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Silas Jackson
by [?]

Then on a day when his spirits were at their lowest ebb, a passing neighbor handed him a letter which he had found at the little village post office. It was addressed to Mr. Si Jackson, and bore the Springs postmark. Silas was immediately converted from a raw backwoods boy to a man of the world. Save the little notes that had been passed back and forth from boy to girl at the little log schoolhouse where he had gone four fitful sessions, this was his first letter, and it was the first time he had ever been addressed as “Mr.” He swelled with a pride that he could not conceal, as with trembling hands he tore the missive open.

He read it through with glowing eyes and a growing sense of his own importance. It was from the head waiter whom Mr. Marston had mentioned, and was couched in the most elegant and high-sounding language. It said that Mr. Marston had spoken for Silas, and that if he came to the Springs, and was quick to learn, “to acquire knowledge,” was the head waiter’s phrase, a situation would be provided for him. The family gathered around the fortunate son, and gazed on him with awe when he imparted the good news. He became, on the instant, a new being to them. It was as if he had only been loaned to them, and was now being lifted bodily out of their world.

The elder Jackson was a bit doubtful about the matter.

“Of co’se ef you wants to go, Silas, I ain’t a-gwine to gainsay you, an’ I hope it’s all right, but sence freedom dis hyeah piece o’ groun’s been good enough fu’ me, an’ I reckon you mought a’ got erlong on it.”

“But pap, you see it’s diff’ent now. It’s diff’ent, all I wanted was a chanst.”

“Well, I reckon you got it, Si, I reckon you got it.”

The younger children whispered long after they had gone to bed that night, wondering and guessing what the great place to which brother Si was going could be like, and they could only picture it as like the great white-domed city whose picture they had seen in the gaudy Bible foisted upon them by a passing agent.

As for Silas, he read and reread the letter by the light of a tallow dip until he was too sleepy to see, and every word was graven on his memory; then he went to bed with the precious paper under his pillow. In spite of his drowsiness, he lay awake for some time, gazing with heavy eyes into the darkness, where he saw the great city and his future; then he went to sleep to dream of it.

From then on, great were the preparations for the boy’s departure. So little happened in that vicinity that the matter became a neighborhood event, and the black folk for three miles up and down the road manifested their interest in Silas’s good fortune.

“I hyeah you gwine up to de Springs,” said old Hiram Jones, when he met the boy on the road a day or two before his departure.

“Yes, suh, I’s gwine up thaih to wo’k in a hotel. Mistah Ma’ston, he got me the job.”

The old man reined in his horse slowly, and deposited the liquid increase of a quid of tobacco before he said; “I hyeah tell it’s powahful wicked up in dem big cities.”

“Oh, I reckon I ain’t a-goin’ to do nuffin wrong. I’s goin’ thaih to wo’k.”

“Well, you has been riz right,” commented the old man doubtfully, “but den, boys will be boys.”

He drove on, and the prospect of a near view of wickedness did not make the Springs less desirable in the boy’s eyes. Raised as he had been, almost away from civilization, he hardly knew the meaning of what the world called wickedness. Not that he was strong or good. There had been no occasion for either quality to develop; but that he was simple and primitive, and had been close to what was natural and elemental. His faults and sins were those of the gentle barbarian. He had not yet learned the subtler vices of a higher civilization.