Balaam saw him coming. Poor Balaam. He had made an early start that day, and for hours he stood in the sun awaiting relief. When he opened his sleepy eyes and raised his expressive ears to a position of attention, the old familiar coat and battered hat of the elder were before him. He lifted up his honest voice and cried aloud for joy.
The effect was electrical for one instant. Elder Brown surveyed the beast with horror, but again in his understanding there rang out the trumpet words.
“Drunk, drunk, drunk, drer-unc, -er-unc, -unc, -unc.”
He stooped instinctively for a missile with which to smite his accuser, but brought up suddenly with a jerk and a handful of sand. Straightening himself up with a majestic dignity, he extended his right hand impressively.
“You’re a goldarn liar, Balaam, and, blast your old buttons, you kin walk home by yourself, for I’m danged if you sh’ll ride me er step.”
Surely Coriolanus never turned his back upon Rome with a grander dignity than sat upon the old man’s form as he faced about and left the brute to survey with anxious eyes the new departure of his master.
He saw the elder zigzag along the street, and beheld him about to turn a friendly corner. Once more he lifted up his mighty voice:
“Drunk, drunk, drunk, drer-unc, drer-unc, -erunc, -unc, -unc.”
Once more the elder turned with lifted hand and shouted back:
“You’re a liar, Balaam, goldarn you! You’re er iffamous liar.” Then he passed from view.
Mrs. Brown stood upon the steps anxiously awaiting the return of her liege lord. She knew he had with him a large sum of money, or should have, and she knew also that he was a man without business methods. She had long since repented of the decision which sent him to town. When the old battered hat and flour-covered coat loomed up in the gloaming and confronted her, she stared with terror. The next instant she had seized him.
“For the Lord sakes, Elder Brown, what ails you? As I live, if the man ain’t drunk! Elder Brown! Elder Brown! for the life of me can’t I make you hear? You crazy old hypocrite! you desavin’ old sinner! you black-hearted wretch! where have you ben?”
The elder made an effort to wave her off.
“Woman,” he said, with grand dignity, “you forgit yus-sef; shu know ware I’ve ben ‘swell’s I do. Ben to town, wife, an’ see yer wat I’ve brought—the fines’ hat, ole woman, I could git. Look’t the color. Like goes ‘ith like; it’s red an’ you’re red, an’ it’s a dead match. What yer mean? Hey! hole on! ole woman!—you! Hannah!—you.” She literally shook him into silence.
“You miserable wretch! you low-down drunken sot! what do you mean by coming home and insulting your wife?” Hannah ceased shaking him from pure exhaustion.
“Where is it, I say? where is it?”