The days flew rapidly by. Miss Minerva usually attempted to train Billy all the morning, and by the midday dinner hour she was so exhausted that she was glad to let him play in the front yard during the afternoon.
Here he was often joined by the three children whose acquaintance he had made the day after his arrival, and the quartette became staunch friends and chums.
All four were sitting in the swing one warm spring day, under the surveillance of Billy’s aunt, sewing on the veranda.
“Let’s tell tales,” suggested Jimmy.
“All right,” agreed Frances. “I’ll tell the first. Once there’s—”
“Naw, you ain’t neither,” interrupted the little boy. “You all time talking ’bout you going to tell the first tale. I’m going to tell the first tale myself. One time they’s—”
“No, you are not either,” said Lina positively. “Frances is a girl and she ought to be the first if she wants to. Don’t you think so, Billy?”
“Yas, I does,” championed he; “go on, Frances.”
That little girl, thus encouraged, proceeded to tell the first tale:
“Once there’s a man named Mr. Elisha, and he had a friend named Mr. Elijah, so his mantelpiece fell on top of his head and make him perfectly bald; he hasn’t got a single hair and he hasn’t got any money, ’cause mama read me ’bout he rented his garments, which is clo’es, ’cause he didn’t have none at all what belong to him. I spec’ he just rented him a shirt and a pair o’ breeches and wore ’em next to his hide ’thout no undershirt at all. He was drea’ful poor and had a miser’ble time and old mean Mr. Per’dventure took him up on a high mountain and left him, so when he come down some bad little childern say, `Go ’long back, bald head!’ and they make pockmocks on him. Seems like everybody treat him bad, so he cuss ’em, so I never see anybody with a bald head ’thout I run, ’cause I don’t want to get cussed. So two Teddy bears come out of the woods and ate up forty-two hunderd of—”
“Why, Frances,” reproved Lina, “you always get things wrong. I don’t believe they ate up that many children.”
“Yes, they did too,” championed Jimmy, “’cause it’s in the Bible and Miss Cecilia ’splained all ’bout it to me, and she’s our Sunday-School teacher and ’bout the bullyest ’splainer they is. Them Teddy bears ate up ’bout a million chillens, which is all the little boys and girls two Teddy bears can hold at a time.”
“I knows a man what ain’t got no hair ’t all on his head,” remarked Billy; “he’s a conjure-man an’ me an’ Wilkes Booth Lincoln been talkin’ to him ever sence we’s born an’ he ain’t never cuss us, an’ I ain’t never got eat up by no Teddy bears neither. Huccome him to be bald? He’s out in the fiel’ one day a-pickin’ cotton when he see a tu’key buzzard an’ he talk to her like this: