Friday, March 23, 2012

The Ghost of Bunch's Bend

Banner-Democrat, Aug. 1, 1896
This story is listed under the title, "Bunch's Bend".

"It is a gloomy evening. The air is heavy with electricity, the gray clouds deepen into a stormy slate, the rank weeds and the dark, green vines entwining the tree trunks droop till they touch the tangled grasses on the ground. They are weighted down by their wealth of leaves and berries. The volume of the Mississippi grows strong and turbulent; its yellow surface is lashed into white-capped waves, and great black masses of drift wood are borne on its current.
Old Harry Balfour watches, uncasily, the clouds, the earth, the water. "Sho is his time Miss", whispers the old man very slowly and with a tremor in his voice, "Sho is his time. Wait jest one min'--Thar! thar he goes!" cries the negro. Right thar through them underbrushes; thar whar the little white church stands; over yonder by them broken down grave stones."
We look toward the spot indicated, but see nothing save the elder bushes; the cypress trees, the yellowish red trumpet vines and the indistinct outlines of the little white chyurch. "What does he look like?" I asked. "is he white as a sheet and his body thin as a vapor?" "Lor! Lor, Miss!" and the old man laughs heartily. "He ain't no mo' like a regular hant than you is. He's jes like any other man, cepten his face; that's sorter, pale and skeerish; and his eyes, they's big and deep set, and looks like dark light in 'um. He wears a long gray blanket shawl that kivers him from his neck to hs feet, but once I seed him throw it off. Tha's the furst night he ever come to me. Then I seed the blue shirt what he had on. It wuz too big for 'im and open at the neck and around his belt wuz hung his knives and a little pistol and some strings and a yellowish bag, and he sez to me, "Harry", sez he, "My name is Bunch, and this very place whar you lives uster belong to me, and that's why its called Bunch's Bend. Do you hear? Its called ---". But by dis time I begin feeling sorter creepish and so sez I: "Yes, yes sir. Does you want somepen to eat?" and I starts out out of de bed. But no, Miss, dat man did'nt want nothin'. He did'nt want no corn bread, and he did'nt wan't no pork, and he didn'nt want nary bit of cake, and he did'nt want no watermillion; no, Miss. 'pon my word, he did'nt want no watermillion. All he wants wuz jes to tell me thar wuz a chest as big as he wuz, buried out thar in the grave yard and that it wuz full, Miss, mind you, plum full of gold.
Him and his chums, they hid it way 'fore de war, and it didn'nt belong to none of um, and now he says his speerit it can't get no rest til dat gold has done been found and given back to de ancestors of dem folks what he took it from.

A full good hundred years have passed since old Charon rowed the soul of Captain Bunch across the Styx (which narrow stream the river pirate doubtless found blacker than is the Mississippi on even the sotrmiest, blackest nights) and yet in the gloomy twilights old Balfour sees the long dead man wandering, wandering, wandering through the forest, looking always for the hidden, stolen treasure, tormented always by the memory of it, and longing oh, so intensely, for rest, blessed rest."

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