Dinner hour was over in Oakwood and the evening life of the stately old town was beginning to stir when Mr. Wing stepped off the train and walked briskly through the softly falling twilight toward his home. Not far from the station he met the artist, Eugene Prince, strolling about admiring the landscape, and hailed him cordially. “I’ve just come home on a flying trip over night,” he explained. “Have to go to Washington in the morning. I wonder if the folks are at home; I should have telephoned them I was coming, I suppose.” Mr. Wing seemed very much elated about something.
“How’s the big case coming?” asked the artist. He had always been such a ready listener while Mr. Wing expressed his various theories About the matter and showed such a lively interest that Mr. Wing had gotten into the habit of talking about it to him by the hour and listening to him express his theories.
Now when the artist mentioned the big case Mr. Wing could not conceal his triumph, for his theory had been right after all, and the artist’s had been wrong. “It’s exactly what I expected,” he said jubilantly, and spoke in a low, confidential tone for some minutes.
The artist whistled in blank surprise.
The two men passed up the street, talking in low tones. “Come up to the house with me,” said Mr. Wing presently, “and I’ll show you—Hello, what’s this?”
A creaking rumble behind them made them start and turn around, and a singular sight greeted their eyes. Down the street puffed an immensely fat negro woman clad in a calico wrapper and a bright red turban, pushing a wheelbarrow in which sat a negro baby somewhat larger than its mammy. In the wheelbarrow beside the baby stood a feeding bottle of gigantic proportions, being in very truth a three-gallon flask designed to hold a solution to spray trees with; six feet of garden hose constituted the tube, and a black rubber diving cap at the upper end of it completed the feeding apparatus.
“Pour l’amour de Mique!” laughed Mr. Wing, as the unique outfit rumbled by. “What on earth do you suppose that is?” They followed the progress of the billowing mother and her husky infant with amused eyes, and at the corner of the street she attempted to turn the barrow, ran into a stone, upset the barrow and spilled the infant on the ground. The infant immediately sprang up, clutching the Gargantuan feeding bottle, and berated his mother in emphatic terms, delivered in a deep bass voice, addressing her as “Captain.” “Look out, you’ll break the bottle, dumping the wheelbarrow over like that,” he remarked warningly. The old mammy stooped over to readjust him in the barrow and as she did so several feet of masculine garments became visible under her short skirt.
“Minstrel show in town,” remarked Mr. Wing with another laugh of amusement. His amusement turned to surprise when the picturesque pair preceded him up the street and turned in at his own yard. The house was lighted from one end to the other; groups of young people were visible everywhere, on the porches, on the lawn, in the doorways.