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Kennedy Square   By: (1838-1915)

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By F. Hopkinson Smith

Author's Preface:

"Kennedy Square, in the late fifties, was a place of birds and trees and flowers; of rude stone benches, sagging arbors smothered in vines, and cool dirt paths bordered by sweet smelling box. Giant magnolias filled the air with their fragrance, and climbing roses played hide and seek among the railings of the rotting fence. Along the shaded walks laughing boys and girls romped all day, with hoop and ball, attended by old black mammies in white aprons and gayly colored bandannas; while in the more secluded corners, sheltered by protecting shrubs, happy lovers sat and talked, tired wayfarers rested with hats off, and staid old gentlemen read by the hour, their noses in their books.

"Outside of all this color, perfume, and old time charm; outside the grass line and the rickety wooden fence that framed them in, ran an uneven pavement splashed with cool shadows and stained with green mould. Here, in summer, the watermelon man stopped his cart; and there, in winter, upon its broken bricks, old Moses unhooked his bucket of oysters and ceased for a moment his droning call.

"On the shady side of the square, and half hidden in ivy, was a Noah's Ark church, topped by a quaint belfry holding a bell that had not rung for years, and faced by a clock dial all weather stains and cracks, around which travelled a single rusty hand. In its shadow to the right lay the home of the archdeacon, a stately mansion with Corinthian columns reaching to the roof and surrounded by a spacious garden filled with damask roses and bushes of sweet syringa. To the left crouched a row of dingy houses built of brick, their iron balconies hung in flowering vines, the windows glistening with panes of wavy glass purpled by age.

"On the sunny side of the square, opposite the church, were more houses, high and low: one all garden, filled with broken nosed statues hiding behind still more magnolias; and another all veranda and honeysuckle, big rocking chairs and swinging hammocks; and still others with porticos curtained by white jasmine or Virginia creeper." From "The Fortunes of Oliver Horn."



On the precise day on which this story opens some sixty or more years ago, to be exact a bullet headed, merry eyed, mahogany colored young darky stood on the top step of an old fashioned, high stoop house, craning his head up and down and across Kennedy Square in the effort to get the first glimpse of his master, St. George Wilmot Temple, attorney and counsellor at law, who was expected home from a ducking trip down the bay.

Whether it was the need of this very diet, or whether St. George had felt a sudden longing for the out of doors, is a matter of doubt, but certain it is that some weeks before the very best shot in the county had betaken himself to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, accompanied by his guns, his four dogs, and two or three choice men of fashion young bloods of the time men with whom we shall become better acquainted as these chronicles go on there to search for the toothsome and elusive canvas back for which his State was famous.

That the darky was without a hat and in his shirt sleeves, and it winter the middle of January, really the only warm thing about him being the green baize apron tied about his waist, his customary livery when attending to his morning duties did not trouble him in the least. Marse George might come any minute, and he wanted to be the first to welcome him.

For the past few weeks Todd had had the house to himself. Coal black Aunt Jemima, with her knotted pig tails, capacious bosom, and unconfined waist, forty years his senior and ten shades darker in color, it is true, looked after the pots and pans, to say nothing of a particular spit on which her master's joints and game were roasted; but the upper part of the house, which covered the drawing room, dining room, bedroom, and dressing room in the rear, as well as the outside of the dwelling, including even the green painted front door and the slant of white marble steps that dropped to the brick sidewalk, were the especial property of the chocolate colored darky... Continue reading book >>

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