There was great running and ejaculating, and opening and shutting of doors, and appearance of faces in all shades of color in different places, for about a quarter of an hour. One person only, who might have shed some light on the matter, was entirely silent, and that was the head cook, Aunt Chloe. Silently, and with a heavy cloud settled down over her once joyous face, she proceeded making out her breakfast biscuits, as if she heard and saw nothing of the excitement around her.
Very soon, about a dozen young imps were roosting, like so many crows, on the verandah railings, each one determined to be the first one to apprize the strange Mas’r of his ill luck.
“He’ll be rael mad, I’ll be bound,” said Andy.
“Won’t he swar!” said little black Jake.
“Yes, for he does swar,” said woolly-headed Mandy. “I hearn him yesterday, at dinner. I hearn all about it then, ’cause I got into the closet where Missis keeps the great jugs, and I hearn every word.” And Mandy, who had never in her life thought of the meaning of a word she had heard, more than a black cat, now took airs of superior wisdom, and strutted about, forgetting to state that, though actually coiled up among the jugs at the time specified, she had been fast asleep all the time.
When, at last, Haley appeared, booted and spurred, he was saluted with the bad tidings on every hand. The young imps on the verandah were not disappointed in their hope of hearing him “swar,” which he did with a fluency and fervency which delighted them all amazingly, as they ducked and dodged hither and thither, to be out of the reach of his riding-whip; and, all whooping off together, they tumbled, in a pile of immeasurable giggle, on the withered turf under the verandah, where they kicked up their heels and shouted to their full satisfaction.
“If I had the little devils!” muttered Haley, between his teeth.
“But you ha’nt got ’em, though!” said Andy, with a triumphant flourish, and making a string of indescribable mouths at the unfortunate trader’s back, when he was fairly beyond hearing.
“I say now, Shelby, this yer ’s a most extro’rnary business!” said Haley, as he abruptly entered the parlor. “It seems that gal ’s off, with her young un.”
“Mr. Haley, Mrs. Shelby is present,” said Mr. Shelby.
“I beg pardon, ma’am,” said Haley, bowing slightly, with a still lowering brow; “but still I say, as I said before, this yer’s a sing’lar report. Is it true, sir?”
“Sir,” said Mr. Shelby, “if you wish to communicate with me, you must observe something of the decorum of a gentleman. Andy, take Mr. Haley’s hat and riding-whip. Take a seat, sir. Yes, sir; I regret to say that the young woman, excited by overhearing, or having reported to her, something of this business, has taken her child in the night, and made off.”
“I did expect fair dealing in this matter, I confess,” said Haley.