Best American Humorous Short Stories HTML version
but eminently impressive. An old-fashioned Henry Clay cloth coat, stained and
threadbare, divided itself impartially over the donkey's back and dangled on his sides.
This was all that remained of the elder's wedding suit of forty years ago. Only constant
care, and use of late years limited to extra occasions, had preserved it so long. The
trousers had soon parted company with their friends. The substitutes were red jeans,
which, while they did not well match his court costume, were better able to withstand the
old man's abuse, for if, in addition to his frequent religious excursions astride his beast,
there ever was a man who was fond of sitting down with his feet higher than his head, it
was this selfsame Elder Brown.
The morning expanded, and the old man expanded with it; for while a vigorous leader in
his church, the elder at home was, it must be admitted, an uncomplaining slave. To the
intense astonishment of the beast he rode, there came new vigor into the whacks which
fell upon his flanks; and the beast allowed astonishment to surprise him into real life and
decided motion. Somewhere in the elder's expanding soul a tune had begun to ring.
Possibly he took up the far, faint tune that came from the straggling gang of negroes
away off in the field, as they slowly chopped amid the threadlike rows of cotton plants
which lined the level ground, for the melody he hummed softly and then sang strongly, in
the quavering, catchy tones of a good old country churchman, was "I'm glad salvation's
It was during the singing of this hymn that Elder Brown's regular motion-inspiring
strokes were for the first time varied. He began to hold his hickory up at certain pauses in
the melody, and beat the changes upon the sides of his astonished steed. The chorus
under this arrangement was:
I'm glad salvation's free,
I'm glad salvation's free,
I'm glad salvation's free for all,
I'm glad salvation's free.
Wherever there is an italic, the hickory descended. It fell about as regularly and after the
fashion of the stick beating upon the bass drum during a funeral march. But the beast,
although convinced that something serious was impending, did not consider a funeral
march appropriate for the occasion. He protested, at first, with vigorous whiskings of his
tail and a rapid shifting of his ears. Finding these demonstrations unavailing, and
convinced that some urgent cause for hurry had suddenly invaded the elder's serenity, as
it had his own, he began to cover the ground with frantic leaps that would have surprised
his owner could he have realized what was going on. But Elder Brown's eyes were half
closed, and he was singing at the top of his voice. Lost in a trance of divine exaltation, for
he felt the effects of the invigorating motion, bent only on making the air ring with the
lines which he dimly imagined were drawing upon him the eyes of the whole female
congregation, he was supremely unconscious that his beast was hurrying.
And thus the excursion proceeded, until suddenly a shote, surprised in his calm search for
roots in a fence corner, darted into the road, and stood for an instant gazing upon the