Mary Alicia Owen

AUNT MYMEE had been in what Granny designated as "a turr'ble takin'," the cause of which was the loss of her most powerful fetich, the luck-ball she had talked to and called by her own name as if it were her double. Her superstitious terrors when she discovered the loss were really pitiable; her overbearing manner towards the other negroes quite forsook her, her limbs were palsied and her complexion bleached to that awful greyish pallor so much more shocking to the beholder than the lividness of a Caucasian. She had missed the precious ball in the morning, when she was dressing herself, and hastily felt in her bed, expecting to find it there. Not finding it, she snatched off the covers and shook the pillows vigorously. The floor was next scrutinised. No ball could be found. Then Aunt Mymee went wild. Her morning duties were forgotten, she ran hither and thither, looking in all possible and impossible places of concealment and obstinately refusing to state what she had lost. Finally, with a groan of despair, she flung herself down on her cabin floor in a cowering heap and quavered out that she would be better off in her grave, for an enemy had stolen her luck-ball, and her soul as well as her luck was in it.

Her daughter's pickaninnies, in great excitement, spread the news, but scarcely had Granny and Aunt Mary begun to enjoy it when they had " ter laff out o' turr side o' de mouf "; Tow Head proudly marched to the cabin with an exceedingly dirty little bag in her hand and desired to know if Aunt Mymee's soul was " tied up in that nasty thing ? "

Evidently it was. Aunt Mymee sprang up with a joyful cry and kissed the bag and hugged the finder, then sternly demanded-

"Huccome dat yo' got dat medout me a-knowin'? "

" Found it by my bed this morning."

" Oh ! honey, w'yn't yo' fetch um ri' off ? "

" I didn't see you. Mamma dressed me this morning."

" Did yo"'-Mymee's voice sank to an anxious whisper- " sho\v dat ball unter 'er? "

" No," said Tow Head, with great positiveness, "I didn't. She told me, once, wherl I was telling her about Uncle John's Jack, never to say anything more about such wicked idol-ertry, and I promised I wouldn't, and I always keep my promises-if I don't forget. Grandma says that is my best trait."

Aunt Mytnee heaved a sigh of relief.

"Dat's er good chile, don't pesteh yo' ma," she said, approvingly, as she began to fumble at the strings wrapped (not tied) round the neck of the dirty bag that had raised such a commotion.1

" What are you doing, Aunt Mymee ? "

" Gwine ter gib Lil Mymee er drink. Dat wut she arter, I reck'n, w'en she bust loose. I ain't gun 'er no drink sence er week ergo de day 'fo'yistiddy, an' she boun' ter hab one wunst er week. I wuz dat tuk up wid new-fangle noshins dat I fegit 'er, an', lo an' beholes ~ wut does I git foh hit ? "

" Shall I bring you a gourd of water ? "

"No, honey. Lil Mymee, she don' sup watteh," said Aunt Mymee, lifting a dirty little yarn ball out of the dirty little linen bag. " She sup wut Big Angy name eau-de-vie, an' dat sholy am de watteh ob life foh huh, kase ef she don' git un she die."2

Aunt Mymee produced a black bottle of Little Mymee's elixir of life, better known to the general public as whiskey, and proceeded to moisten, first the ball, then herself therewith; after which ceremony she restored the ball to its proper receptacle, mended the broken string, which had been the cause of its loss, and made it an ornament to her person by slinging the string over her left shoulder and under her right so that the ball rested under her right armpit. She had, beforehand, be it understood, slipped out of the various waists of her raiment, so that the ball should lie against her naked body, with no intervening fold of calico or flannel to absorb its "strenk."

How that ball was made, what were its components, Tow Head did not, at that time, know, though she gathered from the half-whispered gossip of the other aunties that it was the work of " King " A--- a Voodoo doctor or cunjurer of great powers and influence.

This A--- was a curious half-barbarian, who never stayed long in a place, made his entrances secretly and mysteriously in the night, never confided in any one, never spent money for anything but whiskey, never lacked for the good things of this world, and never was reduced to the inconvenience of begging or stealing, although he was as the lilies of the field "that toil not, neither do they spin." No cabin refused him shelter and the best bed and food it could afford. No one knew whence he came or whither he was going. When four taps were heard above the latch, some one flew to usher in the guest. "A--- 's dar " was the unspoken conviction. How he came was a matter of conjecture; it was generally conceded that he travelled at his ease on some strange steed of the devil's providing.

As soon as he was settled in his temporary quarters - that is, had eaten of everything in the larder, drunk generous potations of whiskey, and taken possession of the best chair - a messenger was sent out "to pass the word around" that he had arrived.

In the course of the night the answer came in the persons of scores of darkies, some of them from a distance of many miles, who eagerly purchased his remedies, charms and " tricks."

When she was a child Tow Head never once caught sight of him, but in after years she had more than one interview with this " king" of occult " cussedness." When she saw him her disappointment was extreme. There was nothing royal either in his appearance or demeanour. He was, as he is, a black, sweaty, medium-sized negro, half-naked, altogether innocent of soap, and not dispensing the perfume of Araby the blest.3 His eyes were snaky, his narrow forehead full at the eyebrows but shockingly depressed above. His nose was broad and with a flatness of nostrils emphasized to the perception of the beholder by the high, bony ridge that divided them. His chin was narrow and prominent; at first glance, it seemed broad by reason of the many baggy folds that surrounded it after the fashion of a dew-lap. He was far from beautiful when his features were in repose, but the time to fully realise that he was a self-chosen disciple of his Satanic Majesty was when he unclosed his great rolling lips in a silent laugh. The yawning cavern thereby disclosed, with its double guard of yellow, broken, "snaggy" teeth set in gums unwholesomely red, and its ugly, wriggling tenant, a serpent-like tongue, were, in themselves, more awe-inspiring than any charm or curse that issued therefrom.

When Tow Head saw him she meekly asked for some talisman to insure good luck to a friend.

" Fetch me," said the ogre, " er ha'r ur two fum de body o' de one dat wants de luck, an' er dollah, an' I mek yo' er luck-ball."

Tow Head explained that the " ha'r " could not be obtained. The friend was on the other side of the ocean.

"Den fetch de money an' I kin hate red clobeh (clover) stan' in de place o'de ha'r."

Tow Head " fotch " the dollar and then, as she demonstrated that she was something of a witch herself, by repeating the formula she had learned from Aunt Mymee for preparing a "tricker-bag," she was not only furnished the ball but, in addition, was taught how to make it.

This is one way to prepare a " tricker-bag ": --

Take the wing of a jaybird, the jaw of a squirrel, and the fang of a rattle-snake and burn them to ashes on any red-hot metal. Mix the ashes with a pinch of grave-dust-the grave of the old and wicked has most potency in its earth-moisten with the blood of a pig-eating sow; make into a cake and stick into the cake three feathers of a crowing hen wrapped with hair from the head of the one who wishes an enemy tricked. Put the cake into a little bag of new linen or cat-skin. Cat-skin is better than linen, but it must be torn from the haunch of a living cat. Whatever the bag is, it must be tied with a ravelling from a shroud, named for the enemy and then hidden under his house. It will bring upon him disease, disgrace, and sorrow. If a whipporwill's wing is used instead of a jay's it will bring death.

" Dat's toll'ble," A-- declared. " Des toll'ble. Thee (three) am er good numbeh, but fo (four) am betteh in de makin'up ob tricks. Good lan'!4 I de daid deyse'fs got ter mine de fos (fours) ef yot mek um plenty nuff. Fo' time fo' time fo' (4 x 4 x 4) am de gret numbeh. De daid an' de debbils gotter mine dat. Des see me mek dis hyeah luck-ball en' kote (quote) um in."

A-- spread his materials, consisting of red clover, dust, tinfoil, white yarn, and white sewing-silk, on a table, called for a bottle of whiskey, and, when the last-named necessity of modern " cunjerin " was produced, proceeded to business. He broke off four lengths of yarn, each length measuring about forty-eight inches. These were doubled and re-doubled into skeins of four strands each and spread in a row before him. To each skein was added forty-eight inches of sewing-silk folded as the yam was.

" Dar now I " he said, " De silk am ter tie yo'frens unter yo', de yahn am ter tie down all de debbils. Des watch me tie de knots. Hole on dough !-dis fust! "

The "fust " proceeding was to fill his mouth with whiskey. Then ensued a most surprising gurgling and mumbling, as he tied a knot near the end of the skein nearest him. As it was tightened, he spat about a teaspoonful of tobacco-perfumed saliva and whiskey upon it.

" Dar now! " he said, "dat's er mighty good knot. Dey ain't no debbil kin git thu dat."

" Stop! Stop! You are not dealing fairly with me. You promised that I should hear your incantation, and you mumble so that I cannot distinguish a word."

" Ise a-kotin in (quoting in) de name o' de one de ball am foh. Des wait twell I git thee (three) mo' knots tied in dis hank an' den I kote out loud foh de turrs."

Sure enough, when the mumbling, spitting, and tying had been repeated three times, he laid down the skein, took up the second one, filled his mouth with whiskey, began to tie a knot, and said- .

" Gord afo' me' Gord ahine me, Gord be wid me. May dis ball fetch all good luck ter Charles Leland. May hit tie down all debbils, may hit bine down 'is innemies afo' 'im, may hit bring um undeh 'is feet. May hit bring 'im frees in plenty, may hit bring 'im faithful frens, may hit bine um to 'im. May hit bring 'im honeh (honour), may hit bring 'im riches, may hit bring 'im 'is haht's desire. May hit bring 'im success in evveht'ing he hondehtakes, may hit bring 'im happiness. I ax foh hit in de name ob de Gord."

This he repeated four times, then spat upon the knot, took a fresh drink of whiskey, began on a second knot and repeated the whole performance, exactly as he did also when he tied the third and fourth knots. When this second skein had its four knots tied, he laid it against the first. Before the two had lain several inches apart.

" Now," said he, " ef yo' gotter fair membunce (an' I reck'n yo' has, kase yo' look lak er ooman strong in de haid, er mighty strong ooman in de haid) I 'low dat yo' knows dat chahm off by haht. Dat's yo' look out dough, kase I ain' gwine ter holler hit no mo'. Ise gwine ter say hit sorf (soft) w'iles I ties de fo' knots in dem urr two lil hanks."

When the muttering and spitting at length ceased, and four little skeins with four little knots in each lay side by side, Tow Head asked-

" What is the use of tying all those knots ? "

" Dem knots! W'y dem knots am in fo's (fours) an' dey tie down all de debbils -- debbils is 'fraid o' fo' time fo' time fo'. Likeallwise, de knots bine yo' frens unter yo'. Dey ain't no debbil kin git thu dem knots."

" What is all that other stuff for ? " "Stuff!" the "cunjer-man's" tone was indignant. "Des wait twell dat stuff git a-wuhkin'. Dat ar piece ob file (foil) rupisent (represents) de brightness ob dat lil spurrit dat gwine ter be in de ball, dat clobeh am in de place ob de ha'r offen de one dat ter own de ball, dat dus'am innemies'dus,' en' hit am ter bline de eyes ob de innemies."

So saying, he drew three of the skeins towards him, twisted them into a little nest and gave them a copious bath of saliva and whiskey.

" It seems to me that conjuring is mostly whiskeying."

'Dey's er heap o' pennunce (dependence to be placed in) whiskey, sholy, dough in de outlandish kyentry fum whurs dey fetch de niggehs in de fust place, dey tek some sort ob greens an' putt um in er gode (gourd) wid watteh an' set um in de sun twell dey wuhk (work-ferment), an' dat go in de place ob whiskey.''5

Tow Head would fain have asked other questions, but the " king " waved his hand to enjoin silence. Again he had recourse to the whiskey-bottle, and once more he began to murmur his incantation, pausing only to spit upon the red clover blossoms and the encircling leaves and upon the tinfoil, as he placed them in the little yarn nest and sprinkled them liberally with enemies' dust -- a powder that looked as if he had picked it up at a gas-house, although he declared it was dust gathered where the river sand and the clay of the bank met. Suddenly, with a dramatic flourish, he plunged his hand into his bosom and drew forth a ball of white yarn. From this he began to wind the thread about the little woollen nest, all the time keeping up the muttering of the incantation and the attendant punctuation of saliva and whiskey. In a few minutes, he had made a new ball of a little over an inch in diameter. This was a "luck- ball." He held it suspended by a length of yarn and began to talk to it in most caressing tones.

" Promuss dat yo'll be er good ball."

The string began to twirl as if unwinding.

" Dat's right I I know'd yo'd be good."

" You have left out a skein," interrupted Tow Head.

" Dat wuz a-puppus," was the lofty reply. " Now, ef yo' want de good ob dis hyeah ball, yo' ain't gwine ter flusteh me wid queschins."

Tow Head was stricken dumb.

The "king" shut his eyes and proceeded to give an uncanny exhibition of ventriloquism.

" Now," said he, addressing the ball, as he dangled it between his thumb and finger, "yo' name is Leland, Charles Leland. Ise gwine ter sen' yo' er long way off unter er master, er mighty long way off, 'cross big watteh (the ocean). Go out m de woods an' 'fresh yo'se'f 'fo' yo' staht. Go 'long! Do yo' hyeah me? Is yo' gwine? Is yo' gwine way off? Is yo' climbin'? Is yo' climbin' high?"

After each question there was a series of answerings, growing fainter and fainter as the spirit of the ball was supposed to go farther and farther away.

After the last question there was a long pause. Then "Charles Leland" was invited to return. As he was a long way off, the "king" listened attentively to the faint murmur that came in reply, even pressing forward the rim of his ear to catch the faint, far-distant answer.

The answer was evidently what the "king" desired, for he continued to question and receive replies, and each time the question was fainter, and the reply louder. " Is yo' stahted ? Is yo' comin' closter? Is yo' gittin' nigh ? Is yo' back ? Is yo' in de ball ergin ?"

All of "Charles's" replies were in the affirmative. When he was once more at home, he proclaimed the fact by causing the ball to spin and dance in the most surprising manner. When he finally relapsed into quietude, he had another shower-bath from his summoner's mouth. Then there was nothing more to be done but to wrap the ball in tinfoil and a little silk rag. The only instructions given were to place the ball in a linen bag, attach it to a string of flax or hemp and direct the one for whom it was named to sling the string over the left shoulder and under the right, so that the ball should rest under the right arm. From thence he must be taken once a week and bathed in whiskey, otherwise its strength would die. At any time "he" could be taken out and consulted or confided in. His approval or disapproval could be felt by the owner, at once, and his help relied on if asked for. Only one warning was given. " Don't tie no knots in he kivvuz (covers)."6

Just such a ball was the one Aunt Mymee lost and found. All her acquaintances knew as well as she did what it was to her; the matter was a theme of gossip all day and inspired Granny and Aunt Em'ly to relate stories of other and more precious luck-balls when evening came on.

Aunt Em'ly's story of Ole Rabbit's silver bubble came first.

" One time, de Debbil's ole ooman, des foh 'muse huhse'f an' pesteh folks, mek de spoht (sport) ob flingin'er silveh blubbeh inter de pond, an' den she gin out dat whoso git um git all de good luck dat am in de worl', an' she mek up er turr'ble speunce (experience, deeds) dat all han's am boun' ter go thu, ef dey git um."

" What experience, Aunt Em'ly ? "

" Des hole on, honey, hole back de hosses an' we git dar bimeby. Hit Ole Chuffy we aim arter now. Dis de way he sot out, en' he des natchel honed arter dat ball. He uster go down by de big pond at de aige o' de swamp an' set dar an' study 'bout hit all times o' de day an' night. 'Pear lak he kyarn' git hit offen he mine 'tall; he tork about hit daytime, he dremp 'bout hit twell he res' bin cl'ar spile. He go on dataway twell he drap off der skin an' bone. He git dat desput dat he lay off ter ax ole Miss Debbil ef she won't please 'um gin 'im dat blubbeh, kase he bin know dat ole ooman sence he wuz knee-high ter er hoppehgrass, an' he he'p 'er out wunst ur twiste w'en Ole Blue Jay kyar tale 'bout 'er ter er ole man. She lak mighty well ter see 'im cut he shines dat mek 'er laff w'en she git de low-downs fum quoilin' (quarrelling) wid de Debbil. He know dat, so he go roun' de pond ter de aige ob de slough - hit wuz in de wanin' ob de moon, in co'se, kase dat am w'en de Debbil an' he folkses am de peartes'. Yessir ~ hit wuz at de wanin' ob de moon, an' de kine (kind) ob er moon dat comed in new 'way down in de souf-wes', a-rollin' in de sky pun eend stiddier a-settin' on huh back. Now den, dat woz er wet moon, hit wuz er moon de Injun kin hang he queeveh o' arrehs on, kase de watteh gwine ter run out an' dey be no huntin'. Hit wuz er mighty red moon too, wid sto'ms (storms) a-mumblin' in de hot a'r roun' hit. Hit wuz er mighty good night foh cunjerin' an' a-callin' up de goses an' de booggers (bogies) an' de laks ob dem, but Ole Bunny, he done fegit dat hit bin a-rainin' at dinneh-time w'en de sun wuz a-shinin'. Ef he t'ink o' dat, he know 'tain't no use ter go out an' call up de ole ooman, kase rain in de sunshine am de sho sign dat de Debbil bin a-lickin' her.

"Well I he dat 'stractid 'bout de ball he ain't hed dat in membunce, so he go ter de ma'sh an' he wait an' he watch, an' bimeby, he see de smoke rise, 'way out yondeh. Den de jacky-me-lantuhns (jack-o'-lanterns -- will-o'-the-wisps) come bibbitty-bobbitty by. Den he tek de red clobeh leabes an' heads dat he fotch a-puppus an' he strong dem on de groun' en' he set down on um, an' he wait an' he wait.

" Den de brack smoke come nigher an' nigher.
" Den hit stop.
" Den he holler out-

'My honey, my love,
My turkle-dove,
Come oveh! come oveh!"'

" Ez offen ez de smoke stop he holler cat.

" Wut he holler dat foh? -- Kase hit de way ter mek dat ole 'ooman-debbil, come on. All de 'oomans, honey, debbil ur no debbil, run todes dat kine o' tork. Co'se dey do! All de men-folks kin spressify (express themselves) ter dat.

" Well! at de las', w'en he holler dat twell he mouf wuz ez dry ez er beanpod arter fros', de smoke git closte, den hit paht open in de middle an dar wuz de debbil's ole 'ooman ! "

" Was she awfully, awfully ugly ? "

" Huh ! dat she wuzzent ! De debbil ain't no fool. He kin pick out de good looks de same as de nex' un. She wuz ez putty ez er painter (panther) an' ez sassy ez er yalleh gal (mulatto). She got one fut lak Ole Rabbit dough, en' de urr lak er deer. Huh han's, dey wuz w'ite an' putty, but dey got de claw 'pun de eend lak er pussy-cat's."

" Did she claw Old Rabbit ? "

" Nuh, but I ain't 'ny dat (deny that) w'ell he see dat ole 'ooman he trimmle lak de leabes. He look an' he sees dat she bin a-cryin', an' dat mek 'im wish dat he c'd mek he mannehs (bow) an'cl'ar out.

"'Wut fetch yo' hyeah?' she ax, 'way down deep lak er buffler-bull. 'Wut fetch yo' hyeah?' sez she, 'hyeah mungs de daid? Yo' place am mungs de libbin. Go 'way! Git yo' gone !' sez she.

"Wid dat de smoke shet in wunst mo' an' staht, wimly-wamly, wimly-wamly, des a trim'lin"long, sorter slow, lak de shedder w'en de win' blow de cannel des de leases' lil mite.

'` Den, oh my! Chuffy, he wuz skeert, but he des mek out ter say-

M-My t-t-turkle-d-d-d-dove !'
'M-M-M-My h-h-honey, m-m-my l-l-love,

" De rest un hit stick in he thote an' he kyarn't fetch hit out, but, nemmine ! dat stop 'er, en' den he git de strenk ter baig an' plead foh de lil silveh ball.

" She so frackshis, she won't gin 'im nuttin. She say she done gin 'im 'er own rabbit-fut foh luck, dat one dat 'er mammy cotch foh 'er, an' dat sholy plenty. Ef he want dat silveh luck-ball, he des kin wuhk foh hit. Wid dat she go weevly-wavely off; an' den de jacky-me-lantuhns, dey kim up an' skeert dat po', lone lil ole Man Rabbit mos' ter deff. He des clip home, he do, but he ain't got de blubbeh, an' dat mos' kill 'im. 'Tain't long arter dat twell he do git dat blubbeh dough," continued Aunt Em'ly; smiling on her audience, encouragingly, " an' dis hyeah dat I gwine to tell yo' am de whahby he sot ter wullk.

" He go out in de bresh an' he cut 'im de slimmes' kine ob er hazel switch, forkin' at de eend, lak dem dar switches dat de well-diggehs hab w'en dey a-tryin' foh ter fine whar de watteh am, soster dig de well in de good place. Dat switch he tuck and tuck home wid him.

" Den he go ter de big woods an' scrabble roun' twell he fine er nut drap offen one dem pignut hick'ry trees. Dat nut he tuck an' tuck home.

" Den he go out ter de fiel' an' he git some hemp, an' he twis' 'im er good stout string, an he mek er slip-knot an' loop in de eend. Den he tuck an' tuck dat string home.

" Den w'en de day git good an' wa'm, he tuck dem stings an' he staht out; but on de way he stop nigh de crik en' cut 'im lil paw-paw (some say ash instead of paw-paw) lim', an' he mek lil hole in dat lil pignut, en' he stick hit on de eend o' dat lil lim'.

" Den he go roun'by de hew trees, dat got de grapevines clamberin' onter um, an' he git er lil daid curleycue (tendril) offen de grapevine, an' he set down an' he buil' er lil fiah outen daid leabes, an' he hole de eend ob de curleycue in de fiah twell hit buhn ri'brack. Dat brack eend he tek an' mahk wid hit dat lil pignut twell hit look foh all de worl' lak er lil pickaninny's haid. He mek lil maLk foh de eyes an' de winkehs an' de nose an' de mouf an' all; an' w'en he git dat done, he wrop er nice lil rabbit-skin roun' dat paw-paw lim', an' he say, 'Dar now! ain't I got de nice, fine baby!' an' he cut er pidgin-wing, ant he sing-

'Byo baby-buntin',
Yo' daddy gwine a~huntin'."7

An' he sholy wuz gwine a-huntin', kase luck-huntin' am de bigges' kine ob huntin' dey is, ef yo' s'arch up one side ob de yeath an' down de turr.

"W'en he git de baby done, he tuck hit in de one han' an' de hazel switch in de turr, an' sot out ter hunt er rattlesnake; an' bimeby he comed 'cross er big sassy young one, quile up (coiled up) on er hooraw-nes' (hurrah's nest-an accumulation of leaves made by wind and water at the edge of a stream), an' a-takin' er snooze. Ole Rabbit he crope up, he did, thu de weeds an briehs, an' w'en he git closte nuff -- spang! -- he run dat paw-paw lim' outen de bresh des ez quick! an' he stick dat pignut face right at de eye ob Misteh Rattlesnake! Suz, dat rowge (roused) up Misteh Rattletail, an' my! ef he wuzzent de maddes'!

"'Cuss de impunce ob dat lil sassy niggeh I' sez 'e, an wid dat - smack! -- he hit dat pignut pickaninny de bigges' lick !

" Hit wuz er las'-yeah's pignut, honey, an' de fros' an' de rain done mek hit mo' sorf den er dis yeah's nut, so Misteh Rattletail done stick he two toofses (he sent got but des two, an' dey des a-front de pizon-bag), he done stick um inter dat ole nut an' dey won't come out. Dar dey wuz, tight ant fas'. Den Ole Rabbit he run up, an' he slip dat string wid de slip- knot roun' Misteh Rattletail' neck twell he mos' choke 'im, an' he lash 'im fas' ter de paw-paw lim'. Den he tek a-holt ob he tail, an' den don't Ole Chuffy go a-singin' en' a-whustlin' 'long de parf dat lead ter de pond. W'en he git dar, he fling in de lim' wid Misteh Rattletail 'pun hit, an' hit stick fas' at de bottom an' don't come up; ef hit come up hit sp'ile de luck , kase dat de p'int , dat yo ' throw in er libe rattlesnake by de tail, an' de las' blubbeh dat come up ef de snake lodge, dat am de silbeh blubbeh, an' yo' boun' ter ketch hit on de forky switch.

" W'en dat snake stick on de bottom, Ole Chuffy he tek de switch an' hole hit wid de fawk eend out obeh de pond. He watch dez ez keen ez ef he got de eye ob er snake he own se'f. He watch de blubbehs twell dey come slow an' scatt'in; den he haht ri' in he mouf, he dat feahrin dat he miss de right one.

"One come by hitse'f.
" He retch out.
" Hit bus'.
" He mos fit ter cry.
" One mo' come.

" He retch-quick ! He slip de fawk unneat hit ! He lif' hit up! He dror hit in ! Hit slip ! -- O-o-ow! -- Hit mos' fal back ! Now he got um! Hi! he grab um in de han' ! Dat de silbeh blubbeh, sho nuff! soun' er (as a) rock an' shinin' lak er chunk ob de moon. Hooray ! Hoo-hoo-hooray!

"Hit tek Ole Rabbit, arter all,
Ter beat w'ite folks an'git de ball!"

The story of the silver ball inspired Granny to relate one she called: -


" In de ole, ole times, ole man gwine 'long de big road. Ole man lame, ole man raggedy, old man mons'us dry, ole man mons'us hongry. See lil cabin down lil lane dat run inter de big road. Po' ole man go up ter de do', knock wid he han' knock wid he stick.

" De do' open, man come out.

"'Wut yo' want, ole man ? '

" Lemme set down on de bench by de do' an' gimme er gode o' watteh an' er lil hunk o' cawn-pone (maize-bread; Algonkin, pan, bread). Ise ole, Ise lame, Ise dry, Ise hongry, Ise plum wo' out.'

" Man dunno. He scratch de haid, he roll de eye.

" 'Ooman in de house holler out -

"'Gib de ole man de butteh-milk outen de crock, an' de wusseh-meat (sausage-meat) outen de pan.'

Man git de beggeh-man de butteh-milk in de crock an' de wusseh-meat in de pan. He drink de milk, he lick de crock. He eat de meat, he lick de pan. He grunt, he groan, he stretch hisse'f.

" 'Oh I gimme er whuff fum yo' pipe,' sez 'e.

" Man scratch de haid, he roll de eye. He dunno, he say.

"'Ooman holler out-

" Oh! tek de backy fum de pouch; oh! tek de pipe fum off de jamb an' gib de po' ole man er whuff.'

" Man he do des wut she say.

"Beggeh-man say-

" 'Gimme er fiah-coal.'

" Man git de fiah-coal.

" Beggeh-man light de pipe an' hole de fiah-coal in he han'. Den he smoke an' smoke de backy all erway. He bat de eye, he grin de mouf, en' lean ergin de cabin wall.

" Fiah-coal buhn afar all de time right in he han'.

"He ain't keer ef hit do buhn. He bat de eye, he grin de mouf, he lean ergin de cabin wall.

" Man stan' dar in de do' an' watch.

" Bimeby de pickanimly squall.

"Beggeh-man stan' up.

"'Is dat er mouse I hyeah ? ' sez 'e.

"'Oh ! dat's my darter, one day ole.'

"'Oh ! do huh ha'r shine lak de gole ?'

"'Oh, no! a niggeh-chile am she.'

"'Oh ! fetch huh hyeah an' lemme see.'

"'Huh mammy won't 'low dat at all.'

"' Oh! fetch huh hyeah ter git ball.'

"Wid dat, de ole beggeh-man he swaller dat fiah-coal en' spit um right up, an' dar twuz! -- er lil gole ball wid er yalleh string.

"Den de man fetch lil kinkey-haid, an' de beggeh-man he fling de string roun' 'er neck an' de ball hit fall gin er breas'.

" Den de beggeh-man he up an' git (departed), an' how he go dat man kyarn't tell. He look ter lef', he look ter right' dat beggeh-man clean out o' sight. Den de man tek de chile ter 'er mammy, an' den he run down de lane.

"Look dishaway, look dataway! See nuttin!

"Run ter de big road. Look up de road, look down de road! See nuttin !

" Run back ter de mammy an' de chile.

"'Oh, gimme back dat golen ball ! Dat beggeh-man he cunjer, all. He trick dat chile; she boun'ter die.'

" He raise dat chile ter retch de string. Oh ! how dat chile done change an' grow. Huh ha'r hit hang 'way down huh back, hit hang ez straight ez cawn-silk too; hit tuhn ez yalleh ez de ball. Huh skin hit tuhn ez w'ite ez milk.

"'Oh, leabe de ball ! ' de mammy say.

"De man he 'gree unter dat too. He laff-an' darnce ter see dat chile. He say, 'Don't nevveh break dat string.'

"De mammy 'gree unter dat too.

"De chile she grow en' grow an' grow.

"De mammy, den, she up an' die.

"Er Oby-'ooman p'izon huh.

"De Oby-'ooman merry 'im (married). She beat de gal, she tell 'm lie; she try ter steal de gol'en ball, an' w'en she fine kyarn't do dat, she slip ahine dat milk-w'ite gal an' cut in she two dat yalleh string.

"Dat ball hit fall inter de grass.

"Dat milk-w'ite gal she tuhn right brack. Huh ha'r hit swivel up in kinks, hit tuhn right brack, hit shine no mo'. De po' brack gal, she gun ter cry.

"De folks run up, dey don't kno\y huh.

"De Oby squall -

"'Yo' kilt ou' chile!'

"De folks dey say -
"'Yo' sholy did!'

"De po' brack gal, she cry an' cry.

"Dey tek dat gal, dey tie huh fas'.

"She say, 'I nuvveh kilt no gal!' I wuz dat milk-w'ite gal yo' hed!''

"Dey pay no 'tenshun ter dat wuhd. Dey git de chain, dey git de rope, dey built er gallus-tree up high.

"De po' brack gal, she cry an' cry.

"Huh daddy come.

"She call at 'im-

"'O, daddy, fine dat gol'en ball, ur yo' see me hang 'pun de gallus-tree!'

"De man go by.

"De Oby come.

"'O, mammy, fine dat gol'en ball, ur yo' see me hang 'pun de gallus-tree! '

"Oby go by!

"Huh beau, he come.

"'Beau, beau, fine dat gol'en ball, ur yo' see me hang 'pun de gallus-tree!'

"Beau go by.

"Den all de folks go by, go home, don't hunt de ball. Dey spec she die 'pun de gallus-tree.

"Ole beggeh-man, he brine, he lame. He stop. He say, 'I save dat gal. I save huh fum de gallus-tree.'

"Beggeh-man hole out de gol'en ball.

"She won't die on de gallus-tree.

" He han 'er back de golen ball, he tell de tale, he show de t'ief.

"Oby, she die 'pun de gallus-tree.

"Beau, he see de milk-w'ite gal, he ketch 'er wads', he try ter buss.

"'Go 'way, beau, yo' want I die 'pun de gallus-tree.'

"Daddy come up, he say, 'Come home.'

"Milk-w'ite gal, she tuhn de back.

"'Daddy, I kyarn't. Yo' mek me 'feard de gallus-tree.'

"Beggeh-man change, he putty, now (he had become beautiful), an' oh! he save huh fum de gallus-tree. He tek de gal by huh w'ite han', he lead huh pas' de gallus-tree.

"De folks squall out, 'Come back! come back! an' we pull down de gallus-tree.'

"De man an' gal go on an' on. Dey lose sight ob de gallus tree.

"De hill, hit open good an' wide. Dey bofe go thu dat big wide crack. Dey done fegit de gallus-tree.

"De hill, hit shet closte up ergin.

"'Good-bye' good folks an' gallus-tree!"'

So inspiriting was this finale that everybody began to sing and "jump Jim Crow," a favourite pastime borrowed from the white minstrels, so far as the song, but not so far as the "exercise" was concerned.

"Fust upun de heel tap,
Den upun de toe.
Ebry time you tuhn eroun
You jump Jim Crow.
My ole mistis told me so
I'd nebber git ter Heb'n
Ef I jump Jim Crow.
Jump Jim Crow - oh,
Jump Jim Crow.
I'd nebber git ter Heb'n ef I jump Jim Crow.

From Voodoo Tales as Told Among the Negroes of the Southwest, 1893.

Editor's Notes:

1. This same incident also occurred almost exactly as here related to my brother -- Henry P. Leland -- when he was twelve years of age. The old black cook of the family had lost her "cunjerin' bag," when my brother found it. It contained a chicken's breastbone, ashes, and rags. -C. G. L.return to text

2. This is African, as still practiced on the Guinea coast.return to text

3. Like nearly all the persons described in these chapters, A-- was not quite a negro. His mother was a pure~blood Indian, and the son spoke Indian as naturally as English.-C. G. L. return to text

4. Good land! A land! A common American interjection, confined to the blacks. return to text

5. Quite true. This is the pombe or maize-beer of Africa, used in magic.return to text

6. ' I received this luck ball in a letter when in Copenhagen. It appeared to be such a mysterious or important object, that an official was specially sent from the post-office with it to the hotel where I was staying, and I received it from him. The reader may find an account of how I myself have seen luck. bags made by witches in Italy, in " Etruscan Roman Relics in Popular Tradition." (London: T. Fisher Unwin. 1873.) - C. G. L. return to text

7. I think that this is probably the original of the Tar Baby because it corresponds more closely to the making of the magical mannikin as found in European sorcery. Thus in England it is made by putting a "fairy head" (stone, echinus) on a tiny body (MS. charms) and in Italy with a distaff. Its object is the same in all to defeat or act counter to witches and evil spirits, &c. return to text