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QUEER COUNTRY. Illustrated. Square8vo,
MR. RABBIT AT HOME. A Sequel to Little
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THE STORY OF AARON, SO-NAMED, THE
SON OF BEN ALl. A Sequel to Mr. Rabbit
at Home and Little Mr. Thimblefinger. Square
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1U SiL ON T
DRUSILLA FELL ON THE GROUND IN A HEAP (Page 23)
The Story of Aaron
(SO NA MED)
(tCe 4on of Oen tli
TOLD BY HIS FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES
JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS
AUTHOR OF "UNCLE REMUS," ETC.
ILLUSTRA TED BY OLIVER HERFORD
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
3)e IBibertibe pre?, Cambri8ge
BY JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS.
By HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.
All rights reserved.
The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A.
Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Co.
I. THE LANGUAGE OF THE ANIMALS. 1
II. A RIDE ON THE BLACK STALLION 19
III. GRISTLE, THE GRAY PONY, BEGINS HIS STORY 34
IV. GRISTLE, THE GRAY PONY, CONCLUDES HIS STORY 52
V. RAMBLER, THE TRACK DOG, BEGINS HIS STORY 69
VI. A RUN THROUGH THE WOODS 86
VII. RAMBLER, THE TRACK DOG, CONCLUDES HIS STORY 103
VIII. GRUNTER, THE WHITE PIG 120
IX. THE WHITE PIG'S STORY 137
X. THE BLACK STALLION'S STORY 155
XI. FREE POLLY'S STORY 172
XII. THE ARMY MARCHES BY 187
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
DRUSILLA FELL ON THE GROUND IN A HEAP Frontispiece.
BUSTER JOHN WENT FORWARD AND KNOCKED. 6
AARON SHOWING THE MIRROR 10
A RIDE ON THE BLACK STALLION 26
A RABBIT JUMPED UP AT THEIR FEET 38
THEY CARRIED HIM SOME GREEN CORN 42
THE SLAVE TRAIN 46
BEN ALI HAD FOUND TWO FRIENDS 54
A RABBIT DASHED ACROSS THE ROAD 76
OLD GRIZZLY BROUGHT HIM BACK 82
I WAS CLOSE TO THE RABBIT 86
MAMMY SAY DEY WUS COURTING' 90
I LOOKED UP AND WHINED 104
YOUNG GRIZZLY BOWED LOW 114
THE WHITE PIG GREW STRONG AND DANGEROUS 122
GRUNTER ASKING THE RED SQUIRRELS FOR NUTS 134
THE WHITE PIG TELLS HI STORY 140
A WILD CAT WAS WATCHING ME 144
LOOK ON THE HILL YONDER .. 148
THE GRAY MARE LEAPED AWAY FROM E 164
THE WHITE-HAIRED MASTER CUT THE ROPE. 168
AARON TOTED HIM DOWN DE TREE 182
DE SQUINCH OWL LIGHTED ON A'oN's HAND 184
Two SOLDIERS RODE ALONG 188
HIS EYES LINGERED ON THE PORTRAIT 192
THE STORY OF AARON.
THE LANGUAGE OF THE ANIMALS.
THE story of how Buster John, Sweetest
Susan, and Drusilla found their way into Mr.
Thimblefinger's queer country has been set forth,
and many of the tales they heard there have
been told. All of this matter has been put
into a book, where the curious may now find it.
This being so, it is not necessary to go over it
again. Imitation is bad enough, but repetition
is worse. It is enough to say, therefore, that
these children whose names have been mentioned
lived on a large plantation in Middle Georgia,
in that part of the country where cotton grows,
where the mocking-birds sing in the orchards,
and where the roses bloom in the open air from
April to November.
There is nothing tropical or even semi-tropical
2 THE STORY OF AARON.
in Middle Georgia. The trees and shrubs and
all of the wild flowers are much the same as those
that grow in New England. The summers are
not so hot nor the winters so long and cold in
Middle Georgia as they are farther to the north;
but warm weather lasts longer, and that is the
reason that cotton and sugar-cane and watermelons
can be raised in Middle Georgia in the open air.
The plantation on which the children lived
appeared to be just like all the other plantations
round about, but the youngsters had already
found out that it was entirely different from the
rest in some respects. So far as they knew, and
they had made careful inquiries, there was no
Mr. Thimblefinger on any one of the neighboring
plantations, and .there was no road leading from
any other plantation to Mr. Thimblefinger's queer
On Sunday when there was a big meeting
going on at Mt. Zion church, and the congrega-
tion carried dinner in hamper baskets, Buster
John and Sweetest Susan and Drusilla (their
negro nurse and playmate) took pains to inquire
among the children they met there if any of
them had ever seen Mr. Thimblefinger. The
THE LANGUAGE OF THE ANIMALS. 3
reply was that they had not only never seen him,
but had never even heard of him before. This
made Buster John feel more important than ever,
and Sweetest Susan said she was surprised and
sorry that the other children should have failed
to see Mr. Thimblefinger, and they so near his
queer country, too. As for Drusilla, she declared
that it made no difference, anyhow, "Kaze ef dey
wuz ter see 'im wid der naked eyes dey would n't
believe dey seed 'im." But the neighbor-chil-
dren said nothing, they simply stared at one
another and concluded that Buster John and
Sweetest Susan and Drusilla were trying to make
fun of them.
If the neighbor-children had been wise, they
would have asked some questions about Mr.
Thimblefinger, and then they would have found
out that the Abercrombie place, as it was called,
was different from all the other plantations they
had ever heard of, being the scene of some of
Mr. Thimblefinger's performances, and contain-
ing within its boundaries the gateway to Mr.
Thimblefinger's queer country, which lies next
door to the world.
Those who have taken the trouble to read the
4 THE STORY OF AARON.
book in which the stories told by Mr. Thimble-
finger and his friends are partly set forth will
remember that when Buster John, Sweetest
Susan, and Drusilla were on the point of return-
ing home, they were asked if they knew a man
named Aaron. To which Buster John replied
that he ought to know Aaron, since he was fore-
man of the field hands. Whereupon Buster
John was told that Aaron was the Son of Ben
Ali, and knew the language of animals. "If
you want to learn this language," said Mr.
Rabbit, "go to Aaron, Son of Ben Ali, take him
by his left hand, bend the thumb back, and with
your right forefinger make a cross mark on it.
Should Aaron pay no attention to it, repeat the
sign. The third time he will know it."
But the minds of the children were so busy
thinking of what they had seen and heard that
they forgot all about the matter. Once when
Buster John chanced to remember what he had
been told, Aaron happened to be ill in bed.
Another time, when the children determined to
find out something about the language of the
animals, they found that Aaron was away from
home. He had gone with the wagons to Au-
THE LANGUAGE OF THE ANIMALS. 5
gusta, one hundred miles away, to sell the year's
crop of cotton. Thus, in one way and another,
Buster John, Sweetest Susan, and Drusilla were
many long months older when they sought and
found Aaron in his cabin than they were when
they made their last visit to Mr. Thimblefinger's
Now Aaron was the most remarkable slave in
all the country round, not because he was tall
and finely formed, nor because he carried himself
as proudly as a military officer, but because he
had a well-shaped head, a sharp black eye, thin
lips, and a nose prominent, but not flat. Another
remarkable feature was his hair, which, instead
of being coarse and kinky, was fine, thick, wavy,
glossy, and as black as jet.
The negroes on the place seemed to be very
much afraid of him. This would not have'been
strange if Aaron had been an old man; negroes
always stand in awe of those who are very old;
but he was not above forty, and seemed to be even
younger. There were many stories current about
Aaron, which the negroes told to each other in
whispers when their cabin fires burned low. One
was that he was a conjurer, and in league with
6 THE STORY OF AARON.
the "old boy." This was because Aaron refused
to associate with his fellow servants on terms of
equality, and would allow them to take no liber-
ties with him.
Another story was that he was of Indian blood.
But he had no Indian characteristic, except that
of serenity. His color was dark brown. He was
both quick in his movements and fluent in his
speech, but his talk was different from that of
the negroes. Still another story about Aaron
was that he was very dangerous. It was whis-
pered that he had killed several people, a number
of women and children among them. This story
grew out of the fact that he alone could manage
Timoleon, the big black stallion. This horse,
wild in his ways and fierce of temper, was as
gentle as a dog in Aaron's hands, and followed
him about as the chicken follows the mother hen.
It was one Saturday, when Buster John,
Sweetest Susan, and Drusilla went to Aaron's
cabin. On the plantation there was a half-holi-
day every Saturday, if crop work was not press-
ing, and sometimes when the corn was laid by
the negroes had a whole holiday. This was the
case now. The children saw Aaron go into his
BUSTER JOHN WENT FORWARD AND KNOCKED
"I'';" ` ~"4r~--r--uq`
THE LANGUAGE OF THE ANIMALS. 7
cabin and half close the door after him. Buster
John went forward and knocked. There was no
invitation to come in," as there would have
been at any other cabin in the negro quarters.
Instead, Aaron came to the door, pulled it open
and looked out with something like a frown on
his face. But he smiled when he saw the
Oh, you ?" he said with a laugh. I did n't
know who. Jump in "
There was a step lacking among those leading
to the door, so he seized Buster John by the
hand and swung him into the room. Then he
lifted Sweetest Susan a little more carefully, but
ignored Drusilla altogether. This was not re-
garded by Drusilla as a slight, for she was not
anxious to be touched by him. She was not
even anxious to go into the cabin, but her
curiosity was more powerful than her vague
fears, and so, after a while, she followed the
Aaron, still smiling, lifted Buster John high in
the air. "Le' me see; like enough you'd weigh
Eighty-seven," replied Buster John.
THE STORY OF AARON.
Heavy! heavy! exclaimed Aaron. One
time I toted your uncle all night long. He was
sixteen-year old and weighed fifty poun'."
That was Uncle Crotchet, who is dead," said
"Yes. Folks named him Little Crotchet,"
"That was ever so long ago," suggested
Fifteen year," said Aaron.
Meanwhile Buster John pretended to be play-
ing with Aaron's left hand. Finally he seized
the thumb, bent it back as far as it would go,
and made a cross-mark on it. Aaron playfully
jerked his hand away, but Buster John caught it
again, bent the thumb back and again made the
cross-mark. Apparently Aaron paid no attention
to this, for he failed to take his hand away.
Once more, and for the third time, Buster John
bent the thumb back and made the cross-mark.
At once Aaron put him gently aside and went to
the door and closed it. Then he turned to
Buster John and said in a whisper: -
"How come? Where you been? Who told
THE LANGUAGE OF THE ANIMALS.
Buster John was so much surprised that he
hesitated a moment, and then began to reply in a
tone of voice somewhat louder than usual.
"Sh-sh! talk low whispered Aaron. "Did
somebody tell you to do that ?"
"Yes," said Buster John.
Round anywhere by the spring ? Aaron
was very cautious in putting his questions. Ap-
parently he wanted to make himself perfectly
Yes," cried Sweetest Susan. The spring is
the gate, you know."
She, too ? asked Aaron, nodding his head
"Of course," said Buster John.
"I dunner how come I can't go whar de
yuthers does," remarked Drusilla.
All right all right exclaimed Aaron.
Then he counted them. One two three!
And now you've come to me. What for?"
"We want to learn how to talk with the
animals," said Buster John.
Aaron, who had been frowning a little, seemed
to be relieved. The frown disappeared.
"Oho," he cried, "is that all? 'T ain't much,
10 THE STORY OF AARON.
yet it's a heap. You 'll hear lots of sassy talk.
Sometimes, maybe, you 'll have to stop up your
"We won't mind that," remarked Buster
"Maybe not," said Aaron. Then he went
to a large wooden chest that sat in the corner,
unlocked it, and presently brought forth a
bundle of red cloth. This he placed on the
floor and sat beside it, motioning the children to
sit on the floor in a circle around the bundle.,
He unrolled the cloth until he came to an oval-
shaped mirror. The frame was heavy and richly
carved, and shone as bright as new silver shines.
Aaron placed the beautiful mirror carefully on
the floor, face up. Then he threw the red cloth
over his head and over the children's heads. If
any one had been peeping through the chinks of
the chimney he would have been very much
puzzled by what he saw and heard. He would
have seen the red cloth bobbing up and down as
if those underneath were bowing their heads
back and forth, and he would have heard muffled
exclamations of wonder, the loudest of all being
Drusilla's involuntary cry: -
1--. ) -.
AARON SHOWING THE MIRROR
THE LANGUAGE OF THE ANIMALS.
Don't dat beat all "
The children never told what happened under
the cloth, nor what they saw in the mirror.
When Aaron rose to his feet, the cloth still over
his head, he made a few movements with his
arms, and lo there was the bundle in his hands
with the mirror wrapped in its folds.
Sweetest Susan looked at Buster John.
" Was n't it easy? she cried. Did you ever
see anything as bright" She would have
said more, but Aaron touched her gently on the
arm and put his finger on his lips. At that
moment a gander in the spring lot began to
"What did he say ? asked Aaron, looking
He say, I'm gwine atter water water -
who water go ?' "
Aaron seemed satisfied with the answer. He
replaced the bundle in the chest, turned the key
and then leaned against the rude mantel shelf he
had nailed over his fireplace.
You think I 'm a nigger, don't you? He
turned to Buster John.
Of course," said the youngster without hesi-
tation. What else are you ?"
12 THE STORY OF AARON.
I'll show you." From his pocket Aaron
drew a little package something wrapped in
soft leather and securely tied. It was a memo-
randum book. Opening this small book, Aaron
held it toward Buster John, saying What's
"It looks like pothooks," replied the boy,
"Ain't a word in it I can't read," said Aaron.
"Read some of it, please," pleaded Sweetest
Thereupon Aaron began to read from the
book in a strange tongue, the tone of his voice
taking on modulations the children had never
I ain't never hear no jabber like dat," said
"What sort of talk is it?" asked Buster
'T ain't no creetur talk," remarked Drusilla;
"I know dat mighty well."
"It's the talk of Ben Ali," said Aaron-
" Ben Ali, my daddy. Every word here was put
down by him."
"Why, I've heard grandpa talk about uncle
Ben Ali," suggested Buster John.
THE LANGUAGE OF THE ANIMALS. 13
Aaron nodded. Many a time. Your grand-
pa, my master, tried to buy my daddy, but Ben
All was worth too much. I went to see him
with my master twice a year till he died. He
was no nigger."
"What then? Buster John asked.
Arab man of the desert slave hunter -
all put down here," said Aaron, tapping the little
book with his finger.
The children were anxious to hear more about
Ben Ali, the Arab Ben Ali the slave hunter,
who had himself become a slave. There was not
much to tell, but that little was full of interest as
Aaron told it, sitting in his door, the children
on the steps below him. For the most part the
book was a diary of events that had happened
to Ben Ali after he landed in this country, being
written in one of the desert dialects; but the
first few pages told how the Arab chief happened
to be a slave.
Ben Ali was the leader of a band that made
constant war on some of the African tribes in the
Senegambian region. With their captives, this
band of Arabs frequently pushed on to the
Guinea coast and there sold them to the slave
14 THE STORY OF AARON.
traders. These excursions continued until, on
one occasion, the Arabs chanced to clash with
a war-loving tribe, which was also engaged in
plundering and raiding its neighbors. The
meeting was unexpected to the Arabs, but not to
the Africans. The Arabs who were left alive
were led captive to the coast and there sold with
other prisoners to slave traders. Among them
was Ben All, who was then not more than thirty
years old. With the rest, he was brought to
America, where he was sold to a Virginian
planter, fetching a very high price. Along with
him, in the same ship, was an Arab girl, and she
was also bought by the planter. Nothing was
said in the diary in regard to the history of this
girl, except that she became Ben Ali's wife, and
bore him a son and a daughter. The son was
Aaron, so named. The daughter died while yet
These things Aaron told the children, little by
little and in a rambling way, begging Buster
John and Sweetest Susan to say nothing about
the matter to any other person, and threatening
Drusilla with uplifted finger that if she opened
her mouth about it he would put the misery"
THE LANGUAGE OF THE ANIMALS. 15
on her. Drusilla had seen negroes who were
the victims of the misery which is the plan-
tation name of the spell that conjurers put on
people, and she declared over and over again
that she would n't tell crossing her heart "
to show that she meant what she said.
Can we talk with the animals sure enough -
the horses, the cows, the sheep, the dogs, and the
hogs ?" asked Buster John.
Aaron smiled as he answered: "A little bit
now, more pretty soon. The sheep I don't
know. Sheep don't talk much around me. But
the others are talking all the time. You must
watch all the motions they make, shutting the
eye, switching the tail, flopping the ear, stamping
the foot all part of the talk."
When shall we try ? asked Buster John.
"Right after dinner," replied Aaron; "we 'll
go see old Timoleon."
"Timoleon!" cried Sweetest Susan, in dis-
Aaron laughed and nodded his head. "We'll
take him out the stable and see what he says.
Timoleon good talker."
Oh, I'm afraid to go !" cried Sweetest Susan.
THE STORY OF AARON.
" Mamma told me never to go near Timoleon's
I '11 tell you de plain trufe," said Drusilla
vehemently, I would n't go up dar in dat field'
whar dat boss is -I would n't go dar, not fer
money. Ain't I done see 'imn jump on a nigger
man an' tar de cloze off'n 'im ? Uh-uh! you
don't ketch me up dar "
"Little Missy will go with me," remarked
Aaron. Then he pointed to Drusilla. "You
go or stay, but, look out No talk "
I '11 set on de fence an' see de hoss eat 'em
up," suggested Drusilla, by way of a compromise.
"She '11 go if I do," said Sweetest Susan.
You mus' n't be agwine, den," was Drusilla's
Aaron looked at the girl so severely that she
"Don't mind Drusilla," said Sweetest Susan.
"She does n't mean anything she says, except
when she asks for something to eat."
"After dinner we'11 go see Timoleon. If he
seems like he's in good humor," Aaron ex-
plained, we '11 bring him out. If he has been
fretting, we '11 let him stay."
THE LANGUAGE OF THE ANIMALS. 17
This was perfectly satisfactory to the children,
especially to Buster John.
They went to play, but they only pretended to
play. All they could do was to discuss what
they had already seen and heard, and what they
hoped to see and hear. Time seemed to pass
very slowly. They sat down and talked, and
then walked about and talked, but still it was not
dinner time. They would have become very
impatient indeed had not Buster John chanced
to hear the big gray rooster call out to the
yellow hen: -
Run, run, run Here 's a bug !"
The yellow hen went running, but just as she
reached the gray rooster he turned and walked
away with great dignity, saying: Come on,
let's go; come on."
"I might have known it," complained the
yellow hen; "you are like all the rest of the
roosters. A respectable hen can't depend on
anything you say."
"Come on, come on," said the big gray
rooster, strutting along, I was just trying to
get you away from that one-eyed dominicker.
He's not fit company for you to associate with."
THE STORY OF AARON.
Hoity-toity! cried the yellow hen. And
didn't I see you this morning scratching your
toes off for the Friesland pullet ? "
Buster John and Sweetest Susan laughed
heartily at this, but Drusilla was very serious.
"I dunno which de wuss," she cried, chickens
After that, time no longer hung heavy on the
children's hands. When the dinner bell rang,
Buster John and Sweetest Susan were on hand
promptly, with their faces washed and their hair
combed. They were so anxious to get through
their dinner that they ate rapidly, and this
attracted the attention of their mother, who
wanted to know what they had been doing to
make them so hungry. The only satisfaction
she got was a request to Please, ma'm, make
haste and have some dinner fixed for Drusilla."
This was very soon done, and in a little while
the children were ready to go with Aaron to see
A RIDE ON THE BLACK STALLION.
AARON was not ready as soon as the children
were, but they waited for him with lamblike
patience, considering their eagerness. Finally
Aaron came out of his cabin and waved his hand
as a signal that he was ready. The children ran
to him, and together they went to the barn,
where Timoleon had his stable. This barn had
once been the corn crib. It was built of stout
logs, hewn square and mortised together, and
was in the middle of a five-acre field that had
once been in cultivation, but was now overrun
with Bermuda grass. Here Timoleon reigned in
solitude, except when Aaron was with him. In
this stable he remained securely imprisoned, save
when Aaron took him out for exercise.
Timoleon was a horse renowned throughout
the country renowned for his victories on the
race track and for his vicious temper. Even in
his old age he was fleet and fierce, more danger-
20 THE STORY OF AARON.
ous, people said, than a tiger, and stronger than
a lion. Fierce and strong, he was also beautiful.
His coat glistened in the sun like satin. His
mane was flowing and heavy, his tail long and
full. His neck and shoulders were thick and
powerful; his head tapering to the muzzle, his
ears small and in constant motion, as when the
night wind stirs the leaves of the willow; his
nostrils red and flexible, and all his motions
quick and graceful.
As Aaron and the children approached the
stable, they heard Timoleon pounding against the
heavy logs with his feet.
"I'm gwine back!" cried Drusilla. "He
trying' ter git out now."
But she kept along with the rest.
What is the matter with him?" asked
He 's fretting," replied Aaron fretting
He went to the stable door and unlocked it,
saying "What now ?"
Son of Ben Ali, what have I done ?" cried
Timoleon. "To-day I go hungry because the
corn is on the cob, to-morrow I '11 be foundered
A RIDE ON THE BLACK STALLION. 21
because the corn is shelled. Is it, then, nothing
to you that I am old and my teeth are bad?
What have I done? As for the fodder, it is full
of dust. To put my nose in it is to cough all
night. In the desert, I have been told an old
horse has new rice and cracked barley."
Buster John looked at Sweetest Susan, and
Sweetest Susan looked at Buster John. They
were too much astonished to say anything.
Even so, Grandson of Abdallah," said Aaron,
"what says the sun on the wall above your
trough? Does it stand at the dinner hour?
Why grumble, then, about corn on the cob that
I have saved for the grunter?"
What is the Grunting Pig to me, Son of Ben
Ali? Or the sun on the wall? The dinner
hour of those who are hungry comes best when
it comes quickest. I have hurt my teeth on your
nubbins. Take them away."
Saying this, Timoleon snorted contemptuously.
Then suddenly he gave a loud snort of surprise
and anger. His quick and restless eye had
caught sight of Sweetest Susan's dress through
a crack in the door.
"Son of Ben Ali," he said, "what is this?
You are not alone."
22 THE STORY OF AARON.
No, Grandson of Abdallah, I have brought
three of my friends," replied Aaron.
"Who are they, Son of Ben Ali?"
"Two grandchildren of the White-haired
Master and their servant."
Why have they come? "
As I have touched your knee, so they have
touched my thumb. Once, twice, thrice."
Timoleon turned from the door, walked to the
far end of his stable, and then returned.
The grandchildren of the White-haired Master
are wise," he said.
"So it seems," replied Aaron.
"Then let me touch them with my nose, so
that hereafter I may know them."
Aaron opened the door and Timoleon strode
out. He had on neither halter nor bridle, and
the children shrank and cowered behind Aaron.
"Son of Ben Ali, what does this mean?"
It means that they are children who have
heard that the Grandson of Abdallah is a savage
beast," replied Aaron.
Timoleon with lowered head went to the
children and pressed his muzzle gently against
A RIDE ON THE BLACK STALLION. 23
the shoulder of each against Buster John first,
Sweetest Susan next, and Drusilla last. They
were all frightened, but Drusilla's terror was
such that her face, black as it was, took on an
ashen hue. To make matters worse, Timoleon
snorted suddenly and loudly when he pressed
his nose on her shoulder. She gave a piercing
scream, and fell on the ground in a heap.
Timoleon sprang back as though an attack had
been made on him. It was all so comical that
Aaron laughed, and Buster John and Sweetest
Susan relieved the strain on their feelings by
joining him boisterously almost hysterically.
Drusilla, hearing this, rose to her feet with anger
in her eyes.
"I dunner what you-all white chillun laugh-
in' at. Ef you speck I 'm gwineter stan' flat-
footed an' let dat ar boss bite de top er my
head off, you done gone an' fooled yo'se'f. I
know'd what he wuz gwine ter do, time I seed de
white er his eye. His breff hot nuff ter burn yo'
han'. What he want ter come doin' dat a way
fer? I don't want no hoss ter be huggin' me
wid his upper lip nohow. I '11 tell anybody dat."
While Drusilla was quarreling, Timoleon was
24 THE STORY OF AARON.
grazing near by, and Aaron and the children
were still laughing.
Ef you-all think it so funny, go dar whar
dat hoss is, an' let 'im nibble at you an' blow his
nose on you a time er two."
What does she say, Son of Ben Ali ? Timo-
leon asked, raising his head from the rank
She says she thought you were about to bite
off her head."
Timoleon gave a snort of contempt, and ad-
dressed himself again to the dainty feast before
"Not too much of that, Grandson of Abdal-
lah," said Aaron. You are too fat now. You
need exercise. How long since you have had a
"A month of Sundays, Son of Ben Ali."
To-day you shall have one. On your head I
will place a halter, on your broad back I will
strap your blanket. On the blanket I will place
my friends and yours, the grandchildren of the
White-haired Master. But listen I a stumble, and
I'm done with you; any trickery, and the Son of
Ben Ali will come near you no more."
A RIDE ON THE BLACK STALLION. 25
"So may it be, Son of Ben All."
"I believe you, Grandson of Abdallah. You
are to go by yonder gate through the lane to the
great road. From there it is a mile and a half
to the gate that opens on the avenue, leading to
the house of the White-haired Master. At that
gate I shall await you. Then up the avenue to
the house you are to go, and three times around
the boxwood circle where the avenue ends."
So it shall be, Son of Ben All. Have you
not carried a noggin of water on my back and
set me at a gallop without spilling a drop ? So
it shall be now, Son of Ben Ali."
Aaron went into the stable and came forth
with a halter. This he threw on Timoleon's
head, passing the loose end over the horse's neck
and tying it in the ring, thus forming reins for
the rider to handle. Then he folded a heavy
blanket four times, placed it on the horse's back,
and strapped it down with a surcingle.
Not too tight--not too tight, Son of Ben
Ali," said Timoleon, backing his ears a little.
Now, then, for a ride," said Aaron, turning
to the children.
Oh, I 'm afraid! cried Sweetest Susan.
"Mamma would be angry."
26 THE STORY OF AARON.
Try him here, in the lot," suggested Aaron
to Buster John.
Now Buster John was a pretty good rider for
a youngster, and was somewhat proud of the
fact. He had even helped to break a young
mule to the saddle. So, after a little persuasion,
he allowed Aaron to lift him to Timoleon's back.
"Easy, now," said Aaron.
The black stallion stepped proudly off. From
a swinging walk he broke into an easy canter,
which soon became a swinging gallop. Before
he had gone around the field, Buster John had
lost all fear, and from his gently undulating seat
waved his hand gayly to Sweetest Susan.
Oh, I wish I could go, too she exclaimed,
clapping her hands.
"Why not, little Missy?" said Aaron. "I
have seen you riding the Gray Pony without a
"But he is as gentle as a dog," explained
Why, so is Timoleon," replied Aaron. Try
him. I will run beside him to catch you, if you
fall. I '11 not run far before you will say, Go
/-- --~~"~ `-~~II-~ ~
*^ v '--
^ ~ ~ ~ ~ u -iy^: ,." .
A RTDE ON THE BLACK STALLION
A RIDE ON" THE BLACK STALLION
A RIDE ON THE BLACK STALLION. 27
By this time Timoleon came sweeping up to
where they stood, and stopped. Buster John's
face fairly glowed with the delight he felt.
"Well," said Sweetest Susan, unable to resist
the temptation. "Well, I'11 go, but if I fall "-
Before she could finish what she had to say,
the strong arms of Aaron had lifted her to a seat
behind Buster John.
"How can you fall?" asked that bold
youngster. Hold fast to me. Put your arms
around me, and when you fall, let me know."
"You didn't talk that way just now," said
Sweetest Susan. To this Buster John made no
reply. Aaron stood beside the black stallion
and stroked his neck.
Grandson of Abdallah, show me what you
are this day. Once around the field, and then to
the lane gate."
The horse took three long strides forward, and
then broke into a canter as before. Aaron ran
beside Timoleon a little way, one hand on
Sweetest Susan's elbow to give her confidence,
but he soon saw that she had lost all fear, and
so, still running, he went to the gate that opened
in the lane and threw it back, and stood there.
28 THE STORY OF AARON.
The black stallion, going in a steady gallop,
swept around the field, and then came toward
the gate. The children were laughing.
"Don't forget, Grandson of Abdallah! You
know my hand!" This was Aaron's last warn-
ing, as Timoleon went through the gate. The
Son of Ben Ali watched horse and riders for a
few moments. Then he closed the gate and ran
swiftly through the lot, going toward the head
of the avenue that led to the big house. The
lane, half a mile in length, led obliquely away
from the house and from the avenue until it
joined the public road. From that point, turning
squarely to the left, the distance to the avenue
gate was about a mile. From the stable to the
avenue gate, through the spring lot the way
Aaron went was not quite half a mile.
If I go too fast, grandson of the White-haired
Master," said Timoleon, as they turned into the
public road, touch me on the shoulder. And
don't be frightened when I lift my head and tell
the fools I am coming."
As they came in sight of the negro quarters,
Timoleon raised his head high in the air and
neighed shrilly three times in quick succession.
A RIDE ON THE BLACK STALLION. 29
It sounded like a challenge to man and beast.
That plantation had heard it many times before,
and it had usually been the forerunner of some
display of savagery on the part of the black
stallion -sometimes a negro run down and
trampled, sometimes a mule or a cow crippled;
but always something. The sound of it was
heard with dismay, except by Aaron.
It was no wonder, therefore, that the negroes
came out of their cabins with alarm painted on
their faces. It was no wonder they stood trans-
fixed when they saw the horse flying along the
road, his thick mane whipping the wind, with the
two children on his back. They had no time to
admire the strength and symmetry of the horse,
and yet he presented a beautiful sight -his
glossy neck arched, his long mane enveloping
the children as in a cloud, the undulations of his
magnificent form and his swift movements the
perfection of grace.
Once more, as he thundered across the bridge
that spanned the stream leading from the spring,
the black stallion screamed forth his note of
defiance. A man, coming along the road, went
over the fence as nimbly as a squirrel. Cows
30 THE STORY OF AARON.
grazing in the fields, near the roadside, hoisted
their tails in the air and ran off to the woods.
The mules in the horse lot ran around aimlessly,
and then huddled themselves together in a corner.
The Gray Pony went scampering through the
peach orchard, hunting a place of safety.
Then the cry went up from the negro quarters,
"Timoleon 's loose Timoleon's loose The cry
was echoed at the big house. The children's
father laid down the book he was reading, and
went out upon the veranda, followed quickly by
his wife. The grandfather rose from his easy
chair and joined them. They heard the tre-
mendous clatter of hoofs on the hard road and
the screaming stallion. They saw Aaron run-
ning up the avenue, followed by Drusilla. Ca-
lamity seemed to have swooped down upon the
plantation. A negro woman, bolder than the
rest, had managed to run to the big house. She
rushed through it, without regard for ceremony.
"Mistiss, dem blessed chillun -
She wanted to say were riding the runaway
stallion, but she sank to the floor, speechless.
Oh, my children! my children! Where are
my precious children ? cried the mother.
A RIDE ON THE BLACK STALLION. 31
At that moment Aaron reached the avenue
gate, opened it wide, and the black stallion
cantered through it, and came galloping, down
I see the children," said the white-haired
grandfather. "They are safe. They have been
giving Timoleon his exercise. See! they are
laughing and waving their hands! "
The mother looked, but the sight seemed to
terrify her so that she covered her face with her
hands. Only for a moment, however. She
looked again, thinking they were wringing their
hands and crying for help. But, no they were
really laughing. In front of the yard gate there
was an ornamental circle, filled with neatly
trimmed box-wood, privet and acacia bushes.
Coming to this circle Timoleon turned to the
right and galloped around it, the children waving
their hands to their mother, father and grand-
father. With his waving mane and flowing tail,
his arched and shining neck, and his graceful
movements, the horse presented a spectacle long
to be remembered.
Why, they are riding him with a halter! "
cried the father, taking fresh alarm.
32 THE STORY OF AARON.
How many times have I told you he is the
gentlest horse I ever knew ?" sighed the grand-
father. "Ah, what a magnificent creature he is!
What a pity he is penned on this plantation "
Three times around the circle Timoleon gal-
loped, and then wheeled toward the gate that led
to the stable lot. The children waved a mock
farewell to the still astonished spectators, who,
standing on the veranda, heard Timoleon go
clattering to the rear of the house.
The mother recovering from her fright, which
was serious, became very angry, and this was not
serious at all.
That is Aaron's work," she cried, and the
children shall never go about him any more."
Aaron will thank you, if you '11 stick to your
word," said the grandfather. I bought Aaron
fifteen years ago, and I have never had occasion
to undo anything he has ever done. I owe him
a debt of. gratitude that I could never repay if I
were to live a thousand years."
I know, father I know," replied the
children's mother, more gently. "But he gave
me a terrible fright just now."
Timoleon galloped to his stable, and stood
A RIDE ON THE BLACK STALLION. 33
there waiting for Aaron. Sweetest Susan, hold-
ing to Buster John's hand, slid to the ground,
and then Buster John followed suit.
"You might take the halter off, little one,"
said Timoleon, and he held his head so that the
youngster could unbuckle the strap. Then the
horse began to graze as contentedly as any farm
animal. Presently Aaron came with a bucket of
cool water from the spring. Timoleon buried
his nose in it, drank his fill, and then washed his
mouth by sucking up the water and letting it
run out over his tongue and teeth. Then the
blanket was removed and the Grandson of Abdal-
lah stretched himself on the warm grass and had
a good wallow. After that Aaron rubbed him
off thoroughly, gave him a bait of oats, and,
while he ate, went over his silky coat with a
currycomb and brush, whistling all the while in
a peculiar way.
GRISTLE, THE GRAY PONY, BEGINS HIS STORY.
THE ride on Timoleon, which was an exciting
one from start to finish, was enough fun for the
children for one day. They sought no other
amusement. When they had seen Aaron feed
and groom the horse, they went to the big house,
where they knew the ride had created a sensa-
tion. There, in answer to numberless questions
asked by their mother, they told a part of the
story of their ride. They said nothing about
hearing Timoleon talk, for they knew that not
even their grandfather would believe that part of
the story. But they told all about the ride, how
swiftly and easily the horse went, and how gentle
he was. Buster John was, of course, quite a
hero, and Sweetest Susan shared all the honors
The children's mother had more than half a
notion to read them a lecture; but the white-
haired grandfather protested against this. He
GRISTLE BEGINS HIS STORY. 35
said the youngsters were perfectly safe in Aaron's
care. He declared he didn't want to see boys
play the part of girls, nor girls act like dolls.
Then he began to talk about Little Crotchet,
who had been so fond of Aaron. It was curious
to the children to hear the white-haired grand-
father talk of their uncle (whom they had never
seen) as though he were a little boy.
"It seems but yesterday," said the old gentle-
man, with a gentle sigh that ended in a smile,
"that Little Crotchet was hobbling through the
house on his crutches, or scampering about the
neighborhood on the Gray Pony. But the Gray
Pony is grazing out there in the orchard, and
Little Crotchet has been dead these fifteen years.
If he were alive now, he would be twenty-nine
The old gentleman fell to musing, and sat
silent for a little while. Then he went on, as if
talking to himself :-
And I am seventy-three, and Aaron is forty,
and, let me see, the pony is eighteen, and Timo-
leon seventeen. All getting old."
Uncle Crotchet was n't always crippled, was
he, grandfather? asked Sweetest Susan.
36 THE STORY OF AARON.
Oh, no," replied the old gentleman. Until
he was seven years old he was as healthy a
child as I ever saw. Then he was suddenly
taken ill, and lay in his bed for months. After
that he was never able to walk without crutches.
Twenty-nine years old! Why, he'd be a man
grown. As it is, he is still a little boy. I
remember," the grandfather continued, becoming
reminiscent, when he wanted me to buy Aaron.
From the very first the two had a fancy for each
other. Aaron came from Virginia in a specula-
tor's caravan. He became so unmanageable that
he had to be sold. Little Crotchet begged me to
buy him, but I stood joking with the little fellow,
and before I knew it our neighbor across the
creek had bought him."
Old Mr. Gossett ?" inquired Buster John.
".Yes," replied the grandfather. Mr. Gos-
sett bought Aaron. Little Crotchet was so dis-
tressed about it that I offered Mr. Gossett half
as much more for Aaron than he had given.
But he refused it. Then I offered him twice as
much, and he refused that, and I did n't feel able
to give any more."
"Why wouldn't Mr. Gossett sell Aaron?"
GRISTLE BEGINS HIS STORY. 37
asked Buster John. "I 've heard he's very
fond of money."
"He's a queer man," responded the grand-
father, "hard in some things and clever enough
in others; He had heard the speculator say that
Aaron was a very dangerous character, and so
Mr. Gossett declared that he was going to tame
him. Gossett was a much younger man then
than he is now, and about as reckless as any one
in the county. I remember he said something
in a light way that made Little Crotchet angry,
and the lad spurred the Gray Pony at him and
would have rode him down but for me."
Was he riding the Gray Pony, grandfather ?"
asked Buster John.
"Yes," replied the old gentleman with a sigh:
" yes, the Gray Pony. It was fifteen years ago,
but it seems but yesterday."
The grandfather was silent after that, and the
children said no more. They went to bed when
bedtime came, but not before Buster John had
made up his mind to rise bright and early the
next morning and call on the Gray Pony. He
told Sweetest Susan and Drusilla of his plan, and
they said they were anxious to go, too. So it
THE STORY OF AARON.
was arranged that the housemaid should wake
them when she came in from the quarters.
This was done, and to the surprise of every-
body whose business it was to be up early, the
children sallied forth a little after sunrise. They
went into the orchard, hunting for the Gray Pony.
Before they had gone far, a rabbit jumped up
right at their feet, ran off a little distance, and
then sat up and looked at them.
He's very much like Mr. Rabbit," said
"He's lots better looking, remarked Drusilla,
who had never forgiven Mr. Rabbit for mistaking
her for the Tar Baby.
While they were standing there looking at the
rabbit, Sweetest Susan lifted her hands suddenly
and uttered an exclamation that startled Buster
John and Drusilla, and sent the rabbit scurrying
off through the sedge.
"What is the matter?" asked Buster John.
Oh, to-day is Sunday!" cried Sweetest Susan.
"Why, of course it is Sunday," said Buster
John. "What of it? Is it any harm to walk
through an old peach orchard hunting for a
A RABBIT JUMPED UP AT THEIR FEET
GRISTLE BEGINS HIS STORY.
"No-o-o," replied Sweetest Susan, hesitatingly.
"What is the matter, then ? "
"Nothing. I had forgotten it was Sunday,
and just happened to think about it," Sweetest
Susan replied demurely.
Going forward and looking about the orchard,
the children soon saw the Gray Pony grazing in
a fence corner at the further side. As they went
toward him, the Gray Pony saw them and began
to move away, backing his ears and showing
signs of irritation.
Leave me alone," said the Pony. "I don't
want to run through these briars and scratch
myself. Go away. I don't want to see you."
Wait," cried Buster John; "I want to talk
Shucks and smutty nubbins !" exclaimed
the Pony. You can hardly talk to yourselves.
I don't want you about me. All you can do is
to throw rocks and poke sticks at me through
the fence. Go away. I might accidentally hurt
you. I would n't be sorry if I did, but they'd
send me off to the river place, and I don't want
to go there and get curkle burrs in my mane and
40 THE STORY OF AARON.
"But I can talk to you," persisted Buster
John. I can understand everything you say."
The Gray Pony tossed his head contemp-
tuously. Go off go off. Yonder comes
Aaron. The Son of Ben All will make you let
Sure enough, Aaron was coming along the
orchard path with a bucket of bran. Presently
he called the Gray Pony. Come, Gristle, come."
The Pony kicked up his heels, shook his head,
and went galloping toward Aaron as hard as he
could go. When the children came up to where
the Pony was eating his bran, they found him
disputing with Aaron. If the children did n't
know how to talk to him day before yesterday,
how could they talk now? That's what he'd
like to know.
"Gristle, listen If you did n't have this
bran-mash an hour ago, how can you be sticking
your nose in it now? That's what I 'd like to
The Pony snorted so hard that he blew the
wet bran all around. "How did they learn to
talk to us ? he asked.
They have been touched," replied Aaron.
GRISTLE BEGINS HIS STORY. 41
"Well," said the Gray Pony, "that changes
things. That alters the case. I'm sorry I
abused them. But that boy there has n't been
very good to me. I've seen no boy like Little
Crotchet. I saw them riding the black stallion
yesterday. How was that?"
"Haven't I told you, Gristle? They have
been touched. They have the sign."
I see," responded the Gray Pony. "That
changes things. That alters the case. But
what do they want with me? "
"They can answer for themselves, Gristle.
They are here."
"Why, we wanted you to tell us about the
time when my Uncle Crotchet asked grandfather
to buy Uncle Aaron."
The Pony drew away from the bucket of wet
bran and looked at the children. Then he looked
at Aaron. "Well!" he snorted, "how did they
Aaron laughed and pointed toward the big
house. "They heard it there, from the White-
haired Master. They are our friends, Gristle.
They know the sign."
That alters the case," said the Gray Pony for
42 THE STORY OF AARON.
the third time, "but the story is a long one.
To-day is the day when you get in the carriage
and go where the talking-man lives. I used to
carry the Little Master there, one day in every
week, from the time he could ride."
He means to preaching," explained Aaron,
and the explanation made the children laugh.
Come to-morrow," said the Gray Pony; "then
everybody will be at work, and we shall have no
one to bother us."
Aaron thought that this was a good idea, and
at his suggestion, the children agreed to it,
though not with a very good grace. To-morrow
seemed to be so far off.
But time rolled away on the plantation as it
did elsewhere, and some time during the night,
when the children were fast asleep, and snoring,
maybe, to-morrow became to-day. After break-
fast, when they had gone over their lessons with
their grandfather, who taught them, to amuse
himself, they went out and found the Gray Pony,
carrying him some green corn.
"Now, I like that," said the Pony switching
his tail vigorously. I've had a bad taste in
my mouth all day, and this green corn will drive
THEY CARRIED HIM SOME GREEN CORN
GRISTLE BEGINS HIS STORY. 43
it away." He munched at it a little while, look-
ing at the children occasionally, and then began:
"I was very fond of the Little Master from
the first. The White-haired Master found me in
a drove of mules and horses in a pen in town.
We had traveled hundreds of miles, and though
I was young and tough, I was very stiff and
tired. But the drover cracked his whip, sepa-
rated me from the rest, and ran me into a
corner of the pen, where I stood trembling,
because I did n't know what moment the lash
would crack on my back, as it had cracked many
times before. The White-haired Master his
hair was as gray as mine even then -held the
Little Master in his arms, and when they came
near I stood still and allowed the little fellow
to pat my back and stroke my neck. The Little
Master cried: 'Father buy him! I like him !'
That was enough. A negro came and put a
halter on me, and led me from the pen. Soon
some one brought a bridle, and then a small
saddle. After awhile the Little Master was
placed on my back, and some one handed him
two heavy sticks. I was alarmed at first, fear-
ing I was to be beaten with them, but when I
44 THE STORY OF AARON.
flinched the Little Master stroked my neck, and I
had no more fear. The sticks he carried along
to help him over the ground when he was not
riding, and he used them nimbly.
"So we came home, and grew to know each
other. In cold weather I had a warm stable to
rest in, and a heavy blanket to sleep under. In
pleasant weather I had cool water twice a day,
and young corn and green barley. People used
to say he rode me too hard at times, but it was
not so. It was a pleasure to him and no harm
One day there came to him from far away a
teacher -a young man with brown hair and
blue eyes and for a time the Little Master was
troubled. He had no desire to sit in the house
for hours and do nothing but read in the books.
I used to watch for him through the fence, and
he was very proud indeed when he found that I
knew his voice from the rest and would follow
him about without bridle or halter. I missed
him when the teacher came, and I used to go to
the fence and call him.
"But I missed him only a day or two. The
teacher was a wise young man, and he soon saw
GRISTLE BEGINS HIS STORY.
that if the Little Master was to be taught at all,
the teaching must go on in the open air, with no
more books to bother with than he could carry
in one hand. So it came to pass that every day
the little master would call for me, and then we
would go on long journeys through the woods
and fields, the teacher walking with me.
"Sometimes the teacher would carry books in
his hand, but he carried more in his head. He
was wise. He knew the poisonous plants and
vines almost as well as I did, and I used to won-
der how he found them out, not having to eat
them. This went on whenever the weather was
pleasant, and I heard the teacher from far away
say to the little master that he was learning a
great deal more of the things that were in the
books, than if he were shut up in a tight room
with the books themselves. If I could have re-
membered all I heard, I'd be pretty well edu-
One morning I was fed early. I heard the
negroes say that the White-haired Master, the
Little Master, and the teacher were going to town.
It was court week, they said. The judge and
jury were going to sit and punish men for being
THE STORY OF AARON.
meaner than the animals. I thought it was very
funny. But I ate my breakfast with a better
appetite, because I knew none of my kith and kin
were to be hauled up before the judge and jury
for cheating and swindling, and drinking and
"So we went to town, the Little Master and I.
The White-haired Master and the teacher rode in
the buggy. We kept with them a little way, but
the weather was fine and the roads were good,
and after a while the Little Master gave me the
rein, which I had been asking for ever so long,
and I cantered forward, leaving the buggy far
behind and out of sight.
I cantered on in this way, up hill and down
hill for it was as easy as walking until we
came nearly to the town. Then suddenly the Lit-
tle Master reached forward and touched me on
the shoulder. It was the way he had of warning
me. We were coming to a point where another
road led into ours, and it was well the Little Mas-
ter warned me when he did. Else, when I saw
what I did, I should have given a start that would
have unseated him; for right before me, com-
ing slowly our road, was a train of huge wagons,
Ii 2" I
THE SLAVE TRAIN
GRISTLE BEGINS HIS STORY. 47
covered with white cloth. There were five wagons,
each pulled by two mules. In front of the fore-
most wagon a file of negroes was marching, two
by two. There must have been forty odd in all.
At first I thought they were pulling the wagon,
for there was a stout rope reaching from the end
of the wagon tongue to the foremost negro of the
file, and the end was fastened to his waist. On
each side of this rope the other negroes walked,
and I soon saw that every one was handcuffed to
"The sight of all this," said the gray pony,
continuing his story, "surprised me so that I
stopped in the road, and came near tucking
tail and running back the way I came. But
the Little Master was never afraid of anything.
He stroked my shoulder and scolded me, too,
and urged me forward. Now there was nothing
about this wagon train to frighten me. I had
seen wagon trains before. But this one loomed
up so suddenly and unexpectedly that it made
me have a queer, shivery feeling, as when I
hear a horse-fly zooning around and don't know
where he is going to light. It happened that
the wagons were on a sandy level, and neither
48 THE STORY OF AARON.
their wheels nor the mules' feet made any
noise. The negroes were marching along as
silently as the shadows that run on the ground
when the moon is shining and the clouds are
flying. It was the first time I had ever seen
negroes going along the road together in utter
silence. They were neither talking nor laughing,
and they seemed to be very far from singing.
Going nearer, I saw that the negro drivers
were chained to the wagons. On each side of
the file of marching negroes rode a white man,
a shotgun lying across his lap. I thought the
negroes were prisoners, and that the men were
carrying them to court for the judge and jury
to sit on them. So the Little Master thought,
for he urged me forward until we came up with
the man who rode near the tall negro at the
head of the file.
"'Good-morning,' said the Little Master to
"'Good-day, sonny,' replied the man, but he
kept. his eye on the negro at the head of the file.
'Whose negroes are these?' the Little Mas-
"' Mine,' said the man, smacking his lips
over it; every one mine.'
GRISTLE BEGINS HIS STORY.
Then we went on in silence. The Little
Master had a way, when he was puzzled, of
reaching over the saddle and twisting a wisp of
mane between his fingers. He did this now.
He curled the wisp of hair on his forefinger and
uncurled it ever so many .times, as we went on
in silence. I noticed that the negro at the head
of the file had his arms tied at the elbows. The
whole weight of the long rope, which was a big
one, fell on this negro, but he was tall and strong
and moved forward without sign of distress.
Presently the Little Master spoke to the
man again. 'What have your negroes done
that they should be carried to jail ?'
The man laughed loudly, as he replied : 'I 'm
not carrying them to jail. They are for sale.'
"'Then you are a negro speculator,' said the
"'That's what some people call me, sonny;
speculator or what not, I have negroes for sale.
If you want to buy one, I'll sell you that buck
at the head of the gang. He 's the finest of
the lot, but I '11 sell him cheap. He's worse
than a tiger.'
The Little Master urged me forward until
50 THE STORY OF AARON.
we came to the side of the man at the head of
the file. That was my first sight of the Son
of Ben Ali. I knew at once that he was no
negro. The Little Master spoke to him, and
he smiled as he answered.
"' I '1 sell him cheap, sonny,' said the man;
'name your own price, give me the money, and
"The Little Master slapped the pommel of
his saddle, and I knew by that he was angry.
But what he intended to say was never said,
for just then the White-haired Master and the
teacher came by in the buggy, going at a
sweeping trot, and the Little Master gave me
the rein to follow, which I was more than glad
to do. Never before had I seen the White-
haired Master use the whip on old Sorrel, the
buggy horse, but he used it that day, and I had
hard work to catch up and keep up. The
teacher had turned in his seat and watched the
file of negroes and the covered wagons as far
as he could see them. There was a frown on
his face, and his eyes had a queer light in them.
I always dodge when a man looks at me that
GRISTLE BEGINS HIS STORY. 51
"I think the White-haired Master wanted to
get the teacher away from that procession of
negroes. I heard them talking as I cantered
behind the buggy.
"'You are from the North, and, of course,
you don't understand these things,' said the
"' You are right,' replied the teacher. 'I
don't understand them at all. I'm truly sorry
I saw that sight. I shall see it again in my
"'I have been living here fifty years,' the
White-haired Master remarked, 'and that is the
second time I ever saw it.'
The teacher said nothing more, and we soon
entered the town, where there was a great many
people. Hitched to one of the racks I saw a roan
mule that had given me a vicious bite when we
were in the drove together. He was poor enough
now, and his ears hung dejectedly. I wanted to
stop and read him a moral, but the Little Master
bade me go on, and I had no opportunity to
speak to my old tormentor."
GRISTLE, THE GRAY PONY, CONCLUDES HIS
THE Little Master gave me a drink of cool
water from the well in the public square, and
then he had me carried to a comfortable stall
in the stable behind the old tavern. I don't
know how long I stayed there, but by the time I
had dropped off into a comfortable doze, dream-
ing that I was nibbling sassafras buds in the
orchard at home, a negro came running into the
stable and ifto my stall. He came upon me so
sudden that I turned in the stall to get out of
his way, and nearly mashed the breath out of
him. He limped along and led me to the
front of the tavern. There I saw the Little
Master waiting to mount, and I went toward him
"I thought we were to go home, but my
thoughts jumped ahead of facts. I soon saw
that the speculator's wagons and his file of
GRISTLE CONCLUDES HIS STORY. 53
negroes had come into town, and had stopped
to rest on the public square, where a great crowd
had gathered around them- some out of curi-
osity and some out of sympathy. I heard an old
horse, blind in one eye, say to a companion tied
near that such sights were seldom seen in these
parts. The Little Master had sent for me, so that,
by sitting on my back, he would be as tall as any
of the men.
He rode me into the crowd that had gathered
around the negroes. The people made way for
him, and I soon found myself so close to the Son
of Ben Ali that he could touch my nose with his
hand, although his elbows were pinioned. So
that he was able to give me the sign, and I knew
him and spoke to him and he to me; whereupon
he knew that he had found one friend there.
He had found two friends, for the Little Master
stretched forth his hands, white as a flower, and
touched the Son of Ben Ali on the cheek, where
there was the mark of a wound, saying, 'Poor fel-
low I am sorry for you.' And the Son of Ben
Ali reached up the best he could, his arms being
pinioned, and took the white hand of the Little
Master in his, and pressed it to his forehead and
54 THE STORY OF AARON.
then to his lips. After that he held his head
higher, so that he looked over all that stood
around him and beyond him, and smiled a little.
But just then the man who owned him came
hustling toward us, untied the rope to which the
Son of Ben Ali was chained and pushed him
roughly through the crowd to the sheriff's block
that stood near the court house door. This he
made the Son of Ben Ali mount, so that all might
see him. As he stood there, without a coat, the
collar of his shirt thrown open, and the muscles of
his chest swelling and falling, he seemed to be a
man among men. When the white man stood
on the block beside him, the crown of his hat
was no higher than the Son of Ben Ali's shoul-
The man made a speech to the people. I
don't remember everything he said, but I could
see he hated the Son of Ben Ali, and was afraid
of him. He was ready to jump from the block
and run. But the Son of Ben Ali paid no at-
tention to him. He had his eyes fixed on the
face of the Little Master, following every move-
ment he made, and always smiling. The Little
Master kept his eyes on the White-haired Master,
'T~_I" ~-~'-~L ~.'''''.-lil~J~"
~p L~' ii
ii i ~!
c; Z I---rrJ
~d~ ;8~~ 6'$ '
BEN ALI HAD FOUND TWO FRIENDS
GRISTLE CONCLUDES HIS STORY. 55
and called and beckoned to him. But somehow
- I couldn't see what the trouble was -the
White-haired Master appeared to be very busy.
He was talking with a man who was a stranger to
me, and, although he heard the Little Master,
and nodded and smiled at him, he kept on
talking. I went toward him without any
urging, and when we got there he was talking
about constitutions and other government con-
traptions, and seemed to be very warm over it.
I was so disgusted that I snorted as often and
as loud as I could, and if people had only known
it, there was more horse sense in one of my snorts
than there was in all the politics I have heard
from that day to this.
"But all this time the speculator, or trader,
or whatever you call him, was calling to the
crowd to come and see the fine bargain he was
going to offer. I had one ear for the trader
and another for the Little Master. One said : -
Come up, gentlemen, and see what a sacri-
fice I am going to make. Come up, and I'11
tell you why.'
"The other said: 'Come, father, please come !
You'll be too late!' The White-haired Master
56 THE STORY OF AARON.
nodded and smiled. 'Presently, son; pres-
"The trader said: 'Walk right up, gentle-
men, and I '1 tell you the truth. I 'm selling
this boy because he's too tricky to travel with.
He's bad tempered and hard headed. What
he needs is a master who will take time to
make him buckle down to work.'
The Little Master said : 'Father, come. Oh,
don't wait any longer.' The White-haired Mas-
ter smiled. 'Yes, yes!' and placed his hand on
my neck, whereupon I snorted and shook it off.
The trader cried out at the top of his voice:
'Come up, gentlemen! Come up Look at
this boy's limbs. Look at his muscles. Not a
flaw about him, except his temper. What am
I offered, cash down, for this likely fellow ?'
"The Little Master said: Please, please hurry,
father You 'll be too late. The man is selling
him now !' The air was blue with state rights
and constitutions. I shook my head and gave a
loud whicker. This seemed to irritate the White-
haired Master, for he ceased to smile and joke.
'Go buy him yourself,' he said, sharply.
"' How much shall I bid, father?'
GRISTLE CONCLUDES HIS STORY. 57
Up to twelve hundred dollars.'
"Before the Little Master could take the bridle
reins in his hand, I wheeled and cantered toward
the crowd that had gathered around the sheriff's
block, where the Son of Ben Ali stood.
The trader was saying: 'How much am I
offered ? How much ? Look at him, gentle-
men! As sound as a dollar!'
"The man who lives across the creek Mr.
Goshawk no Mr. Gossett got on the block
with the Son of Ben Al and put on his specta-
cles and looked at him, and felt of him, and
thumped him on the back, and punched him in
the sides. The Son of Ben Ali never flinched
nor moved a muscle. He kept his eyes fixed on
the Little Master. But, after all, what could the
Little Master do ? He was but a child.
Mr. Gossett came down from the block, took
off his spectacles, and said something to the
trader, who then cried out: -
"' What do you think, good people? I am
asked to give this boy away! My friend here
offers me five hundred dollars for the finest hand
that ever stood on the block in this country.
Five hundred dollars! I am offered five hundred
THE STORY OF AARON.
Seven hundred dollars !' cried the Little
"The trader stopped and looked at the Little
Master, as if he thought the bid was a joke.
"'Who said seven hundred ?' he asked.
"' I did,' cried the Little Master.
"'Seven hundred it is,' said the trader. I
am offered seven hundred only seven hun-
"Mr. Gossett said something to the trader,
who cried out: 'Eight hundred! I am offered
eight hundred! '
Nine hundred !' said the Little Master.
That is right!' cried the trader. In this
country even the children have saddle-bags full
of money. Nine hundred! I am offered nine
Mr. Gossett nodded his head. I was watch-
"'One thousand!' cried the trader. I am
offered one thousand Am I to give this man
away for one thousand dollars ?'
"' Twelve hundred,' said the Little Master in
a voice as clear as a bell.
This seemed to stagger the trader. He
GRISTLE CONCLUDES HIS STORY. 59
looked at the Little Master, and then he looked
at the crowd. He shook his head, and then
some of the people laughed. This made others
laugh, and then the trader, very red in the face,
turned to Mr. Gossett and said: -
"'I don't like to be made a fool of. This
negro is yours, sir, for one thousand dollars.'
"This made the people laugh again, but the
Little Master did n't laugh. He cried to the
crowd around. Get out of the way here!' and
gave me the word to push my way through. I
needed neither whip nor spur for that, and the
people in front of me had as much as they could
do to scuffle and scramble out of my way.
Here, sir, what does this mean ?' cried the
Little Master. I bid twelve hundred dollars,
and you sell him for one thousand dollars. What
do you mean?'
"' Don't bother me, sonny,' the man replied.
'The negro is mine. I sell him for what I
please. This gentleman here,' he pointed to
Mr. Gossett, 'said you were playing one of your
pranks. I 've no time for pranks. If you are
not pranking, plank down your twelve hundred
dollars on that block there.'
THE STORY OF AARON.
"Mr. Gossett had taken from his pocket a
long red book, and was already counting out
the money he had bid. Then and there a thing
happened that has never been understood by
anybody but me. Everybody will tell you that
the Little Master tried to ride over and run
down Mr. Gossett, but it is not so. The Little
Master had no more to do with it than the old
buggy horse who was tied to the rack near by.
I felt the Little Master's hand shake as it rested
on my shoulder, and I heard him sob. I was
so mad that everything grew dark except Mr.
Gossett's face. I plunged at him and tried to
get his head in my mouth, but he saw me coming
and fell backward and rolled out of the way be-
fore I could reach him, nor could I trample him.
His luck saved him.
"And then somebody caught my bridle and
gave it a jerk that brought me to my senses.
Whoever it was led me out of the crowd and
away from the court house. I could feel the
Little Master shaking in the saddle, and I knew
he was crying, but I held my head down, not
knowing what to do or where to go.
Presently the White-haired Master, hearing
GRISTLE CONCLUDES HIS STORY. 61
of the commotion, came running toward us. His
face was as white as a sheet.
"'Why, my son! my darling boy! What is
the trouble?' He placed his arms around the
Little Master. Oh, tell your father! Has any
one dared to hurt so much as your little finger?
There, don't cry any more.'
"Then the Little Master told him what you
have already heard, his voice shaking and his
white hands trembling.
"' Wait !' said the White-haired Master.
"With that he suddenly turned and went
toward the crowd at the court house. I fol-
lowed, though the Little Master never touched a
rein. The people seemed to expect something,
and they made way for the White-haired Master,
and for me, with my nose at his coat-tails.
"' Has the sale been closed?' he asked sharply.
His words snapped out like the popping of a whip.
'Yes, sir; yes, sir -it has been closed,' the
trader replied. He was as humble and polite as
one of his poor negroes.
"' Gossett!' said the White-haired Master--
his voice sounded as I have heard it when he was
talking to a lazy plough hand Gossett! I will
62 THE STORY OF AARON.
give you fifteen hundred dollars for your bar-
Mr. Gossett shook his head and smiled, show-
ing two or three yellow teeth. I was so anxious
to get at him that the Little Master was compelled
to slap me with the slack of the bridle reins and
bid me stand still.
'No,' said Mr. Gossett, 'I 'd ruther have the
nigger than the money.'
"' I'11 give you two thousand dollars,' persisted
the White-haired Master.
Mr. Gossett showed his yellow teeth again.
'Well, sir,' he said, 'if he's worth that to you,
he's worth it to me. The fact is, I want to tame
the nigger. They say he 's as wild as a buck, and
as hard-headed as a mule. I want to tame him.'
"The White-haired Master turned to the
trader. 'Why did you insult my son and me
by refusing to cry his last bid?' He caught the
man by the throat and shook him. The people
gave back and scattered a little at this, for in
those times men were quick to use their knives
and pistols. But the trader had no idea of using
his, though he had both in his belt.
"' Let me explain, sir; let me explain,' he cried,
GRISTLE CONCLUDES HIS STORY.
as the White-haired Master released his hold.
'That gentleman there said the youngster was
only playing me one of his jokes.'
"' What gentleman?' the White-haired Master
asked, as quick as a flash. He wheeled and looked
around, as if searching for some one. The people
were still afraid a fight was about to take place,
and they stood off some distance, but not so
far that they could n't hear every word that was
What gentleman ? the White-haired Master
repeated, facing the trader.
"The trader went to Mr. Gossett and touched
his shoulder so as to make no mistake. 'This is
the gentleman, sir,' he said.
At this the White-haired Master fairly roared
with laughter. 'Pay him another hundred, Gos-
sett pay him another hundred He has earned
it. You'll not find another man in the county
to pay you such a compliment.'
"There must have been some joke or hit in
this, for the people laughed even louder than the
White-haired Master, and Mr. Gossett turned very
red in the face. But if it was a joke it passed
over my head. I saw no fun in it, and neither
64 THE STORY OF AARON.
did the Son of Ben All, who had drawn near and
was fondling the thin white hand of the Little
Master in his."
Here the Gray Pony paused and held his head
up as if he heard a noise somewhere. Then he
cropped off a bunch of peach leaves and chewed
on them, to all appearances relishing their flavor.
This done, he scratched his neck by rubbing it
against the peach-tree, which was old and rough.
The children sat absorbed in the story he was
"Now, right here," the Gray Pony went on,
"two or three things happened so close together
that the quickest eye could hardly separate them.
If I told them as they happened I should have to
tell them all at once, but this can't be done, not
even in your tongue. So I'll have to blunder
along the best I know how. In cantering or gal-
loping I always start off on my right forefoot. A
man taught me that with a whip, and I've never
been able to forget it. That foot comes down
heaviest, and I always fling the right foreshoe
first. It was loose when we started from home
that morning, and when I jumped at Mr. Gossett
I wrenched it nearly off. For a time I didn't
GRISTLE CONCLUDES HIS STORY. 65
mind it, but every time I stamped my foot to
drive the flies away it rang and rattled like a cow
bell. The Son of Ben Ali, hearing it rattle as he
stood by the Little Master, stooped and placed his
hand on my knee. I gave him my foot, and he
drew the shoe off by giving it a slight twist with
When the White-haired Master told Mr. Gos-
sett to pay the trader another hundred dollars he
made a step toward the man to see what he would
do. At that moment Mr. Gossett's son George, a
great rowdy and bully, came rushing through the
crowd. He was red in the face and fairly foam-
ing at the mouth. He came crying, Is pap in a
fuss? Where are you, pap?' He had a pistol
in his hand, and when he saw the White-haired
Master standing so near his pap, as he called him,
he bellowed like a mad bull, and came rushing
up, leveling the pistol as he got near.
"This happened just as the Son of Ben Ali
wrenched the shoe from my foot. Still stooping
he turned his head and saw George Gossett halt
and point his pistol at the White-haired Master.
I felt the body of the Son of Ben Ali sway under
my neck in the most unaccountable manner, and
66 THE STORY OF AARON.
the next moment I saw young Gossett fall as if
he had been struck by lightning. The Son of
Ben Ali crept under my belly, and when I saw
him again he was sitting on the block where he
had stood to be sold, his arms folded, and his
eyes closed as if he were fast asleep.
"No one knew what had happened except the
Son of Ben Ali and myself. All eyes had been
fixed on George Gossett and the White-haired
Master. Some said Gossett had fallen in a fit of
passion and that the blood had burst from his
face. Some said that he had fallen on a horse-
shoe that happened to be lying near. Some said
one thing and some another. George Gossett
always declared, so I've heard, that somebody
jabbed him in the face with a forked stick, but
his best friends said he was drunk at the time and
fell on the horseshoe and hurt himself. But there
were some people who whispered it around that
they saw the blood gush from his face as he fell
"The matter was never explained, and for
many a long day no one but the Son of Ben Ali
and I knew that Gossett had been hit in the face
by one of my shoes. I think the White-haired
GRISTLE CONCLUDES HIS STORY. 67
Master learned the truth by asking the Son of
Ben All about it one night, when they were re-
turning from a long ride together.
"In the midst of the excitement, old Mr. Gos-
sett forgot all about the Son of Ben Ali. But
after the wounded man had been carried to a doc-
tor's shop and physicked, and the doctors had said
that he would recover, though the bruise was a
serious one, Mr. Gossett remembered his purchase,
and came out to the public square in some alarm,
fearing that his newly-bought slave had given
him the slip. But he had not far to seek.
Though the public square was deserted, except
for the horses and mules tied to the racks and a
few people straggling aimlessly about, the Son of
Ben Ali still sat on the sheriff's block, erect and
silent, his arms folded and his feet crossed. The
trader's wagons and his train of slaves had passed
on through the town.
When Mr. Gossett saw the Son of Ben Ali
sitting where he had left him, he nodded hi' head
approvingly. His son had come to town in a
wagon, and in this the young man had to be car-
ried home. Straw was spread in the body of the
wagon, and into this George Gossett was lifted.
68 THE STORY OF AARON.
The old man had come in a buggy and he made
the Son of Ben Ali sit beside him and drive him."
At this point the Gray Pony paused and bit
at a speckled fly that was sitting on his fat side
out of reach of the sweep of his tail.
Is that all? asked Buster John.
"It is enough," replied the Gray Pony. "A
few days afterward, being on the far side of the
plantation, I heard a plough mule telling Mr.
Gossett's buggy horse that the Son of Ben Ali
had gone to the woods."
The Gray Pony, saying this, turned and walked
RAMBLER, THE TRACK DOG, BEGINS HIS STORY.
THE children thought that they had been
treated somewhat impolitely by the Gray Pony,
and so, as soon as they could find an opportunity,
and when they thought he was in a good humor,
they asked him why he walked away so abruptly
and refused to tell them the reason Aaron went
to the woods and what befell him when he got
"As for that," the Gray Pony answered, "I
know nothing of the matter of my own know-
ledge. It is all hearsay with me. The Son of Ben
Ali'can tell you. He knows. He was there."
The children had to be content with this until
they found an opportunity to talk with Aaron.
He was very busy during the day, and sometimes
at night, managing the affairs of the plantation,
but he told them that whenever they saw a light
in his cabin right after supper, he would have
time to talk to them. This happened the next
THE STORY OF AARON.
night. Drusilla saw the light, and told Sweetest
Susan and Buster John it was there, and in a few
minutes they were all in Aaron's cabin.
They found him baking a hoecake and frying
some bacon, and it -smelt so good that Buster
John's mouth began to water, although he had
just eaten his supper.
"Uncle Aaron," he said, "I'll give you two
biscuits and a piece of ham for a piece of your
hoecake and some of your meat."
"Do so do so," answered Aaron.
Bring four biscuits and two pieces of ham,"
cried Sweetest Susan, as Buster John rushed out
of the door. He returned in a little while with
four biscuits, each sandwiched with a piece of
ham. Whereupon Aaron turned over to the chil-
dren all his hoecake and fried bacon, which they
devoured with a relish which belongs to youth
alone.. This done, they gave Aaron to under-
stand what they came for, and he, without any
apology, explanation, or delay, such as a negro
would have indulged in, and likewise without any
humor, told his story. Perhaps there was no room
for humor, but a negro would have found a place
RAMBLER BEGINS HIS STORY. 71
"I can't tell you the story as the field hands
could," said Aaron. They have a word for
everything. What I know is that when I saw the
little white boy crying about me, I was no longer
the same man. Something swelled here" -
touching his throat "and something broke
here" -striking his breast. I had said to my-
self, be as cunning as a snake. My mind was
made up to run away from the man that bought
me, and follow the negro trader and strangle him
in the night. He was a beast. I promised my-
self that he should live no more. The thoughts
made me happy, and then I saw the white child,
small and crippled, crying because his father had
not bought me. I said, what is he to me ? And
then my hands shook and my knees trembled.
Another man crept into my skin and looked out
of my eyes. Not since my mother shook hands
with me and told me good-by when I was a boy had
I seen anybody crying for me. Then, I said, the
man who gets me to-day will get a good bargain.
In my mind there was but one thought -
the child is my Little Master. The Gray Pony
has told you what happened. It was to save the
Little Master's father that I threw the horseshoe.
72 THE STORY OF AARON.
I thought the young man was killed, and I said,
it is a pity! When I rode home with Mr.
Gossett, I kept on saying it is a pity a great
pity; and when my new master asked me if I
would treat him right, I smiled and told him
I would do the best I could. And I did. I
worked for him as hard as I ever worked for a
man. But he never trusted me. He was always
One night, just after sundown, he called me
out of my hut it was not a cabin and said
he wanted me to get in the one-horse wagon and
take a bale of cotton to a neighbor's house and
sell it to him. At once I smelled trouble.
'But will the man buy it?' I asked.
The answer was: 'He may; if he does, the
money is yours. If not, no harm is done.'
"' I am afraid of the patterrollers,' said I.
The answer was: 'I 'll not be far away.'
"I had nothing else to do but go, but I knew
there was trouble at the end of the road. I had
seen negroes lashed for selling their masters'
things, and I had seen white men sent to jail for
trading with negroes between two suns. I found
out long. afterward that Mr. Gossett's neighbor
RAMBLER BEGINS HIS STORY.
had some land that he refused to sell. He was
not very well off, but he held to his land and
made poor crops. If he bought the cotton from
me, Mr. Gossett could buy his land or put him
in jail. But this was all dark to me then.
"I mounted the wagon But wait! Rambler,
the track dog, is here. He knows what hap-
pened. I will call him."
Aaron went to the door of his cabin, put his
right hand to his mouth, and gave a musical
halloo. The dogs were barking in another part
of the lot, but they ceased instantly, as if listen-
ing. Then Watch, the catch dog, barked three
Who is it? "
Again Aaron gave the halloo, and this time it
was answered by the quavering cry of a hound.
Before the children learned the language of the
animals, they would have said a dog was howling
somewhere on the plantation, but now they knew
that Rambler was saying :-
I am c-o-m-i-n-g! "
In a few minutes he came running into the
cabin, his hair damp with the dew. He looked
rather sheepish, as the saying is, and crouched
74 THE STORY OF AARON.
near Aaron, as if he expected to be scolded.
Once upon a time Rambler had been a black-
and-tan, but he was now old, and the gray hairs
had well-nigh obliterated the tan, and were
encroaching on the black. His muzzle was very
gray, and his dew-claws had grown until they
were nearly an inch and a half long. One of his
long ears was split a little at the end, the result
of a skirmish with old Mr. Raccoon. He kept
his eyes averted from Aaron and the children
and seemed to be both humble and uneasy. He
was better satisfied when Aaron told him what
was wanted. Indeed, he became very lively and
went about the room picking up the scraps of
bread the children had dropped on the floor.
Aaron went to his little pine cupboard and got
out a pone of corn bread that he had saved from
the day before. Rambler took the bread in his
mouth and then placed it gently on the floor.
Gently wagging his tail, he looked up in Aaron's
"Son of Ben Ali," he said, "I am getting old,
and, what with gnawing bones and killing cats
and fighting coons, my teeth are bad. This
bread is hard."
RAMBLER BEGINS HIS STORY. 75
Whereupon Aaron took the bread, crushed it
in his hands, dropped it in an old tin platter, and
placed it on the hearth.
"This would taste better, if it had ham gravy
on it," remarked Rambler, after saying Thanky "
with his tail; yes, a good deal better, but I '11
not be choice."
When he had finished the bread, he seated
himself near the chimney corner and licked his
You want to know about that trip the Son of
Ben Ali made to sell the cotton. But I don't
even know how to begin. My tongue and my
tail will be here talking and wagging, and my
mind will be off in the woods hunting minks and
coons and possums. You know how one thing
leads to another. Well, if I get started I '11 get
things upside down, as the rabbit does when he
tries to run down hill."
When I started with the cotton," suggested
Aaron, "you made up your mind to go with
"That's so," said Rambler. "I don't know
why. I knew well enough you were n't going
hunting. It was just a notion that seized me. I
76 THE STORY OF AARON.
trotted along, sometimes in front of the wagon
and sometimes behind it. Before we had gone
very far I happened to be in front of the wagon
when a rabbit ran across the road. I dashed
after it and bumped my head against a fence rail.
It hurt so that I sat down by the roadside and
waited for the pain to go away. The wagon
went by and I concluded to go back home and
go to bed in the shuckpen. I started back, but
before I had gone far, I heard the clinking of
bridle-reins and bits, and presently I saw two
men on horseback.
I stopped until they passed by. And then I
saw that it was Old Grizzly and the overseer."
"Old Grizzly!" cried Buster John. "Who
was he ?"
That was the name the negroes had for Mr.
Gossett," Aaron explained.
Old Grizzly and the overseer," Rambler con-
tinued, paying no attention to the interruption.
" They were riding along after the wagon, but at
some distance behind it. I says to myself, well,
well something is up. So, instead of going
back home, I turned around and trotted along
the road till I passed Old Grizzly and the over-
^- ,.' ; "^ '.
A- R ABBIT. .
-r. ..g,_ ,_. .
,- _-.-_, _._' ,/ : ,- ,L ,
A RABBIT DASHED ACROSS THE ROAD
RAMBLER BEGINS HIS STORY. 77
seer, and caught up with the wagon. I said to
the Son of Ben Ali:-
"' Get down and fix one of your wagon
wheels, and see who comes behind you.'
"This he did, but when Old Grizzly and the
overseer heard the Son of Ben Al knocking on
one of the wagon wheels with a rock, they
stopped, and came no farther until after he drove
on again. Then I knew, and the Son of Ben Ali
knew, that Old Grizzly and the overseer were
coming to see that orders were obeyed.
The house to which the Son of Ben Al was
carrying the cotton was not far. It was in the
midst of a big grove of oak-trees. The trees
were too big for the house, or the house was not
fine enough for the trees, for they made every-
thing so dark that, from the road, those who
cannot see in the night would never know that a
house was there.
The Son of Ben Ali drove the wagon under
the trees, waited until he could hear the clinking
of bridles and bits, as Old Grizzly and the over-
seer rode up, and then he slipped around the
house and went to the back door. I waited until
I saw Old Grizzly and the overseer stop under
one of the big oaks, and then I followed.
78 THE STORY OF AARON.
"The Son of Ben Ali knocked at the back
door, which was soon opened by a negro woman,
who asked him what he wanted. He told her,
and then the man came to the door.
'What do you want?' he asked.
"' I want to see you,' said the Son of Ben Ali.
'I want to sell you a bale of cotton.'
"'Who is your master?' the man asked.
"'Mr. Gossett,' the Son of Ben Ali answered.
"' What is your name?'
"'They call me Aaron.'
"'You are the boy he bought not long ago.'
"' Yes, sir.'
"'Wait a moment.' The man went into
another room, and when he appeared again he
had a shotgun in his hands. My hide is not
very thick, and so I went under the steps. The
man seemed to be mad. The Son of Ben Ali
had some such idea, for he asked: -
What are you going to do with the gun,
"' Get the truth out of you.'
"'A dead man will neither lie nor tell the
truth,' said the Son of Ben Ali. His voice
sounded as if he might be laughing, but I was
under the steps and could n't see.
RAMBLER BEGINS HIS STORY. 79
"' Is the cotton yours ?' the man asked.
"'It is Mr. Gossett's.'
"' Why do you bring it here to-night?'
"' I had my orders.'
'Oh, if I had the old scoundrel here!' cried
the man in a rage.
"'If you talk loud, he '11 hear you," said
"The man understood at once. 'Wait!' he
whispered. Then he slipped around the corner
of the house. Suddenly I heard the gun go off,
and it scared me so I could n't help but cry out.
Some one else yelled, too some one under the
oaks in front, and then I heard the snorting and
stamping of horses. The Son of Ben Ali stole
off in the dark before the man returned, and I
followed him, not knowing what had happened
or what might happen.
"But I soon found out, and it was not as bad
as it might have been. The shot the man fired
had shattered one of the overseer's arms. He
was not hurt so badly but he could ride his
horse, and he and Old Grizzly hurried home as
fast as they could.
"After a while the Son of Ben Ali followed,
80 THE STORY OF AARON.
but instead of riding in the wagon, he walked by
the side of it, and I went ahead to see that the
way was clear. The Son of Ben Ali knew that
there was trouble in store for him, and he did n't
want Old Grizzly to get hold of him."
"I don't see why," said Buster John.
Why, Old Grizzly did n't know but the Son
of Ben Ali had gone to the man's house and
told him about the whole business. There was
nobody else to tell the man, and if he knew that
Old Grizzly and the overseer were waiting in the
grove, of course he must have got the news from
the Son of Ben Ali. But it happened that the
overseer was so badly scared about his wounded
arm that Old Grizzly had to go home and sit up
with him, and this left the way clear for the Son
of Ben Ali to take the mule and wagon and cot-
ton where they belonged. He drove the wagon
under the gin-shelter, unharnessed the mule and
fed it, and then went to his hut and gathered up
his belongings and took to the woods."
"Then he was a runaway," said Sweetest
Susan. She looked at Aaron with new interest.
She had often heard of runaways, but she had
never seen one.
RAMBLER BEGINS HIS STORY.
Yes, he was a runaway," Rambler answered,
"and it was a long time before he was anything
else. I did n't bother my head about the Son
of Ben Ali when he went to the woods, for I
knew he was just as much at home there as I
was. I stayed behind to see what would happen,
and by staying I soon found out that I had made
some trouble for myself.
"It was very curious, too, when you come to
think about it. Old Grizzly behaved with so
much meanness toward his negroes, half feeding
and clothing them, and working them long after
dark, that some of them were in the woods most
of the time. Now, Old Grizzly's son, George,
was very fond of fox-hunting, and some of his
friends sent me to him when I was quite young.
My whole family have a great name for running
foxes, so it is said, and Old Grizzly's George
wanted me to hunt foxes for him along with the
other dogs. I did n't need any teaching in that
business, for the minute I smelled a fox, no
matter at what hour of the day or night, I felt
bound to hunt him up and run him down. I
had that feeling as far back as I can remember.
One day, when I was very young, I was
THE STORY OF AARON.
playing at hunting with the little negroes just
to pass the time away. One would hold me, and
another would go far out of sight and hide.
I had to use my nose to find him, and I soon
came to enjoy the fun. Once Old Grizzly him-
self saw us playing, and he seemed to be very
much pleased with the way I followed the trail
of the little negroes. He took part in it him-
self, holding me while one of the children ran
through the pasture and down the branch, and
around by the gin-screw back to the house.
He did this many times, and seemed to be very
much pleased with me. After a while, when I
grew older, he made some of the large negroes
run, but I never failed to find and bay them. I
soon found out why Old Grizzly was so well
pleased. One morning, one of the negroes was
missing. He had run away some time during
the night, having been promised a strapping for
the next morning. Old Grizzly called me, and
we went to the negro's hut, where I was made
to smell of his blanket and such of his belong-
ings as he had failed to take with him. I knew
at once what Old Grizzly wanted me to do, and
I was more than willing to do it, for the negro
RAMBLER BEGINS HIS STORY. 83
happened to be one that had given me more
kicks than scraps. I settled down to business
at once. I ran for the hut, and circled around it.
The scent was as plain to me as a track in the
mud is to you. I followed it with no trouble at
all, and Old Grizzly, having his horse ready,
went along with me, keeping as close to me as
he could. In an hour we had overtaken the
negro, and Old Grizzly carried him back, mak-
ing him walk before the horse all the way home.
"After that I had to look out for myself.
The negroes treated me worse than ever. They
were ready to kill me at any time, and I had to
keep out of their way. This made it worse for
the negroes. None of them could escape Old
Grizzly by going to the woods. I had help, too,
for some of the other hounds, seeing me made
much of by the master and the overseer, joined
me in my expeditions, and in a short while Old
Grizzly had a pack of 'nigger dogs,' as he called
us, that seemed to fill him with pride.
"This was going on when the Son of Ben Ali
came when he came and touched me and gave
me the sign. And then I knew more than I
had known before. After he came he was the