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The Uncalled A Novel   By: (1872-1906)

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A Novel



Author of "Lyrics of Lowly Life"

New York International Association of Newspapers and Authors 1901

Copyright, 1898 by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Copyright, 1898 by Dodd, Mead and Company

North River Bindery Co. Printers and Binders New York





It was about six o'clock of a winter's morning. In the eastern sky faint streaks of grey had come and were succeeded by flashes of red, crimson cloaked heralds of the coming day. It had snowed the day before, but a warm wind had sprung up during the night, and the snow had partially melted, leaving the earth showing through in ugly patches of yellow clay and sooty mud. Half despoiled of their white mantle, though with enough of it left to stand out in bold contrast to the bare places, the houses loomed up, black, dripping, and hideous. Every once in a while the wind caught the water as it trickled from the eaves, and sent it flying abroad in a chill unsparkling spray. The morning came in, cold, damp, and dismal.

At the end of a short, dirty street in the meanest part of the small Ohio town of Dexter stood a house more sagging and dilapidated in appearance than its disreputable fellows. From the foundation the walls converged to the roof, which seemed to hold its place less by virtue of nails and rafters than by faith. The whole aspect of the dwelling, if dwelling it could be called, was as if, conscious of its own meanness, it was shrinking away from its neighbours and into itself. A sickly light gleamed from one of the windows. As the dawn came into the sky, a woman came to the door and looked out. She was a slim woman, and her straggling, dusty coloured hair hung about an unpleasant sallow face. She shaded her eyes with her hand, as if the faint light could hurt those cold, steel grey orbs. "It 's mornin'," she said to those within. "I 'll have to be goin' along to git my man's breakfast: he goes to work at six o'clock, and I 'ain't got a thing cooked in the house fur him. Some o' the rest o' you 'll have to stay an' lay her out." She went back in and closed the door behind her.

"La, Mis' Warren, you ain't a goin' a'ready? Why, there 's everything to be done here yit: Margar't 's to be laid out, an' this house has to be put into some kind of order before the undertaker comes."

"I should like to know what else I 'm a goin' to do, Mis' Austin. Charity begins at home. My man 's got to go to work, an' he 's got to have his breakfast: there 's cares fur the livin' as well as fur the dead, I say, an' I don't believe in tryin' to be so good to them that 's gone that you furgit them that 's with you."

Mrs. Austin pinched up her shrivelled face a bit more as she replied, "Well, somebody ought to stay. I know I can't, fur I 've got a ter'ble big washin' waitin' fur me at home, an' it 's been two nights sence I 've had any sleep to speak of, watchin' here. I 'm purty near broke down."

"That 's jest what I 've been a sayin'," repeated Mrs. Warren. "There 's cares fur the livin' as well as fur the dead; you 'd ought to take care o' yoreself: first thing you know you 'll be flat o' yore own back."

A few other women joined their voices in the general protest against staying. It was for all the world as if they had been anxious to see the poor woman out of the world, and, now that they knew her to be gone, had no further concern for her. All had something to do, either husbands to get off to work or labours of their own to perform.

A little woman with a weak voice finally changed the current of talk by saying, "Well, I guess I kin stay: there 's some cold things at home that my man kin git, an' the childern 'll git off to school by themselves. They 'll all understand."

"That 's right, Melissy Davis," said a hard faced woman who had gone on about some work she was doing, without taking any notice of the clamorous deserters, "an' I 'll stay with you... Continue reading book >>

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