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Chapter 2

A The Glorious Whitewasher

SATURDAY MORNING was come, and all the summer world was bright and
fresh, and brimming with life. There was a song in every heart; and if the heart
was young the music issued at the lips. There was cheer in every face and a
spring in every step. The locust trees were in bloom and the fragrance of the
blossoms filled the air. Cardiff Hill, beyond the village and above it, was green
with vegetation, and it lay just far enough away to seem a Delectable Land,
dreamy, reposeful, and inviting.

Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled
brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy
settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence, nine feet high.

Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden. Sighing, he dipped his
brush and passed it along the topmost plank; repeated the operation; did it
again; compared the insignificant whitewashed streak with the far-reaching
continent of unwhitewashed fence, and sat down on a tree-box discouraged. Jim
came skipping out at the gate with a tin pail, and singing “Buffalo Gals.”
Bringing water from the town pump had always been hateful work in Tom’s
eyes, before, but now it did not strike him so. He remembered that there was
company at the pump.

White, mulatto, and negro boys and girls were always there waiting their turns,
resting, trading playthings, quarreling, fighting, skylarking. And he
remembered that although the pump was only a hundred and fifty yards off, Jim
never got back with a bucket of water under an hour-and even then somebody
generally had to go after him. Tom said: “Say, Jim, I’ll fetch the water if you’ll
whitewash some.” Jim shook his head and said: “Can’t, Mars Tom. Ole missis,
she tole me I got to go an’ git dis water an’ not stop foolin’ roun’ wid anybody.
She say she spec’ Mars Tom gwine to ax me to whitewash, an’ she tole me go
‘long an’ ‘tend to my own business-she ‘lowed she’d ‘tend to de whitewashin’.”
“O, never you mind what she said, Jim. That’s the way she always talks.
Gimme the bucket-I won’t be gone only a minute. She won’t ever know.” “O, I
dasn’t, Mars Tom. Ole missis she’d take an’ tar de head off’n me. ‘Deed she
would.” “She! She never licks anybody-whacks ‘em over the head with her
thimbleand who cares for that, I’d like to know. She talks awful, but talk don’t
hurt-anyways it don’t if she don’t cry. Jim, I’ll give you a marvel. I’ll give you a
white alley!” Jim began to waver.

“White alley, Jim! And it’s a bully taw.”
“My! Dat’s a mighty gay marvel, I tell you! But Mars Tom I’s powerful ‘fraid ole
missis-” “And besides, if you will I’ll show you my sore toe.” Jim was only
human-this attraction was too much for him. He put down his pail, took the
white alley, and bent over the toe with absorbing interest while the bandage was

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