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Alas, The Poor Whiffletit!
by [?]

Over Jefferson Poindexter’s usually buoyant spirits a fabric of gloom, black, thick, and heavy, was spread like a burying-pall. His thoughts were the color of twelve o’clock at night at the bottom of a coal-mine and it the dark of the moon. Moroseness crowned his brow; sorrow berode his soul, and on his under lip the bull-bat, that eccentric bird which has to sit lengthwise of the limb, might have perched with room to spare. You couldn’t see the ointment for the flies, and Gilead had gone out of the balm business. There was a reason. The reason was Ophelia Stubblefield.

On an upturned watering-piggin alongside Mittie May’s stall in the stable back of the house, Jeff sat and just naturally gloomed. To this retreat he had been harried against his will. Out of her domain, which was the kitchen, Aunt Dilsey had driven him with words barbed and bitter.

“Tek yo’se’f on ‘way f’um yere, black boy!” Such had been her command. “Me, I’s plum distracted an’ wore out jes’ f’um lookin’ at you settin’ ’round sullin’ lak a’ ole possum. Ef Satan fine some labor still fur idle hands to do, same ez de Holy Word say he do, he suttinly must be stedyin’ ’bout openin’ up a branch employmint agency fur cullid only, ‘specially on yore account. You ain’t de Grand President of de Order of de Folded Laigs, tho’ you shorely does ack lak it. You’s s’posed to be doin’ somethin’ fur yore keep an’ wages. H’ist yo’se’f an’ move.”

“I ain’t doin’ nothin’!” Jeff protested spiritlessly.

“Dat you ain’t!” agreed Aunt Dilsey. “An’ whut you better do is better do somethin’–tha’s my edvices to you. S’posin’ ole boss-man came back yere to dis kitchen an’ ketch you ‘cumberin’ de earth de way you is. You knows, well ez I does, w’ite folks suttinly does hate to see a strappin’ nigger settin’ ’round doin’ nothin’.”

“Boss-man ain’t yere,” said Jeff. “He’s up at the cote-house. Mos’ doubtless jes’ about right now he’s sendin’ some flippy cullid woman to the big jail fur six months fur talkin’ too much ’bout whut don’t concern her.”

“Is tha’ so?” she countered. “Well, ef he should come back home he’ll find one of de most fragrant cases of vagromcy he ever run acrost right yere ‘pon his own household premises. Boy, is you goin’ move, lak I patiently is warned you, or ain’t you? Git on out yander to de stable an’ confide yo’ sorrows to de Jedge’s old mare. Mebbe she mout be able to endure you, but you p’intedly gives me de fidgits. Git–befo’ I starts findin’ out ef dat flat haid of yourn fits up smooth ag’inst de back side of a skillit.”

Nervously she fingered the handle of her largest frying-pan. Jeff knew the danger-signals. Too deeply sunken in melancholy to venture any further retorts, he withdrew himself, seeking sanctuary in the lee of Mittie May. He squatted upon the capsized keeler, automatically balancing himself as it wabbled under him on its one projecting handle, and, with his eyes fixed on nothing, gave himself over unreservedly to a consuming canker. For all that unhappiness calked his ears as with pledgets of cotton wool, there presently percolated to his aloof understanding the consciousness that somebody was speaking on the other side of the high board fence which marked the dividing line between Judge Priest’s place and the Enders’ place next door. Listlessly he identified the voice as the property of the young gentleman from up North who was staying with his kinsfolk, the Enders family. This was a gentleman already deeply admired by Jeff at long distance for the sprightliness of his wardrobe and for his gay and gallus ways. Against his will–for he craved to be quite alone with his griefs and no distracting influences creeping in–Jeff listened. Listening, he heard language of such splendor as literally to force him to rise up and approach the fence and apply his eye to a convenient cranny between two whitewashed boards.