“Has the judge asked for me?” said Sandy.
“Yas, sir; but de doctor he up and lied. He tol’ him you’d went back to de umerversity. De doctor ’lowed ef he tole him de trufe it might throw him into a political stroke.”
Sandy leaned his head on his hand. “You’re the only one that’s stood by me, Aunt Melvy; the rest of them think me a bad lot.”
“Dat’s right,” assented Aunt Melvy, cheerfully. “You jes orter hear de way dey slanders you! I don’t ‘spec’ you got a friend in town ‘ceptin’ me.” Then, as if reminded of something, she produced a card covered with black dots. “Honey, I’s gittin’ up a little collection fer de church. You gib me a nickel and I punch a pin th’u’ one ob dem dots to sorter certify it.”
“Have you got religion yet?” he asked as he handed her some small change.
Her expression changed, and her eyes fell. “Not yit,” she acknowledged reluctantly; “but I’s countin’ on comin’ th’u’ before long. I’s done j’ined de Juba Choir and de White Doves.”
“The White Doves?” repeated Sandy.
“Yas, sir; de White Doves ob Perfection. We wears purple calicoes and sets up wid de sick.”
“Have you seen Miss Annette?”
“Lor’, honey! ain’t I tol’ you ’bout dat? De very night de jedge was shot, dat chile wrote her paw de sassiest letter, sayin’ she gwine run off and git married wif dat sick boy, Carter Nelson. De doctor headed ‘em off some ways, and de very nex’ day what you think he done? He put dat gal in a Cafolic nunnery convent! Dey say she cut up scan’lous at fust, den she sorter quiet down, an’ ‘gin to count her necklace, an’ make signs on de waist ob her dress, an’ say she lak it so much she gwine be a Cafolic nunnery sister herself. Now de doctor’s jes tearin’ his shirt to git her out, he’s so skeered she’ll do what she says.”
Sandy laughed in spite of himself, and Aunt Melvy wagged her head knowingly.
“He needn’t pester hisseif ’bout dat. Now Mr. Carter’s ’bout to die, an’ you’s shut up in jail, she’s done turnin’ her ’tention on Mr. Sid Gray. Dey ain’t no blinds in de world big enough to keep dat gal from shinin’ her eyes at de boys!”
“Is Carter about to die?” Sandy had become suddenly grave.
“Yas, sir; so dey say. He’s got somepin’ that sounds lak tuberoses. Him and Mrs. Nelson and Miss Rufe never did git to Californy. Dey stopped off in Mobile or Injiany, I can’t ricollec’ which. He took de fever de day dey lef’, an’ he ain’t knowed nothin’ since.”
After Aunt Melvy left, Sandy went to the window and leaned against the bars. Below him flowed the life of the little town, the men going home from work, the girls chattering and laughing through the dusk on their way from the post-office. Every figure that passed, black or white, was familiar to him. Jimmy Reed’s little Skye terrier dashed down the street, and a whistle sprang to his lips.
How he loved every living creature in the place! For five years he had been one of them, sharing their interests, part and parcel of the life of the community. Now he was an outcast, an alien, as much a stranger to friendly faces as the lad who had knelt long ago at the window of a great tenement and had been afraid to be alone.