The Gray Wolf's Ha'nt by Charles Waddell Chesnutt
IT was a rainy day at the vineyard. The morning had dawned bright
and clear. But the sky had soon clouded, and by nine o'clock there was
a light shower, followed by others at brief intervals. By noon the rain
had settled into a dull, steady downpour. The clouds hung low, and
seemed to grow denser instead of lighter as they discharged their
watery burden, and there was now and then a muttering of distant
thunder. Outdoor work was suspended, and I spent most of the day at the
house, looking over my accounts and bringing up some arrears of
Towards four o'clock I went out on the piazza, which was broad and
dry, and less gloomy than the interior of the house, and composed
myself for a quiet smoke. I had lit my cigar and opened the volume I
was reading at that time, when my wife, whom I had left dozing on a
lounge, came out and took a rocking-chair near me.
“I wish you would talk to me, or read to me—or something,” she
exclaimed petulantly. “It's awfully dull here today.”
“I'll read to you with pleasure,” I replied, and began at the point
where I had found my bookmark:—
“ 'The difficulty of dealing with transformations so many-sided as
those which all existences have undergone, or are undergoing, is such
as to make a complete and deductive interpretation almost hopeless. So
to grasp the total process of redistribution of matter and motion as to
see simultaneously its several necessary results in their actual
interdependence is scarcely possible. There is, however, a mode of
rendering the process as a whole tolerably comprehensible. Though the
genesis of the rearrangement of every evolving aggregate is in itself
one, it presents to our intelligence' ”—
“John,” interrupted my wife, “I wish you would stop reading that
nonsense and see who that is coming up the lane.”
I closed my book with a sigh. I had never been able to interest my
wife in the study of philosophy, even when presented in the simplest
and most lucid form.
Some one was coming up the lane; at least, a huge faded cotton
umbrella was making progress toward the house, and beneath it a pair of
nether extremities in trousers was discernible. Any doubt in my mind as
to whose they were was soon resolved when Julius reached the steps and,
putting the umbrella down, got a good dash of the rain as he stepped up
on the porch.
“Why in the world, Julius,” I asked, “didn't you keep the umbrella
up until you got under cover?”
“It's bad luck, suh, ter raise a' umbrella in de house, en w'iles I
dunno whuther it's bad luck ter kyar one inter de piazzer er no, I
'lows it's alluz bes' ter be on de safe side. I didn' s'pose you en
young missis 'u'd be gwine on yo' dribe ter-day, but bein' ez it's my
pa't ter take you ef you does, I 'lowed I'd repo't fer dooty, en let
you say whuther er no you wants ter go.”
“I 'm glad you came, Julius,” I responded. “We don't want to go
driving, of course, in the rain, but I should like to consult you about
another matter. I'm thinking of taking in a piece of new ground. What
do you imagine it would cost to have that neck of woods down by the
swamp cleared up?”
The old man's countenance assumed an expression of unwonted
seriousness, and he shook his head doubtfully.
“I dunno 'bout dat, suh. It mought cos' mo', en it mought cos' less,
ez fuh ez money is consarned. I ain' denyin' you could cl'ar up dat
trac' er fan' fer a hund'ed er a couple er hund'ed dollahs,—ef you
wants ter cl'ar it up. But ef dat 'uz my trac' er lan', I wouldn'
'sturb it, no, suh, I wouldn'; sho's you bawn, I wouldn'.”
“But why not?” I asked.
“It ain' fittin' fer grapes, fer noo groun' nebber is.”
“I know it, but”—
“It ain' no yeathly good fer cotton, 'ca'se it's too low.”
“Perhaps so; but it will raise splendid corn.”
“I dunno,” rejoined Julius deprecatorily. “It's so nigh de swamp dat
de 'coons'll eat up all de cawn.”
“I think I'll risk it,” I answered.
“Well, suh,” said Julius, “I wushes you much joy er yo' job. Ef you
has bad luck er sickness er trouble er any kin', doan blame me.
You can't say ole Julius didn' wa'n you.”
“Warn him of what, Uncle Julius?” asked my wife.
“Er de bad luck w'at follers folks w'at 'sturbs dat trac' er lan'.
Dey is snakes en sco'pions in dem woods. En ef you manages ter 'scape
de p'isen animals, you is des boun' ter hab a ha'nt ter settle wid,—
ef you doan hab two.”
“Whose haunt?” my wife demanded, with growing interest.
“De gray wolf's ha'nt, some folks calls it,—but I knows better.”
“Tell us about it, Uncle Julius,” said my wife. “A story will be a
It was not difficult to induce the old man to tell a story, if he
were in a reminiscent mood. Of tales of the old slavery days he seemed
indeed to possess an exhaustless store,—some weirdly grotesque, some
broadly humorous; some bearing the stamp of truth, faint, perhaps, but
still discernible; others palpable inventions, whether his own or not
we never knew, though his fancy doubtless embellished them. But even
the wildest was not without an element of pathos,—the tragedy, it
might be, of the story itself; the shadow, never absent, of slavery and
of ignorance; the sadness, always, of life as seen by the fading light
of an old man's memory.
“Way back yander befo' de wah,” began Julius, “ole Mars Dugal'
McAdoo useter own a nigger name' Dan. Dan wuz big en strong en hearty
en peaceable en good-nachu'd most er de time, but dangerous ter
aggervate. He alluz done his task, en nebber had no trouble wid de
w'ite folks, but woe be unter de nigger w'at 'lowed he c'd fool wid
Dan, fer he wuz mos' sho' ter git a good lammin'. Soon ez eve'ybody
foun' Dan out, dey didn' many un 'em 'temp' ter 'sturb 'im. De one dat
did would 'a' wush' he hadn', ef he could 'a' libbed long ernuff ter do
“It all happen' dis erway. Dey wuz a cunjuh man w'at libbed ober t'
other side er de Lumbe'ton Road. He had be'n de only cunjuh doctor in
de naberhood fer lo! dese many yeahs, 'tel ole Aun' Peggy sot up in de
bizness down by de Wim'l'ton Road. Dis cunjuh man had a son w'at libbed
wid 'im, en it wuz dis yer son w'at got mix' up wid Dan,—en all 'bout
“Dey wuz a gal on de plantation name' Mahaly. She wuz a monst'us
lackly gal,—tall en soopl', wid big eyes, en a small foot, en a
lively tongue, en w'en Dan tuk ter gwine wid 'er eve'ybody 'lowed dey
wuz well match', en none er de yuther nigger men on de plantation das'
ter go nigh her, fer dey wuz all feared er Dan.
“Now, it happen' dat dis yer cunjuh man's son wuz gwine 'long de
road one day, w'en who sh'd come pas' but Mahaly. En de minute dis man
sot eye on Mahaly, he 'lowed he wuz gwine ter hab her fer hisse'f. He
come up side er her en 'mence' ter talk ter her; but she didn' paid no
'tention ter 'im, fer she wuz studyin' 'bout Dan, en she didn' lack dis
nigger's looks nohow. So w'en she got ter whar she wuz gwine, dis yer
man wa'n't no fu'ther 'long dan he wuz w'en he sta'ted.
“Co'se, atter he had made up his min' fer ter git Mahaly, he 'mence'
ter 'quire 'roun', en soon foun' out all 'bout Dan, en w'at a dange'ous
nigger he wuz. But dis man 'lowed his daddy wuz a cunjuh man, en so
he'd come out all right in de een'; en he kep' right on atter Mahaly.
Meanw'iles Dan's marster had said dey could git married ef dey wanter,
en so Dan en Mahalv had tuk up wid one ernudder, en wuz libbin' in a
cabin by deyse'ves, en wuz des wrop' up in one ernudder.
“But dis yer cunjuh man's son didn' 'pear ter min' Dan's takin' up
wid Mahaly, en he kep' on hangin' 'roun' des de same, 'tel fin'lly one
day Mahaly sez ter Dan, sez she:—
“ 'I wush you'd do sump'n ter stop dat free nigger man fum follerin'
me 'roun'. I doan lack him nohow, en I ain' got no time fer ter was'e
wid no man but you.'
“Co'se Dan got mad w'en he heared 'bout dis man pest'rin' Mahaly, en
de nex' night, w'en he seed dis nigger comin' 'long de road, he up en
ax' 'im w'at he mean by hangin' 'roun' his 'oman. De man didn' 'spon'
ter suit Dan, en one wo'd led ter ernudder, 'tel bimeby dis cunjuh
man's son pull' out a knife en sta'ted ter stick it in Dan; but befo'
he could git it drawed good, Dan haul' off en hit 'im in de head so
he'd dat he nebber got up. Dan 'lowed he'd come to atter a w'ile en go
'long 'bout his bizness, so he went off en lef' 'im layin' dere on de
“De nex' mawnin' de man wuz foun' dead. Dey wuz a great 'miration
made 'bout it, but Dan didn' say nuffin, en none er de yuther niggers
hadn' seed de fight, so dey wa'n't no way ter tell who done de killin'.
En bein' ez it wuz a free nigger, en dey wa'n't no w'ite forks 'speshly
int'rusted, dey wa'n't nuffin done 'bout it, en de cunjuh man come en
tuk his son en kyared 'im 'way en buried 'im.
“Now, Dan hadn' meant ter kill dis nigger, en w'iles he knowed de
man hadn' got no mo' d'n he deserved, Dan 'mence' ter worry mo' er
less. Fer he knowed dis man's daddy would wuk his roots en prob'ly fin'
out who had killt 'is son, en make all de trouble fer'im he could. En
Dan kep' on studyin' 'bout dis 'tel he got so he didn' ha'dly das' ter
eat er drink fer fear dis cunjuh man had p'isen' de vittles er de
water. Fin'lly he 'lowed he'd go ter see Aun' Peggy, de noo cunjuh
'oman w'at had moved down by de Wim'l'ton Road, en ax her fer ter do
sump'n ter pertec' 'im fum dis cunjuh man. So he tuk a peck er 'taters
en went down ter her cabin one night.
“Aun' Peggy heared his tale, en den sez she:—
“ 'Dat cunjuh man is mo' d'n twice't ez ole ez I is, en he kin make
monst'us powe'ful goopher. W'at you needs is a life-cha'm, en I'll make
you one ter-morrer; it's de on'y thing w'at'll do you any good. You
leabe me a couple er ha'rs fum yo' head, en fetch me a pig ter-morrer
night fer ter roas', en w'en you come I'll hab de cha'm all ready fer
“So Dan went down ter Aun' Peggy de nex' night,—wid a young shote,
—en Aun' Peggy gun 'im de cha'm. She had tuk de ha'rs Dan had lef' wid
'er, en a piece er red flannin, en some roots en yarbs, en had put 'em
in a little bag made out'n 'coon-skin.
“ 'You take dis cha'm,' sez she, 'en put it in a bottle er a tin
box, en bury it deep unner de root er a live-oak tree, en ez long ez it
stays dere safe en soun', dey ain' no p'isen kin p'isen you, dey ain'
no rattlesnake kin bite you, dey ain' no sco'pion kin sting you. Dis
yere cunjuh man mought do one thing er 'nudder ter you, but he can't
kill you. So you neenter be at all skeered, but go 'long 'bout yo'
bizness en doan bother yo' min'.'
“So Dan went down by de ribber, en 'way up on de bank he buried de
cha'm deep unner de root er a live-oak tree, en kivered it up en stomp'
de dirt down en scattered leaves ober de spot, en den went home wid his
“Sho' 'nuff, dis yer cunjuh man wukked his roots, des ez Dan had
'spected he would, en soon l'arn' who killt his son. En co'se he made
up his min' fer ter git eben wid Dan. So he sont a rattlesnake fer ter
sting 'im, but de rattlesnake say de nigger's heel wuz so ha'd he
couldn' git his sting in. Den he vent his jay-bird fer ter put p'isen
in Dan's vittles, but de p'isen didn' wuk. Den de cunjuh man 'low' he'd
double Dan all up wid de rheumatiz, so he couldn' git 'is han' ter his
mouf ter eat, en would hafter sta've ter def; but Dan went ter Aun'
Peggy, en she gun 'im a' 'intment ter kyo de rheumatiz. Den de cunjuh
man 'lowed he'd bu'n Dan up wid a fever, but Aun' Peggy tol' 'im how
ter make some yarb tea fer dat. Nuffin dis man tried would kill Dan, so
fin'lly de cunjuh man 'lowed Dan mus' hab a life-cha'm.
“Now, dis yer jay-bird de cunjuh man had wuz a monst'us sma't
creeter,—fac', de niggers 'lowed he wuz de ole Debbil hisse'f, des
settin' roun' waitin' ter kyar dis ole man erway w'en he'd retch' de
een' er his rope. De cunjuh man sont dis jay-bird fer ter watch Dan en
fin' out whar he kep' his cha'm. De jay-bird hung roun' Dan fer a week
er so, en one day he seed Dan go down by de ribber en look at a
live-oak tree; en den de jay-bird went back ter his marster, en tol'
'im he 'spec' de nigger kep' his life-cha'm under dat tree.
“De cunjuh man lafft en lafft, en he put on his bigges' pot, en
fill' it wid his stronges' roots, en b'iled it en b'iled it, 'tel
bimeby de win' blowed en blowed, 'tel it blowed down de live-oak tree.
Den he stirred some more roots in de pot, en it rained en rained 'tel
de water run down de ribber bank en wash' Dan's life-cha'm inter de
ribber, en de bottle went bobbin' down de current des ez onconsarned ez
ef it wa'n't takin' po' Dan's chances all 'long wid it. En den de
cunjuh man lafft some mo', en 'lowed ter hisse'f dat he wuz gwine ter
fix Dan now, sho' 'nuff; he wa'n't gwine ter kill 'im des yet, fer he
could do sump'n ter 'im w'at would hutt wusser 'n killin'.
“So dis cunjuh man 'mence' by gwine up ter Dan's cabin eve'y night,
en takin' Dan out in his sleep en ridin' 'im roun' de roads en fiel's
ober de rough groun'. In de mawnin' Dan would be ez ti'ed ez ef he
hadn' be'n ter sleep. Dis kin' er thing kep' up fer a week er so, en
Dan had des 'bout made up his min' fer ter go en see Aun' Peggy ag'in,
w'en who sh'd he come across, gwine 'long de road one day, to'ds
sundown, but dis yer cunjuh man. Dan felt kinder skeered at fus'; but
den he 'membered 'bout his life-cha'm, w'ich he hadn' be'n ter see fer
a week er so, en'lowed wuz safe en soun' unner de live-oak tree, en so
he hilt up 'is head en walk' 'long, des lack he didn' keer nuffin 'bout
dis man no mo' d'n any yuther nigger. W'en he got close ter de cunjuh
man, dis cunjuh man sez, sezee:—
“ 'Hoddy, Brer Dan? I hopes you er well?'
“W'en Dan seed de cunjuh man wuz in a good humor en didn' 'pear ter
bear no malice, Dan 'lowed mebbe de cunjuh man hadn' foun' out who
killt his son, en so he 'termine' fer ter let on lack he didn' know
nuffin, en so sezee:—
“ 'Hoddy, Unk' Jube?'—dis ole cunjuh man's name wuz Jube. 'I's
p'utty well, I thank you. How is you feelin' dis mawnin'?'
“ 'I's feelin' ez well ez a 'ole nigger could feel w'at had los' his
only son, en his main 'pen'ence in 'is ole age.
“ 'But den my son wuz a bad boy,' sezee, 'en I couldn' 'spec' nuffin
e'se. I tried ter l'arn him de arrer er his ways en make him go ter
chu'ch en pra'r-meetin'; but it wa'n't no use. I dunno who killt 'im,
en I doan wanter know, fer I'd be mos' sho' ter fin' out dat my boy had
sta'ted de fuss. Ef I'd 'a' had a son lack you, Brer Dan, I'd 'a' be'n
a proud nigger; oh, yes, I would, sho's you bawn. But you ain' lookin'
ez well ez you oughter, Brer Dan. Dey's sump'n de matter wid you, en
w'at's mo', I 'spec' you dunno w'at it is.'
“Now, dis yer kin' er talk nach'ly th'owed Dan off'n his gya'd, en
fus' thing he knowed he wuz talkin' ter dis ole cunjuh man des lack he
wuz one er his bes' frien's. He tol' 'im all 'bout not feelin' well in
de mawnin', en ax' 'im ef he could tell w'at wuz de matter wid 'im.
“ 'Yas,' sez de cunjuh man. 'Dey is a witch be'n ridin' you right
'long. I kin see de marks er de bridle on yo' mouf. En I'll des bet yo'
back is raw whar she's be'n beatin' you.'
“ 'Yas,' 'spon' Dan, 'so it is.' He hadn' notice it befo', but now
he felt des lack de hide had be'n tuk off'n 'im.
“ 'En yo' thighs is des raw whar de spurrers has be'n driv' in you,'
sez de cunjuh man. 'You can't see de raw spots, but you kin feel 'em.'
“ 'Oh, yas,' 'lows Dan, 'dey does hu't pow'ful bad.'
“ 'En w'at's mo',' sez de cunjuh man, comin' up close ter Dan en
whusp'in' in his yeah, 'I knows who it is be'n ridin' you.'
“ 'Who is it?' ax' Dan. 'Tell me who it is.'
“ 'It's a' ole nigger 'oman down by Rockfish Crick. She had a pet
rabbit, en you cotch' 'im one day, en she's been squarin' up wid you
eber sence. But you better stop her, er e'se you'll be rid ter def in a
mont' er so.'
“ 'No,' sez Dan, 'she can't kill me, sho'.'
“ 'I dunno how dat is,' said de cunjuh man, 'but she kin make yo'
life mighty mis'able. Ef I wuz in yo' place, I'd stop her right off.'
“ 'But how is I gwine ter stop her?' ax' Dan. 'I dunno nuffin 'bout
“ 'Look a heah, Dan,' sez de yuther; 'you is a good young man. I
lacks you monst'us well. Fac', I feels lack some er dese days I mought
buy you fum yo' marster, ef I could eber make money ernuff at my bizess
dese hard times, en 'dopt you fer my son. I lacks you so well dat I'm
gwine ter he'p you git rid er dis yer witch fer good en all; fer des ez
long ez she libs, you is sho' ter hab trouble, en trouble, en mo'
“ 'You is de bes' frien' I got, Unk' Jube,' sez Dan, 'en I'll
'member yo' kin'ness ter my dyin' day. Tell me how I kin git rid er dis
yer ole witch w'at's be'n ridin' me so ha'd.'
“ 'In de fus' place,' sez de cunjuh man, 'dis ole witch nebber comes
in her own shape, but eve'y night, at ten o'clock, she tu'ns herse'f
inter a black cat, en runs down ter yo' cabin en bridles you, en mounts
you, en dribes you out th'oo de chimbly, en rides you ober de roughes'
places she kin fin'. All you got ter do is ter set fer her in de bushes
'side er yo' cabin, en hit her in de head wid a rock er a lighterd-knot
w'en she goes pas'.'
“ 'But,' sez Dan, 'how kin I see her in de da'k? En s'posen I hits
at her en misses her? Er s'posen I des woun's her, en she gits erway,—
w'at she gwine do ter me den?'
“ 'I is done studied 'bout all dem things,' sez de cunjuh man, 'en
it 'pears ter me de bes' plan fer you ter foller is ter lemme tu'n you
ter some creetur w'at kin see in de da'k, en w'at kin run des ez fas'
ez a cat, en w'at kin bite, en bite fer ter kill; en den you won't
hafter hab no trouble atter de job is done. I dunno whuther you'd lack
dat er no, but dat is de sho'es' way.'
“ 'I doan keer,' 'spon' Dan. 'I'd des ez lief be anything fer a'
hour er so, ef I kin kill dat ole witch. You kin do des w'at you er
“ 'All right, den,' sez de cunjuh man, 'you come down ter my cabin
at half-past nine o'clock ter-night, en I'll fix you up.'
“Now, dis cunjuh man, w'en he had got th'oo talkin' wid Dan, kep' on
down de road 'long de side er de plantation, 'tel he met Mahaly comin'
home fum wuk des atter sundown.
“ 'Hoddy do, ma'm,' sezee; 'is yo' name Sis' Mahaly, w'at b'longs
ter Mars Dugal' McAdoo?'
“ 'Yas,' 'spon' Mahaly, 'dat's my name, en I b'longs ter Mars
“ 'Well,' sezee, 'yo' husban' Dan wuz down by my cabin dis ebenin',
en he got bit by a spider er sump'n, en his foot is swoll' up so he
can't walk. En he ax' me fer ter fin' you en fetch you down dere ter
he'p 'im home.'
“Co'se Mahaly wanter see w'at had happen' ter Dan, en so she sta'ted
down de road wid de cunjuh man. Ez soon ez he got her inter his cabin,
he shet de do', en sprinkle' some goopher mixtry on her, en tu'nt her
ter a black cat. Den he tuk'n put her in a bairl, en put a bo'd on de
bairl, en a rock on de bo'd, en lef' her dere 'tel he got good en ready
fer ter use her.
“'Long 'bout half—pas' nine o'clock Dan come down ter de cunjuh
man's cabin. It wuz a wa'm night, en de do' wuz stan'in' open. De
cunjuh man 'vised Dan ter come in, en pass' de time er day wid 'im. Ez
soon ez Dan 'mence' talkin', he heared a cat miauin' en scratchin' en
gwine on at a tarrable rate.
“ 'W'at's all dat fuss 'bout?' ax' Dan.
“ 'Oh, dat ain' nuffin but my ole gray tomcat,' sez de cunjuh man.
'I has ter shet 'im up sometimes fer ter keep 'im in nights, en co'se
he doan lack it.
“ 'Now,' 'lows de cunjuh man, 'lemme tell you des w'at you is got
ter do. W'en you ketches dis witch, you mus' take her right by de
th'oat en bite her right th'oo de neck. Be sho' yo' teef goes th'oo at
de fus' bite, en den you won't nebber be bothe'd no mo' by dat witch.
En w'en you git done, come back heah en I'll tu'n you ter yo'se'f
ag'in, so you kin go home en git yo' night's res'.'
“Den de cunjuh man gun Dan sump'n nice en sweet ter drink out'n a
new go'd, en in 'bout a minute Dan foun' hisse'f tu'nt ter a gray wolf;
en soon ez he felt all fo' er his noo feet on de groun', he sta'ted off
fas' ez he could fer his own cabin, so he could be sho' en be dere time
ernuff ter ketch de witch, en put a' een' ter her kyarin's-on.
“Ez soon ez Dan wuz gone good, de cunjuh man tuk de rock off'n de
bo'd, en de bo'd off'n de bairl, en out le'p' Mahaly en sta'ted fer ter
go home, des lack a cat er a 'oman er anybody e'se would w'at wuz in
trouble; en it wa'n't many minutes befo' she wuz gwine up de path ter
her own do'.
“Meanw'iles, w'en Dan had retch' de cabin, he had hid hisse'f in a
bunch er jimson weeds in de ya'd. He hadn' wait' long befo' he seed a
black cat run up de path to'ds de do'. Des ez soon ez she got close ter
'im, he le'p' out en ketch' her by de th'oat, en got a grip on her, des
lack de cunjuh man had tol' 'im ter do. En lo en behol'! no sooner had
de blood 'mence' ter flow dan de black cat tu'nt back ter Mahaly, en
Dan seed dat he had killt his own wife. En w'iles her bref wuz gwine
she call' out:
“ 'O Dan! O my husban'! come en he'p me! come en sabe
me fum dis wolf w'at's killin' me!'
“W'en po' Dan sta'ted to'ds her, ez any man nach'ly would, it des
made her holler wuss en wuss; fer she didn' knowed dis yer wolf wuz her
Dan. En Dan des had ter hide in de weeds, en grit his teef en hol'
hisse'f in, 'tel she passed out'n her mis'ry, callin' fer Dan ter de
las', en wond'rin' w'y he didn' come en he'p her. En Dan 'lowed ter
hisse'f he'd ruther' a' be'n killt a dozen times 'n ter 'a' done w'at
he had ter Mahaly.
“Dan wuz mighty nigh 'stracted, but w'en Mahaly wuz dead en he got
his min' straighten' out a little, it didn' take 'im mo' d'n a minute
er so fer ter see th'oo all de cunjuh man's lies, en how de cunjuh man
had fooled 'im en made 'im kill Mahaly, fer ter git eben wid 'im fer
killin' er his son. He kep' gittin' madder en madder, en Mahaly hadn'
much mo' d'n drawed her' las bref befo' he sta'ted back ter de cunjuh
man's cabin ha'd ez he could run.
“W'en he got dere, de do' wuz stan'in' open; a lighterd-knot wuz
flick'rin' on de h'a'th, en de ole cunjuh man wuz settin' dere noddin'
in de corner. Dan le'p' in de do' en jump' fer dis man's th'oat, en got
de same grip on 'im w'at de cunjuh man had tol' 'im 'bout half a' hour
befo'. It wuz ha'd wuk dis time, fer de ole man's neck wuz monst'us
tough en stringy, but Dan hilt on long ernuff ter be sho' his job wuz
done right. En eben den he didn' hol' on long ernuff; fer w'en he tu'nt
de cunjuh man loose en he fell ober on de flo', de cunjuh man rollt his
eyes at Dan, en sezee:—
“ 'I's eben wid you, Brer Dan, en you er eben wid me; you killt my
son en I killt yo' 'oman. En ez I doan want no mo' d'n w'at's fair
'bout dis thing, ef you'll retch up wid yo' paw en take down dat go'd
hangin' on dat peg ober de chimbly, en take a sip er dat mixtry, it'll
tu'n you back ter a nigger ag'in, en I kin die mo' sad'sfied 'n ef I
lef' you lack you is.'
“Dan nebber 'lowed fer a minute dat a man would lie wid his las'
bref, en co'se he seed de sense er gittin' tu'nt back befo' de cunjuh
man died; so he clumb on a chair en retch' fer de go'd, en tuk a sip er
de mixtry. En ez soon ez he'd done dat de cunjuh man lafft his las'
laf, en gapsed out wid 'is las' gaps:—
“ 'Uh huh! I reckon I's square wid you now fer killin' me, too; fer
dat goopher on you is done fix' en sot now fer good, en all de cunj'in'
in de worl' won't nebber take it off.
'Wolf you is en wolf you stays,
All de rest er yo' bawn days.' “Co'se Brer Dan couldn' do nuffin.
He knowed it wa'n't no use, but he clumb up on de chimbly en got down
de go'ds en bottles en yuther cunjuh fixin's, en tried 'em all on
hisse'f, but dey didn' do no good. Den he run down ter ole Aun' Peggy,
but she didn' know de wolf langwidge, en couldn't 'a' tuk off dis
yuther goopher nohow, eben ef she'd 'a' unnerstood w'at Dan wuz sayin'.
So po' Dan wuz bleedgd ter be a wolf all de rest er his bawn days.
“Dey foun' Mahaly down by her own cabin nex' mawnin', en eve'ybody
made a great 'miration 'bout how she'd be'n killt. De niggers 'lowed a
wolf had bit her. De w'ite folks say no, dey ain' be'n no wolves 'roun'
dere fer ten yeahs er mo'; en dey didn' know w'at ter make out'n it. En
w'en dey couldn' fin' Dan nowhar, dey 'lowed he'd quo'lled wid Mahaly
en killt her, en run erway; en dey didn' know w'at ter make er dat, fer
Dan en Mahaly wuz de mos' lovin' couple on de plantation. Dey put de
dawgs on Dan's scent, en track' 'im down ter ole Unk' Jube's cabin, en
foun de ole man dead, en dey didn' know w'at ter make er dat; en den
Dan's scent gun out, en dey didn' know w'at ter make er dat. Mars
Dugal' tuk on a heap 'bout losin' two er his bes' han's in one day, en
ole missis lowed it wuz a jedgment on 'im fer sump'n he'd done. But dat
fall de craps wuz monst'us big, so Mars Dugal' say de Lawd had temper'
de win' ter de sho'n ram, en make up ter 'im fer w'at he had los'.
“Dey buried Mahaly down in dat piece er low groun' you er talkie'
'bout cl'arin up. Ez fer po' Dan, he didn' hab nowhar e'se ter go, so
he des stayed roun' Mahaly's grabe, w'en he wa'n't out in de ynther
woods gittin' sump'n ter eat. En sometimes, w'en night would come, de
niggers useter heah him howlin' en howlin' down dere, des fittin' ter
break his hea't. En den some mo' un 'em said dey seed Mahaly's ha'nt
dere 'bun'ance er times, colloguin' wid dis gray wolf. En eben now,
fifty yeahs sence, long atter ole Dan has died en dried up in de woods,
his ha'nt en Mahaly's hangs 'roun' dat piece er low groun', en eve'body
w'at goes 'bout dere has some bad luck er'nuther; fer ha'nts doan lack
ter be 'sturb' on dey own stompin'-groun'.”
The air had darkened while the old man related this harrowing tale.
The rising wind whistled around the eaves, slammed the loose
window-shutters, and, still increasing, drove the rain in fiercer gusts
into the piazza. As Julius finished his story and we rose to seek
shelter within doors, the blast caught the angle of some chimney or
gable in the rear of the house, and bore to our ears a long, wailing
note, an epitome, as it were, of remorse and hopelessness.
“Dat's des lack po' ole Dan useter howl,” observed Julius, as he
reached for his umbrella, “en w'at I be'n tellin' you is de reason I
doan lack ter see dat neck er woods cl'ared up. Co'se it b'longs ter
you, en a man kin do ez he choose' wid 'is own. But ef you gits
rheumatiz er fever en agur, er ef you er snake-bit er p'isen' wid some
yarb er 'nuther, er ef a tree falls on you, er a ha'nt runs you en
makes you git 'stracted in yo' min', lack some folks I knows w'at went
foolin' 'roun' dat piece er lan', you can't say I neber wa'ned you,
suh, en tol' you w'at you mought look fer en be sho' ter fin'.”
When I cleared up the land in question, which was not until the
following year, I recalled the story Julius had told us, and looked in
vain for a sunken grave or perhaps a few weather-bleached bones of some
denizen of the forest. I cannot say, of course, that some one had not
been buried there; but if so, the hand of time had long since removed
any evidence of the fact. If some lone wolf, the last of his pack, had
once made his den there, his bones had long since crumbled into dust
and gone to fertilize the rank vegetation that formed the undergrowth
of this wild spot. I did find, however, a bee-tree in the woods, with
an ample cavity in its trunk, and an opening through which convenient
access could be had to the stores of honey within. I have reason to
believe that ever since I had bought the place, and for many years
before, Julius had been getting honey from this tree. The gray wolf's
haunt had doubtless proved useful in keeping off too inquisitive
people, who might have interfered with his monopoly.