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- The Earth Trembled - 30/74 -


dere's a scan'el in de church. I'se tried wid all my might 'er keep de people awake an' listenin', and I'se gettin' dun beat out. Ef we wink at dis awful 'zample you mought as well go to de grabeyard an' preach. It ud be mo' comfable fer you, kase dey'd hear jus' as well, an' dey wouldn't 'sturbe de'scorse by snorin' de roof off. Now I ask de sense ob dis meetin'. Wen a member backslide so he do notin' but eat an' sleep, oughtener he be sot on?"

There was audible approval from all of Tobe's followers, and he was encouraged to go on.

"Ef Mr. Buggone mus' sleep mos' ob de time let him sleep peac' ble in his own house, but de Scripter say, 'Wake dem dat sleepest,' an' we say it's time Mr. Buggone woke up. Any cullud pusson dat kin snore so po'ful as Mr. Buggone needn't say he weakly an' po'ly. Hafe de poah he put in his snore ud lif' 'im right along in all good works, week days an' Sundays. But I'se los' faith in 'im. He's been 'spostulated an' 'monstrated with, an' 'zorted so often dat he's hardened an' his conscience zeered wid a hot iron. We'se jes' got to take sich sinners in han', or de paster-lot won't hole de flock no mo'. I move we take steps to s'pend Mr. Buggone."

"Secon' dat motion," said one of his followers promptly.

"Mr. an' Mis Buggone, have you nothin' to say?" asked Mr. Birdsall sadly.

"Elder," began Uncle Sheba in his most plaintive tone, "you know de heat yistidy was po'ful--"

"Mr. Buggone," interrupted his wife severely, "dis ain't no 'casion fer beatin' round de bush an' creepin troo knotholes. You knows de truf an' I knows de truf. No, Elder, we'se got not'in ter say at jes' dis time."

"Den, Elder, you put de motion dat we take steps," said Tobe, promptly.

With evident reluctance Mr. Birdsall did so, and the affirmative was unanimously voted by the committee.

"I wants ter be s'pended too," said Aun' Sheba, still gazing at the ceiling.

"Now, Mis Buggone, dere would be no right nor reason in dat," the minister protested.

"Elder, I doesn't say you-uns ain't all right, an' I does say you means well, but I'se de bes' jedge of my inard speritool frame. Hit was neber jes' clar in my mind dat I was 'ligious, an' now I know I ain't 'ligious, an' I wants ter be s'pended."

"But it is clar in my mind dat you are religious, dat you'se a good woman. Would to de good Lawd dat de church was full ob Christians like you!"

"I'se spoke my min'," persisted Aun' Sheba, doggedly. "Ole Tobe shall hab his way an' de church be purged."

"Elder," said Tobe, now quite carried away by zeal and exultation, "p'raps Mis Buggoue am de bes' jedge. Ef she feel she ain't one ob de aninted ones--"

"Peace!" commanded Mr. Birdsall, "never with my consent shall any steps be taken to suspend Mis Buggone. You forgits, Tobe, how easy it is to pull up de wheat wid de tares."

"Den I s'pend myself," said Aun' Sheba, "an' I _is_ s'pended. Now I gwine ter 'fess de truf. I gave Mr. Buggone an extra Sunday dinner yistidy. I was puff up wid pride kase business was good, an' I bress de Lawd fer prosperin' me. Den like a fool I 'dulge myself and I 'dulge Mr. Buggone. Ef he's ter be s'pended fer a snorin' sleep, I oughter be s'pended fer a dozin' sleep, fer I _was_ a-dozin'; an' I feels it in my bones dat we bofe oughter be s'pended, an' I _is_, no matter wot you does wid Mr. Buggone. Now, Tobe, you hab had you'se say, an' I'se a-gwine to hab mine. You'se got a heap ob zeal. You wouldn't lead de flock; you'd dribe 'em, you'd chase 'em, you'd worry de bery wool off ob dem. Whar you git you sperit fum? You ain't willin' ter wait till de jedgment day; you'd hab a jedgment ebery day in de week. You'se like dem 'siples dat was allers wantin' ter call down fiah from Heben. Look out you don't get scorched yo'self. I can't be 'ligious long o' you, an' if you got 'ligion I habn't. Elder, you says de Lawd libed yere on dis yarth. I ony wish I'd libed in dem days. I'd a cooked, an' washed, an' ironed, an' baked fer Him an' all de 'siples. Den like anuff He'd say: 'Ole Aun' Sheba, you means well. I won't be hard on you nor none of you'se folks when de jedgment day comes.' But so much happen since dat ar time wen He was yere dat I kinder got mixed up. I reckon I jes' be s'pended, an' let Him put de ole woman whar she belong wen de time comes."

There was pathos in her tones; her stoicism had passed away, and tears were streaming from her eyes, while Sissy was sobbing audibly. The committee at first had been aghast at the result of the meeting, and now their emotional natures were being excited also. Old Tobe was disconcerted, and still more so when Aun' Sheba suddenly rallied, and, turning upon him, said with ominous nods, "Wen dat day come, Old Tobe, you won't be de jedge."

Thus far Kern Watson had sat silent as a statue, but now his strong feelings and religious instincts gained the mastery. Lifting up his powerful mellow voice he sang:

"The people was a-gatherin' from far and neah; Some come fer fishes an' some ter heah; But He fed dem all, an' He look so kin' Dat dey followed, dey followed, an' none stay behin'

"But one got loss, an' he wandered far, De night come dark, no moon, no star; De lions roared an' de storm rose high, An' de po' loss one lie down ter die.

"Den come a voice, an' de win's went down, An' de lions grovel on de groun', An' de po' loss one am foun' an' sabed, For de Shepherd ebery danger brabed."

These words, as sung by Kern, routed old Tobe completely; he hung his head and had not a word to say. The committee had beaten time with their feet, and began to clap their hands softly. Then Mr. Birdsall, with kindly energy, exhorted Uncle Sheba, who groaned aloud and said "Amen" as if in the depths of penitence. A long prayer followed which even moved old Tobe, for Aun' Sheba had shaken his self-confidence terribly. The little company broke up with hand-shaking all around, Tobe saying: "Sister Buggone, I bears no ill-will. I'se gwine ter look inter my speritool frame, an' ef I cotch de debil playin' hob wid me he's gwine to be put out, hoof an' horns."

Aun' Sheba wrung her son-in-law's hand, as she said: "You'se singin', Kern, kinder went to de right spot. Neber-de-less I'se s'pended till I feels mo' shuah."

Sissy kissed her mother and father affectionately, and then the old couple were left alone. Aun' Sheba gazed thoughtfully into the dying fire, but before long Uncle Sheba began to hitch uneasily in his chair. Finally he mustered up courage to say: "Aun' Sheba, dis am been bery po'ful 'casion, bery tryin' to my narbes an' feelin's. Yet I feels kinder good an' hopeful in my inards. Ef I wasn't jes' so dun beat out I'd feel mo' good. P'raps now, 'siderin' all I'se pass troo, you wouldn't min' gibin' me a bit ob dat cole ham an' hoe-cake--"

"Mr. Buggone," began Aun' Sheba sternly, then she suddenly paused, threw her apron over her head and rocked back and forth.

"Dar now, Aun' Sheba, dar now, doan go on so. I was ony a sigestin' kase I feels po'ly, but I kin stan' it."

"I'se no better dan old Tobe hisself," groaned Aun' Sheba. "All on us is hard on some one, while a hopin' fer marcy ourselves. Ef you'se hebin is in de cubud, go in dar an' hep a sef." And she rose and opened the door of the treasure-house.

"I'se jes' take a leetle bite, Aun' Sheba, jes a leetle comf'tin bite, kase I'se been so sot on dat I feels bery weakly an' gone-like."

Uncle Sheba was soon comforted and sleeping, but Aun' Sheba still sat by the hearth until the last glowing embers turned to ashes. "Yes," she muttered at last, "I'se s'pended till I feels mo' shuah."

CHAPTER XXII

YOUNG HOUGHTON IS DISCUSSED

Sleep and buoyancy of temperament enabled Ella to see everything in a very different light the following morning. "The idea of my taking what happened last night so seriously!" she said aloud while making her toilet. "As Mrs. Robertson said, 'no harm has been done.' Of course I shall tell papa and Cousin Sophy that I met and talked to Mr. Houghton. What if I did? He was introduced to me just as the others were, and what do I care for him? He was a very agreeable Vandal, and I'm glad to have had a chance to see what Vandals are like. As with other bugaboos they lose their terrors under close inspection."

At breakfast, therefore, she was merrier than usual, and gave a graphic and humorous account of the company, expatiating on the beauty and mystery of Miss Ainsley, her preference for Clancy, and his apparent devotion to her.

"By the way," she said at last, "who do you think was there? You can't guess, so I will tell you--young Mr. Houghton."

"What! the son of that old-beg pardon, Cousin Hugh," and Mrs. Bodine laughingly added, "It nearly slipped out that time."

"I hope he was not presented to you, Ella," said her father gravely.

"Well, he was, and by Mrs. Willoughby. I didn't talk with him very much, but of course I had to be polite. When I first heard his name I felt that I should be polite for your sake; and I was rather sorry for him, too, because so many evidently frowned on his presence."

"You need not be polite to him again for my sake," said her father decidedly. "I am under no obligations to him or his father, and this is a case into which policy cannot enter. I do not blame you, however," he added, more kindly, "for you acted from good impulses. Of course, as you say, you must be polite to every one, but you have a perfect right to be cold toward those who are unfriendly to us, and with whom we can never have any part or lot. I have been in Mr. Houghton's employ long enough to be convinced more fully, if possible, that, while he is an honest man, he has not a particle of sympathy with or for our people. I told him from the start that there could be no social relations between us. You must learn to avoid and shake off people who are objectionable."


The Earth Trembled - 30/74

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