For instance, when Mrs. Humphreys gave a birthday party for her little girl, she was troubled about Peter Champneys, who hadn’t been invited. Peter had weeded her garden the day before, and mowed her lawn; and he had looked such a little fellow, running that lawn-mower out there in the sun! And now, while all the other children were playing and laughing, dressed in their party finery, Peter was splitting wood for old Miss Carruthers, a little farther down the street. Mrs. Humphreys could see him from her bedroom window. It was a little too much for the good-hearted woman, who had liked his mother. She compromised with herself by taking a plate if ice-cream and a thick slice of cake, slipping out of her back door, and hurrying down to Miss Carruthers’s back yard.
Peter stood there, leaning on his ax. Seated on a larger woodpile was old Daddy Christmas, one of the town beggars. Daddy Christmas was incredibly old, wrinkled, ragged, and bent. His grizzled, partly bald head nodded while he tried to talk to Peter.
“Peter,” said Mrs. Humphreys, hastily, “here’s some ice-cream and cake for you.” She blushed as she spoke. “It’s a hot day—and you’re working. I thought you’d like something cool and nice.” She thrust the plate upon him.
Peter smiled at her charmingly.
“You’re mighty kind, Mis’ Humphreys,” he told her.
“I’ll come back for the plate and spoon, after a while,” she said, hurrying off. But at the gate, beside the thick crape-myrtle bushes, she paused and looked back. Somehow she wanted to see Maria Champneys’s boy eating that ice-cream and cake.
“Daddy Christmas,” said a voice, gaily, “if there’d been two plates and two spoons, and if you’d had any sort of a dinner to-day, I’d be perfectly willing to share this treat with you. As it is, you’ll have to eat it all by yourself.” A second later the voice added: “Funny, you just saying the Lord would provide; but I bet you didn’t think He’d provide ice-cream and cake!” Followed the brisk strokes of the ax, swung by a wiry, nervous little arm.
Mrs. Humphreys walked down the lane to her house, with a very thoughtful face.
THE SOUL OF BLACK FOLKS
The negro to the white man, as the moon to the earth, shows one side only; the other is dark and unknown. It is an instinct with him to conceal the truth—any truth—from white men; who knows to what use they will put it and him? So deeply have ages of slavery and oppression ingrained this upon black men’s subconsciousness, that only one white man in a thousand ever knows or suspects what his dark brethren think, or know, or feel. Peter Champneys happened to be the thousandth.
There wasn’t a cabin in all that countrywide in which this barefooted last scion of a long line of slave-holding gentry wasn’t known and welcome. There wasn’t a negro in the county he didn’t know by name: even “mean niggers” grinned amiably at Peter Champneys. They remembered what he had once said to a district judge whom he heard bitterly inveighing against their ingratitude, immorality, shiftlessness, and general worthlessness. Peter had lifted his quiet eyes.