By this time she was turning his pockets wrong side out. From one she got pills, from another change, from another packages.
“The Lord be praised, and this is better luck than I hoped! Oh, elder! elder! elder! what did you do it for? Why, man, where is Balaam?”
Thought of the beast choked off the threatened hysterics.
“Balaam? Balaam?” said the elder, groggily. “He’s in town. The infernal ole fool ‘sulted me, an’ I lef’ him to walk home.”
His wife surveyed him. Really at that moment she did think his mind was gone; but the leer upon the old man’s face enraged her beyond endurance.
“You did, did you? Well, now, I reckon you’ll laugh for some cause, you will. Back you go, sir—straight back; an’ don’t you come home ’thout that donkey, or you’ll rue it, sure as my name is Hannah Brown. Aleck!—you Aleck-k-k!”
A black boy darted round the corner, from behind which, with several others, he had beheld the brief but stirring scene.
“Put a saddle on er mule. The elder’s gwine back to town. And don’t you be long about it neither.”
“Yessum.” Aleck’s ivories gleamed in the darkness as he disappeared.
Elder Brown was soberer at that moment than he had been for hours.
“Hannah, you don’t mean it?”
“Yes, sir, I do. Back you go to town as sure as my name is Hannah Brown.”
The elder was silent. He had never known his wife to relent on any occasion after she had affirmed her intention, supplemented with “as sure as my name is Hannah Brown.” It was her way of swearing. No affidavit would have had half the claim upon her as that simple enunciation.
So back to town went Elder Brown, not in the order of the early morn, but silently, moodily, despairingly, surrounded by mental and actual gloom.
The old man had turned a last appealing glance upon the angry woman, as he mounted with Aleck’s assistance, and sat in the light that streamed from out the kitchen window. She met the glance without a waver.
“She means it, as sure as my name is Elder Brown,” he said, thickly. Then he rode on.
To say that Elder Brown suffered on this long journey back to Macon would only mildly outline his experience. His early morning’s fall had begun to make itself felt. He was sore and uncomfortable. Besides, his stomach was empty, and called for two meals it had missed for the first time in years.
When, sore and weary, the elder entered the city, the electric lights shone above it like jewels in a crown. The city slept; that is, the better portion of it did. Here and there, however, the lower lights flashed out into the night. Moodily the elder pursued his journey, and as he rode, far off in the night there rose and quivered a plaintive cry. Elder Brown smiled wearily: it was Balaam’s appeal, and he recognized it. The animal he rode