“Naw, I ain’t neither,” objected the male member of the chain-gang, “I done cut my woman with a razor ’cause I see her racking down the street like a proud coon with another gent, like what Sarah Jane’s brother telled me he done at the picnic.”
The children played happily together for half an hour, Billy and Lina commanding, and the prisoners, entering thoroughly into the spirit of the game, according prompt obedience to their bosses. At last the captives wearied of their role and clamored for an exchange of parts.
“All right,” agreed Lina. “Get the key, Billy, and we’ll be the chain-gang.”
Billy put his right hand in his pocket but found no key there; he tried the other pocket with the same success; he felt in his blouse, he looked in his cap, he jumped up and down, he nearly shook himself to pieces all without avail; the key had disappeared as if by magic.
“I berlieve y’ all done los’ that key,” concluded he.
“Maybe it dropped on the ground,” said Frances.
They searched the yard over, but the key was not to be found.
“Well, if that ain’t just like you, Billy,” cried Jimmy, “you all time perposing to play chain-gang and you all time lose the key.”
Lina grew indignant.
“You proposed this yourself, Jimmy Garner,” she said; “we never would have thought of playing chain-gang but for you.”
“It looks like we can’t never do anything at all,” moaned Frances, “’thout grown folks ’ve got to know ’bout it.”
“Yes, and laugh fit to pop theirselfs open,” said her fellow-prisoner. “I can’t never pass by Owen Gibbs and Len Hamner now ’thout they laugh just like idjets and grin just like pole-cats.”
“I ain’t never hear tell of a pole-cat grinnin’,” corrected Billy, “he jes’ smell worser ’n what a billy goat do.”
“It is Chessy cats that grin,” explained Lina.
“Look like folks would get ’em a lot of pole-cats stead o’ chillens always hafto be wearing assfetty bags ’round their nakes, so’s they can keep off whopping-cough,” said Frances.
“You can’t wear a pole-cat roun’ yo’ nake,” grinned Billy.
“And Len Hamner all time now asking me,” Jimmy continued, “when I’m going to wear Sarah Jane’s co’set to Sunday-School. Grown folks ’bout the lunatickest things they is. Ain’t you going to unlock this chain, Billy?” he demanded.
“What I got to unlock it with?” asked Billy.
As Jimmy’s father was taking the crestfallen chaingang to the blacksmith shop to have their fetters removed, they had to pass by the livery stable; and Sam Lamb, bent double with intoxicating mirth at their predicament, yelled:
“Lordee! Lordee! Y’ all sho’ is de outlandishest kids ‘twixt de Bad Place an’ de moon.”
A transaction in mumps
“Don’t you come near me,” screamed Billy, sauntering. slowly and deliberately toward the dividing fence; “keep way f’om me; they’s ketchin’.”