As they were driving through the grove before reaching the house it was quite dark, and they heard an owl hooting in one of the trees.
“I see yer keep on sayin’ yer sass,” said Daddy Jake, addressing the owl. “Ef’n I’d er done happen ter all you is ’bout’n hit, I’d let hit erlone myse’f.”
“What’s he sayin’?” asked Diddie.
“Wy, don’t yer hyear him, honey, er sayin,
“Who cooks fur you-oo-a?
Who cooks fur you-oo-a?
Ef you’ll cook for my folks,
Den I’ll cook fur y’ all-l-lll?”
“Well, hit wuz ‘long er dat very chune wat he los’ his eyes, an’ can’t see no mo’ in de daytime; an’ ef’n I wuz him, I’d let folks’ cookin’ erlone.”
“Can’t you tell us about it, Daddy?” asked Dumps.
“I ain’t got de time now,” said the old man, “caze hyear’s de wagin almos’ at de do’; an’, let erlone dat, I ain’t nuber hyeard ’twus good luck ter be tellin’ no tales on de Fourf uv July; but ef’n yer kin come ter my cabin some ebenin’ wen yer’s er airin’ uv yerse’fs, den I’ll tell yer jes wat I hyearn ‘bout’n de owl, an’ ’struck yer in er many er thing wat yer don’t know now.”
And now the wagon stopped at the back gate, and the little girls and Mammy and the little darkies got out, and Mammy made the children say good-night to Daddy Jake and Uncle Bob, and they all went into the house very tired and very sleepy, and very dirty, with their celebration of “Marse Fofer July’s burfday.”
“’STRUCK’N UV DE CHIL’EN.”
It was several days before the children could get off to Daddy Jake’s cabin to hear about the owl; but on Saturday evening, after dinner, Mammy said they might go; and, having promised to go straight to Daddy Jake’s house, and to come home before dark, they all started off.
Daddy Jake was the oldest negro on the plantation—perhaps the oldest in the State. He had been raised by Major Waldron’s grandfather in Virginia, and remembered well the Revolutionary War; and then he had been brought to Mississippi by Major Waldron’s father, and remembered all about the War of 1812 and the troubles with the Indians. It had been thirty years or more since Daddy Jake had done any work. He had a very comfortable cabin; and although his wives (for the old man had been married several times) were all dead, and many of his children were now old and infirm, he had a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren who attended to his wants; and then, too, his master cared very particularly for his comfort, and saw that Daddy Jake had good fires, and that his clothes were kept clean and mended, and his food nicely cooked; so the old man passed his days in peace and quiet.
The children found him now lying stretched out on a bench in front of his cabin, while Polly, his great-granddaughter, was scratching and “looking” his head.
“We’ve come for you to tell us about the Owl, Daddy,” said Diddie, after she had given the old man some cake and a bottle of muscadine wine that her mother had sent to him.