“Yes, I shall,” rejoined Bernard without looking up from his trap. “You can’t wear breeches.”
“I like to know why I can’t,” demanded Eugenia. “I put on a pair of your old ones and they fit me just as well as they do you—only Aunt Chris made me get out of them.”
“Sakes er live!” exclaimed Aunt Verbeny, awaking from her doze.
Uncle Ish stared dreamily into the flames. “Ole Miss wuz in her grave, she wuz,” he muttered, while Delphy looked at him and shook her head mysteriously.
Then, as Nicholas entered, they made a place for him upon the hearthstones, treating him with the forbearing tolerance with which the well-born negro regards the low-born white man.
“Pa wants you all to help him in peanut-picking to-morrow,” said Nicholas, addressing the group indiscriminately. “He’s late at it this year, but he’s been laid up with rheumatism.”
“Dar ain’ nuttin’ ez goes on two foot er fo’ ez won’ len’ er han’ at a pickin’,” remarked Uncle Ish as the boy sat down. “Dar ain’ nuttin’ in de shape, er man er crow ez won’t he’p demse’ves w’en dey’s lyin’ roun’ loose, nuther.”
“Dar’s gwine ter be er killin’ fros’ fo’ mawnin’,” said Moses, his teeth chattering from the draught let in by the opening door. “Hit kilt all Miss Chris’ hop vines las’ year, en it’ll kill all ez ain’t under kiver ter-night. Hit seems ter sort er lay holt er yo’ chist en clean grip hit.”
“You ain’ never had no chist, nohow,” remarked Delphy disdainfully. “Hit don’t take mo’n er spit er fros’ ter freeze thoo you. You de coldest innered somebody I ever lay eyes on. Dar mought ez well be er fence rail er roun’ on er winter night fer all de wa’mth ez is in yo’ bones.”
“Dat’s so,” admitted Moses shamefacedly. “Dat’s so. Dese yer nights, when de fire is all gone, is moughty near ter freezin’ me out er house en home. I ain’ never seed ne’r quilt ez wuz made fur er hull fambly yit. Wid me ter pull en Betsey ter pull en de chillun ter pull, whar de quilt?”
“Dar ain’ no blankets dese days,” said Uncle Ish sadly. “Dey ain’ got mo’n er seasonin’ er wool in dese yer sto’ stuff. Dey wa’nt dat ar way in ole times, sis Verbeny. Bless yo’ soul, sis Verbeny, dey wan’t dat ar way.”
“Ole Miss she use ter have eve’y stitch er her wool carded fo’ her own eyes,” said Aunt Verbeny. “What wa’nt good enough fer her wuz good enough fer de res’, en we got hit. Ef’n de briars wouldn’t come out’n it soon ez she laid her han’ on ’em, Ole Miss she turnt up her nose en thowed de wool on ter de niggers’ pile. Hit had ter be pisonous white en sof fo’ hit ‘ud tech Ole Missusses skin. Noner yo’ nappy stuff done come near her.”
Uncle Ish chuckled and hung his head on his breast.
“Doze wuz times!” he cried, “doze wuz times, en dese ain’t times!”
Then he looked at Nicholas, who was watching the apples spinning in the heat.
“De po’ white trash ain’ set foot inside my do’,” he added, “en de leetle gals ain’ flirt roun’ twell dar wa’nt no qualifyin’ der legs f’om der arms.”