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A Story Of Seven Devils
by [?]

The negro church which stood in the pine woods near the little village of Oxford Cross Roads, in one of the lower counties of Virginia, was presided over by an elderly individual, known to the community in general as Uncle Pete; but on Sundays the members of his congregation addressed him as Brudder Pete. He was an earnest and energetic man, and, although he could neither read nor write, he had for many years expounded the Scriptures to the satisfaction of his hearers. His memory was good, and those portions of the Bible, which from time to time he had heard read, were used by him, and frequently with powerful effect, in his sermons. His interpretations of the Scriptures were generally entirely original, and were made to suit the needs, or what he supposed to be the needs, of his congregation.

Whether as “Uncle Pete” in the garden and corn-field, or “Brudder Pete” in the church, he enjoyed the good opinion of everybody excepting one person, and that was his wife. She was a high-tempered and somewhat dissatisfied person, who had conceived the idea that her husband was in the habit of giving too much time to the church, and too little to the acquisition of corn-bread and pork. On a certain Saturday she gave him a most tremendous scolding, which so affected the spirits of the good man that it influenced his decision in regard to the selection of the subject for his sermon the next day.

His congregation was accustomed to being astonished, and rather liked it, but never before had their minds received such a shock as when the preacher announced the subject of his discourse. He did not take any particular text, for this was not his custom, but he boldly stated that the Bible declared that every woman in this world was possessed by seven devils; and the evils which this state of things had brought upon the world, he showed forth with much warmth and feeling. Subject-matter, principally from his own experience, crowded in upon his mind, and he served it out to his audience hot and strong. If his deductions could have been proved to be correct, all women were creatures who, by reason of their sevenfold diabolic possession, were not capable of independent thought or action, and who should in tears and humility place themselves absolutely under the direction and authority of the other sex.

When he approached the conclusion of his sermon, Brother Peter closed with a bang the Bible, which, although he could not read a word of it, always lay open before him while he preached, and delivered the concluding exhortation of his sermon.

“Now, my dear brev’ren ob dis congregation,” he said, “I want you to understan’ dat dar’s nuffin in dis yer sarmon wot you’ve jus’ heerd ter make you think yousefs angels. By no means, brev’ren; you was all brung up by women, an’ you’ve got ter lib wid’ em, an ef anythin’ in dis yer worl’ is ketchin’, my dear brev’ren, it’s habin debbils, an’ from wot I’ve seen ob some ob de men ob dis worl’ I ‘spect dey is persest ob ’bout all de debbils dey got room fur. But de Bible don’ say nuffin p’intedly on de subjec’ ob de number ob debbils in man, an’ I ‘spec’ dose dat’s got ’em–an’ we ought ter feel pow’ful thankful, my dear brev’ren, dat de Bible don’ say we all’s got ’em–has ’em ‘cordin to sarcumstances. But wid de women it’s dif’rent; dey’s got jus’ sebin, an’ bless my soul, brev’ren, I think dat’s ’nuff.

“While I was a-turnin’ ober in my min’ de subjec’ ob dis sarmon, dere come ter me a bit ob Scripter wot I heerd at a big preachin’ an’ baptizin’ at Kyarter’s Mills, ’bout ten year’ ago. One ob de preachers was a-tellin’ about ole mudder Ebe a-eatin’ de apple, and says he: De sarpint fus’ come along wid a red apple, an’ says he: ‘You gib dis yer to your husban’, an’ he think it so mighty good dat when he done eat it he gib you anything you ax him fur, ef you tell him whar de tree is.’ Ebe, she took one bite, an’ den she frew dat apple away. ‘Wot you mean, you triflin’ sarpint,’ says she, ‘a fotchin’ me dat apple wot ain’t good fur nuffin but ter make cider wid?’ Den de sarpint he go fotch her a yaller apple, an’ she took one bite, an’ den says she: ‘Go ‘long wid ye, you fool sarpint, wot you fotch me dat June apple wot ain’t got no taste to it?’ Den de sarpint he think she like sumpin’ sharp, an’ he fotch her a green apple. She takes one bite ob it, an’ den she frows it at his head, an’ sings out: ‘Is you ‘spectin’ me to gib dat apple to yer Uncle Adam an’ gib him de colic?’ Den de debbil he fotch her a lady-apple, but she say she won’t take no sich triflin’ nubbins as dat to her husban’, an’ she took one bite ob it, an’ frew it away. Den he go fotch her two udder kin’ ob apples, one yaller wid red stripes, an’ de udder one red on one side an’ green on de udder–mighty good-lookin’ apples, too–de kin’ you git two dollars a bar’l fur at the store. But Ebe, she wouldn’t hab neider ob ’em, an’ when she done took one bite out ob each one, she frew it away. Den de ole debbil-sarpint, he scratch he head, an’ he say to hese’f: ‘Dis yer Ebe, she pow’ful ‘ticklar ’bout her apples. Reckin I’ll have ter wait till after fros’, an’ fotch her a real good one,’ An’ he done wait till after fros’, and then he fotch her a’ Albemarle pippin, an’ when she took one bite ob dat, she jus’ go ‘long an’ eat it all up, core, seeds, an’ all. ‘Look h’yar, sarpint,’ says she, ‘hab you got anudder ob dem apples in your pocket?’ An’ den he tuk one out, an’ gib it to her. ”Cuse me,’ says she, ‘I’s gwine ter look up Adam, an’ ef he don’ want ter know war de tree is wot dese apples grow on, you can hab him fur a corn-field han’.’