“Ob cose it’s got money in it,” Jeff reasoned. “Nuffin else ’ud be done up to tight and strong. I’se woan open it jes’ yet, feared de missus or de colored boys ‘spec’ someting. Ki! I isn’t a-gwine ter be tied up, an’ hab dat box whip out in me. I’ll tink how I kin hide an’ spen’ de money kine of slowcution like.” With this he restored the prize to its shallow excavation and covered it with leaves that no trace of fresh earth might be visible.
Jeff’s deportment now began to evince a new evolution in mental and moral process. The influence of riches was quite as marked upon him as upon so many of his white brothers and sisters, proving their essential kinship. To-day he began to sniff disdainfully at his menial tasks; and in the evening “Ole Dan Tucker” resounded from his fiddle with a rollicking abandon over which the cook groaned in despair, “Dat ar niggah’s ’ligion drop off ob ’im like a yaller pig from de bush. ’Ligion dat’s skeert inter us hain’t no ’count anyhow.”
During the next few days it was evident that Jeff was falling from grace rapidly. Never had he been so slow and careless in his tasks. More than once the thought crossed his mind that he had better take his box and “cut stick” for Washington, where he believed that wealth and his fiddle would give him prominence over his race. For prudential and other reasons he was in no haste to open the box, preferring rather to gloat over it and to think how he could spend the money to the greatest advantage. He had been paying his court to a girl as black as himself on a neighboring plantation; but he now regarded that affair as preposterous.
“She ain’ good nuff fer me no mo’,” he reasoned. “I’se a-gwine ter shine up ter dat yeller Suky dat’s been a-holdin’ her head so high ober ter Marse Perkins’s. I’se invited ter play ober dar ter-night, an’ I’ll make dat gal open her eye. Ki! she tinks no culled gemmen in dese parts fit ter hole a cannle when she braid her long straight ha’r, but when she see de ribbin I kin git her ter tie dat ha’r up wid, an’ de earrings I kin put in her ears, she larf on toder side ob her face. ‘Fo’ I go I’se a-gwine ter buy dat ar gole ring ob Sam Milkins down at de tavern. S’pose it does take all I’se been sabin’ up, I’se needn’t sabe any mo’. Dat ar box got nuff in it ter keep me like a lawd de rest ob my life. I’d open it ter-night if I wasn’t goin’ ter Marse Perkins’s.”
Jeff carried out his high-handed measures and appeared that evening at “Marse Perkins’s” with a ring of portentous size squeezed on the little finger of his left hand. It had something of the color of gold, and that is the best that can be said of it; but it had left its purchaser penniless. This fact sat lightly on Jeff’s mind, however, as he remembered the box at the foot of the persimmon-tree; and he stalked into the detached kitchen, where a dusky assemblage were to indulge in a shuffle, with the air of one who intends that his superiority shall be recognized at once.