When he started on the dark trail that led to the clearing, I wondered at his courage — it was so black beyond the firelight. While we sat alone I plead for a story, but the thoughts of Uncle Eb had gone to roost early in a sort of gloomy meditation.
‘Be still, my boy,’ said he, ‘an’ go t’ sleep. I ain’t agoin’ t’ tell no yarns an’ git ye all stirred up. Ye go t’ sleep. Come mornin’ we’ll go down t’ the brook an’ see if we can’t find a mink or tew ‘n the traps.’
I remember hearing a great crackling of twigs in the dark wood before I slept. As I lifted my head, Uncle Eb whispered, ‘Hark!’ and we both listened. A bent and aged figure came stalking into the firelight His long white hair mingled with his beard and covered his coat collar behind.
‘Don’t be scairt,’ said Uncle Eb. ‘’Tain’ no bear. It’s nuthin’ but a poet.’
I knew him for a man who wandered much and had a rhyme for everyone — a kindly man with a reputation for laziness and without any home.
‘Bilin’, eh?’ said the poet
‘Bilin’,’ said Uncle Eb.
‘I’m bilin’ over ‘n the next bush,’ said the poet, sitting down.
‘How’s everything in Jingleville?’ Uncle Eb enquired.
Then the newcomer answered:
’Well, neighbour dear, in
We live by faith but we eat our fill;
An’ what w’u’d we do if it wa’n’t fer prayer?
Fer we can’t raise a thing but whiskers an’ hair.’
‘Cur’us how you can talk po’try,’ said Uncle Eb. ’The only thing I’ve got agin you is them whiskers an’ thet hair. ‘Tain’t Christian.’
’’Tain’t what’s on the head, but what’s in it — thet’s the important thing,’ said the poet. ’Did I ever tell ye what I wrote about the birds?’
‘Don’ know’s ye ever did,’ said Uncle Eb, stirring his fire.
‘The boy’ll like it, mebbe,’ said he, taking a dirty piece of paper out of his pocket and holding it to the light.