"For nothing!" exclaimed Mrs. Kennedy, a suspicion of the reason why Janet was refused crossing her mind.
"Yes, marm, for nothin'," answered John, "but I aint green enough for that, and 'fused outright. Then marster, who got beat 'lection day, threatened to send me back, but I knew he couldn't do it, and so he agreed to pay eight dollars a month. I could get more somewhar else, but I'd rather stay with mother, and so I stayed."
"But that has nothing to do with the church," suggested Mrs. Kennedy, and John replied:
"I'm comin' to the p'int now. I live with Marster Kennedy, and went with him to church, and when I see how he carried on week days, and how peart like he read up Sabba' days, sayin' the Lord's Prar and 'Postle's Creed, I began to think thar's somethin' rotten in Denmark, as the boys use to say in Virginny; so when mother, who allus was a-roarin' Methodis', asked me to go wid her to meetin', I went, and was never so mortified in my life, for arter the elder had 'xorted a spell at the top of his voice, he sot down and said there was room for others. I couldn't see how that was, bein' he took up the whole chair, and while I was wonderin' what he meant, as I'm a livin' nigger, up got marm and spoke a piece right in meetin'! I never was so shamed, and I kep' pullin' at her gownd to make her set down, but the harder I pulled the louder she hollered, till at last she blowed her breath all away, and down she sot."
"And did any of the rest speak pieces?" asked Mrs. Kennedy, convulsed with laughter at John's vivid description.
"Bless your heart," he answered, with a knowing look, "'twarn't a piece she was speaking--she was tellin' her 'sperience; but it sounded so like the boys at school that I was deceived, for I'd never seen such work before. But I've got so I like it now, and I believe thar's more 'sistency down in that schoolhouse than thar is in--I won't say the 'Piscopal church, 'case thar's heaps of shinin' lights thar, but if you won't be mad, I'll say more than thar is in Marster Kennedy, who has hisself to thank for my bein' a Methodis'."
Whatever Mrs. Kennedy might have thought she could not help laughing heartily at John, who was now a decided Methodist, and adorned his profession far more than his selfish, hard-hearted master. His promise of holding up his mistress' hands had been most faithfully kept, and, without any disparagement to Janet, Mrs. Kennedy felt that the loss of her former servant was in a great measure made up to her in the kind negro, who, as the months went by and her face grew thinner each day, purchased with his own money many a little delicacy which he hoped would tempt her capricious appetite. Maude, too, was a favorite with John, both on account of her color, which he greatly admired, and because, poor, ignorant creature though he was, he saw in her the germ of the noble girl who in the coming years was to bear uncomplainingly a burden of care from which the selfish Nellie would unhesitatingly turn away.
Toward Maude the doctor had ever manifested a feeling of aversion, both because of her name and because she had compelled him to yield when his mind was fully made up to do otherwise. She had resolutely refused to be called Matilda, and as it was necessary for him sometimes to address her, he called her first, "You girl," then "Mat," and finally arrived at "Maude," speaking it always spitefully, as if provoked that he had once in his life been conquered. With the management of her he seldom interfered, for that scratch had given him a timely lesson, and as he did not like to be unnecessarily troubled, he left both Maude and Nellie to his wife, who suffered the latter to do nearly as she pleased, and thus escaped many of the annoyances to which stepmothers are usually subject.