“Paint pertec’s little boys’ feets,” he said, “an’ keeps ’em f’om gittin’ hurted, Aunt Minerva, don’t it?”
Miss Minerva laid down her fork and gave her nephew her undivided attention.
“You have been getting into mischief again, I see, William; now tell me all about it. Are you afraid of me?”
“Yas ‘m,” was his prompt response, “an’ I don’t want to be put to bed neither. The Major he wouldn’t put little boys to bed day times.”
She blushed and eyed him thoughtfully. She was making slow progress with the child, she knew, yet she still felt it her stern duty to be very strict with him and, having laid down certain rules to rear him by, she wished to adhere to them.
“William,” she said after he had made a full confession, “I won’t punish you this time for I know that Jimmy led you into it but—”
“Naw’m, Jimmy didn’t. Me an’ him an’ Frances an’ Lina’s all ‘sponsible, but I promise you, Aunt Minerva, not to clam’ no mo’ ladders.”
The chain-gang had been working in the street not far from Miss Minerva’s house, and Lina, Frances, Billy and Jimmy had hung on her front fence for an hour, watching them with eager interest. The negroes were chained together in pairs, and guarded by two, big, burly white men.
“Let’s us play chain-gang,” suggested Jimmy.
“Where we goin’ to git a chain?” queried Billy; “’t won’t be no fun ‘thout a lock an’ chain.”
“I can get the lock and chain off ’m Sarah Jane’s cabin.”
“Yo’ mama don’t ’low you to go to her cabin,” said Billy.
“My mama don’t care if I just borra a lock and chain; so I ’m going to get it.”
“I’m going to be the perlice of the gang,” said Frances.
“Perlice nothing. You all time talking ’bout you going to be the perlice,” scoffed Jimmy. “I’m going to be the perlice myself.”
“No, you are not,” interposed Lina, firmly. “Billy and I are the tallest and we are going to be the guards, and you and Frances must be the prisoners.”
“Well, I ain’t going to play ’thout I can be the boss of the niggers. It’s Sarah Jane’s chain and she’s my mama’s cook, and I’m going to be what I please.”
“I’ll tell you what do,” was Billy’s suggestion, “we’ll take it turn about; me an’ Lina’ll firs’ be the perlice an’ y’ all be the chain-gang, an’ then we’ll be the niggers an’ y’ all be the bosses.”
This arrangement was satisfactory, so the younger boy climbed the fence and soon returned with a short chain and padlock.
Billy chained Jimmy and Frances together by two round, fat ankles and put the key to the lock in his pocket.
“We must decide what crimes they have committed,” said Lina.
“Frances done got ‘rested fer shootin’ craps an’ Jimmy done got ’rested fer ‘sturbin’ public worship,” said the other boss.