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The Wisdom of Silence
by [?]

Poverty began to teach the unlessoned delver in the soil the thrift which he needed; but he ended his first twelve months with barely enough to eat, and nothing paid on his land or his mule. Broken and discouraged, the words of his old master came to him. But he was proud with an obstinate pride and he shut his lips together so that he might not groan. He would not go to his master. Anything rather than that.

In that place sat certain beasts of prey, dealers, and lenders of money, who had their lairs somewhere within the boundaries of that wide and mysterious domain called The Law. They had their risks to run, but so must all beasts that eat flesh or drink blood. To them went Jerry, and they were kind to him. They gave him of their store. They gave him food and seed, but they were to own all that they gave him from what he raised, and they were to take their toll first from the new crops.

Now, the black had been warned against these same beasts, for others had fallen a prey to them even in so short a time as their emancipation measured, and they saw themselves the re-manacled slaves of a hopeless and ever-growing debt, but Jerry would not be warned. He chewed the warnings like husks between his teeth, and got no substance from them.

Then, Fortune, who deals in surprises, played him another trick. She smiled upon him. His second year was better than his first, and the brokers swore over his paid up note. Cindy Ann was strong again and the oldest boy was big enough to help with the work.

Samuel Brabant was displeased, not because he felt any malice toward his former servant, but for the reason that any man with the natural amount of human vanity must feel himself agrieved just as his cherished prophecy is about to come true. Isaiah himself could not have been above it. How much less, then, the uninspired Mr. Brabant, who had his “I told you so,” all ready. He had been ready to help Jerry after giving him admonitions, but here it was not needed. An unused “I told you so,” however kindly, is an acid that turns the milk of human kindness sour.

Jerry went on gaining in prosperity. The third year treated him better than the second, and the fourth better than the third. During the fifth he enlarged his farm and his house and took pride in the fact that his oldest boy, Matthew, was away at school. By the tenth year of his freedom he was arrogantly out of debt. Then his pride was too much for him. During all these years of his struggle the words of his master had been as gall in his mouth. Now he spat them out with a boast. He talked much in the market-place, and where many people gathered, he was much there, giving himself as a bright and shining example.

“Huh,” he would chuckle to any listeners he could find, “Ol’ Mas’ Brabant, he say, ‘Stay hyeah, stay hyeah, you do’ know how to tek keer o’ yo’se’f yit.’ But I des’ look at my two han’s an’ I say to myse’f, whut I been doin’ wid dese all dese yeahs–tekin’ keer o’ myse’f an’ him, too. I wo’k in de fiel’, he set in de big house an’ smoke. I wo’k in de fiel’, his son go away to college an’ come back a graduate. Das hit. Well, w’en freedom come, I des’ bent an’ boun’ I ain’ gwine do it no mo’ an’ I didn’t. Now look at me. I sets down w’en I wants to. I does my own wo’kin’ an’ my own smokin’. I don’t owe a cent, an’ dis yeah my boy gwine graduate f’om de school. Dat’s me, an’ I ain’ called on ol’ Mas’ yit.”