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- Miss Minerva and William Green Hill - 5/25 -
"She is the Christianest woman they is," announced the other child. "Come on, we'll sprinkle the street--and I don't want nobody to get in our way neither."
"I wish Wilkes Booth Lincoln could see us," said Miss Minerva's nephew.
A big, fat negress, with a bundle of clothes tied in a red table cloth on her head, came waddling down the sidewalk.
Billy looked at Jimmy and giggled, Jimmy looked at Billy and giggled; then, the latter took careful aim and a stream of water hit the old woman squarely in the face.
"Who dat? What's yo' doin'?" she yelled, as she backed off. "'I's a-gwine to tell yo' pappy, Jimmy Garner," as she recognized one of the culprits. "Pint dat ar ho'e 'way f'om me, 'fo' I make yo' ma spank yuh slabsided. I got to git home an' wash. Drap it, I tell yuh!"
Two little girls rolling two doll buggies in which reposed two enormous rag-babies were seen approaching.
"That's Lina Hamilton and Frances Black," said Jimmy, "they're my chums."
Billy took a good look at them. "They's goin' to be my chums, too," he said calmly.
"Your chums, nothing!" angrily cried Jimmy, swelling up pompously. "You all time trying to claim my chums. I can't have nothing a tall 'thout you got to stick your mouth in. You 'bout the selfishest boy they is. You want everything I got, all time."
The little girls were now quite near and Jimmy hailed them gleefully, forgetful of his anger.
"Come on, Lina, you and Frances," he shrieked, "and we can have the mostest fun. Billy here's done come to live with Miss Minerva and she's done gone up town and don't care if we sprinkle, 'cause she's got so much 'ligion."
"But you know none of us are allowed to use a hose," objected Lina.
"But it's so much fun," said Jimmy; "and Miss Minerva she's so Christian she ain't going to raise much of a rough-house, and if she do we can run when we see her coming."
"I can't run," said Billy, "I ain't got nowhere to run to an'--"
"If that ain't just like you, Billy," interrupted Jimmy, "all time talking 'bout you ain't got nowhere to run to; you don't want nobody to have no fun. You 'bout the picayunest boy they is."
Little Ikey Rosenstein, better known as "GooseGrease," dressed in a cast-off suit of his big brother's, with his father's hat set rakishly back on his head and over his ears, was coming proudly down the street some distance off.
"Yonder comes Goose-Grease Rosenstein," said Jimmy gleefully. "When he gets right close le's make him hop."
"All right," agreed Billy, his good humor restored, "le's baptize him good."
"Oh, we can't baptize him," exclaimed the other little boy, "'cause he's a Jew and the Bible says not to baptize Jews. You got to mesmerize 'em. How come me to know so much?" he continued condescendingly, "Miss Cecilia teached me in the Sunday-School. Sometimes I know so much I I feel like I'm going to bust. She teached me 'bout `Scuffle little chillens and forbid 'em not,' and 'bout 'Ananias telled Sapphira he done it with his little hatchet,' and 'bout "Lijah jumped over the moon in a automobile: I know everything what's in the Bible. Miss Cecilia sure is a crackerjack; sties 'bout the stylishest Sunday-School teacher they is."
"'T was the cow jumped over the moon," said Frances, "and it isn't in the Bible; it's in Mother Goose."
"And Elijah went to Heaven in a chariot of fire," corrected Lina.
"And I know all 'bout Gabr'el," continued Jimmy unabashed. "When folks called him to blow his trumpet he was under the haystack fast asleep."
Ikey was quite near by this time to command the attention of the four children.
"Let's mesmerize Goose-Grease," yelled Jimmy, as he turned the stream of water full upon him.
Frances, Lina, and Billy clapped their hands and laughed for joy.
With a terrified and angry shriek their victim, dripping water at every step, ran howling by his tormentors. When he reached a safe distance he turned around, shook a fist at them, and screamed back:
"My papa is going to have you all arrested and locked up in the calaboose."
"Calaboose, nothing!" jeered Jimmy. "You all time wanting to put somebody in the calaboose 'cause they mesmerize you. You got to be mesmerized 'cause it's in the Bible."
A short, stout man, dressed in neat black clothes, was coming toward them.
"Oh, that's the Major!" screamed Billy delightedly, taking the hose and squaring himself to greet his friend of the train, but Jimmy jerked it out of his hand, before either of them noticed him turning about, as if for something forgotten.
"You ain't got the sense of a one-eyed tadpole, Billy," he said. "That's Miss Minerva's beau. He's been loving her more 'n a million years. My mama says he ain't never going to marry nobody a tall 'thout he can get Miss Minerva, and Miss Minerva she just turns up her nose at anything that wears pants. You better not sprinkle him. He's been to the war and got his big toe shot off. He kilt 'bout a million Injuns and Yankees and he's name' Major 'cause he's a Confed'rit vetrun. He went to the war when he ain't but fourteen."
"Did he have on long pants?" asked Billy. "I call him Major Minerva--"
"Gladys Maude's got the pennyskeeters," broke in Frances importantly, fussing over her baby, "and I'm going to see Doctor Sanford. Don't you think she looks pale, Jimmy?"
"Pale, nothing!" sneered the little boy. "Girls got to all time play their dolls are sick. Naw; I don't know nothing a tall 'bout your Gladys Maude."
Lina gazed up the street.
"That looks like Miss Minerva to me 'way up yonder," she remarked. "I think we had better get away from here before she sees us."
Two little girls rolling two doll buggies fairly flew down the street and one little boy quickly climbed to the top of the dividing fence. From this safe vantage point he shouted to Billy, who was holding the nozzle of the hose out of which poured a stream of water.
"You 'd better turn that water off 'cause Miss Minerva's going to be madder 'n a green persimmon."
"I do' know how to," said Billy forlornly. "You turnt it on."
"Drop the hose and run to the hydrant and twist that little thing at the top," screamed Jimmy. "You all time got to perpose someping to get little boys in trouble anyway," he added ungenerously.
"You perposed this yo'self," declared an indignant Billy. "You said Aunt Minerva's so 'ligious she wouldn't git mad."
"Christian womans can get just as mad as any other kind," declared the other boy, sliding from his perch on the fence and running across his lawn to disappear behind his own front door.
Holding her skirts nearly up to her knees Miss Minerva stepped gingerly along the wet and muddy street till she got to her gate, where her nephew met her, looking a little guilty, but still holding his head up with that characteristic, manly air which was so attractive.
"William," she said sternly, "I see you have been getting into mischief, and I feel it my duty to punish you, so that you may learn to be trustworthy. I said nothing to you about the hose because I did not think you would know how to use it."
Billy remained silent. He did not want to betray his little companions of the morning, so he said nothing in his own defense.
"Come with me into the house," continued his aunt, "you must go to bed at once."
But the child protested vigorously.
"Don' make me go to bed in the daytime, Aunt Minerva; me an' Wilkes Booth Lincoln ain't never went to bed in the daytime since we's born, an' I ain't never hear tell of a real 'ligious 'oman a-puttin' a little boy in bed 'fore it's dark; an' I ain't never a-goin' to meddle with yo' ole hose no mo'."
But Miss Minerva was obdurate, and the little boy spent a miserable hour between the sheets.
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