Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> Maize in Milk: A Christmas Story of the South >> Page 316

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Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription 316MAIZE IN MILK
and put thy only stick upon the fire, and call in him who passes, that
thou mayest not selfishly and sadly sit alone to see it burn! Then
will the Father of those who gladden at the blaze, so gladden thee
as that thou shalt never lack thy log at Yule.
Now, if thou wilt believe me, brother, there is a purpose in this
long preamble. Just such was the tenor of that shrill but lively crow
which issued from the capacious lungs of that famous old cock of
St. Matthews, who held in fee the extensive domains of "Maize-in-
milk." * The master of "Maize-in-milk" was a sovereign in his way,
whose power was known only by its bounty. His was one of the
finest plantations for peas, potatoes, Indian corn and short cottons,
in Carolina not a very great one, it is true; not so large nor so
thickly settled as an hundred others in the same and other districts,
but just such a snug, productive interest as enabled the proprietor to
do the handsome thing by his neighbor and to entertain his guest like
a gentleman. Colonel Openheart was one of those generous and
frank planters whom men smiled to name, with pleasant recollections
of the warmest welcome and the finest cheer. And even now, with his
feathers somewhat ruffled by resistance and unexpected provocation,
it was delightful to behold the bland visage and the good-humored
smile which took all anger from his aspect. Anger, indeed ! It was rare
enough to see him angry. We tell you he was only ruffled, not roused,
and just enough touched by opposition to show how animated he
could become even in his benevolence. There he sits at the ample
fireside, in which great logs of oak and hickory are yielding them-
selves up in flake and flash, and hiss and sparkle, his face glowing
like the fire, warm, bright, capacious; cheeks smooth as a woman's,
a beard carefully kept down by a persuasive razor, and his flowing
locks just beginning to whiten at the ends, and slightly showing
their snows against the warmer colors of his neck and cheek. And
how his great blue eyes dilate under the high, broad forehead, as he
looks around him with a mixed expression of amazement and satis-
faction, taking in at the same glance the gentle and matron-like lady
who presides at the evening board, from around which the chairs have
already been withdrawn; and the tall and graceful damsel of fifteen,
who, standing at her side, plies deftly the snow-white napkin over
* Indian corn not yet ripe, but ready in the ear for the table.