THE SLEEPER WAKES -- HARLEM RENAISSANCE STORIES BY WOMEN
Judy could not feel her mother. Nowhere in the wide expanse of bed was her large, warm body. And Judy dared not peer under the bed to see if some desperado had killed and concealed her. Tremors ran up and down her small body. Her hands grew hot and damp, and her feet quite cold and clammy. She wanted to scream for one of the aunts but could not.
Someone was creaking up the stairs. It was probably the desperado come back to finish off her. She shut her eyes tightly and tried to think of Jesus.
The blackness was suddenly thinned with silver. A drawer opened and shut. She heard her mother's unmistakable sniff and opened her eyes.
"You go back to sleep," said the mother.
But Judy sat up and stared solemnly. "You're crying."
"You go back to sleep," said the mother.
There was movement in the aunts' room. Judy could hear her father blowing his nose. A terrible fear wrenched her heart.
"Mums, mums, is my kitty dead?"
The mother laughed sharply and bitterly. "The hospital 'phoned. Poor Uncle Eben has passed away."
Judy lay back on her pillow. "Has he gone somewhere?" she asked doubtfully.
"He's gone home to God," said the mother with conviction.
Judy closed her eyes to shut out the comic image of an angelic Uncle Eben. When she opened them again it was day and time to get up for school.
She dressed leisurely. She had the realization that it did not matter whether she was late for school. She thought, "There is death in my family," and was proud.
She would go and say good morning to the aunts. The frail spinster sisters of her father adored her, and she liked to be petted. She always let a lock of hair hang over one eye, so that the favorite aunt might brush it away with a caressing hand and kiss her forehead.
The aunts sat silently by their coal fire. They were dressed in black. Their plain, dark faces were gaunt. Their hands were not steady in their laps.
Judy felt chilled and distressed. She went awkwardly to the favorite aunt and leaned against her knee. But the somber face was alien, and the unquiet hands did not flutter to her hair.
The elder aunt turned quietly to her sister. "Do you think the child has heard?"
"God spare her," said the favorite aunt, piously.
"Do you mean," Judy asked shrilly, "about Uncle Eben?"
The sharpness of it knifed their pathetic silence. Their mute mouths quivered. Their stricken eyes overflowed.
The image of Uncle Eben returned. But he was no longer amusing in robe and wings. Judy's breast burned. Her throat ached. She knew with intense agony that she was going to cry.
She turned and fled the room, gained her own, and flung herself prone on the bed. She burrowed her mouth in the pillow. She did not weep because Uncle Eben was dead. She wept out of a vast pity at the anguish of the living.
When she had quieted, she rose and bathed her heated face. She got together her little pile of books, set her cap on her tousled hair, slung her thick sweater over her arm, and went down the stairs.
The aunts had preceded her. They sat at the kitchen table drinking black coffee. The large and lovely yellow mother was eating heartily ham and eggs.
That strengthened Judy. She sat down and smiled.
"Don't you be late," said the mother.
The familiar greeting shut the door fast on Uncle Eben. The aunts were simply in dark clothes. This was the usual Tuesday morning.
"Can I have two pieces of cake in my lunch?" asked Judy.
Presently she was going down the long hill to the schoolhouse. She walked in the sun and lifted her face to the intermittent calls of wooing birds. Spring was just around the nearest corner, and Judy was glad.
She shot into her seat as the last bell rang.
Eulalie whispered to the back of her head: "I spent two hours on this beastly history."
Judy's mind raced back to the schoolroom. "I've not studied it!"
"Oh, Judy! First period, too!"
"I went and forgot! What on earth made me go and forget? I always do it first thing every morning." She thought sharply. "It was my uncle's dying! My Uncle Eben died, Eulalie."
"Oh!" said Eulalie, looking sorry.
Nora leaned out into the aisle. Her eyes were wide with sympathy. "Is there death in your family, Judy?"
A thrill of pride ran down Judy's spine. Her breath quickened. Her eyes were like stars.
"It's my Uncle Eben who lived in a Home on account of being blind."
"Did he die on account of being blind?" Eulalie ventured.
"I expect," quoted Judy glibly, "he had another stroke."
"But why did you come to school?" Nora wanted to know. "Death's very sad. My mummy puts away all our toys and pulls down the shades."
"I think," advised Eulalie, "you ought to tell teacher."
Judy was suddenly shy. She had not thought Uncle Eben's death quite warranted her telling Miss Doran. It was strange and thrilling to her, because she had never before known death in its immediacy. It would embarrass her acutely if Miss Doran stared coldly and questioningly. Still, Eulalie had spoken with some authority. And Judy liked to watch the transformation of people's faces.
She got up from her seat, flung up her small head, and went down the aisle. The class with one accord straightened and craned. Judy, under this undeviating concentration, felt that her head was waggling, and was conscious of her isolated darkness.
Miss Doran looked up, frowned, and laid down her pen. At a glance Judy saw that she had been preparing a history quiz. She grew panicky, and this nervousness sent quick tears to her eyes. Miss Doran's face smoothed and softened. The unexpected gentleness further confused her. She said miserably, with a catch in her voice, "My Uncle Eben's dead."
Her words rang out clearly in the quiet room. There was an audible gasp. Then Judy could hear the triumphant whispering of Eulalie and Nora.
Miss Doran's arms went about her. "Judy, dear child, I'm sorry. Shall you want to return home, darling, or did your mother think it best to get you away from it all this morning?"
Judy was ashamed. She did not know how to tell Miss Doran that the momentous Thing was not lying importantly in her mother's parlor, but was somewhere in a vast hospital whose name she could not remember. She dreaded Miss Doran's jerking away from her in scorn. After all, families were huge affairs. Perhaps, to an experienced woman like Miss Doran, only death in the house really mattered.
Judy could not lie. "No'm," she said unhappily.
Miss Doran did not understand. "Then, of course, I excuse you, Judy. I cannot expect you to have your mind on your studies. Stay out in the open as much as you can. You need not return until after the funeral."
With a gentle pat she sent the child out. The class stared after her as one might stare after a favorite heroine.
Judy went racing down the corridor, her mind caught away to adventure. She knew that tomorrow her mother would pack her off to school again. But today was hers. And she had a quarter in her pocket. For the first time in her ten years, she was out on her own. She would poke her nose down various streets and browse in the library. She would eat her lunch on a park bench and buy a bag of candy. She would ride to the end of the car line and back. If she dared, she would even venture into an inexpensive movie. Death in the family was a holiday.
The exciting morning passed.
Father continually flipped out an enormous black-bordered handkerchief. He had on a black tie and an uncomfortable collar. He also had on Uncle Eben's shoes and hat and overcoat. Mother had said that with Uncle Eben's closetful of good black clothes simply hanging in the Home, it was foolish of father to buy a funeral outfit. Father had called a cab. Judy had begged the ride. They had come back fairly sitting on top of Uncle Eben's belongings.
The aunts were shrouded in long black veils. Only the whites of their eyes glimmered, and their sparse teeth when they talked.
The lovely, flushed mother had flung back her becoming short veil. Judy thought her mother was beautiful. They smiled at each other.
Judy had on the dark dress that she wore on rainy days. The favorite aunt had bought her a pair of black silk stockings. When she passed the hall mirror, she slyly admired them.
Somebody rang the bell. The father said meaningly: "It's the automobile, I guess." The mother, with an apologetic look, pulled down her veil.
Judy did not want to get out of the car. She wished that she were a baby and could kick and scream, or that she were nearer the mother and could wheedle. But then she remembered that she meant to be a great writer and must welcome every experience. She got out bravely.
A light-skinned lady in a crumpled frock led them into a parlor. She made little noises in her throat and told them she was sorry. Judy caught the terrifying word body, and went and cowered against the window. The father and the mother and the aunts disappeared.
But in a moment the favorite aunt was back and beckoning her.
"You must come and look at him, Judy. He's beautiful."
Judy prayed, "God, don't let his teeth click," and crossed the threshold.
A dozen familiar and unfamiliar people sat in a small room on insecure chairs. A pretty woman peered into an open box and made the sign of the cross. About the box were unattractive bunches of fresh and wilted flowers. Judy knew suddenly that this was a coffin and that Uncle Eben was in it. She trailed after the favorite aunt like a young lamb to the slaughter.
"Smile down at him, Judy."
A curious Thing made in the image of an unhappy man lay in a satin-lined casket. If Judy dared touch the smooth, dark cheek, she would find it a brown clay in her hand. She wished she could ask her mother, who alone might understand, whether Uncle Eben was somewhere else and this was a plaster cast.
"Go sit by your mother," whispered the favorite aunt.
Judy tiptoed to the uncertain seat in the front row and sat quietly, her hands folded in her lap and her ankles crossed.
Slowly she became aware that the dim blob protruding above the rim of the casket was the tip of a nose. She was bewitched and held and gradually horrified.
But her horror was caught away by the violent sound of the father's sobs. She jerked up her head and stared at him.
In all of her life she had never seen a man cry. To her tears were the weakness of children and women, who had not the courage of men. She was fascinated and appalled. The father's head wobbled weakly. He made strangled snorts in his throat. Tears streamed down his cheeks and ran into the corners of his mouth. His nose dripped.
She was ashamed. Her own eyes filled with tears. Her body burned. She thought in extremist torture, "My father is weak, and I am the child of my father.... "
The mother bent to her. "Judy, comfort your father."
She swayed as if she had been struck.
"He musn't cry like that, Judy."
She raised her sick eyes to her mother's face. "Mummy, what do I do?"
"Just slip your hand into his. He loves you, Judy."
That did not move her. A stranger wept beside her. She felt her stomach collapse. With a great effort she kept herself steady. Had the father's life depended upon it, she could not have stretched out a soothing hand.
"Mummy," she cried, "I can't!" and burrowed against her.
An oily yellow man in a tight frock coat leaned down to the mother. "Are you pleased with the body?"
"He's beautiful," said the mother.
"For much or little I turn 'em out the same. I'd appreciate your coming to me whenever -- God forbid! -- you have to."
He swung out a heavy watch and said humorously, "Our kind of people!"
"Yes. Service was set for three," said the mother primly.
"Our kind of people," he repeated. "That cullud preacher is probably somewheres chewing the rag with Sister Fullbosom."
The mother and the undertaker laughed softly.
There was a small stir in the back of the room. Somebody importantly rushed down the length of it. The undertaker bustled to the newcomer's side and led him to the small pulpit. With a careless glance at the body, the young preacher shifted out of his coat, glanced at his watch, cleared his throat, and plunged into a wailing spiritual that grew in volume and poignancy as the rest of the mourners joined in.
The aunts, too, swayed and moaned in unison. Presently, the father lifted his head and keened. But Judy did not want the mother to sing. She did not want to feel the swell of song from stomach to bosom and throat. She held her head tight against the mother to stem the rise of it.
The song hushed at the last stanza. The chorus whimpered out in a muted medley of unmusical voices. The preacher fumbled in his pocket, took out several soiled bits of paper, extracted and unfolded a rumpled sheet, and clamped on his glasses.
He stared at the illegible name of the deceased and slurred over it. He read automatically: "Born March 2, 1868, in Charleston, South Carolina. Died April 3, 1919, in this city. He rounded fifty-one years. Professed religion at the age of eighteen. Married wife, Mary, who died in childbirth in 1894. Came North, entered Pullman service, and was faithful servitor for twenty years. Was retired and pensioned, after total blindness, in 1914. He was never known to touch liquor or cards. He lived humble, and served his God, and died in the arms of Jesus at two a.m. Tuesday morning. He leaves a sorrowing brother and his wife, and two sorrowing sisters, and a sorrowing niece to mourn their loss."
Judy pulled at her mother. "Mums, why did he read that? What did he say it for? What did he mean about our sorrowing?"
The mother shrugged impatiently, thought a bit, and yielded kindly: "It's an obituary, Judy, and God knows we are sorry."
Suddenly to Judy this word that she had never heard before became a monstrous symbol, not of life but of one's living. She drew away from her mother. Her mind strained toward the understanding of this new discovery. She must think it through like a woman.
She thought with shame: I have not really cried for Uncle Eben. I am not really a sorrowing niece .... She shut her eyes against the unreality of the casket. And then she was a little girl again, just five, and had on Uncle Eben's glasses, and was bouncing on his knee. But she found herself sliding to the floor. The ludicrous glasses fell from her nose and shattered. She pricked her finger, blood spurted, and she screamed. Above her scream rose Uncle Eben's tortured wail: "God in heaven, I'm blind!" Then the blood did not matter. She tried to piece together Uncle Eben's glasses, in panic that she would be blamed for his blindness.
Later there was the strange Uncle Eben with bandages over his eyes, and pain on his mouth, and hot, trembling hands that went ceaselessly over her face. And there was the sightless Uncle Eben, very old and shrivelled and shaky, going uncertainly on a cane that tapped and tapped and tapped. Then there was the mother with a pursed mouth, and the father gesturing angrily, and the mother's unforgettable words: "I married you, not your whole helpless family." Then Uncle Eben went off to a Home on a cane that tapped and tapped.
Judy cried now, unchildishly and terribly, in regret that Uncle Eben had ever lived. She had the sharp thought: Uncle Eben's life and Uncle Eben's death do not really matter.... She was no longer a small child reasoning. Even her word images were mature. She was seeing deeply the tragedy of commonplace existence.
Her attention was acute now. She was keenly aware of her own absorption. The egotism that at all times swayed her was compelling her to store up impressions. She knew with bitterness that when she was older and abler, the events of this day would crowd into her mind with the utmost clearness and find release through her own particular medium of words. Only as it might serve her as a plot for a story -- and the horror of this overwhelmed her -- had the poor life and death of Uncle Eben any meaning.
He had left no child, nor book, nor even ennobling longings to thread into eternity the wisp of his spirit.
A big black man was shyly speaking. He called Uncle Eben a brother worker. He said that he was glad to be here to represent the Pullman company, and pointed out their unlovely flowers. He made a large gesture of introducing his wife, and sat down relievedly.
She advanced toward the casket. She was brown and buxom and soiled. Her voice was not beautiful.
"I never knew our dear brother personally, but I feel very close to all Pullman porters on account of my husband's being one of the head ones. I tries to come to their funerals as often as I can. I am proud to say that last year I didn't miss one.
"I'm not much on pome writing, but most people seems to like these little verses which I composed for Pullman Brother Jessey's death in 1916. I generally reads it at funerals. With your kind indulgence, I'll read it at this one."
She ducked her head as a child might, and recited in an unmusical tremolo:
"'My tears overflow as I look down upon our dear brother.
She went and sat down.
Judy could hear little sputters of praise. The aunts were pressing the soiled lady's hands. Over her head the father bent to the mother and said earnestly: "Real sad and appropriate."
The young preacher went to stand above the body. He was suddenly so wild-eyed that Judy thought he must be drunk.
He said heatedly: "This man ain't happy. This poor brother died in despair. No undertaker's art could smooth out all his suffering. He was worried to death, that's what. Why ain't he having a big funeral in some dicty church 'stead of you asking somebody you never seen before to come round here? 'Cause none of you thought he was worth a high falutin' funeral. I feels for this man."
Judy simply held her breath. She dared not stare up at her parents, but she was aware of her mother's nervous twitching.
The preacher went on: "I didn't come here to preach this funeral in hopes of getting five or ten dollars. I don't want no money. Get this straight. I wouldn't take it. I ain't doing a bit more for this dead brother than I want somebody, out of the kindness of his heart, to do some day for me."
Judy thought that rather admirable.
"You all been bragging 'bout him being a Pullman porter. That's first cousin to being a slave. Why ain't you put it right? For twenty years our dead brother's been an 'umble cog in a wheel.
"The trouble with our kind of people is we don't stick together. The white man does, and the white man rules the world. We got to organize! Us that is on top has got to help us that is at the bottom. But what uppity Negro will? But don't you all get me started. I never know when to stop. Jesus, guide this soul over Jordan. Amen."
He practically leaped into his coat and came to shake hands with the mother.
"Thank you, sister," Judy heard, as he patted her hat and passed on to the father.
Judy tugged at her mother. "Mums, why did he thank you? Oughn't you to have thanked him?
"Ssh! For the money, child. Stop asking questions."
"What money, mums? Did you give him money?"
"Judy, I'm warning you! For the funeral, child. You got to give them a little something."
Judy was simply struck. "But, mummy, he said he wouldn't take it!"
The mother whispered wearily: "They got to say something, child."
Two efficient men came to close the casket. The father was led by the light-skinned lady to take a last look. He came back considerably stricken and leaned against Judy. She slipped her arm around him. Through her small body wave upon wave of maternal passion surged. She was no longer contemptuous. Her heart swelled with compassion.
The efficient men trundled the box out on castors. The father and the mother followed. Judy went between the aunts into the sunny street.
The casket went neatly into a wooden box in the hearse. The flowers were piled around it. The door would not shut, and the undertaker fiddled and frowned.
Judy thought in alarm: I couldn't bear it if Uncle Eben spilled in the street....
But presently the door banged shut. Judy followed the family into the first car.
The mother immediately flung back her veil. Her lovely face was flushed and excited. The father squirmed in his shoes. The aunts tried hard to go on with their weeping, but could not.
The undertaker poked in his head. "We're ready to start. Mister and Missus Tilly, and Missus Mamie Wicks, and Miss Eva Jenkins are following in the second car. It'll be quite a ride, so you all settle comfortable." He made a gesture. "That little thing there is an ash tray. Ashes to ashes." He laughed kindly and shut them in.
The hearse started off. In a moment their motor was rolling smoothly. Judy settled back, liking it very much, and wishing she could look out the window.
"No mind that preacher was right," said the father, loosing his laces.
"He wasn't nobody's fool," said the elder aunt.
The contrary mother said smartly: "I didn't like his talking like that at a funeral."
"We got to organize," the father remembered. "There ain't no set time to preach that."
"Funerals should be sad," said the mother.
"God knows!" sighed the favorite aunt.
"Still," agreed the father, "I didn't like him flinging up to us about Eben."
The mother voiced coldly: "Sounded to me like he was posted."
The favorite aunt drew up her delicate body. "Then it must be your conscience. God is my witness that until that man stood in the pulpit, I couldn't have told you he was white or black."
"Eben died careworn and weary," said the elder aunt. "That young man didn't need his glasses to tell him that."
The mother's voice shook. "I got as much pity as anybody, but, more than that, I got a child. And that child comes close to me as God, Himself! Now that Eben's gone to glory, I can praise his virtues as loud as anyone. But Eben had his faults, and I won't shut my eyes to them. He let himself go in his blindness. He wasn't careful. He wasn't always clean. I mean to bring up my child like a white child. There ain't nothing going to sicken her little stomach. There ain't nothing going to soil her little mind."
Judy rhymed under her breath: "Funerals should be sad and mums had got a mad." But she was ashamed and thought tenderly: How much my mummy loves me, as much as God, and that's a sin, and she knows it. She isn't afraid. Does she love me because I'm me, or does she love me because I mean to be a great writer? I have talent. But there are geniuses. Am I a genius? What is a genius? If I have a child, I shan't want her to be a genius. I should be jealous. It's wicked to be jealous. I don't care. Nobody knows it because I'm so sweet, but I like to be first in everything. I don't want a baby, anyway. They hurt, and the way they come isn't nice. But, of course, I don't really believe it. I'd die if I thought my mummy and daddy could do a thing like that. I wish everything could be beautiful. People, and the things they say, and the things they do. Daddy has a flat nose. My mummy is beautiful. I like light people. Why is it wicked to like light people? I'm glad Uncle Eben's dead. Once I saw Uncle Eben being nasty. If I had a little boy baby, I'd be ashamed to touch him. I'm very wicked. I'm afraid of dead people. I'm afraid, afraid! At night they fly about in white shrouds. I don't want to be sent up to bed without mummy.
She made a little cradle of her hands.
"You all didn't hear Eva Jenkins moaning and groaning," said the elder aunt.
The mother seemed to increase. "Carrying on like a fool!"
The father added: "I reckon she realized Eben's bit of money won't never come to her now."
The favorite aunt said gently: "I think she really loved him."
The elder aunt made a coarse joke. "Yeh, him and his money."
"Eva Jenkins ain't young," said the favorite aunt. "It wasn't love she wanted --"
"You struck it right," the father cut in unkindly. "It was ease in her old age, and a blind old shoe what couldn't keep track of her comings and goings."
The mother said with definiteness: "Ever since that trouble in lodge meeting eight years ago, Eva Jenkins had it in for me. It's my opinion she wanted poor Eben just on account of spite, so's to take his little lump of money away from me and mine."
"I fixed her good," the father triumphed, "when I got my brother Eben to sign every penny over to me."
"And you broke her heart," said the favorite aunt. "She knew that, alone, she could never give Eben the comforts his nature demanded." She went on broodingly: "I guess she wonders now did we. People has got to lie flat on their backs before they find out what's false and what's true."
Judy thought with pride: My aunty is good. I want to be good like my aunty. But I love my mummy best, even though my mummy tells lies. My mummy and daddy care about money. I never, never want to....
The elder aunt snapped up the back curtain. "Still at it," she reported grimly.
"Jerk in down in her face," the father commanded, "to show her how much she's wanted at my brother Eben's funeral. You got to be common with some folks before they understand."
The aunt did so with such vengeance that one of the side shades flew up, and Judy caught a little pool of sun in her cradle, and folded her hands to shut the glare out of her baby's eyes.
"I could eat a horse and wagon," said the mother.
"I don't know why 'tis," said the father, "but funerals make me hungry."
"I set a nice dinner back on the stove. I'll suttinly be glad to pitch into it. There's nothing I like more than I like chicken and rice and thick brown gravy."
The father reminisced sentimentally: "There's nothing I like more than I like the black-eyed peas and ham and cabbage my mammy used to give us."
The favorite aunt contributed frigidly: "I don't see how you two can put your minds on food. All I want is a strong cup of tea and maybe a sliver of toast."
"The dead are dead," said the father. "The living has needs of the body."
"The mother weeps for her child. Outside of that, I guess there ain't much honest sorrow wasted."
"Them as trusts God and believes in the resurrection has no need to weep. I shall meet my brother Eben in the promised land."
Judy thought sharply how awful it must be to be old! To know that your sun may set tomorrow! She would guard her growing. She would end each day with some delight. She would do good deeds! When she had reached Uncle Eben's age, she must not die unhonored. But then she had the image of the baker's wife shrieking in the back of the shop: "My baby's dead! My little baby's dead!" The young could die, too. Death was not the weak surrender of the old. Death was God in his heaven counting out souls.
But how could God let a little baby die? Why did he let it be born? If God is good, how can he bear to see its mother cry? People should be glad. To be glad is to be beautiful. When I am sad, my lip droops. When I am glad, I'm like my mummy. Everything should be beautiful. Why does a God let things be ugly? How can a God let things be ugly? There is not really a Santa Claus. Can I be me if there is not a God? I wish I could ask my mummy. But my mummy tells lies. It's wicked to lie to your little girl. When I tell lies, my throat burns, and I tremble. I'll never, never lie to my little girl. But I'll never, never have one. She might die. And then I should hate God. And if I could not say, "God! God!" I should want to die, too....
The car had stopped. Judy peered ahead and saw the undertaker dash up a pebbled path. After a bit a bell tolled once, then again, and again. The hearse wound up a narrow road. The white slabs stood out sharply in the gathering dusk. A few fresh flowers reared their lovely heads. Green grass sprouted.
The hearse halted. Irish workingmen came ambling. The undertaker again poked in his head, and said that he had got a nice plot, and that their brother was to be laid under six feet only. Judy didn't know just why that mattered. But the father thanked him and bent to tie his laces.
They got out of the car. The undertaker shepherded them in order. The casket went perilously. Presently they stood above the open earth. The undertaker began giving crisp commands.
The mother said sharply: "Judy, go stand on that board. It's an old saying, 'The cold you catch at a funeral lasts until your own.'"
Judy went to stand on the board, teetering a little.
She heard Mrs. Tilly whispering: "I hope there ain't no long rigmarole. We got that other funeral."
Eva Jenkins came to stand beside her. "You're growing, Judy. I'm sorry your Uncle Eben couldn't live to be proud of you."
Judy stared up at the gentle-voiced woman. "I'm going to be a great writer."
"You are going to be something that's beautiful. And God knows there is need of beauty in this world."
"To be beautiful is to be glad. I hate funerals!"
"To be really beautiful, Judy, is to come through pain and sorrow and parting without bitterness."
Judy looked hard at Eva Jenkins and thought that she was beautiful.
The casket was lowered. The undertaker got a shovelful of earth and came first to the father. "Assist us in the burial of our dead," he suggested. The father took a handful and weakly scattered it. Shortly the workingmen were at it in earnest.
The undertaker fussily arranged the flowers. He detached a wilted carnation and offered it to the mother. Judy thought innocently: I guess they have favors at funerals just like at parties.... But when she was passed a flower she clasped her hands behind her back and looked very stubborn. She had heard the father say, "I'll keep mine forever," and had not believed him, and had been distressed.
The undertaker began to shake hands all around. They turned toward the cars.
Mr. Tilly said softly to the father: "The company pays for the funeral, brother."
The father exclaimed in gratitude: "God bless them! I'll write them a letter of thanks in the morning. All this talk 'bout organization! Sometimes I think the Pullman porter is biting the hands what feeds him."
The hearse had started. Judy watched it careen down the road in a wild dash to Mrs. Tilly's other funeral. Mrs. Tilly, in the second car, madly followed. Their car, too, went swiftly and the driver whistled snatches of popular songs.
Two blocks away from their street, a motor swung around the corner into their fender. Their driver, who had to make Mrs. Tilly's other funeral, too, cursed softly, halted his car, and went to make investigations.
The father, who loved excitement, followed him into the thick of it.
"Folks don't have no respect for funerals nor nothing nowadays," said the elder aunt.
The favorite aunt argued: "'With the blinds up and the shofer singing, how was they to tell this was a funeral?"
The mother neatly concluded: "If we was standing on our heads, he hadn't no right to run into us."
They impatiently fidgeted. But they did not think it proper to get out and walk home from a funeral.
The father and the chauffeur returned in triumph. The father gave the chauffeur his card and urged him to summon him for a witness. When he was settled again, he said easily, "Looks like I lost my posy."
Judy was glad to be home. She did not want any supper. But the aunts and the mother in fresh aprons ignored her.
The steaming supper was set on the table. They gathered round. The father said, "Do you remember how Eben loved chicken?" and tore into it. Judy, remembering, could not swallow.
The mother said impatiently: "Quit that fiddlin' and eat your supper."
"I'm not hungry," Judy said faintly.
"Of course you are," the elder aunt protested contentedly.
The father added facetiously: "All cullud children like chicken."
For the overwrought child the day culminated in this. She snatched up her plate and flung it on the floor. Her speech was almost indistinguishably thick. She was never to know where she got the words.
"I won't eat funeral-baked meats! I won't! Nobody can make me!"
It was almost as if she saw the hot food turn to straw in their open mouths.
"You march yourself out of here and go to bed," shrilled the mother, "and God give me strength to spank you in the morning."
Judy went, with her head high and her spirit quaking.
She went up the unlighted stairs with her eyes shut tight against the apparition of Uncle Eben. But the darkness so terrified her that she made a lattice of her fingers, and slowly opened her eyes on the lesser horror.
She gained her room, and snapped on the light, and leaned against the door. She was so weak that for a long moment there was no sound nor movement save her strangled breathing and the beating of her heart. She dared not go into the closet for her nightgown, nor did she dare stand long on the treacherous floor. She got to the bed and huddled in its center.
With one terrified motion she ripped off her dress. Her shoes followed, then her stockings. In her bloomers and waist she got under the covering and frantically hid her face under the sheet.
She could not uncover it. Surely, if she did, a grinning ghost would swoop down upon her. She lay and shivered and tortured herself with the floating image of Uncle Eben. In sheer terror she began to sob, and went on sobbing, and could not stop.
By and by she slept.
FROM THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL, APRIL 1928