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The Wisdom of Silence
by [?]

Now, an example is always an odious thing, because, first of all, it is always insolent even when it is bad, and there were those who listened to Jerry who had not been so successful as he, some even who had stayed on the plantation and as yet did not even own the mule they ploughed with. The hearts of those were filled with rage and their mouths with envy. Some of the sting of the latter got into their retelling of Jerry’s talk and made it worse than it was.

Old Samuel Brabant laughed and said, “Well, Jerry’s not dead yet, and although I don’t wish him any harm, my prophecy might come true yet.”

There were others who, hearing, did not laugh, or if they did, it was with a mere strained thinning of the lips that had no element of mirth in it. Temper and tolerance were short ten years after sixty-three.

The foolish farmer’s boastings bore fruit, and one night when he and his family had gone to church he returned to find his house and barn in ashes, his mules burned and his crop ruined. It had been very quietly done and quickly. The glare against the sky had attracted few from the nearby town, and them too late to be of service.

Jerry camped that night across the road from what remained of his former dwelling. Cindy Ann and the children, worn out and worried, went to sleep in spite of themselves, but he sat there all night long, his chin between his knees, gazing at what had been his pride.

Well, the beasts lay in wait for him again, and when he came to them they showed their fangs in greeting. And the velvet was over their claws. He had escaped them before. He had impugned their skill in the hunt, and they were ravenous for him. Now he was fatter, too. He went away from them with hard terms, and a sickness at his heart. But he had not said “Yes” to the terms. He was going home to consider the almost hopeless conditions under which they would let him build again.

They were staying with a neighbour in town pending his negotiations and thither he went to ponder on his circumstances. Then it was that Cindy Ann came into the equation. She demanded to know what was to be done and how it was to be gone about.

“But Cindy Ann, honey, you do’ know nuffin’ ’bout bus’ness.”

“T’ain’t whut I knows, but whut I got a right to know,” was her response.

“I do’ see huccome you got any right to be a-pryin’ into dese hyeah things.”

“I’s got de same right I had to w’ok an’ struggle erlong an’ he’p you get whut we’s done los’.”

Jerry winced and ended by telling her all.

“Dat ain’t nuffin’ but owdacious robbery,” said Cindy Ann. “Dem people sees dat you got a little some’p’n, an’ dey ain’t gwine stop ontwell dey’s bu’nt an’ stoled evah blessed cent f’om you. Je’miah, don’t you have nuffin’ mo’ to do wid ’em.”

“I got to, Cindy Ann.”

“Whut fu’ you got to?”

“How I gwine buil’ a cabin an’ a ba’n an’ buy a mule less’n I deal wid ’em?”

“Dah’s Mas’ Sam Brabant. He’d he’p you out.”

Jerry rose up, his eyes flashing fire. “Cindy Ann,” he said, “you a fool, you ain’t got no mo’ pride den a guinea hen, an’ you got a heap less sense. W’y, befo’ I go to ol’ Mas’ Sam Brabant fu’ a cent, I’d sta’ve out in de road.”

“Huh!” said Cindy Ann, shutting her mouth on her impatience.

One gets tired of thinking and saying how much more sense a woman has than a man when she comes in where his sense stops and his pride begins.

With the recklessness of despair Jerry slept late that next morning, but he might have awakened early without spoiling his wife’s plans. She was up betimes, had gone on her mission and returned before her spouse awoke.

It was about ten o’clock when Brabant came to see him. Jerry grew sullen at once as his master approached, but his pride stiffened. This white man should see that misfortune could not weaken him.

“Well, Jerry,” said his former master, “you would not come to me, eh, so I must come to you. You let a little remark of mine keep you from your best friend, and put you in the way of losing the labour of years.”

Jerry made no answer.

“You’ve proved yourself able to work well, but Jerry,” pausing, “you haven’t yet shown that you’re able to take care of yourself, you don’t know how to keep your mouth shut.”

The ex-slave tried to prove this a lie by negative pantomime.

“I’m going to lend you the money to start again.”

“I won’t—-“

“Yes, you will, if you don’t, I’ll lend it to Cindy Ann, and let her build in her own name. She’s got more sense than you, and she knows how to keep still when things go well.”

“Mas’ Sam,” cried Jerry, rising quickly, “don’ len’ dat money to Cindy Ann. W’y ef a ooman’s got anything she nevah lets you hyeah de las’ of it.”

“Will you take it, then?”

“Yes, suh; yes, suh, an’ thank ‘e, Mas’ Sam.” There were sobs some place back in his throat. “An’ nex’ time ef I evah gets a sta’t agin, I’ll keep my mouf shet. Fac’ is, I’ll come to you, Mas’ Sam, an’ borry fu’ de sake o’ hidin’.”