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- Miss Minerva and William Green Hill - 4/25 -


neighbor.

"Hello!" shouted Billy. "Is you the bad little boy what can't play with me?"

"What you doing in Miss Minerva's yard?" came the answering interrogation across the fence.

"I's come to live with her," replied Billy. "My mama an' papa is dead. What's yo' name?"

"I'm Jimmy Garner. How old are you? I'm most six, I am."

"Shucks, I's already six, a-going on seven. Come on, le's swing."

"Can't," said the new acquaintance, "I've runned off once to-day, and got licked for it."

"I ain't never got no whippin' sence me an' Wilkes Booth Lincoln 's born," boasted Billy.

"Ain't you?" asked Jimmy. "I 'spec' I been whipped more 'n a million times, my mama is so pertic'lar with me. She's 'bout the pertic'larest woman ever was; she don't 'low me to leave the yard 'thout I get a whipping. I believe I will come over to see you 'bout half a minute."

Suiting the action to the word Jimmy climbed the fence, and the two little boys were soon comfortably settled facing each other in the big lawn-swing.

"Who lives over there?" asked Billy, pointing to the house across the street.

"That's Miss Cecilia's house. That's her coming out of the front gate now."

The young lady smiled and waved her hand at them.

"Ain't she a peach?" asked Jimmy. "She's my sweetheart and she is 'bout the swellest sweetheart they is."

"She's mine, too," promptly replied Billy, who had fallen in love at first sight. "I's a-goin' to have her fer my sweetheart too."

"Naw, she ain't yours, neither; she's mine," angrily declared the other little boy, kicking his rival's legs. "You all time talking 'bout you going to have Miss Cecilia for your sweetheart. She's done already promised me."

"I'll tell you what," proposed Billy, "lemme have her an' you can have Aunt Minerva."

"I wouldn't have Miss Minerva to save your life," replied Jimmy disrespectfully, "her nake ain't no bigger 'n that," making a circle of his thumb and forefinger. "Miss Cecilia, Miss Cecilia," he shrieked tantalizingly, "is my sweetheart."

"I'll betcher I have her fer a sweetheart soon as ever I see her," said Billy.

"What's your name?" asked Jimmy presently.

"Aunt Minerva says it's William Green Hill, but 'tain't, it's jest plain Billy," responded the little boy.

"Ain't God a nice, good old man," remarked Billy, after they had swung in silence for a while, with an evident desire to make talk.

"That He is," replied Jimmy, enthusiastically. "He's 'bout the forgivingest person ever was. I just couldn't get 'long at all 'thout Him. It don't make no differ'nce what you do or how many times you run off, all you got to do is just ask God to forgive you and tell him you're sorry and ain't going to do so no more, that night when you say your prayers, and it's all right with God. S'posing He was one of these wants-his-own-way kind o' mans, He could make Hi'self the troublesomest person ever was, and little boys couldn't do nothing a tall. I sure think a heap of God. He ain't never give me the worst of it yet."

"I wonder what He looks like," mused Billy.

"I s'pec' He just looks like the three-headed giant in Jack the Giant-Killer," explained Jimmy, "'cause He's got three heads and one body. His heads are name' Papa, Son, and Holy Ghost, and His body is just name' plain God. Miss Cecilia 'splained it all to me and she is 'bout the splendidest 'splainer they is. She's my Sunday-School teacher."

"She's goin' to be my Sunday-School teacher, too," said Billy serenely.

"Yours nothing; you all time want my Sunday-School teacher."

"Jimmee!" called a voice from the interior of the house in the next yard.

"Somebody's a-callin' you," said Billy.

"That ain't nobody but mama," explained Jimmy composedly.

"Jimmee-ee!" called the voice.

"Don't make no noise," warned that little boy, "maybe she'll give up toreckly."

"You Jimmee!" his mother called again.

Jimmy made no move to leave the swing.

"I don' never have to go 'less she says `James Lafayette Garner,' then I got to hustle," he remarked.

"Jimmy Garner!"

"She's mighty near got me," he said softly; "but maybe she'll get tired and won't call no more. She ain't plumb mad yet.

"James Garner!"

"It's coming now," said Jimmy dolefully.

The two little boys sat very still and quiet.

"James Lafayette Garner!"

The younger child sprang to his feet.

"I got to get a move on now," he said; "when she calls like that she means business. I betcher she's got a switch and a hair-brush and a slipper in her hand right this minute. I'll be back toreckly," he promised.

He was as good as his word, and in a very short time he was sitting again facing Billy in the swing.

"She just wanted to know where her embroid'ry scissors was," he explained. "It don't matter what's lost in that house I'm always the one that's got to be 'sponsible and all time got to go look for it."

"Did you find 'em?" asked Billy.

"Yep; I went right straight where I left 'em yeste'day. I had 'em trying to cut a piece of wire. I stole off and went down to Sam Lamb's house this morning and tooken breakfast with him and his old woman, Sukey," he boasted.

"I knows Sam Lamb," said Billy, "I rode up on the bus with him."

"He's my partner," remarked Jimmy.

"He's mine, too," said Billy quickly.

"No, he ain't neither; you all time talking 'bout you going to have Sam Lamb for a partner. You want everything I got. You want Miss Cecilia and you want Sam Lamb. Well, you just ain't a-going to have 'em. You got to get somebody else for your partner and sweetheart."

"Well, you jest wait an' see," said Billy. "I got Major Minerva."

"Shucks, they ain't no Major name' that away," and Jimmy changed the subject. "Sam Lamb's sow's got seven little pigs. He lemme see 'em suck," said Sam Lamb's partner proudly. "He's got a cow, too; she's got the worrisomest horns ever was. I believe she's a steer anyway."

"Shucks," said the country boy, contemptuously, "You do' know a steer when you see one; you can't milk no steer."

CHAPTER V

TURNING ON THE HOSE

"Look! Ain't that a snake?" shrieked Billy, pointing to what looked to him like a big snake coiled in the yard.

"Snake, nothing!" sneered his companion, "that's a hose. You all time got to call a hose a snake. Come on, let's sprinkle," and Jimmy sprang out of the swing, jerked up the hose, and dragged it to the hydrant. "My mama don't never 'low me to sprinkle with her hose, but Miss Minerva she's so good I don' reckon she'll care," he cried mendaciously.

Billy followed, watched his companion screw the hose to the faucet, and turn the water on. There was a hissing, gurgling sound and a stream of water shot out, much to the rapture of the astonished Billy.

"Won't Aunt Minerva care?" he asked, anxiously. "Is she a real 'ligious 'oman?"


Miss Minerva and William Green Hill - 4/25

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