LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
WHEN Monsieur Dutarque had
slammed the churchyard gate
behind him, Catharine, baffled by
the futility of her imploring cry, had
dropped her chin upon her breast and
sobbed. Then she had struggled fiercely
to be free, until she felt quite faint and
weak. Then she had sobbed again in all
a child's impotent fury of grief.
But after all, she was "outdoors." To
the country-bred child this was a great
deal. She was hungry, it is true, but
the slanting light of afternoon was very
sweet. The faint fragrance in the air,
the buzzing of the bees, the shrill "tweet-
tweet" of a bird near at hand, the dis-
tant, mellow, monotonous chant of the
men on the ferryboat-all conspired to
soothe the pain at her heart.
Nature, that great nursing mother,
took Catharine up, as she takes us all
when human sympathy fails us, and
hushed her on her breast. Then, too,
there woke within her a healthy instinct
LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN. 39
of anxiety as to the fate of Flying Child-
ers. By dint of keen watching, she saw
at last a little black moving object not
An hour and more went by in eager
watching of the efforts of Flying Child-
ers to get over a mound, and in palpita-
ting anxiety lest he might not come her
way. But slowly, wanderingly, furtively,
with many wayside halts and many aim-
less excursions in other directions, finally
the tiny creature crept up so near that
Catharine could touch him with one
buckled shoe-tip. And then she used that
shoe-tip coaxingly, and felt almost as
though she were no longer alone.
"O Flyin'," she said, plaintively, every
time he wandered even an inch away,
"don't leave your poor little mistress-
don't-Flyin'!" and it almost seemed as
though "Flyin'" might have understood,
for he kept always within her sight, and
often within her reach, as long as she
could see him.
All this while she had strained against
her bonds, leaning forward to talk to Fly-
ing Childers, so that when she raised her-
self up at last from the slight latitude
the rope had allowed her, the sudden twi-
light of the South had fallen over the
40 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
land, and already it was night in leafy
corners under the locust-trees.
Then the pathos which lurks in the
lowland landscapes of Carolina, even in
the sunshine, and which reigns supreme
about the evening hour in spring, pierced
poignant to the core of that sore little
Catharine lifted up her voice and wept,
though there was none to hear. All the
tales told by the negroes of the ghosts and
apparitions, all the pictures that survived
on her sensitive brain from the stories her
father had told her about the Indians,
were all developed now in the darkness
of her agony into a panorama of pain.
Worse still, she could hear the distant
bark of the fox, the baying of the wolf,
the snarl of the wildcat, the weird call of
the owl, followed by the "Ha-ha-ha!"
that sounds so utterly unbirdlike. Even
to the experienced woodsman in those
days these night sounds were unwelcome.
To the ignorant, timid, petted child they
must have been fraught with unspeak-
She strained her eyes against the wall
of the forest that rose on her right, op-
posite the church. She could see only
vague, uncountable columns of lofty
LITTLE, MISTRESS CHICKEN. 41
pines, under the branches of which in the
blackness of darkness that lurked there
might be grim beasts of prey, or the
stealthy forms of thieving Choctaws.
Every day the heads of wildcats, of
bears and wolves and tigers were brought
in by the Indians and the poor white
traders for the bounty offered for their
destruction; and Catharine knew well the
look of each terrible beast, fierce even in
death. They seemed all about her now,
they, and all apparitions of dread with
which superstition then peopled the
And she-she wanted her own little
bed; she wanted her mauma, who had
been wont to sit by her bedside at night,
and tell her stories about "B'er Rabbit
and the Tar Baby." Above all, she
wanted her mother, and with the thought
she broke into such a passion of weeping
that even Flying Childers scudded away,
and pitying echoes woke and whispered
all about the empty church.
So, tied erect to the tombstone, wri-
thing against it in her weariness and
fright, with head as hot as fire, and hands
and feet like ice, despite the warm spring
night, she cried herself to sleep, and hung,
a dead-weight, there against the rope.
42 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
Not long might one sleep in such a pos-
ture, and at about midnight poor little
Catharine Chicken woke with terrible
pains in every limb and joint. She looked
first up to the sky, where one black cloud
had blotted out the Milky Way and all
the stars were growing faint. She tried
to move her hands, but they were like the
hands of the dead. Even her feet refused
to obey her. Her tongue clove to the roof
of her mouth as she recognized her where-
A muffled cry of fear had wakened her.
It was repeated now, closer at hand.
"0 Mas' Jesus! Lord, hab mussy!"
It was like the slave Money's voice, but
the tone was one of indescribable fear.
She would have called to him for help,
but the next moment a huge, shining head
appeared but two feet from the ground,
and came slowly toward her. Her brain
reeled. Monsieur Dutarque must surely
have summoned this dreadful dwarf to
"M'sieu' Dutarque," she cried, faintly,
with a supreme effort-"Dear M'sieu'
The great head wavered, and then
came on faster. A thought of the kind
usher came to her-a wild idea that he
might intercede for her.
LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN. 43
"Mr. Mack-Mr. Mack," she cried,
with fast failing strength, "tell him I will
But when all was of no avail, and the
head continued to approach, there leapt
from her that piteous poignant cry for her
mother, and then she fell silent, blind to
every sight and deaf to every sound of
The slave Money, stealing stealthily
home to Coming T, without a passport,
carried with him a monstrous gourd, with
holes cut in it representing eyes and
mouth. Within was a bit of a candle.
Upon this device, and upon the atmo-
sphere of dread that hung about the Rob-
intation Tree, he relied to elude the vigi-
lance of the plantation patrol, and to
reach in safety, as he had often done be-
fore, the "Quarters" on the top of the
hill, beyond the sycamores. But while
planning to frighten others, he had never
counted on a scare for himself.
His teeth had chattered, and he had
cried out at sight of that little white child-
ghost close by a new-made grave. Then
he had quickly regained his self-posses-
sion, and lighted his gourd-face, for he
was a slave of more than ordinary courage
44 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
When his act elicited that piercing
scream, in the well-known voice of little
Mistress Chicken, he had hurried to her
aid, all-wondering, and unthinking that
he, himself, might fright her more with
his lantern near the ground. He found
her hard-tied, and cold, and thought her
Suppose he should untie her? What
then? Would he escape the whipping he
deserved for leaving Coming T without
a ticket of leave? Nay, would they not
rather suspect him of some foul play in
the matter? Alas! a slave's word had
little weight in the Province, nor in such
a matter as this would he be allowed time
for many words.
Could little mistress have been "voo-
dooed"? But Money put that aside
grimly. Nay, it was the schoolmaster
who had done this evil thing.
Money knew Monsieur Dutarque's rec-
ord better than any other in St. John's
could know it, and he bore him a heavy
grudge which dated since long before the
day on which Money had stood on the
Vendue Table in Charles Town, and had
become the property of his present kindly
The slave could not tell what to do.
LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN. 45
He wanted the schoolmaster's wickedness
brought to light, yet his heart smote him
when he tried to go on and leave that
piteous little white body exposed to the
weather and the wild beasts.
He had only to go by, and say nothing,
and then they must suspect the school-
master. But 'if he should report the mat-
ter, would not that plausible Monsieur
Dutarque manage somehow to shift the
blame from his own to the slave's broad
shoulders? In that case, certain death
would be his portion. For what was a
slave's life to that of sweet little Mistress
So poor Money, dubious and uncertain,
with that fear of the dead which belongs
not only to the ignorant, and which, even
in his grief for her, held him aloof from
the bound body of the child, waited, with
the tireless patience of the negro, to see
what might befall.
Grimly he noted the approach of the
schoolmaster and his wife, and then, with
a grin, almost as malicious as the master's
own, he hung the gourd on the end of the
fishing-pole he carried, lighted anew the
candle, and raised it aloft behind the
child. The effect was all that he hoped.
But Money himself was impelled to
46 LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.
take to his heels at sound of the baying
of dogs, and the blowing of horns, and
the cries of the searchers, which all at
once became audible above the murmur-
ing voices of the night. Under cover of
this tumult he could easily steal unno-
ticed into Coming T.
In this uncertainty something fine
within the slave's heart asserted itself
above the fear of punishment, and when
Mr. Harleston rode into the town with
a band of his friends, and a vast crowd
of excited runners with lightwood torches
before and behind, some holding in leash
the eager bloodhounds, some trusty slaves
carrying cutlasses and guns - something
dark and frantic clung about his stirrup
with a cry that filled all hearts with
"Gie me de cowskin, Mas' John! Gie
me de cowskin! But Mis' Lyddy leetle
Cat'rin' dey-dey een de grabeya'd dead
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