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- Miss Lou - 60/64 -
happened last night," he said curtly. "Be careful in the future. If you will only be sensible about it, this ridiculous scare will be to our advantage, for the hands are subdued enough now and frightened into their duty."
Perkins remained silent. In truth, he was more frightened than any one else, for the death of his dog appeared to single him out as a special object of ghostly hostility. He got through the day as well as he could, but dreaded the coming night all the more as he saw eyes directed toward him, as if he, in some way, were the cause of the supernatural visitation. This belief was due to the fact that Aun' Jinkey in her terror had spoken of Scoville's death, although she would not tell how she knew about it. "Perkins shoot at en try ter kill Marse Scoville," she had whispered to her cronies, "en now he daid he spook comin' yere ter hant de oberseer. We neber hab no quiet nights till dat ar Perkins go way fer good."
This rational explanation passed from lip to lip and was generally accepted. The coming night was looked forward to in deep apprehension, and by none more than by Perkins. Indeed, his fears so got the better of him that when the hands quit work he started for the nearest tavern and there remained till morning. Chunk was made aware of this fact, and the night passed in absolute quiet. All the negroes not in the secret now hoped that the overseer was the sole prey of the spook, and that if they remained quietly in their places they would be unmolested. Chunk and a few of the boldest of his fellow conspirators had full scope therefore to perfect their final arrangements. In a disused room of one of the outbuildings the most ragged and blood-stained uniforms of the Union soldiers had been cast and forgotten. These were carried to a point near the burying- ground, tried on and concealed. Chunk found it was no easy task to keep even the reckless fellows he had picked up to the sticking point of courage in the grewsome tasks he had in view, but his scoff, together with their mutual aid and comfort, carried them through, while the hope of speedy freedom inspired them to what was felt to be great risks.
On this occasion he dismissed them some little time before midnight, for he wished them to get rested and in good condition for what he hoped would be the final effort the following night. As he lingered in the still, starlit darkness he could not resist making an effort to see Zany, and so began hooting like an owl down by the run, gradually approaching nearer till he reached the garden. Zany, wakeful and shivering with nameless dread, was startled by the sound. Listening intently, she soon believed she detected a note that was Chunk's and not a bird's. Her first impression was that her lover had discovered that he could not go finally away without her and so had returned. Her fear of spooks was so great that her impulse was to run away with Chunk as far from that haunted plantation as he would take her. Trembling like a wind-shaken leaf, she stole into the garden shrubbery and whispered, "Chunk?"
"Hi! yere I is."
There was no tantalizing coquetry in Zany's manner now. In a moment she was in Chunk's arms sobbing, "Tek me way off fum dis place. I go wid you now, dis berry minute, en I neber breve easy till we way, way off enywhar, I doan keer whar. Oh, Chunk, you doan know w'at been gwine on en I darsn't tell you twel we gits way off."
"I isn't feared," replied Chunk easily.
"Dat's kaze you doan know. I des been tremblin' stiddy sence las' night en I'se feared hit begin eny minute now."
"Hit woan begin dis yere night," replied Chunk, soothingly and incautiously.
"How you know?" she asked quickly, a sudden suspicion entering her mind.
"Wat's ter begin?" answered Chunk, now on his guard. "De night am still, nobody roun'. I hang roun' a few nights twel I study out de bes' plan ter git away."
"Has you been hangin' roun' nights, Chunk?" Zany asked solemnly.
"How you talks, Zany! Does you s'pects I dar stay roun' whar Perkins am? He kill me. He done gone way to-night."
"How you know dat?"
"One de fiel'-hans tole me."
"Chunk, ef you up ter shines en doan tole me I done wid you. Hasn't I hep you out'n in eberyting so fur? Ef I fin' out you been skeerin me so wid eny doin's I des done wid you. I des feel hit in my bones you de spook. You kyant bamboozle me. I kin hep you--hab done hit afo'--en I kin hinder you, so be keerful. Dere's some dif'unce in bein' a spook yosef en bein' skeered ter death by a rale spook. Ef you tryin' ter skeer en fool me I be wuss on you ner eny Voodoo woman dat eber kunjurd folks."
The interview ended in Chunk's making a clean breast of it and in securing Zany as an ally with mental reservations. The thought that he had fooled her rankled.
Mr. Baron's expostulation and his own pressing interests induced Perkins to remain at home the following night. As Jute had seemed forgiving and friendly, the overseer asked him to bring two others and stay with him, offering some of the contents of the replenished jug as a reward. They sat respectfully near the door while Perkins threw himself on his bed with the intention of getting to sleep as soon as possible. "Are you shore ther wuz no 'sturbances last night?" he asked.
"Well, Marse Perkins," replied Jute, "you didn't s'pect we out lookin'. We wuz po'ful sleepy en roll we haids en er blankets en den 'fo' we knowed, hit sun-up. Folks say en de quarters dat ar spook ain' arter us."
"Who the devil is hit arter then?" was the angry response.
"How we know, mars'r? We neber try ter kill enybody."
"But I tell you I didn't kill him," expostulated their nervous victim.
"Didn't name no names, Marse Perkins. I on'y knows w'at I yeared folks tell 'bout spooks. Dey's mighty cur'us, spooks is. Dey des 'pear to git a spite agin some folks en dey ain' bodderin oder folks long ez dey ain' 'feered wid. I 'spect a spook dat wuz 'feered wid, get he dander up en slam roun' permiscus. I des tek a ole bull by de horns 'fo' I 'fere wid a spook," and Jute's companions grunted assent.
"W'at's the good o' yer bein' yere then?" Perkins asked, taking a deep draught.
"Well, now, Marse Perkins, you mus'n be onreasonbul. Wat cud we do? We des riskin' de wool on we haids stayin' yere fer comp'ny. Ef de spook come, 'spose he tink we no business yere en des lay we out lak he kunjer yo' dawg? We des tank you, Marse Perkins, fer anoder lil drap ter kep we sperets out'n we shoon," and Jute shuddered portentously.
"Well," said Perkins, with attempted bravado, "I rammed a piece o' silver down on the bullat in my gun. 'Twix 'em both--"
"Dar now, Marse Perkins, you des been 'posed on 'bout dat silber business. Ole Unc' Sampson w'at libed on de Simcoe place nigh on er hun'erd yeahs, dey say, tole me lots 'bout a spook dat boddered um w'en he a boy. Way back ole Marse Simcoe shot at de man dat hanker fer he darter. De man put out en get drownded, but dat doan make no dif'rence, Unc' Sampson say, kaze ole Marse Simcoe do he bes' ter kill der man. He sorter hab kill in he heart en Unc' Sampson low a spook know w'at gwine on in er man's in'erds, en dey des goes fer de man dat wanter kill um on de sly, en not dose dat kill in fa'r fight. Ole Unc' Sampson po'ful on spooks. He libed so long he get ter be sorter spook hesef, en dey say he talk ter um haf de time 'fo' he kiner des snuf out'n lak a can'l."
"He wuz a silly old fool," growled Perkins, with a perceptible tremor in his voice.
"Spect he wuz 'bout some tings," resumed Jute, "but know spooks, he sut'ny did. He say ole Marse Simcoe useter plug lead en silver right froo dat man dat want he darter, en dar was de hole en de light shin'in' froo hit. But de spook ain' min'in' a lil ting lak dat, he des come on all de same snoopin' roun' arter de ole man's darter. Den one mawnin' de ole man lay stiff en daid in he baid, he eyes starin' open ez ef he see sump'n he cudn't stan' no how. Dat wuz de las' ob dat ar spook, Unc' Sampson say, en he say spook's cur'us dat away. Wen dey sats'fy dere grudge dey lets up en dey doan foller de man dey down on kaze dey on'y po'r in de place whar de man 'lowed ter kill um."
Perkins took a mental note of this very important limitation of ghostly persecution, and resolved that if he had any more trouble all the crops in the State would not keep him within the haunted limit.
He whiled away the time by aid of his jug and Job-like comforters till it began to grow late and he drowsy.
Suddenly Jute exclaimed, "Hi! Marse Perkins, w'at dat light dancin' up yon'er by de grabeyard?"
The overseer rose with a start, his hair rising also as he saw a fitful jack-o'-lantern gleam, appearing and disappearing on the cemetery hill. As had been expected, he obeyed his impulse, pouring down whiskey until he speedily rendered himself utterly helpless; but while his intoxication disabled him physically, it produced for a time an excited and disordered condition of mind in which he was easily imposed upon. Jute shook him and adjured him to get up, saying, "I years quar soun's comin' dis way."
When satisfied that their victim could make no resistance, Jute and companions pretended to start away in terror. Perkins tried to implore them to remain, but his lips seemed paralyzed. A few moments later a strange group entered the cottage--five figures dressed in Federal uniforms, hands and faces white and ghastly, and two carrying white cavalry sabres. Each one had its finger on its lips, but Perkins was beyond speech. In unspeakable horror he stared vacantly before him and remained silent and motionless. The ghostly shapes looked at him fixedly for a brief time, then at one another, and solemnly nodded. Next, four took him up and bore him out, the fifth following with the jug. At the door stood an immovably tall form, surmounted by a cavalry hat and wrapped in a long army overcoat.
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