Best American Humorous Short Stories
turned, at bay, yet with nothing between them and liberty but a hypnotism of their own
suggestion, they saw the black faces of the servants peering over the family shoulders.
Ross was the boy to have drawn courage from the desperation of their case, and made
some decent if not glorious ending. But at the psychological moment there came around
the corner of the house that most contemptible figure known to the Southern plantation, a
shirt-boy--a creature who may be described, for the benefit of those not informed, as a
pickaninny clad only in a long, coarse cotton shirt. While all eyes were fastened upon
him this inglorious ambassador bolted forth his message:
"Yo' ma say"--his eyes were fixed upon Abner--"ef yo' don' come home, she gwine come
after yo'--an' cut yo' into inch pieces wid a rawhide when she git yo'. Dat jest what Miss
As though such a book as Hints and Helps had never existed, Abner shot for the gate--he
was but a hobbledehoy fascinated with the idea of playing gentleman. But in Ross there
were the makings of a man. For a few half-hearted paces, under the first impulse of
horror, he followed his deserting chief, the laughter of the family, the unrestrainable
guffaws of the negroes, sounding in the rear. But when Champe's high, offensive giggle,
topping all the others, insulted his ears, he stopped dead, wheeled, and ran to the porch
faster than he had fled from it. White as paper, shaking with inexpressible rage, he caught
and kissed the tittering girl, violently, noisily, before them all.
The negroes fled--they dared not trust their feelings; even Alicia sniggered unobtrusively;
Grandfather Claiborne chuckled, and Aunt Missouri frankly collapsed into her rocking-
chair, bubbling with mirth, crying out:
"Good for you, Ross! Seems you did know how to call on the girls, after all."
But Ross, paying no attention, walked swiftly toward the gate. He had served his
novitiate. He would never be afraid again. With cheerful alacrity he dodged the stones
flung after him with friendly, erratic aim by the girl upon whom, yesterday afternoon, he
had come to make a social call.