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
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
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
"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
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
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
"Why, certainly," said I, humoring the
"Sholy you-all ain't gwine put dat in
de paper, is you?" inquired Hamp, in
"Of course," replied the Major; "why
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"How about the biscuit, Minervy
Ann?" inquired Colonel Blasengame,
who was the Major's brother-in-law,
and therefore one of the
"I turned de dough on de block
twelve times, an' hit it a hunderd an
forty-sev'm licks," replied Aunt
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"Well," responded Major Perdue, "if
you are going, I reckon we'd just as well
"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
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
"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
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
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
At twelve o'clock I noticed that both
Hamp and Aunt Minervy Ann were growing
"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
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
"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
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
"'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.
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.