Orinocco and the Prince of Wails
ARCHIE P. McKISHNIE
THE August day had gone out in a splurge of hot, copper-riveted glory.
Out behind his woodshed, weltering in the orange haze of twilight, Len Ballister, chair propped against the wall, strummed on his banjo and through the open doorway watched Homer Hudson and Abe White as they shot a game of craps on the kitchen table.
Life was pleasant.
Yes, with friends close beside him, plenty of heat—and no Janeann to raise ructions—life for Len seemed one sweet song.
Suddenly his long black fingers ceased to twang the strings. At the abrupt cessation of the music Hudson and White glanced apprehensively up. Their staring eyes followed Len’s fascinated gaze.
Coming up the path were several Chatville negroes, each with a gunnysack over his shoulder. They were led by a fat, colored gentleman, who waddled like a duck as he walked, and talked over his shoulder to his companions.
“Dat’s Elder Jones,” Len vouchsafed in a whisper to his friends, as he hurriedly joined them. “Reckon he don’ know Janeann is ’way frum hum, an’ aims ter hol’ prayermeetin’ here.”
White, busy concealing the dice, shook his head. “Prayer meetin’ nuffin’. Did yo ’all see dat Orinocco dawg scoot fer dat woodbox? Well, dawgs know more’n humans, sometimes. Dat delegation approachin’ up dat walk means trouble a-plenty fer sumbody; you wait an’
Homer Hudson unbuttoned his shirt cuffs and proceeded to roll up his sleeves.
“Jes’ let dem trouble-seekin’ coons start somethin’,” he grated, “an’ day’ll quick fin’ who am old Dame Trouble’s twin brudder. I kin lick dat bunch ob culls wif one hand tied behin’ me.”
BOYS,” Len admonished, as he rose to admit the visitors, “no rough house. Remember, I’s a ossifer ob de law—an’ strong fer order. Us’ll hear what dese gents have gotter say-so.
“Come in, frien’s, come in,” he invited cheerfully, as a knock sounded on the door.
Elder Jones entered the cabin and stood glowering about him. Then he beckoned to those behind him. “Come ’long, men.”
He approached Len, who had resumed his seat beside the table, and glared down at him through his hornrimmed spectacles.
“Constable Ballister,” he said, sternly, “I ain’t goin' ter beat about no bushes. Us am here on no pleasant errand. Dese men wif me hab a grievous complaint ter register ag’in dat dawg yo’ calls Orinocco.”
Len looked uneasy. “Dat so, Elder? What am dat complaint, might I ast?”
“Dat complaint,” the Elder answered, meeting Homer Hudson’s frowning look with one of writhing contempt, and ignoring White altogether, “dat complaint, Misto Ballister, am dis. Dat dawg am accused ob killin’ chickuns, an’ de owners of same am determined dat he shall be bringed ter trial.”
“Meanin’ which?” Len enquired.
“Meanin’, dat us am here ter try Orinocco fairly, deduce any evidence offered, an’ jedge him accordin’. Dat’s what I mean.”
“But,” Len defended, “Orinocco neber killed a chickun in his hull life.”
“So much yo’, his owner, says; so much yo’ no doubt finks,” sneered Jones. “Howsomeber, dereare some gentlemens present who ain’t agreein’ wif dat statement, an’
dese gentlemens has asked me ter act as de judge and ter conduct dis trial. Have yo’ any objections ter dat?” “Why, no, Elder,” Len replied. “None a-tall.”
“Bery well. I’ll do my utmos’ ter be fair, an’ not allow any pussonal animosity toward dat thievin’ mongul dawg ter inflooence my jedgment, Misto Ballister.”
He turned toward the half dozen plaintiffs in the case“Yo’ men dump dem slain fowl on de floor whar de cou’t kin see ’em,” he commanded.
He seated himself and pounded a salt cellar on the table.
“Dis cou’t am now opened,” he declared. “Misto Ballister, does yo’ wish council, er does yo’ defen’ yo’ own dawg?”
HOMER HUDSON bent above Len. “Len, jes’ yo’ say de word an’ I starts cleanin’ house,” he whispered.
“Wait, Homer,” Len whispered back. “Us’ll see dis fing through.”
He addressed White. “Abe, will yo’ act as council fer de defense?”
“Shore will, Len.” Abe stepped jauntily forward.
“Now den,” spoke the judge, “dis case am simply an’ negletively dis. Las’ night, sundry fowl, better knowed as chickuns, was wilfully an’ unfeelingly killed by some sort ob animal. Dere lies de fowl an’ yon’er in dat woodbox, if I’s not mistaken, lies de animal. Howsomeber we’ve got dat ter prove, gentlemens. As Jedge, I mus’ necessarily remain neutral, but if so I wasn’t de Jedge, I’s be willin’ ter bet two dollars dat Orinocco killed dem chickuns. Now den, us’ll call de fust witness, which will be my ownse’f.”
The Elder stood up.
“Dis den, is what I seed an’ heared las’ night, long’ ’bout twelbe M.P. I happen’ ter be down near Misto Dawson’s chickun ya’d when I heared a powerful cacklin’ an’ flutterin’ ’mong de chickuns. As I stood won’erin’ what caused dat racket, I see a dawg dat answers ter Orinocco’s description perzac’ly, leap de fence. An’ he had a full-growed hen in his jaws. Now, dat’s my testimony, an’ it’s up ter de Jedge ter say whever er no it’s ob a damagin’ nature ag’in de accused, an’ de Jedge suttingly says it shorely is.”
He sat down, and council for the defense came forward. “Yo’r worship, I’s jes’ like ter ast de witness, Elder Jones, a few questions.”
“Go ahead, den.”
Abe shifted his weight from one foot to the other and pointed a long black finger at the man before him.
“What, might I en-quire an’ ask, was yo’ a-doin’ near Misto Dawson’s chickun-pen at dat time ob night, Elder Jones?”
“Look yo’ here, man!” cried the Elder, springing to his feet and banging the saltcellar so hard on the table one of the witnesses leaning interestedly forward got a good portion of its contents in his eyes, “Does yo’all intention to assault me by so askin’ dat?”
“No insult a-tall,” declared council for the defense. “As I understan’ it, on yo’r own suggestion us am now holdin’ a reg’lar cou’t ob law. As de accused dawg’s lawyer, I have all rights an’ cetry, pro lib advalorum, ter crisscross question all witnusses.”
“But,” protested Jones, “J is de Jedge, an’ I hab de jurisdictionary ter fine yo’ fer contemptin’ dis cou’t, if I so likes. Remember dat.”
“Yo’ may be de Jedge; but jes’ now yo’s a witness dat has uttered damagin’ testimony ag’in my clientel,” White insisted. “As sech, yo’ll please ter answer my question. I reiterates, what was yo’ a-doin’ near Misto Dawson’s chickun-pen at twelve o’clock M.P.?”
“I hereby strenuously refuse ter answer dat question,” flared the Judge.
“Bery well, den, Elder Jones, yo’r evidence is throwed overboard. Jedge, please ter call nex’ witness!”
A tall negro resembling a weatherbeaten fence-rail rose slowly to his feet.
“Hank Timbers,” thundered council for the defense, “what yo’ got to say ag’in Misto Ballister’s val’able bloodhoun’, Orinocco? Answer straight, if it’s in yo’ ter answer straight.”
Timbers rubbed his sleeve nervously across his mouth. He owed White ninety cents pool-bill, long overdue.
“I done lose two Plymouth rock roosters an’ a bantam hen froo dat dawg,” he declared.
“Which dawg? Be spephystic.”
“Dat houn’, Orinocco.”
“Did yo’ see Orinocco kill dem fowl?”
“I shore did.”
“When was dis?”
“Las’ night, long ’bout ’leben.”
“Whar was yo’ at de time, Misto Timbers?”
“I was out in my ga’den weedin’ onions. I heared a racket in—”
“One moment. Yo’ was weedin’ onions at ’leben o’clock at night, yo’ say? Humph! yo’ mus’ have mighty good eyesight.”
“I had a lantern erlong.”
“Oh, yo’ had a lantern erlong. Was yo’ stric’ly sober at de time?”
“See hyar—” blustered the witness.
“Answer de question,” thundered the Judge.
“I was never soberer,” the witness declared grudgingly. “Continue to tell what yo’ seed an’ heared.”
“Well den, I seed an’ heared dis. All to onst I heared my chickuns raisin’ a rumpis. Den I hear squawks dat speak ob death. I look towards my henya’d, an’ den I see dis houn’ dawg—”
“Be explictionary,” interrupted White. “Yo’ seed which dawg?”
“Dat Orinocco cur.”
“Wait a minute er two. Yo’ still had dat lantern lit?” “Yes, dat lantern was shore burnin’ clear like de glow from heaben.”
“An’ settin’ dar wid de glow all about yo’, yo see all dis?”
Abe turned to the Judge. “Yo’r honor, I rise ter a
point ob ordination, an’ ast dat yo’ cast de evidence jes’ deducted aside as irreverent. Yo’ Honor must know dat de witness, in declarin’ dat he was able to see de happenin’s jus’ chronicled wif de lantern’s light in his eyes, has uttered purgerious statements wif malace aforethinking towards my clientel, an’ I respeckfully reques’ dat his evidence be throwed out.”
The Judge banged the table to emphasize his ruling.
“Dat’ll be all, Misto Timbers,” smiled Abe.
Timbers with a crestfallen air sought his seat.
“I’s jes’ got dis to say,” spoke up a yellow negro dressed in a badly frayed suit, starting to rise and pausing halfway as though not quite sure of his ground.
“Step forward, Misto Stately,” defendant’s council invited. “Now den, yo’ jes’ got which ter say?”
“I lose free good chickuns froo dat Orinocco, an’ I wants redressin’.”
“Nobody goin’ to deny yo’ wants redressin’, Misto Stately. But so yo’s anticipatin’ buyin’ a new suit ob clothes wif what damage-money yo’ hopes to wring frum de t owner ob dis innocent dawg—”
“Hol’ on dar, councillor,” spoke up the Judge. “Don’ yo’ go ter oversteppin’ yo’r limitations. Remember, I got de power ter clap a fine onter yo’. Make anudder pussonal remark like dat an’ I’ll do it, too.”
“Yo’r lordship’s pardon,” bowed Abe.
“Now den, Misto Stately, tell de cou’t yo’r story.”
“My story am dis,” declared the nervous Stately. “Dis mawin’ 1 riz ter fin’ fo’ ob my prize Wyandottes stretched col’ in death.
Dey’s been killed by a dawg. His feetmarks was all ’roun’ de pen.”
“Humph,” muttered the Judge appreciatively.
“Yo ’foun’ de tracks ob a dawg near to whar yo’r fowl lay, yo’ say?” questioned Abe, sternly. “Shore did.”
“Was dey de tracks ob a black dawg, a white dawg er a brindle dawg, Misto Stately?”
“Dey was de tracks ob Len Ballister’s houn’ dawg.” “How come yo’ to be certain about dat?”
“Jes’ kast I knows, dat’s all.”
“Yo’r majesty,” Abe appealed to the Judge, “is dat, in yo’r min’, sufficient reason to let de witness’ statement pass as testimony?”
“It’s sufficient fer me,” declared the Judge. “Are yo’ froo wif de witness?”
“Yes, yo’ poor fish, I’s froo.”
“Wha’s dat?” roared the judge, angrily, “wha’s dat?” “I says if yo’ wish,
I’s froo, yo’r worship.”
WHITE stepped across to confer with the owner of Orinocco. For a few minutes they whispered together. Then White returned and stood before the Judge.
“Yo’r honor,” he stated, “after consultation with Misto Ballister, we are prepared to plead guilty. We do so under stric’es’ p r o t e s’ howsomeber, believin’ dat it is impossible to receive jestice at the han’s ob dis cou’t.”
“I’ll made a note ob dat,” frowned the Judge.
“We frow our dawg on yo’r mercy, Jedge, an’ ast dat yo’ allow him ter go on suspender sentence, seein’s dat dis fing de cou’t accuses him ob doin’—an’ which he neber did at all—am his firs’ an’ only offence.”
The Judge sat pondering. He spoke at last.
“How many chickuns in dat pile dar?
"Fou’teen,” answered a voice.
“Bery well. I’ll now proceed to inflict de sentence ob dis cou’t. De owner ob de dawg Orinocco has de optionality ob payin’ to de owners ob dese fowl one dollar per each ob de dead, or he kin make ’way wif de dawg. He is givin his choice.”
Her voice failed her. She stood staring at the little grave.
Again Abe consulted with Len.
“Yo’r honerful worship,” Len spoke, “I’ll pay de money but I’s got to be give a lil’ time.”
“Cash funds,” came a storm of voices from the owners of the dead.
“I’ll make dat a dollar ten per each, if yo’ gib me till Sattyday,” Len pleaded.
“Cash money!” came the insistent demand.
“But s’posin’ I ain’t got de cash money, what den?” “Dead dawg,” came the unfeeling reply in chorus.
“Well, Misto Ballister,” demanded the Judge. “Which am it gwine ter be?”
“I reckon, Jedge, it’ll hab ter be dawg,” Len answered. “Yo’ll make ’way wif dat houn’, den?”
“Right off; ternight.”
The Judge looked from one to the other of the men who had demanded justice.
“Am dat quite unsatisfactory ter yo’, gentlemens?” he asked.
The rail-like Timbers consulted with the others. “Yes, Jedge, yo’r worship,” he replied. “Dat’ll be quite disagreeable to us ail.”
“Den sentence ob dis cou’t is, dat houn’ dawg what killed dese fowl be promp’ly made ’way wif. Misto Ballister will atten’ ter dat. Yo’ niggers pick up yo’r dead chickuns an disperse.”
“One moment, yo’r honor,” spoke council for the defence. “Dese chickuns am now— accordin’ ter yo’r honor’s rulin’, de property ob Mr. Ballister. Dese gen’lemens have been paid in full fer same. Dem fowl remains whar dey am.”
rOW’S everyfing to hum, Len?” Lennox picked up his wife’s suitcase and waved a return greeting to the engineer of the down express.
“Cornin’ an’ goin’, so’s to speak, Janeann.’ “Meanin’ which?”
Janeann’s eyes were rolling and apprehensive.
“I’ve had a hunch all day dat I’d meet up wif disastrous news at de end ob my journeying. Now den, what yo’all mean by ‘cornin’ an’ goin’ ’.”
Len led her to a battered flivver standing beside the station platform. On the frayed rear seat sat one of the saddest-faced dogs she had ever beheld. As she stared, it lifted a bewhiskered nose and sent forth a dolorous wail to the summer skies.
“Lor Gawd, Len! Whar yo’ get dat fing? Ain’t one no-’count mutt ennuf fer us?”
“Dat dawg am one ob de fings dat come,” Len answered. “Dis automobile am anudder.”
“An’ what fings have gone?”
There was commingled apprehension, terror and ar.ger in the tones.
“Answer up, nigger; wha’s gone?”
Len looked uneasy. He had counted on his wife being so pleased with the car he had lately acquired in a raffle and the French poddle that the sad news he was about to impart to her might be greatly softened. It didn’t seem to be working out that way, somehow.
“Climb in, Janeann,” he suggested, “an’ us’ll dash hum.”
Janeann drew back with a snort.
“Not me. When I rides in a cyar, it ain’t goin’ to be one frum de 01’ Flivvers’ Hum. Yo’ kin ride in dat contraption ob junk if so yo’ likes; I’s goin’ ter walk. Len sighed. He knew the uselessness of trying argument on his portly spouse. “All right den, lemme take de suitcase.”
“No, sah. Dere’s eggs in dat suitcase. Break yo’r own fool neck if so yo’ please, but dem eggs stays hull, an’ goes un’erneaf a settin’-hen.”
Len reached under the seat for the crank.
“Wait a minute, yo’!”
Janeann’s voice was freighted with portent.
“Afore yo’ wrings dat pip-sick chickun’s neck, yo’re goin’ to answer me a question.’
LEN groaned. Why J would Janeann insist on speaking of hens and chickens? He never wanted to hear of such again.
“I wants ter know what yo’ did wif dat useless job-lot Orinocco? Lef’ him hum,
I s’pose, ter dig up my garden er get inter some udder deviltry.”
“He was quiet ’nuff las’ time I seed him, Janeann.”
She flashed a suspicious eye on her husband.
“Whar yo’ leabe dat mongrel, any way?”
“Leaved him sleepin’ in a corner ob de garden, Janeann,” Len’s tones were very gentle.
“Lor Harry! Dat means goodbye termatter plants.”
Len shook his head. “No danger, Janeann.”
“Well, yo’ see, Janeann, he been actin’ playful wif de neebors’ chickuns, dey done demanded—”
She placed her suitcase in the car and climbed in after it.
“Now den, if dis hyar wreck’s got ennuf life ter carry me hum, let’s get goin’. I jes’ naturally itch ter git my han’s on dat Orinocco.”
“What yo’ purpose a-doin’ wif him, Janeann?” Len asked as he took his place in the front seat. “De owners ob de chickuns demanded dat he be killed.”
“Well,” snorted his wife, “ain’t dey demandin’ what am only right an’ fair? Shorely yo’ wouldn’ keep a dawg dat was a chickun killer?”
LEN shifted a lever, fed the engine / more gas, and the old machine darted around the station embankment on two wheels.
He steered the car in a graceful curve past the stave mill and sprinted for his cabin.
It swung up before the green gate and stopped with a lurch that precipitated Janeann and the poodle across the front seat.
“Well,” Len spoke jauntily, “here us am, Janeann, hum safe an’ soun’.” “Speak fer yo’rself, nigger,” Janeann retorted. “Tell me, Len, is I facin’ de house or backin’ ’way? My brains am all floppin’ roun’ like a underdone custard.”
AT THE door she turned. “Whar’s dat Orinocco at, now?”
“I tol’ yo’ onst dat I lef’ him in de co’ner ob de ya’d,” Len answered.
“All right. Yo’ lead me to dat guilty wretch; den shin back hyar an’ get de gun.”
Len set down the suitcase and in silence led the way to the far corner of the garden. Here he turned and fastened sorrowful eyes on Janeann.
She returned the look belligerently. “Well, fool, whar’s dat outlaw dawg?” she demanded.
Len pointed to a newly-sodded mound beneath a flowering tree.
“Len!” she gasped. “Yo’ mean ter say
Her voice failed her. She stood staring at the little grave at the head of which stood a plain wooden slab, bearing this inscription, printed by Len’s own hand:
ORINOKO He has gon aloft.
“Len!” the voice was strained, choking. “Oh Len, speak ter me Gawd’s troof, an’ speak it sudden. Am what dem words
“No wo’ds could be so-er,” Len answered sadly. “Ain’t no use ob no gun now, Janeann.”
Tears sprang to Janeann’s eyes, streaked muddy rivulets down her dusty face.
Len attempted to soothe.
“Pore lil Orinocco’s done paid fer ebery ha’m his playful heart urged him on ter do, Janeann. De cou’t sentenced him, an’ ordered me ter make away wif him. I finded it mighty ha’d, Janeann. I was feared dat yo’ might not be fairminded ’nuff ter agree wif de Jedge; but I’s relieved ter know from yo’r own mouf dat yo’ favors what I did.”
Janeann took one long, slow step toward him.
“Be yo’ tellin’ me dat yo’ got rid ob my lil, darlin’ dawg wif yo’r own han’, murderin’ fratersizer?” she asked in low, tense tones.
“Yes. But as I say I finded it right ha’d, Janeann.”
“Den Gawd forgibe ÿe.”
Janeann turned broken away. Her shoulders shook, her portly person was racked by long sobs.
Len stood, awkwardly shuffling his feet.
“Life am brimful ob uncertainments, Janeann,” he attempted to console. “As I before tol’ yo’ at de station dere be allars comin’s an’ goin’s. Orinocco’s gone, but anudder lil pink-nosed dawg has come—”
She turned on him furiously.
“Do yo’ fink dat strip ob dirty fur out in dat cyar’ll be able ter take my Orinocco’s place, man?” she almost shouted. “Well, he neber will. I won’t eber own no dawg ag’in. Yo’ kin take dat doormat an’ frow him in de riber. I won’t tolerate him on my premises at all.”
SHE turned, still sobbing, towards the house. Len followed a respectable distance behind her.
“Look yo’ here, Janeann,” Len said placatingly as they reached the porch, “af’er all Orinocco va’n’t only jes' a mangy-no-’count dawg, an’ dere ain’t no use nohow in bewailin’ what is over Continued on page 1^8
Continued, from page l¡6 an’ did wif. Go ’long inter house an’ prepare our meal whilst I put de cyar inter de barn.”
Janeann turned her ponderous form about by pivoting on her heels. Her blazing eyes held Len.
“Low down nigger,” she said witheringly, “le’me council yo’ one fing. When yo’ made ’way wif dat pore dawg, Orinocco, yo’ made ’way also wif a wife an’ a hum. I’s froo w'if yo’ fer eber an’ eber, Amen! Get yo’ outer my eyesight an’ stay out. If I fin’ yo’ hangin’ ’bout my cabin af’er twenty minutes has elapsied, I’ll scald yo’ white. Hyar me? Now get!”
Len got, and with surprising agility for one of his years.
“When Janeann speaks so—dat’s de time ter go,” he shivered as he climbed into his flivver. “But jes’ whar I’s goin’ I don’ know.”
One thing he did knov . For the time being he was homeless and wifeless and adrift in an unfeeling world. He had ten dollars and seventy cents in his trousers’ pocket, a howling French poodle on the seat beside him and a tankful of gasoline. Lots of men had been turned loose in the world with less.
So much he told himself by way of self-comfort as he shot down the long hill past the stave mill and took the river road. He was going to Homer Hudson’s. Homer always knew just how to advise a wife-driven man, and how to console him too.
HOMER attired in a new suit and pearl derby was just locking his cottage door when Len drove up.
He showed his gold tooth in a smile as the latter hailed him, but whether it was one of derision or welcome Len had yet to learn.
“Looks like as dough Janeann might have arrive hum, Len,” Homer said as he opened the gate.
“Her’s home, all right,” Len answered plaintively. “Her come on noon train.” Homer chuckled. “Say, one ud fink her was jes’ behin’ yo’ wif a machine-gun, jedgin’ by de way yo’ was drivin’.”
A look of interest sprang into his eyes at sight of the poodle.
“Len, what breed ob a dawg is dat yo’ got on de seat ’longside yo’?”
Len turned and gazed proudly on the poodle. “Dat’s a Australian snow houn’, Homer. Dey use his kin’ fer huntin’ rabbits. I pick dat beauty up at a bargain, only dis mawnin’.”
“What yo’ goin’ ter do wif a dawg like dat? Yo’ neber hunts rabbits.”
“I aims ter hunt some.” Len said. “Reckon I kin pick up a nice bit ob money nex’ winter wif dat snow-houn’.” “Lor’! yo’ couldn’ get wifin a mile of a bunny wif dat dawg. Lis’en ter him howl.”
“Dat shows yo’r gross ignorance,” Len said witheringly. “Dat’s how dese dawgs work, Homer. When dey location a rabbit, dey jes’ nat’rally howl ter high heaben. Rabbit hears dat soun’ an’ sets up on his hin’ haunches ter lis’en better —;len yo’ plug him, see?”
“What’s his name, Len?”
“His registered pedigree name am Prince Ob Wails,” Len answered proudly. “I jes’ calls him Prince, fer short.” Homer was stroking the dog’s tangled fur.
“Kind of cute lil feller, ain’t he?” he said admiringly.
“Him’s a beauty, Homer.” Len laid a finger on the dog’s pink nose. “Gentle too, an’ affectionating. He’d be great company fer anybody dat lived alone.” “How much yo’ take fer dat Prince Ob Wails, Len?” Homer asked abruptly.
“I’ll take jes’ zac’ly what I paid fer him an’ dat’s nine dollars,” Len answered. “An’ I’ll tell yo’ why. I ’spec’s ter get pore Orinocco’s twin brudder shipped in ter me; don’t care ter keep two dawgs nohow.”
“Whar’s dat Orinocco’s twin cornin’ frum, Len?”
“Ypsilanti, Quebec, Michigan. I wired de owner, an’ he’s willin’ ter ship dat blood-houn’ ter me any time I says.” Homer stood considering.
“I’d shore like ter own dis snow houn’, Len,” he said eagerly.
“Den I reckon I sell him ter yo’, Homer,” Len answered. “S’pose us takes him to de house an’ see how he stacks up ter fings dar,” he suggested. “Come ’long den.”
Len climbed out of the car.
TWENTY minutes later he and Homer emerged from the cottage arm in arm. The poodle sat on the inside of the window, his pink nose pressed against the pane.
Homer’s gold tooth flashed in a broad smile; Len’s right eye was twitching and ne had the mien of one who had left dull care behind him.
“Now dat yo’ owns dat Prince ob Wails, Homer,” he was saying, “I’ll send anudder telegram an’ have dat Orinocco’s double shipped down here right off. My, but I’s glad I happen ter be passin’ by yo’r way dis mawnin’. Dat brandy shore put new life inter me. I been sorter offen my feed; couldn’t eat no dinner terday, ’tall.”
“Whar we aimin’ ter go, Len?” Homer asked as they climbed into the flivver.
“Why, Homer, didn’ yo’ know dere’s a ball game on at Bridgetown?” Len answered as he threw in the clutch.
THE summer twilight was settling like reaching arms adown the garden, as Lennox, his car parked a safe distance away, approached his cabin.
Holding close to the hedge fence he sidled his way along until his eyes commanded a view of the doorway. The door was open. The smell of savory stew floated out to greet his hungry nostrils.
Len’s mouth watered. He took one long step toward the gate, then quite suddenly slid back to cover again. That brief moment had been sufficient to show him Janeann and Elder Jones standing with bowed heads beside the tiny grave in the corner of the garden. “Lor’a’mighty!” Len murmured.
For a time he crouched beneath the hedge, then like a shadow he began to crawfish slowly toward the lower end of the garden. In five minutes he had made the desired goal. Now only the hedge interposed itself between him and the sorrowing couple.
Elder Jones was speaking.
“What has been done cannot be undid, Sister Ballister. Not one ob us but would gib anyfing to undo dis terrible miscarriage ob justification, an’ recall de pore an’ innocent victim back ter life. Us thought dat he was guilty ob killin’ chickuns; but now us knows dat de killer was a weasel, kaze he was seen an’ shot in de ac’. But dat won’t bring dat pore lil Orinocco back, nohow.”
Janeann sobbed aloud and the Elder wiped his eyes on a red bandanna. From a pocket he drew a roll of money.
“Miss Ballister, marm,” he said, “dem who had chickuns killed an’ was responsible fer dis awful fing, hab made up their minds ter make restitooshun as fur as it kin be made. Here is thirty dollars. It cayan’t nowise replace what yo’ an’ Mr. Ballister hab lost, marm, but in a monetary way it will show how much us regrets our action.”
Janeann sat on a knoll, rocking to and fro, her face buried in her hands. The Elder dropped the money in her lap, and turned sorrowfully away.
Outside the hedge, Len’s eyes glued to the roll of bank-notes and his tongue licked his lips longingly.
“Oh man!” he muttered, “why didn’ I meet up wif dat Elder fust?”
He waited until Janeann arose and made slowly towards the house. Then with a chuckle he bounded along the hedge straight for the stable. He peered cautiously about him through the gloom as he unlocked the door.
“Hotdam! Everyfing lubly.”
Softly he ascended the ladder to the loft.
“Orinocco,” he whispered, “it’s yo’r daddy come ter take yo’ hum.”
A low, muffled whine of joy came from the darkness.
“Off wif dis howl-silencer an’ on wif dis hyar new collar I buyed yo’, purp. Heabens ter Betsy! But dem spikes are so sha’p dey’ll not be a dawg in dis town dare tackle yo’. No sah! Now den, purp, kiss yo’r daddy.”
A LITTLE later, Len, a wooden crate beneath his arm approached his cabin door, lifted the latch, and entered.
Janeann, her face swollen and tearstained, was eating a lonely supper a" the kitchen table.
She looked up as Len’s shuffling footsteps sounded on the floor.
“You!” she grated, and reached toward a boiling kettle on the stove.
“Janeann, lis’en. I’s got anudder dawg here, jes’ like Orinocco.”
Janeann’s ponderous hand paused sus-
pended just above the kettle-handle.
Swiftly Len moved the slide in the crate and a twisting yelping thing of joy leaped forth and straight toward the woman.
Janeann screamed. Heretofore she had associated spirits only with humans. But here was the spirit of a dog, the ghost of her own Orinocco—and it was making straight for her.
“Go ’way!” she yelled, seizing a carving knife. “Keep yo’ off frum me, ghost, if yo’ knows when yo’s well off.”
.. At sound of the voice. Orinocco
promptly braked, skidded forward, curved and dived for the woodbox.
Janeann slowly arose. On her face a glad light broke like sunshine after rain.
“Len,” she screeched, “it’s him, Orinocco. Look at him make fer his ol’ hidin’-place.”
Another instant and she had the hound in her arms, cuddling him, crooning to him, kissing his cold nose.
“Oh Orinocco,” she sobbed, “dat lyin’ man done say yo’ had gone aloft.”
“Which he so did, Janeann,” Len grinned. “Him went up ter de hay loft.”