“When Wits Won”

transcribed by G. Douglas Clarke and Carol M. Clarke

One evening when I was about fifteen hears old, my parents, with the rest of the family except my two little brothers, one six, and the other four, left for prayer meeting.  I remained with them, as they were feeling ill.

A few minutes after they left, a young man came to the door, and wished to have shelter for the night.  I told him the man of the house would be in soon, he could be seated until he came.  He was very talkative to my brothers and soon drew the information from them that "our people have all gone to prayer meeting".  After a few minutes more talk with the boys, he turned his conversation to me, said he had labored under great disadvantages in traveling, as he did not always find combs.  He wished I would do him the kindness to comb his hair for him.  I said very emphatically No! You may step into the kitchen and use the combs and basins all you wish.  His pleasant manners, which he had assumed left him at once, and his face had the look of a fiend.

He asked the boys where they slept?  Childlike, they said "In Papa and Mama's room".  He told them to go to bed at once.  They said they were not going until their folks came home.  He then drew from his pocket a knife, and opened it and ordered them to go at once, or he would cut both of their ears off.  "O, Mary you won't let him cut our ears off will you?"; and they began to cry and scream.  I said "Sir! You put away that knife and stop such talk or I will call Amos the hired man (who was at the church with the rest).  He closed the knife and settled into a sulk with the most devilish smile I ever beheld.  He eyed every move I made, while I trembled from head to foot with fear.

The boys were still sobbing aloud, when we heard footsteps and in came one of the hired men who left the church before the services were out on account of feeling ill.

When my father came, I told what this young man's request was, and how he had acted both toward me and the boys.  Father told him he "never refused shelter to strangers but you are a dangerous young man.  If you stay here I shall make you my prisoner.  I shall lock you in your room, and in the morning let you go".

In the morning he preferred to leave without his breakfast.