The soldier he had left sitting against the fence troubled him, it is true; and he was not quite sure that he was through with one so palpably robbed. That he had not been followed appeared certain; that the question of future ownership of the treasure could be settled was a matter of superstitious belief. There was only one way—he must hide the box in a secret nook, and if it remained undisturbed for a reasonable length of time, he might hope for its undisturbed enjoyment. Accordingly he stole into a dense copse and buried his booty at the foot of a persimmon-tree, then gained his humble quarter and slept so late and soundly that he had to be dragged almost without the door the next morning before he shook off his lethargy.
With the exception of aptitude which enabled Jeff to catch and fix a tune in his mind with a fair degree of correctness, his mental processes were slow. Moreover, whether he should ever have any trouble with “spooks” or not, one thing was true of him, as of many others in all stations of life, he was haunted by the ghost of a conscience. This uneasy spirit suggested to him with annoying iteration that his proceedings the night before had been of very unusual and doubtful character. When at last fully awake, he sought to appease the accusing voice by unwonted diligence in all his tasks, until the fat cook, a devout Baptist, took more than one occasion to say, “You’se in a promisin’ frame, Jeff. Ef I’se ony shoah dat yer hole out long anuff ter get ’mersed, I’d hab hopes on yer, but, law! yer’ll be a-fiddlin’ de debil’s tunes ‘fo’ de week is out. I’se afeared dat dere must be an awful prov’dence, like a battle or harricane, onst a week, ter keep yer ser’ous;” and the old woman sniffed down at him with ill-concealed disdain from her superior spiritual height.
Jeff was as serious as could have been wished all that day, for there was much on his mind. Perplexing questions tinged with supernatural terrors tormented him. Passing over those having a moral point, the most urgent one was, “S’pose dat ar soger miss him box an come arter it ternight. Ki! If I go ter see, I mout run right on ter de spook. I’se a-gwine ter gib ‘im his chance, an’ den take mine.” So that evening Jeff fortified himself and increased the cook’s hope by a succession of psalm-tunes in which there was no lapse toward the “debil’s” music.
Next morning, after a long sleep, Jeff’s nerves were stronger, and he began to take a high hand with conscience.
“Dat ar soger has hab his chance,” he reasoned. “Ef he want de box he mus’ ‘a’ com arter it las’ night. I’se done bin fa’r wid him, an’ now ter-night, ef dat ar box ain’ ’sturbed, I’se a-gwine ter see de ‘scription an’ heft on it. Toder night I was so ’fuscated dat I couldn’t know nuffin straight.”
When all were sleeping, he stole to the persimmon-tree and was elated to find his treasure where he had slightly buried it. The little box seemed heavy, and was wholly unlike anything he ever seen before.