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Jim’s Probation
by [?]

He went back to the cupboard and got as much again as he had given Parker, and handed it to him saying,

“I think it will be better for all concerned if Jim’s probation only lasts two months. Get him into the fold, Parker, get him into the fold!” And he shoved the ancient exhorter out of the door.

It grieved Jim that he could not go ‘possum hunting on Sundays any more, but shortly after he got religion, his rheumatism seemed to take a turn for the better and he felt that the result was worth the sacrifice. But as the pain decreased in his legs and arms, the longing for his old wicked pleasures became stronger and stronger upon him though Mandy thought that he was living out the period of his probation in the most exemplary manner, and inwardly rejoiced.

It was two weeks before he was to be regularly admitted to church fellowship. His industrious spouse had decked him out in a bleached cotton shirt in which to attend divine service. In the morning Jim was there. The sermon which Brother Parker preached was powerful, but somehow it failed to reach this new convert. His gaze roved out of the window toward the dark line of the woods beyond, where the frost still glistened on the trees and where he knew the persimmons were hanging ripe. Jim was present at the afternoon service also, for it was a great day; and again, he was preoccupied. He started and clasped his hands together until the bones cracked, when a dog barked somewhere out on the hill. The sun was going down over the tops of the woodland trees, throwing the forest into gloom, as they came out of the log meeting-house. Jim paused and looked lovingly at the scene, and sighed as he turned his steps back toward the cabin.

That night Mandy went to church alone. Jim had disappeared. Nowhere around was his axe, and Spot, his dog, was gone. Mandy looked over toward the woods whose tops were feathered against the frosty sky, and away off, she heard a dog bark.

Brother Parker was feeling his way home from meeting late that night, when all of a sudden, he came upon a man creeping toward the quarters. The man had an axe and a dog, and over his shoulders hung a bag in which the outlines of a ‘possum could be seen.

“Hi, oh, Brothah Jim, at it agin?”

Jim did not reply. “Well, des’ heish up an’ go ‘long. We got to mek some ‘lowances fu’ you young convu’ts. Wen you gwine cook dat ‘possum, Brothah Jim?”

“I do’ know, Brothah Pahkah. He so po’, I ‘low I haveter keep him and fatten him fu’ awhile.”

“Uh, huh! well, so long, Jim.”

“So long, Brothah Pahkah.” Jim chuckled as he went away. “I ‘low I fool dat ol’ fox. Wanter come down an’ eat up my one little ‘possum, do he? huh, uh!”

So that very night Jim scraped his possum, and hung it out-of-doors, and the next day, brown as the forest whence it came, it lay on a great platter on Jim’s table. It was a fat possum too. Jim had just whetted his knife, and Mandy had just finished the blessing when the latch was lifted and Brother Parker stepped in.

“Hi, oh, Brothah Jim, I’s des’ in time.”

Jim sat with his mouth open. “Draw up a cheer, Brothah Pahkah,” said Mandy. Her husband rose, and put his hand over the possum.

“Wha–wha’d you come hyeah fu’?” he asked.

“I thought I’d des’ come in an’ tek a bite wid you.”

“Ain’ gwine tek no bite wid me,” said Jim.

“Heish,” said Mandy, “wha’ kin’ o’ way is dat to talk to de preachah?”

“Preachah er no preachah, you hyeah what I say,” and he took the possum, and put it on the highest shelf.

“Wha’s de mattah wid you, Jim; dat’s one o’ de’ ‘quiahments o’ de chu’ch.”

The angry man turned to the preacher.

“Is it one o’ de ‘quiahments o’ de chu’ch dat you eat hyeah ter-night?”

“Hit sholy am usual fu’ de shepherd to sup wherevah he stop,” said Parker suavely.

“Ve’y well, ve’y well,” said Jim, “I wants you to know dat I ‘specs to stay out o’ yo’ chu’ch. I’s got two weeks mo’ p’obation. You tek hit back, an’ gin hit to de nex’ niggah you ketches wid a ‘possum.”

Mandy was horrified. The preacher looked longingly at the possum, and took up his hat to go.

There were two disappointed men on the plantation when he told his master the next day the outcome of Jim’s probation.