NELSE was informed by the Agent of the Freedman's Bureau when summoned before that tribunal that he must pay a fee of one dollar for a marriage license and be married over again.
"What's dat? Dis yer war bust up me en Eve's marryin'?"
"Yes," said the Agent. "You must be legally married."
Nelse chucked on a brilliant scheme that flashed through his mind.
"Den I see you ergin 'bout dat," he said as he hastily took his leave.
He made his way homeward revolving his brilliant scheme. "But won't I fetch dat nigger Eve down er peg er two! I gwine ter make her t'ink I won' marry her nohow. I make 'er ax my pardon fur all dem little disergreements. She got ter talk mighty putty now sho nuf!" And he smiled over his coming triumph.
It was four o'clock in the afternoon when he reached his cabin door on the lot back of Mrs. Gaston's home. Eve was busy mending some clothes for their little boy now nearly five years old.
"Good evenin', Miss Eve!"
Eve looked up at him with a sudden flash of her eye. "What de matter wid you nigger?"
"Nuttin' tall. Des drapped in lak ter pass de time
er day, en ax how's you en yer son stanin' dis hot wedder!" Nelse bowed and smiled.
"What ail you, you big black baboon?"
"Nuttin' tall M'am, des callin' roun' ter see my frien's." Still smiling Nelse walked in and sat down.
Eve put down her sewing, stood up before him, her arms akimbo, and gazed at him steadily till the whites of her eyes began to shine like two moons.
"You wants me ter whale you ober de head wid dat poker?"
"Not dis evenin', M'am."
"Den what ail you?"
"De Buro des inform me, dat es I'se er young han'some man en you'se er gittin' kinder ole en fat, dat we aint married nohow. En dey gimme er paper fur er dollar dat allow me ter marry de young lady er my choice. Dat sho is er great Buro!"
"We aint married?"
"Atter we stan' up dar befo' Marse John Durham en say des what all dem white folks say?"
Eve slowly took her seat and gazed down the road thoughtfully.
"I t'ink I drap eroun' ter see you en gin you er chance wid de odder gals fo' I steps off," explained Nelse with a grin.
"You 'member dat night I say sumfin' 'bout er gal I know once, en you riz en grab er poun' er wool outen my head fo' I kin move?"
No answer yet.
"Min' dat time, you bust de biscuit bode ober my head, en lam me wid de fire-shovel, en hit me in de burr er de year wid er flatiron es I wuz makin' fur de do'?"
"Yas, I min's dat sho!" said Eve with evident satisfaction.
"Doan you wish you nebber done dat?"
"You black debbil!"
"Dat's hit! I'se er bad nigger, M'am,—bad nigger fo' de war. En I'se gittin' wuss en wuss," Nelse chuckled.
She looked at him with gathering rage and contempt.
"En den fudder mo, M'am, I doan lak de way you talk ter me sometimes. Yo voice des kinder takes de skin off same's er file. I laks ter hear er 'oman's voice lak my Missy's, des es sof' es wool. Sometime one word from her keep me warm all winter. De way you talk sometime make me cole in de summer time."
Nelse rose while Eve sat motionless.
"I des call, M'am, ter drap er little intment inter dem years er yourn, dat'll percerlate froo you min', en when I calls ergin I hopes ter be welcome wid smiles."
Nelse bowed himself out the door in grandiloquent style.
All the afternoon he was laughing to himself over his triumph, and imagining the welcome when he returned that evening with his marriage license and the officer to perform the ceremony. At supper in the kitchen he was polite and formal in his manners to Eve. She eyed him in a contemptuous sort of way and never spoke unless it was absolutely necessary.
It was about half past eight when Nelse arrived at home with the license duly issued and the officer of the Bureau ready to perform the ceremony.
"Des wait er minute here at de corner, sah, twell I kinder breaks de news to 'em," said Nelse to the officer. He approached the cabin door and knocked.
It was shut and fastened. He got no response.
He knocked loudly again.
Eve thrust her head out the window.
"Hits me, M'am, Mister Nelson Gaston, I'se call ter see you."
"Den you hump yo'se'f en git away from dat do, you rascal."
"De Lawd, honey, I'se des been er foolin' you ter day. I'se got dem licenses en de Buro man right out dar now ready ter marry us. You know yo ole man nebber gwine back on you—I des been er foolin'."
"Den you been er foolin' wid de wrong nigger!"
"Lawd, honey, doan keep de bridegroom er waitin'."
"Git er way from dat do!"
"G'long chile, en quit yer projeckin'." Nelse was using his softest and most persuasive tones now.
"G'way from dat do!"
"Come on, Eve, de man waitin' out dar fur us!"
"Git away I tells you er I scald you wid er kittle er hot water!"
Nelse drew back slightly from the door.
"But, honey, whar yo ole man gwine ter sleep?"
"Dey's straw in de barn, en pine shatters in de dog house!" she shouted slamming the window.
"Doan you come honeyin' me, I'se er spec'able 'oman I is. Ef you wants ter marry me you got ter come cotin' me in de day time fust, en bring me candy, en ribbins en flowers and sich, en you got ter talk purtier'n you ebber talk in all yo born days. Lots er likely lookin' niggers come settin up ter me while you gone in dat wah, en I keep studin' 'bout you, you big black rascal. Now you got ter hump yo'se'f ef you eber see de inside er dis cabin ergin."
Crestfallen Nelse returned to the officer.
"Wall sah, deys er kinder hitch in de perceedins."
"What's the matter?"
"She 'low I got ter come cotin' her fust. En I spec I is."
The officer laughed and returned to his home. She made Nelse sleep in the barn for three weeks, court her an hour every day, and bring her five cents worth of red stick candy and a bouquet of flowers as a peace offering at every visit. Finally she made him write her a note and ask her to take a ride with him. Nelse got Charlie to write it for him, and made his own boy carry it to his mother. After three weeks of humility and attention to her wishes, she gave her consent, and they were duly married again.