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- Miss Lou - 20/64 -


CHAPTER XIV

A THREAT

The moment Chunk believed that Scoville could dispense with his services for a time he made his way promptly to the back veranda and gave a low, peculiar whistle which Zany recognized. He had ceased in her estimation to be merely a subject for infinite jest. Though not very advanced in the scale of civilization, she was influenced by qualities which appealed to her mind, and possessed many traits common to her sex. His shrewdness and courage were making good his lack of inches. Above all, he was in favor with the "head Linkum man," and Zany belonged to that class ever ready to greet the rising sun. While all this was true, she could not be herself and abandon her coquettish impulses and disposition to tease. She came slowly from the dining-room and looked over Chunk's head as if she could not see him. Bent on retaliation, he stepped behind her, lifted her in his powerful arms and carried her on a full run to some screening shrubbery, the irate captive cuffing his ear soundly all the way. Setting her down, he remarked quietly, "Now I reckon you kin fin' me."

"Yo' wool git gray 'fo' you fin' me agin," she replied, making a feint of starting for the house.

"Berry well, Miss Zany. I see you doan want ter be a free gyurl. I'se tell Marse Scoville you no 'count niggah."

"W'at you want anyhow, imperdence?"

"I wants sup'n ter eat. Does you 'spects I kin ride all night en all day ter brung you freedom, en den not eben git a good word? You ain' fit fer freedom. I'se tell some nachel-bawn fool ter gib you a yaller rib'on en den dere be two ob you."

"La now, Chunk," she replied, coming back, "ef I wuz lookin' fer a fool I des stay right yere. Ef you git a pa'r ob steps en look in my face you'd see I'se bettah fren' ter you ner you ter me. You stay yere en I brings you w'at you tink a heap on mor'n me," and now she darted away with intentions satisfactory to her strategic admirer.

Chunk grinned and soliloquized, "Reck'n I kin fotch dat gyurl roun' wid all her contrariations. I des likes her skittishness, but I ain' tellin' her so, kaze I gwine ter hab my han's full as 'tis."

Zany soon returned with a plate well heaped, for at this time her argus-eyed mistress was sitting in the parlor, awaiting whatever fate the ruthless Yankees might impose. Chunk sat Turk-fashion on the ground and fell to as if famished, meanwhile listening eagerly to the girl's account of what had happened during his absence.

"Hi!" said Zany disdainfully, "you'd mek lub ter Aun' Suke ef she fed you."

"I kin mek mo'n lub," Chunk answered, nodding at her portentously; "I kin mek mischief."

"Reck'n you do dat anyhow."

"See yere, Zany, does you tink Marse Scoville a fool?"

"Ob co'se not."

"Well, he doan tink me a fool. Whose 'pinion's wuth de mos'? Who took keer on 'im? Who got 'im off safe right un'er de nose ob one ob Mad Whately's sogers? Who brung 'im back des in time ter stop dat ar mar'age en gib we uns freedom? You mighty peart, but you got a heap ter larn 'fo' you cut yo' eye-tooths."

"Some folks gits dere eye-tooths en doan git nuthin' wid 'em," Zany remarked nonchalantly. "I'se 'mit dough dat you comin' on, Chunk. W'en you gits growed up you'se be right smart."

"I doan min' de foolishness ob yo' talk, Zany," Chunk replied coolly, between his huge mouthfuls. "Dat's in you, en you kyant he'p hit any mo'n a crow cawin'. I'se allus mek 'lowance fer dat. I des 'proves dis 'casion ter 'zort you ter be keerful w'at you DOES. Dere's gwine ter be mighty ticklish times--sorter flash-bang times, yer know. I'se a free man--des ez free as air, en I'se hired mysef ter Marse Scoville ter wait on 'im. I'se growed up anuff ter know he kin tek de shine off eny man I eber see, or you neider. He yo' boss now well ez mine. I'se gib 'im a good report on you ef I kin. I'se feard, howsomeber, dat he say you outgrowed yo' sense."

"Dar now, Chunk, you puttin' on mo' airs dan Marse Scoville hissef. He des ez perlite ter marster en ole miss ez ef he come ter pay his 'spects ter dem en he look at Miss Lou ez a cat do at cream."

"Hi! dat so? No won'er he want ter git ahaid ob de parson en dat weddin' business."

"Oh, yo' orful growed up en ain' fin' dat out?"

"I 'spicioned it. Well, de ting fer you'n me is ter he'p 'im."

"La, now," replied Zany, proposing to give a broad hint at the same time, "I ain' gwine ter he'p no man in sech doin's. De cream neber goes ter de cat."

"Yere, tek de plate, Zany, wid my tanks," said Chunk, rising. "Sech cream ez you gits orful sour ef de cat doan fin' it sud'n. I'se took my 'zert now," and he caught her up again and kissed her on the way back to the veranda.

This time his performances were seen by Aun' Suke, who stood in the kitchen door. She snatched up a pail of water, exclaiming, "I cool you uns off, I sut'ny will. Sech goin's on!" But they were too quick for her. Zany pretended to be as irate as she was secretly pleased, while Chunk caused the old woman to boil over with rage by declaring, "Aun' Suke, I sen' a soger yere ter hab you 'rested for 'zorderly conduct."

"Ef you eber comes ter dis kitchen agin I'se emty de pot ob bilin' water on you," cried Aun' Suke, retreating to her domain.

"Ef you does, you get yosef ober haid en years in hot water," Chunk answered with exasperating sang froid. "You niggahs gwine ter fin' out who's who on dis plantashun 'fo' yo' nex' birthday."

Zany's only response was a grimace, and he next carried his exaggerated sense of importance to his granny's cabin. He had seen Aun' Jinkey and spoken a few reassuring words as he passed with Scoville's attacking force. Since that time she had done a power of "projeckin'" over her corncob pipe, but events were now hurrying toward conclusions beyond her ken. It has already been observed that Aun' Jinkey was a neutral power. As yet, the weight of her decision had been cast neither for the North nor the South, while the question of freedom remained to be smoked over indefinitely. There was no indecision in her mind, however, in regard to her young mistress, and greater even than her fears when she heard the sounds of conflict was her solicitude over the possibility of a forced marriage. Since she was under the impression that her cabin might soon become again the refuge of one or the other of the contending powers, possibly of Miss Lou herself, she left the door ajar and was on the alert.

"Hi dar! granny," cried Chunk, the first to appear, "dat's right. Now you kin smoke in peace, fer you own yosef. Nobody come bossin' you yere any mo'."

"Doan you git so bumptious all ter oncet," said Aun' Jinkey. "Does you 'spect de hull top's gwine ter be tu'ned right ober down'erds in er day? But dar! you ain' no 'sper'ience. Yo' stomack emty en you' haid light. Draw up now en tell me de news. Tell me sud'n 'bout Miss Lou. Did dey git her mar'd?"

"Yah! yah! Marse Scoville's so'd ud cut de knot ef dey had."

"Dat's des ez much ez you knows. All de so'ds ober flash kyant cut dat ar knot 'less dey kill Marse Whately."

"Dat 'min's me ob someting ter'ble quar. Marse Scoville had he so'd pintin' right agin Mad Whately's neck en yit he ain' jab 'im. Dat same Mad Whately gwine ter mek a heap ob trouble fer he got clean off."

"Marse Scoville know dat ef he kill a man right straight wid he own han' he spook come and mek a heap mo' trouble."

"Hi! didn't tink o' dat."

"Bettah tink right smart, Chunk. You'se gittin' top-heaby ef you is sho't. Now tell me all 'bout de mar'age."

"Dey ain' no mar'age. Zany tole me how Miss Lou say she ain' neber 'sent, en den 'fo' dey could say dere lingo ober her en mar'y her des ez dey would a bale ob cotton, up rides Marse Scoville en put his so'd troo ebryting. He tells us we all free en--"

"En eat yo' supper. I ain' done projeckin' 'bout dis freedom business. How we uns gwine ter be free 'less Marse Scoville stay yere en kep us free?"

"Zany guv me my supper en--"

"Dar now, I ain' no mo' 'count. Zany gobble you aready. I des stick ter my chimbly corner."

"Howdy, Aunt Jinkey," cried Scoville, coming in briskly. "Well, you see I'm back again as I promised."

"You welcome, a hun'erd times welcome, kaze you kep my young mistis fum bein' mar'ed right slap 'gin her own feelin's ter her cousin."

"Pshaw! Aunt Jinkey. No one can marry a girl against her will in this country."

"Dat des de question Miss Lou en me projeckin' 'bout dis berry mawnin'. She gyardeens went straight along ez ef dey had de po'r, dey sut'ny did. Dat's w'at so upset Miss Lou en me. De po'r ob gyardeens is sump'n I kyant smoke out straight, en I des lak ter know how much dey KIN do. Ole mars'r al'ays manage her prop'ty en we wuz flustrated w'en we see 'im en Mad Whately en he moder en ole miss en all gittin' ready fer de weddin' des ez ef hit was comin' like sun-up sho."

"It was a shame," cried Scoville angrily. "They were seeking to


Miss Lou - 20/64

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