PRIZE STORIES OF 1924
ceremonies, nor was any funeral fittingly held without her presence to lend due solemnity to the occasion. But sometimes argument failed to convince those who tried to tempt her. Then ’Bama would fall back on flat refusal.
“Go ’way, nigguhs!” she would command. “I wouldn’t leave ’is heah plantation foh—foh a hund’ed dolluhs a yeah!”
So she remained steadfast at Holmacres as general house factotum for the Judge. It was ’Bama who tactfully reminded him, at those times when the larder became more depleted than usual, that supplies were needed. And it was she who, out of the merest nothing, could serve food fit for a king’s banquet. It was ’Bama who attended to the laundry—carefully washing the Judge’s shirts to save the frayed cuffs as much as possible—and looked after the scanty supply of household linen. She darned Judge Holmsted’s socks, saw that his shiny coat was occasionally brushed, and kept him generally from being out at elbows in the matter of clothing.
Her manifold duties had brought her to the front of the house that afternoon when the Judge summoned the mythical ’Lijah. For a moment she listened in open-mouthed amazement. Then understanding of a sort came to her, as she peeped between the curtains and saw the strangers. For some reason Judge Holmsted wanted it understood that a personage who answered—or should answer—to the name of ’Lijah belonged about the place. And any undertaking that the Judge set on foot was worth seeing to its conclusion. While she lacked the Judge’s creative ability, she could, at least, embellish that which he had made. Her first attempt was in evidence that evening when she served a supper that would have tickled the palate of a gourmand.
“Judge,” she remarked, taking the privilege of an old servant “does you know, suh, ’at triflin’ ’Lijah ain’t got back till yit?”
Judge Holmsted choked momentarily; he seemed to experience sudden difficulty with his food, but he recovered his self-control instantly.
“He hasn’t?” he demanded, sternly. “Won’t he ever learn to come in on time? Tell him that I wish to speak with him the moment he gets in.”
“Yessuh. I knows wheah he’s at. He’s down to ’at river, settin’ out catfish lines.”