“I ’bout the orphantest boy they is,” volunteered Jimmy.
Frances, responding to the latter’s invitation, had crawled over her father’s legs before he realized what was happening. She, too, went sailing down the aisle, her stiff white dress standing straight up in the back like a strutting gobbler’s tail. She grabbed hold of the man’s hand, and was promptly lifted to the table beside the other “orphans.” Tears stood in the good preacher’s eyes as he turned to the tittering audience and said in a pathetic voice, “Think of it, my friends, this beautiful little girl has no mother.”
Poor Mrs. Black! A hundred pairs of eyes sought her pew and focused themselves upon the pretty young woman sitting there, red, angry, and shamefaced. Mr. Black was visibly amused and could hardly keep from laughing aloud.
As Frances passed by the Hamiltons’ pew in her promenade down the aisle, Mrs. Hamilton leaned across her husband and made an attempt to clutch Lina; but she was too late; already that dignified little “orphan” was gliding with stately, conscious tread to join the others. This was too much for the audience. A few boys laughed out and for the first time the preacher’s suspicions were aroused. As he clasped Lina’s slender, graceful little hand he asked:
“And you have no father or mother, little girl?”
“Yes, I have, too,” she angrily retorted. “My father and mother are sitting right there,” and she pointed a slim forefinger to her crimson, embarrassed parents.
Job and Pollie Bumpus
I never have told a downright falsehood,” said Lina. “Mother taught me how wicked it is to tell stories. Did you ever tell a fib to your mother, Frances?”
“’Tain’t no use to try to ’ceive my mama,” was the reply of the other little girl; “she’s got such gimlet eyes and ears she can tell with ’em shut if you’re fibbing. I gave up hope long ago, so I just go ’long and tell her the plain gospel truth when she asks me, ’cause I know those gimlet eyes and ears of hers ’re going to worm it out o’ me somehow.”
“Grown folks pin you down so close sometimes,” said Jimmy, “you bound to ’varicate a little; and I always tell God I’m sorry. I tell my mama the truth ’most all time ’cepting when she asks questions ’bout things ain’t none of her business a tall, and she all time want to know `Who done it?’ and if I let on it’s me, I know she’ll wear out all the slippers and hair-brushes they is paddling my canoe, ‘sides switches, so I jus’ say `I do’ know, ’m’—which all time ain’t perzactly the truth. You ever tell Miss Minerva stories, Billy?”
“Aunt Cindy always say, ’t wa’n’t no harm ’t all to beat ’bout the bush an’ try to th’ow folks offer the track ’long as you can, but if it come to the point where you got to tell a out-an’-out fib, she say for me always to tell the truth, an’ I jest nachelly do like she say ever sence I’s born,” replied Billy.