MR. COON INSISTED ON GADDING ABOUT. (Page 46)
Aaron in the Wildwoods
JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS
AUTHOR OF UNCLE REMUS," ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY OLIVER HERFORD
LONDON AND NEW YORK
HARPER AND BROTHERS
45 ALBEMARLE STREET, W.
[All rights reserved
The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A.
Printed by H. O. Houghton and Company.
I. THE LITTLE MASTER. 23
II. THE SECRETS OF THE SWAMP 38
III. WHAT CHUNKY RILEY SAW AND HEARD. 56
IV. BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN 74
V. THE HUNT BEGINS 92
VI. THE HUNT ENDS 111
VII. AARON SEES THE SIGNAL 129
VIII. THE HAPPENINGS OF A NIGHT 148
IX. THE UPSETTING OF MR. GOSSETT 166
X. CHUNKY RILEY SEES A QUEER SIGHT 185
XI. THE PROBLEM THAT TIMOLEON PRESENTED 202
XII. WHAT THE PATROLLERS SAW AND HEARD 219
XIII. THE APPARITION THE FOX HUNTERS SAW 237
XIV. THE LITTLE MASTER SAYS GOOD NIGHT 253
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
MR. COON INSISTED ON GADDING ABOUT
IT WAS A SWAMP .
THAT'S RANDALL'S SONG
MR. RED FOX MEETS MIR. GRAY FOX
A-STRADDLE OF THE GRUNTER'S BACK
THE HORSES WERE RIGHT AT HIS HEELS
THE GOBLIN PAIN. .
THE SPRING OF COOL REFRESHING WATER
BRINDLE AND AARON .
IN THE SWAMP .
RAMBLER'S FIGHT WITH THE MOCCASIN
HE STOOD AS STILL AS A STATUE
IT WAS THE WIIITE-HAIRED MASTER .
THEY TORE HIM ALL TO FLINDERS .
THE EXCITED HORSE PLUNGED ALONG.
HE EDGED AWAY AS FAR AS HE COULD .
AARON AND LITTLE CROTCHET
BEHIND A TREE STOOD GEORGE GOSSETT
THE BLACK STALLION .
IT WAS FINE FOR MIR. FOX
THE PIIANTOM HORSEMAN .
AARON AND TIMOLEON .
BIG SAL HOLDS THE LITTLE MASTER
THE DEATH OF THE LITTLE MASTER
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
ONCE upon a time there lived on a large plan-
tation in Middle Georgia a boy who was known
as Little Crotchet. It was a very queer name,
to be sure, but it seemed to fit the lad to a T.
When he was a wee bit of a chap he fell seri-
ously ill, and when, many weeks afterwards, the
doctors said the worst was over, it was found that
he had lost the use of his legs, and that he would
never be able to run about and play as other
children do. When he was told about this he
laughed, and said he had known all along that
he would never be able to run about on his feet
again ; but he had plans of his own, and he told
his father that he wanted a pair of crutches made.
But you can't use them, my son," said his
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
Anyhow, I can try," insisted the lad.
The doctors were told of his desire, and these
wise men put their heads together.
It is a crotchet," they declared, but it will
be no harm for him to try."
It is a little crotchet," said his mother, and
he shall have the crutches."
Thus it came about that the lad got both his
name and his crutches, for his father insisted on
calling him Little Crotchet after that, and he also
insisted on sending all the way to Philadelphia
for the crutches. They seemed to be a long time
in coming, for in those days they had to be
brought to Charleston in a sailing vessel, and
then sent by way of Augusta in a stage-coach;
but when they came they were very welcome, for
Little Crotchet had been inquiring for them
every day in the week, and Sunday too. And
yet when they came, strange to say, he seemed
to have lost his interest in them. His mother
brought them in joyously, but there was not even
a glad smile on the lad's face. He looked at
them gravely, weighed them in his hands, laid
them across the foot of the bed, and then turned
his head on his pillow, as if he wanted to go
to sleep. His mother was surprised, and not a
little hurt, as mothers will be when they do not
understand their children ; but she respected his
wishes, darkened the room, kissed her boy, and
closed the door gently.
When everything was still, Little Crotchet sat
up in bed, seized his crutches, and proceeded to
try them. He did this every day for a week, and
at the end of that time surprised everybody in
the house, and on the place as well, by marching
out on his crutches, and going from room to
room without so much as touching his feet to the
floor. It seemed to be a most wonderful feat to
perform, and so it was; but Providence, in de-
priving the lad of the use of his legs, had corre-
spondingly strengthened the muscles of his chest
and arms, so that within a month he could use
his crutches almost as nimbly and quite as safely
as other boys use their feet. He could go up-
stairs and downstairs and walk about the place
with as much ease, apparently, as those not af-
flicted, and it was not strange that the negroes
regarded the performance with wonder akin to
awe, declaring among themselves that their young
master was upheld and supported by "de sper-
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
And indeed it was a queer sight to see the
frail lad going boldly about on crutches, his feet
not touching the ground. The sight seemed to
make the pet name of Little Crotchet more ap-
propriate than ever. So his name stuck to him,
even after he got his Gray Pony, and became a
familiar figure in town and in country, as he
went galloping about, his crutches strapped to
the saddle, and dangling as gayly as the sword
of some fine general. Thus it came to pass that
no one was surprised when Little Crotchet went
cantering along, his Gray Pony snorting fiercely,
and seeming never to tire. Early or late, when-
ever the neighbors heard the short, sharp snort of
the Gray Pony and the rattling of the crutches,
they would turn to one another and say, Little
Crotchet and that would be explanation
enough. There seemed to be some sort of un-
derstanding between him and his Gray Pony.
Anybody could ride the Gray Pony in the pas-
ture or in the grove around the house, but when
it came to going out "by the big gate, that was
another matter. He could neither be led nor
driven beyond that boundary by any one except
Little Crotchet. It was the same when it came
to crossing water. The Gray Pony would not
cross over the smallest running brook for any
one but Little Crotchet; but with the lad on his
back he would plunge into the deepest stream,
and, if need be, swim across it. All this deep-
ened and confirmed in the minds of the negroes
the idea that Little Crotchet was upheld and pro-
tected by de sperits." They had heard him
talking to the Gray Pony, and they had heard
the Gray Pony whinny in reply. They had seen
the Gray Pony with their little master on his
back go gladly out at the big gate and rush with
a snort through the plantation creek, a bold
and at times a dangerous stream. Seeing these
things, and knowing the temper of the pony, they
had no trouble in coming to the conclusion that
something supernatural was behind it all.
Thus it happened that Little Crotchet and his
Gray Pony were pretty well known through all
the country-side, for it seemed that he was never
tired of riding, and that the pony was never tired
of going. What was the rider's errand? No-
body knew. Why should he go skimming along
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
the red road at day dawn ? And why should he
come whirling back at dusk,- a red cloud of
dust rising beneath the Gray Pony's feet ? No-
body could tell.
This was almost as much of a puzzle to some
of the whites as it was to the negroes; but this
mystery, if it could be called such, was soon
eclipsed by a phenomenon that worried some of
the wisest dwellers in that region. This pheno-
menon, apparently very simple, began to mani-
fest itself in early fall, and continued all through
that season and during the winter and on through
the spring, until warm weather set in. It was in
the shape of a thin column of blue smoke that
could be seen on any clear morning or late after-
noon rising from the centre of Spivey's Cane-
brake. This place was called a canebrake be-
cause a thick, almost impenetrable, growth of
canes fringed the edge of a mile-wide basin lying
between the bluffs of the Oconee River and the
uplands beyond. Instead of being a canebrake
it was a vast swamp, the site of cool but appar-
ently stagnant ponds and of treacherous quag-
mires, in which cows, and even horses, had been
known to disappear and perish. The cowitch
grew there, and the yellow plumes of the poison-
oak vine glittered like small torches. There, too,
the thunderwood tree exuded its poisonous milk,
and long serpent like vines wound themselves
around and through the trees, and helped to shut
out the sunlight. It was a swamp, and a very
dismal one. The night birds gathered there to
sleep during the day, and all sorts of creatures
that shunned the sunlight or hated man found
a refuge there. If the negroes had made paths
through its recesses to enable them to avoid the
patrol, nobody knew it but themselves.
Why, then, should a thin but steady stream of
blue smoke be constantly rising upwards from the
centre of Spivey's Canebrake ? It was a mystery
to those who first discovered it, and it soon grew
to be a neighborhood mystery. During the
summer the smoke could not be seen, but in the
fall and winter its small thin volume went curl-
ing upward continually. Little Crotchet often
watched it from the brow of Turner's Hill, the
highest part of the uplands. Early in the morn-
ing or late in the afternoon the vapor would rise
from the Oconee; but the vapor was white and
heavy, and was blown about by the wind, while
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
the smoke in the swamp was blue and thin, and
rose straight in the air above the tops of the trees
in spite of the wayward winds.
Once when Little Crotchet was sitting on his
pony watching the blue smoke rise from the
swamp he saw two of the neighbor farmers com-
ing along the highway. They stopped and
shook hands with the lad, and then turned to
watch the thin stream of blue smoke. The
morning was clear and still, and the smoke rose
straight in the air, until it seemed to mingle with
the upper blue., The two farmers were father
and son, Jonathan Gadsby and his son Ben.
They were both very well acquainted with Little
Crotchet, as, indeed, everybody in the county
was, and he was so bright and queer that they
stood somewhat in awe of him.
I reckin if I had a pony that was n't afeard
of nothing' I 'd go right straight and find out
where that fire is, and what it is," remarked Ben
This stirred his father's ire apparently. "Why,
Benjamin Why, what on the face of the earth
do you mean? Ride into that swamp! Why,
you must have lost what little sense you had
IT WAS A SWAMP
when you was born! I remember, jest as well
as if it was day before yesterday, when Uncle
Jimmy Cosby's red steer got in that swamp, and
we could n't git him out. Git him out, did I
say? We could n't even git nigh him. We
could hear him beller, but we never got where
we could see ha'r nor hide of him. If I was
thirty year younger I 'd take my foot in my
hand and wade in there and see where the smoke
Little Crotchet laughed. If I had two good
legs," said he, "I'd soon see what the trouble
This awoke Ben Gadsby's ambition. I be-
lieve I 'I go in there and see where the fire is."
"Fire! exclaimed old Mr. Gadsby, with some
irritation. Who said anything about fire ?
What living and moving creetur could build a
fire in that thicket? I 'd like mighty well to lay
my eyes on him."
Well," said Ben Gadsby, "where you see
smoke there's obliged to be fire. I've heard
you say that yourself."
Me ?" exclaimed Mr. Jonathan Gadsby, with
a show of alarm in the midst of his indignation.
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
" Did I say that ? Well, it was when I was n't so
much as thinking that my two eyes were my own.
What about foxfire ? Suppose that some quag-
mire or other in that there swamp has gone and
got up a ruction on its own hook? Smoke with-
out fire? Why, I've seed it many a time. And
maybe that smoke comes from an eruption in the
ground. What then? Who's going to know
where the fire is? "
Little Crotchet laughed, but Ben Gadsby put
on a very bold front. "Well," said he, "I can
find bee-trees, and I'11 find where that fire is."
"Well, sir," remarked Mr. Jonathan Gadsby,
looking at his son with an air of pride, "find out
where the smoke comes from, and we'll not expect
you to see the fire."
"I wish I could go with you," said Little
"I don't need any company," replied Ben
Gadsby. "I 've done made up my mind, and I 'm
a-going to show the folks around here that where
there's so much smoke there's obliged to be some
The young man, knowing that he had some
warm work before him, pulled off his coat, and
tied the sleeves over his shoulder, sash fashion.
Then he waved his hand to his father and to
Little Crotchet, and went rapidly down the hill.
He had undertaken the adventure in a spirit of
bravado. He knew that a number of the neigh-
bors had tried to solve the mystery of the smoke
in the swamp and had failed. He thought, too,
that he would fail; and yet he was urged on by
the belief that if he should happen to succeed, all
the boys and all the girls in the neighborhood
would regard him as a wonderful young man.
He had the same ambition that animated the
knight of old, but on a smaller scale.
Now it chanced that Little Crotchet himself
was on his way to the smoke in the swamp. He
had been watching it, and wondering whether he
should go to it by the path he knew, or whether
he should go by the road that Aaron, the run-
away, had told him of. Ben Gadsby interfered
with his plans somewhat; for quite by accident,
young Gadsby as he went down the hill struck
into the path that Little Crotchet knew. There
was a chance to gallop along the brow of the hill,
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
turn to the left, plunge through a shallow lagoon,
and strike into the path ahead of Gadsby, and
this chance Little Crotchet took. He waved his
hand to Mr. Jonathan Gadsby, gave the Gray
Pony the rein, and went galloping through the
underbrush, his crutches rattling, and the rings
of the bridle -bit jingling. To Mr. Jonathan
Gadsby it seemed that the lad was riding reck-
lessly, and he groaned and shook his head as he
turned and went on his way.
But Little Crotchet rode on. Turning sharply
to the left as soon as he got out of sight, he went
plunging through the lagoon, and was soon going
along the blind path a quarter of a mile ahead of
Ben Gadsby. This is why young Gadsby was so
much disturbed that he lost his way. He was
bold enough when he started out, but by the time
he had descended the hill and struck into what
he thought was a cattle-path his courage began to
fail him. The tall canes seemed to bend above
him in a threatening manner. The silence op-
pressed him. Everything was so still that the
echo of his own movements as he brushed along
the narrow path seemed to develop into ominous
whispers, as if all the goblins he had ever heard
of had congregated in front of him to bar his
The silence, with its strange echoes, was bad
enough, but when he heard the snorting of Little
Crotchet's Gray Pony as it plunged through the
lagoon, the rattle of the crutches and the jingling
of the bridle-bit, he fell into a panic. What
great beast could it be that went helter-skelter
through this dark and silent swamp, swimming
through the water and tearing through the quag-
mires ? And yet, when Ben Gadsby would have
turned back, the rank undergrowth and the trail-
ing vines had quite obscured the track. The fear
that impelled him to retrace his steps was equally
powerful in impelling him to go forward. And
this seemed the easiest plan. He felt that it
would be just as safe to go on, having once made
the venture, as to turn back. He had a presenti-
ment that he would never find his way out any-
how, and the panic he was in nerved him to the
point of desperation.
So on he went, not always trying to follow the
path, but plunging forward aimlessly. In half
an hour he was calmer, and pretty soon he found
the ground firm under his feet. His instincts as
14 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
a bee-hunter came back to him. He had started
in from the east side, and he paused to take his
bearings. But it was hard to see the sun, and in
the recesses of the swamp the mosses grew on all
sides of the trees. And yet there was a difference,
which Ben Gadsby did not fail to discover and
take account of. They grew thicker and larger
on the north side, and remembering this, he went
forward with more confidence.
He found that the middle of the swamp was
comparatively dry. Huge poplar-trees stood
ranged about, the largest he had ever seen. In
the midst of a group of trees he found one that
was hollow, and in this hollow he found the
smouldering embers of a fire. But for the strange
silence that surrounded him he would have given
a whoop of triumph; but he restrained himself.
Bee-hunter that he was, he took his coat from his
shoulders and tied it around a small slim sapling
standing near the big poplar where he had found
the fire. It was his way when he found a bee-
tree. It was a sort of guide. In returning he
would take the general direction, and then hunt
about until he found his coat; and it was much
easier to find a tree tagged with a coat than it
was to find one not similarly marked.
Thus, instead of whooping triumphantly, Ben
Gadsby simply tied his coat about the nearest
sapling, nodding his head significantly as he did
so. He had unearthed the secret and unraveled
the mystery, and now he would go and call in
such of the neighbors as were near at hand and
show them what a simple thing the great mystery
was. He knew that he had found the hiding-
place of Aaron, the runaway. So he fixed his
"landmark," and started out of the swamp with
a lighter heart than he had when he came in.
To make sure of his latitude and longitude, he
turned in his tracks when he had gone a little
distance and looked for the tree on which he had
tied his coat. But it was not to be seen. He re-
traced his steps, trying to find his coat. Looking
about him cautiously, he saw the garment after a
while, but it was in an entirely different direction
from what he supposed it would be. It was tied
to a sapling, and the sapling was near a big pop-
lar. To satisfy himself, he returned to make a
closer examination. Sure enough, there was the
coat, but the poplar close by was not a hollow
poplar, nor was it as large as the tree in which
Ben Gadsby had found the smouldering embers
of a fire.
16 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
He sat on the trunk of a fallen tree and
scratched his head, and discussed the matter in
his mind the best he could. Finally he concluded
that it would be a very easy matter, after he
found his coat again, to find the hollow poplar.
So he started home again. But he had not gone
far when he turned around to take another view
of his coat.
It had disappeared. Ben Gadsby looked care-
fully around, and then a feeling of terror crept
over his whole body a feeling that nearly para-
lyzed his limbs. He tried to overcome this feel-
ing, and did so to a certain degree. He plucked
up sufficient courage to return and try to find his
coat; but the task was indeed bewildering. He
thought he had never seen so many large poplars
with small slim saplings standing near them, and
then he began to wander around almost aimlessly.
Suddenly he heard a scream that almost para-
lyzed him a scream that was followed by the
sound of a struggle going on in the thick under-
growth close at hand. He could see the muddy
water splash above the bushes, and he could hear
fierce growlings and gruntings. Before he could
make up his mind what to do, a gigantic mulatto,
with torn clothes and staring eyes, rushed out of
the swamp and came rushing by, closely pursued
by a big white boar with open mouth and fierce
cries. The white boar was right at the mulatto's
heels, and his yellow tusks gleamed viciously as
he ran with open mouth. Pursuer and pursued
disappeared in the bushes with a splash and a
crash, and then all was as still as before. In fact,
the silence seemed profounder for this uncanny
and appalling disturbance. It was so unnatural
that half a minute after it happened Ben Gadsby
was not certain whether it had occurred at all.
He was a pretty bold youth, having been used to
the woods and fields all his life, but he had now
beheld a spectacle so out of the ordinary, and of
so startling a character, that he made haste to get
out of the swamp as fast as his legs, weakened by
fear, would carry him.
More than once, as he made his way out of the
swamp, he paused to listen; and it seemed that
each time he paused an owl, or some other bird
of noiseless wing, made a sudden swoop at his
head. Beyond the exclamation he made when
18 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
this happened the silence was unbroken. This
experience was unusual enough to hasten his steps,
even if he had had no other motive for haste.
When nearly out of the swamp, he came upon
a large poplar, by the side of which a small slim
sapling was growing. Tied around this sapling
was his coat, which he thought he had left in
the middle of the swamp. The sight almost took
his breath away.
He examined the coat carefully, and found that
the sleeves were tied around the tree just as he
had tied them. He felt in the pockets. Every-
thing was just as he had left it. He examined
the poplar; it was hollow, and in the hollow was
a pile of ashes.
"Well! exclaimed Ben Gadsby. "I 'm the
biggest fool that ever walked the earth. If I
ain't been asleep and dreamed all this, I'm crazy;
and if I've been asleep, I'm a fool."
His experience had been so queer and so con-
fusing that he promised himself he'd never tell
it where any of the older people could hear it, for
he knew that they would not only treat his tale
with scorn and contempt, but would make him
the butt of ridicule among the younger folks. I
know exactly what they 'd say," he remarked to
himself. "They 'd declare that a skeer'd hog run
across my path, and that I was skeer'der than the
So Ben Gadsby took his coat from the sapling,
and went trudging along his way toward the big
road. When he reached that point he turned
and looked toward the swamp. Much to his sur-
prise, the stream of blue smoke was still flowing
upward. He rubbed his eyes and looked again,
but there was the smoke. His surprise was still
greater when he saw Little Crotchet and the Gray
Pony come ambling up the hill in the path he
had just come over.
What did you find? asked Little Crotchet,
as he reined in the Gray Pony.
"Nothing nothing at all," replied Ben
Gadsby, determined not to commit himself.
"Nothing?" cried Little Crotchet. "Well,
you ought to have been with me! Why, I saw
sights! The birds flew in my face, and when I
got in the middle of the swamp a big white hog
came rushing out, and if this Gray Pony had n't
been the nimblest of his kind, you'd never have
seen me any more."
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
"Is that so ? asked Ben Gadsby, in a dazed
way. Well, I declare 'T was all quiet with me.
I just went in and come out again, and that's all
there is to it."
I wish I'd been with you," said Little
Crotchet, with a curious laugh. Good-by "
With that he wheeled the Gray Pony and rode
off home. Ben Gadsby watched Little Crotchet
out of sight, and then, with a gesture of despair,
surprise, or indignation, flung his coat on the
ground, crying, Well, by jing !"
That night there was so much laughter in the
top story of the Abercrombie house that the Colo-
nel himself came to the foot of the stairs and called
out to know what the matter was.
"It's nobody but me," replied Little Crotchet.
"I was just laughing."
Colonel Abercrombie paused, as if waiting for
some further explanation, but hearing none, said,
" Good-night, my son, and God bless you! "
Good-night, father dear," exclaimed the lad,
flinging a kiss at the shadow his father's candle
flung on the wall. Then he turned again into
his own room, where Aaron the Arab (son of Ben
All) sat leaning against the wall, as silent and as
impassive as a block of tawny marble.
Little Crotchet lay back in his bed, and the two
were silent for a time. Finally Aaron said: -
The White Grunter carried his play too far.
He nipped a piece from my leg."
"I never saw anything like it," remarked Little
Crotchet. I thought the White Pig was angry.
You did that to frighten Ben Gadsby."
Yes, Little Master," responded Aaron, and
I'm thinking the young man will never hunt for
the smoke in the swamp any more."
Little Crotchet laughed again, as he remem-
bered how Ben Gadsby looked as Aaron and the
White Pig went careening across the dry place in
the swamp. There was a silence again, and then
Aaron said he must be going.
And when are you going home to your mas-
ter ?" Little Crotchet asked.
"Never!" replied Aaron the runaway, with
emphasis. "Never! He is no master of mine.
He is a bad man."
Then he undressed Little Crotchet, tucked the
cover about him, for the nights were growing
22 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
chill, whispered good-night, and slipped from
the window, letting down the sash gently as he
went out. If any one had been watching, he
would have seen the tall Arab steal along the
roof until he came to the limb of an oak that
touched the eaves. Along this he went nimbly,
glided down the trunk to the ground, and disap-
peared in the darkness.
THE LITTLE MASTER.
IF you imagine that the book called "The
Story of Aaron (so-named), the Son of Ben Al"
tells all the adventures of the Arab while he was
a fugitive in the wildwoods, you are very much
mistaken. If you will go back to that book you
will see that Timoleon the black stallion, Grunter
the white pig, Gristle the gray pony, and Rambler
the track dog, told only what they were asked to
tell. And they were not anxious to tell even
that. They would much rather have been left.
alone. What they did tell they told without
any flourishes whatever, for they wanted to get
through and be done with it. Story-telling was
not in their line, and they knew it very well; so
they said what they had to say and that was the
end of it so far as they were concerned: setting
a worthy example to men and women, and to
24 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
It is natural, therefore, that a man such as
Aaron was, full of courage and valuable to the
man who had bought him from the speculator,
should have many adventures that the animals
knew nothing of, or, if they knew, had no occa-
sion to relate. In the book you will find that
Buster John and Sweetest Susan asked only about
such things as they heard of incidentally. But
some of the most interesting things were never
mentioned by Aaron at all; consequently the
children never asked about them.
Little Crotchet, it will be remembered, who
knew more about the matter than anybody except
Aaron, was dead, and so there was nobody to
give the children any hint or cue as to the ques-
tions they were to ask. You will say they had
Aaron close at hand. That is true, but Aaron
was busy, and besides that he was not fond of
talking, especially about himself.
And yet, the most of the adventures Aaron
had in the wildwoods were no secret. They were
well known to the people in the neighborhood,
and for miles around. In fact, they were made
the subject of a great deal of talk in Little
Crotchet's day, and many men (and women too)
THE LITTLE MASTER.
who were old enough to be wise shook their
heads over some of the events and declared that
they had never heard of anything more myste-
rious. And it so happened that this idea of mys-
tery deepened and grew until it made a very
romantic figure of Aaron, and was a great help
to him, not only when he was a fugitive in the
wildwoods, but afterwards when he "settled
down," as the saying is, and turned his attention
to looking after affairs on the Abercrombie plan-
All this happened before Buster John and
Sweetest Susan were born, while their mother was
a girl in her teens. When Little Crotchet was
alive things on the Abercrombie plantation were
very different from what they were before or
afterward. It is true the lad was a cripple and
had to go on crutches, except when he was riding
Gristle, the Gray Pony. But he was very active
and nimble, and very restless, too, for he was
here, there, and everywhere. More than that, he
was always in a good humor, always cheerful, and
most of the time. laughing at his own thoughts
or at something he had heard. For it was well
understood on that plantation, and, indeed, wher-
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
ever Little Crotchet was familiarly known, that,
as he was something of an invalid, and such a
little bit of a fellow to boot, nothing unpleasant
was to come to his ears. If he found out about
trouble anywhere he was to find it out for him-
self, and without help from anybody else.
But although Little Crotchet was small and
crippled, he had a very wise head on his shoulders.
One of the first things he found out was that
everybody was in a conspiracy to prevent un-
pleasant things from coming to his ears, and the
idea that he was to be humbugged in this way
made him laugh, it was so funny. He said to him-
self that if he could have troubles while every-
body was trying to help him along and make
life pleasant for-him, surely other people who had
nobody to look out for them must have much
larger troubles. And he found it to be true,
although he never said much about it.
The truth is that while people thought they
were humbugging Little Crotchet, he was hum-
bugging everybody except a few who knew what
a shrewd little chap he was. These few had found
out that Little Crotchet knew a great deal more
about the troubles that visit the unfortunate in
THE LITTLE MASTER.
this world than anybody knew about his troubles
- and he had many.
It was very peculiar. He would go galloping
about the plantation on the Gray Pony, and no
matter where he stopped there was always a negro
ready to let down the bars or the fence. How
could this be? Why, it was the simplest matter
in the world. It made no difference where the
field hands were working, nor what they were
doing, they were always watching for their Little
Master, as they called him. They were sure to
know when he was coming -sure to see him;
and no matter how high the fence was, down it
would come whenever the Gray Pony was brought
to a standstill.
It was a sight to see the hoe hands or the plow
hands when their Little Master went riding among
them. It was hats off and "howdy, honey," with
all, and that was something the White-Haired
Master never saw unless he was riding with Little
Crotchet, which sometimes happened. Once the
White Haired Master said to Little Crotchet,
"They all love you because you are good, my
son." But Little Crotchet was quick to reply:-
Oh, no, father; it is n't that. It's because
I am fond of them "
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
Now, was n't he wise for his age? He had
stumbled upon the great secret that makes all the
happiness there is in this world. The negroes
loved him because he was fond of them. He used
to sit on the Gray Pony and watch the hands
hoeing and plowing; and although they did their
best when he was around, he never failed to find
out the tired ones and send them on little errands
that would rest them. To one it was Get me a
keen switch." To another, See if you can find
me any flowers."
One of the worst negroes on the plantation
was Big Sal, a mulatto woman. She had a tongue
and a temper that nothing could conquer. Once
Little Crotchet, sitting on the Gray Pony, saw
her hoeing away with a rag tied around her fore-
head under her head handkerchief. So he called
her out of the gang, and she came with no very
good grace, and only then because some of the
other negroes shamed her into it. No doubt
Little Crotchet heard her disputing with them,
but he paid no attention to it. When Big Sal
came up, he simply said: -
"Help me off the horse. I have a headache
sometimes, and I feel it coming on now. I want
THE LITTLE MASTER.
you to sit here and rub my head for me if you
are not too tired."
What wid ? cried big Sal. My ban's too
"You get the headache out, and I'11 get the
dirt off," said Little Crotchet, laughing.
Big Sal laughed too, cleaned her hands the
best she could, and rubbed the youngster's head
for him, while the Gray Pony nibbled the crab-
grass growing near. But presently, when Little
Crotchet opened his eyes, he found that Big Sal
was crying. She was making no fuss about it,
but as she sat with the child's head in her lap the
tears were streaming down her face like water.
What are you crying about ? Little Crotchet
"God A'mighty knows, honey. I'm des
a-cryin', an' ef de angels fum heav'm wuz ter
come down an' ax me, I couldn't tell um no mo'
This was true enough. The lonely heart had
been touched without knowing why. But Little
I reckon it's because you had the headache,"
30 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
I speck so," answered Big Sal. "It looked
like my head'd bust when you hollered at me,
but de pain all done gone now."
"I'm glad," replied Little Crotchet. "I hope
my head will quit aching presently. Sometimes
it aches all night long."
"Well, suh! exclaimed Big Sal. It was all
she could say.
Finally, when she had lifted Little Crotchet to
his saddle (which was easy enough to do, he was
so small and frail) and returned, Uncle Turin,
foreman of the hoe hands, remarked: -
You'll be feeling' mighty biggity now, I
Who? Me? cried Big Sal. God knows,
I feel so little an' mean I could t'ar my ha'r out
by de han'ful."
Uncle Turin, simple and kindly old soul, never
knew then nor later what Big Sal meant, but ever
afterwards, whenever the woman had one of her
tantrums, she went straight to her Little Master,
and if she sometimes came away from him crying
it was not his fault. If she was crying it was
because she was comforted, and it all seemed so
simple and natural to her that she never failed to
THE LITTLE MASTER. 31
express a deep desire to tear her hair out if any-
body asked her where she had been or where she
It was not such an easy matter to reach the
plow hands. The fields were wide and the fur-
rows were long on that plantation, and some of
the mules were nimbler than the others, and some
of the hands were quicker. So that it rarely
happened that they all came down the furrows
abreast. But what difference did that make?
Let them come one by one, or two by two, or
twenty abreast, it was all the same when the
Little Master was in sight. It was hats off and
"howdy," with "Gee, Beck!" and "Haw,
Rhody! and "Whar you been, Little Marster,
dat we ain't seed you sence day 'fo' yistiddy?"
And so until they had all saluted the child on the
And why did Susy's Sam hang back and want
to turn his mule around before he had finished
the furrow? It was easy to see. Susy's Sam,
though he was the most expert plowman in the
gang, had only one good hand, the other being a
mere stump, and he disliked to be singled out
from the rest on that account. But it was use-
32 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
less for him to hang back. Little Crotchet al-
ways called for Susy's Sam. Sometimes Sam
would say that his mule was frisky and would n't
stand. But the word would come, Well, drive
the mule out in the bushes," and then Susy's
Sam would have a long resting spell that did him
good, and there would be nobody to complain.
And so it was with the rest. Whoever was sick
or tired was sure to catch the Little Master's eye.
How did he know? Well, don't ask too many
questions about that. You might ask how the
Gray Pony knew the poison vines and grasses.
It was a case of just knowing, without knowing
where the knowledge came from.
But it was not only the plow hands and the
hoe hands that Little Crotchet knew about. At
the close of summer there were the cotton pickers
and the reapers to be looked after. In fact, this
was Little Crotchet's busiest time, for many of
the negro children were set to picking cotton, and
the lad felt called on to look after these more
carefully than he looked after the grown hands.
Many a time he had half a dozen holding the
Gray Pony at once. This made the older ne-
groes shake their heads, and say that the Little
THAT'S RANDALL'S SONG
THE LITTLE MASTER. 33
Master was spoiling the children, but you may be
sure that they thought none the less of him on
And then there were the reapers, the men who
cut the oats and the wheat, and the binders that
followed after. At the head of the reapers was
Randall, tall, black, and powerful. It was fun to
see the blade of his cradle flashing in the sun,
and hear it swing with a swish through the golden
grain. He led the reapers always by many yards,
but when he was making the pace too hot for
them he had a way of stopping to sharpen his
scythe and starting up a song which spread from
mouth to mouth until it could be heard for miles.
Aaron, hiding in the wildwoods, could hear it,
and at such times he would turn to one of his
companions-the White Pig, or Rambler, or
that gay joker, the Fox Squirrel and say:
"That's Randall's song. He sees the Little
The White Pig would grunt, and Rambler
would say he'd rather hear a horn; but the Red
Squirrel would chatter like mad and declare that
he lost one of his ears by sitting on a limb of the
live oak and singing when he saw a man com-
34 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
But the reapers knew nothing about the ex-
perience of the Fox Squirrel, and so they went
on singing whenever Randall gave the word.
And Little Crotchet was glad to hear them, for
he used to sit on the Gray Pony and listen, some-
times feeling happy, and at other times feeling
lonely indeed. It may have been the quaint
melody that gave him a lonely feeling, or it may
have been his sympathy for those who suffer the
pains of disease or the pangs of trouble. The
negroes used to watch him as they sang and
worked, and say in the pauses of their song:--
Little master mighty funny "
That was the word, "funny," and yet it
had a deeper meaning for the negroes than the
white people ever gave it. Funny when the
lad leaned his pale cheek on the frail hand, and
allowed his thoughts (were they thoughts or
fleeting aspirations or momentary longings ?) to
follow the swift, sweet echoes of the song. For
the echoes had a thousand nimble feet, and with
these they fled away, away, away beyond the
river and its bordering hills ; for the echoes had
twangling wings, like those of a turtle-dove, and
on these they lifted themselves heavenward, and
THE LITTLE MASTER.
floated above the world, and above the toil and
trouble and sorrow and pain that dwell therein.
Funny when the voice of some singer,
sweeter and more powerful than the rest, rose
suddenly from the pauses of the song, and gave
words, as it seemed, to all the suffering that the
Little Master had ever known. Aye! so funny
that at such times Little Crotchet would suddenly
wave his hand to the singing reapers, and turn
the Gray Pony's head toward the river. Was he
following the rolling echoes ? He could never
hope to overtake them.
Once when this happened Uncle Fountain
stopped singing to say: -
"I wish I wuz a runaway nigger "
No, you don't! exclaimed Randall.
Yes, I does," Uncle Fountain insisted.
How come ? "
Kaze den I 'd have Little Marster running'
atter me ev'y chance he got."
"Go 'way, nigger man! You'd have Jim
Simmons's nigger dogs atter you, an' den what 'd
you do ? "
Dat ar Aaron had um matter 'im, an' what 'd
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
De Lord, He knows, I don't! But don't
you git de consate in yo' min' dat you kin do
what Aaron done done, kaze you'll fool yo'se'f,
"What Aaron done done?" Fountain was
He done fool dem ar nigger dogs; dat what
he done done."
Den how come I can't fool dem ar dogs? "
"How come ? Well, you des try um one time,
mo' speshully dat ar col'-nose dog, which he name
Well, I ain't bleege ter try it when de white
folks treat me right," remarked Uncle Fountain,
after thinking the matter over.
Dat what make I say what I does," asserted
Randall. When you know 'zactly what you
got, an' when you got mighty nigh what you
want, dat's de time ter lay low an' say nothing .
Hit's some trouble ter git de corn off'n de cob,
but spozen dey want no corn on de cob, what
den ? "
Honey, ain't it de trufe ? exclaimed Uncle
Thus the negroes talked. They knew a great
THE LITTLE MASTER.
deal more about Aaron than the white people
did, but even the negroes did n't know as much
as the Little Master, and for a very good reason.
They had no time to find out things, except at
night, and at night- well, you may believe it
or not, just as you please, but at night the door
of the Swamp was closed and locked -locked
hard and fast. The owls, the night hawks, the
whippoorwills, and the chuck-will's widows could
fly over. Yes, and the Willis Whistlers could
creep through or crawl under when they re-
turned home from their wild serenades. But
everything else even that red joker, the Fox
Squirrel -must have a key. Aaron had one,
and the White Grunter, and Rambler, and all the
four-footed creatures that walk on horn sandals
or in velvet slippers each had a key. The Little
Master might have had one for the asking, but
always when night came he was glad to lie on
his sofa and read, or, better still, go to bed and
sleep, so that he never had the need of a key to
open the door of the Swamp after it was closed
and locked at night.
THE SECRETS OF THE SWAMP.
HOWEVER hard and fast the door of the Swamp
may be locked at night, however tightly it may
be shut, it opens quickly enough to whomsoever
carries the key. There is no creaking of its vast
and heavy hinges ; there is not the faintest flut-
ter of a leaf, nor the softest whisper of a blade of
grass. That is the bargain the bearer of the key
must make : -
That which sleeps, disturb not its slumber.
That which moves, let it swiftly pass.
Else the Swamp will never reveal itself. The
sound of one alien footfall is enough. It is
the signal for each secret to hide itself, and for
all the mysteries to vanish into mystery. The
Swamp calls them all in, covers them as with a
mantle, and puts on its every-day disguise, the
disguise that the eyes of few mortals have ever
penetrated. But those who stand by the bargain
THE SECRETS OF THE SWAMP.
that all key-bearers must make whether they
go on two legs or on four, whether they fly or
crawl or creep or swim find the Swamp more
friendly. There is no disguise anywhere. The
secrets come swarming forth from all possible or
impossible places ; and the mysteries, led by their
torch-bearer Jack-o'-the-Lantern, glide through
the tall canes and move about among the tall trees.
The unfathomable blackness of night never
sets foot here. It is an alien and is shut out.
And this is one of the mysteries. If, when the
door of the Swamp is opened to a key-bearer the
black night seems to have crept in, wait a mo-
ment, have patience. It is a delusion. Under-
neath this leafy covering, in the midst of this
dense growth of vines and saw-grass and reeds
and canes, there is always a wonderful hint of
dawn a shadowy, shimmering hint, elusive and
indescribable, but yet sufficient to give dim shape
to that which is near at hand.
Not far away the frightened squeak of some
small bird breaks sharply on the ear of the
Swamp. This is no alien note, and Jack-o'-the-
Lantern dances up and down, and all the myste-
ries whisper in concert: -
40 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
We wish you well, Mr. Fox. Don't choke
yourself with the feathers. Good-night, Mr. Fox,
Two minute globules of incandescent light
come into sight and disappear, and the myste-
ries whisper :-
Too late, Mr. Mink, too late Better luck
next time. Good-night "
A rippling sound is heard in the lagoon as
the Leander of the Swamp slips into the water.
Jack-o'-the-Lantern flits to the level shore of the
pool, and the mysteries come sweeping after,
sighing : -
Farewell, Mr. Muskrat! Good luck and
Surely there is an alien sound on the knoll
yonder, snapping, growling, and fighting.
Have stray dogs crept under the door? Oh, no !
The Swamp smiles, and all the mysteries go
trooping thither to see the fun. It is a wonder-
ful frolic Mr. Red Fox has met Mr. Gray Fox
face to face. Something tells Mr. Red Fox
"Here's your father's enemy." Something
whispers to Mr. Gray, "Here's your mother's
murderer." And so they fall to, screaming and
MR. RED FOX MEETS MR. GRAY FOX
THE SECRETS OF THE SWAMP.
gnawing and panting and snarling. Mr. Gray
Fox is the strongest, but his heart is the weakest.
Without warning he turns tail and flies, with
Mr. Red Fox after him, and with all the myste-
ries keeping them company. They run until they
are past the boundary line, the place where the
trumpet flower tried to marry the black-jack tree,
- and then, of course, the Swamp has no further
concern with them. And the mysteries and their
torch-bearers come trooping home.
It is fun when Mr. Red Fox and Mr. Gray Fox
meet on the knoll, but the Swamp will never
have such a frolic as it had one night when a
strange bird came flying in over the door. It is
known that the birds that sleep while the Swamp
is awake have been taught to hide their heads
under their wings. It is not intended that they
should see what is going on. Even the Buzzard,
that sleeps in the loblolly pine, and the wild tur-
key, that sleeps in the live oak, conform to this
custom. They are only on the edge of the
Swamp, but they feel that it would be rude not
to put their heads under 'their wings while the
Swamp is awake. But this strange bird of a
family of night birds not hitherto known to that
42 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
region was amazed when he beheld the spec-
Oho !" he cried; what queer country is
this, where all the birds are headless ? If I 'm to
live here in peace, I must do as the brethren do."
So he went off in search of advice. As he
went along he saw the Bull-Frog near the lagoon.
Queerer still," exclaimed the stranger. Here
is a bird that has no head, and he can sing."
This satisfied him, and he went farther until
he saw Mr. Wildcat trying to catch little Mr.
"Good-evening, sir," said the stranger. "I
see that the birds in this country have no heads."
Mr. Wildcat smiled and bowed and licked his
"I presume, sir, that I ought to get rid of my
head if I am to stay here, and I have nowhere
else to go. How am I to do it ? "
"Easy enough," responded Mr. Wildcat, smil-
ing and bowing and licking his mouth. "Birds
that are so unfortunate as to have heads fre-
quently come to me for relief. May I examine
your neck to see what can be done? "
The strange bird fully intended to say, Why,
THE SECRETS OF THE SWAMP.
certainly, sir !" He had the words all made up,
but his head was off before he could speak.
Being a large bird, he fluttered and shook his
wings and jumped about a good deal. As the
noise was not alien, the Swamp and all its mys-
teries came forth to investigate, and oh, what a
frolic there was when Mr. Wildcat related the
facts! The torch-bearers danced up and down
with glee, and the mysteries waltzed to the quick
piping of the Willis-Whistlers.
Although the Swamp was not a day older when
Aaron, the Son of Ben Ali, became a key-bearer,
the frolic over the headless bird was far back of
Aaron's time. Older! The Swamp was even
younger, for it was not a Swamp until old age
had overtaken it until centuries had made it
fresh and green and strong. The Indians had
camped round about, had tried to run its mysteries
down, and had failed. Then came a band of
wandering Spaniards, with ragged clothes, and
tarnished helmets, and rusty shields, and neigh-
ing horses -the first the Swamp had ever seen.
The Spaniards floundered in at one side where
the trumpet vine tried to marry the black-jack
tree and floundered out on the other side more
44 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
bedraggled than ever. This was a great victory
for the Swamp, and about that time it came to
know and understand itself. For centuries it had
been organizing," and when it pulled De Soto's
company of Spaniards in at one side and flung
them out at the other, considerably the worse for
wear, it felt that the "organization was com-
plete. And so it was and had been for years and
years, and so it remained thereafter -a quiet
place when the sun was above the trees, but won-
derfully alert and alive when night had fallen.
The Swamp that Aaron knew was the same
that the Indians and Spaniards had known. The
loblolly pine had grown, and the big poplars on
the knoll had expanded a trifle with the passing
centuries, but otherwise the Swamp was the same.
And yet how different! The Indians had not
found it friendly, and the Spaniards regarded it
as an enemy; but to Aaron it gave shelter, and
sometimes food, and its mysteries were his com-
panions. Jack-o'-the-Lantern showed him the
hidden paths when the mists of night fell darker
than usual. He became as much a part of the
Swamp as the mysteries were, entering into its
life, and becoming native to all its moods and
THE SECRETS OF THE SWAMP.
conditions. And his presence there seemed to
give the Swamp new responsibilities. Its thou-
sand eyes were always watching for his enemies,
and its thousand tongues were always ready to
whisper the news of the coming of an alien. The
turkey buzzard, soaring thousands of feet above
the top of the great pine, the blue falcon, sus-
pended in the air a mile away, the crow, flapping
lazily across the fields, stood sentinel during the
day, and the Swamp understood the messages
they sent. At night the Willis-Whistlers were on
guard, and their lines extended for miles in all
directions, and the Swamp itself was awake, and
needed no warning message. Sometimes at night
the sound of Randall's trumpet fell on the ear of
the Swamp, or the voice of Uncle Fountain was
heard lifted up in song, as he went over the hills
to his fish-baskets in the river; and these were
restful and pleasing sounds. Sometimes the trail-
ing cry of hounds was heard. If in the day,
Rambler, the track dog, would listen until he
knew whether the cry came from Jim Sim-
mons's nigger dogs," from the Gossett hounds,
or from some other pack. If at night, the Swamp
cared little about it, for it was used to these
things after the sun went down.
46 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
Mr. Coon insisted on gadding about, and it
served him right, the Swamp insisted, when the
hounds picked up his drag- as the huntsmen
say and brought him home with a whirl. He
was safe when he got there, for let the hounds
bay at the door of his house as long as they
might, no hunter with torch and axe would ven-
ture into the Swamp. They had tried it- oh,
But the door was locked, and the key
Was safely hid in a hollow tree.
If it was merely Cousin Coon who lived up the
river, well and good. It would teach the incur-
able vagrant a lesson, and the Swamp enjoyed
the fun. The Willis-Whistlers stopped fo listen,
the mysteries hid behind the trees, and Jack-o'-
the-Lantern extinguished his torch as the hounds
came nearer with their quavering cries. Was it
Mr. Coon or Cousin Coon? Why, Cousin Coon,
of course. How did the Swamp know? It was
the simplest thing in the world. Was n't there a
splash and a splutter as he ran into the quagmire?
Was n't there a snap and a snarl when the par-
tridge-pea vine caught his foot ? Did he know the
paths? Did n't he double and turn and go back
THE SECRETS OF THE SWAMP.
the way he came, to be caught and killed on dry
land? Would Mr. Coon of the Swamp ever be
caught on dry land? Don't you believe it! If
cut off from home, he would run to the nearest
pond and plunge in. Once there, was there a
hound that would venture to take a bath with
him? The Swamp laughed at the thought of
such a thing. Aaron smiled, the White Pig
grunted, and Rambler grinned. Cousin Coon is
no more, but Mr. Coon is safe at home and the
Swamp knows it.
Good luck to all who know the way,
By crooked path and clinging vine !
For them Night's messengers shall stay,
For them the laggard moon shall shine.
But it was not always that aliens and strangers
were unwelcome. Occasionally in the still hours
between midnight and dawn the Swamp would
open its doors to Gossett's Riley. He had no
key and he had never come to know and feel
that the Swamp was something more than a mix-
ture of mud and water, trees, canes, vines, and
all manner of flying, creeping, and crawling
things. To him the Swamp was merely a place
and not a Thing, but this was ignorance, and the
48 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
Swamp forgave it for various reasons, forgave
it and pitied him as he deserved to be pitied.
And yet he had qualities out of the common,
and for these the Swamp admired him. He was
little more than a dwarf, being "bow-legged and
chuckle-headed," as Susy's Sam used to say, and
was called Chunky Riley, -but he was very much
of a man for all that. At a log-rolling there was
not a negro for miles around who could pull
him down with the handstick. Aaron could do
it, but Aaron was not a negro, but an Arab, and
that is different. Chunky Riley was even stronger
in limb and body than Aaron, but Aaron used
his head, as well as body and limb- and that
also is different. Riley was not swift of foot, but
he could run far, as Gossett's hounds well knew.
More than that, he could go on all-fours almost
as fast as he could run on two legs, and that was
something difficult to do.
The Swamp found Chunky Riley out in a very
curious way. The first time he came to bring a
message to Aaron he waited for no introduction
whatever. The Willis-Whistlers warned him, but
he paid no attention to their warning; the myste-
ries whispered to him, but his ears were closed. He
A-STRADDLE OF THE GRUNTER'S BACK
THE SECRETS OF THE SWAMP.
searched for no path, and was blind to all the sig-
nals. He blundered into the Swamp and floun-
dered toward the knoll as the Spaniards did. He
floundered out of the quagmire near where the
White Pig lay. He had the scent and all the
signs of an alien, and the White Grunter rushed
at him with open mouth. The Swamp was now
angry from centre to circumference, and poor
Chunky Riley's ending would have been swift
and sudden but for the fact that he bore some
undeveloped kinship to the elements that sur-
As the White Pig rushed forward with open
mouth, Chunky Riley caught a vague glimpse of
him in the darkness, gave one wild yell, leaped
into the air, and came down a-straddle of the
Grunter's back. This was more than the White
Pig had bargained for. He answered Riley's yell
with a loud squeal, and went tearing through the
swamp to the place where Aaron dwelt. The big
owl hooted, Rambler howled, and Jack-o'-the-
Lantern threw down his torch and fled. The
Swamp that had been angry was amazed and
frightened. What demon was this that had
seized the White Grunter and was carrying him
50 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
off? What could the rest hope for if so fierce a
creature as the White Pig could be disposed of
in this fashion ? Even Aaron was alarmed at the
uproar, for Chunky Riley continued to yell, and
the White Pig kept up its squealing.
It was well that the Grunter, when he came to
Aaron's place, ran close enough to a tree to rub
Chunky Riley off his back, otherwise there is no
telling what would have happened. It was well,
too, that Chunky Riley called loudly for Aaron
when he fell, otherwise he would have been made
mincemeat of; for as soon as the White Pig was
relieved of his strange burden, his anger rose
fiercer than ever, and he came charging at
Chunky Riley, who was lying prone on the
ground, too frightened to do anything more than
try to run to a tree on all-fours. Aaron spoke
sharply to the White Pig.
Shall I use a club on you, White Grunter?
Shall I make bacon of you? You heard him call
The White Pig paused. His small eyes glit-
tered in the dark, and Chunky Riley heard his
tusks grate ominously. He knew the creature
was foaming with rage.
THE SECRETS OF THE SWAMP.
Ooft Your name, Son of Ben All? said
the White Pig in language that Chunky Riley
thought was merely a series of angry grunts and
snorts. Ooft! I heard him call for Aaron,
and how long has it been since I heard you say
to the Red Chatterer in the hickory-tree that
there were a thousand Aarons, but only one Son
of Ben All? Ooft-Gooft! Am I a horse to be
ridden ? Humph No man could ride me it
is what you call a Thing. Umph let it ride you
and then talk about clubs. Ooft "
"Is dat Aaron?" Chunky Riley ventured to
inquire. "Ef 't is, I wish you'd be good enough
ter run dat ar creetur 'way fum here, kaze I ain't
got no knack fer bein' chaw'd up an' spit out, an'
trompled on, an' teetotally ruint right 'fo' my
"What's your name ?" inquired Aaron.
"You ought ter know me, but I dunner whed-
der you does er not. I 'm name Riley dey calls
me Chunky Riley fer short."
Aaron was silent for a moment, as if trying to
remember the name. Presently he laughed and
said: Why, yes; I know you pretty well.
Come, we '11 kindle a fire."
52 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
"No suh not me Not less'n you'll run
dat ar wil' hog off. He mo' servigrous dan a
pant'er. Ef I hadn't er straddled 'im des now
he'd 'a' e't me bodaciously up an' dey would n't
'a' been nothing' lef' but de buttons on my cloze,
an' nobody in de roun' world' would 'a' know'd
dey wuz buttons."
Aaron laughed while speaking to the White
Pig: Get to bed, Grunter. It is the Lifter
- the man that is as strong in the back as a
Gooft-ooft! Let him ride you out as he rode
me in ooft! He's no man! Gooft! No bed
for me. When a horse is ridden, he must eat,
as I've heard you say, Son of Ben Al. Gooft-
The White Pig, still grinding his tusks to-
gether, turned and trotted off into the darkness,
and presently Aaron and Chunky Riley heard
him crashing through the canes and reeds. Then
Aaron kindled his fire.
"Why did you come?" inquired the Son of
Ben Ali when the two had made themselves com-
Des ter fetch word dat Marster wuz layin'
THE SECRETS OF THE SWAMP.
off ter git atter you wid Simmons's nigger-dogs
"All the way through the dark for that?
When did you come to like me so well?"
Oh, 't ain't 'zackly dat," replied Chunky Riley
frankly. "I hear um talking' 'bout it when mar-
ster an' dat ar Mr. Simmons wuz walking' out in
de hoss lot. I wuz in de corn crib, an' dey did n't
know it, an' I des sot dar an' lis'n at um. An'
den dis morning' I seed dat ar little Marse Aber-
crombie, an' he say, Go tell Aaron quick ez you
"The child with the crutches?" queried
De ve'y same," replied Chunky Riley. He
paused awhile and then added: "I 'd walk many
a long mile fer dat white chil', day er night, rain
He gazed in the flickering fire a long time,
waiting for Aaron to make some comment. Hear-
ing none, he finally turned his eyes on his com-
panion. Aaron was looking skyward, where one
small star could be seen twinkling through the
ascending smoke from the fire, and his lips were
moving, though they framed no words that
54 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
Chunky Riley could hear. Something in the
attitude of the Son of Ben Ali disturbed the
Well, I done what I come ter do," he said,
making a pretense of stretching himself and
yawning, "an' I speck I'd better be gwine."
The Son of Ben Ali still kept his eye fixed on
the twinkling star. What pesters me," Chunky
Riley went on, "is de idee dat dat ar wil' hog
went 'zackly de way I got ter go. I don't want
ter hatter ride 'im no mo' less 'n I got a saddle
"Come exclaimed Aaron suddenly, "I '11
go with you. I want to see the Little Master."
"De dogs '11 fin' yo' track sho, ef dey start
out to-morrer," suggested Chunky Riley.
The only response the Son of Ben Ali made to
this suggestion was to say: Take the end of
my cane in your hand and follow it. We 'll take
a short cut."
Chunky Riley had queer thoughts as he fol-
lowed his tall conductor, being led as if he were
a blind man; but he said nothing. Presently (it
seemed but a few minutes to Chunky Riley) they
stood on the top of a hill.
THE SECRETS OF THE SWAMP. 55
"Look yonder!" said Aaron. Away to the
left a red light glimmered faintly.
What dat ? asked the superstitious negro.
The light in the Little Master's window."
"How came it so red, den?" inquired Chunky
Red curtain," replied Aaron curtly.
"Well, de Lord he'p us Is we dat close? "
cried Chunky Riley.
Your way is there," said the Son of Ben Ali;
"this is mine."
The negro stood watching Aaron until his tall
form was lost in the darkness.
WHAT CHUNKY RILEY SAW AND HEARD.
LEFT alone, Chunky Riley stood still and tried
to trace in his mind the route he and Aaron had
followed in coming from the Swamp. But he
could make no mental map and he knew
every "nigh-cut" and by-path for miles around
- that would fit in with the time it had taken
them to reach the spot where he now stood. He
looked back toward the Swamp, but the night
covered it, and he could see nothing. Then he
looked around him, to see if he knew his present
whereabouts. Oh, yes, that was easy; every foot
of ground was familiar.
The hill on which he had stood had been given
over to scrub pines. The hill itself sloped away
to the Tumer old fields. But still he was puzzled,
and still he scratched his head, for he knew that
the Swamp was a good four miles away nearly
five -and it seemed to him that he and Aaron
WHAT CHUNKY RILEY SAW AND HEARD. 57
had been only a few minutes in making the jour-
ney. So he scratched his head and wondered to
himself whether Aaron was really a "conjur' man."
It was perhaps very lucky for Chunky Riley
that he stopped when he did. If he had kept on
he would have run into the arms of three men
who were going along the plantation path that led
from Gossett's negro quarters to the Abercrombie
Place. The delay that Chunky Riley made pre-
vented him from meeting them, but it did not
prevent him from hearing the murmur of their
voices as he struck into the path. They were too
far off for Chunky Riley to know whether they
were white or black, but just as he turned into
the path to go to Gossett's the scent of a cigar
floated to his nostrils. He paused and scratched
his head again. He knew by the scent of the
cigar that the voices he heard belonged to
white men : but who were they? If they were
the patterollers" they'd catch Aaron beyond
all question; it would be impossible for him to
So thought Chunky Riley, and so thinking, he
turned and followed the path towards the Aber-
crombie Place. He moved rapidly but cautiously.
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
The scent of the cigar grew stronger, the sound
of men's voices fell more distinctly on his ear.
Chunky Riley left the path and skirted through
the low pines until he came to the fence that
inclosed the spring lot. He knew that if he was
heard, the men would think he was a calf, or,
mayhap, a mule; for the hill on which Aaron
had left him was now a part of a great pasture,
in which the calves and dry cattle and (between
seasons) the mules were allowed to roam at will.
Coming to the fence, Chunky Riley would have
crossed it, but the voices were louder now, and he
caught a glimpse of the red sparks of lighted
cigars. Creeping closer and closer, but ever
ready to drop on the ground and run away on all-
fours, Chunky Riley was soon able to hear what
the men were saying. He knew the voices of
his master and young master, Mr. Gossett Old
Grizzle, as he was called and George, and he
rightly judged that the strange voice mingling
with theirs belonged to Mr. Jim Simmons, who,
with a trained pack of hounds, nigger dogs "
they were called, held himself at the service of
owners of runaway negroes.
Mr. Simmons's average fee was $15 -that is
WHAT CHUNKY RILEY SAW AND HEARD. 59
to say when he was called in time." But in
special cases his charge was $30. When Chunky
Riley arrived within earshot of the group, Mr.
Gossett was just concluding a protest that he had
made against the charge of $30, which he had
reluctantly agreed to pay for the capture of
You stayed at my house to-day, you '11 stay
there to-night, and maybe you'll come back to
dinner to-morrow. There's the feeding of you
and your dogs. You don't take any account of
that at all."
Mr. Gossett's voice was sharp and emphatic.
His stinginess was notorious in that region, and
gave rise to the saying that Gossett loved a dol-
lar better than he did his wife. But he was no
more ashamed of his stinginess than he was of
the shabbiness of his hat.
"But, Colonel," remonstrated Mr. Jim Sim-
mons, did n't you send for me? Did n't you
say, 'Glad to see you, Simmons; walk right in
and make yourself at home'? You did, fer a
fact." He spoke with a drawl that irritated the
snappy and emphatic Mr. Gossett.
"Why, certainly, Simmons; certainly I did. I
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
mentioned the matter to show you that your
charges are out of all reason in this case. All
you have to do is to come here with your dogs in
the morning, skirt around the place, pick up his
trail, and there you are."
But, Colonel!" insisted Mr. Jim Simmons
with his careless, irritating drawl, ain't it a plum'
fact that this nigger's been in the woods a month
or sech a matter? Ain't it a plum' fact that
you've tracked him and trailed him with your
own dogs? and good dogs they are, and I '11
tell anybody so. Now what do you pay me fer?
Fer catching the nigger ? No, sirree The nig-
ger's as good as caught now when it comes to
that. You pay me fer knowing how to catch
him that's what you pay me fer. You send
fer the doctor. He comes and fumbles around
a little, and you have to pay the bill whether he
kills or cures. You don't pay him fer killing or
curing; you pay him fer knowing how to fumble
around. It's some different with me. If I don't
catch your nigger, you button up your pocket. If
I do catch him you pay me $30 down, not fer
catching him, but fer knowing how to fumble
around and catch him."
WHAT CHUNKY RILEY SAW AND HEARD. 61
The logic of this argument, which was alto-
gether lost on Chunky Riley, silenced Mr. Gos-
sett, but did not convince him. There was a long
pause, as if all three of the men were wrestling
with peculiar thoughts. Finally Mr. Gossett
"It ain't so much the nigger I'm after, but I
want to show Abercrombie that I can't be out-
done. He's laughing in his sleeve because I
can't keep the nigger at home, and I'll be
blamed here his voice sank to a confidential.
tone I 'll be blamed if I don't believe that,
between him and that son of his, they are har-
boring the nigger. Yes, sir, harboring is the
Mr. Jim Simmons threw down his lighted cigar
with such energy as to cause the sparks to fly in
all directions. A cigar was an unfamiliar luxury
to Mr. Simmons, and he had had enough of it.
"Addison Abercrombie harboring a nigger "
exclaimed Mr. Simmons. "Why, Colonel, if
every man, woman, and child in the United States
was to tell me that I would n't believe it. Addi-
son Abercrombie! Why, Colonel, though you're
his next-door neighbor, as you may say, you don't
62 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
know him half as well as I do. You ought to
get acquainted with that man."
"Humph! I know him well enough, I reckon,"
responded Mr. Gossett. I went to school with
him. Folks get to know one another at school.
He was always stuck up, trying to hold his head
higher than anybody else because his daddy had
money and a big plantation. I made my prop'ty
myself; I earned every dollar; and I know how
"But, Colonel!" Mr. Jim Simmons insisted,
" Addison Abercrombie would hold his head high
if he never seen a dollar, and he'd have the right
to do it. Him harbor niggers ? Shucks, Colonel!
You might as well tell me that the moon ain't
nothing but a tater pudding."
What do you see in the man ?" Mr. Gossett
asked with some irritation in the tones of his
There was a pause, as though Mr. Simmons
was engaged in getting his thoughts together.
Finally he said : -
Well, Colonel, I don't reckon I can make it
plain to you, because when I come to talk about
it I can't grab the identical idee that would fit
WHAT CHUNKY RILEY SAW AND HEARD. 63
what I've got in my mind But I'11 tell you
what's the honest truth, in my opinion -and
I 'm not by myself, by a long shot- Addison
Abercrombie is as fine a man as ever trod shoe
leather. That's what."
Humph grunted Mr. Gossett.
Yes, sirree persisted Mr. Simmons, warm-
ing up a little. "It makes no difference where
you see him, nor when you see him, nor how you
see him, you can up and say: 'The Lord has
made many men of many minds, and many men
of many kinds, but not sence Adam has he made
a better man than Addison Abercrombie.' That's
the way I look at it, Colonel. I may be wrong,
but if I am I '11 never find it out in this world."
Plainly, Mr. Gossett was not prepared to hear
such a tribute as this paid to Addison Abercrom-
bie, and he winced under it. He hemmed and
hawed, as the saying is, and changed his position
on the fence. He was thoroughly disgusted.
Now there was no disagreement between Mr.
Gossett and Mr. Abercrombie, no quarrel, that
is to say, but Gossett knew that Abercrombie
regarded him with a feeling akin to contempt.
He treasured in his mind a remark that Aber-
64 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
crombie had made about him the day he bought
Aaron from the negro speculator. He never for-
got nor forgave it, for it was an insinuation that
Mr. Gossett, in spite of his money and his thrifty
ways, was not much of a gentleman.
On this particular subject Mr. Gossett was
somewhat sensitive, as men are who have doubts
in their own minds as to their standing. Mr.
Gossett had an idea that money and "prop'ty,"
as he called it, made a gentleman; but it was a
very vague idea, and queer doubts sometimes
pestered him. It was these doubts that made
him "touchy on this subject.
What has this great man ever done for you,
Simmons ? Mr. Gossett asked, with a contemp-
"Not anything, Colonel, on the top of the
green globe. I went to him once to borrow some
money, and he wanted to lend it to me without
taking my note and without charging me any
interest. I says to him, says I, You 'll have to
excuse me.' "
That was right; you did perfectly right,
Simmons. The-man was trying to insult you."
But, Colonel, he did n't go about it that way.
WHAT CHUNKY RILEY SAW AND HEARD. 65
Don't you reckon you could tell when anybody
was trying to insult you ? That was the time I
come to you."
I charged you interest, did n't I, Simmons ? "
You did, Colonel, fer a fact."
"I 'm this kind of a man, Simmons," remarked
Mr. Gossett, with a touch of sincere pride and
gratification in his voice. When I do business
with a man I do business. When I do him a
favor it must be outside of business. It's mixing
the two things up that keeps so many people
What two things, Colonel?" gravely in-
Why the doing of business and er the
doing of favors."
Oh, I see," said Mr. Simmons, as if a great
light had been turned on the matter. Then he
laughed and continued: Yes, Colonel, I bor-
rowed the money from you and just about that
time the fever taken me down, and if it had n't
'a' been fer Addison Abercrombie the note I give
you would have swallowed my house and land."
Is that so ? inquired Mr. Gossett.
Ask my wife," replied Mr. Simmons. One
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
day while I was out of my head with the fever,
Addison Abercrombie, he rid by and saw my
wife setting on the front steps, jest a-boohooing,
- you know how wimmen will do, Colonel; if
they ain't a-jawing they're a-cryin'. So Addi-
son Abercrombie, he ups and asks her what's the
matter, and Jennie, she tells him. He got right
off his hoss and come in, and set by my bed the
better part of the morning. And all that time
there I was a-running on about notes and a-firing
off my troubles in the air. So the upshot of the
business was that Addison Abercrombie left the
money there to pay the note and left word for
me to pay him back when I got good and ready;
and Jennie had n't hardly dried her eyes before
here come a nigger on horseback with a basket
on his arm, and in the basket was four bottles of
wine. Wine Why, Colonel, it was worsen
wine. Jennie says that if arry one of the bottles
had 'a' had a load of buckshot in it, the roof
would 'a' been blow'd off when the stopper flew
out. And, Colonel! if ever you feel like taking
a right smart of exercise, jest pass my house some
day and stick your head over the palings and tell
Jennie that Addison Abercrombie's got a streak
of meanness in him."
WHAT CHUNKY RILEY SAW AND HEARD. 67
Have you ever paid Abercrombie?" Mr. Gos-
sett inquired. His voice was harsh and business-
I was laying off to catch this nigger of yours
and pay him some on account," replied Mr. Sim-
Why, it has been three years since you paid
me," suggested Mr. Gossett.
Two years or sech a matter," remarked Mr.
Then that's the reason you think Abercrom-
bie ain't harboring my nigger ? inquired Mr.
But, Colonel," drawled Mr. Simmons, "what
under the sun ever got the idee in your head
that Addison Abercrombie is harboring your
It's as simple as a-b ab," Mr. Gossett replied
with energy. He tried to buy the nigger off
the block and could n't, and now he thinks I '11
sell if the nigger 'll stay in the woods long
enough. That's the reason he's harboring the
nigger. And more than that: don't I know
from my own niggers that the yaller rapscallion
comes here every chance he gets? He comes,
68 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
but he don't go in the nigger quarters. Now,
where does he go ?"
Yes, where ?" said Mr. Gossett's son George,
who up to that moment had taken no part in
the conversation. Three times this month I've
dealt out an extra rasher of bacon to two of our
hands, and they tell the same tale."
It looks quare," Mr. Simmons admitted, "but
as sure as you're born Addison Abercrombie
ain't the man to harbor a runaway nigger. If
he's ever had a nigger in the woods, it's more 'n
I know, and when that's the case you may set it
down fer a fact that he don't believe in runaway
niggers." This was a lame argument, but it was
the best that Mr. Simmons could muster at the
"No," remarked Mr. Gossett sarcastically,
"his niggers don't take to the woods because
they do as they blamed please at home. It sets
my teeth on edge to see the way things are run
on this plantation. Why, I could take the stuff
that's flung away here and get rich on it in five
years. It's a scandal."
"I believe you!" assented his son George
WHAT CHUNKY RILEY SAW AND HEARD. 69
Chunky Riley heard this conversation by
snatches, but he caught the drift of it. What
he remembered of it was that some of his fellow
servants were ready to tell all they knew for an
extra rasher of meat, and that the hunt for
Aaron would begin the next morning, and it
was now getting along toward dawn. He wanted
to warn Aaron again. He wanted especially to
tell Aaron that three men were sitting on the
fence waiting for him. But this was impossible.
The hour was approaching when Chunky Riley
must be in his cabin on the Gossett plantation
ready to go to work with the rest of the hands.
He had slept soundly the first half of the night,
and he would be as fresh in the field when the
sun rose as those who had slept the night
through. As he turned away from the fence a
dog in the path leading from the spring to the
stile suddenly began to bay. The men tried to
drive him away, and one of them threw a stick at
him, but the dog refused to be intimidated. He
bayed them more fiercely, but finally retreated
toward the spring, stopping occasionally to bark
at the men on the fence.
If I 'm not mistaken," remarked Mr. Gossett,
70 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
"that's my dog Rambler. I know his voice,
and he's been missing ever since that nigger
went to the woods. I wonder if lhe's taken up
over here ? George, I wish you'd make it con-
venient to come over here as soon as you can, and
find out whether Rambler is here. Now, there 's
a dog, Simmons, that's away ahead of anything
you've got in the shape of a nigger dog, nose
as cold as ice, and as much sense as the common
run of folks."
He ain't doing you much good," responded
That's a fact," said Mr. Gossett. Till I
heard that dog barking I thought Rambler had
been killed by that nigger."
Chunky Riley struck into the plantation path
leading to Gossett's, at the point where the three
men had tied their horses. They had ridden as
far as they thought prudent, considering the
errand they were on, and then they dismounted
and made their horses fast to the overhanging
limbs of a clump of oaks, which, for some reason
or other, had been left standing in the field.
One of the horses whinnied when Chunky Riley
came near, and the negro paused. Aaron would
WHAT CHUNKY RILEY SAW AND HEARD. 71
have known that the horse said, "Please take
me home, and be quick about it; I'm hungry;"
but Chunky Riley could only guess. And as he
guessed a thought struck him a thought that
made him scratch his head and chuckle. He
turned in his tracks, went back along the path a
little way, and listened. Then he returned, and
the horse whinnied again. The creature was
Once more Chunky Riley indulged in a hearty
laugh, slapping himself softly on the leg. Then
he went to the horses one by one, pulled down
the swinging limbs to which their bridle reins
were fastened, and untied them. This done, he
proceeded to make himself "mighty skace," as
he expressed it. He started toward home at a
rapid trot, without pausing to listen. But even
without listening, he could hear the horses com-
ing after him, Mr. Simmons's horse with the
The faster he trotted the faster the horses trot-
ted; and when Chunky Riley began to run the
horses broke into a gallop, and came clattering
along the path after him, their stirrups flying
wildly about and making a clamor that Chunky
72 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
Riley had not bargained for. The faster he ran
the faster the horses galloped, until at last it
seemed to him that the creatures were trying to
run him down. This idea took possession of his
mind, and at once his fears magnified the situa-
tion. He imagined the horses were right at his
heels. He could feel the hot breath of one of
them on the back of his neck.
Fortunately for Chunky Riley there was a fence
at the point where the path developed into a lane.
Over this he climbed and fell exhausted, fully ex-
pecting the horses to climb over or break through
and trample him under their feet. But his ex-
pectations were not realized; the horses gal-
loped along the lane, and presently he could hear
them clattering along the big road toward Gos-
Chunky Riley was exhausted as well as terror-
stricken. The perspiration rolled from his face,
and he could hear his heart beat. He lay in the
soft grass in the fence corner until he had recov-
ered somewhat from his exertions and his fright.
Finally he rose, looked back along the way he
had come, then toward the big road, and shook
. t _e'
THE HORSES WERE RIGHT AT HIS HEELS
WHAT CHUNKY RILEY SAW AND HEARD. 73
Is anybody ever see de beat er dat?" he
Whereupon he went through the woods instead
of going by the road, and was soon in his cabin
frying his ration of bacon.
BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN.
WHEN Aaron parted from Chunky Riley on the
hill after they had come from the Swamp, he
went along the path to the spring, stooped on
his hands and knees and took a long draught of
the cool water. Then he went to the rear of the
negro quarters, crossed the orchard fence, and
passed thence to the flower garden in front of
the great house. At one corner of the house a
large oak reared its head above the second story.
Some of its limbs when swayed by the wind swept
the dormer window that jutted out from Little
Crotchet's room. Behind the red curtain of this
dormer window a light shone, although it was
now past midnight. It shone there at night
whenever Little Crotchet was restless and sleep-
less and wanted to see Aaron. And this was
often, for the youngster, with all his activity,
rarely knew what it was to be free from pain.
BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN. 75
But for his journeys hither and yonder on the
Gray Pony he would have been very unhappy
indeed. All day long he could make some excuse
for putting his aches aside; he could even forget
them. But at night when everything was quiet,
Pain would rap at the door and insist on coming
in and getting in bed with him.
Little Crotchet had many quaint thoughts and
queer imaginings, and one of these was that
Pain was a sure-enough something or other that
could come in at the door and go out when it
chose a little goblin dressed in red flannel,
with a green hat running to a sharp peak at the
top, and a yellow tassel dangling from the peak
- a red flannel goblin always smelling of cam-
phor and spirits of turpentine. Sometimes and
those were rare nights the red goblin remained
away, and then Little Crotchet could sleep and
dream the most beautiful dreams.
But usually, as soon as night had fallen on the
plantation and there was no longer any noise in
the house, the little red goblin, with his peaked
green hat, would open the door gently and peep
in to see whether the lad was asleep and he
knew at a glance whether Little Crotchet was
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
sleeping or only feigning sleep. Sometimes the
youngster would shut his eyes ever so tight, and
lie as still as a mouse, hoping that the red goblin
would go away. But the trick never succeeded.
The red goblin was too smart for that. If there
was a blaze in the fireplace he would wink at it
very solemnly; if not, he'd wink at the candle.
And he never was in any hurry. He'd sit squat
on the floor for many long moments. Sometimes
he'd run and jump in the bed with Little Crotchet
and then jump out again. Sometimes he'd pre-
tend he was going to jump in the bed, when sud-
denly another notion would strike him, and he'd
turn and run out at the door, and not come back
again for days.
But this was unusual. Night in and night out,
the year round, the red goblin rarely failed to
show himself in Little Crotchet's room, and crawl
under the cover with the lad. There was but one
person in all that region whom the red goblin
was afraid of, and that was Aaron. But he was
an obstinate goblin. Frequently he'd stay after
Aaron came, and try his best to fight it out with
the Son of Ben Ali; but in the end he would
have to go, There were times, however, when
THE GOBLIN PAIN
BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN.
Aaron could not respond to Little Crotchet's sig-
nal of distress, the light in the dormer window;
- and at such times the red goblin would have
everything his own way. He would stay till all
the world was awake, and, then sneak off to his
hiding-place, leaving Little Crotchet weak and
Thus it happened that, while Chunky Riley
was taking an unexpected ride on the White Pig,
and afterward while the three men were sitting
on the pasture fence beyond the spring, the red
goblin was giving Little Crotchet a good deal of
trouble. No matter which way he turned in bed,
the red goblin was there. He was there when
Aaron came into the flower garden. He was there
when Aaron stood at the foot of the great oak
at the corner of the house. He was there when
Aaron put forth his hand, felt for and found one
of the iron spikes that had been driven into the
body of the oak. The red goblin was in bed with
Little Crotchet and tugging at his back and legs
when Aaron pulled himself upward by means of
the iron spike; when he found another iron spike;
when, standing on and holding to these spikes, he
walked up the trunk of the tree as if it were a
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
ladder; and when he went into Little Crotchet's
room by way of the dormer window. The real
name of the red goblin with the green hat was
Pain, as we know, and he was very busy with
Little Crotchet this night; and though the lad
had fallen into a doze, he was moving restlessly
about when Aaron entered the room. The Son
of Ben All stepped to the low bed, and knelt by
it, placing his hand that the night winds had
cooled on Little Crotchet's brow, touching it with
firm but gentle strokes. The lad awoke with a
start, saw that Aaron was near, and then closed
his eyes again.
It 's a long way for you to come," he said.
"There's a lot of things for you in the basket
"If twice as long, it would be short for
me," replied Aaron. Then, still stroking Little
Crotchet's brow with one hand, and gently rub-
bing his body with the other, the Son of Ben Ali
told of Chunky Riley's ride on the White Pig.
With his eyes closed, the lad could see the whole
performance, and he laughed with so much hearti-
ness that Aaron laughed in sympathy. This was
such a rare event that Little Crotchet opened his
BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN. 79
eyes to see it, but soon closed them again, for now
he felt that the red goblin was preparing to go.
"I sent Chunky Riley," said Little Crotchet,
after a while. They 're after you to-morrow -
Jim Simmons and his hounds. And he has his
catch-dog with him. I saw the dog to-day.
He's named Pluto. He's big and black, and
bob-tailed, and his ears have been cropped. Oh,
I'm afraid they'll get you this time, Aaron.
Why not stay here with me to-morrow, and the
Here?" There was a note of surprise in
Yes. What's to hinder you? I can keep
everybody out of the room, except" -
"Except somebody," said Aaron, smiling.
"No, no! The White-Haired Master is a good
man. Good to all. He'd shake his head and
say, 'Runaway hiding in my house! That's
bad, bad!' No, Little Master, they '11 not get
Aaron. You sleep. To-morrow night I'11 come.
My clothes will be ripped and snagged. Have
me a big needle and some coarse thread. I'11
mend 'em here and while I'm mending I may tell
a tale. I don't know. Maybe. You sleep."
80 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
Aaron was no mesmerist, but somehow, the red
goblin being gone, Little Crotchet was soon in
the land of dreams. Aaron remained by the bed
to make sure the sleep was sound, then he rose,
tucked the cover about the lad's shoulders (for
the morning air was cool), blew out the candle,
went out on the roof, closing the window sash
after him, and in a moment was standing in the
flower garden. There he found Rambler, the
track dog, awaiting him, and together they passed
out into the lot and went by the spring, where
Aaron stooped and took another draught of the
cool, refreshing water.
All this time the three men had been sitting on
the pasture fence at the point where it intersected
the path leading from the spring, and they were
sitting there still. As Aaron started along this
path, after leaving the spring, Rambler trotted
on before, and his keen nose soon detected the
presence of strangers. With a whine that was
more than half a whistle, Rambler gave Aaron
the signal to stop, and then went toward the
fence. The situation became clear to him at
once, and it was then that Chunky Riley and the
three men had heard him bark. They called it
THE SPRING OF COOL REFRESHING WATER
BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN.
barking, but it was a message to Aaron say-
"Lookout! lookout! Son of Ben Ali, look
sharp! I see three Grizzlies two, and an-
There was nothing alarming in the situation.
In fact, Aaron might have gone within hailing
distance of the three men without discovery, for
the spring lot was well wooded. If Mr. Addi-
son Abercrombie had any peculiarity it was his
fondness for trees. He could find something to
admire in the crookedest scrub oak and in the
scraggiest elm. He not only allowed the trees
in the spring lot to stand, but planted others.
Where Aaron stood a clump of black-jacks, cov-
ering a quarter of an acre, had sprung up some
years before. They were now well-grown sap-
lings and stood as close together, according to
the saying of the negroes, as hairs on a hog's
back. Through these Aaron slowly edged his
way, moving very carefully, until he reached a
point close enough to the three men to see and
hear what was going on.
Standing in the black shadow of these saplings
he made an important discovery. Chunky Riley,
82 AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
it will be remembered, suspected that the two
Gossetts and Mr. Simmons were intent on captur-
ing Aaron; but this was far from their purpose.
They had no such idea. While Aaron stood
listening, watching, he saw a tall shadow steal
along the path. He heard the swish of a dress
and knew it was a woman. The shadow stole
along the path until it came to the three men on
the fence and then it stopped.
"Well ?" said Mr. Gossett sharply. "What
did you see? Where did the nigger go? Don't
stand there like you are deaf and dumb. Talk
I seed him come fum de spring, Marster, an'
go up by de nigger cabins. But atter dat I ain't
lay eyes on 'im."
"Did he go into the cabins ?"
"I lis'n at eve'y one, Marster, an' I ain't hear
no talking' in but one."
Was he in that one ?"
"Ef he wuz, Marster, he wa'n't sayin' nothing .
Big Sal was talking' wid Randall, suh."
What were they talking about ?"
"All de words I hear um say wuz 'bout der
Little Marster how good he is an' how he all
BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN.
de time thinking' mo' 'bout yuther folks dan he do
'bout his own se'f."
Humph snorted Mr. Gossett. Mr. Sim-
mons moved about uneasily.
Why n't you go in an' see whether Aaron
was in there? asked George Gossett.
Bekaze, Marse George, dey'd 'a' know'd
right pine-blank what I come fer. 'Sides dat,
Big Sal is a mighty bad nigger 'oman when she
"You're as big as she is," suggested Mr.
Yes, suh; but I ain't got de ambition what
Big Sal got," replied the woman humbly.
"I '11 tell you, Simmons, that runaway nigger
is the imp of Satan," remarked Mr. Gossett.
But, Colonel, if he's that, what do you want
him caught for ? inquired Mr. Simmons humor-
Why, so much the more need for catching
him. I want to get my hands on him. If I
don't convert him, why, then you may go about
among your friends and say that Gossett is a
poor missionary. You may say that and wel-
AARON IN THE WILDWOODS.
"I believe you !" echoed George.
You may go home now," said Mr. Gossett to
Thanky, Marster." She paused a moment to
wipe her face with her apron, and then climbed
over the fence and went toward the Gossett plan-
Aaron slipped away from the neighborhood of
the three men, crossed the fence near where
Chunky Riley had been standing, went swiftly
through the pasture for half a mile, struck into
the plantation path some distance ahead of the
woman, and then came back along the path to
meet her. When he saw her coming he stopped,
turned his back to her and stood motionless in the
path. The woman was talking to herself as she
came up; but when she saw Aaron she hesitated,
advanced a step, and then stood still, breathing
hard. All her superstitious fears were aroused.
"Who is you? Who is dat? Name er de Lord!
Can't you talk? Don't be foolin' wid me Man,
who is you ?"
One!" replied Aaron. The sound of a human
voice reassured her somewhat, but her knees shook
so she could hardly stand.
BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN.
What yo' name? she asked again.
Too long a name to tell you."
What you doin' ?"
"Watching a child looking hard at it."
"Wuz you, sho nuff?" She came a step
nearer. "How come any chil' out dis time er
A black child," Aaron went on. "Its dress
was afire. It went up and down the path here.
It went across the hill. Crying and calling-
calling and crying, Aaron Aaron Mammy's
hunting for you! Aaron! Aaron! Mammy 's
telling on you.' "
My Lord fum heaven moaned the woman;
" dat wuz my chil' de one what got burnt up
kaze I wuz off in de field. She threw her apron
over her head, fell on her knees, and moaned and
"Well, I'm Aaron. You hunted for me in
the nigger cabins; you slipped to the fence yon-
der ; you told three men you could n't find
0 Lord I wuz bleege ter do it. It wuz dat
er take ter de woods, an' dey ain't no place fer
me in de woods. What 'd I do out dar by myse'f