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I had heard about some of these things before, but not all of them. Jim knowed all kinds of signs. He said he knowed most everything. I said it looked to me like all the signs was about bad luck, and so I asked him if there warn’t any good-luck signs. He says: I’d heard some of these superstitions before, but not all of them. Jim knew about all kinds of signs. He said he knew almost all of them. I said it seemed to me that all the signs were about bad luck, so I asked him if there were any good luck signs. He said:
“Mighty few—an’ DEY ain’t no use to a body. What you want to know when good luck’s a-comin’ for? Want to keep it off?” And he said: “Ef you’s got hairy arms en a hairy breas’, it’s a sign dat you’s agwyne to be rich. Well, dey’s some use in a sign like dat, ’kase it’s so fur ahead. You see, maybe you’s got to be po’ a long time fust, en so you might git discourage’ en kill yo’sef ’f you didn’ know by de sign dat you gwyne to be rich bymeby.” “Only a few—but they aren’t much use to anyone. Why would you want to know when good luck’s coming? So you can keep it away?” Then he said: “If you’ve got hairy arms and a hairy chest, it’s a sign that you’re going to be rich. Well, there is some use in a sign like that because it gives you a glimpse into the distant future. Then you’d know that you were going to be rich even if you had to be poor for a while at first. It might keep you from getting discouraged and killing yourself.”
“Have you got hairy arms and a hairy breast, Jim?” “Do you have hairy arms and a hairy chest, Jim?”
“What’s de use to ax dat question? Don’t you see I has?” “Why ask that question? Can’t you see that I do?”
“Well, are you rich?” “Well, are you rich?”
“No, but I ben rich wunst, and gwyne to be rich agin. Wunst I had foteen dollars, but I tuck to specalat’n’, en got busted out.” “No, but I was rich once, and I’m going to be rich again. Once I had fourteen dollars. But I lost it all on bad investments.”
“What did you speculate in, Jim?” “What did you invest in, Jim?”
“Well, fust I tackled stock.” “Well, first I bought some stock.”
“What kind of stock?” “What kid of stock?”
“Why, live stock—cattle, you know. I put ten dollars in a cow. But I ain’ gwyne to resk no mo’ money in stock. De cow up ’n’ died on my han’s.” “Livestock—cattle. I invested ten dollars in a cow. But I’m not going to risk any more money in stock. The cow up and died before it went to market.”
“So you lost the ten dollars.” “So you lost the ten dollars?”
“No, I didn’t lose it all. I on’y los’ ’bout nine of it. I sole de hide en taller for a dollar en ten cents.” “No, I didn’t lose it all. I only lost about nine of it. I sold the hide and tail for a dollar and ten cents.”
“You had five dollars and ten cents left. Did you speculate any more?” “So you have five dollars and ten cents left. Did you invest any more after that?”
“Yes. You know that one-laigged nigger dat b’longs to old Misto Bradish? Well, he sot up a bank, en say anybody dat put in a dollar would git fo’ dollars mo’ at de en’ er de year. Well, all de niggers went in, but dey didn’t have much. I wuz de on’y one dat had much. So I stuck out for mo’ dan fo’ dollars, en I said ’f I didn’ git it I’d start a bank mysef. Well, o’ course dat nigger want’ to keep me out er de business, bekase he says dey warn’t business ’nough for two banks, so he say I could put in my five dollars en he pay me thirty-five at de en’ er de year. “Yes. You know that one-legged n----- that belongs to old Mister Bradish? Well, he set up his own bank and said anyone that a dollar investment would return four dollars more at the end of the year. Well, all the n------ put their money in the bank, even though they didn’t have much. I was the only one that had a lot. So I held out for a better interest rate than four dollars and said I’d start my own bank if he didn’t give me more. Of course, that n----- wanted to keep me out of business because he said there wasn’t enough business for two banks. He said if I put in my five he’d pay me thirty-five dollars at the end of the year.
“So I done it. Den I reck’n’d I’d inves’ de thirty-five dollars right off en keep things a-movin’. Dey wuz a nigger name’ Bob, dat had ketched a wood-flat, en his marster didn’ know it; en I bought it off’n him en told him to take de thirty-five dollars when de en’ er de year come; but somebody stole de wood-flat dat night, en nex day de one-laigged nigger say de bank’s busted. So dey didn’ none uv us git no money.” “So I did. Then I figured I’d invest the thirty-five dollars initially to keep things moving. There was a n----- named Bob that had caught a wooden


a piece of straight timber used to build ships

in the river without his master’s knowledge. I bought it off him and told him I’d give him thirty-five dollars at the end of the year. But someone stole the flat that night, and the next day the one-legged n----- said the bank had gone bust. So none of us got our money back.”
“What did you do with the ten cents, Jim?” “So what did you do with the remaining ten cents, Jim?”
“Well, I ’uz gwyne to spen’ it, but I had a dream, en de dream tole me to give it to a nigger name’ Balum—Balum’s Ass dey call him for short; he’s one er dem chuckleheads, you know. But he’s lucky, dey say, en I see I warn’t lucky. De dream say let Balum inves’ de ten cents en he’d make a raise for me. Well, Balum he tuck de money, en when he wuz in church he hear de preacher say dat whoever give to de po’ len’ to de Lord, en boun’ to git his money back a hund’d times. So Balum he tuck en give de ten cents to de po’, en laid low to see what wuz gwyne to come of it.” “Well, I was going to spend it, but I had a dream that told me to give it to a n----- named Balum. His nickname was Balum’s Ass, because he’s a chucklehead, you know. But they say he’s lucky, and I knew I certainly wasn’t lucky. The dream said to let Balum invest the ten cents for me so that I could make a profit. Well, Balum had heard a preacher in church who said that whoever gave money to the poor was lending to the Lord and was bound to get his money back a hundred times over. So he donated the ten cents and then waited to see what would happen.”
“Well, what did come of it, Jim?” “And what happened, Jim?”
“Nuffn never come of it. I couldn’ manage to k’leck dat money no way; en Balum he couldn’. I ain’ gwyne to len’ no mo’ money ’dout I see de security. Boun’ to git yo’ money back a hund’d times, de preacher says! Ef I could git de ten CENTS back, I’d call it squah, en be glad er de chanst.” “Nothing. I couldn’t manage to collect that money, and neither could Balum. I’m never going to lend money unless I’m sure it’s safe. Bound to get your money back a hundred times, the preacher said! If I could get ten CENTS back, I’d call us even and would be glad of it.”
“Well, it’s all right anyway, Jim, long as you’re going to be rich again some time or other.” “Well, it’s okay anyway, Jim, as long as you’re going to be rich again at some point.”