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what you say goes with the niggers here in town, and, besides, I won't promise how long I 'll hold the Dillihay place. Real estate is brisk around here now. I did n't want to delay a good work on account of not having a location." Mr. Hooker turned away to a big ledger on a breast-high desk, and apparently was about to settle himself to the endless routine of bank work.
Peter knew the Dillihay place well. It lacked the timber of the other tract;
still, it was fairly desirable. He hesitated before the tarnished grill. "What do you think about it, Tump?"
"You won't make a mistake in buying," answered the high voice of Mr. Hooker at his ledger.
"I don't think you 'll make no mistake in buyin', Petuh," repeated Tump's bass.
Peter turned back a little uncertainly, and asked how long it would take to fix the new deed. He had a notion of making a flying canvass of the officers of the Sons and Daughters in the interim. He was surprised to find that Mr. Hooker already had the deed and the notes ready to sign in anticipation of Peter's desires. Here the banker brought out the set of papers.
"I'll take it," decided Peter; "and if the lodge does n't want it, I'll keep the place myself."
"I like to deal with a man of decision," piped the cashier, a wrinkled smile on his sharp face.
Peter pushed in his bag of collections, then Mr. Hooker signed the deed, and Peter signed the land notes. They exchanged the instruments. Peter received the crisp deed, bound in a blue manuscript cover. It rattled unctiously. To Peter it was his first step toward a second Tuskegee.
The two negroes walked out of the Planter's Bank filled with a sense of well-doing. Tump Pack was openly proud of having been connected, even in a casual way, with the purchase. As he walked down the steps, he turned to Peter.
"Don't guess nobody could git a deed off on you wid stoppahs in it, is they?"
"We don't know any such word as 'stop,' Tump," declared Peter, gaily.
For Peter was gay. The whole incident at the bank was beginning to please him. The meeting of a sudden difficulty, his quick decision-it held the quality of leadership. Napoleon had it.
The two colored men stepped briskly through the afternoon sunshine along the mean village street. Here and there in front of their doorways sat the merchants yawning and talking, or watching pigs root in the piles of waste.
In Peter's heart came a wonderful thought. He would make his industrial institution such a model of neatness that the whole village of Hooker's Bend would catch the spirit. The white people should see that something clean and uplifting could come out of Nigger Town. The two races ought to live for a mutual benefit. was a fine generous thought.
All this musing was brushed away by the sight of old Mr. Tomwit crossing the street from the east side to the livery-stable on the west. That human desire of wanting the person who has wronged you to know that you know your injury moved Peter to hurry his steps and to speak to the old gentleman.
Mr. Tomwit had been a Confederate cavalryman in the Civil War, and there was still a faint breeze and horsiness about him. horsiness about him. He was a ham
mered-down old gentleman, with hair thin, but still jet black, a seamed, sunburned face, and a flattened nose. His voice was always a friendly roar. Now, when he saw Peter turning across the street to meet him, he halted and called out at once:
"Now, Peter, I know what's the
matter with you. I did n't do you right."
Peter went closer, not caring to take the whole village into his confidence.
"How came you to turn down my proposition, Mr. Tomwit," he asked, "after we had agreed and drawn up the papers?"
"We-e-ell, I had to do it, Peter," explained the old man, loudly.
"Why, Mr. Tomwit?"
"Nachelly, nachelly," agreed the old cavalryman, dryly. "Henry has a diff'runt way to talk to ever man, Peter."
"In fact," proceeded Peter, "Mr. Hooker sold me the old Dillihay place in lieu of the deal I missed with you." Old Mr. Tomwit moved his quid in
"That at least shows he does n't
"A white neighbor wanted me to, think a negro school would ruin the
Peter," boomed the cavalryman. "Who, Mr. Tomwit?"
"Henry Hooker talked me into it, Peter. It was a mean trick, Peter. I done you wrong." He stood nodding his head and rubbing his flattened nose in an impersonal manner, "Yes, I done you wrong, Peter," he condemned loudly, and looked frankly into Peter's eyes.
value of his land. He owns farms all around the Dillihay place."
Old Mr. Tomwit turned his quid over twice and spat thoughtfully. "That yuh deed in yuh pocket?" He held out his hand for the blue manuscript cover protruding from the mulatto's pocket with the air of a man certain to be obeyed. Peter handed it over. The old gentleman unfolded the deed, then moved it carefully to and from his eyes until the type-writing was adjusted to his focus. He read it slowly, with a movement of his lips and a drooling of tobacco-juice. Fi
The negro was immensely surprised that Henry Hooker had done such a thing. A thought came that perhaps some other Henry Hooker had moved into town during his absence. "You don't mean the cashier of the nally he finished, remarked, "I be bank?"
Old Mr. Tomwit drew out a plug of Black Mule tobacco, set some gapped, discolored teeth into a corner, nodded at Peter silently, as the same time utilizing the nod to tear off a large quid.
"Yeh," he proceeded in a muffled tone, "they ain't but one Henry Hooker; he is the one and only Henry. He said if I sold you my land, you 'd put up a nigger school and bring in so many blackbirds you 'd run me clean off my farm. He said it 'u'd ruin the whole town, a nigger school would."
Peter was deeply astonished. "Why, he did n't talk that way to me!"
damned!" in a deliberate voice, returned the deed, and proceeded across the street to the livery-stable, which was fronted by an old mulberry-tree, with several chairs under it. In one of these chairs he would sit for the remainder of the day, making an occasional loud remark about the weather or the crops, and watching the horses pass in and out of the stable.
Siner had vaguely enjoyed old Mr. Tomwit's discomfiture over the deed, if it was discomfiture that had moved the old gentleman to his sententious profanity. But the negro did not understand Henry Hooker's action at all. The banker had abused his position of trust as holder of a deed in
escrow by snapping up the sale himself; stoppahs," he reiterated, amazed in then he had sold Peter the Dillihay place. It was a queer shift.
Tump Pack caught his principal's mood with that chameleon-like mental quality all negroes possess.
"Dat Henry Hookah," criticized Tump, "allus wuz a li'l' ol', dried-up snake in de grass."
"He abused his position of trust," said Peter, gloomily; "his motives seem very obscure to me."
to laugh sardonically, and abruptly quitted the conversation.
Such rank superiority irritated the soldier to the n-th power.
"Look heah, black man, I know I is right. Heah, lem me look at that there deed. Maybe I can fin' 'em. I know I sutt'inly is right."
Peter walked on, paying no atten
"Dat sho am a fine way to put hit," tion to the request until Tump caught said Tump, admiringly.
"Why do you suppose he bought in the Tomwit tract and sold me the Dillihay place?”
Asked for an opinion, Tump began twiddling his military medal and corrugated the skin on his inch-high brow.
"Now you puts it to me lak dat, Petuh," he answered with importance, "I wondahs if dat gimlet-haided white man ain't put some stoppahs in dat deed he guv you. He mout of."
Such remarks as that from Tump always annoyed Peter. Tump's intellectual method was to talk sense just long enough to gain his companion's ear, and then produce something absurd and quash the tentative interest.
his arm and drew him up short.
"Look heah, niggah," said Tump in a different tone, "I faded dat deed fuh ten iron men, an' I guess I got uh once-ovah comin' fuh muh money."
The soldier was plainly mobilized and ready to attack. To fight Tump, to fight any negro at all, would be Peter's undoing; it would surrender the moral leadership he hoped to gain. Moreover, he had no valid grounds for a disagreement with Tump. He passed over the deed, and the two negroes moved on their way to Nigger Town.
Tump trudged forward with eyes glued to paper, his face puckered in the unaccustomed labor of reading. His thick lips moved at the individual letters, and constructed them bun
Siner turned away from looking at glingly into syllables and words. He Tump and said, "Piffle."
Tump was defensive at once. "'T ain't piffle, eithah. I's talkin' sense, niggah."
Peter shrugged and walked a little way in silence, but the soldier's nonsense stuck in his brain and worried him. Finally he turned rather irritably.
was trying to uncover the verbal camouflage, by which the astute white brushed away all rights of all black men whatsoever.
To Peter there grew up something sadly comical in Tump's efforts. He might well typify all the colored folk of the South, struggling in a web of law and custom they did not under
"Stoppers-what do you mean by stand, misplacing their suspicions, be
Tump opened his jet eyes and their yellowish whites. "I mean niggah
fogged, and fearful. A certain penitence for having been irritated at Tump softened Peter.
"That's all right, Tump; there is Testament. He moistened his lips nothing to find."
At that moment the soldier began to bob his head.
"Eh! eh! eh! W-Wait a minute!" he stammered. "Whut dis? B'liebe I done foun' it! I sho is! Heah she am! Heah's dis niggah-stoppah, jes lak I tol' ju!" Tump marked a sentence in the guaranty of the deed with a rusty forefinger and looked up at Peter in mixed triumph and accusation.
Peter leaned over the deed, amused. "Let's see your mare's-nest."
“Well, she is thauh, an' you sho let loose a hundud dollahs of ouah sietie's money, an' got nuthin' fuh hit but a piece uv papah wid a niggah-stoppah on hit!"
Tump's voice was so charged with contempt that Peter looked with a certain uneasiness at his find. He read this sentence switched into the guaranty of the indenture:
"Be it further understood and agreed that no negro, black man, Afro-American, African, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, or any person whatsoever of colored blood or lineage, shall enter upon, seize, hold, occupy, reside upon, till, cultivate, own or possess any part or parcel of said property, or garner, cut, or harvest therefrom, any of the usufruct, timber, or emblements thereof, but shall by these presents be estopped from so doing forever."
and looked at Tump.
"Why, that can't be legal." His voice sounded empty and shallow.
"Legal! 'Fo' God, niggah, whauh you been tuh school all dese yeahs nevuh to heah uv a niggah-stoppah befo'!"
"But-but how can a stroke of the pen, a mere gesture, estop a whole class of American citizens forever?" cried Peter, with a rising voice. “Turn it around. Suppose they had put in a line no white man should own that land. It it's empty! I tell you, it 's mere words!"
Tump cut into his diatribe.
"No use talkin' lak dat. Ouah siety thought you was a' aidjucated niggah. We did n't think no white man could put nothin' ovah on you."
"Education!" snapped Siner. "Education is n't supposed to keep you away from shysters!"
"Keep you away f'om 'em!" cried Tump in a scandalized voice. "Fo' God, niggah, you don' know nuthin'! Of co'se a' aidjucation ain't tuh keep you away f'om shysters; hit 's to mek you one 'uv 'em!"
Peter stood breathing irregularly, looking at his deed. A determination not to be cheated grew up and hardened in Peter's nerves. He refolded his deed with unsteady hands and put it into his pocket, then he turned about, and started back up the village street toward the bank.
Tump Pack drew a shaken, unhappy breath. "Now I reckon you see what a nig- and presently called out: gah-stoppah is."
Tump stared after him a moment
Peter stood in the sunshine, looking at the estoppel clause, his lips agape. Twice he read it over. It held something of the quality of those comprehensive curses that occur in the Old
"Heah, niggah, wha' chu gon' do?" A moment later he repeated to his friend's back. "Look heah, niggah, I'vise you against anything you's gon' tuh do, less'n you 's ready to pass in yo'checks." As Peter strode on, Tump