Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> Maize in Milk: A Christmas Story of the South >> Page 325

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Page 325

Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription MAIZE IN MILK325
"But that is fatal to your woodland; and really, Mr. Openheart,
the question comes up again why did you buy a property which you
don't want, and which you know to be so unprofitable? Besides, the
Butler negroes are particularly unserviceable. I don't know where
you will find so many gray-headed people. Some of them haven't,
to my knowledge, done a stitch of work for ten years; and there's
at least a dozen old negroes who can barely totter along with the
palsy."
"To tell you the truth, Emily, it was these very old negroes that
caused me to buy these and the dear child Mary Butler, who sat
weeping in the house as the sale was going on, with these infirm old
people hanging about her. They had dandled the child on their
knee, and there wasn't one of them, from Daddy Enoch to Maum
Betty, the one-eyed, whom she didn't regard as a personal relation.
They wept and pleaded with her, and her weeping was so much
pleading with me. Besides, I found that Skinflint, the man who acts
as lawyer for Ingelhart and Cripps, the executors, was disposed to
buy them at his own prices, and nobody would bid against him.
Indeed, there was nobody willing to buy property just at this season
you will say they were wiser than your husband. Perhaps so. But
they would have gone to Skinflint for nothing. His first bid was a
hundred all round, and I at once doubled it. I was indignant at the
fellow's bid, and wasn't to be deceived by the whisper that went
about, intended to discourage others, that he was bidding in for the
heiress. I knew better, and when he found I was in earnest he run
upon me."
"But why did you let him do it? Why not stop at the two
hundred?"
"Ask a man when his blood's up why he isn't cool. I was a fool
I know it, Emily, and you may reproach me as you will for it. I
knew no more what I was about than if I had lost my wits. The
sight of the dear, sweet little orphan in her sorrows, totally unmanned
me. I had always seen her so happy and so bright before and I
could not help remembering what a pet she was of the dear angel
mother. And poor Ben Butler was such a sterling fellow. Nobody
wanted a dollar if he had it. I thought of all these things in a
moment. I fancied I heard the father whispering in my ears, and
that I saw the mother pleading with all her eyes, and my own