Gertrude Stein > Three Lives > Melanctha: Each One as She May: Paras. 101–200

Gertrude Stein (1874–1946).  Three Lives.  1909


Each One as She May: Paras. 101–200

Sometimes Melanctha would do some of these things that had much danger, and always with such men, she showed her power and her break neck courage. Once she slipped and fell from a high place. A workman caught her and so she was not killed, but her left arm was badly broken. 101
  All the men crowded around her. They admired her boldness in doing and in bearing pain when her arm was broken. They all went along with her with great respect to the doctor, and then they took her home in triumph and all of them were bragging about her not squealing. 102
  James Herbert was home where his wife lived, that day. He was furious when he saw the workmen and Melanctha. He drove the men away with curses so that they were all very nearly fighting, and he would not let a doctor come in to attend Melanctha. “Why don’t you see to that girl better, you, you’re her mother.” 103
  James Herbert did not fight things out now any more with his daughter. He feared her tongue, and her school learning, and the way she had of saying things that were very nasty to a brutal black man who knew nothing. And Melanctha just then hated him very badly in her suffering. 104
  And so this was the way Melanctha lived the four years of her beginning as a woman. And many things happened to Melanctha, but she knew very well that none of them had led her on to the right way, that certain way that was to lead her to world wisdom. 105
  Melanctha Herbert was sixteen when she first met Jane Harden. Jane was a negress, but she was so white that hardly any one could guess it. Jane had had a good deal of education. She had been two years at a colored college. She had had to leave because of her bad conduct. She taught Melanctha many things. She taught her how to go the ways that lead to wisdom. 106
  Jane Harden was at this time twenty-three years old and she had had much experience. She was very much attracted by Melanctha, and Melanctha was very proud that this Jane would let her know her. 107
  Jane Harden was not afraid to understand. Melanctha who had strong the sense for real experience, knew that here was a woman who had learned to understand. 108
  Jane Harden had many bad habits. She drank a great deal, and she wandered widely. She was safe though now, when she wanted to be safe, in this wandering. 109
  Melanctha Herbert soon always wandered with her. Melanctha tried the drinking and some of the other habits, but she did not find that she cared very much to do them. But every day she grew stronger in her desire to really understand. 110
  It was now no longer, even in the daylight, the rougher men that these two learned to know in their wanderings, and for Melanctha the better classes were now a little higher. It was no longer express agents and clerks that she learned to know, but men in business, commercial travelers, and even men above these, and Jane and she would talk and walk and laugh and escape from them all very often. It was still the same, the knowing of them and the always just escaping, only now for Melanctha somehow it was different, for though it was always the same thing that happened it had a different flavor, for now Melanctha was with a woman who had wisdom, and dimly she began to see what it was that she should understand. 111
  It was not from the men that Melanctha learned her wisdom. It was always Jane Harden herself who was making Melanctha begin to understand. 112
  Jane was a roughened woman. She had power and she liked to use it, she had much white blood and that made her see clear, she liked drinking and that made her reckless. Her white blood was strong in her and she had grit and endurance and a vital courage. She was always game, however much she was in trouble. She liked Melanctha Herbert for the things that she had like her, and then Melanctha was young, and she had sweetness, and a way of listening with intelligence and sympathetic interest, to the stories that Jane Harden often told out of her experience. 113
  Jane grew always fonder of Melanctha. Soon they began to wander, more to be together than to see men and learn their various ways of working. Then they began not to wander, and Melanctha would spend long hours with Jane in her room, sitting at her feet and listening to her stories, and feeling her strength and the power of her affection, and slowly she began to see clear before her one certain way that would be sure to lead to wisdom. 114
  Before the end came, the end of the two years in which Melanctha spent all her time when she was not at school or in her home, with Jane Harden, before these two years were finished, Melanctha had come to see very clear, and she had come to be very certain, what it is that gives the world its wisdom. 115
  Jane Harden always had a little money and she had a room in the lower part of the town. Jane had once taught in a colored school. She had had to leave that too on account of her bad conduct. It was her drinking that always made all the trouble for her, for that can never be really covered over. 116
  Jane’s drinking was always growing worse upon her. Melanctha had tried to do the drinking but it had no real attraction for her. 117
  In the first year, between Jane Harden and Melanctha Herbert, Jane had been much the stronger. Jane loved Melanctha and she found her always intelligent and brave and sweet and docile, and Jane meant to, and before the year was over she had taught Melanctha what it is that gives many people in the world their wisdom. 118
  Jane had many ways in which to do this teaching. She told Melanctha many things. She loved Melanctha hard and made Melanctha feel it very deeply. She would be with other people and with men and with Melanctha, and she would make Melanctha understand what everybody wanted, and what one did with power when one had it. 119
  Melanctha sat at Jane’s feet for many hours in these days and felt Jane’s wisdom. She learned to love Jane and to have this feeling very deeply. She learned a little in these days to know joy, and she was taught too how very keenly she could suffer. It was very different this suffering from that Melanctha sometimes had from her mother and from her very unendurable black father. Then she was fighting and she could be strong and valiant in her suffering, but here with Jane Harden she was longing and she bent and pleaded with her suffering. 120
  It was a very tumultuous, very mingled year, this time for Melanctha, but she certainly did begin to really understand. 121
  In every way she got it from Jane Harden. There was nothing good or bad in doing, feeling, thinking or in talking, that Jane spared her. Sometimes the lesson came almost too strong for Melanctha, but somehow she always managed to endure it and so slowly, but always with increasing strength and feeling, Melanctha began to really understand. 122
  Then slowly, between them, it began to be all different. Slowly now between them, it was Melanctha Herbert, who was stronger. Slowly now they began to drift apart from one another. 123
  Melanctha Herbert never really lost her sense that it was Jane Harden who had taught her, but Jane did many things that Melanctha now no longer needed. And then, too, Melanctha never could remember right when it came to what she had done and what had happened. Melanctha now sometimes quarreled with Jane, and they no longer went about together, and sometimes Melanctha really forgot how much she owed to Jane Harden’s teaching. 124
  Melanctha began now to feel that she had always had world wisdom. She really knew of course, that it was Jane who had taught her, but all that began to be covered over by the trouble between them, that was now always getting stronger. 125
  Jane Harden was a roughened woman. Once she had been very strong, but now she was weakened in all her kinds of strength by her drinking. Melanctha had tried the drinking but it had had no real attraction for her. 126
  Jane’s strong and roughened nature and her drinking made it always harder for her to forgive Melanctha, that now Melanctha did not really need her any longer. Now it was Melanctha who was stronger and it was Jane who was dependent on her. 127
  Melanctha was now come to be about eighteen years old. She was a graceful, pale yellow, good looking, intelligent, attractive negress, a little mysterious sometimes in her ways, and always good and pleasant, and always ready to do things for people. 128
  Melanctha from now on saw very little of Jane Harden. Jane did not like that very well and sometimes she abused Melanctha, but her drinking soon covered everything all over. 129
  It was not in Melanctha’s nature to really lose her sense for Jane Harden. Melanctha all her life was ready to help Jane out in any of her trouble, and later, when Jane really went to pieces, Melanctha always did all that she could to help her. 130
  But Melanctha Herbert was ready now herself to do teaching. Melanctha could do anything now that she wanted. Melanctha knew now what everybody wanted. 131
  Melanctha had learned how she might stay a little longer; she had learned that she must decide when she wanted really to stay longer, and she had learned how when she wanted to, she could escape. 132
  And so Melanctha began once more to wander. It was all now for her very different. It was never rougher men now that she talked to, and she did not care much now to know white men of the, for her, very better classes. It was now something realler that Melanctha wanted, something that would move her very deeply, something that would fill her fully with the wisdom that was planted now within her, and that she wanted badly, should really wholly fill her. 133
  Melanctha these days wandered very widely. She was always alone now when she wandered. Melanctha did not need help now to know, or to stay longer, or when she wanted, to escape. 134
  Melanctha tried a great many men, in these days before she was really suited. It was almost a year that she wandered and then she met with a young mulatto. He was a doctor who had just begun to practice. He would most likely do well in the future, but it was not this that concerned Melanctha. She found him good and strong and gentle and very intellectual, and all her life Melanctha liked and wanted good and considerate people, and then too he did not at first believe in Melanctha. He held off and did not know what it was that Melanctha wanted. Melanctha came to want him very badly. They began to know each other better. Things began to be very strong between them. Melanctha wanted him so badly that now she never wandered. She just gave herself to this experience. 135
  Melanctha Herbert was now, all alone, in Bridgepoint. She lived now with this colored woman and now with that one, and she sewed, and sometimes she taught a little in a colored school as substitute for some teacher. Melanctha had now no home nor any regular employment. Life was just commencing for Melanctha. She had youth and had learned wisdom, and she was graceful and pale yellow and very pleasant, and always ready to do things for people, and she was mysterious in her ways and that only made belief in her more fervent. 136
  During the year before she met Jefferson Campbell, Melanctha had tried many kinds of men but they had none of them interested Melanctha very deeply. She met them, she was much with them, she left them, she would think perhaps this next time it would be more exciting, and always she found that for her it all had no real meaning. She could now do everything she wanted, she knew now everything that everybody wanted, and yet it all had no excitement for her. With these men, she knew she could learn nothing. She wanted some one that could teach her very deeply and now at last she was sure that she had found him, yes she really had it, before she had thought to look if in this man she would find it. 137
  During this year ‘Mis’ Herbert as her neighbors called her, Melanctha’s pale yellow mother was very sick, and in this year she died. 138
  Melanctha’s father during these last years did not come very often to the house where his wife lived and Melanctha. Melanctha was not sure that her father was now any longer here in Bridgepoint. It was Melanctha who was very good now to her mother. It was always Melanctha’s way to be good to any one in trouble. 139
  Melanctha took good care of her mother. She did everything that any woman could, she tended and soothed and helped her pale yellow mother, and she worked hard in every way to take care of her, and make her dying easy. But Melanctha did not in these days like her mother any better, and her mother never cared much for this daughter who was always a hard child to manage, and who had a tongue that always could be very nasty. 140
  Melanctha did everything that any woman could, and at last her mother died, and Melanctha had her buried. Melanctha’s father was not heard from, and Melanctha in all her life after, never saw or heard or knew of anything that her father did. 141
  It was the young doctor, Jefferson Campbell, who helped Melanctha toward the end, to take care of her sick mother. Jefferson Campbell had often before seen Melanctha Herbert, but he had never liked her very well, and he had never believed that she was any good. He had heard something about how she wandered. He knew a little too of Jane Harden, and he was sure that this Melanctha Herbert, who was her friend and who wandered, would never come to any good. 142
  Dr. Jefferson Campbell was a serious, earnest, good, young joyous doctor. He liked to take care of everybody and he loved his own colored people. He always found life very easy did Jeff Campbell, and everybody liked to have him with them. He was so good and sympathetic, and he was so earnest and so joyous. He sang when he was happy, and he laughed, and his was the free abandoned laughter that gives the warm broad glow to negro sunshine. 143
  Jeff Campbell had never yet in his life had real trouble. Jefferson’s father was a good, kind, serious, religious man. He was a very steady, very intelligent, and very dignified, light brown, grey haired negro. He was a butler and he had worked for the Campbell family many years, and his father and his mother before him had been in the service of this family as free people. 144
  Jefferson Campbell’s father and his mother had of course been regularly married. Jefferson’s mother was a sweet, little, pale brown, gentle woman who reverenced and obeyed her good husband, and who worshipped and admired and loved hard her good, earnest, cheery, hardworking doctor boy who was her only child. 145
  Jeff Campbell had been raised religious by his people but religion had never interested Jeff very much. Jefferson was very good. He loved his people and he never hurt he and he always did everything they wanted and that he could to please them, but he really loved best science and experimenting and to learn things, and he early wanted to be a doctor, and he was always very interested in the life of the colored people. 146
  The Campbell family had been very good to him and had helped him on with his ambition. Jefferson studied hard, he went to a colored college, and then he learnt to be a doctor. 147
  It was now two or three years, that he had started in to practice. Everybody liked Jeff Campbell, he was so strong and kindly and cheerful and understanding, and he laughed so with pure joy, and he always liked to help all his own colored people. 148
  Dr. Jeff knew all about Jane Harden. He had taken care of her in some of her bad trouble. He knew about Melanctha too, though until her mother was taken sick he had never met her. Then he was called in to help Melanctha to take care of her sick mother. Dr. Campbell did not like Melanctha’s ways and he did not think that she would ever come to any good. 149
  Dr. Campbell had taken care of Jane Harden in some of her bad trouble. Jane sometimes had abused Melanctha to him. What right had that Melanctha to him. What right had that Melanctha Herbert who owed everything to her, Jane Harden, what right had a girl like that to go away to other men and leave her, but Melanctha Herbert never had any sense of how to act to anybody. Melanctha had a good mind, Jane never denied her that, but she never used it to do anything decent with it. But what could you expect when Melanctha had such a brute of a black nigger father, and Melanctha was always abusing her father and yet she was just like him, and really she admired him so much and he never had any sense of what he owed to anybody, and Melanctha was just like him and she was proud of it too, and it made Jane so tired to hear Melanctha talk all the time as if she wasn’t. Jane Harden hated people who had good minds and didn’t use them, and Melanctha always had that weakness, and wanting to keep in with people, and never really saying that she wanted to be like her father, and it was so silly of Melanctha to abuse her father, when she was so much like him and she really liked it. No, Jane Harden had no use for Melanctha. Oh yes, Melanctha always came around to be good to her. Melanctha was always sure to do that. She never really went away and left one. She didn’t use her mind enough to do things straight out like that. Melanctha Herbert had a good mind, Jane never denied that to her, but she never wanted to see or hear about Melanctha Herbert any more, and she wished Melanctha wouldn’t come in any more to see her. She didn’t hate her, but she didn’t want to hear about her father and all that talk Melanctha always made, and that just meant nothing to her. Jane Harden was very tired of all that now. She didn’t have any use now any more for Melanctha, and if Dr. Campbell saw her he better tell her Jane didn’t want to see her, and she could take her talk to somebody else, who was ready to believe her. And then Jane Harden would drop away and forget Melanctha and all her life before, and then she would begin to drink and so she would cover everything all over. 150
  Jeff Campbell heard all this very often, but it did not interest him very deeply. He felt no desire to know more of this Melanctha. He heard her, once, talking to another girl outside of the house, when he was paying a visit to Jane Harden. He did not see much in the talk that he heard her do. He did not see much in the things Jane Harden said when she abused Melanctha to him. He was more interested in Jane herself than in anything he heard about Melanctha. He knew Jane Harden had a good mind, and she had had power, and she could really have done things, and now this drinking covered everything all over. Jeff Campbell was always very sorry when he had to see it. Jane Harden was a roughened woman, and yet Jeff found a great many strong good things in her, that still made him like her. 151
  Jeff Campbell did everything he could for Jane Harden. He did not care much to hear about Melanctha. He had no feeling, much, about her. He did not find that he took any interest in her. Jane Harden was so much a stronger woman, and Jane really had had a good mind, and she had used it to do things with it, before this drinking business had taken such a hold upon her. 152
  Dr. Campbell was helping Melanctha Herbert to take care of her sick mother. He saw Melanctha now for long times and very often, and they sometimes talked a good deal together, but Melanctha never said anything to him about Jane Harden. She never talked to him about anything that was not just general matters, or about medicine, or to tell him funny stories. She asked him many questions and always listened very well to all he told her, and she always remembered everything she heard him say about doctoring, and she always remembered everything that she had learned from all the others. 153
  Jeff Campbell never found that all this talk interested him very deeply. He did not find that he liked Melanctha when he saw her so much, any better. He never found that he thought much about Melanctha. He never found that he believed much in her having a good mind, like Jane Harden. He found he liked Jane Harden always better, and that he wished very much that she had never begun that bad drinking. 154
  Melanctha Herbert’s mother was now always getting sicker. Melanctha really did everything that any woman could. Melanctha’s mother never liked her daughter any better. She never said much, did ‘Mis’ Herbert, but anybody could see that she did not think much of this daughter. 155
  Dr. Campbell now often had to stay a long time to take care of ‘Mis’ Herbert. One day ‘Mis’ Herbert was much sicker and Dr. Campbell thought that this night, she would surely die. He came back late to the house, as he had said he would, to sit up and watch ‘Mis’ Herbert, and to help Melanctha, if she should need anybody to be with her. Melanctha Herbert and Jeff Campbell sat up all that night together. ‘Mis’ Herbert did not die. The next day she was a little better. 156
  This house where Melanctha had always lived with her mother was a little red brick, two story house. They had not much furniture to fill it and some of the windows were broken and not mended. Melanctha did not have much money to use now on the house, but with a colored woman, who was their neighbor and good natured and who had always helped them, Melanctha managed to take care of her mother and to keep the house fairly clean and neat. 157
  Melanctha’s mother was in bed in a room upstairs, and the steps from below led right up into it. There were just two rooms on this upstairs floor. Melanctha and Dr. Campbell sat down on the steps, that night they watched together, so that they could hear and see Melanctha’s mother and yet the light would be shaded, and they could sit and read, if they wanted to, and talk low some, and yet not disturb ‘Mis’ Herbert. 158
  Dr. Campbell was always very fond of reading. Dr. Campbell had not brought a book with him that night. He had just forgotten it. He had meant to put something in his pocket to read, so that he could amuse himself, while he was sitting there and watching. When he was through with taking care of ‘Mis’ Herbert, he came and sat down on the steps just above where Melanctha was sitting. He spoke about how he had forgotten to bring his book with him. Melanctha said there were some old papers in the house, perhaps Dr. Campbell could find something in them that would help pass the time for a while for him. All right, Dr. Campbell said, that would be better than just sitting there with nothing. Dr. Campbell began to read through the old papers that Melanctha gave him. When anything amused him in them, he read it out to Melanctha. Melanctha was now pretty silent, with him. Dr. Campbell began to feel a little, about how she responded to him. Dr. Campbell began to see a little that perhaps Melanctha had a good mind. Dr. Campbell was not sure yet that she had a good mind, but he began to think a little that perhaps she might have one. 159
  Jefferson Campbell always liked to talk to everybody about the things he worked at and about his thinking about what he could do for the colored people. Melanctha Herbert never thought about these things the way that he did. Melanctha had never said much to Dr. Campbell about what she thought about them. Melanctha did not feel the same as he did about being good and regular in life, and not having excitements all the time, which was the way that Jefferson Campbell wanted that everybody should be, so that everybody would be wise and yet be happy. Melanctha always had strong the sense for real experience. Melanctha Herbert did not think much of this way of coming to real wisdom. 160
  Dr. Campbell soon got through with his reading, in the old newspapers, and then somehow he began to talk along about the things he was always thinking. Dr. Campbell said he wanted to work so that he could understand what troubled people, and not to just have excitements, and he believed you ought to love your father and your mother and to be regular in all your life, and not to be always wanting new things and excitements, and to always know where you were, and what you wanted, and to always tell everything just as you meant it. That’s the only kind of life he knew or believed in, Jeff Campbell repeated. “No I ain’t got any use for all the time being in excitements and wanting to have all kinds of experience all the time. I got plenty of experience just living regular and quiet and with my family, and doing my work, and taking care of people, and trying to understand it. I don’t believe much in this running around business and I don’t want to see the colored people do it. I am a colored man and I ain’t sorry, and I want to see the colored people like what is good and what I want them to have, and that’s to live regular and work hard and understand things, and that’s enough to keep any decent man excited.” Jeff Campbell spoke now with some anger. Not to Melanctha, he did not think of her at all when he was talking. It was the life he wanted that he spoke to, and the way he wanted things to be with the colored people. 161
  But Melanctha Herbert had listened to him say all this. She knew he meant it, but it did not mean much to her, and she was sure some day he would find out, that it was not all, of real wisdom. Melanctha knew very well what it was to have real wisdom. “But how about Jane Harden?” said Melanctha to Jeff Campbell, “seems to me Dr. Campbell you find her to have something in her, and you go there very often, and you talk to her much more than you do to the nice girls that stay at home with their people, the kind you say you are really wanting. It don’t seem to me Dr. Campbell, that what you say and what you do seem to have much to do with each other. And about your being so good Dr. Campbell,” went on Melanctha, “You don’t care about going to church much yourself, and yet you always are saying you believe so much in things like that, for people. It seems to me, Dr. Campbell you want to have a good time just like all us others, and then you just keep on saying that it’s right to be good and you ought not to have excitements, and yet you really don’t want to do it Dr. Campbell, no more than me or Jane Harden. No, Dr. Campbell, it certainly does seem to me you don’t know very well yourself, what you mean, when you are talking.” 162
  Jefferson had been talking right along, the way he always did when he got started, and now Melanctha’s answer only made him talk a little harder. He laughed a little, too, but very low, so as not to disturb ‘Mis’ Herbert who was sleeping very nicely, and he looked brightly at Melanctha to enjoy her, and then he settled himself down to answer. 163
  “Yes,” he began, “it certainly does sound a little like I didn’t know very well what I do mean, when you put it like that to me, Miss Melanctha, but that’s just because you don’t understand enough about what I meant, by what I was just saying to you. I don’t say, never, I don’t want to know all kinds of people, Miss Melanctha, and I don’t say there ain’t many kinds of people, and I don’t say ever, that I don’t find some like Jane Harden very good to know and talk to, but it’s the strong things I like in Jane Harden, not all her excitements. I don’t admire the bad things she does, Miss Melanctha, but Jane Harden is a strong woman and I always respect that in her. No I know you don’t believe what I say, Miss Melanctha, but I mean it, and it’s all just because you don’t understand it when I say it. And as for religion, that just ain’t my way of being good, Miss Melanctha, but it’s a good way for many people to be good and regular in their way of living, and if they believe it, it helps them to be good, and if they’re honest in it, I like to see them have it. No, what I don’t like, Miss Melanctha, is this what I see so much with the colored people, their always wanting new things just to get excited.” 164
  Jefferson Campbell here stopped himself in this talking. Melanctha Herbert did not make any answer. They both sat there very quiet. 165
  Jeff Campbell then began again on the old papers. He sat there on the steps just above where Melanctha was sitting, and he went on with his reading, and his head went moving up and down, and sometimes he was reading, and sometimes he was thinking about all the things he wanted to be doing, and then he would rub the back of his dark hand over his mouth, and in between he would be frowning with his thinking, and sometimes he would be rubbing his head hard to help his thinking. And Melanctha just sat still and watched the lamp burning, and sometimes she turned it down a little, when the wind caught it and it would begin to get to smoking. 166
  And so Jeff Campbell and Melanctha Herbert sat there on the steps, very quiet, a long time, and they didn’t seem to think much, that they were together. They sat there so, for about an hour, and then it came to Jefferson very slowly and as a strong feeling that he was sitting there on the steps, alone, with Melanctha. He did not know if Melanctha Herbert was feeling very much about their being there alone together. Jefferson began to wonder about it a little. Slowly he felt that surely they must both have this feeling. It was so important that he knew that she must have it. They both sat there, very quiet, a long time. 167
  At last Jefferson began to talk about how the lamp was smelling. Jefferson began to explain what it is that makes a lamp get to smelling. Melanctha let him talk. She did not answer, and then he stopped in his talking. Soon Melanctha began to sit up straighter and then she started in to question. 168
  “About what you was just saying Dr. Campbell about living regular and all that, I certainly don’t understand what you meant by what you was just saying. You ain’t a bit like good people Dr. Campbell, like the good people you are always saying are just like you. I know good people Dr. Campbell, and you ain’t a bit like men who are good and got religion. You are just as free and easy as any man can be Dr. Campbell, and you always like to be with Jane Harden, and she is a pretty bad one and you don’t look down on her and you never tell her she is a bad one. I know you like her just like a friend Dr. Campbell, and so I certainly don’t understand just what it is you mean by all that you was just saying to me. I know you mean honest Dr. Campbell, and I am always trying to believe you, but I can’t say as I see just what you mean when you say you want to be good and real pious, because I am very certain Dr. Campbell that you ain’t that kind of a man at all, and you ain’t never ashamed to be with queer folks Dr. Campbell, and you seem to be thinking what you are doing is just like what you are always saying, and Dr. Campbell, I certainly don’t just see what you mean by what you say.” 169
  Dr. Campbell almost laughed loud enough to wake ‘Mis’ Herbert. He did enjoy the way Melanctha said these things to him. He began to feel very strongly about it that perhaps Melanctha really had a good mind. He was very free now in his laughing, but not so as to make Melanctha angry. He was very friendly with her in his laughing, and then he made his face get serious, and he rubbed his head to help him in his thinking. 170
  “I know Miss Melanctha” he began, “It ain’t very easy for you to understand what I was meaning by what I was just saying to you, and perhaps some of the good people I like so wouldn’t think very much, any more than you do, Miss Melanctha, about the ways I have to be good. But that’s no matter Miss Melanctha. What I mean Miss Melanctha by what I was just saying to you is, that I don’t, no, never, believe in doing things just to get excited. You see Miss Melanctha I mean the way so many of the colored people do it. Instead of just working hard and caring about their working and living regular with their families and saving up all their money, so they will have some to bring up their children better, instead of living regular and doing like that and getting all their new ways from just decent living, the colored people just keep running around and perhaps drinking and doing everything bad they can ever think of, and not just because they like all those bad things that they are always doing, but only just because they want to get excited. No Miss Melanctha, you see I am a colored man myself and I ain’t sorry, and I want to see the colored people being good and careful and always honest and living always just as regular as can be, and I am sure Miss Melanctha, that that way everybody can have a good time, and be happy and keep right and be busy, and not always have to be doing bad things for new ways to get excited. Yes Miss Melanctha, I certainly do like everything to be good, and quiet, and I certainly do think that is the best way for all us colored people. No, Miss Melanctha too, I don’t mean this except only just the way I say it. I ain’t got any other meaning Miss Melanctha, and it’s that what I mean when I am saying about being really good. It ain’t Miss Melanctha to be pious and not liking every kind of people, and I don’t say ever Miss Melanctha that when other kind of people come regular into your life you shouldn’t want to know them always. What I mean Miss Melanctha by what I am always saying is, you shouldn’t try to know everybody just to run around and get excited. It’s that kind of way of doing that I hate so always Miss Melanctha, and that is so bad for all us colored people. I don’t know as you understand now any better what I mean by what I was just saying to you. But you certainly do know now Miss Melanctha, that I always mean it what I say when I am talking.” 171
  “Yes I certainly do understand you when you talk so Dr. Campbell. I certainly do understand now what you mean by what you was always saying to me. I certainly do understand Dr. Campbell that you mean you don’t believe it’s right to love anybody.” “Why sure no, yes I do Miss Melanctha, I certainly do believe strong in loving, and in being good to everybody, and trying to understand what they all need, to help them.” “Oh I know all about that way of doing Dr. Campbell, but that certainly ain’t the kind of love I mean when I am talking. I mean real, strong, hot love Dr. Campbell, that makes you do anything for somebody that loves you.” “I don’t know much about that kind of love yet Miss Melanctha. You see it’s this way with me always Miss Melanctha. I am always so busy with my thinking about my work I am doing and so I don’t have time for just fooling, and then too, you see Miss Melanctha, I really certainly don’t ever like to get excited, and that kind of loving hard does seem always to mean just getting all the time excited. That certainly is what I always think from what I see of them that have it bad Miss Melanctha, and that certainly would never suit a man like me. You see Miss Melanctha I am a very quiet kind of fellow, and I believe in a quiet life for all the colored people. No Miss Melanctha I certainly never have mixed my self up in that kind of trouble.” 172
  “Yes I certainly do see that very clear Dr. Campbell,” said Melanctha, “I see that’s certainly what it is always made me not know right about you and that’s certainly what it is that makes you really mean what you was always saying. You certainly are just too scared Dr. Campbell to really feel things way down in you. All you are always wanting Dr. Campbell, is just to talk about being good, and to play with people just to have a good time, and yet always to certainly keep yourself out of trouble. It don’t seem to me Dr. Campbell that I admire that way to do things very much It certainly ain’t really to me being very good. It certainly ain’t any more to me Dr. Campbell, but that you certainly are awful scared about really feeling things way down in you, and that’s certainly the only way Dr. Campbell I can see that you can mean, by what it is that you are always saying to me.” 173
  “I don’t know about that Miss Melanctha, I certainly don’t think I can’t feel things very deep in me, though I do say I certainly do like to have things nice and quiet, but I don’t see h arm in keeping out of danger Miss Melanctha, when a man knows he certainly don’t want to get killed in it, and I don’t know anything that’s more awful dangerous Miss Melanctha than being strong in love with somebody. I don’t mind sickness or real trouble Miss Melanctha, and I don’t want to be talking about what I can do in real trouble, but you know something about that Miss Melanctha, but I certainly don’t see much in mixing up just to get excited, in that awful kind of danger. No Miss Melanctha I certainly do only know just two kinds of ways of loving. One kind of loving seems to me, is like one has a good quiet feeling in a family when one does his work, and is always living good and being regular, and then the other way of loving is just like having it like any animal that’s low in the streets together, and that don’t seem to me very good Miss Melanctha, though I don’t say ever that it’s not all right when anybody likes it, and that’s all the kinds of love I know Miss Melanctha, and I certainly don’t care very much to get mixed up in that kind of a way just to be in trouble.” 174
  Jefferson stopped and Melanctha thought a little.

  “That certainly does explain to me Dr. Campbell what I been thinking about you this long time. I certainly did wonder how you could be so live, and knowing everything, and everybody, and talking so big always about everything, and everybody always liking you so much, and you always looking as if you was thinking, and yet you really was never knowing about anybody and certainly not being really very understanding. It certainly is all Dr. Campbell because you is so afraid you will be losing being good so easy, and it certainly do seem to me Dr. Campbell that it certainly don’t amount to very much that kind of goodness.” 176
  “Perhaps you are right Miss Melanctha,” Jefferson answered. “I don’t say never, perhaps you ain’t right Miss Melanctha. Perhaps I ought to know more about such ways Miss Melanctha. Perhaps it would help me some, taking care of the colored people, Miss Melanctha. I don’t say, no, never, but perhaps I could learn a whole lot about women the right way, if I had a real good teacher.” 177
  ‘Mis’ Herbert just then stirred a little in her sleep. Melanctha went up the steps to the bed to attend her. Dr. Campbell got up too and went to help her. ‘Mis’ Herbert woke up and was a little better. Now it was morning and Dr. Campbell gave his directions to Melanctha, and then left her. 178
  Melanctha Herbert all her life long, loved and wanted good, kind and considerate people. Jefferson Campbell was all the things that Melanctha had ever wanted. Jefferson was a strong, well built, good looking, cheery, intelligent and good mulatto. And then at first he had not cared to know Melanctha, and when he did begin to know her he had not liked her very well, and he had not thought that she would ever come to any good. And then Jefferson Campbell was so very gentle. Jefferson never did some things like other men, things that now were beginning to be ugly, for Melanctha. And then too Jefferson Campbell did not seem to know very well what it was that Melanctha really wanted, and all this was making Melanctha feel his power with her always getting stronger. 179
  Dr. Campbell came in every day to see ‘Mis’ Herbert. ‘Mis’ Herbert, after that night they watched together, did get a little better, but ‘Mis’ Herbert was really very sick, and soon it was pretty sure that she would have to die. Melanctha certainly did everything, all the time, that any woman could. Jefferson never thought much better of Melanctha while she did it. It was not her being good, he wanted to find in her. He knew very well Jane Harden was right, when she said Melanctha was always being good to everybody but that that did not make Melanctha any better for her. Then too, ‘Mis’ Herbert never liked Melanctha any better, even on the last day of her living, and so Jefferson really never thought much of Melanctha’s always being good to her mother. 180
  Jefferson and Melanctha now saw each other, very often. They now always liked to be with each other, and they always now had a good time when they talked to one another. They, mostly in their talking to each other, still just talked about outside things and what they were thinking. Except just in little moments, and not those very often, they never said anything about their feeling. Sometimes Melanctha would tease Jefferson a little just to show she had not forgotten, but mostly she listened to his talking, for Jefferson still always liked to talk along about the things he believed in. Melanctha was liking Jefferson Campbell better every day, and Jefferson was beginning to know that Melanctha certainly had a good mind, and he was beginning to feel a little her real sweetness. Not in her being good to ‘Mis’ Herbert, that never seemed to Jefferson to mean much in her, but there was a strong kind of sweetness in Melanctha’s nature that Jefferson began now to feel when he was with her. 181
  ‘Mis’ Herbert was now always getting sicker. One night again Dr. Campbell felt very certain that before it was morning she would surely die. Dr. Campbell said he would come back to help Melanctha watch her, and to do anything he could to make ‘Mis’ Herbert’s dying more easy for her. Dr. Campbell came back that evening, after he was through with his other patients, and then he made ‘Mis’ Herbert easy, and then he came and sat down on the steps just above where Melanctha was sitting with the lamp, and looking very tired. Dr. Campbell was pretty tired too, and they both sat there very quiet. 182
  “You look awful tired to-night, Dr. Campbell,” Melanctha said at last, with her voice low and very gentle, “Don’t you want to go lie down and sleep a little? You’re always being much too good to everybody, Dr. Campbell. I like to have you stay here watching to-night with me, but it don’t seem right you ought to stay here when you got so much always to do for everybody. You are certainly very kind to come back, Dr. Campbell, but I can certainly get along to-night without you. I can get help next door sure if I need it. You just go ’long home to bed, Dr. Campbell. You certainly do look as if you need it.” 183
  Jefferson was silent for some time, and always he was looking very gently at Melanctha. 184
  “I certainly never did think, Miss Melanctha, I would find you to be so sweet and thinking, with me.” “Dr. Campbell” said Melanctha, still more gentle, “I certainly never did think that you would ever feel it good to like me. I certainly never did think you would want to see for yourself if I had sweet ways in me.” 185
  They both sat there very tired, very gentle, very quiet, a long time. At last Melanctha in a low, even tone began to talk to Jefferson Campbell. 186
  “You are certainly a very good man, Dr. Campbell, I certainly do feel that more every day I see you. Dr. Campbell, I sure do want to be friends with a good man like you, now I know you. You certainly, Dr. Campbell, never do things like other men, that’s always ugly for me. Tell me true, Dr. Campbell, how you feel about being always friends with me. I certainly do know, Dr. Campbell, you are a good man, and if you say you will be friends with me, you certainly never will go back on me, the way so many kinds of them do to every girl they ever get to like them. Tell me for true, Dr. Campbell, will you be friends with me.” 187
  “Why, Miss Melanctha,” said Campbell slowly, “why you see I just can’t say that right out that way to you. Why sure you know Miss Melanctha, I will be very glad if it comes by and by that we are always friends together, but you see, Miss Melanctha, I certainly am a very slow-minded quiet kind of fellow though I do say quick things all the time to everybody, and when I certainly do want to mean it what I am saying to you, I can’t say things like that right out to everybody till I know really more for certain all about you, and how I like you, and what I really mean to do better for you. You certainly do see what I mean, Miss Melanctha.” “I certainly do admire you for talking honest to me, Jeff Campbell,” said Melanctha. 188
  “Oh, I am always honest, Miss Melanctha. It’s easy enough for me always to be honest, Miss Melanctha. All I got to do is always just to say right out what I am thinking. I certainly never have got any real reason for not saying it right out like that to anybody.” 189
  They sat together, very silent. “I certainly do wonder, Miss Melanctha,” at last began Jeff Campbell, “I certainly do wonder, if we know very right, you and me, what each other is really thinking. I certainly do wonder, Miss Melanctha, if we know at all really what each other means by what we are always saying.” “That certainly do mean, by what you say, that you think I am a bad one, Jeff Campbell,” flashed out Melanctha. “Why no, Miss Melanctha, why sure I don’t mean any thing like that at all, by what I am saying to you. You know well as I do, Miss Melanctha, I think better of you every day I see you, and I like to talk with you all the time now, Miss Melanctha, and I certainly do think we both like it very well when we are together, and it seems to me always more, you are very good and sweet always to everybody, It only is, I am really so slow-minded in my ways, Miss Melanctha, for all I talk so quick to everybody, and I don’t like to say to you what I don’t know for very sure, and I certainly don’t know for sure I know just all what you mean by what you are always saying to me. And you see, Miss Melanctha, that’s what makes me say what I was just saying to you when you asked me.” 190
  “I certainly do thank you again for being honest to me, Dr. Campbell,” said Melanctha. “I guess I leave you now, Dr. Campbell. I think I go in the other room and rest a little. I leave you here, so perhaps if I ain’t here you will maybe sleep and rest yourself a little. Good night now, Dr. Campbell, I call you if I need you later to help me, Dr. Campbell, I hope you rest well, Dr. Campbell.” 191
  Jeff Campbell, when Melanctha left him, sat there and he was very quiet and just wondered. He did not know very well just what Melanctha meant by what she was always saying to him. He did not know very well how much he really knew about Melanctha Herbert. He wondered if he should go on being so much all the time with her. He began to think about what he should do now with her. Jefferson Campbell was a man who liked everybody and many people liked very much to be with him. Women liked him, he was so strong, and good, and understanding, and innocent, and firm, and gentle. Sometimes they seemed to want very much he should be with them. When they got so, they always had made Campbell very tired. Sometimes he would play a little with them, but he never had had any strong feeling for them. Now with Melanctha Herbert everything seemed different. Jefferson was not sure that he knew here just what he wanted. He was not sure he knew just what it was that Melanctha wanted. He knew if it was only play, with Melanctha, that he did not want to do it. But he remembered always how she had told him he never knew how to feel things very deeply. He remembered how she told him he was afraid to let himself ever know real feeling, and then too, most of all to him, she had told him he was not very understanding. That always troubled Jefferson very keenly, he wanted very badly to be really understanding. If Jefferson only knew better just what Melanctha meant by what she said. Jefferson always had thought he knew something about women. Now he found that really he knew nothing. He did not know the least bit about Melanctha. He did not know what it was right that he should do about it. He wondered if it was just a little play that they were doing. If it was a play he did not want to go on playing, but if it was really that he was not very understanding, and that with Melanctha Herbert he could learn to really understand, then he was very certain he did not want to be a coward. It was very hard for him to know what he wanted. He thought and thought, and always he did not seem to know any better what he wanted. At last he gave up this thinking. He felt sure it was only play with Melanctha. “No, I certainly won’t go on fooling with her any more this way,” he said at last out loud to himself, when he was through with this thinking. “I certainly will stop fooling, and begin to go on with my thinking about my work and what’s the matter with people like ‘Mis’ Herbert,” and Jefferson took out his book from his pocket, and drew near to the lamp, and began with some hard scientific reading. 192
  Jefferson sat there for about an hour reading, and he had really forgotten all about his trouble with Melanctha’s meaning. Then ‘Mis’ Herbert had some trouble with her breathing. She woke up and was gasping. Dr. Campbell went to her and gave her something that would help her. Melanctha came out from the other room and did things as he told her. They together made ‘Mis’ Herbert more comfortable and easy, and soon she was again in her deep sleep. 193
  Dr. Campbell went back to the steps where he had been sitting. Melanctha came and stood a little while beside him, and then she sat down and watched him reading. By and by they began with their talking. Jeff Campbell began to feel that perhaps it was all different. Perhaps it was not just play, with Melanctha. Anyway he liked it very well that she was with him. He began to tell her about the book he was just reading. 194
  Melanctha was very intelligent always in her questions. Jefferson knew now very well that she had a good mind. They were having a very good time, talking there together. And then they began again to get quiet. 195
  “It certainly was very good in you to come back and talk to me Miss Melanctha,” Jefferson said at last to her, for now he was almost certain, it was no game she was playing. Melanctha really was a good woman, and she had a good mind, and she had a real, strong sweetness, and she could surely really teach him. “Oh I always like to talk to you Dr. Campbell” said Melanctha, “And then you was only just honest to me, and I always like it when a man is really honest to me.” Then they were again very silent, sitting there together, with the lamp between them, that was always smoking. Melanctha began to lean a little more toward Dr. Campbell, where he was sitting, and then she took his hand between her two and pressed it hard, but she said nothing to him. She let it go then and leaned a little nearer to him. Jefferson moved a little but did not do anything in answer. At last, “Well,” said Melanctha sharply to him. “I was just thinking” began Dr. Campbell slowly, “I was just wondering,” he was beginning to get ready to go on with his talking. “Don’t you ever stop with your thinking long enough ever to have any feeling Jeff Campell,” said Melanctha a little sadly. “I don’t know,” said Jeff Campbell slowly, “I don’t know Miss Melanctha much about that. No, I don’t stop thinking much Miss Melanctha and if I can’t ever feel without stopping thinking, I certainly am very much afraid Miss Melanctha that I never will do much with that kind of feeling. Sure you ain’t worried Miss Melanctha, about my really not feeling very much all the time. I certainly do think I feel some, Miss Melanctha, even though I always do it without ever knowing how to stop with my thinking.” “I am certainly afraid I don’t think much of your kind of feeling Dr. Campbell.” “Why I think you certainly are wrong Miss Melanctha I certainly do think I feel as much for you Miss Melanctha, as you ever feel about me, sure I do. I don’t think you know me right when you talk like that to me. Tell me just straight out how much do you care about me, Miss Melanctha.” “Care about you Jeff Campbell,” said Melanctha slowly. “I certainly do care for you Jeff Campbell less than you are always thinking and much more than you are ever knowing.” 196
  Jeff Campbell paused on this, and he was silent with the power of Melanctha’s meaning. They sat there together very silent, a long time. “Well Jeff Campbell,” said Melanctha. “Oh,” said Dr. Campbell and he moved himself a little, and then they were very silent a long time. “Haven’t you got nothing to say to me Jeff Campbell?” said Melanctha. “Why yes, what was it we were just saying about to one another. You see Miss Melanctha I am a very quiet, slow minded kind of fellow, and I am never sure I know just exactly what you mean by all that you are always saying to me. But I do like you very much Miss Melanctha and I am very sure you got very good things in you all the time. You sure do believe what I am saying to you Miss Melanctha.” “Yes I believe it when you say it to me, Jeff Campbell,” said Melanctha, and then she was silent and there was much sadness in it. “I guess I go in and lie down again Dr. Campbell,” said Melanctha. “Don’t go leave me Miss Melanctha,” said Jeff Campbell quickly. “Why not, what you want of me Jeff Campbell slowly, “I just want to go on talking with you. I certainly do like talking about all kinds of things with you. You certainly know that all right, Miss Melanctha.” “I guess I go lie down again and leave you here with your thinking,” said Melanctha gently. “I certainly am very tired to night Dr. Campbell. Good night I hope you rest well Dr. Campbell.” Melanctha stooped over him, where he was sitting, to say this good night, and then, very quick and sudden, she kissed him and then, very quick again, she went away and left him. 197
  Dr. Campbell sat there very quiet, with only a little thinking and sometimes a beginning feeling, and he was alone until it began to be morning, and then he went, and Melanctha helped him, and he made ‘Mis’ Herbert more easy in her dying. ‘Mis’ Herbert lingered on till about ten o’clock the next morning, and then slowly and without much pain she died away. Jeff Campbell staid till the last moment, with Melanctha, to make her mother’s dying easy for her. When it was over he sent in the colored woman from next door to help Melanctha fix things, and then he went away to take care of his other patients. He came back very soon to Melanctha. He helped her to have a funeral for her mother. Melanctha then went to live with the good natured woman, who had been her neighbor. Melanctha still saw Jeff Campbell very often. Things began to be very strong between them. 198
  Melanctha now never wandered, unless she was with Jeff Campbell. Sometimes she and he wandered a good deal together. Jeff Campbell had not got over his way of talking to her all the time about all the things he was always thinking. Melanctha never talked much, now, when they were together. Sometimes Jeff Campbell teased her about her not talking to him. “I certainly did think Melanctha you was a great talker from the way Jane Harden and everybody said things to me, and from the way I heard you talk so much when I first met you. Tell me true Melanctha, why don’t you talk more now to me, perhaps it is I talk so much I don’t give you any chance to say things to me, or perhaps it is you hear me talk so much you don’t think so much now of a whole lot of talking. Tell me honest Melanctha, why don’t you talk more to me.” “You know very well Jeff Campbell,” said Melanctha “You certainly do know very well Jeff, you don’t think really much, of my talking. You think a whole lot more about everything than I do Jeff, and you don’t care much what I got to say about it. You know that’s true what I am saying Jeff, if you want to be real honest, the way you always are when I like you so much.” Jeff laughed and looked fondly at her. “I don’t say ever I know, you ain’t right, when you say things like that to me, Melanctha. You see you always like to be talking just what you think everybody wants to be hearing from you, and when you are like that, Melanctha, honest, I certainly don’t care very much to hear you, but sometimes you say something that is what you are really thinking, and then I like a whole lot to hear you talking.” Melanctha smiled, with her strong sweetness, on him, and she felt her power very deeply. “I certainly never do talk very much when I like anybody really, Jeff. You see, Jeff, it ain’t much use to talk about what a woman is really feeling in her. You see all that, Jeff, better, by and by, when you get to really feeling. You won’t be so ready then always with your talking. You see, Jeff, if it don’t come true what I am saying.” “I don’t ever say you ain’t always right, Melanctha,” said Jeff Campbell. “Perhaps what I call my thinking ain’t really so very understanding. I don’t say, no never now any more, you ain’t right, Melanctha, when you really say things to me. Perhaps I see it all to be very different when I come to really see what you mean by what you are always saying to me.” “You is very sweet and good to me always, Jeff Campbell,” said Melanctha. “’Deed I certainly am not good to you, Melanctha. Don’t I bother you all the time with my talking, but I really do like you a whole lot, Melanctha.” “And I like you, Jeff Campbell, and you certainly are mother, and father, and brother, and sister, and child and everything, always to me. I can’t say much about how good you been to me, Jeff Campbell, I never knew any man who was good and didn’t do things ugly, before I met you to take care of me, Jeff Campbell. Good-by, Jeff, come see me to-morrow, when you get through with your working.” “Sure Melanctha, you know that already,” said Jeff Campbell, and then he went away and left her. 199
  These months had been an uncertain time for Jeff Campbell. He never knew how much he really knew about Melanctha. He saw her now for long times and very often. He was beginning always more and more to like her. But he did not seem to himself to know very much about her. He was beginning to feel he could almost trust the goodness in her. But then, always, really, he was not very sure about her. Melanctha always had ways that made him feel uncertain with her, and yet he was so near, in his feeling for her. He now never thought about all this in real words any more. He was always letting it fight itself out in him. He was now never taking any part in this fighting that was always going on inside him. 200


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