble ernudder wid his goopher, en his marster had sot him free, en bought him a trac’ er land down on de Wim’l’ton Road. He purten’ ter be a cow-doctor, but eve’ybody knowed w’at he r’al’y wuz.

“De cunjuh man hadn’ mo’ d’n come th’oo good, befo’ he wuz tuk sick wid a col’ w’at he kotch kneelin’ on de groun’ so long at de mou’ners’ bench. He kep’ gittin’ wusser en wusser, en bimeby de rheumatiz tuk holt er ’im, en drawed him all up, ’tel one day he sont word up ter Mars Jim McGee’s plantation, en ax’ Pete, de nigger w’at tuk keer er de mules, fer ter come down dere dat night en fetch dat mule w’at his marster had bought fum de po’ w’ite man dyoin’ er de summer.

“Pete didn’ know w’at de cunjuh man wuz dribin’ at, but he didn’ daster stay way; en so dat night, w’en he’d done eat his bacon en his hoe-cake, en drunk his ’lasses-en-water, he put a bridle on de mule, en rid ’im down ter de cunjuh man’s cabin. W’en he got ter de do’, he lit en hitch’ de mule, en den knock’ at de do’. He felt mighty jubous ’bout gwine in, but he was bleedst ter do it; he knowed he couldn’ he’p ’isse’f.

“ ‘Pull de string,’ sez a weak voice, en w’en Pete lif’ de latch en went in, de cunjuh man was layin’ on de bed, lookin’ pale en weak, lack he didn’ hab much longer fer ter lib.

“ ‘Is you fotch’ de mule?’ sezee.

“Pete say yas, en de cunjuh man kep’ on.

“ ‘Brer Pete,’ sezee, ‘I’s be’n a monst’us sinner man, en I’s done a power er wickedness endyoin’ er my days; but de good Lawd is wash’ my sins erway, en I feels now dat I’s boun’ fer de kingdom. En I feels, too, dat I ain’ gwine ter git up fum dis bed no mo’ in dis worl’, en I wants ter ondo some er de harm I done. En dat’s de reason, Brer Pete, I sont fer you ter fetch dat mule down here. You ’member dat shote I was up ter yo’ plantation inquirin’ ’bout las’ June?’

“ ‘Yas,’ says Brer Pete, ‘I ’member yo’ axin’ ’bout a shote you had los’.’

“ ‘I dunno whe’r you eber l’arnt it er no,’ says de cunjuh man, ‘but I done knowed yo’ marster’s Primus had tuk de shote, en I wuz boun’ ter git eben wid ’im. So one night I cotch’ ’im down by de swamp on his way ter a candy-pullin’, en I th’owed a goopher mixtry on ’im, en turnt ’im ter a mule, en got a po’ w’ite man ter sell de mule, en we ’vided de money. But I doan want ter die ’tel I turn Brer Primus back ag’in.’

“Den de cunjuh man ax’ Pete ter take down one er two go’ds off’n a she’f in de corner, en one er two bottles wid some kin’ er mixtry in ’em, en set ’em on a stool by de bed; en den he ax’ ’im ter fetch de mule in.

“W’en de mule come in de do’, he gin a snort, en started fer de bed, des lack he was gwine ter jump on it.

“ ‘Hol’ on dere, Brer Primus!’ de cunjuh man hollered. ‘I’s monst’us weak, en ef you ’mence on me, you won’t nebber hab no chance fer ter git turn’ back no mo’.’

“De mule seed de sense er dat, en stood still. Den de cunjuh man tuk de go’ds en bottles, en ’mence’ ter wuk de roots en yarbs, en de mule ’mence’ ter turn back ter a man⁠—fust his years, den de res’ er his head, den his shoulders en arms. All de time de cunjuh man kep’ on wukkin’ his roots; en Pete en Primus could see he wuz gittin’ weaker en weaker all de time.

“ ‘Brer Pete,’ sezee, bimeby, ‘gimme a drink er dem bitters out’n dat green bottle on de she’f yander. I’s gwine fas’, en it’ll gimme strenk fer ter finish dis wuk.’

“Brer Pete look’ up on de mantelpiece, en he seed a bottle in de corner. It was so da’k in de cabin he couldn’ tell whe’r it wuz a green bottle er no. But he hilt de bottle ter de cunjuh man’s mouf, en he tuk a big mouff’l. He hadn’ mo’ d’n swallowed it befo’ he ’mence’ ter holler.

“ ‘You gimme de wrong bottle, Brer Pete; dis yer bottle’s got pizen in it, en I’s done fer dis time, sho’. Hol’ me up, fer de Lawd’s sake! ’tel I git th’oo turnin’ Brer Primus back.’

“So Pete hilt him up, en he kep’ on wukkin’ de roots, ’tel he got de goopher all tuk off’n Brer Primus ’cep’n’ one foot. He hadn’ got dis foot mo’ d’n half turnt back befo’ his strenk gun out enti’ely, en he drap’ de roots en fell back on de bed.

“ ‘I can’t do no mo’ fer you, Brer Primus,’ sezee, ‘but I hopes you will fergib me fer w’at harm I done you. I knows de good Lawd done fergib me, en I hope ter meet you bofe in glory. I sees de good angels waitin’ fer me up yander, wid a long w’ite robe en a starry crown, en I’m on my way ter jine ’em.’ En so de cunjuh man died, en Pete en Primus went back ter de plantation.

“De darkies all made a great ’miration w’en Primus come back. Mars Jim let on lack he didn’ b’lieve de tale de two niggers tol’; he sez Primus had runned erway, en stay’ ’tel he got ti’ed er de swamps, en den come back on him ter be fed. He tried ter ’count fer de shape er Primus’ foot by sayin’ Primus got his foot smash’, er snake-bit, er sump’n, w’iles he wuz erway, en den stayed out in de woods whar he couldn’ git it kyoed up straight, ’stidder comin’ long home whar a doctor could ’a’ ’tended ter it. But de niggers all notice’ dey marster didn’ tie Primus up, ner take on much ’ca’se de mule wuz gone. So dey ’lowed dey marster must ’a’ had his s’picions ’bout dat cunjuh man.”

My wife had listened to Julius’s recital with only a mild interest. When the old man had finished it she remarked:⁠—

“That story does not appeal to me, Uncle Julius, and is not up to your usual mark. It isn’t pathetic, it has no moral that I can discover, and I can’t see why you should tell it. In fact, it seems to me like nonsense.”

The old man looked puzzled as well as pained. He had not pleased the lady, and he did not seem to understand why.

“I’m sorry, ma’m,” he said reproachfully, “ef you doan lack dat tale. I can’t make out w’at you means by some er dem wo’ds you uses, but I’m tellin’ nuffin but de truf. Co’se I didn’ see de cunjuh man tu’n ’im back, fer I wuzn’ dere; but I be’n hearin’ de tale fer twenty-five yeahs, en I ain’ got no ’casion fer ter ’spute it. Dey’s so many things a body knows is lies, dat dey ain’ no use gwine roun’ findin’ fault wid tales dat mought des ez well be so ez not. F’ instance, dey’s a young nigger gwine ter school in town, en he come out heah de yuther day en ’lowed dat de sun stood still en de yeath turnt roun’ eve’y day on a kinder axletree. I tol’ dat young nigger ef he didn’ take hisse’f ’way wid dem lies, I’d take a buggy-trace ter ’im; fer I sees de yeath stan’in’ still all de time, en I sees de sun gwine roun’ it, en ef a man can’t b’lieve w’at ’e sees, I can’t see no use in libbin’⁠—mought ’s well die en be whar we can’t see nuffin. En ernudder thing w’at proves de tale ’bout dis ole Primus is de way he goes on ef anybody ax’ him how he come by dat club-foot. I axed ’im one day, mighty perlite en civil, en he call’ me a’ ole fool, en got so mad he ain’ spoke ter me sence. Hit’s monst’us quare. But dis is a quare worl’, anyway yer kin fix it,” concluded the old man, with a weary sigh.

“Ef you makes up yo’ min’ not ter buy dat mule, suh,” he added, as he rose to go, “I knows a man w’at’s got a good hoss he wants ter sell⁠—leas’ways dat’s w’at I heared. I’m gwine ter pra’rmeetin’ ter-night, en I’m gwine right by de man’s house, en ef you’d lack ter look at de hoss, I’ll ax ’im ter fetch him roun’.”

“Oh, yes,” I said, “you can ask him to stop in, if he is passing. There will be no harm in looking at the horse, though I rather think I shall buy a mule.”

Early next morning the man brought the horse up to the vineyard. At that time I was not a very good judge of horseflesh. The horse appeared sound and gentle, and, as the owner assured me, had no bad habits. The man wanted a large price for the horse, but finally agreed to accept a much smaller sum, upon payment of which I became possessed of a very fine-looking animal. But alas for the deceitfulness of appearances! I soon ascertained that the horse was blind in one eye, and that the sight of the other was very defective; and not a month elapsed before my purchase developed most of the diseases that horseflesh is heir to, and a more worthless, broken-winded, spavined quadruped never disgraced the noble name of horse. After worrying through two or three months of life, he expired one night in a fit of the colic. I replaced him with a mule, and Julius henceforth had to take his chances of driving some metamorphosed unfortunate.

Circumstances that afterwards came to my knowledge created in my mind a strong suspicion that Julius may have played a more than unconscious part in this transaction. Among other significant facts was his appearance, the Sunday following the purchase of the horse, in a new suit of store clothes, which I had seen displayed in the window of Mr. Solomon Cohen’s store on my last visit to town, and had remarked on account of their striking originality of cut and pattern. As I had not recently paid Julius any money, and as he had no property to mortgage, I was driven to conjecture to account for his possession of the means to buy the clothes. Of course I would not charge him with duplicity unless I could prove it, at least to a moral certainty, but for a long time afterwards I took his advice only in small doses and with great discrimination.