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  • St. John’s Eve1
  • Alice Dunbar-Nelson2

Edward King was a young man with a large and enthusiastic faith in himself and his own powers of self possession and ability to get on under any circumstances.3 ^B^e it said to his credit that h he was still very young, and had not yet penetrated far into the world which he regarded with a rather cynical contempt and pity for its general ignorance. He was but just out of school, and while waiting for the honors, which in the logical course of events, must, in the near future, surely be heaped upon him, he condescended to inquire of his uncle for a position which would spread the butte^r^ on his daily bread. His lofty superiority was too much for his uncle’s peace of mind, and while he could not refuse the boy a place he looked forward to a daily contact with his nephew as being too great a strain upon his nerves. King, Singleton and King was a grea^t^ commission house with branches in various Southern cities. Mr. King found a convenient vacancy in the New ^O^rleans house, and put his nephew there at once. To New ^O^rleans then, came Edward full of the dire necessity of regenerating the musty old town, and allowing it to reap to the full the benefit of his stay, necessarily4 a short one, since higher things must surely call him away soon.

It was hot weather, the latter part of May when he arrived and it was ^n^ot long before he had gotten around the city quite a little, and had drunken of its traditions, superstitions, and legends to the full. They filled him with more than an unusual amount of contempt, and he was wont to descant to his near acquaintances upon the folly of such traditions and beliefs in this enlightened age.

“I tell you, fellow^s^,” he said oracularly one day at noon, “ o its all folly, don’t you know, for you people to be living here in this, you may say , twentieth century, with such tommy-rot as I hear all about you, and you still having faith in it. Why I believe your town and its people have been asleep since the first building.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” put in, one ^G^asté, “I’m not so sure of that. If we had been asleep there wouldn’t thaxe be any big commission houses here for young Yankees to make a living out of.”

If Edward perceived the thrust, he took no notice of it, but puffed his cigarette calmly.

“It seems absurd,” he continued, “all this clinging to old forms and old things, just because your fathers liked ’em. Why the people actually venerate [End Page 408] that old black, praline woman down the street, just because she look^s^ like some other old b g lack praline woman of fifty years ago. ^N^ow, a bright, fresh boy in a white jacket to sell her bad candles, would not only be neater and cleaner, but more ^[active]^5 and ^less^ garrulous as well.”

Gasté exchanged pitying glances with his companions, and there being no reply, the conversation languished. But Edward continued his investigations, and between them, and the ^a^ scheme for the ‘Society for the Cure of Unnecessary Superstitions’, he was kept pretty busy outside of working hours.

“See here,” he said one evening to the other clerks, “what^s^ all this nonsense about voudooism and other such truck I hear?”

Gasté, as usual, spoke for his companions, “Well, it’s rather a big order, I’m afraid,” he smile[d] queerly as he spoke, “to attempt to describe it in full.”

“Oh, say now, you’d have me believe all such trash, wouldn’t you? Just give me a general idea, you know.”

[“]I’M afraid I can’t,” said Gasté coldly.

For several days, Edward pursued his investigations in the lower part of the city, and having arrived at the conclusion that he had unravelled all the mystery of it, he smiled knowingly to himself, and was content. His cock-sureness had...


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pp. 408-415
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