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A Worn Path

by Eudora Welty .....

It was December—a bright frozen day in the early morning. Far out in the country there was an old Negro woman with her head tied in a red rag, coming along a path through the pinewoods. Her name was Phoenix Jackson. She was very old and small and she walked slowly in the dark pine shadows, moving a little from side to side in her steps, with the balanced heaviness and lightness of a pendulum in a grandfather clock. She carried a thin, small cane made from an umbrella, and with this she kept tapping the frozen earth in front of her. This made a grave and persistent noise in the still air that seemed meditative, like the chirping of a solitary little bird.

She wore a dark striped dress
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Down in the hollow was the mourning dove—it was not too late for him.

The path ran up a hill. 'Seem like there is chains about my feet, time I get this far,' she said, in the voice of argument old people keep to use with themselves. 'Something always take a hold of me on this hill—pleads I should stay.'

After she got to the top, she turned and gave a full, severe look behind her where she had come. 'Up through pines,' she said at length. 'Now down through oaks.'

Her eyes opened their widest, and she started down gently. But before she got to the bottom of the hill a bush caught her dress.

Her fingers were busy and intent, but her skirts were full and long, so that before she could pull them free in one place they were caught in another. It was not possible to allow the dress to tear. 'I in the thorny bush,' she said. 'Thorns, you doing your appointed work. Never want to let folks pass—no, sir. Old eyes thought you was a pretty little green bush.'

Finally, trembling all over, she stood free, and after a moment dared to stoop for her cane.

'Sun so high!' she cried, leaning back and looking, while the thick tears went over her eyes. 'The time getting all gone here.'

At the foot of this hill was a place where a log was laid across the creek.

'Now comes the trial,' said Phoenix. Putting her right foot out, she mounted the log and shut her eyes. Lifting her skirt, leveling her cane fiercely before her like a festival

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