The Tar Baby and the Tomahawk: Race and Ethnic Images in American Children's Literature, 1880-1939



WHEN a certain distinguished writer came from England to visit some friends in America, he took great delight in the old garden which surrounded their country home, and after his first stroll through its tangled walks, he exclaimed with delight: "Well, I have found seven places where, if I were a bird, I would build me a nest."

When little Marth' Ann of Crape-Myrtle plantation came up from the quarters to live at "The Evergreens," under the shadow of the great house, she slipped through the lane to the mulberry-grove where the "yard piccaninnies" played, and looked things over. Then she wandered down between the long rows of cedars to the front gate, strolled through the orchard, the rose-garden, the poultry-yard, and the cow-lot, peeped over the cotton-seed bin and into the spring-shed and smoke-house, and when she came back to where the children stood, she said with an amused chuckle: "I done found 'leben places where we can make house an' play ladies."

The Evergreens, where Marth' Ann had come to stay, was not within the residence inclosure of the plantation—not exactly. It was just outside its left gate, though, and the old colored people who lived in the cabins among the trees there had all spent the best years of their lives as servants at the great house, and were now living well-earned days of ease, drawing rations and doing no work, just as our brave pensioned soldiers do when they are old and tired.

Until the coming of Marth' Ann there had been no children living at The Evergreens. Most of the old people there were quite able to wait upon themselves, and, indeed, there were only five of them all told. Old Man Zeke was badly crippled, it is true, but he was cared for by his good wife Mary; and while "Daddy Do-funny" looked as if he were scarcely able to get on alone, he would not allow any one to wait on him—not if he could help it. The only one of the five who was practically helpless was Marth' Ann's grandmother, "Mammy Mumble-low," who, besides being very weak and childish, was suffering with what her colored friends called a "misleadin' mind." By this they simply meant that her mind sometimes went wrong and led her astray. When she first came to live at The Evergreens, Mammy was placed in the care of her neighbor, a tall yellow woman commonly called "Proud Priscilla," who drew small wages for simply following the older woman about so that she might not be hurt—or lost. But this soon became too much like work for Proud Priscilla, and one day she suddenly rebelled, declaring that her labors were done, and that for the remainder of her days she intended to "set down in her cabin an' draw rations for rest." The Evergreen people were never required to do anything in particular, excepting, of course, to behave passably well, and, indeed, that was enough.

Priscilla's familiar name "Proud Priscilla" shows what sort of character she was. She had all her life been fond of dress and finery, and even now she liked bright handkerchiefs for her head, and she knew the difference between the imported madras and the good-enough every-day plaids which her companions wore; for, you see, Priscilla had been head laundress on the plantation, and she had handled fine fabrics. She had laundered several entire trousseaux with her own hands in her day, and everybody knew that even now her great hair-trunk was filled with dainty ruffled garments which her young mistresses had given her. Indeed, one of the
notable events at The Evergreens was the airing of Priscilla's finery on sunny days, when fences, trees, and hedge would blossom out in flowery frills. And Priscilla liked money in her purse. She liked to hear it jingling in her pocket when she walked. She had thought that she liked it well enough to follow Mammy around to earn it; but she had soon discovered her mistake.

Pray understand that it was a great honor to live at The Evergreens, and when things went wrong at the great house, and life seemed hard, as it does everywhere sometimes, the servants, standing on the porch behind the kitchen, would often point over to the green tree-tops which always marked the spot against the sky, and say: "Ne' mind; I 'll live to set down at De Evergreens an' rock in my rockin'- cheer yit, please Gord!"

If any thought of loneliness ever came into Marth' Ann's pretty round head during her first days with only these old people for companions, she gave no sign of it. It had not even occurred to her on the day she arrived to doubt her welcome by the "yard crowd." This she had shown in her introductory speech. And what a speech it was! How trustful and how alert! "'Leben places where we can make house an' play ladies." The children had all seen Marth' Ann at church, and they knew all about her coming to The Evergreens to live; but they were by no means sure whether they would be friendly with her or not, when that ingenuous "we" settled it. From that moment she was one of them.

As her duties were outside their range, she could not often join them in their plays at first, but that only enhanced her value. Of course, the gate at the end of the lane was only a thing to climb over or to roll under, so far as the children were concerned; but it had to be opened with all due form when any of the old people wanted to "go up to the house," and it was Priscilla's fancy to send some one ahead to swing it open in advance of her coming, so that, as she expressed it, she need not "break her gait" as she sailed proudly through, shading her eyes with her palmetto fan while the sun lit up the color in her bright head-kerchief, or, if the ground were damp, swaying imposingly while she lifted her skirts so as to exhibit her fine old dimity petticoat.

The "quarters," where the field-hands lived, were nearly a mile away from The Evergreens, and so when Marth' Ann left her mother's cabin it was quite as if she had gone into another village. When the old woman Mammy Mumble-low was needing some one to follow her, Marth' Ann's mother applied for the situation for the little girl. She had other children, and she declared that Marth' Ann was "too big an' too little to do much good at home, and might as well be earning her victuals and clothes tending her own flesh an' blood as for anybody else to get the money." She had herself been a housemaid until she married the stalwart fellow who followed his plow in the open fields, and so, for love of him, she had consented to become a "quarter-hand." But she wished at least one of her children to go back to what she considered the higher station. Life at the Evergreen annex would at least place her in line of promotion, and was to her like a renewal of an old connection with court life.

Of course, "Mammy Mumble-low" was not the old grandmother's real name, but, like that of Proud Priscilla (or Toothache Lou, who is not in this tale at all), it was made to fit a character. It was Daddy Do-funny who made the name for Mammy at the time when she began to mumble to herself, and it was so catchy that it clung to her. Indeed, the old woman finally grew to like it herself, and when Marth' Ann began calling her "granny," as she had always done, she resented it. She seemed, indeed, as Daddy explained, to have " got so used to her entitlemints" that she would not stand anything less.

It was sometimes lonely for the little girl, whether she realized it or not, to follow her always-talking, never-conversing old relative, and, as is often the case, it was most lonely when there were the greatest number of people in sightóas when the children would come and climb upon the gate and call to her, and she could not join them. Occasionally Mammy would take a notion to toddle down to the gate, and then Marth' Ann would find her a seat on one side of it, a whistle would bring the yard children, and together they would have fine times.

But it is a risky thing to count on people with misleading minds. There is no telling what they will do. For instance, one day when everything was going on finely, and Marth' Ann had changed dresses with a tall girl, putting her longer frock on "hind part before" so as to "look growed-up," the old grandmother suddenly began to mumble pretty fast, and, before Marth' Ann could prevent her, she had sprung to her feet, and, with her usual exclamation on starting, "Well, I mus' be gittin' along!" she was toddling down the lane. In hurrying to support her elbow, Marth' Ann stepped on her own long skirt, and, tumbling over, came near dragging the old woman with her. This was a pretty scary experience for Marth' Ann, and it was no laughing matter for her tall companion, who looked worse than ridiculous in a "bobbed-off" skirt, and was obliged to hide in the bushes nearly all the afternoon because she was afraid to go home. Luce was the cook's daughter, and her single but important duty in life was to wait upon the table; and she could not appear in the dining-room with a skirt like a ballet- dancer's, not even if she wore an apron, which everybody knows is constructed only for duty at the fore. Neither could she or any of the other children get the key of the clothes-press from its nail on the kitchen wall without being questioned by their mother. So she waited among the Cape jasmines near the gate until she fell asleep, the afternoon being so warm, and the sun was nearly down when she was at last wakened by a low mumbling which was like music to her ears, for she knew that it meant her deliverance was at hand. Although she and Marth' Ann made things right "in a jiffy," it was done none too soon, for Luce arrived in the dining-room just in time to hear her little brother tapping at the library door and "pernouncin' supper." It was a hairbreadth escape. Still, it was a very innocent experience, after all, and when it was safely over, it was a thing to laugh about for many a day.

Of course, a child so full of life as Marth' Ann was obliged to find amusement during many long days when she could not meet the children at all; and so she would bring her chair and her little red parasol, and sit with the old people and "talk make-believe" to them, and they would sometimes seem to forget that they were old as they joined in her merry play-talk. Marth' Ann was not long in discovering that Daddy Do-funny was the most interesting person at The Evergreens. Daddy lived in a tiny cabin all by himself.

He was a little old man, and rheumatic—at least, the doctor said he was rheumatic; but he insisted that it was not so, but that his sufferings were "nothin' but growin'-pains," which he would have to endure because, not having got his growth in his first childhood, it was in him yet and was struggling with him in his second; of course it was harder for him now, because his bones were set. Daddy's thoughts were his own, and there was no use to try to change them. On days when his pains were bad, he would propel himself around in a roller-chair, which he called his chariot; and although evidently suffering he was never heard to complain. Once, when he was very helpless, some one asked him how he had got into his chair, and was quickly silenced by his ready answer, "God lifted me in." When, in the late evenings, he would sit in his "chariot," and the low sun coming through the pines would light up his white hair and the alert, thin face, which he always held reverently upward, he reminded one of the old patriarchs or the prophets. The expression in his wizened face was so unusual and so exalted that one never thought of him as of one color or another.

Often in the mornings, when Mammy would wander to his door or to his favorite retreat in the honeysuckle arbor, Marth' Ann would sit listening to his talk or answering him with her own, and many of the words which he dropped into her mind, and which he called "seedlin's," proved to be seed thoughts indeed, for they took root and flowered in her after life, as we shall see if we follow her.

The old man had a way of stringing words in a sort of rhythm, and so had Marth' Ann; and when Daddy would "call out a line" she
would often add another to it, to his intense delight; for, besides matching his in form, hers would often rhyme with it as well. She had so many times done this that once, thinking to test her, he said: " Marth' Ann, baby, s'posin' I was to call out a line dat did n't have no p'tic'lar sense to it? You reckon you could match it?"

"I don't know, sir," she replied thoughtfully; and in a minute she laughingly added: "I s'spec' I kin. S'posin' you try me?"

For answer he rattled off: " One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,"

to which Marth' Ann instantly responded: "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, Good little chillen goes to heaven."

And although neither old man nor child knew any of the rules of making rhymes, they both felt that this was good, and they fairly chuckled with delight.

There is an old jingle which is still remembered on Crape-Myrtle plantation, which came into shape between these two. It is about old Mammy; and although it is not perfect, it seems good enough to put into this story, which is written just to tell somewhat of life as it was in those days on a beautiful plantation on the bank of a great, flowing river—a plantation three miles in length along the water-front, and inclosed on all four sides by an unbroken line of flowering trees, the exquisite pink crape-myrtle.

Here is the Mammy Mumble-low "pome" as it has come down to us through a quarter of a century. I do not pretend to say which part was Marth' Ann's and which was Daddy's, but certainly the old man must have begun it, for the first two lines seem to bear his mark.

"Ole Mammy Mumble-low, What make you grumble so? Shoes on yo' feet, Good bread an' meat, No work to do De long day th'ough; Yit, Mammy Mumble-low, All day long you grumble so. Ole Mammy Mumble-low, OLE MAMMY MUMBLE-LOW! I know why she grumble so: Her foots can't fin' De way she gwine, Beca'se her wits Dey jes' fergits; An' dat 's how come she stumble so, An' tumble so, an' mumble so. Po' OLE MAMMY MUMBLE-LOW!"

Now, as I look over the verses, I feel that the first stanza must have been mainly the old man's, and the second seems to be Marth' Ann's answer to the old man's question. In her long wanderings after her restless charge, the little girl had found out what the trouble was. She had learned that the old feet lost their way because the old wits had gone wrong.

It is no mean compliment to any child of twelve years to express a belief that she even helped to make verse so good as this; but Marth' Ann was as bright as a silver dollar, and certainly some of the games which she and the children played, after a while, contained delightful jingles which she made. Such, for instance, was that in the game which she called " Ole Mister Strut-about," which they played with the turkey-gobbler. It was no new thing for plantation children to challenge the gobblers and run from them, but it was Marth' Ann who made out of this old sport a real game with rules and a name. This is the way they played it:

Seeing the old gobbler beginning to swell and to strut, the children would join hands in a line before him, and, advancing and retreating, they would sing over and over:

"Ole Mister Strut-about, Howdy, howdy do, sir?"

They would keep this up until he was purple with rage, when they would all "let go hands," and each independently would make a dive at him, all shouting:

"Who 's afeard O' yo' red beard? Who 's afeard o' you, sir?"

At this the entire lot would take to their heels, the infuriated gobbler after some particular one, and when they were sure which one this was, the rest would all combine to rescue him. It was a great game, but there were sometimes plenty of tears and scare in it as
well as fun and laughter. Of course, this gobbler verse was not Marth' Ann's first. She had been taking lessons from old Daddy Do-funny long before either he or she realized it.

Does n't it seem strange for a little plantation child to be learning to make verses from an old black poet? Yet this is precisely what she was doing. We give the old man a great name when we call him a poet, and yet I think he deserves it, although he did not know one letter from another, and a book was to him only "shelf-knowledge," a thing for which he had the highest respect but not the slightest use.

I have a little memory of my own about Daddy. It was a trivial incident, but it impressed me so that I put it into rhyme, in order that the thought in it might be easily remembered; and although the verses are my own, I am sure that every one will agree with me that all the poetry in them is the old negro's.

Before Marth' Ann had been living very long at The Evergreens, she had proposed to the old people to give a children's party,[illustration - 'He's offerin' me a bath—just or unjust.'] inviting her young companions. The result was so satisfactory that the invitation was often repeated, and it was on one of these occasions that the conversation occurred which I have woven into verse. The crowd had all gone to pay Daddy a visit, when the question was asked exactly as I have written it, and the old man's answers are changed only a little to make them fit and rhyme.

"Ole Daddy Do-funny, How you come on?" "Po'ly, thank Gord, honey, Po'ly dis morn. My ole spine it 's sort o' stiff, An' my arms dey 'fuse to lif', An' de miz'ry 's in my breas', An' I got de heart-distress, An' de growin'-pains dey lingers In my knee-j'ints an' my fingers,But I 'm well, praise Gord, dis mornin'."

"Ole Daddy Do-funny, What cuyus talk! How is you well, when you Can't even walk?" " Hush, you foolish chillen, hush! What 's dat singin' in de brush? Ain't dat yonder blue de sky? Feel de cool breeze passin' by! Dis ole painful hack an' knee, Laws-a-mussy, dey ain't me, An' I 'm well, praise Gard, dis mornin'."

When I repeated this "pome" to Marth' Ann, she caught it at once, and I am sure the thought in it impressed her, for a few days afterward, as she lay upon the grass beside her sleeping grandmother, I noticed her looking intently at her own hands, turning them over and over, and I heard her say, as if to them, " No, you ain't me—you ain't me"; and then she looked at her bare feet, resting upon a discarded wreath of clover-blossoms, and she said, "An' you ain't me, neither." Then, looking back at her hands, she added: "You 's my helpers," and again at her feet: "An' you two, you 's my toters."

It was a great thought which the illiterate old man had dropped into the mind of the little girl. Surely all is well, indeed, with those of us whose spirits are well, who see the blue in the sky, feel the passing breeze, and whose song of life is, "Praise God."

But let it not be supposed that Daddy spent most of his time in making "pomes." He would never have gotten his nickname, "Do- funny," for being a poet, although it is one which would suit several worthy poets whom I
know. They are inscrutable people, poets are. I hate to use so hard a word as "inscrutable," but it takes a hard word to describe a poet. Perhaps they seem stranger than they otherwise would, because we are apt to think of them as every minute of their time living up to the poems they write, which seems hardly fair.

No doubt the reason Daddy seemed so peculiar was that he acted upon his own impulse alone, without stopping to think whether the thing he did had ever been done before, or not. I think the world would be much more interesting if a greater number of good people would do this. Of course, it would not do for bad people. We do not need any new kinds of badness, but kindly or innocent acts performed by individuals in their own ways would be so refreshing. Many of the pattern people we meet remind us of the paper dolls cut out in rows—very proper and decorous all, and most friendly with their endless hand-shaking, but just a trifle monotonous.

Now, to Daddy Do-funny all clothes were clothes, for instance, and as to fashions, the word made him chuckle. When his pains were bad it was unhandy for him to get into his own garments, and the flowing Mother-Hubbard wrappers which his old wife Judy had worn were so easy to put on and so comfortable. And thus it happened that while on some days an aged man might have been seen hobbling about, working among his plants, on others there appeared to be an old woman propelling herself around in a roller-chair; and seeing her, the neighbors, with perhaps a chuckle, would remark, "I see Daddy Do-funny is laid up ag'in," by which they would really mean that he was not laid up at all, but was venturing farther from his door than he ever dared to require his crippled feet to carry him. Another peculiar habit of the old man was the way he took his bath—a dangerous process, one would think, for one with rheumatism, but harmless, no doubt, to growing-pains.

Seeing the rain coming, he would exclaim: "Gord sendeth the rain! He 's offerin' me a bath—just or unjust." Then he would put on what he called his bath-slip, an old wool wrapper of Judy's, and getting into his roller-chair, he would go out and sit calmly in the shower, often closing his eyes and raising his face as he exclaimed: "Bless Gord for de sweet drops! Bless Gord for de rain!" and when he had had bath enough, he would either put up his umbrella or roll his chair indoors as he felt inclined.

But to go back to Marth' Ann, who is the true heroine of this reminiscence. It was a long time before any one, even old Mammy herself, realized the value of the little girl's service. But there were times when things were hard for her, and there was some thought of getting an older person to take her place, when she asked permission to lead Mammy up to the yard of the great house and to join the children in their plays there.

Marth' Ann had made a fine reputation for herself as a steady-minded child, and when she made this proposition, even Di', the cook, who often proudly declared herself "mighty p'tic'lar who she let her chillen 'sosuate wid," was so much in favor of it that she wiped her hands on her apron and went up into the house and "put in her word for her." And so it was decided to let her try it. For the first few days Mammy would not enter the gate of privilege and of honor at the end of the lane until she had put on her best alpaca frock and her lace collar; but when she became accustomed to the new range, Marth' Ann had to bestir herself to be ready to follow Mammy from her breakfast-plate.

There was a little splint-bottomed rocking- chair in which she liked to jostle herself, and Marth' Ann would draw this along behind her, and during the day, if Mammy " took a notion to travel," she would surprise her with it. When an energetic but feeble old person is stumbling aimlessly along, the sudden appearance of a rocking-chair in her path is a most persuasive invitation ; and now, with a dozen interested conspirators, it was quite easy to manage the rocking-chair trick. Sometimes they would all be playing, and Mammy would be nodding in the shade, when Marth' Ann would be startled to catch the last of her mumbled exclamation, ". . . gittin' along," and looking up she would see the old woman's back halfway down the front walk ; and as she ran to overtake her, she would call back to the other children, "Fetch de chair down to de jesmine arbor," and then she would add, over her shoulder, "An' y'-all come along wid de things!" and Mammy's impulse would result only in shifting the playground a little. Occasionally, when it seemed best, Marth' Ann would only sing out a number over her shoulder, and the children would understand, and the moving would go on just the same. Not only had the "'leben places to make house an' play ladies" which she discovered on that memorable first day been many times proved, but several others had been added to the list and assigned particular numbers, which were known to every child on the place. Of course all this organized playing was Marth' Ann's doing, and it is all simple enough when we understand it. Who, having once heard them, could forget that " number eight " was " down by the gate," " number nine " " at the swinging vine," and " number three " " at the thunder-tree "? The " thunder-tree " was a great sycamore which had been split by lightning. It stood below a trickling spring, and there was a dam in its shade—and a lake—and a waterfall—and a mud-pie bakery.

Sometimes, especially if she were restless, Mammy was taken into the games, and more than once she was crowned queen, and all subjects passing her throne would kneel and nod to the ground. Her crown depended, of course, upon the season. Once, in the early summer, it was of crape-myrtles, and the smile upon the old face in its pink setting made one forget to notice the contrast between them.

But Marth' Ann's favorite amusement was always making rhymes on the familiar things of the place. For instance, seeing the old drake stumble in the yard one day, she chuckled:

" See ole Mister Drake Trip over de rake,"

and thus was begun a jingle which, after passing through a number of unprinted editions, finally came out as follows:

See old Mr. Drake Trip over the rake And dust up his old green noddle! Now he 's up with a shake And a quack and a quake, But he wads with the same old waddle.

I write this in good American-English, because, although Marth' Ann began it, I am convinced that the verse was finally finished by a certain young white maiden who often sat on the veranda and watched the children in their games in those days.

Not so this next one, however, which was entirely Marth' Ann's. It is about a wet chicken, and goes this way:

Ole Sis Chick, She look so sick Since she was ketched out in de rain. She stepped mighty proud 'Fo' she met wid de cloud, But she 's hidin' out now in de cane; An' when she dries out, She '11 go pickin' about, An' I s'spec' she '11 ac' uppish again.

Of course, these are about the best of the yard rhymes. Some of them were silly enough, and yet several of these lesser ones are so amusing that I must put them in. There is the foolish one, for example, about "Mr. Rooster," in which one cannot fail to catch the jingle even when it is written out as prose. This is the way she sang it right out of her head one day when she and the other children were watching the poultry-feeding: "Ole Mister Duck is in good luck. He 's interduced to Mister Rooster, an' Mister Rooster h'ist his comb, an' say, Please mek yo'self at home.'" The next is of the same sort, and was made in a minute on " Mr. Gander ":

Look out yander, ole Mister Gander, steppin' so wide wid his toes all tied.

It would take a gander of great dignity to live down a verse like this.

Of all the playgrounds on the place, the favorite with the piccaninnies was finally the open space under the great house. As this was a spreading building, with four wings like a Greek cross,—three of these being "entrances" with verandas and Corinthian columns,—of course there were four separate compartments beneath it, each having in its end the delightful hollow play-place under the steps. The stairs above gave every one of these a terraced roof, each terrace having a narrow ledge that might have been left in
the lapping on purpose for a shelf to hold the bits of broken china and glass that stood in rows for play-dishes upon it. There was no cellar, and the house stood full ten feet from the ground, supported by brick pillars at intervals. The beams supporting the floors above held numerous swings and a hammock, and although the piccaninnies had no hammock of their own, there was a fair little maid, who lived in the great house above them, who had one. Her name was Gladys, and she had golden curls, and when, on special occasions, she was allowed to come down and join the little darkies in their play, she would fetch not only her hammock, but her beautiful French doll and her tiny red rocking-chair and her set of doll furniture and her gilt-edged dishes and her play-piano with real ivory keys, and sometimes, when the occasion seemed to warrant it, she would even get 'Pollo, the butler, to bring her playhouse down in sections and to set it up under the house. But there was nothing in her whole array of toys that in any way approached the beautiful wax baby, Celestine, who would cry aloud most piteously when she was squeezed too hard in one particularly sensitive spot on her stomach, and whose blue glass eyes gazed with equal affection straight into the loving faces of all the little brown mothers who took turn about in hugging her. The doll's shining curls were startlingly like those of her mama, and when Gladys would come down, bearing the wonderful baby in her arms, Marth' Ann would have to swallow hard and blink several times before she could stand the sight, it was so radiantly beautiful.

It was not easy at first to induce Mammy to go under the house with the children, but when she had once found how enchanting it was in the rose-wing where her little guardian had arranged her chair, flanked by multiflora-vines and looking out upon beds of gay verbenas, geraniums, petunias, and garden pinks, and upon the wall of hollyhocks beyond, she loved it on the instant. Here she could watch the butterflies and humming-birds and the bees that droned at her elbow, boring their ways into the very timbers against which she steadied her rocker. As time passed and the winged things came to know her, they would tilt for a moment upon the edge of her sleeve or perch upon her shoulder, and it seemed almost as if they understood her mumbled plaint and answered it with a language of their own. Even when she would sometimes start up with her sudden "Well, I mus' be gittin' along," the buzzing wings would not seem to mind, and would only sway in larger circles for a moment.

There were fine times under the great house in those days. Of course, everything did not go smoothly all the time. There were thirteen piccaninnies, all told,—thirteen dispositions, thirteen wills to keep in harmony,—and of course there was occasionally some disciplining to be done, and Marth' Ann was by common consent the one to "keep things straight."

There was, for instance, a little boy who was commonly called Ulishius, and who, by the way, was named for General Grant and ought to have been a great fellow, but who was, instead, a constant torment. He was the dairy-maid's boy, and his single duty was to go after any cow which failed to come up to the milking, and as the cows were all home-loving gentles of regular habits, Ulishius did not lead a very busy life. Still, he was only ten, and that would not have mattered if he had not been such a tease. Now, teasing, to my mind, is the very silliest as well as one of the most selfish and cruel of amusements. Marth' Ann tried for a long time to reform him, but he was a hardened little sinner, and so, after a while, she decided that her best plan was to outwit him. This she usually did by managing, as she expressed it, to "have him bofe in an' out o' de game at de same time." For example, on one occasion when the cook's "triplers" were all three squalling at once because he kept making "boogaboo faces " at them, Marth' Ann suddenly exclaimed : "Who wants to play crow? Let 's play crow. Who wants to be de crow? Don't all speak at once-t. Who wants to be de crow?"

Of course, all did speak at once,—seeing that to be crow appeared an honor,—whereupon the little diplomat hastened to appoint Ulishius to act the part—conditionally. He was to be the crow only so long as he "behaved like a for-true crow," and if he failed in his part, he was to give another his place.


"Why don't you come an' shoo me?" answered Ulishius.

"Hush, I tell yer!" insisted the leader. "Hush talkin', an' caw! We ain't gwine come an' shoo you away tell you had time to eat some peas. What kind o' crow is you, not eatin' any peas?"

"Dey ain't no peas here," complained Ulishius, shifting his weight from hands to feet, and teetering wearily.

"Well, den, play peas," said Marth' Ann; and before he could say any more, she had gone, and in a minute or two the children heard a faint Caw! from the rail fence, and then another, and in a little while there was an animated and steady call; but the "gentlemen and ladies" in the corn-rows went on keeping house. When they had arranged their own babies to suit themselves, they even braided the hair of many of those that they left asleep in their cloaks on the mother cornstalks, ungathered. Ulishius had cawed himself angry and hoarse before it slowly dawned upon him that he had been trifled with, and he dropped to the ground and slunk away without a word. But next day, when he met Marth' Ann, he attacked her quite manfully, demanding to know how she had "dast to make a fool of him!" But instead of answering his question, she said blandly : "What mek you tease Aunt Di's triplers de way you done? I think one boy settin' on a fence in de sun for two hours ain't no mo' 'n a match for three babies cryin' dey eyes out for nothin'."

You see, Marth' Ann had a level little head, and she stood up for every member of her "crowd." One day when she and the children were tired playing, and she began to hum the Mammy Mumble-low song, intoning rather than singing it, the children falling into the swing she gave it, Ulishius suddenly interrupted them with this couplet:

"Ole Mammy Mumble-low, Turn her loose an let her go!"

At which Marth' Ann retorted as if she had been stung:

"Look out how you talks 'bout yo' elders an' betters, boy! Ole Mammy Mumble-low is my gran'mammy, an' she 's earned her place in De Evergreens by honor'ble service, I'll have you know.'" ("Honorable service" was a familiar phrase on the place.) And then she added, with tremendous scorn, "You could hunt stray cows an' tease chillen tell you ready to die of ole age, an' you would n't never earn yo' way to De Evergreens." This was pretty severe for the little girl, whose words were usually so gentle, and she must have realized it, for in a minute she added, more softly: "Lessen you mend yo' ways."

You see, Marth' Ann had great respect for old age, and, besides, she loved her helpless old grandmother.

When winter came, and for days together Mammy could not leave her cabin, her old neighbors would occasionally come and sit with her, sending Marth' Ann off to play with the children; and sometimes on Sunday her mother would come and spend the day, and Marth' Ann, freed from duty, would go with the yard crowd down to the chapel. She particularly liked to go there, because the little church was very beautiful, and she loved the music of the organ; but more than all she loved to sit and watch for the golden-haired Gladys to come walking up the middle aisle beside her mother or her nursery-governess. The head with the yellow curls just showing over the top of the pew seemed to her to belong with those of the angels in the great stained- glass window; and when service was over and Gladys would come out, Marth' Ann would press forward to touch her skirt or the end of a curl with her little brown finger-tip, and to catch her eve and smile, and then she would softly hurry out so as to see her get into the carriage, when she would fail back with the other piccaninnies.

Marth' Ann's little round head was a busy thinker, and she wondered greatly over many things. Most of all she wondered over the color question. Why were some born white and some black? Why would the good Lord, who could make so beautiful a child as Gladys, think out a plain, kinky-haired brown piccaninny like herself?

Just because of her color Marth' Ann thought herself ugly, but never was child more mistaken. She was as comely a little brown
maid as one would wish to see. Because her hair had a will of its own that was not to her liking, she had a way of stretching it back so tightly that she could scarcely shut her eyes, wrapping it with bits of string in tiny tufts as its length allowed. The result differed from ordinary hair-dressing, it is true, but it showed in fine, clear outline a beautiful head quite in keeping with her straight, symmetrical body.

But the child, who easily won her way with young and old, was scarcely one to describe by feature. When it had become the cook's habit to call to her fretting children," Run along an' play wid Marth' Ann," and when the old people sitting in their doors at The Evergreens would say between pipe-puffs, "I misses de chile mightily de days she goes up to de house," and when the lady upstairs at the great house said to her husband, "It seems to me the children in the yard play more harmoniously since Hester's little girl has been with them," and when Gladys spoke up from her play-corner in reply, "I love Marth' Ann the bestest of all the colorings," surely none of them was thinking of the little girl's looks.

In answer to Gladys's unusual remark, her mother laughingly asked:

"Why do you love her best, dear?"

"Because," said Gladys, "she 's the gooderest an' the troublesomest of them all."

"Troublesome, is she? How, daughter?"

"I mean she'll take the great-deal-est trouble for anybody. Why, mama, she 's 'most maked even Ulishius good, troubling with him. And now, when Mammy is too weaker to come up and play, she 's given Ulishius the bossness of all the yard games, and he 's 'most well of his teasing. A great many children would have telled on him when he bothered, but Marth' Ann just getted ahead of him every time, and then when he wanted to come into the games behaviously, she would take him in again. Of course, he 's not the for-true leader. Marth' Ann 's that."

This was all new and very interesting.

"What do you mean by being leader, daughter?" her mama asked, smiling.

"Why, everything, mama. She says the 'Eena, meena, mina, mo's,' and finds out who 's it, and she looks at the weather and calls out the play-places. And she says when things are sin and when they are just fun, and she stops sin every time. Old-people jokes are sin, and tying cats' tails, and unsetting the hens, and all kind of sneakery things—" The little girl hesitated a moment, and then she added: " It seems to me, mama, that a great many sins come into people's heads and try to get committed. One came into mine yesterday, and it was a hand sin, and I would n't even let it slip down into my arms. I was afraid. And when I drived it out, it flewed over into another child's head."

The mother took the little girl's hand as she asked, "And what was it, deary?"

"Oh, I can't tell, mama. I promiged Marth' Ann I would n't. She said she just shooed it out of her head, and I don't know where it went then. Maybe it went into air. Marth' Ann said it was a nawful sneakery sin. She says when sins bother too much she shooes them away with a jingle-maree."

"A jingle-maree? What is that, pray?"

"A jingle-maree? Why, it 's just—just a jingle-maree. Marth' Ann says some go `clinkity-clink,' and some go other ways. The one she shooes botherous sins away with goes tra-la-la,' she says. It 's easy. It 's just:

Go out, sin, go away. Good, come in, come an' stay.

She says badness could n't get in if we were plumb full of goodness; there would n't be any room. She is a peculiary talker, mama."

"Yes, I am sure she must be," said her mother, with forced seriousness, looking into Gladys's face as she spoke, "and I think she must be a sweet child, too. I am sorry you can't tell me all about the sin that tempted you, but I am glad you and the other were both strong enough to drive it away."

Gladys was silent almost a minute before she answered "No, I am sure I can't tell you, mama—not till I go and make it up with her to let mothers out of the promise; then I 'll tell you." And presently she added:

"If I was to take your beau-tiful musicbox off the pier-table and carry it under the house and wind it up and let it play, 'way tinder where you could n't hear it, would n't that be a nawful sneakery sin, mama?"

[illustration - When Gladys would come down Marth' Ann would have to blink—it was so beautiful]

"I am afraid it would, daughter."

"That 's what Marth' Ann said—but nobody did it, mother dear."

When her mama took the little girl in her arms and kissed her, she did not let her know that she had unconsciously told her secret.

"I wish I could play with the colorings oftenerer, mama," said Gladys, after a while ("colorings" was her own word). "And oh, mama, maybe I can. I told Marth' Ann what you said—don't you know ?—about the grammar."

"No, dear, I don't remember. What did you tell her?"


"Don't you recollect what you said—that I could n't play constately with them on account of their bad grammar? Well, when I told her, she was perfectly delighted, and she says that if that is all your reason, you need n't to keep me from playing with them ever again, because they have n't my grammar at all. They don't even know about it. But she said perhaps you meant gran'ma, and she says if you did, to tell you her grandma is goodes'-goodes'; she 's only forgetful. But I told her I was sure it was n't anything about Mammy. I thought it was about languish."

When her mother had recovered from her amusement enough to speak seriously, she said:

"I think my little daughter might take the prize for peculiar language without any instruction." And then she added: "But as to Marth' Ann, I feel sure she will never teach my little girl anything that is really bad.

"How would you like, Gladys," she said presently, "to have her to come and stay in the house with us, and to be your little maid—after a while, when old Mammy will not need her any longer?"

For answer, Gladys put her arms around her mother's neck.

"Are you in for-true, honest earnest, mothereen?" she asked.

"Yes, I am in for-true earnest, but do not speak of it until I say you may. You see, you have shown me how you can keep a secret, and I know you won't tell."

When her mother spoke of the time when Marth' Ann might not have to walk beside her grandmother, Gladys did not know that she was thinking of the near future when the old woman would go to her long rest.

But the end came very soon after this, sooner than any one expected. It was on a bright Sunday in June, and Marth' Ann had gone to chapel with the children, leaving Mammy with her mother.

Seeing her asleep in her chair among the cool Madeira-vines on her own porch, her daughter, sitting on the stoop, was beginning to nod, when she was roused by the familiar words, "Well, I mus' be gittin' along," and she looked up, expecting to see her rising; but she had not moved, and when, later, Marth'Ann went to see how she was sleeping, it was found that her tired spirit had flown. Away from the complaining body it had gone in the sunshine, away among the bright-winged things that had been her friends in her last days. She was laid to rest in a beautiful grave, into which the children threw fresh flowers. Daddy sowed a handful of "mixed honey- blooms" seed into the fresh sod, so that, when its first pink carpet of crape-myrtles was gone, the little grave was abloom with bright flowers.

As all those immediately concerned wanted it so, it seemed a simple enough thing for Marth' Ann to move up to the great house; and yet, there were four very important dignitaries on the place who stoutly opposed it. Every member of the Evergreen community begged to have her remain there. Even Proud Priscilla, who was not at all sentimental, said she would "miss the little gal's clo'es hangin' on de line," and Daddy Do-funny frankly declared that he needed her for "encouragement an' conversation."

When Marth' Ann heard these objections she only laughed and answered: "What 's de matter wid me an' Miss Gladys goin' on reg'lar days twice-t a week down to De Evergreens, I like to know?"

Her ready answer solved the difficulty on the instant. On Monday afternoons and on Thursdays when the weather was fine, little mistress and little maid were to betake themselves to the community of four at the end of the lane, bearers of joy and cheer.

So began the third chapter in little Marth' Ann's life, and so great a chapter it is, so full of happenings and change, that it ought to make another story, all to itself.

There was rejoicing in it from the beginning, in many ways, yes, and suffering, too. She had always realized the great difference between herself and Gladys, and now, even while she took such delight in this near relation, there were times when she would have given her life, almost, to be white. She thought of it when her little brown hand would touch Gladys's in turning the pages of a book. When they passed a mirror together, instead of being delighted to see herself so near the child she loved so well, she saw only one white and an
other black. It preyed upon her mind to such an extent that once, when no one was near, she dashed through the garden into the clump of pines beyond, and raising her arms and looking through the green into the speck of blue above her, she cried aloud, "O Gord, make me white—white, say, while—white!'" and as she turned to come in, she added, with an effort toward resignation: "Or ef you can't make me white, please make me satisfied to he black."

She must have confided to Daddy her feeling about this, for many times when she and Gladys would go to The Evergreens, she would talk to Daddy alone, while Gladys showed Celestine to the women or distributed the little parcels she had brought for them.

Yes, surely she must have talked it all over with Daddy, for in her long communings with herself she often called his name. Once I remember hearing her say, "Daddy don't know[illustration - She thought of it when her little brown hand would touch Gladys's in turning the pages.] books, but he sho' does know knowledge"; and when I smilingly asked her if she could repeat some of his "knowledge," she began, as if she were saying a lesson that she had learned through many repetitions: " It 's what I is, I is. Ef I 's keerless an' no-'count, I got to stand for keerlessness an' no-'countness.

"It 's what folks does dat shows what dey is. Do good an' you 'll be good. Be good an' you 'll do good. Dat works backwards an' forwards, jes de same. Bein' an' doin', dat 's it. "'T ain't even lookin' no p'tic'lar way—on'y clean an' neat." And then catching her breath, she added:

"'T ain't even whiteness—not skin-whiteness, nohow. Daddy say it 's soul-whiteness. He say you haf to keep yo' soul pyore white, an' dat 's a troublesome color to keep. He say of it was some diff'ent color, maybe a little child's sins mought not show on it. But white! He say even ef we keep it clair as we kin of sin, we haf to pray Gord to wash off the odds an' eens we draps on it each endurin' day. He say de sin-drippin's of a single day would spot up a soul ef dey was lef' overnight. Dat 's how come we haf to say ' Now I lay me' eve'y night befo' we goes to sleep.

"I know Gord had to wash forgitfulness offn my soul las' night," she added, with a shrug of her shoulders; yas, an' coveteousness, too. I did crave Miss Gladys's yaller curls when she come out to play yisterday. Look like I never kin squench dat cravin', an' I know dey would n't match a little black gal, nohow, even ef I had proper clo'es to go wid 'em."

Another time I heard her say all to herself, when she was alone: "Neatness, sweetness, my completeness," "Neatness, sweetness, my completeness," over and over, and then she added: "I s'spec' I better make up my mind to take dat for my tex'." I never knew whether this was hers or Daddy's thought, but it was a pure little reflection, surely. After she had repeated it several times, she said, evidently addressing herself: "Talk about neatness, Marth' Ann, I wonder is you ment [mended] dat place you tore in yo' frock? No, you ain't, an' you better!" And away she ran for needle and thread.

The little motto, "Neatness and sweetness," had not quite satisfied her at first; that was clear, and she had to say it many times before she felt that it really was to be hers. It was plainly a great victory for her when she was able to take it without question. But it was not many months before those who observed the little girl knew that no small ambition like this would fill her life. She would
learn to be neat and sweet, surely,—all who try may be that,—but for her it would be only on the way to a broader life. When the first winter came after she went to live at the great house, she was sent to the cross-roads plantation school, a neat little building among the pines, where the mysteries of learning were taught by a young black man, Romeo Johnson by name, who bravely signed himself on the pay-roll "Rome E. 0. Johnson," and who wrote her down as "Mardian Janie." She learned many important things during this term, but more than at school she learned with Gladys in the afternoons when the two bent over their lessons together. Marth' Ann was older than Gladys, and she could read much more easily, but in some things Gladys was far ahead. She knew "easy science" and some French, and a number of things that made her seem quite a prodigy to little Marth' Ann; and these irregular "play-lessons," taken or dropped at will, revealed each to the other as worthy of respect and affection, and the tie between the two strengthened with the days.

But it is not possible to know the Father's will concerning any little child whom he sends upon the earth. Marth' Ann's life was very humble in its beginnings, and all her teachings had been toward content with small things. She was delighted to enter service as maid to a fair mistress whom she adored, and who, her mother knew, would be a friend to her all her life. With eagerness she had attended the little cross-roads school, not even knowing that there might be anything for her beyond its power to confer, and hoping only to fit herself for a simple life of domestic service.

But such was not to be hers. Far-reaching thoughts often came into the busy mind of the brown barefoot maid as she trudged down the road past the bare cabins on her way to school—thoughts filled with "whys" and "wherefores" and interrogation-points.

It would be hard to say how she had shown herself in any special way as a girl of mettle when the prize was offered for the best composition written by a pupil of the cross-roads school, but certain it is that the day she ran all the way home, bearing aloft in her arms a yellow-haired doll as large as Celestine, and followed by about a hundred barefoot boys and girls, there were thoughtful people who said, "Well, I am not in the least surprised."

The composition was written in rhyme, and was called "Neatness and Sweetness." It was not remarkable in itself, perhaps, but as an expression of a little girl's observation and sympathy it was considered so unusual that there was a family gathering for the reading of it by the assembled members of Gladys's family from three plantations, and the end of this was a unanimous decision that she must have every advantage which could he given her. The little verses showed deep feeling for the life of her people, and reverent ambition, and certainly she to whom such gifts were intrusted had greater work to do than to serve as lady's-maid, for to help the many humble is greater than to wait upon any one, even though she were a sceptered queen.

There was sad need of neatness and sweetness in the poor "quarter cabins" where the tired or shiftless field-hands lived; and helpers and teachers who work for love and not for gain are not many even in these great days of helpfulness and brotherly feeling.

It is more than twenty years since Marth' Ann wrote the prize poem at the cross-roads school. The first two of these she spent at the plantation, learning not so much from books as of sweet and wholesome living. Then there were three years in a great industrial school, from which she finally came, a tall, bright-eyed, alert girl, whom we should scarcely have known as the same Marth' Ann of The Evergreens but for the wide-awake glance of her steady eyes.

For five seasons she taught in the old school-house, line upon line, precept upon precept, of the new thought until she began dimly to see the peep of day. Then, leaving her classes in able haods,—and, by the way, Ulishius is one of her stanchest helpers,—she resigned her position here, so that she might devote her entire time to what she calls "cabin industries." She has all sorts of work-classes of young women from five plantations—classes which meet by turns in the different cabins, which are always "neatened and sweetened" by the hospitality, and of these classes she hopes in time to establish a
great school. Marth' Ann has had many offers of high pay to teach in prosperous schools, but to all such she smiles and shakes her head, and says that her work is here. Because the old woman begged her so, she makes her home at The Evergreens with Proud Priscilla, the only one remaining of the days of Mammy Mumble-low, though, of course, a new-old set have replaced the others. Priscilla is no longer able to go up to the great house, but she varies the monotony of her days by wearing her fine dresses in turn ; and once in a while, when she feels a little weak or ill, she calls Marth' Ann to her and whispers that when she dies she is going to leave her "the hair-trunk full." But Marth' Ann will have little use for such garments even if she should ever fall heir to them, for she has adopted a dress of her own, a simple frock of gay plaid, with collar and cuffs of spotless white. Her pretty corded bonnets are made by her own hands, with dainty ruffles, rolled and whipped. In summer they are of white linen and in winter of black China silk, a style of her own devising, which she says she likes because it is so easily put on and off." "And," she adds, with a twinkle in her eye, "it will never go out of fashion—because it will never come in."

It is a bright little uniform, not at all nunlike or demure; but it suits her, as the saying is, to a T. When she decided to adopt a dress which could be renewed and kept in order without planning, and which would be above and beyond any fashion, the color-love of her race was strong in her, and she let it have its way, and certainly nothing could be more joyous and delightful. But though happy, she is never frivolous in her work. In the cabin of Priscilla, to which a certain friend of her youth has generously added several rooms for her use, she has set up a great hand-loom, upon which the old people eagerly take turns in weaving from diagrams which the little leader makes out of her fertile fancy. In another, on an open hearth, are pots of dyestuffs, all home-made from the native woods and fields. There is in connection with this even an outdoor industry for the children, who are paid small sums for the gathering of pokeberries and walnuts and sundry grasses and herbs valuable for their fine color. Marth' Ann is conducting a number of experiments in making a plaid of her own, which will be worn by those who enter with her into her work, and will be called the "Marth' Ann." There are piles of tiny samples of these lying upon her table, but she has not yet found the combination which will at once fully express her sentiment and satisfy her love of color.

Of course, she is still, as in her early days, a maker of verse and a rhymer of proverbs and bits of wisdom. Indeed, it is said that she is preparing, in her odd hours, a little book which she will sometime have published, and into which she is putting sweet and helpful words for her people, all strung delightfully into rhyme; for she understands that verses sing themselves into musical minds and linger there often when hard proverbs in prose would stalk through them like stern, frock-coated preachers who mean nobly, but whose pompous words we sometimes forget.

Of all kinds of lives which God's people are living upon earth, the happiest and the most blessed are those spent in doing, helping, progressing; and such to-day is the beautiful life of little Marth' Ann of The Evergreens. The best white people along the river are all her friends, but her nearest friend, adviser, and helper is the sweet Gladys of her early days, long ago married, and still living at Crape- Myrtle. She has a little golden-haired Gladys of her own now, and when she goes over "to Marth' Ann's" to lend or to borrow a book or just to talk things over, the fair maid runs before to open the gate, and when they have reached the cabin of Priscilla, Marth' Ann takes the little one upon her lap and tells her how, in the long ago, she loved her mother when she was just her size and her image,—"only a teenchy bit fairer,"—and of how she longed and even prayed to be as fair.

Then, looking into the face of her friend, she adds: "How little I knew, and how often have I since thanked God for the brown skin which makes me one with my dear people, where my work lies!"