“And if he ain’t ’bout the sickest kid they is,” declared Jimmy; “I’ll betcher he won’t get fresh no more soon. He telled me the other day he ain’t had a drink of soda water this summer, ’cause every nickel he gets got to go to Mr. Pastor’s sal’ry; he says he plumb tired supporting Brother Johnson and all his family; and, he say, every time he go up town he sees Johnny Johnson a-setting on a stool in Baltzer’s drug store just a-swigging milk-shakes; he says he going to knock him off some day ’cause it’s his nickels that kid’s a-spending.”
There was a short silence, broken by Billy, who remarked, apropos of nothing:
“I sho’ is glad I don’t hafter be a ’oman when I puts on long pants, mens is heap mo’ account.”
“I wouldn’t be a woman for nothing at all,” Jimmy fully agreed with him; “they have the pokiest time they is.”
“I’m glad I am going to be a young lady when I grow up,” Lina declared, “I wouldn’t be a gentleman for anything. I’m going to wear pretty clothes and be beautiful and be a belle like mother was, and have lots of lovers kneel at my feet on one knee and play the guitar with the other.”
“How they goin’ to play the guitar with they other knee?” asked the practical Billy.
“And sing `Call Me Thine Own,’” she continued, ignoring his interruption. “Father got on his knees to mother thirty-seven-and-a-half times before she’d say, `I will."’
“Look like he’d ‘a’ wore his breeches out,” said Billy.
“I don’t want to be a lady,” declared Frances; “they can’t ever ride straddle nor climb a tree, and they got to squinch up their waists and toes. I wish I could kiss my elbow right now and turn to a boy.”
“They’s going to be a big nigger ’scursion to Memphis at ’leven o’clock,” said Jimmy as he met the other little boy at the dividing fence; “Sam Lamb’s going and ’most all the niggers they is. Sarah Jane ’lowed she’s going, but she ain’t got nobody to ’tend to Bennie Dick. Wouldn’t you like to go, Billy?”
“You can’t go ’thout you’s a nigger,” was the reply; “Sam Lamb say they ain’t no white folks ’lowed on this train ‘cepin’ the engineer an’ conductor.”
“Sam Lamb’d take care of us if we could go,” continued Jimmy. “Let’s slip off and go down to the depot and see the niggers get on. There’ll be ’bout a million.”
Billy’s eyes sparkled with appreciation.
“I sho’ wish I could,” he said;” but Aunt Minerva’d make me stay in bed a whole week if I want near the railroad.”
“My mama ’d gimme ’bout a million licks, too, if I projeckted with a nigger ’scursion she ’bout the spankingest woman they is. My papa put some burnt cork on his face in the Knights er Pythi’s minstrels and I know where we can get some to make us black; you go get Miss Minerva’s ink bottle too, that’ll help some, and get some matches, and I’ll go get the cork and we can go to Sarah Jane’s house and make usselfs black.”