Sis' Becky's Pickaninny by Charles Waddell Chesnutt
WE had not lived in North Carolina very long before I was able to
note a marked improvement in my wife's health. The ozone-laden air of
the surrounding piney woods, the mild and equable climate, the peaceful
leisure of country 'life, had brought about in hopeful measure the cure
we had anticipated. Toward the end of our second year, however, 'her
ailment took an unexpected turn for the worse. She became the victim of
a settled melancholy, attended with vague forebodings of impending
“You must keep up her spirits,” said our physician, the best in the
neighboring town. “This melancholy lowers her tone too much, tends to
lessen her strength, and, if it continue too long, may be fraught with
I tried various expedients to cheer her up. I read novels to her. I
had the hands on the place come up in the evening and serenade her with
plantation songs. Friends came in sometimes and talked, and frequent
letters from the North kept her in touch with her former home. But
nothing seemed to rouse her from the depression into which she had
One pleasant afternoon in spring, I placed an armchair in a shaded
portion of the front piazza, and filling it with pillows led my wife
out of the house and seated her where she would have the pleasantest
view of a somewhat monotonous scenery. She was scarcely placed whan old
Julius came through the yard, and, taking off his tattered straw hat,
inquired, somewhat anxiously:—
“How is you feelin' dis atternoon, ma'm?”
“She is not very cheerful, Julius,” I said. My wife was apparently
without energy enough to speak for herself.
The old man did not seem inclined to go away, so I asked him to sit
down. I had noticed, as he came up, that he held some small object in
his hand. When he had taken his seat on the top step, he kept fingering
this object,—what it was I could not quite make out.
“What is that you have there, Julius?” I asked, with mild curiosity.
“Dis is my rabbit foot, suh.”
This was at a time before this curious superstition had attained its
present jocular popularity among white people, and while I had heard of
it before, it had not yet outgrown the charm of novelty.
“What do you do with it?”
“I kyars it wid me fer luck, suh.”
“Julius,” I observed, half to him and half to my wife, “your people
will never rise in the world until they throw off these childish
superstitions and learn to live by the light of reason and common
sense. How absurd to imagine that the fore-foot of a poor dead rabbit,
with which he timorously felt his way along through a life surrounded
by snares and pitfalls, beset by enemies on every hand, can promote
happiness or success, or ward off failure or misfortune!”
“It is ridiculous,” assented my wife, with faint interest.
“Dat's w'at I tells dese niggers roun' heah,” said Julius. “De
fo'-foot ain' got no power. It has ter be de hin'-foot, suh,—de lef'
hin'-foot er a grabeya'd rabbit, killt by a cross-eyed nigger on a da'k
night in de full er de moon.”
“They must be very rare and valuable,” I said.
“Dey is kinder ska'ce, suh, en dey ain' no 'mount er money could buy
mine, suh. I mought len' it ter anybody I sot sto' by, but I wouldn'
sell it, no indeed, suh, I wouldn'.”
“How do you know it brings good luck?” I asked.
“ 'Ca'se I ain' had no bad luck sence I had it, suh, en I's had dis
rabbit foot fer fo'ty yeahs. I had a good marster befo' de wah, en I
wa'n't sol' erway, en I wuz sot free; en dat 'uz all good luck.”
“But that doesn't prove anything,” I rejoined. “Many other people
have gone through a similar experience, and probably more than one of
them had no rabbit's foot.”
“Law, suh! you doan hafter prove 'bout de rabbit foot! Eve'ybody
knows dat; leas'ways eve'ybody roun' heah knows it. But ef it has ter
be prove' ter folks w'at wa'n't bawn en raise' in dis naberhood, dey is
a' easy way ter prove it. Is I eber tol' you de tale er Sis' Becky en
“No,” I said, “let us hear it.” I thought perhaps the story might
interest my wife as much or more than the novel I had meant to read
“Dis yer Becky,” Julius began, “useter b'long ter ole Kunnel
Pen'leton, who owned a plantation down on de Wim'l'ton Road, 'bout ten
miles fum heah, des befo' you gits ter Black Swamp. Dis yer Becky wuz a
fiel'-han', en a monst'us good 'un. She had a husban' oncet, a nigger
w'at b'longed on de nex' plantation, but de man w'at owned her husban'
died, en his lan' en his niggers had ter be sol' fer ter pay his debts.
Kunnel Pentleton 'lowed he'd 'a' bought dis nigger, but he had be'n
bettin' on hoss races, en didn' hab no money, en so Becky's husban' wuz
sol' erway ter Fuhginny.
“Co'se Becky went on some 'bout losin' her man, but she couldn' he'p
herse'f; en 'sides dat, she had her pickaninny fer ter comfo't her. Dis
yer little Mose wuz de cutes', blackes', shiny-eyedes' little nigger
you eber laid eyes on, en he wuz ez fon' er his mammy ez his mammy wuz
er him. Co'se Becky had ter wuk en didn' hab much time ter was'e wid
her baby. Ole Aun' Nancy, de plantation nuss down at de qua'ters,
useter take keer er little Mose in de daytime, en atter de riggers come
in fum de cotton-fiel' Becky 'ud git her chile en kiss 'im en nuss 'im,
en keep 'im 'tel mawnin'; en on Sundays she'd hab 'im in her cabin wid
her all day long.
“Sis' Becky had got sorter useter' gittin' 'long widout her husban',
w'en one day Kunnel Pen'leton went ter de races. Co'se w'en he went ter
de races, he tuk his hosses, en co'se he bet on 'is own hosses, en
co'se he los' his money; fer Kunnel Pen'leton didn' nebber hab no luck
wid his hosses, ef he did keep hisse'f po' projeckin' wid 'em. But dis
time dey wuz a hoss name' Lightnin' Bug, w'at b'longed ter ernudder
man, en dis hoss won de sweep-stakes; en Kunnel Pen'leton tuk a lackin'
ter dat hoss, en ax' his owner w'at he wuz willin' ter take fer 'im.
“ 'I'll take a thousan' dollahs fer dat hoss,' sez dis yer man, who
had a big plantation down to'ds Wim'l'ton, whar he raise' hosses fer
ter race en ter sell.
“Well, Kunnel Pen'leton scratch' 'is head, en wonder whar he wuz
gwine ter raise a thousan' dollahs; en he didn' see des how he could do
it, fer he owed ez much ez he could borry a'ready on de skyo'ity he
could gib. But he wuz des boun' ter hab dat hoss, so sezee:—
“ 'I'll gib you my note fer 'leven hund'ed dollahs fer dat hoss.'
“De yuther man shuck 'is head, en sezee:—
“ 'Yo' note, suh, is better'n gol', I doan doubt; but I is made it a
rule in my bizness not ter take no notes fum nobody. Howsomeber, suh,
ef you is kinder sho't er fun's, mos' lackly we kin make some kin' er
bahg'in. En w'iles we is talkin', I mought's well say dat I needs
ernudder good nigger down on my place. Ef you is got a good one ter
spar', I mought trade wid you.'
“Now, Kunnel Pen'leton didn' r'ally hab no niggers fer ter spar',
but he 'lowed ter hisse'f he wuz des bleedzd ter hab dat hoss, en so he
“ 'Well, I doan lack ter, but I reckon I'll haf ter. You come out
ter my plantation ter-morrer en look ober my niggers, en pick out de
one you wants.'
“So sho' 'nuff nex' day dis yer man come out ter Kunnel Pen'leton's
place en rid roun' de plantation en glanshed at de niggers, en who sh'd
he pick out fum 'em all but Sis' Becky.
“ 'I needs a noo nigger 'oman down ter my place,' sezee, 'fer ter
cook en wash, en so on; en dat young 'oman'll des fill de bill. You
gimme her, en you kin hab Lightnin' Bug.' “
“Now, Kunnel Pen'leton didn' lack ter trade Sis' Becky, 'ca'se she
wuz nigh 'bout de bes' fiel'-han' he had; en 'sides, Mars Kunnel didn'
keer ter take de mammies 'way fum dey chillun w'iles de chillun wuz
little. But dis man say he want Becky, er e'se Kunnel Pen'leton couldn'
hab de race hoss.
“ 'Well,' sez de kunnel, 'you kin hab de 'oman. But I doan lack ter
sen' her 'way fum her baby. W'at'll you gimme fer dat nigger baby?'
“ 'I doan want de baby,' sez de yuther man. 'I ain' got no use fer
“ 'I tell yer w'at I'll do,' 'lows Kunnel Pen'leton, 'I'll th'ow dat
pickaninny in fer good measure.'
“But de yuther man shuck his head. 'No,' sezee, 'I's much erbleedzd,
but I doan raise niggers; I raises hosses, en I doan wanter be
both'rin' wid no nigger babies. Nemmine de baby. I'll keep dat 'oman so
busy she'll fergit de baby; fer niggers is made ter wuk, en dey ain'
got no time fer no sich foolis'ness ez babies.'
“Kunnel Pen'leton didn' wanter hu't Becky's feelin's,—fer Kunnel
Pen'leton wuz a kin'-hea'ted man, en nebber lack' ter make no trouble
fer nobody,—en so he tol' Becky he wuz gwine sen' her down ter
Robeson County fer a day er so, ter he'p out his son-in-law in his wuk;
en bein' ez dis yuther man wuz gwine dat way, he had ax' 'im ter take
her 'long in his buggy.
“ 'Kin I kyar little Mose wid me marster?' ax' Sis' Becky.
“ 'N-o,' sez de kunnel, ez ef he wuz studyin' whuther ter let her
take 'im er no; 'I reckon you better let Aun' Nancy look atter yo' baby
fer de day er two you'll be gone, en she'll see dat he gits ernuff ter
eat 'tel you gits back.'
“So Sis' Becky hug' en kiss' little Mose, en tol' 'im ter be a good
little pickaninny, en take keer er hisse'f, en not fergit his mammy
w'iles she wuz gone. En little Mose put his arms roun' his mammy en
lafft en crowed des lack it wuz monst'us fine fun fer his mammy ter go
'way en leabe 'im.
Well, dis yer hoss trader sta'ted out wid Becky, en bimeby, atter
dey 'd gone down de Lumbe'ton Road fer a few miles er so, dis man tu'nt
roun' in a diffe'nt d'rection, en kep' goin' dat erway, 'tel bimeby
Sis' Becky up'n ax' 'im ef he wuz gwine ter Robeson County by a noo
“ 'No, nigger,' sezee, 'I ain' gwine ter Robeson County at all. I's
gwine ter Bladen County, whar my plantation is, en whar I raises all my
“ 'But how is I gwine ter git ter Mis' Laura's plantation down in
Robeson County?' sez Becky, wid her hea't in her mouf, fer she 'mence'
ter git skeered all er a sudden.
“ 'You ain' gwine ter git dere at all,' sez de man. 'You b'longs ter
me now, fer I done traded my bes' race hoss fer you, wid yo' ole
marster. Ef you is a good gal, I'll treat you right, en ef you doan
behabe yo'se'f,—w'y, w'at e'se happens'll be yo' own fault.'
“Co'se Sis' Becky cried en went on 'bout her pickaninny, bur co'se
it didn' do now good, en bimeby dey got down ter dis yer man's place,
en he put Sis' Becky ter wuk, en fergot all 'bout her habin' a
“Meanw'iles, w'en ebenin' come, de day Sis' Becky wuz tuk 'way,
little Mose 'mence' ter git res'less, en bimeby, w'en his mammy didn'
come, he sta'ted ter cry fer 'er. Aun' Nancy fed 'im en rocked 'im en
rocked 'im, en fin'lly he des cried en cried 'tel he cried hisse'f ter
“De nex' day he didn' 'pear ter be as peart ez yushal, en w'en night
come he fretted en went on wuss'n he did de night befo'. De nex' day
his little eyes 'mence' ter lose dey shine, en he wouldn' eat nuffin,
en he 'mence' ter look so peaked dat Aun' Nancy tuk'n kyared 'im up ter
de big house, en showed 'im ter her ole missis, en her ole missis gun
her some med'cine fer 'im, en 'lowed ef he didn' git no better she sh'd
fetch 'im up ter de big house ag'in, en dey'd hab a doctor, en nuss
little Mose up dere. Fer Aun' Nancy's ole missis 'lowed he wuz a lackly
little nigger en wu'th raisin'.
“But Aun' Nancy had l'arn' ter lack little Mose, en she didn' wanter
hab 'im tuk up ter de big house. En so w'en he didn' git no better, she
gethered a mess er green peas, and tuk de peas en de baby, en went ter
see ole Aun' Peggy, de cunjuh 'oman down by de Wim'l'ton Road. She gun
Aun' Peggy de mess er peas, en tol' her all 'bout Sis' Becky en little
“ 'Dat is a monst'us small mess er peas you is fotch' me,' sez Aun'
Peggy, sez she.
“ 'Yas, I knows,' 'lowed Aun' Nancy, 'but dis yere is a monst'us
“ 'You'll hafter fetch me sump'n mo',' sez Aun' Peggy, 'fer you
can't 'spec' me ter was'e my time diggin' roots en wukkin' cunj'ation
“ 'All right,' sez Aun' Nancy, 'I'll fetch you sump'n mo' nex'
“ 'You bettah,' sez Aun' Peggy, 'er e'se dey'll be trouble. W'at dis
yer little pickaninny needs is ter see his mammy. You leabe 'im heah
'tel ebenin' en I'll show 'im his mammy.'
“So w'en Aun' Nancy had gone 'way, Aun' Peggy tuk'n wukked her
roots, en tu'nt little Mose ter a hummin'-bird, en sont 'im off fer ter
fin' his mammy.
“So little Mose flewed, en flewed, en flewed away, 'tel bimeby he
got ter de place whar Sis' Becky b'longed. He seed his mammy wukkin'
roun' de ya'd, en he could tell fum lookin' at her dat she wuz trouble'
in her min' 'bout sump'n, en feelin' kin' er po'ly. Sis' Becky heared
sump'n hummin' roun'en roun' her, sweet en low. Fus' she 'lowed it wuz
a hummin'-bird; den she thought it sounded lack her little Mose
croonin' on her breas' way back yander on de ole plantation. En she des
'magine' it wuz her little Mose, en it made her feel bettah, en she
went on 'bout her wuk pearter'n she'd done sence she'd be'n down dere.
Little Mose stayed roun' 'tel late in de ebenin', en den flewed back ez
hard ez he could ter Aun' Peggy. Ez fer Sis' Becky, she dremp all dat
night dat she wuz holdin' her pickaninny in her arms, en kissin' him,
en nussin' him, des lack she useter do back on de ole plantation whar
he wuz bawn. En fer th'ee er fo' days Sis' Becky went 'bout her wuk wid
mo' sperrit den she'd showed sence she'd be'n down dere ter dis man's
“De nex' day atter he come back, little Mose wuz mo' pearter en
better'n he had be'n fer a long time. But to'ds de een' er de week he
'mence' ter git res'less ag'in, en stop' eatin', en Aun' Nancy kyared
'im down ter Aun' Peggy once mo', en she tu'nt 'im ter a mawkin'-bird
dis time, en sont 'im off ter see his mammy ag'in.
“It didn' take him long fer ter git dere, en w'en he did, he seed
his mammy standin' in de kitchen, lookin' back in de d'rection little
Mose wuz comin' fum. En dey wuz tears in her eyes, en she look' mo'
po'ly en peaked 'n she had w'en he wuz down dere befo'. So little Mose
sot on a tree in de ya'd en sung, en sung, en sung, des fittin' ter
split his th'oat. Fus' Sis' Becky didn' notice 'im much, but dis
mawkin'-bird kep' stayin' roun' de house all day, en bimeby Sis' Becky
des' magine' dat mawkin'-bird wuz her little Mose crowin' en crowin',
des lack he useter do w'en his mammy would come home at night fum de
cotton-fiel'. De mawkin'-bird stayed roun' dere 'mos' all day, en w'en
Sis' Becky went out in de ya'd one time, dis yer mawkin'-bird lit on
her shoulder en peck' at de piece er bread she wuz eatin', en fluttered
his wings so dey rub' up agin de side er her head. En w'en he flewed
away 'long late in de ebenin', des 'fo' sundown, Sis' Becky felt mo'
better'n she had sence she had heared dat hummin'-bird a week er so
pas'. En dat night she dremp 'bout ole times ag'in, des lack she did
“But dis yer totin' little Mose down ter ole Aun' Peggy, en dis yer
gittin' things fer ter pay de cunjuh 'oman, use' up a lot er Aun'
Nancy's time, en she begun ter git kinder ti'ed. 'Sides dat, w'en Sis'
Becky had be'n on de plantation, she had useter he'p Aun' Nancy wid de
young uns ebenin's en Sundays; en Aun' Nancy 'mence' ter miss 'er
monst'us, 'speshly sence she got a tech er de rheumatiz herse'f, en so
she 'lows ter ole Aun' Peggy one day:—
“ 'Aun' Peggy, ain' dey no way you kin fetch Sis' Becky back home?'
“ 'Huh!' sez Aun' Peggy, 'I dunno 'bout dat. I'll hafter wuk my
roots en fin' out whuther I kin er no. But it'll take a monst'us heap
er wuk, en I can't was'e my time fer nuffin. Ef you'll fetch me sump'n
ter pay me fer my trouble, I reckon we kin fix it.'
“So nex' day Aun' Nancy went down ter see Aun' Peggy ag'in.
“ 'Aun' Peggy,' sez she, 'I is fotch' you my bes' Sunday
head-hankercher. Will dat do?'
“Aun' Peggy look' at de head-hankercher, en run her han' ober it, en
“ 'Yas, dat'll do fus'-rate. I's be'n wukkin' my roots sence you
be'n gone, en I 'lows mos' lackly I kin git Sis' Becky back, but it's
gwine take fig'rin' en studyin' ez well ez cunj'in'. De fus' thing ter
do'll be ter stop fetchin' dat pickaninny down heah, en not sen' 'im
ter see his mammy no mo'. Ef he gits too po'ly, you lemme know, en I'll
gib you some kin' er mixtry fer ter make 'im fergit Sis' Becky fer a
week er so. So 'less'n you comes fer dat, you neenter come back ter see
me no mo' 'tel I sen's fer you.'
“So Aun' Peggy sont Aun' Nancy erway, en de fus' thing she done wuz
ter call a hawnet fum a nes' unner her eaves.
“ 'You go up ter Kunnel Pen'leton's stable, hawnet,' sez she, 'en
sting de knees er de race hoss name' Lightnin' Bug. Be sho' en git de
“So de hawnet flewed up ter Kunnel Pen'leton's stable en stung
Lightnin' Bug roun' de laigs, en de nex' mawnin' Lightnin' Bug's knees
wuz all swoll' up, twice't ez big ez doy oughter be. W'en Kunnel
Pen'leton went out ter de stable en see de hoss's laigs, hit would 'a'
des made you trimble lack a leaf fer ter heah him cuss dat hoss trader.
Howsomeber, he cool' off bimeby en tol' de stable boy fer ter rub
Lightnin' Bug's laigs wid some linimum. De boy done ez his marster tol'
'im, en by de nex' day de swellin' had gone down consid'able. Aun'
Peggy had sont a sparrer, w'at had a nes' in one er de trees close ter
her cabin, fer ter watch w'at wuz gwine on 'roun' de big house, en w'en
dis yer sparrer tol' 'er de hoss wuz gittin' ober de swellin', she sont
de hawnet back fer ter sting 'is knees some mo', en de nex' mawnin'
Lightnin' Bug's laigs wuz swoll' up wuss'n befo'.
“Well, dis time Kunnel Pen'leton wuz mad th'oo en th'oo, en all de
way 'roun', en he cusst dat hoss trader up en down, fum A ter
Izzard. He cusst so he'd dat de stable boy got mos' skeered ter
def, en went off en hid hisse'f in de hay.
“Ez fer Kunnel Pen'leton, he went right up ter de house en got out
his pen en ink, en tuk off his coat en roll' up his sleeves, en writ a
letter ter dis yer hoss trader, en sezee:—
“ 'You is sol' me a hoss w'at is got a ringbone er a spavin er
sump'n, en w'at I paid you fer wuz a soun' hoss. I wants you ter sen'
my nigger 'oman back en take yo' ole hoss, er e'se I'll sue you, sho's
“But dis yer man wa'n't skeered a bit, en he writ back ter Kunnel
Pen'leton dat a bahg'in wuz a bahg'in; dat Lightnin' Bug wuz soun' w'en
he sol' 'im, en ef Kunnel Pen'leton didn' knowed ernuff 'bout hosses
ter take keer er a fine racer, dat wuz his own fune'al. En he say
kunnel Pen'leton kin sue en be cusst fer all he keer, but he ain' gwine
ter gib up de nigger he bought en paid fer.
“W'en Kunnel Pen'leton got dis letter he wuz madder'n he wuz befo',
'speshly 'ca'se dis man 'lowed he didn' know how ter take keer er fine
hosses. But he couldn' do nuffin but fetch a lawsuit, en he knowed, by
his own 'spe'ience, dat lawsuits wuz slow ez de seben-yeah eetch and
cos' mo' d'n dey come ter, en he 'lowed he better go slow en wait
“Aun' Peggy knowed w'at wuz gwine on all dis time, en she fix' up a
little bag wid some roots en one thing en ernudder in it, en gun it ter
dis sparrer er her'n, en tol' 'im ter take it 'way down yander whar
Sis' Becky wuz, en drap it right befo' de do' er her cabin, so she'd be
sho' en fin' it de fus' time she come out'n de do'.
“One night Sis' Becky dremp' her pickaninny wuz dead, en de nex' day
she wuz mo'nin' en groanin' all day. She dremp' de same dream th'ee
nights runnin', en den, de nex' mawnin' atter de las' night, she foun'
dis yer little bag de sparrer had drap' in front her do'; en she 'lowed
she'd be'n cunju'd, en wuz gwine ter die, en ez long ez her pickaninny
wuz dead dey wa'n't no use tryin' ter do nuffin nohow. En so she tuk'n
went ter bed, en tol' her marster she'd be'n cunju'd en wuz gwine ter
“Her marster lafft at her, en argyed wid her, en tried ter 'suade
her out'n dis yer fool notion, ez he called it,—fer he wuz one er
dese yer w'ite folks w'at purten' dey doan b'liebe in cunj'in', but hit
wa'n't no use. Sis' Becky kep' gittin' wusser en wusser, 'tel fin'lly
dis yer man 'lowed Sis' Becky wuz gwine ter die, sho' 'nuff. En ez he
knowed dey hadn' be'n nufffin de matter wid Lightnin' Bug w'en he
traded 'im, he 'lowed mebbe he could kyo' 'im en fetch 'im roun' all
right, leas' ways good 'nuff ter sell ag'in. En anyhow, a lame hoss wuz
better'n a dead nigger. So he sot down en writ Kunnel Pen'leton a
“ 'My conscience,' sezee, 'has be'n troublin' me 'bout dat ringbone'
hoss I sol' you. Some folks 'lows a hoss trader ain' got no conscience,
but dey doan know me, fer dat is my weak spot, en de reason I ain' made
no mo' money hoss tradin'. Fac' is,' sezee, 'I is got so I can't sleep
nights fum studyin' 'bout dat spavin' hoss; en I is made up my min'
dat, w'iles a bahg'in is a bahg'in, en you seed Lightnin' Bug befo' you
traded fer 'im, principle is wuth mo' d'n money er hosses er niggers.
So ef you'll sen' Lightnin' Bug down heah, I'll sen' yo' nigger 'oman
back, en we'll call de trade off, en be ez good frien's ez we eber wuz,
en no ha'd feelin's.'
“So sho' 'nuff, Kunnel Pen'leton sont de hoss back. En w'en de man
w'at come ter bring Lightnin' Bug tol' Sis Becky her pickaninny wa'n't
dead, Sis Becky wuz so glad dat she 'lowed she wuz gwine ter try ter
lib 'tel she got back whar she could see little Mose once mo'. En w'en
she retch' de ole plantation en seed her baby kickin' en crowin' en
holdin' out his little arms to'ds her, she wush' she wuzn' cunju'd en
didn' hafter die. En w'en Aun' Nancy tol' 'er all 'bout Aun' Peggy,
Sis' Becky went down ter see de cunjuh 'oman, en Aun' Peggy tol' her
she had cunju'd her. En den Aun' Peggy tuk de goopher off'n her, en she
got well, en stayed on de plantation, en raise' her pickaninny. En w'en
little Mose growed up, he could sing en whistle des lack a
mawkin'-bird, so dat de w'ite folks useter hab 'im come up ter de big
house at night, en whistle en sing fer 'em, en dey useter gib 'im money
en vittles en one thing er ernudder, w'ich he alluz tuk home ter his
mammy; fer he knowed all 'bout w'at she had gone th'oo. He tu'nt out
ter be a sma't man, en l'arnt de blacksmif trade; en Kunnel Pen'leton
let 'im hire his time. En bimeby he bought his mammy en sot her free,
en den he bought hisse'f, en tuk keer er Sis' Becky ez long ez dey bofe
My wife had listened to this story with greater interest than she
had manifested in any subject for several days. I had watched her
furtively from time to time during the recital, and had observed the
play of her countenance. It had expressed in turn sympathy,
indignation, pity, and at the end lively satisfaction.
“That is a very ingenious fairy tale, Julius,” I said, “and we are
much obliged to you.”
“Why, John!” said my wife severely, “the story bears the stamp of
truth, if ever a story did.”
“Yes,” I replied, “especially the humming-bird episode, and the
mocking-bird digression, to say nothing of the doings of the hornet and
“Oh, well, I don't care,” she rejoined, with delightful animation;
“those are mere ornamental details and not at all essential. The story
is true to nature, and might have happened half a hundred times, and no
doubt did happen, in those horrid days before the war.”
“By the way, Julius,” I remarked, “your story doesn't establish what
you started out to prove,—that a rabbit's foot brings good luck.”
“Hit's plain 'nuff ter me, suh,” replied Julius. “I bet young missis
dere kin 'splain it herse'f.”
“I rather suspect,” replied my wife promptly, “that Sis' Becky had
no rabbit's foot.”
“You is hit de bull's-eye de fus' fire, ma'm,” assented Julius. “Ef
Sis' Becky had had a rabbit foot, she nebber would 'a' went th'oo all
I went into the house for some purpose, and left Julius talking to
my wife. When I came back a moment later, he was gone.
My wife's condition took a turn for the better from this very day,
and she was soon on the way to ultimate recovery. Several weeks later,
after she had resumed her afternoon drives, which had been interrupted
by her illness, Julius brought the rockaway round to the front door one
day, and I assisted my wife into the carriage.
“John,” she said, before I had taken my seat, “I wish you would look
in my room, and bring me my handkerchief.
You will find it in the pocket of my blue dress.”
I went to execute the commission. When I pulled the handkerchief out
of her pocket, something else came with it and fell on the floor. I
picked up the object and looked at it. It was Julius's rabbit's foot.