| In My Youth|
|by James Baldwin|
|A decidedly different autobiography, originally published under the pseudonym Robert Dudley, eventually revealed to be James Baldwin. A portrayal of life in rural Indiana in the middle of the 19th century it certainly is, but it is so much more. In the words of Mr. Howland, an editor for the original publisher, 'It is difficult to describe just what there is so remarkable about this book, but it is undeniably wonderful. It is literature. It is a strange combination of autobiography and fiction, and records only the simplest happenings -- the life of people in the Indiana backwoods, the primitive life, the commonplace experiences, the visits between neighbors. To tell about it in this way does not make it sound remarkable, yet it is. The style is simple and clear; there is a quiet humor running through it, and in other places the reading brings tears to the eyes.' Ages 10-12 |
WHAT THEY BROUGHT FROM THE 'HIO
 I HELD the gate wide open, and David, without casting a
glance at me or recognizing my existence, drove the
tired team into the barnyard. But father, coming close
behind, took my hand in his, and with a smile that went
straight to my heart, said, "Well, Robert, has thee
been a good boy while I was away?"
I made no answer, for I knew that none was expected;
and side by side, we walked around to the cabin door.
Mother was on the hearth, heaping some hot coals on the
oven wherein a corn pone was baking, and she knew
father's step as he entered. Trying hard to suppress
any unseemly show of emotion, she looked up and quietly
remarked, "Well, Stephen, we didn't expect thee home
till to-morrow." But cousin Mandy Jane, rushing in,
breathless, with a pail of water from the spring, was
less able to restrain herself.
"Sakes alive!" she cried, panting and making as if she
would shamelessly throw her arms right around father's
stalwart form, "Gracious' sake! Has thee been all the
way to Larnceburg and back so quick as this?"
Father answered her with becoming dignity and reserve:
"It is quite natural for all of you to be surprised,
for we told you not to look for us till to-morrow. But
circumstances alter cases."
"I hope thee didn't have no back luck," said Aunt
Rachel, knocking the ashes from her pipe.
 "Luck had nothing to do with it," replied father; "but
circumstances made it necessary for us to hurry home a
day or two sooner than the rest of the men; and so here
we are. That's all."
"Well, I'd like to know!" said mother, her curiosity
getting the better of her sense of propriety. "Thee
certainly hain't been getting' into trouble with any of
Father made no reply, but began to brush the dust from
his big beaver hat, thus plainly indicating that no
further information need be expected until he chose to
Curious to see what they had brought from the "Hio, no
less than to learn why they had come home so hurriedly,
I ran out to the barn where I found both David and
Jonathan busy putting away the horses. The wagon was
standing just outside the barn door, and I peeped over
the tail-board to see what was in it. To my great
satisfaction I saw there a huge sugar kettle reposing
upside down on a large pile of straw which seemed
recently to have been much disarranged. The kettle was
so big that it filled all the space between the straw
and the wagon cover, completely shutting out the view
toward the front. In fact, from my view-point on the
tail-board, there seemed to be but little room in the
vehicle for anything else.
As I was looking and wondering whether I might not go
round and peep under the driver's seat, I was suddenly
startled by hearing David's gruff voice crying out,
"Git away from there, thee Towhead, thee! If thee
wants to see the marvels I fetched thee, climb up in
the mow and throw down some hay for the horses."
He had not forgotten his promise of the marbles,
 then! So, although I didn't relish the manner of his
speaking, I jumped down and ran into the barn to do his
bidding; but, as I was entering the door, he called
after me again more gruffly than before, "Don't thee
look in the grainery when thee goes past it!"
What did he mean by that?
Filled with a new curiosity, I made no reply, but went
somewhat sulkily across the barn floor to the ladder
which led up into the haymow. As I passed by the
little room or bin which we called the "grainery," how
could I help turning my eyes in that direction? To my
great surprise, I saw the door of the bin softly
turning upon its hinges and closing, as though moved by
some unseen hand. A shiver of cold fright ran through
me, I bounded quickly past it, and in another moment
was safely up the ladder and in the haymow. Trembling
with excitement, I threw some hay down to the horses,
as I had been bidden, and then bethought me of
returning to the wagon. But there was that granary
door and the mysterious thing, whatever it was, that
had causes it to move on its hinges. Could I dare to
pass near it again? And yet there was no other way by
which I could escape from the barn.
For several minutes I tarried at the top of the ladder
trying to screw my courage up to the sticking point.
Then, with a great lump in my throat, and the shivers
running up my back, I boldly scampered down and out of
the barn as though the Old Feller was really after me;
and not one glance did I dare to cast toward the
mysterious granary door.
Once again in the open air, my courage revived, and I
resolved not to say a word to any one about my
adventure. The boys had already removed the canvas
 cover and the wagon bows, and were now lifting out the
ponderous sugar kettle.
"It's a mighty roomy pot," remarked Jonathan.
"Yes," answered David. "It's the biggest one ever seen
in the 'Hio Country. I reckon it won't hold nary pint
less'n three barrel."
"It's just what we'll need at sugar makin' time to bile
the sap in," said Jonathan; "and mother, she'll like it
when it comes to makin' soap."
As they were setting it down on the ground I looked at
the place it had occupied in the wagon and saw to my
surprise that it had not been resting on the hay, as
appearances indicated, but upon two cross pieces of
wood which extended between the sides of the wagon bed;
and in the straw immediately beneath it, there was a
cavity, shaped like a hen's nest, which was fully large
enough to accommodate the body of a man.
"I wonder what was in that hole," I said innocently,
half speaking to myself; but David heard me.
"Thee jist mind thy own business, thee little Towhead,
thee!" he cried out with warmth. "If thee knows when
thee's well off, thee won't be a-stickin' thy nose
where it don't belong."
Fearing to anger him and thus postpone the gift of
marbles, I held my peace and stood silently by while
the unloading of the wagon was continued. A barrel of
salt was lifted out and rolled across the yard to be
stored in the weavin'-room. Then from under the
driver's seat, Jonathan abstracted a variety of useful
"articles—an" ox chain, a heavy ax, an iron wedge
and a plowshare. Last of all, he lifted out the big
green willow basket full of packages of all shapes and
sizes, each wrapped with brown paper and tied with
 "Let's tote this thing to the house jist as it is,"
said David. "Then father, he can undo the bundles like
he always does and tell us whose is whose."
"All right!" answered Jonathan: "but I'd e'enamost like
to undo two or three of 'em myself."
And so, each taking hold of a side, they carried the
heavy basket into the cabin; and I, my curiosity
whetted to the edge, followed them silently and saw it
deposited in the corner by the cupboard. I wondered
whether among all those packages there was not
something for me, and my mind dwelt particularly upon
the ginseng roots that I had sent to the 'Hio and the
fabulous returns that I had taught myself to expect
The table was spread for the evening meal. From the
steaming pots and kettles in front of the fireplace
savory odors rose that tickled the palate and roused
the dormant appetite.
"Is supper ready?" queried David. "I'm e'enamost
hungry enough to eat the tater pot, lid and all."
"Thee'll have to chaw thy thumb a little bit," said
bustling Mandy Jane. "The sweet taters ain't quite
biled enough yet; but 'twon't be long."
Father, having exchanged his meetin' clothes for the
more serviceable garb of every-day wear, was sitting
under the bookcase and engaged in earnest talk with
mother. I wondered what it was about, and dismissing
all further thoughts of the packages and of supper, I
edged my way very quietly toward that part of the room
and stood listening.
"It happened this way," I heard him say. "We had sold
the wheat and the wool and were driving along the
street toward the store, when I heard somebody call me
by name. I looked around, and who does thee think it
 was if it wasn't Levi Coffin? He told me that he had
just come down from Sin Snatty, and that there was a
black man hiding in one of the stores near by who
needed help. He told me that the man was a runaway
from Kentucky and that his master has terribly whipped
and abused him. 'We must send him on to Canada as
quick as we can,' Levi said. 'If his master finds him
and takes him back, I've no doubt that what he'll flog
him to death!' I told Levi that I hoped he would be
able to get the slave into some safe place before his
master crossed the river. And then he said that to do
this he must have my help and have it right away.
Wouldn't I take him in our wagon and start north with
him that very night? Wouldn't I see that he got as far
as to Hezekiah Jones's in the Wild Cat Settlement, just
as quick as he could be carried? I told him that we
were not aiming to start back for at least a couple of
days, and I wanted to buy a number of things to take
home with me; and besides, I told him that there was a
good deal of risk and danger when it comes to helping a
slave to escape from his master.
"And I should think that that would have convinced
him," said mother.
"Yes, but it didn't," said father. "He only insisted
all the more, and he wouldn't listen to any excuses.
'Thee'll be doing the Lord a service,' he said; and he
pressed me harder and harder, and quoted Scripture to
me. And at last he said that he would go around to the
stores with me, right away, and help me buy the things
that I needed to take home. What should I have done?"
"Thee should have done as thy conscience told thee to
do," answered mother decisively.
"And that is what I did do," said father. "I could
 not feel free to turn a deaf ear to Levi's entreaties;
nor could I bear the thought of allowing the poor black
man to be seized and dragged back into slavery. So we
hurried with all the speed that we could and were ready
to start home before daylight the next morning."
"And what did Joel Sparker and Enoch and the rest of
'em say about it?"
"We came off quietly without telling them anything at
all. For it is safest not to have too much help when
it comes to keeping a secret. We didn't tell any of
them but Levi T.; and he promised that he would make
excuses for us when the right time came."
"And what about that there black man?" inquired Cousin
Mandy Jane, busily fishing the steaming potatoes from
"Oh, we had him along with us. We hid him in the straw
under the big sugar kettle and hardly let him stir till
we were safe out of the 'Hio Country; and every time we
met anybody on the road we made the poor fellow dodge
back into his hole. He's a pitiable suffering
creature, with gashes all over him where the whip cut
him and the dogs tore him."
"Sakes alive!" cried Mandy Jane.
"But what did thee do with him?" inquired mother.
"Where is he now?"
Father turned sharply to David, "Did thee do as I
"Yes, father, I put the tarnal critter in the grainery,
and I told him not to peek his nose out of it till
"And we made him a bed of oats straw," added Jonathan.
"He's about the miserablest-lookin' gob of a two-legged
human that I ever set my eyes on."
 "Pore fellow!" said mother; "and he must be hungry
"Why not fetch him up to the house and let him set down
to supper with the rest of us?" suggested Cousin Mandy
"I don't think he would feel free to mingle with white
people in that way," said father. "There might also be
some danger to him in doing so; for the slave hunters
may be closer to us than we are aware."
"It will be better to carry him something," said
mother; "and we'll do that right now. He shall have
his supper before the rest of us taste a bite."
She had already begun to fill a large wooden platter
with food from the various sources at hand; boiled
bacon and beans, sweet potatoes, stewed pumpkin, hot
corn dodgers, and sweet roas'n'-ears; and to these she
added a generous slice of white wheaten bread covered
thick with fresh apple butter of her own making.
"That's more'n I've eat in a week," said Jonathan, and
his pinched pale features confirmed the truth of his
"But that there tarnal black feller, he'll lick it all
up at one settin' and then grunt for more," said David,
who had already some knowledge of the gustatory powers
of the fugitive.
"Supper's ready!" announced Cousin Mandy Jane.
"We must not sit down until we've given the black man
his share," said father. "Our own food will taste the
better if we know that his wants have been satisfied."
Then, taking the well-filled planter in his hands, he
turned to me and said softly, "Come, Robert, thee may
fetch that pitcher of milk with thee, for him to
 And so, with the food and the pitcher of milk, we
sallied forth to the barn to feed our humble guest; and
close behind us came mother and Mandy Jane and half
reluctant Jonathan. But Aunt Rachel composedly
remained in the chimney corner, manifesting no
curiosity. "I've seen a many of them fellers down
South," she muttered, "and they don't have no
attractions." and David, unable to control his appetite
longer, sat himself down alone at the table and began
to devour whatever food was nearest at hand.
Father pushed open the door of the granary and called
out, "Samuel is thee there? Here is a bite of
something for thee to eat. Don't be afraid, for thee's
There was a rustling lumbering sound within, and
presently the fugitive, covered with cobwebs, emerged
from the darkness. If the black man whom I had seen at
Widder Bright's was ugly, this one was truly hideous.
He was a small man, hunchbacked, misshapen cowering
like a much mistreated dog. The Old Feller himself
could not have presented a more forbidding appearance;
and yet the sight of him was pitiful, a great scar on
his forehead, his left arm hanging useless, his clothes
in tatters. Sympathy for his misfortunes immediately
overcame the fear which his beastly appearance had
engendered. We could not withhold from him the
generous pity that would have been accorded to any
brute in a similar state of helplessness and distress.
Mother came quickly and boldly forward and, in that
gentle tone of which she was so accomplished a
mistress, said, "How's thee, Samuel? I'm right glad to
The fellow looked dumbly at her and made no motion to
touch the hand which she proffered. Then ducking
 his "head—but whether for politeness or for the
lack of it, I know not—he" grunted, "Ugh!" and
turned toward the rest of our company.
"We have brought thy supper to thee," said father.
Samuel grunted again, and snatching the platter from
father's hands, he began immediately to devour the
tempting food. "Good! good!" he grunted, and then
paid no further heed to our presence. With strange
conflicting emotions, I went timidly forward and set
the pitcher of milk within his reach. I had expected
to see a hero, and had found a brute.
"We hope thee will enjoy it," said mother.
"Ugh! ugh!" he answered; and his great mouth distended
with food, he shuffled back into the dark privacy of
"We won't disturb him any longer," said father; and
with feelings of mingled disappointment, resentment and
pity, we returned silently to the house and our waiting
"My sakes alive!" said Cousin Mandy Jane in a half
whisper; "ain't he any ugly critter?"
"God made him," answered mother piously.
And David, having gorged himself during our absence,
looked up from his empty plate and wickedly added, "And
it's my 'pinion He done a mighty pore job of it."
The remark was so unusual, and withal so irreverent and
unnecessary, that it temporarily dispelled our
enjoyment and threw me into a state of apprehension
that disturbed me not a little. I felt that if the
lightning should suddenly destroy our dwelling, or a
flood overwhelm the entire Settlement, we should only
be experiencing the just vengeance of an angry Jehovah.
 "David, I am sorry that thee should be so frivolous as
to speak in that manner," was father's mild reproof.
And the supper was eaten in silence.
Nevertheless, when the table was cleared, the dishes
were washed, and all the family assembled by the
hearth, our spirits revived and we were ourselves
again. Night had fallen; but out-of-doors the moon was
beaming, and indoors the fire blazed brightly, being
judiciously fed with pieces of oily hickory bark that
had been stored up for such occasions. The green
willow basket was dragged out into the middle of the
floor, and all of us, save "David—impulsive
David— stood" round it, expectant, curious,
anxious to witness the unpacking.
Father, trying very hard to be patriarchal and
dignified, and illy concealing the pride and joy that
would well up from his heart, sat down beside the
basket and unwrapped the various packages, one by one.
Of course, most of the articles were for the
womenfolks; a pair of store shoes and a roll of pink
calico to be made into a First-day meetin' dress for
Cousin Mandy Jane; a yard of gingham for Aunt Rachel;
some narrow dove-colored ribbons for mother's new
bonnet (which she was making at odd spells); a paper of
needles and three spools of thread; a brass thimble; a
tin coffee-pot to replace our old one that was clean
rusted through at the bottom. After these, came a
variety of articles for table consumption and general
household use. Among them were two pounds of real
coffee in the grain; a bag of rice; little packages of
allspice and black pepper for "seasonings—and" a
small quantity of saleratus, all bought with eggs and
cheeses that mother had sent to the market. As each
package was given out, it was duly inspected by all
 the family, its price was noted, and comments were made
in anticipation of the pleasure that it would give us;
and then it was put away in its "place—be" that
the cupboard, the table drawer, the hair trunk under
Aunt Rachel's bed, or the mantel-shelf in the
big-house. My vanity found encouragement in
contemplating the vast amount of money that must have
been required to purchase such things.
"Father, is thee sure that these are all free-labor
goods?" asked mother while yet the basket was by no
"Well, I bought nothing until I had made careful
inquiries," he answered cautiously. "But there are
some things that are raised only in the South and are
therefore produced by slave labor. While we are called
upon to bear a testimony against the use of slave-labor
goods, I don't think that we should deny ourselves of
such necessary articles as rice and coffee just because
colored men have labored to make them grow."
"Specially not the rice," interjected Aunt Rachel.
"It's so nice, when company comes, to have a dishful of
it, all softened with butter and cream!"
"That's so," said mother. "Rice is comfortin' to the
well and healin' of the sick; and I feel free in my
mind to use it without askin' who made it. But I have
some doubts about the coffee.
"Yes," muttered Aunt Rachel, "I could never take a drap
of it without thinkin' of the pore slaves that toiled
so hard to raise it."
"Well, if thee has scruples against it, it's best for
thee not to drink it," said father.
"I guess we can git along pretty well with spicewood
tea and a little sassafras," said mother; and turn to
 Cousin Mandy Jane she bade her put the package of
coffee "clean out of sight at the back of the top
shelf. If we don't see it, we won't be tempted to want
"Thee may be right, Deborah," said father in a tone of
regret, "but thee knows that we ain't so strict in this
matter as our anti-slavery friends are."
"Anti friends or no anti friends," retorted mother
somewhat briskly, "it's our bounden duty to bear a
testimony ag'inst slavery."
Father made no reply, but turned again to the willow
basket and the few packages that still remained
"Here, Aunt Rachel, here's thy goods," and he handed
her a long twist of green smoking tobacco, a new clay
pipe, a set of knitting needles and a spool of thread.
"I think the tobacco is slave labor, for it was grown
in Kentucky; but if thee feels free to use it, I have
nothing to say."
"If it's good tobacker I don't keer what labor it is,"
she replied, taking the weed eagerly from his hands and
beginning to fill the new pipe. "But I thought maybe
there might be something a-comin' to me."
"There is," said father. "I sold thy stockings for
five levies in cash. The tobacco cost two levies; the
pipe cost a fip, and the thread and needles a levy.
How much change is coming to thee?"
I knew that Aunt Rachel was not quick at figures, nor
indeed very accurate, and so I prompted her by
whispering, "Eighteen cents and three-quarters."
"That's right," said father, overhearing us; "and here
it is," and he handed her three much-battered silver
fips, each valued at six and a quarter cents.
"I'd like to know when my turn's goin' to come,"
re-  marked Jonathan, whiningly because of the fever'n'agur,
and unable to control his impatience.
"Thee may have thy turn right now," answered father.
"Thy share of the wood amounted to a dollar and a half;
and here it is. And since thee was so good as to stay
at home and take care of things, I have brought thee a
present of a Barlow knife which I know thee sometimes
Jonathan's face beamed with intense satisfaction as the
money was laid in his open palm. "That's so much more
toward the forty-acre piece," he whispered to Cousin
Mandy Jane. "And the knife will come in handy in more
ways that one."
"And I have something else for thee," said father. "I
happened to meet a doctor in "Larnceburg—his name
was Doctor Bunsen—and" he was asking very
particularly about this Settlement, for he has some
mind to come and locate in these parts. He asked if
there was much sickness up this way, and I told him
that about the only trouble we ever had was with the
fever'n'agur. 'Oh,' he said, 'that's what we call the
Wabash shakes.' and he asked if any of our family was
troubled with it. I told him that we had all been down
with it more or less, and that I supposed likely thee
was shaking with it at that moment. 'Well,' he said,
'I have some powders here that will cure the worst case
of Wabash shakes in no time. Take 'em home and give
the boy one of 'em every two hours till he's took six,
and I'll warrant the fever'n'agur won't touch him again
for the next six months!' So here they are, Jonathan.
Go and take one of them right now and then, in a couple
of hours, swallow another one."
He opened a very small paper box and in it were
 twenty-four tiny bits of folded paper each containing
about as much of the healing powder as might lie on the
blade of a penknife. We looked at it curiously. It
was white and glistening, reminding us of the drifted
snow when the weather is at its coldest.
"The doctor called it quinine," said father. "It is to
be taken in half a cup of cold water."
Cousin Mandy Jane ran for the water, and when she had
brought it shook the contents of one of the packages
into it. "Here, Jonathan, swaller it down," she
The unsuspecting young man obeyed, and then began a
series of gyrations and contortions and expectorations
which can not be described and which moved even father
to irrepressible laughter.
"You needn't laugh, goll darn it!" cried Jonathan,
angry and half-choking. "I'd rather have the
fever'n'agur every day than swoller that tarnation
Father hastened to relieve the tension by turning again
to the willow basket. There were now not more than a
half a dozen parcels remaining unopened, and surely one
must be mine. My impatience had risen almost to the
boiling "point—and" yet I knew that father would
not be hurried, and that whatever he did would surely
be the best for everybody. And so with a trembling
heart and firmly closed mouth, I waited and said
Father, understanding my disquietude, made a
tantalizing motion toward a small parcel that was most
certainly mine, and then pulled out a ball-like package
that was beneath it.
"I have a surprise for every one of you," he said.
"All the other things were necessities, but this that I
am going to give you is a luxury. It ain't often that
 indulge in luxuries; but this was not very costly, and
I venture to say it will not do us any harm."
There was a twinkle in his "eye—a" twinkle of
enjoyment which I had never seen but once or twice
before in all my life. He held the paper-wrapped
parcel in his hand and added: "Now the one that can
guess what this is may unwrap it."
"I guess it's a bottle of bear's grease," said
Jonathan, forgetting his late discomfiture.
"It looks like it might be a big ingern, or maybe a
ball of cotton yarn," hazarded Cousin Mandy Jane.
"Thee just now said it was a luxury," said mother. "So
I guess that's what it is."
"Thee's right, Deborah; and thee may undo it," answered
father, trying hard to repress a smile.
Mother skillfully removed the paper wrappings and
revealed to our astonished gaze a big ripe orange, the
first that I had ever seen. What a wonderful specimen
of fruit it was! It was passed from hand to hand in
order that each might examine it, smell of it and
remark upon its beauty.
"When I was a growin' gal we used to see 'em down in
Carliny," said mother.
"Yes, and they worn't no rarity, nother," added Aunt
Finally father removed the peeling from the fruit and
carefully divided it into six equal portions, giving
one portion to each of us.
"Where's thy sheer, father?" asked Cousin Mandy Jane.
"Oh, my share is the paying for it," he answered.
"Thee must have half of mine," said mother; and she
actually thrust it into his "mouth—a" bold
 act, savoring of unbecoming levity and unwomanly
behavior. But father seemed to enjoy it all.
I ate my portion, having some difficulty in saving all
the juice. How delicious it was, and how different
from anything else I had ever tasted! Ah! if I live to
the age of Noah's grandfather, I shall never see such
another orange. I looked up and saw Aunt Rachel
beckoning to me from the chimney corner. She was
puffing valiantly through her new pipe, and the wreaths
of smoke that encircled her gray head were like haloes
of glory and clouds of incense. I went to her softly
"Shet thy peepers and open thy teethers," she
I obeyed, and she thrust her portion of the wonderful
fruit into my already pampered mouth.
"O Aunt Rachel!" I protested, half choking.
"Eat it, Robbie!" she gurgled. "I don't want it; it
spiles the taste of my tobacker."
What could I do?
And now the next parcel was taken from the
"basket—a" small parcel, cubical in shape and
wrapped in blue paper.
"Here are some more luxuries, but of a different sort,"
said father. "They ain't to eat and they ain't to
wear, but they'll be mighty handy to have around once
in a while."
He removed the wrappings and displayed to our wondering
gaze two bunches of very small pine sticks fastened
together at one end and yellow with sulphur at the
"Sakes alive! Lucifer matches!" cried Cousin Mandy
Jane. "Now we won't have to borry fire every time
our'n goes out."
 Mother was visibly pleased although she tried hard to
appear otherwise. "Stephen," she said, "I'm afraid
thee's inclined to be extravagant. We certainly could
have got along without such expensive things."
"Well, they didn't cost much," answered father. "I
paid a fip for the two bunches, and there's a hundred
matches in each bunch. With proper economy, and using
them only when the fire goes out, they ought to last
Then he gave a single match to each of us, just so we
might try it and see how it acted.
"It's Robert's turn first," said mother.
With great caution and many quakings of the heart, I
knelt on the hearth and repeatedly scratched my match
on the flat stone. At last, to the admiration of all
and the momentary alarm of myself, it suddenly burst
into a yellowish flame, emitting a fizzling sound, a
spirt of grayish smoke and a stifling odor.
"There! Didn't I tell thee?" cried Cousin Mandy Jane.
"No more borryin' of fire!"
Then, one by one, the others tried the pleasing
experience with varying success. When it came
Jonathan's turn he stood up by the chimney and tried to
scratch the match on the keystone of the fireplace. He
struck so hard that the match was broken in two in the
middle and the sulphured end fell, unignited, into the
"The tarnal thing wasn't no good, nohow," he growled
angrily; for the fever'n'agur, together with the
quinine, had ruffled his good nature wonderfully.
"I'm afraid thee's no good hand at matches," said Aunt
Rachel. "Thee must be keerful when thee goes to make a
match with Esther."
"And now," said father, returning to the basket, "we
 will see what is in this last package. If I'm not
mistaken it is something for Robert."
He held up the package so that all might see. Yes, it
was what I had been hoping for; it was a book! I knew
that from the shape of it, although it was still
wrapped in two or three folds of brown paper.
"Thy ginseng roots sold well, Robert," he continued.
"The first man I offered 'em to said he would give four
bits for the bunch, and being in a hurry I went no
farther but made a bargain at once. Then I went into a
store where they sold books, and bought this one for
the same money. Thee may unwrap it and see what it
With unmannerly haste I took the little parcel from his
hands, untied the cord around it and removed the
coverings. A pretty little book bound in blue boards
looked up and smiled at me. I opened it at the
title-page and read the name of it aloud: ; and then
my eyes jumped quickly to the frontispiece, which
proved to be the only picture in the volume. And what
a wonderful picture it "was—a" picture of a
strangely dressed man walking upon a sandy seashore and
holding over his head the queerest-looking umbrella
imaginable. The sea was calm, the wavelets were
rippling on the beach, an air of mystery and loneliness
pervaded the entire scene. The man was looking at some
strange marks in the sand, and the expression of his
face was that of surprise and alarm.
My curiosity was aroused to fever heat. I was anxious
to begin the reading of a book that promised to prove
so very interesting and so full of novelty. But mother
quietly took it from my hands.
"Stephen," she asked, "is thee right sure that this is
a good book for Robert to read?"
 "Oh, yes," answered father. "I made sure of that
before I bought it. The storekeeper told me that it is
the best book in the world for boys. But I didn't take
his word for it. I read several pages, and found
Robinson's account of his adventures very instructive
"What makes thee think it's truthful?"
"Why, the man tells what he himself saw and did; and he
tells it in such a plain straightforward way that thee
can't help but believe it."
"What was the man's name?"
"That's an uncommon name. There's a plenty of
Robinsons in Wayne, and I knowed two or three families
of that name in old Carliny. But I never heard of
anybody of the name of Crusoe."
"Was Robinson a Friend?" asked Aunt Rachel.
"No, I think not," answered father; "for I noticed that
he never used the plain language, even at times when he
must have feared that his end was at hand. But there
have been many worldly men who have written books of
great worth, and I feel sure that Robinson Crusoe has
done just that thing."
"Well," remarked mother resignedly, "if thee believes
that this is really a good and safe book, I am glad
thee bought it; for thee knows Robert's queer way. But
I do hope that he will never get to readin' silly story
books that have no truth nor sense in 'em. It would be
a waste of time, besides fillin' his head with
"Thee is right," said father. "And, after all, what is
a story book or a novel but the vain imaginings of some
 The conversation was ended, and mother handed the
precious volume back to me with the admonition that I
must not spend so much time in reading it that my other
duties would be neglected.
I hastened to throw some fresh bits of hickory bark on
the smoldering fire, and the flames soon springing up,
the light was so bright as to enable me to read the
small print in the volume quite easily. I threw myself
down on the floor beside the hearth and immediately
became absorbed in Robinson's account of his wayward
boyhood and his first experience as a sailor. And as I
read, dear Inviz came up stealthily and put his arms
around my neck and looked over my shoulder and became
as deeply absorbed in the story as I myself.
"Don't thee wish thee could be a sailor?" he asked.
"Yes," I answered. "I should like to sail on the great
sea and visit the strange lands on the other side of
"Well, just wait till thee is grown, and then maybe
thee can run away and do as Robinson did," whispered
Suddenly I was aroused from my reverie by a command
from father; "Robert, thee's read enough for tonight.
Put thy Robinson Crusoe away in the bookcase, and
fetch me the Book of books. Does thee hear?"
Startled by his stern way of speaking, I hastened to
obey, and as I did so I observed that the family had
assembled and were already seated in their respective
places to listen to the reading of the chapter. And
there, too, sitting between David and Jonathan, was the
fugitive Samuel! He had come, at father's urgent
invitation, to join us in this last and most impressive
duty of the day. He seemed scarcely the same being
 had seen a few hours before, crouching like a beast of
prey, munching and crunching his food, and grunting out
his satisfaction like a senseless brute. He had washed
himself at the spring, brushed the cobwebs and dust
from ragged clothing, and put on a cheerier appearance
every way. And my heart went out to him in pity.
"He ain't nigh as ugly as he was when we seen him in
the barn," whispered Cousin Mandy Jane.
"And he's very nice behavin', too, for one of his
color," remarked her grandmother.
I remember that father was a long time in finding the
place in the Book that night; and the only portion of
the reading that attracted my attention was this
meaningful declaration: "Inasmuch as ye have done it
unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have
done it unto me."
At the close of the reading, the black man withdrew
with an awkward bow, and shuffled down the pathway
toward his lodging-place in the barn. As he was
opening the barnyard gate, father called to him:
"Samuel, I hope thee will rest well. Thee must keep
quite close all day to-morrow and in the evening we
will see that thee is carried farther on thy way."
"All right, sah," was the response. "Good night, sah!
And he disappeared in the shadows.
It would have been a great comfort had I been permitted
to resume the reading of my new book and the
fascinating story that I had scarcely begun. But all
the rules and traditions of our household forbade it;
the "chapter" had been read, the day's labors and
recreations were finished, and nothing more was
allowable save to cover the fire, wind the clock and
retire to rest.
With lagging feet, therefore, I went back into the
 shadows, drew my trundle-bed out to its place and began
to disrobe for the night. As I leapt into bed, I was
surprised to find several little round, hard objects
lying in my way between the straw tick and the covering
blanket. I was about to cry out to mother when I heard
a suppressed whisper in the darkness above me which
sent a thrill of satisfaction through my tingling
veins. I knew by the sound that it was David lying
flat on the floor of the loft with his mouth at a
"Did thee find the marvels, Towhead? Count 'em. I
fetched thee nine instid of two. 'Nuff to play
Nine brand-new marbles! Oh, happiness! I huddled them
all together in a little heap under my two hands, and
as I was counting them over and over with my fingers,
Inviz crept softly into the bed beside me and shared my
"Well, thee has some real boughten playthings, now," he
whispered. "Thee is a lucky boy."
And I dropped to sleep.
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