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ham s Spectacles 











ham s Spectacles 

ISAM sat on the back steps at Woodhaven, 
the yard full of the cool, deep shadows of 
twilight, Helen s little boy by his side, and 
Major Worthington, as usual, smoking in his 
great arm-chair, with one of his stout legs 
peacefully reposing on the balustrade of the 
veranda. Not far away, in the deep shadow, 
was Helen, dreaming, with hands clasped be 
hind her shapely head. 

The little boy was impatiently shaking the 
old negro s arm and pleading: 

"Please, Unc Isam! please! You ve been 
promising for a week to tell me how you saved 
your life with a pair of spectacles." 

"Was hit er true story, honey?" Isam 
scratched his chin reflectively, and the major 




"Yes; a true story. Of course it was true 
if it happened to you, wasn t it, Unc Isam?" 

"To be sho, to be sho." The old man ap 
peared to be studying over some half-forgot 
ten incident. He began slowly and cautiously : 
"I disremember now perzactly bout de spec- 
tides. I disremember bout de specticles. An 
I done save mer life so many times you don t 
mean when de bees an de goat tackled me, an 
driv Marse Craffud unner de kitchin, does 

"Oh, no, no, no ! That wasn t the time." 

"Den dere was de special casion," said 
Isam, dreamily, "when I fought de whole 
Yankee yarmy out up yonner bout Chicken- 
mauger, an save mer life, long wid er whole 
waggin-train an er lot er niggers ter boot." 

"Oh, no, Unc Isam; you know what I 


"An time when I save mer life wid er 
watch, while Marse Craffud was prac sin wid 
a pistul on Marse Rem Billin s " 



"No, no; not that. Don t you know you 
went to town with Uncle Crawford, and they 
took you to some place where all the doctors 

"Oom-hoo! Oom-hoo ! Now I sorter gin 
ter ketch what you been drivin at. Ef you d 
des said docters de fus time, an not kep on 
beatin bout de bushes so long what ails yer, 
chile, anyhow?" he asked with a show of in 
dignation. "Whar yer git dat roun erbout way 
of not comin straight out an sayin wha s on 
yo min ? You don t git hit f om me, cause I 
ain t er man to was e words; an you don t git 
hit f om Miss Helen, cause when she got any 
thing ter say, hit comes straight out. Hit s 
Isam, I want you to hitch up er horse, or 
Isam, fetch er pail er water, or, Isam, have 
em serve supper ; an so on. Marse Craffud 
conies to de p int in er lope : Isam, yo 

"Isam, don t use such language in the pres 
ence of my child!" Helen s voice floated out 
reproachfully from the shadow. 


"Dere, now! What I tell yer, honey? Ain t 
no roun erbout an com-up-behin -yer in dat. 
She know des what ter say, an " 

The little boy shook the old man with both 

"Oh, Unc Isam, you know what I want. 
Go on, please p-1-e-a-s-e !" 

"Lemme steddy erwhile ; lemme steddy. I 
disremember perzactly whar de specticles 
come in. Savin mer life was er special fac . 
Why n t yer ask me bout dis hyah story long 
time ergo? Big fac s is all right; dey hangs 
in de min of man like cockle-burs in es 
breetches leg, an he cyan t loose em. He 
sorter feels em er-techin somewhar all time ; 
but dese hyah miser ble little trashy fac s 
cyan t be pended on no time. Now, in gen l, 
specticles is mos ly er little fac ; you can lay 
down specticles an tek up specticles, an hit 
don t count fer nothin on yer min . Hit s like 
er ole oman fannin herse f ter sleep in er 



cheer, an gittin her nap out thout breakin 
her lick." 

"You reached out and took them off the 
table don t you remember?" 

"Seems ter me like I do sorter ketch er little 
shimmer of hit. I reached out, tuk em f om 
de table, an den what? I m er-stumblin 

"You reached out and took them off the 
table, and put them on, and sat up in bed 
don t you remember?" 

Isam looked at his questioner with wide- 
open eyes. 

"Sholy. I sholy does. Hit all comes back 
ter me des like hit was yestiddy. But, honey, 
ef yer know all bout dis spe iunce of mine, 
what yer keep on pesterin me bout hit fer? 
It ain t ev y man c n tell de same story des 
erlike more an oncest. Ef I done gi yer dis 
story oncest, an I tell yer de same story wid 
er special diff unce in de tex , yer goin ter rack 
roun dis hyah plantation lettin on erbout hit 



to Hannah an Silvy an Mandy an er whole 
passel er tattlin niggers, an git me drapt f om 
de church fer de ninth time. Lemme keep in 
de norrer paf, chile; don t crowd me, don t 
crowd me." 

"You haven t told me anything but that," 
said the little boy, earnestly. "You just told 
me your spectacles were once lying on a little 
table, and you reached out and took them, and 
sat up in bed, and put them on, and saved your 
life. You promised me if I would get you a 
plug of tobacco out of Uncle Crawford s 
closet " 

"An I m er-goin ter tell yer bout hit 
right now," said Isam, raising his voice and 
straightening up. "You got too much sense 
fer any chile livin , an dere ain t no way to 
head yer off, once yer git started. Whar yer 
want me to pick up de story?" 

The major and Helen were silently laugh 
ing. The little boy dropped down happily be- 



side the old negro s side, and rested one arm 
on his knee. 

u Tell me all about it every bit." 
"All is er heap, honey, specially when hit 
comes ter er story what s true. Dere ain t no 
tellin whar any story what s true gits hits fus 
start. Dis hyah story er mine heads erway 
back yonner fo you was born, an I ain t sayin 
perzactly how much more. Hit heads long 
erbout muscadine-time somewhar an hit come 
of me gittin er muscadine-seed hitched in mer 
vermafooge pendullum." There was a sudden 
explosion where the major sat, and fire flew 
from his pipe. Isam looked toward him 
silently a few moments, one eyebrow twitch 
ing silently. "I never tole dis story but twicest 
befo ," he said, "an Marse Craffud blowed 
all de fire outer his pipe at de same place, bofe 

"But, Unc Isam, what did you say it was 
that the muscadine-seed got into?" 


The old man took the little boy s hand sol 
emnly and pressed it against his heart. 

"Wha s dat rookus goin on inside dere? 
Tech me, tech me! Don t be erfeared ter 
tech me." 

"That s your heart beating." 

"Oom-hoo! des so. An dat s what move 
all de inside works uv er man, too. Hit s de 
clock; an when hit gits outer gear, hit s good 
bye, Isam ! Go upstairs, honey, fo yer go ter 
bed, an look thoo de little roun glass in 
de wais of de big clock in de hall, an yer goin 
ter see somep n waggin ercross f om one side 
to de yuther, an tickin erway ter beat de 
ban " 

"Oh, I ve seen that many a time. That s 
the pendulum." 

"Dis boy is sho got sense," said Isam, 
slowly. "Ain t nothin goin on bout de place 
he don t know. Oom-hoo ! honey, dat s de 
pendullum; an dere s somep n inside ev y 
man dey calls er pendullum, too er verma- 



fooge pendullum ; an when hit quits er-work- 
in , dat man on de outside knocks off erlong 
bout de same time. Ef you don t b lieve hit, 
you ax anybody ef dey ever hyah tell of er 
tickin inside er dead man, or seen er man up 
an goin erbout when de inside tickin done 
quit." This statement was being gravely pon 
dered by the little boy when the old man con 
tinued: "De muscadine-seed lodge in de pen 
dullum, an de fus news I got, de mis ry ketch 
me unner the bottom rib on mer right side ; an 
hit stuck dere, comin an er-goin mo er less 
ye r in an ye r out, tell I mos fergit how ter 
walk on mer heels. Many an many er time I 
couldn t more n git up f om mer cheer, much 
less git er bucket er water f om de well. An 
when hit come ter hoein in de gyarden, de 
mis ry was des scand lous. Marse Craffud is 
er-laughin up yonner, honey, ergin, but I m 
er-talkin fac s ter yer des de same. Hit was 
des natchully too scand lous ter git erlong wid. 
An den come erlong Docter Bailey, one day, 



an tuk er look at me, an press es finger hyah 
an plump me dere; an bimeby he pass his 
pinion dat I d done got er seed in mer verma- 
fooge pendullum. Hit sholy scyared me f om 
de start, cause Docter Bailey is somebody 
what knows de name of ev ything on de inside 
of er man, an can cut er man s leg off wid es 
eyes shet an never tek his seegyar outer es 
mouf. He knows all de titlements of what 
flicts er nigger, an tell him whar he aches fo 
he done settle on de spot esse f ; an des whar 
ter drop er little ile, an when ter brace up 
ev ything wid er dram. An when Docter 
Bailey let on bout dat muscadine-seed, an I 
knowed I d been er-swallerin em forty ye rs 
ruther n hunt roun in mer mouf fer em, I 
mos drapt down in mer tracks, I was so 
pluralized wid de shock. De mis ry got worser 
an worser f om dat day on; an den dey up 
an say ef dey don t tek me inter town an have 
de seed distracted f om whar hit done been 
lodge, I was sholy er gone nigger. Honey, hit 


tuk me nigh on ter fo weeks ter mek up mer 
min , an de mis ry helpin all night. Look like 
I would n more n shet mer eyes fo I d hyah 
dat pendullum knock off, an I d jump fer 
fresh air at de winder an set ev ything inside 
er me rackin erlong like er scyared rabbit. 
An in de daylight I got ter goin in yonner an 
wastin mer time front er de big clock, an 
wishin hit was ole Isam gittin erlong so 
steady, tick-noc, tick-noc so steady, an hit 
forty ye rs ole when Marse Craffud was a 

"Well, I drag erlong tell one dey Marse 
Craffud he git mad an mek em hitch up de 
blacks; an he got me inside de coach wid him, 
an gi de word fer town. Bless Gord! fo I 
had mer min made up, I was yonner in de 
horsepk l, ondressed, layin up in bed. Dey 
ain been er man moved so fas sence er chair t 
snatch up ole man Lijah. An dar I lay, full 
er spicion by day an wrastlin wid de night- 
mar by night. But folks was sho good ter me, 



honey; dey sho was. Dey say I warn t goin 
ter be teched fer fo days, leastwise not tell 
dey done got me sorter conditioned up to de 
right pitch ; but, oom-m-m ! de stuff dey gim 
me ter swaller!" Isam made a grimace that 
started the little boy laughing. "Look ter me 
like de pu smell of hit was ernough ter stop 
any town clock in de worl . An Miss Helen 
she come an fetched er whole raft er pictur 
papers an mer ole specticles; an dere I lay 
an steddy bout de doin s in de worl outside 
de young omen in dey short dresses an de 
men in dey woolens goin in er-swimmin ter- 
gyether, an proud o hit ; an er ship erfire ; an 
er whole passel er sojers runnin er man up er 
hill what done stole dey flag, I reck n; an er 
railroad injine fallin off er trestl . But, chile, 
I never seed er pictur of anybody in sech 
trouble as I was er-havin over des one musca 
dine-seed. Dere was er man long erbout de 
back of de paper what seem like he was er- 
sufferin mightily, f om de spression of his 


face ; an ernuther man right erlong side o im 
fat an sassy an er-laughin fit ter kill esse f. 
I spelled out dat hit was de same man befo 
an de same man after, an I say ter merself, 
I don t wonder at im, ef hit means er musca 
dine-seed. Hit didn t help me much, cause I 
couldn t tell which pictur. was took las . I laid 
out ter ask Miss Helen; but when she come, 
she come er-cryin , an drapt down dere by me 
on er knees an gin ter pray. Honey, I been 
scyared er heap er times in mer life, but when 
yo mar drapt down dere an ask de good 
Lord ter be wid me in mer fliction, an , case 
hit was his will dat I shouldn t be spa d, ter 
lead me thoo de valley an de shadder, well, 
hit tuk her an er nigger oman an two young 
docters ter hoi me in dat bed ! Dey never did 
hoi me tell somebody jabbed me in de hip wid 
er hipperderme contraption " 

"What was it they jabbed you with, Unc 
Isam?" asked the little boy, eagerly. 

"Oh, I don t know, chile; hit was some 



sorter little tin squirt-gun wid er p int like er 
hornet s tail." Isam rubbed his leg gently and 
sighed. "When I woke up dey say I done been 
sleep; an I hyah Docter Bailey say hit s bes 
ter break de news ter me. I gyethered that I 
was er mighty sick man er mighty sick man ! 
Ev ybody was stirrin roun on dey tiptoe, an 
de air was natchully heavy wid trouble. Doc 
ter Bailey pass out an lef me er-steddyin , an 
bout dat time I seed de young docters busy 
in de nex room, movin things hyah an er- 
movin things yonner spreadin er cloth, 
clinkin dishes, an washin dey han s in er 
chiny bowl. So much doin erbout sot me ter 
steddyin mo an mo , an tekin mo intrust. 
I ketch de eye of de nigger oman when she 
pass de do , an she come close to de bed. 
Chile, I says, des so, you is bout de likeliest 
gal I seen sence freedom. Is yo sweet name 

" No, she answered me back; mer name 
is des Lucy Ann. 



" Oom-hoo! says I, hit s er name mos 
as putty as de gal what er-wearin hit. Lucy 
Ann, is de white gemmen in de nex room 
gittin mer dinner ready? Seems like I hyah 
de clink o dishes, an ef mer eyes don t fool 
me, Docter Muckhat n had er cyarvin -knife 
in es han des now. I sholy would want some 
dinner, fer dey s been er-feedin me on prom- 
isses to times er day fer fo days, an I m 
natchully hongry. Gord knows I done swal- 
lered ernough "condition" powders ter eat er 
sawmill steer. 

"Well, wid dat she look at me sorter cu ious 
like outer de lef corner of er eye. 

" Dinner? says she. Dinner? 

" Oom-hoo! says I, ain t yer never hyah 
tell of er man eatin dinner? 

"She look at me like I done gone stracted. 

" Why, man, she says, des so, dey is git- 
tin ready in dere ter perform on er sick man. 
Lucy Ann, says I, atter waitin fer mer 



pendullum ter start ter tickin ergin, is dere 
anybody sick in dis hyah house ? 

" Yes, says she; ain t you sick, Unc 

Ain t nobody sick hyah but me? says I. 

" Nobody but you, she answer back, an 
out she went. 

"Den I lowed ef dere warn t nobody sick 
dere but me, dat all de gittin ready in de nex 
room was fer me. I sot up sudden in de bed, 
an reach fer mer specticles, an clapped em 
on, bein nigh-sighted. Bout dat time de 
youngest docter open er box an start ter layin 
out saws an long, cu ious knives an wrenches 
wid twisted handles; an Docter Muckhat n 
scratch er match on his right leg ter light er 
paper chee-root, an I hyah im say, Dere 
ain t much chance fer de ole nigger, but we ll 
cut im open an see what ails im. Well, 
honey, I knowed den dat warn t no place fer 
me. I let mer foot to de flo ; ses I, leg save 
de body; I slip cross de room, an stuck mer 



foot in mer breetches ; I gyethered mer shoes 
in mer lef han , an drapt outer de nighes 
winder like er wet towel. I hit de groun , 
er runnin , an tek de main road outer town, 
an I cross de fiel s like er man s tracks. It 
come ter my min , when I hit de valley whar 
de log cross de crik, bout how yo ma done 
pray fer somebody ter lead me thoo de shad- 
der, an I quicken mer lick when I look back 
an see de sun drap behin er cloud, an er 
shadder comin erlong on my trail. I was 
sholy movin ! I done lead dat shadder 
plumb home in er seven-mile race. I did n 
know I was done hyah tell I hit head fo mos 
g inst de back do , an shuk ev y winder-pane 
in de house. Dat s what mek me say as how 
de specticles save mer life." 

"But, Unc Isam," said the little boy, when 
he had ceased to laugh, "what became of the 

"De muscadine-seed? Well, honey, when 
I hit dat back do head fo mos I reck n I des 



natchully swallered hit furder. Yo uncle kin 
laugh, an yo ma kin laugh, but I know what 
I m er-talkin erbout. I ain t never been so shuk 
up in all my horned days as I was when I look 
thoo dese specticles for dinner, an seed 
dem perform m instermunts on dat table 
cept when I hit de back do of dis house. Des 
one little ole pa r of specticles," continued 
Isam, taking off his glasses tenderly "des 
one little ole pa r specticles! An ter think 
how many times I done sot on em, an drapt 
em, an lef em erroun for er aggervatin 
boy to projec wid! Hit fa rly meks me col 
f om head ter foot ! When er man cyan t look 
thoo er do wid es necked eye an know de 
diff unce twixt perform m instermunts an er 
lay-out fer dinner, hit s time ter tie es spec 
ticles on ter im. Chile, ef ever yer see dese 
hyah specticles o mine layin erroun loose 
anywhar, call me call me !" 

That night, when Isam was closing the 



house, he found the little boy in his night 
gown, intently studying the pendulum through 
the round glass in the "waist" of the great hall 

*Books by zjtfr. Edwards 

"Two Runaways" and other stories $1.75 

"His Defense" and other stories 1.75 

"The Marbeau Cousins," 12 mo. cloth 1.50 

"Eneas Africanus," new edition, paper .50 

"Eneas Africanus," new edition, board .75 

"Eneas Africanus," new edition illustrated 1.00 

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"Just Sweethearts," Christmas bound 1.00 

"Just Sweethearts," Ooze Calf 2.00 

"How Sal Came Through" .50 

"Brother Sims s Mistake" .50 

"Isam s Spectacles" .50 

"The Adventures of a Parrot" .50 

"Shadow" A Christmas Story .50 

"The Vulture and His Shadow" .50 

The demand for "Eneas" and other books of Mr. 
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