Mam' Lyddy's Recognition
by Thomas Nelson Page
When Cabell Graeme was courting pretty Betty French up at the
Château place, though he had many rivals and not a few obstacles to
overcome, he had the good fortune to secure one valuable ally, whose
friendship stood him in good stead. She was of a rich chocolate tint,
with good features, and long hair, possibly inherited from some Arab
ancestor, bead-like black eyes, and a voice like a harp, but which on
occasion could become a flame. Her figure was short and stocky; but
more dignity was never compressed within the same number of cubic
Mam' Lyddy had been in the French family all her life, as her mother
and grandmother had been before her. She had rocked on her ample bosom
the best part of three generations. And when Freedom came, however much
she may have appreciated being free, she had much too high an estimate
of the standing of the Frenches to descend to the level of the class
she had always contemned as free niggers. She was a deep-dyed
The Frenches were generally esteemed to be among the oldest and best
families in the county, and the Château plantation, with its wide
fields and fine old mansion, was commonly reckoned one of the finest in
that section. But no such comparative statement would have satisfied
Mam' Lyddy. She firmly believed that the Frenches were the greatest
people in the world, and it would have added nothing to her dignity had
they been princes, because it could have added nothing to it to be told
that she was a member of a royal house. Part mentor, part dependent,
part domestic, she knew her position, and within her province her place
was as unquestioned as was that of her mistress, and her advice was as
Caesar, her husband, a tall, ebony lath, with a bald head and meek
eyes, had come out of another family and was treated with
condescension. No one knew how often he was reminded of his lower
estate; but it was often enough, for he was always in a somewhat humble
and apologetic attitude.
The Frenches were known as a likely family, but Betty, with her
oval face, soft eyes, and skin like a magnolia flower, was so
undeniably the beauty that she was called Pretty Betty. She was
equally undeniably the belle. And while the old woman, who idolized
her, found far more pleasure than even her mother in her belleship, she
was as watchful over her as Argus. Every young man of the many who
haunted the old French mansion among its oaks and maples had to meet
the scrutiny of those sharp, tack-like eyes. The least slip that one
made was enough to prove his downfall. The old woman sifted them as
surely as she sifted her meal, and branded them with an infallible
instinct akin to that of a keen watchdog. Many a young man who passed
that silent figure without a greeting, or spoke lightly of some one,
unheeding her presence, wondered at his want of success and felt
without knowing why that he was pulling against an unseen current.
We must drop himhe ain't a gent'man, she said of one. Of
another: Oh! Oh! honey, he won't do. He ain't our kind. Or, Betty,
let him go, my Lamb. De Frenches don't pick up dat kine o' stick.
Happily for Cabell Graeme, he had the old woman's approval. In the
first place, he was related to the Frenches, and this in her eyes was a
patent of gentility. Then, he had always been kind to little Betty and
particularly civil to herself. He not only never omitted to ask after
her health, but also inquired as to her pet ailments of misery in her
foot and whirlin' in her head, with an interest which flattered her
deeply. But it went further back than that Once, when Betty was a
little girl, Cabell, then a well-grown boy of twelve, had found her and
her mammy on the wrong side of a muddy road, and wading through, he had
carried Betty across, and then wading back, had offered to carry Mam'
Lyddy over, too.
Go way f'om heah, boy, you can't carry me.
Yes, I can, Mam' Lyddy. You don't know how strong I am. He squared
himself for the feat.
She laughed at him, and with a flash in his gray eyes he suddenly
I 'll show you.
There was quite a scuffle. She was too heavy for him, but he won her
friendship then and there, and as he grew up straight and sturdy, the
friendship ripened. That he teased her and laughed at her did not in
the least offend her. No one else could have taken such a liberty with
her, but Cabell's references to old Caesar's declining health, and his
innuendoes whenever she was fixed up that she was looking around in
advance only amused her. It made no difference to her that he was poor,
while several others of Betty's beaux were rich. He was a gent'man,
and she was an aristocrat.
At times they had pitched battles, but each knew that the other was
Cabell won his final victory by an audacity which few would have
dared venture on. Among his rivals was one Mr. Hereford, whom he
particularly disliked, partly because he frequently outsat him, and
partly because he thought Miss Betty favored his attentions too much,
and whom Mammy Lyddy detested because he always ignored her. Cabell
charged her with deserting his cause and going over to the side of Mr.
Hereford, and threatened to carry off the prize in spite of her and her
You cyant cyah off nothin', she said with a sniff of mock disdain.
His eyes snapped. Without a word he seized her, and notwithstanding her
resistance he lifted her, and flinging her over his shoulder, as if she
had been a sack of corn, stalked up the steps and into the house, where
he set her down abashed and vanquished before her astonished young
mistress. The old woman pretended to be furious, but that day Cabell
Graeme carried off more than Mam' Lyddy.
When Cabel and pretty Betty were married, Mam' Lyddy threw in her
lot with her lamb.
Through all the evil days of carpet-bag rule, no white, not even
Cabell Graeme himself, who was a leader of the young men, had looked
with more burning contempt on the new-comers, or shown a sterner front
to the miscreants who despoiled the country. And when Negro rule was at
its worst, Mam' Lyddy was its most bitter reviler. Cabell Graeme was a
captain among the young men who finally put down the evil element that
had been running its riotous course. And during the fierce fight that
was waged, he was much away from home; but he knew that in Mam' Lyddy
he had left as redoubtable a guardian of his wife and babies as ever
kept watch on a picket line.
Among the most obnoxious of the colored leaders was one Amos Brown,
a young negro with some education, who to the gift of fluency added
enough shrewdness to become a leader. He was while in power one of the
most dangerous men in the State, and so long as he had backing enough,
he staggered at nothing to keep the negroes stirred up. One of his
schemes was to get money from the negroes with which to pay, as he
claimed, ten per cent, for the best plantations in the State, after
which, according to his account, the Government was to give them the
places. This scheme worked well enough till the day of reckoning came,
but happily it came. Among those who were duped was old Caesar, who,
unknown to Mam' Lyddy, invested all his little savings in Amos Brown's
homestead-plan and was robbed. Partly in terror of Mam' Lyddy and
partly in hopes of saving his money, the old man made a full disclosure
of the scheme, and with the proof he furnished, Cabell Graeme and
others succeeded in sending the statesman to the penitentiary.
What Caesar possibly had to endure from Mam' Lyddy, only those could
imagine who knew her blistering tongue. From that time she took herself
not only everything that she made, but every cent that old Caesar made.
You keep 'dis for me, Marse Cab. I 'm never goin' to trust dat
Caesar wid a cent long as I live. A nigger ain't got a bit o' sense
But though Caesar would gladly have paid all he made to purchase
immunity from her revilings, it is probable that he heard of his error
at least three times a day during the rest of his natural life.
As long as the old people lived, the French place was kept up; but
the exactions of hereditary hospitality ate deeply into what the war
had left, and after the death of old Colonel French and Mrs. French,
and the division of the estate, there was little left but the land, and
that was encumbered.
Happily, Cabell Graeme was sufficiently successful as a lawyer, not
only to keep his little family in comfort, but to receive an offer of a
connection in the North, which made it clearly to his interest to go
there. One of the main obstacles in the way of the move was Mam' Lyddy.
She would have gone with them, but for the combined influences of Old
Caesar and a henhouse full of hens that were sitting. The old man was
in his last illness, and a slow decline, and the chickens would soon be
hatched. Since, however, it was apparent that old Cæsar would soon be
gone, as that the chickens would soon be hatched, Graeme having
arranged for Cæsar's comfort, took his family with him when he moved.
He knew that the breaking-up would be a wrench; but it was worse
than he had expected, for their roots were deep in the old soil. Old
friends, when they said good-by, wrung his hand with the faces men wear
when they take a last look at a friend's face. The parting with the
mammy was especially bitter. It brought the break-up home as few things
had done. And when Mr. and Mrs. Graeme reached their new home with its
strange surroundings, her absence made it all the stranger.
The change in the servants marked the change in the life. The family
found it hard to reconcile themselves to it. Mrs. Graeme had always
been accustomed to the old servants, who were like members of the
family, and to find her domestics regarding her as an enemy or as their
prey disturbed and distressed her.
You are going to try colored servants? asked one of her new
friends in some surprise.
Oh, yes, I am quite used to them.
Well.Perhapsbut I doubt if you are used to these.
Mrs. Graeme soon discovered her mistake. One after another was tried
and discarded. Those who knew nothing remained until they had learned
enough to be useful and then departed, while those who knew a little
thought they knew everything and brooked no direction. And all were
insolent. With or without notice the dusky procession passed through
the house, each out-goer taking with her some memento of her transient
I do not know what is the matter, sighed Mrs. Graeme. I always
thought I could get along with colored people; but somehow these are
different. Why is it, Cabell!
Spoiled, said her husband, laconically. The mistake was in the
emancipation proclamation. Domestic servants ought to have been
His humor, however, did not appeal to his wife. The case was too
The last one I had told me, that if I did not like what she called
coffeeand which I really thought was teaI 'd better cook for
myself. And that other maid, after wearing one of my best dresses,
walked off with a brand-new waist. I am only standing the present one
till Mammy comes. She says she likes to be called 'Miss Johnson.'
I paid twenty dollars last week for the privilege of
chucking a dusky gentleman down the steps; but I did not begrudge it,
said her husband, cheerfully. The justice who imposed the fine said to
me afterward that the only mistake I had made was in not breaking his
At last, old Caesar was gathered to his dusky fathers, and the
chickens having been mainly disposed of, Mr. Graeme went down and
brought the old mammy on.
He had written the old woman to come by a certain train to
Washington where he would meet her, and true to his appointment he met
that train. But in the motley throng that filed through the gate was no
Mam' Lyddy, and inquiring of the train men showed that no one answering
to her description could have been on the train.
Just as Graeme was turning away to go to the telegraph desk, one of
the gray-clad colored porters, a stout, middle-aged man with a pleasant
voice, and the address of a gentleman, approached him,
Were you looking for some one, sir?
Yes, for an old colored woman, my wife's old mammy.
Well, I think you may find her in the inner waiting-room. There is
an old lady in there, who has been waiting there all day. She came in
on the morning train, and said she was expecting you. If you will come
with me, I will show you.
She 's been there all day, the porter said, with a laugh, as they
walked along. I asked who she was waiting for; but she wouldn't tell
me. She said it was none of my business.
I fancy that 's she, said Graeme.
Yes, sir, that 's she, sure.
Graeme thanked him. With a chuckle he led the way to where ensconced
in a corner, surrounded by bundles and baskets and clad in the deepest
black, and with a flaming red bow at her throat, sat Mammy Lyddy.
Here 's the gentleman you were looking for, said the porter
At sight of Graeme she rose so hastily that many of her bundles
rolled on the floor.
Why, Mammy! Why did n't you come on the train I wrote you to come
on? enquired Graeme.
Well, you tole me to come to-day, and I thought I would like to be
on time, so I came this morning.
Now, if you will let me have your tickets, I will attend to
everything for you, said the porter to Graeme.
The old woman gave him a swift glance, and then seeing Graeme hand
him his ticket, she turned her back, and began to fish in some
mysterious recess in her garments, and after a long exploration brought
out a small bag containing her ticket.
Is he one of your servants! she asked Graeme in an undertone.
Graeme smiled. Well, I think he ishe is everybody's servant and
I did n't know. He comes roun' inquirin' 'bout my business so
officious I thought sure he was one o' dese Gov'ment folks, and I done
had 'nough to do wid dat kind.
Like Amos Brown, Caesar's friend.
It was a sore subject with the old woman.
Well, I did n't knowI thought he was one o' dese perliss. So I
sent him 'long 'bout he own business. But if you know him it 's all
The passengers who streamed through the great station the evening of
her arrival, were surprised to see a pudgy old black woman escorted by
a gentleman who, loaded down with her bundles and baskets, was guiding
her through the throng as respectfully as if she had been the first
lady in the land. At the gate a lady and several children were awaiting
her, and at sight of her a cry of joy went up. Dropping her bundles,
the old woman threw herself into the lady's arms and kissed her again
and again, after which she received a multitude of kisses from the
Well, I never saw anything like that, said a stranger to another.
She is their mammy, said the other one simply, with a pleasant
light in his eyes.
The old woman's presence seemed to transform the house. She was no
sooner installed than she took possession. That very morning she
established her position, after a sharp but decisive battle with the
airy colored lady, who for some days had been dawdling about the
house. The mammy had gauged her as soon as her sharp eyes fell on her.
What does yo' call yo'self? she asked her.
What is my name? I am called 'Miss JohnsonMiss Selina Johnson.'
The old woman gave a sniff.
Yo' is! Well, what does yo' call you'self doin' heah?
You mean what is my employment! I am the helpone of the help.
Yo' is! Mam' Lyddy tightened her apron-strings about her stout
waist. Well, 'Miss Johnson,' you git holt of that mat-trass and help
me meek up dis heah bed so it 'll be fit for you' mistis to sleep on
it. With a jerk she turned up the mattress. The maid was so taken
aback for a moment that she did not speak. Then she drew herself up.
I know I ain' gwine to tetch it. I done made it up onct to-day. An'
I ain't got no mistis.
The mammy turned on her.
Umh'm! I thought so! I knows jest yo' kind. Well, de sooner you git
out o' dis room de better for you. 'Cause if I lay my han' 'pon you I
won't let you go till I'se done what yo' mammy ought to 'a' done to you
ev'y day o' yo' life.
She moved toward her with so dangerous a gleam in her sharp little
eyes that Miss Johnson deemed it safest to beat a hasty retreat, and
before bedtime had disappeared from the premises entirely.
In the kitchen the old woman had been equally strenuous. She had
shown the cook in one evening that she knew more about cooking than
that well-satisfied person had ever dreamed any one knew. She had
taught the other maid that she knew by instinct every lurking place of
dirt, however skilfully hidden, and, withal, she had inspired them both
with so much dread of her two-edged tongue that they were doing their
best to conciliate her by a zeal and civility they had never shown
For the first time the Graemes knew what comfort was in their new
Well, this is something like home, said Mrs. Graeme that evening
as she sat by the lamp. Why, I feel like little Ben. He said to-night,
'Mamma, Mammy brought old times with her.'
May she live forever! said Graeme.
In time, however, Mrs. Graeme began to feel that the old woman was
confining herself too closely to the house. She needed some recreation.
She had not even been to church, and Mrs. Graeme knew that this was her
Yes, she would like to go to church, she said, but she did not know
about dese fine chutches. She did not like much to go on the streets.
Dere was too many strange folks around for her. Dey did n't keer
nuthin' for her ner she for dem. And it was de same way, she
reckoned, with de chutches. Dey wuz new niggers, and she did n't had no
use for dem, nor dey for her.
Mrs. Graeme, however, was insistent. Not far off, she had learned,
was a colored church, Mount Salem, over which the Reverend Amos
Johnson presided with much show of broadcloth and silk hat. He had
considerable reputation as a speaker, and from time to time appeared in
the newspapers as a rather ranting writer on matters with a political
coloring. Mrs. Graeme explained to the old woman that she need have no
more to do with the people than she wished, and the following Sunday
she went herself with her to the door of the church. Before leaving her
she gave her a half-dollar to put in the plate, and asked a
solemn-looking usher to show her a good seat.
When the old woman returned she was interested, but critical. I'se
been used to chutch all my life, she declared, but I never saw no
fixin's like dat. Br'er George Wash'n'ton Thomas of Mount Zion was de
fancies' one I ever seen; but he could n't tetch dat man. Why, dey
outdoes white folks!
Were n't they nice to you! asked her mistress.
Nor 'm', none too nice. Dat one what you spoke to for me wuz gwine
to give me a seat; but a uppish young yaller one stopped him an' made
him teck me back and stick me in a corner behind a pillar. But he did
n't stick me so fur back 't dey did n't fine me when dey tecked up de
money. When I put in dat fif'-cent you gi' me, he jumped like a pin had
stick him. I dropped 't in so 't would soun', I tell you!
This gave Mrs. Graeme an idea, and she encouraged her to go again
the following Sunday, and this time gave her a dollar to put in the
Be sure and drop it in so it will sound, she said to her.
I 'm gwine to.
Well, how did you come out to-dayf she asked her on her return.
Right well. Dey did n't stick me quite so fur back, and when I drap
de dollar in dey wuz several on 'em lookin', and when de chutch was
over dey come runnin' arter me, an', tell me ef I come next time dey
'll have a good seat for me. I 'm gwine agin, but fust thing dey know I
'm gwine to fool 'em. I ain't gwine put a dollar in agin, I know.
Mrs. Graeme laughed. Oh! you must pay for being in society. We all
I know I ain't, declared the old woman, and I don't reckon
you gwine to gi' me a dollar ev 'y Sunday.
I certainly am not. I am only getting you launched.
The following week Mrs. Graeme said to her husband, I think Mammy
is launched. The preacher came to the front door to-day and asked to
see Mrs. Quivers. At first I did not know whom he meant. Then he said
it was 'a colored lady.' You never saw any one so gotten upsilk hat,
kid gloves, and ebony cane. And Mammy was quite set up by it. She says
the preacher is from home and knew Caesar. She was really airy
Mr. Graeme uttered an objurgation. You will ruin that old woman,
and with her the best old negro that ever was.
Oh, no, said Mrs. Graeme, there is no danger of that. You could
n't spoil her.
A few weeks later she said: Yes, Mammy is launched. She told me
to-day she wanted to join the club, and when I asked, what club, she
said, 'the Colored Ladies Siciety Club.' I should say she was
launched, sniffed Mr. Graeme. She told me she wanted her money to
invest it herself. The old fool! They will rob her of it.
The weeks that followed, and Mam' Lyddy's immersion in Siciety
began apparently to justify Mr. Graeme's prophecy. A marked change had
taken place in the old woman's dress, and no less a change had taken
place in herself. She began to go out a good deal, and her manner was
quite new. She was what a few weeks before she would have derided as
citified and airified. At length Mrs. Graeme could not conceal it
from herself any longer.
One evening as her husband on his return from his office threw
himself on his chair with the evening paper, she brought up the
Cabell, it is true; you have noticed the change!
What? I have no doubt I have. He glanced at his wife to see if she
had on a new dress or had changed the mode of wearing her hair, then
gazed about him rather uneasily to see if the furniture had been
shifted about, or if the pictures had been changed; points on which his
wife was inclined to be particular.
The change in Mammy! Why, I should never know her for the same
Of course, I have. I have noticed nothing else. Why, she is dressed
as fine as a fiddle. She is 'taking notice.' She 'll be giving Old
Caesar a successor. Then what will you do? I thought that fat darky I
have seen going in at the back gate with a silk hat and a long-tailed
coat looked like a preacher. You 'd better look out for him. You know
she was always stuck on preachers. He is a preacher, sure.
He is, observed the small boy on the floor. That 's the Reverend
Mr. Johnson. And, oh! He certainly can blow beautiful smoke-rings. He
can blow a whole dozen and make 'em go through each other. You just
ought to see him, papa.
His father glanced casually at the cigar box on the table.
I think I will some day, said he, half grimly.
I never would know her for the same person. Why, she is so
changed! pursued Mrs. Graeme. She goes out half the time, and this
morning she was so cross! She says she is as good as I am if she is
black. She is getting like these others up here.
Mr. Graeme flung down the paper he was reading.
It is these Northern negroes who have upset her, and the fools like
the editor of that paper who have upset them.
Mrs. Graeme looked reflective.
That preacher has been coming here a good deal lately. I wonder if
that could have anything to do with it! she said, slowly.
Her husband sniffed.
I will find out.
At that moment the door opened and in walked Mam' Lyddy and a small
boy in all the glory of five years, and all the pride of his first pair
of breeches. The old woman's face wore an expression of glumness wholly
new to her, and Mr. Graeme's mouth tightened. His wife had only time to
whisper: Now, don't you say a word to her. But she was too late. Mam'
Lyddy's expression drove him to disobedience. He gave her a keen
glance, and then said, half jocularly: Old woman, what is the matter
with you lately!
Mam' Lyddy did not answer immediately. She looked away, then said:
Wid me? Ain't nuttin' de matter wid me.
Oh, yes, there is. What is it? Do you want to go home?
She appeared half startled for an instant, then answered more
sharply: Nor, I don't wan' go home. I ain' got no home to go to.
Oh, yes, you have. Well, what is the matter? Out with it. Have you
lost any money!
Nor, I ain' lost no money 's I knows on.
Been playing lottery?
I don' know what dat is.
You don't, ah! Well, you would if you had been in Wall Street
lately. Well, what is the matter? You are going around here as glum as
a meat-axe. Something 's up. What is it?
Ain' nothin' de matter wid me. She glanced away under her
master's half amused, half disdainful glance, then added half surlily:
I wants rec'nition.
Want recognition? What do you mean?
Dat 's what we wants, declared the old woman, acquiring
What is recognition?
I don't know what 't is edzac'ly, but dat's what we wants.
You all 's got it and you got to gi' it to us.
You mean you want to sit at table with us! exclaimed Mrs. Graeme.
Mammy Lyddy turned toward her. You know I don't mean nuttin' like
dat! I leetle more 'n smacked that yaller gal' what you call you' maid
over 'bout talkin' dat way t'other day.
Then what do you want!
I wants rec'nitiondat's all I wants.
Who told you to say that! asked Mr. Graeme.
Who tol' me to say dat? She was puzzled.
Ain' nobody tol' me to say it.
Yes, some one has. Who was it?-the Reverend Johnson? Did n't he
tell you that!
She hesitated; but Mr. Graeme's eye was searching.
Well, he no mo' 'n othersno much mo'. Of co'se, he tol' me
dathe preaches 'bout it; but did n't nobody have to
tell meI knows 'bout it myself.
Of course you did, and you must have it. So shall the Reverend Mr.
Johnson, said Mr. Graeme. His tone expressed such sudden amiability
that the old woman glanced at him suspiciously, but he was smiling
softly and thoughtfully to himself.
What did you do with the four hundred and fifty-five dollars you
drew out of bank last week? Did you invest it or lend it to Mr.
Johnson? It was a bow drawn at venture, but the arrow hit the mark, as
Mr. Graeme saw.
I 'vested it.
You mean Mr. Johnson invested it for you? By the way, what is his
Yes, sir. His name 's de Rev. Amos Johnson.
By George! I thought so, said Graeme, half aloud. I saw him at
the races last week. I knew I had seen him before. His countenance
grew suddenly cheerful.
What did he give you to show for it?
He did n't gi' me nothin'. He 's gwine to draw the intrust for me.
Oh! I thought so. Well, I want to see the Rev. Mr. Johnson when he
comes next time. When do you expect him?
I ain't 'pectin' him 't all. He comes sometimes. He was a friend o'
Ah! he was! So I thought. Comes to smoke a cigar, I suppose!
She looked so uneasy that he went on casually: Well, it 's very
well; always keep in with the cloth. He is a fine preacher, I hear!
Keeps quite up with the timesinterested in the races in more senses
Yes, sir; he preaches very well.
That is all. Well, your friend must have 'rec'nition.'
The old woman withdrew.
The following day Graeme went down to a detective agency and left a
memorandum. A few days later he received a message from the agency:
Yes, he is the same man. He frequents the pool-rooms a good deal. Came
from Kentucky. He used to be known as 'Amos Brown.'
For some days Mr. Graeme took to coming home earlier than usual, and
one evening he was rewarded. Just after his arrival little Ben came in,
and, climbing up to his cigar box, took out several cigars, and
silently withdrew. As soon as he had disappeared his father stepped to
the telephone, and, calling up the detective agency, asked that an
officer be sent around to his house immediately. A few minutes later
the officer arrived, and after a few words with him Mr. Graeme
stationed him at the back gate and strolled back toward the kitchen. As
he softly approached the door he heard voices within-one of them his
little boy's voice, the other the deep, unctuous tones of a negro man.
The child was begging the latter to blow smoke-wreaths, and the man was
bartering with him.
Well, you must get me more cigars; remember what I told
yousix wreaths for one cigar.
At this moment the mammy evidently came in, for Mr. Graeme heard the
man caution the child, and heard her voice for the first time,
What dat you telling dat chile? she demanded, suspiciously.
Nothing. I was just entertaining him by blowing a few of those
artistic wreaths he admires so much. My good friends keep me in cigars.
It is one of the few consolations in a hard-working pastor's life.
Well, sister, I called around to tell you your investment promises to
be even more remunerative than I expectedand to tell you if you have
any more, or even can borrow any, to let me place it as you did the
other. I can guarantee to double it for you in a short time.
I ain' got any morean' ain' got nobody to lend me none.
Well, ah! Could n 't you get any from your employer? He lowered
his voice; but Graeme caught the words. You could raise money on the
silverand they would never know it. Besides, they owe it to you for
all the work you have done without payment. Think how many years you
worked for them as a slave without pay.
Now, I ain' gwine to do dat! exclaimed the old woman.
At this moment Graeme softly opened the door. The mammy was standing
with her back to him, and in one chair, tilted back with his feet in
another chair, was a large and unctuous-looking negro of middle age, in
all the glory of a black broadcloth coat and a white tie. He was
engaged at the moment in blowing small wreaths, while little Ben stood
by and gazed at him with open-eyed wonder and delight.
At sight of Mr. Graeme, the preacher with a gulp, which sadly
disturbed his last effort, rose to his feet. An expression of fear
flitted across his face, then gave way to a crafty, half-insolent look.
Good evening, sir, he began, with an insinuating smile, not wholly
free from uneasiness.
Good evening, Amos. Mammy, will you kindly go to your mistress.
Take the boy with you. Run along, son.
The old woman with a half-scared air led the child out, and Mr.
Graeme closed the door and turned back to the visitor, who looked much
Take my cigars out of your pocket.
The preacher's hand went involuntarily to his breast-pocket, and
then came down.
What! Your cigars out of my pocket? I have no cigars of yours,
sir. He spoke with slightly rising severity, as Mr. Graeme remained so
Oh, yes, you have. But no matter for the present. You had just as
well leave them there for a moment. What are you doing, coming here all
What am I doing?Coming here? I am a minister of the Gawspel, sir,
and I have a member of my congregation here, and I come to look after
And to see that she gets recognition?
Suh?with a wince.
And incidentally to rob me of my cigars, and her of her small
savingspursued Mr. Graeme, calmly.
Suh? Nor, suh, I has not done dat I will take my oath to it on the
word of Almighty God.
The veneer of his fine speech had all been dropped, and the Rev.
Johnson was talking naturally enough now.
What did you do with that money you took from her?
What did I do wid? What money?
Mr. Graeme showed impatience for the first time.
The four hundred and fifty-five dollars you got from her. Was there
more than that?
At this point Mam' Lyddy opened the door and came in. She looked
somewhat mystified and rather disturbed, but she said nothing. She only
took her stand, and with arms folded waited silent and observant.
The negro saw that Mr. Graeme knew of the fact and answered
Oh! You are mistaken, sir. I have taken no money of her. You can ax
her. She had a sum of money which I as a favor to her invested for her.
You can ask the sister there. I suppose you refer to that!
Invested! In what?
Ahurinurthe Afro-American Sister's Loan and Trust
Association. I have promised to invest it in that for her.
He stammered a good deal at the start, but was glib enough when he
brought out the name. Didn't I, sister!
Yes, sir. The old woman was manifestly impressed. The preacher's
cunning face brightened.
You see what she says?
With its chief office at the Race-course out here, said Graeme,
with a toss of his head. Look here, I want you to get that money.
The negro shot a glance at Mam' Lyddy and decided that she would
stand by him. He suddenly stiffened up and resumed his affected manner.
Well, sir, I do not know by what right you interfere with my
affairsor this lady's.
You don 't? Well, that's what I am going to show you now. My right
is that she is a member of my family, whom I am going to protect from
just such scoundrels and thieves as you, Amos Brown.
The preacher received the name like a blow.
At the words the old mammy jumped as if she were shot. She leaned
forward, moving up slowly.
What's dat?'Amos Brown'? What's dat you said, Marse
Cabell? 'Amos Brown'?
Mr. Graeme nodded. Yes. This is Amos Brown, 'a friend of
Indeed, I ain 't suh. I'm de Reverend Amos Johnson began the
preacher, but his looks belied him. Mammy Lyddy took in the truth, and
the next second the storm broke.
'Amos Brown' you is? I might 'a' knowd it! You thief! You a friend
of Caesar's! Whar's my money?My money you stole from Caesar? You come
talkin' to me 'bout rec'nition? I done rec'nize you, you black nigger.
Let me get at him, Marse Gabelle.
The old woman swept toward him with so threatening an air that
Graeme interposed, and the preacher retreated behind him for
protection. Even that place of security did not, however, save him from
her vitriolic tongue. She poured out on him the vials of her wrath till
Graeme, fearing she might drop down in a faint, stopped her.
Stop now. I will settle with him.
His authoritative air quieted her, but she still stood glowering and
muttering her wrath.
You will have that money back here by to-morrow at this hour or I
will put you in the penitentiary, where you have already been once and
ought to be now. And now you will take my cigars out of your pocket, or
I will hand you to that policeman out there at the door. Out with
Boss, I ain't got no cigars o' yo's. I 'll swar to it on de wud
Out with themor Mr. Graeme turned to open the door. The negro,
after a glance at Mam' Lyddy, slowly took several cigars from his
Dese is all de cigars I hasand dey wuz given to me by a friend,
he said, surlily.
Yes, by my little boy. I know. Lay them there. I will keep them
till to-morrow. And now go and get that money.
What money?I can't git dat moneydat money is invested.
Then you bring the securities in which it is invested. I know where
that money went. You go and rob some one elsebut have that money at
my office to-morrow before three o'clock or I 'll put you in jail
to-morrow night. And if you ever put your foot on this place or speak
to that old woman again, I 'll have you arrested. Do you understand!
Now go. He opened the door.
Officer, do you recognize this man!
Yes, sir, I know him.
Well, I am going to let him go for the present
The Rev. Amos was already slinking down the street. Mr. Graeme
turned to the old woman.
You want recognition?
Nor, suh, I don't She gave a whimper. I wants my money. I wants
to git hold of dat black nigger what 's done rob me talkin' 'bout bein'
sich a friend o' Caesar's.
Do you want to go home?
Dis is my home. She spoke humbly, but firmly.
Two days afterward Mrs. Graeme said:
Cabell, Mammy is converted. It is like old times.
I think it will last, said her husband. She is out four hundred
and fifty-five dollars, and the Mount Salem flock is temporarily
without a shepherd. The Rev. Amos Johnson was gathered in this morning
for fleecing one of his sheep and signing the wrong name to a check.