The Chronicles of Aunt Minervy Ann

by Joel Chandler Harris

AN EVENING WITH THE KU-KLUX

While in Halcyondale attending the county fair I had a good many talks with Aunt Minervy Ann, who was the cook, housekeeper, and general superintendent of Major Tumlin Perdue's household. Some of these conversations have been reported on account of the whiff and flavor of old times which caused them to live in my mind, while others perhaps as important have been forgotten.

In the published reports of these conversations the name of Hamp, Aunt Minervy's husband, often occurs. When a slave, Hamp had belonged to an estate which was in the hands of the Court of Ordinary (or, as it was then called, the Inferior Court), to be administered in the interest of minor heirs. This was not a fortunate thing for the negroes, of which there were above one hundred and fifty. Men, women, and children were hired out, some far and some near. They came back home at Christmas-time, enjoyed a week's frolic, and were then hired out again, perhaps to new employers. But whether to new or old, it is certain that hired hands in those days did not receive the consideration that men gave to their own negroes.

This experience told heavily on Hamp's mind. It made him reserved, suspicious, and antagonistic. He had few pleasant memories to fall back on, and these were of the days of his early youth, when he used to trot around holding to his old master's coat-tails—the kind old master who had finally been sent to the insane asylum. Hamp never got over the idea (he had heard some of the older negroes talking about it) that his old master had been judged to be crazy simply because he was unusually kind to his negroes, especially the little ones. Hamp's after-experience seemed to prove this, for he  received small share of kindness, as well as scrimped rations, from those who hired him.

It was a very good thing for Hamp that he married Aunt Minervy Ann, otherwise he would have become a wanderer and a vagabond when freedom came. Even as it was, he didn't miss it a hair's breadth. He "broke loose," as he described it, and went off, but finally came back and tried to persuade Aunt Minervy Ann to leave Major Perdue. How he failed in this has already been reported. He settled down, but he acquired no very friendly feelings toward the white race.

He joined the secret political societies strangely called "Union Leagues," and aided in disseminating the belief that the whites were only awaiting a favorable opportunity to re-enslave his race. He was only repeating what the carpet-baggers had told him. Perhaps he believed the statement, perhaps not. At any rate, he repeated it fervently and frequently, and soon came to be the recognized leader of the negroes in the county of which Halcyondale was the capital. That is to say, the leader of all except one. At church one Sunday night some of the brethren congratulated Aunt Minervy Ann on the fact that Hamp was now the leader of the colored people in that region.

"What colored people?" snapped Aunt Minervy Ann.

"We-all," responded a deacon, emphatically.

"Well, he can't lead me, I'll tell you dat right now!" exclaimed Aunt Minervy Ann.

Anyhow, when the time came to elect members of the Legislature (the constitutional convention had already been held), Hamp was chosen to be the candidate of the negro Republicans. A white man wanted to run, but the negroes said they preferred their own color, and they had their  way. They had their way at the polls, too, for, as nearly all the whites who would have voted had served in the Confederate army, they were at that time disfranchised.

So Hamp was elected overwhelmingly, "worl' widout een'," as he put it, and the effect it had on him was a perfect illustration of one aspect of human nature. Before and during the election (which lasted three days) Hamp had been going around puffed up with importance. He wore a blue army overcoat and a stove-pipe hat, and went about smoking a big cigar. When the election was over, and he was declared the choice of the county, he collapsed. His dignity all disappeared. His air of self-importance and confidence deserted him. His responsibilities seemed to weigh him down.

He had once "rolled" in the little printing-office where the machinery consisted of a No. 2 Washington hand-press, a wooden imposing-stone, three stands for the cases, a rickety table for "wetting down" the paper, a tub in which to wash the forms, and a sheet-iron "imposing-stone." This chanced to be my head-quarters, and the day after the election I was somewhat surprised to see Hamp saunter in. So was Major Tumlin Perdue, who was reading the exchanges.

"He's come to demand a retraction," remarked the Major, "and you'll have to set him right. He's no longer plain Hamp; he's the Hon. Hamp—what's your other name?" turning to the negro.

"Hamp Tumlin my fergiven name, suh. I thought 'Nervy tol' you dat."

"Why, who named you after me?" inquired the Major, somewhat angrily.

"Me an' 'Nervy fix it up, suh. She say it's about de purtiest name in town."

The Major melted a little, but his bristles rose again, as it were.

"Look here, Hamp!" he exclaimed in a tone that nobody ever forgot or misinterpreted; "don't you go and stick Perdue onto it. I won't stand that!"

"No, suh!" responded Hamp. "I started ter do it, but 'Nervy Ann say she ain't gwine ter have de Perdue name bandied about up dar whar de Legislatur's at."

Again the Major thawed, and though he looked long at Hamp it was with friendly eyes. He seemed to be studying the negro—"sizing him up," as the saying is. For a newly elected member of the Legislature, Hamp seemed to take a great deal of interest in the old duties he once performed about the office. He went first to the box in which the "roller" was kept, and felt of its surface carefully.

"You'll hatter have a bran new roller 'fo' de mont's out," he said, "an' I won't be here to he'p you make it."

Then he went to the roller-frame, turned the handle, and looked at the wooden cylinders. "Dey don't look atter it like I use ter, suh; an' dish yer frame monst'us shackly."

From there he passed to the forms where the advertisements remained standing. He passed his thumb over the type and looked at it critically. "Dey er mighty skeer'd dey'll git all de ink off," was his comment. Do what he would, Hamp couldn't hide his embarrassment.

Meanwhile, Major Perdue scratched off a few lines in pencil. "I wish you'd get this in Tuesday's paper," he said. Then he read: "The Hon. Hampton Tumlin, recently elected a member of the Legislature, paid us a pop-call last Saturday. We are always pleased to meet our distinguished fellow-townsman and representative. We trust Hon. Hampton Tumlin will call again when the Ku-Klux are in."

"Why, certainly," said I, humoring the joke.

"Sholy you-all ain't gwine put dat in de paper, is you?" inquired Hamp, in amazement.

"Of course," replied the Major; "why not?"

"Kaze, ef you does, I'm a ruint nigger. Ef 'Nervy Ann hear talk 'bout my name an' entitlements bein' in de paper, she'll quit me sho. Uh-uh! I'm gwine 'way fum here!" With that Hamp bowed and disappeared. The Major chuckled over his little joke, but soon returned to his newspaper. For a quarter of an hour there was absolute quiet in the room, and, as it seemed, in the entire building, which was a brick structure of two stories, the stairway being in the centre. The hallway was, perhaps, seventy-five feet long, and on each side, at regular intervals, there were four rooms, making eight in all, and, with one exception, variously occupied as lawyers' offices or sleeping apartments, the exception being the printing-office in which Major Perdue and I were sitting. This was at the extreme rear of the hallway.

I had frequently been struck by the acoustic properties of this hallway. A conversation carried on in ordinary tones in the printing-office could hardly be heard in the adjoining room. Transferred to the front rooms, however, or even to the sidewalk facing the entrance to the stairway, the lightest tone was magnified in volume. A German professor of music who for a time occupied the apartment opposite the printing-office was so harassed by the thunderous sounds of laughter and conversation rolling back upon him that he tried to remedy the matter by nailing two thicknesses of bagging along the floor from the stairway to the rear window. This was, indeed, something of a help, but when the German left, being of an economical turn of mind, he took his bagging away with him, and once more the hall-way was torn and rent, as you may say, with the lightest whisper.

Thus it happened that, while the Major and I were sitting enjoying an extraordinary season of calm, suddenly there came a thundering sound from the stairway. A troop of horse could hardly have made a greater uproar, and yet I knew that less than half a dozen people were ascending the steps. Some one stumbled and caught himself, and the multiplied and magnified reverberations were as loud as if the roof had caved in, carrying the better part of the structure with it. Some one laughed at the misstep, and the sound came to our ears with the deafening effect of an explosion. The party filed with a dull roar into one of the front rooms, the office of a harum-scarum young lawyer who had more empty bottles behind his door than he had ever had briefs on his desk.

"Well, the great Gemini!" exclaimed  Major Perdue, "how do you manage to stand that sort of thing?"

I shrugged my shoulders and laughed, and was about to begin anew a very old tirade against caves and halls of thunder, when the Major raised a warning hand. Some one was saying——

"He hangs out right on ol' Major Perdue's lot. He's got a wife there."

"By jing!" exclaimed another voice; "is that so? Well, I don't wanter git mixed up wi' the Major. He may be wobbly on his legs, but I don't wanter be the one to run up ag'in 'im."

The Major pursed up his lips and looked at the ceiling, his attitude being one of rapt attention.

"Shucks!" cried another; "by the time the ol' cock gits his bellyful of dram, thunder wouldn't roust 'im."

A shrewd, foxy, almost sinister expression came over the Major's rosy face as he glanced at me. His left hand went to his goatee, an invariable signal of deep feeling, such as anger, grief, or serious trouble. Another voice broke in here, a voice that we both knew to be that of Larry Pulliam, a big Kentuckian who had refugeed to Halcyondale during the war.

"Blast it all!" exclaimed Larry Pulliam, "I hope the Major will come out. Me an' him hain't never butted heads yit, an' it's gittin' high time. Ef he comes out, you fellers jest go ahead with your rat-killin'. I'll 'ten' to him."

"Why, you'd make two of him, Pulliam," said the young lawyer.

"Oh, I'll not hurt 'im; that is, not much—jest enough to let 'im know I'm livin' in the same village," replied Mr. Pulliam. The voice of the town bull could not have had a more terrifying sound.

Glancing at the Major, I saw that he had entirely recovered his equanimity. More than that, a smile of sweet satisfaction and contentment settled on his rosy face, and stayed there.

"I wouldn't take a hundred dollars for that last remark," whispered the Major. "That chap's been a-raisin' his hackle at me ever since he's been here, and every time I try to get him to make a flutter he's off and gone. Of course it wouldn't do for me to push a row on him just dry so. But now——" The Major laughed softly, rubbed his hands together, and seemed to be as happy as a child with a new toy.

"My son," said he after awhile, "ain't there some way of finding out who the other fellows are? Ain't you got some word you want Seab Griffin"—this was the young lawyer—"to spell for you?"

Spelling was the Major's weakness. He was a well-educated man, and could write vigorous English, but only a few days before he had asked me how many, f's there are in graphic.

"Let's see," he went on, rubbing the top of his head. "Do you spell Byzantium with two y's, or with two i's, or with one y and one i? It'll make Seab feel right good to be asked that before company, and he certainly needs to feel good if he's going with that crowd."

So, with a manuscript copy in my hand, I went hurriedly down the hall and put the important question. Mr. Griffin was all politeness, but not quite sure of the facts in the case. But he searched in his books of reference, including the Geographical Gazette, until finally he was able to give me the information I was supposed to stand in need of.

While he was searching, Mr. Pulliam turned to me and inquired what day the paper came out. When told that the date was Tuesday, he smiled and nodded his head mysteriously.

"That's good," he declared; "you'll be in time to ketch the news."

"What news?" I inquired.

"Well, ef you don't hear about it before to-morrer night, jest inquire of Major Perdue. He'll tell you all about it."

Mr. Pulliam's tone was so supercilious that I was afraid the Major would lose his temper and come raging down the hallway. But he did nothing of the kind. When I returned he was fairly beaming. The Major took down the names in his note-book—I have forgotten all except those of Buck Sanford and Larry Pulliam—and seemed to be perfectly happy. They were all from the country except Larry Pulliam and the young lawyer.

After my visit to the room, the men spoke in lower tones, but every word came back to us as distinctly as before.

"The feed of the bosses won't cost us a cent," remarked young Sanford. "Tom Gresham said he'd 'ten' to that. They're  in the stable right now. And we're to have supper in Tom's back room, have a little game of ante, and along about twelve or one we'll sa'nter down and yank that derned nigger from betwixt his blankets, ef he's got any, and leave him to cool off at the cross-roads. Won't you go 'long, Seab, and see it well done?"

"I'll go and see if the supper's well done, and I'll take a shy at your ante," replied Mr. Griffin. "But when it comes to the balance of the programme—well, I'm a lawyer, you know, and you couldn't expect me to witness the affair. I might have to take your cases and prove an alibi, you know, and I couldn't conscientiously do that if I was on hand at the time."

"The Ku-Klux don't have to have alibis," suggested Larry Pulliam.

"Perhaps not, still—" Apparently Mr. Griffin disposed of the matter with a gesture.

When all the details of their plan had been carefully arranged, the amateur Ku-Klux went filing out, the noise they made dying away like the echoes of a storm.

Major Perdue leaned his head against the back of his chair, closed his eyes, and sat there so quietly that I thought he was asleep. But this was a mistake. Suddenly he began to laugh, and he laughed until the tears ran down his face. It was laughter that was contagious, and presently I found myself joining in without knowing why. This started the Major afresh, and we both laughed until exhaustion came to our aid.

"O Lord!" cried the Major, panting, "I haven't had as much fun since the war, and a long time before. That blamed Pulliam is going to walk into a trap of his own setting. Now you jest watch how he goes out ag'in."

"But I'll not be there," I suggested.

"Oh, yes!" exclaimed the Major, "you can't afford to miss it. It'll be the finest piece of news your paper ever had. You'll go to supper with me—" He paused. "No, I'll go home, send Valentine to her Aunt Emmy's, get Blasengame to come around, and we'll have supper about nine. That'll fix it. Some of them chaps might have an eye on my house, and I don't want 'em to see anybody but me go in there. Now, if you don't come at nine, I'll send Blasengame after you."

"I shall be glad to come, Major. I was simply fishing for an invitation."

"That fish is always on your hook, and you know it," the Major insisted.

As it was arranged, so it fell out. At nine, I lifted and dropped the knocker on the Major's front door. It opened so promptly that I was somewhat taken by surprise, but in a moment the hand of my host was on my arm, and he pulled me inside unceremoniously.

"I was on the lookout," the Major explained. "Minervy Ann has fixed to have waffles, and she's crazy about havin' 'em just right. If she waits too long to make 'em, the batter'll spoil; and if she puts 'em on before everybody's ready, they won't be good. That's what she says. Here he is, you old Hessian!" the Major cried, as Minervy Ann peeped in from the dining-room. "Now slap that supper together and let's get at it."

"I'm mighty glad you come, suh," said Aunt Minervy Ann, with a courtesy and a smile, and then she disappeared. In an incredibly short time, supper was announced, and though Aunt Minervy has since informed me confidentially that the Perdues were having a hard time of it at that period, I'll do her the credit to say that the supper she furnished forth was as good as any to be had in that town—waffles, beat biscuit, fried chicken, buttermilk, and coffee that could not be surpassed.

"How about the biscuit, Minervy Ann?" inquired Colonel Blasengame, who was the Major's brother-in-law, and therefore one of the family.

"I turned de dough on de block twelve times, an' hit it a hunderd an forty-sev'm licks," replied Aunt Minervy Ann.

"I'm afeard you hit it one lick too many," said Colonel Blasengame, winking at me.

"Well, suh, I been hittin' dat away a mighty long time," Aunt Minervy Ann explained, "and I ain't never hear no complaints."

"Oh, I'm not complainin', Minervy Ann." Colonel Blasengame waved his hand. "I'm mighty glad you did hit the dough a lick too many. If you hadn't, the biscuit would 'a' melted in my mouth, and I believe I'd rather chew on 'em to get the taste."

"He des runnin' on, suh," said Aunt Minervy Ann to me. "Marse Bolivar know mighty well dat he got ter go 'way fum de Nunited State fer ter git any better biscuits dan what I kin bake."

Then there was a long pause, which was broken by an attempt on the part of  Major Perdue to give Aunt Minervy Ann an inkling of the events likely to happen during the night. She seemed to be both hard of hearing and dull of understanding when the subject was broached; or she may have suspected the Major was joking or trying to "run a rig" on her. Her questions and comments, however, were very characteristic.

"I dunner what dey want wid Hamp," she said. "Ef dey know'd how no-count he is, dey'd let 'im 'lone. What dey want wid 'im?"

"Well, two or three of the country boys and maybe some of the town chaps are going to call on him between midnight and day. They want to take him out to the cross-roads. Hadn't you better fix 'em up a little snack? Hamp won't want anything, but the boys will feel a little hungry after the job is over."

"Nobody ain't never tell me dat de Legislatur' wuz like de Free Masons, whar dey have ter ride a billy goat an' go down in a dry well wid de chains a-clankin'. I done tol' Hamp dat he better not fool wid white folks' do-in's."

"Only the colored members have to be initiated," explained the Major, solemnly.

"What does dey do wid um?" inquired Aunt Minervy Ann.

"Well," replied the Major, "they take 'em out to the nearest cross-roads, put ropes around their necks, run the ropes over limbs, and pull away as if they were drawing water from a well."

"What dey do dat fer?" asked Aunt Minervy Ann, apparently still oblivious to the meaning of it all.

"They want to see which'll break first, the ropes or the necks," the Major explained.

"Ef dey takes Hamp out," remarked Aunt Minervy Ann, tentatively—feeling her way, as it were—"what time will he come back?"

"You've heard about the Resurrection Morn, haven't you, Minervy Ann?" There was a pious twang in the Major's voice as he pronounced the words.

"I hear de preacher say sump'n 'bout it," replied Aunt Minervy Ann.

"Well," said the Major, "along about that time Hamp will return. I hope his record is good enough to give him wings."

"Shuh! Marse Tumlin! you-all des fool'n' me. I don't keer—Hamp ain't gwine wid um. I tell you dat right now."

"Oh, he may not want to go," persisted the Major, "but he'll go all the same if they get their hands on him."

"My life er me!" exclaimed Aunt Minervy Ann, bristling up, "does you-all 'speck I'm gwine ter let um take Hamp out dat away? De fus' man come ter my door, less'n it's one er you-all, I'm gwine ter fling a pan er hot embers in his face ef de Lord'll gi' me de strenk. An' ef dat don't do no good, I'll scald um wid b'ilin' water. You hear dat, don't you?"

"Minervy Ann," said the Major, sweetly, "have you ever heard of the Ku-Klux?"

"Yasser, I is!" she exclaimed with startling emphasis. She stopped still and gazed hard at the Major. In response, he merely shrugged his shoulders and raised his right hand with a swift gesture that told the whole story.

"Name er God! Marse Tumlin, is you an' Marse Bolivar and dish yer young genterman gwine ter set down here flat-footed and let dem Ku-kluckers scarify Hamp?"

"Why should we do anything? You've got everything arranged. You're going to singe 'em with hot embers, and you're going to take their hides off with scalding water. What more do you want?" The Major spoke with an air of benign resignation.

Aunt Minervy Ann shook her head vigorously. "Ef deyer de Kukluckers, fire won't do um no harm. Dey totes der haids in der han's."

"Their heads in their hands?" cried Colonel Blasengame, excitedly.

"Dat what dey say, suh," replied Aunt Minervy Ann.

Colonel Blasengame looked at his watch. "Tumlin, I'll have to ask you to excuse me to-night," he said. "I—well, the fact is, I have a mighty important engagement up town. I'm obliged to fill it." He turned to Aunt Minervy Ann: "Did I understand you to say the Ku-Klux carry their heads in their hands?"

"Dat what folks tell me. I hear my own color sesso," replied Aunt Minervy Ann.

"I'd be glad to stay with you, Tumlin," the Colonel declared; "but—well, under the circumstances, I think I'd better fill that engagement. Justice to my family demands it."

"Well," responded Major Perdue, "if you are going, I reckon we'd just as well go, too."

"Huh!" exclaimed Aunt Minervy Ann, "ef gwine's de word, dey can't nobody beat me gittin' way fum here. Dey may beat me comin' back, I ain't 'sputin' dat; but dey can't beat me gwine 'way. I'm ol', but I got mighty nigh ez much go in me ez a quarter-hoss."

Colonel Blasengame leaned back in his chair and studied the ceiling. "It seems to me, Tumlin, we might compromise on this. Suppose we get Hamp to come in here. Minervy Ann can stay out there in the kitchen and throw a rock against the back door when the Ku-Klux come."

Aunt Minervy Ann fairly gasped. "Who? Me? I'll die fust. I'll t'ar down dat do'; I'll holler twel ev'ybody in de neighborhood come a-runnin'. Ef you don't b'lieve me, you des try me. I'll paw up dat back-yard."

Major Perdue went to the back door and called Hamp, but there was no answer. He called him a second time, with the same result.

"Well," said the Major, "they've stolen a march on us. They've come and carried him off while we were talking."

"No, suh, dey ain't, needer. I know right whar he is, an' I'm gwine atter 'im. He's right 'cross de street dar, colloguin'  wid dat ol' Ceely Ensign. Dat's right whar he is."

"Old! Why, Celia is young," remarked the Major. "They say she's the best cook in town."

Aunt Minervy Ann whipped out of the room, and was gone some little time. When she returned, she had Hamp with her, and I noticed that both were laboring under excitement which they strove in vain to suppress.

"Here I is, suh," said Hamp. "'Nervy Ann say you call me."

"How is Celia to-night?" Colonel Blasengame inquired, suavely.

This inquiry, so suddenly and unexpectedly put, seemed to disconcert Hamp. He shuffled his feet and put his hand to his face. I noticed a blue welt over his eye, which was not there when he visited me in the afternoon.

"Well, suh, I speck she's tolerbul."

"Is she? Is she? Ah-h-h!" cried Aunt Minervy Ann.

"She must be pretty well," said the Major. "I see she's hit you a clip over the left eye."

"Dat's some er 'Nervy Ann's doin's, suh," replied Hamp, somewhat disconsolately.

"Den what you git in de way fer?" snapped Aunt Minervy Ann.

"Marse Tumlin, dat ar 'oman ain't done nothin' in de roun' worl'. She say she want me to buy some hime books fer de church when I went to Atlanty, an' I went over dar atter de money."

"I himed 'er an' I churched 'er!" exclaimed Aunt Minervy Ann.

"Here de money right here," said Hamp, pulling a small roll of shinplasters out of his pocket; "an' whiles we settin' dar countin' de money, 'Nervy Ann come in dar an' frail dat 'oman out."

"Ain't you hear dat nigger holler, Marse Tumlin?" inquired Minervy Ann. She was in high good-humor now. "Look like ter me dey could a-heerd 'er blate in de nex' county ef dey'd been a-lis'nin'. 'Twuz same ez a picnic, suh, an' I'm gwine 'cross dar 'fo' long an' pay my party call."

Then she began to laugh, and pretty soon went through the whole episode for  our edification, dwelling with unction on that part where the unfortunate victim of her jealousy had called her "Miss 'Nervy." The more she laughed the more serious Hamp became.

At the proper time he was told of the visitation that was to be made by the Ku-Klux, and this information seemed to perplex and worry him no little. But his face lit up with genuine thankfulness when the programme for the occasion was announced to him. He and Minervy Ann were to remain in the house and not show their heads until the Major or the Colonel or their guest came to the back door and drummed on it lightly with the fingers.

Then the arms—three shot-guns—were brought out, and I noticed with some degree of surprise, that as the Major and the Colonel began to handle these, their spirits rose perceptibly. The Major hummed a tune and the Colonel whistled softly as they oiled the locks and tried the triggers. The Major, in coming home, had purchased four pounds of mustard-seed shot, and with this he proceeded to load two of the guns. In the third he placed only powder. This harmless weapon was intended for me, while the others were to be handled by Major Perdue and Colonel Blasengame. I learned afterward that the arrangement was made solely for my benefit. The Major and the Colonel were afraid that a young hand might become excited and fire too high at close range, in which event mustard-seed shot would be as dangerous as the larger variety.

At twelve o'clock I noticed that both Hamp and Aunt Minervy Ann were growing restless.

"You hear dat clock, don't you, Marse Tumlin?" said Minervy as the chimes died away. "Ef you don't min', de Ku-kluckers'll be a-stickin' der haids in de back do'."

But the Major and the Colonel were playing a rubber of seven-up (or high-low-Jack) and paid no attention. It was a quarter after twelve when the game was concluded and the players pushed their chairs back from the table.

"Ef you don't fin' um in de yard waitin' fer you, I'll be fooled might'ly," remarked Aunt Minervy Ann.

"Go and see if they're out there," said the Major.

"Me, Marse Tumlin? Me? I wouldn't go out dat do' not for ham."

The Major took out his watch. "They'll eat and drink until twelve or a little after, and then they'll get ready to start. Then they'll have another drink all 'round, and finally they'll take another. It'll be a quarter to one or after when they get in the grove in the far end of the lot. But we'll go out now and see how the land lays. By the time they get here, our eyes will be used to the darkness."

The light was carried to a front room, and we groped our way out at the back door the best we could. The night was dark, but the stars were shining. I noticed that the belt and sword of Orion had drifted above the tree-tops in the east, following the Pleiades. In a little while the darkness seemed to grow less dense, and I could make out the outlines of trees twenty feet away.

Behind one of these trees, near the outhouse in which Hamp and Aunt Minervy lived, I was to take my stand, while the Major and the Colonel were to go farther into the wood-lot so as to greet the would-be Ku-Klux as they made their retreat, of which Major Perdue had not the slightest doubt.

"You stand here," said the Major in a whisper. "We'll go to the far-end of the lot where they're likely to come in. They'll pass us all right enough, but as soon as you see one of 'em, up with the gun an' lam aloose, an' before they can get away give 'em the other barrel. Then you'll hear from us."

Major Perdue and Colonel Blasengame disappeared in the darkness, leaving me, as it were, on the inner picket line. I found the situation somewhat ticklish, as the saying is. There was not the slightest danger, and I knew it, but if you ever have occasion to stand out in the dark, waiting for something to happen, you'll find there's a certain degree of suspense attached to it. And the loneliness and silence of the night will take on shape almost tangible. The stirring of the half-dead leaves, the chirping of a belated cricket, simply emphasized the loneliness and made the silence more profound. At intervals, all nature seemed to heave a deep sigh, and address itself to slumber again.

In the house I heard the muffled sound of the clock chime one, but whether it was striking the half-hour or the hour I could not tell. Then I heard the stealthy tread of feet. Some one stumbled over a stick of timber, and the noise was followed by a smothered exclamation and a confused murmur of voices. As the story-writers say, I knew that the hour had come. I could hear whisperings, and then I saw a tall shadow steal from behind Aunt Minervy's house, and heard it rap gently on the door. I raised the gun, pulled the hammer back, and let drive. A stream of fire shot from the gun, accompanied by a report that tore the silence to atoms. I heard a sharp exclamation of surprise, then the noise of running feet, and off went the other barrel. In a moment the Major and the Colonel opened on the fugitives. I heard a loud cry of pain from one, and, in the midst of it all, the mustard-seed shot rattled on the plank fence like hominy-snow on a tin roof.

The next instant I heard some one running back in my direction, as if for dear life. He knew the place apparently, for he tried to go through the orchard, but just before he reached the orchard fence, he uttered a half-strangled cry of terror, and then I heard him fall as heavily as if he had dropped from the top of the house.

It was impossible to imagine what had happened, and it was not until we had investigated the matter that the cause of the trouble was discovered. A wire clothes-line, stretched across the yard, had caught the would-be Ku-Klux under the chin, his legs flew from under him, and he had a fall, from the effects of which he did not recover for a long time. He was a young man about town, very well connected, who had gone into the affair in a spirit of mischief. We carried him into the house, and administered to his hurts the best we  could; Aunt Minervy Ann, be it said to her credit, being more active in this direction than any of us.

On the Tuesday following, the county paper contained the news in a form that remains to this day unique. It is hardly necessary to say that it was from the pen of Major Tumlin Perdue.

"Last Saturday afternoon our local editor was informed by a prominent citizen that if we would apply to Major Purdue we would be put in possession of a very interesting piece of news. Acting upon this hint, ye local yesterday went to Major Perdue, who, being in high good-humor, wrote out the following with his own hand:

"'Late Saturday night, while engaged with a party of friends in searching for a stray dog on my premises, I was surprised to see four or five men climb over my back fence and proceed toward my residence. As my most intimate friends do not visit me by climbing over my back fence, I immediately deployed my party in such a manner as to make the best of a threatening situation. The skirmish opened at my kitchen-door, with two rounds from a howitzer. This demoralized the enemy, who promptly retreated the way they came. One of them, the leader of the attacking party, carried away with him two loads of mustard-seed shot, delivered in the general neighborhood and region of the coat-tails, which, being on a level with the horizon, afforded as fair a target as could be had in the dark. I understand on good authority that Mr. Larry Pulliam, one of our leading and deservedly popular citizens, has had as much as a quart of mustard-seed shot picked from his carcass. Though hit in a vulnerable spot, the wound is not mortal.—T. Perdue.'"

I did my best to have Mr. Pulliam's name suppressed, but the Major would not have it so.

"No, sir," he insisted; "the man has insulted me behind my back, and he's got to cut wood or put down the axe."

Naturally this free and easy card created quite a sensation in Halcyondale and the country round about. People knew what it would mean if Major Perdue's name had been used in such an off-hand manner by Mr. Pulliam, and they naturally supposed that a fracas would be the outcome. Public expectation was on tiptoe, and yet the whole town seemed to take the Major's card humorously. Some of the older citizens laughed until they could hardly sit up, and even Mr. Pulliam's friends caught the infection. Indeed, it is said that Mr. Pulliam, himself, after the first shock of surprise was over, paid the Major's audacious humor the tribute of a hearty laugh. When Mr. Pulliam appeared in public, among the first men he saw was Major Perdue. This was natural, for the Major made it a point to be on hand. He was not a ruffler, but he thought it was his duty to give Mr. Pulliam a fair opportunity to wreak vengeance on him. If the boys about town imagined that a row was to be the result of this first meeting, they were mistaken. Mr. Pulliam looked at the Major and then began to laugh.

"Major Perdue," he said, "I'd a heap rather you'd pull your shot-gun on me than your pen."

And that ended the matter.