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Old Easter
by [?]

Nearly everybody in New Orleans knew Old Easter, the candy-woman. She was very black, very wrinkled, and very thin, and she spoke with a wiry, cracked voice that would have been pitiful to hear had it not been so merry and so constantly heard in the funny high laughter that often announced her before she turned a street corner, as she hobbled along by herself with her old candy-basket balanced on her head.

People who had known her for years said that she had carried her basket in this way for so long that she could walk more comfortably with it than without it. Certainly her head and its burden seemed to give her less trouble than her feet, as she picked her way along the uneven banquettes with her stick. But then her feet were tied up in so many rags that even if they had been young and strong it would have been hard for her to walk well with them. Sometimes the rags were worn inside her shoes and sometimes outside, according to the shoes she wore. All of these were begged or picked out of trash heaps, and she was not at all particular about them, just so they were big enough to hold her old rheumatic feet–though she showed a special liking for men’s boots.

When asked why she preferred to wear boots she would always answer, promptly, “Ter keep off snake bites”; and then she would almost certainly, if there were listeners enough, continue in this fashion: “You all young trash forgits dat I dates back ter de snake days in dis town. Why, when I was a li’l’ gal, about so high, I was walkin’ along Canal Street one day, barefeeted, an’ not lookin’ down, an’ terrectly I feel some’h’n’ nip me ‘ snip!‘ in de big toe, an’ lookin’ quick I see a grea’ big rattlesnake–“

As she said “snip,” the street children who were gathered around her would start and look about them, half expecting to see a great snake suddenly appear upon the flag-stones of the pavement.

At this the old woman would scream with laughter as she assured them that there were thousands of serpents there now that they couldn’t see, because they had only “single sight,” and that many times when they thought mosquitoes were biting them they were being “‘tackted by deze heah onvisible snakes.”

It is easy to see why the children would gather about her to listen to her talk.

Nobody knew how old Easter was. Indeed, she did not know herself, and when any one asked her, she would say, “I ‘spec’ I mus’ be ‘long about twenty-fo’,” or, “Don’t you reckon I mus’ be purty nigh on to nineteen?” And then, when she saw from her questioner’s face that she had made a mistake, she would add, quickly: “I means twenty-fo’ hund’ed, honey,” or, “I means a hund’ed an’ nineteen,” which latter amendment no doubt came nearer the truth.

Having arrived at a figure that seemed to be acceptable, she would generally repeat it, in this way:

“Yas, missy; I was twenty-fo’ hund’ed years ole las’ Easter Sunday.”

The old woman had never forgotten that she had been named Easter because she was born on that day, and so she always claimed Easter Sunday as her birthday, and no amount of explanation would convince her that this was not always true.

“What diff’ence do it make ter me ef it comes soon or late, I like ter know?” she would argue. “Ef it comes soon, I gits my birfday presents dat much quicker; an’ ef it comes late, you all got dat much mo’ time ter buy me some mo’. ‘Tain’t fur me ter deny my birfday caze it moves round.”

And then she would add, with a peal of her high, cracked laughter: “Seem ter me, de way I keeps a-livin’ on–an’ a-livin’ on– an’ a-livin’ on –maybe deze heah slip-aroun’ birfdays don’t pin a pusson down ter ole age so close’t as de clock-work reg’lars does.”