In a few minutes, Aunt Esther, an ancient black woman, who had long been in the service of the family, made her appearance at the door, and inquired what “Massa John” wanted.
“I want some fire here, Aunt Esther. I’ve been out on the bay, fishing. Our smack got run down, and I’ve had a ducking; I feel decidedly chilly”.
“Law sakes!” said she, in great trepidation, “yer orter get warm right away”, and hastened down stairs.
A stout, hale man, soon entered the room, with a basket of wood and a pan of coals, followed immediately by Aunt Esther, who began to arrange them on the hearth.
Aunt Esther’s complexion was of a pure shining black, her features of the size and cut usually accompanying that hue, and lighted up by a contented, sunshiny expression, which truly indicated the normal state of her mind. A brilliant, yellow turban sat well upon her woolly locks and a blue and red chintz dress, striped perpendicularly, somewhat elongated the effect of her stout dumpy figure. She had taken care of John during his babyhood and early boyhood, and he remained to this day her especial pet and pride.
“Aunt Esther”, said that young man, throwing himself into an easy-chair, and assuming as lackadaisical an expression as his frank and roguish face would allow, “I have just lost a friend”.
“Yer have?” said his old nurse, looking round compassionately.
When did yer lose him?”
“About an hour ago”.
“What did he die of, Massa John?”
“Of a painful nervous disease”, said he.
“How old was he?”
“A few years younger than I am”.
“Did he die hard?”
“Very hard, Aunt Esther”, said John, looking solemn.
“Had yer known him long?”
“Yes, a long time”.
Aunt Esther gave a deep sigh. “Does yer know weder he was pious?”
“Well, here he is. Perhaps you can tell by looking at him”, said he, handing her a tooth, he had just had extracted, and bursting into a boyish laugh.
“O! yer go along, Massa John. I might hev knowed it was one of yer deceitful tricks”, said Aunt Esther, trying to conceal her amusement, by putting on an injured look. “There, the fire burns now. Yer jest put on them dry clothes as quick as ever yer can, or mebbe ye’ll lose another friend before long”.
“It shall be done as you say, beloved Aunt Esther”, said he, rising and bowing profoundly, as she left the room.
Having obeyed the worthy woman’s injunction, he drew the easy-chair to the fire, leaned his head back and spent the next half hour hovering between consciousness and dreamland.
From this state, he was roused by a gentle tap on his door, followed by his mother’s voice, saying, “John, dear?”
John rose instantly, threw the door wide open and ushered in the lady, saying, “Come in, little queen mother, come in”, and bowing over her hand with a pompous, yet courtly grace.