(I found the following article in one of the drawers of my mother’s old desk. It was penciled on folded, yellowed sheets, the four folds practically breaking through with age. It was marked on the back “Sis Frances.” Apparently the writer had planned to submit it for publication, probably to the Readers’ Digest, as there were superscripted numbers written every so often to count the number of words accumulated. I surmised that he had written this in 1923.)
On the morning after Christmas I asked my fifteen year old son how much of his Xmas money ha had left. “Not much,” he replied. “I had to spend nine dollars on my motorcycle and. . .”—in an undertone, which I soon understood as we were standing near the kitchen door—“Frances wanted to borrow five dollars so I have only a dollar left.”
He had hardly left the room when the old cook came in and gave me her version of the transaction. With a smile of satisfaction she began. “You know Web he done got 15 dollars for Xmas but with them boys out there and that old motorcycle I knowed he’d lend it all or spend it on that thing and then he wouldn’t have any cent left by New Year so I sez ‘Web, woul’ you lend me five dollar of your money till New Year’s day?’”
“Sure, Sis Frances,’ he sez and he jeck it out of his pocket and hand it to me like dat”—and the pleased old Negro imitated him with a quick stroke of her hand.
“Webster has just told me he lent you five dollars,” I replied, “and I wondered about it because I never knew you to be out of money before. I was sorry too because I was about to ask you to lend me five dollars and save a trip to the bank.”
Then without realizing the seriousness of my offense I added, “If you are just keeping Web’s money for him and don’t need it yourself suppose you let me have that. I’ll pay him back on New Year’s day.”
“Lord, no,” she exclaimed. “You don’t get dat five dollars. It’s up there on the shelf and there it’s goin’ to stay till New Year’s mornin’ cause I done tole Web I’d give it back to him and my word’s my bawnd. Now I didn’t need no money and I’ll lend you five dollars of mine but, no sir, can’t nobody tech dat five dollars.”
So she went into the kitchen, extracted a five dollar bill from her stocking, came back and handed it to me smiling.
Bright and early Frances arrived on New Year’s Day and she had hardly said good morning to me before she exclaimed, “You jes ought to see how tickled Web was when I give him back that five dollars. It’s all he’s got and them boys is sure to be around here in a little while.”
(My grandfather, John McLaren McBryde, was the author of this article. He died in 1955 at 86 years of age. He had the utmost respect for African Americans. After he retired from his position as Dean of the Graduate School at Tulane University in 1938, he gave many lectures and readings on African American literature and culture.
My Uncle Web passed away in 1995 at the age of 87. By the way, the word count was 420 words.)