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THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
(Tom Sawyer's Comrade)
(Samuel L. Clemens)
Chapter XIX to Chapter XXXII
TWO or three days and nights went by; I reckon I might say they swum by, they slid along so quiet and smooth and lovely. Here is the way we put in the time. It was a monstrous big river down there -- sometimes a mile and a half wide; we run nights, and laid up and hid daytimes; soon as night was most gone we stopped navigating and tied up -- nearly always in the dead water under a towhead; and then cut young cottonwoods and willows, and hid the raft with them. Then we set out the lines. Next we slid into the river and had a swim, so as to freshen up and cool off; then we set down on the sandy bottom where the water was about knee deep, and watched the day- light come. Not a sound anywheres -- perfectly still -- just like the whole world was asleep, only sometimes the bullfrogs a-cluttering, maybe. The first thing to see, looking away over the water, was a kind of dull line -- that was the woods on t'other side; you couldn't make nothing else out; then a pale place in the sky; then more paleness spreading around; then the river softened up away off, and warn't black any more, but gray; you could see little dark spots drifting along ever so far away -- trading scows, and such things; and long black streaks -- rafts; sometimes you could hear a sweep screaking; or jumbled up voices, it was so still, and sounds come so far; and by and by you could see a streak on the water which you know by the look of the streak that there's a snag there in a swift current which breaks on it and makes that streak look that way; and you see the mist curl up off of the water, and the east reddens up, and the river, and you make out a log-cabin in the edge of the woods, away on the bank on t'other side of the river, being a woodyard, likely, and piled by them cheats so you can throw a dog through it anywheres; then the nice breeze springs up, and comes fanning you from over there, so cool and fresh and sweet to smell on account of the woods and the flowers; but sometimes not that way, because they've left dead fish laying around, gars and such, and they do get pretty rank; and next you've got the full day, and every- thing smiling in the sun, and the song-birds just going it!
A little smoke couldn't be noticed now, so we would take some fish off of the lines and cook up a hot break- fast. And afterwards we would watch the lonesome- ness of the river, and kind of lazy along, and by and by lazy off to sleep. Wake up by and by, and look to see what done it, and maybe see a steamboat coughing along up-stream, so far off towards the other side you couldn't tell nothing about her only whether she was a stern-wheel or side-wheel; then for about an hour there wouldn't be nothing to hear nor nothing to see -- just solid lonesomeness. Next you'd see a raft sliding by, away off yonder, and maybe a galoot on it chopping, because they're most always doing it on a raft; you'd see the axe flash and come down -- you don't hear nothing; you see that axe go up again, and by the time it's above the man's head then you hear the K'CHUNK! -- it had took all that time to come over the water. So we would put in the day, lazying around, listening to the stillness. Once there was a thick fog, and the rafts and things that went by was beating tin pans so the steamboats wouldn't run over them. A scow or a raft went by so close we could hear them talking and cussing and laughing -- heard them plain; but we couldn't see no sign of them; it made you feel crawly; it was like spirits carrying on that way in the air. Jim said he believed it was spirits; but I says:
"No; spirits wouldn't say, 'Dern the dern fog.'"
Soon as it was night out we shoved; when we got her out to about the middle we let her alone, and let her float wherever the current wanted her to; then we lit the pipes, and dangled our legs in the water, and talked about all kinds of things -- we was always naked, day and night, whenever the mosquitoes would let us -- the new clothes Buck's folks made for me was too good to be comfortable, and besides I didn't go much on clothes, nohow.
Sometimes we'd have that whole river all to ourselves for the longest time. Yonder was the banks and the islands, across the water; and maybe a spark -- which was a candle in a cabin window; and sometimes on the water you could see a spark or two -- on a raft or a scow, you know; and maybe you could hear a fiddle or a song coming over from one of them crafts. It's lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened. Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to MAKE so many. Jim said the moon could a LAID them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn't say nothing against it, because I've seen a frog lay most as many, so of course it could be done. We used to watch the stars that fell, too, and see them streak down. Jim allowed they'd got spoiled and was hove out of the nest.
Once or twice of a night we would see a steamboat slipping along in the dark, and now and then she would belch a whole world of sparks up out of her chimbleys, and they would rain down in the river and look awful pretty; then she would turn a corner and her lights would wink out and her powwow shut off and leave the river still again; and by and by her waves would get to us, a long time after she was gone, and joggle the raft a bit, and after that you wouldn't hear nothing for you couldn't tell how long, except maybe frogs or something.
After midnight the people on shore went to bed, and then for two or three hours the shores was black -- no more sparks in the cabin windows. These sparks was our clock -- the first one that showed again meant morning was coming, so we hunted a place to hide and tie up right away.
One morning about daybreak I found a canoe and crossed over a chute to the main shore -- it was only two hundred yards -- and paddled about a mile up a crick amongst the cypress woods, to see if I couldn't get some berries. Just as I was passing a place where a kind of a cowpath crossed the crick, here comes a couple of men tearing up the path as tight as they could foot it. I thought I was a goner, for whenever anybody was after anybody I judged it was ME -- or maybe Jim. I was about to dig out from there in a hurry, but they was pretty close to me then, and sung out and begged me to save their lives -- said they hadn't been doing nothing, and was being chased for it -- said there was men and dogs a-coming. They wanted to jump right in, but I says:
"Don't you do it. I don't hear the dogs and horses yet; you've got time to crowd through the brush and get up the crick a little ways; then you take to the water and wade down to me and get in -- that'll throw the dogs off the scent."
They done it, and soon as they was aboard I lit out for our towhead, and in about five or ten minutes we heard the dogs and the men away off, shouting. We heard them come along towards the crick, but couldn't see them; they seemed to stop and fool around a while; then, as we got further and further away all the time, we couldn't hardly hear them at all; by the time we had left a mile of woods behind us and struck the river, everything was quiet, and we paddled over to the towhead and hid in the cottonwoods and was safe.
One of these fellows was about seventy or upwards, and had a bald head and very gray whiskers. He had an old battered-up slouch hat on, and a greasy blue woollen shirt, and ragged old blue jeans britches stuffed into his boot-tops, and home-knit galluses -- no, he only had one. He had an old long-tailed blue jeans coat with slick brass buttons flung over his arm, and both of them had big, fat, ratty-looking carpet-bags.
The other fellow was about thirty, and dressed about as ornery. After breakfast we all laid off and talked, and the first thing that come out was that these chaps didn't know one another.
"What got you into trouble?" says the baldhead to t'other chap.
"Well, I'd been selling an article to take the tartar off the teeth -- and it does take it off, too, and generly the enamel along with it -- but I stayed about one night longer than I ought to, and was just in the act of sliding out when I ran across you on the trail this side of town, and you told me they were coming, and begged me to help you to get off. So I told you I was ex- pecting trouble myself, and would scatter out WITH you. That's the whole yarn -- what's yourn?
"Well, I'd ben a-running' a little temperance revival thar 'bout a week, and was the pet of the women folks, big and little, for I was makin' it mighty warm for the rummies, I TELL you, and takin' as much as five or six dollars a night -- ten cents a head, children and niggers free -- and business a-growin' all the time, when somehow or another a little report got around last night that I had a way of puttin' in my time with a private jug on the sly. A nigger rousted me out this mornin', and told me the people was getherin' on the quiet with their dogs and horses, and they'd be along pretty soon and give me 'bout half an hour's start, and then run me down if they could; and if they got me they'd tar and feather me and ride me on a rail, sure. I didn't wait for no breakfast -- I warn't hungry."
"Old man," said the young one, "I reckon we might double-team it together; what do you think?"
"I ain't undisposed. What's your line -- mainly?"
"Jour printer by trade; do a little in patent medi- cines; theater-actor -- tragedy, you know; take a turn to mesmerism and phrenology when there's a chance; teach singing-geography school for a change; sling a lecture sometimes -- oh, I do lots of things -- most anything that comes handy, so it ain't work. What's your lay?"
"I've done considerble in the doctoring way in my time. Layin' on o' hands is my best holt -- for cancer and paralysis, and sich things; and I k'n tell a fortune pretty good when I've got somebody along to find out the facts for me. Preachin's my line, too, and workin' camp-meetin's, and missionaryin' around."
Nobody never said anything for a while; then the young man hove a sigh and says:
"What 're you alassin' about?" says the bald- head.
"To think I should have lived to be leading such a life, and be degraded down into such company." And he begun to wipe the corner of his eye with a rag.
"Dern your skin, ain't the company good enough for you?" says the baldhead, pretty pert and uppish.
" Yes, it IS good enough for me; it's as good as I deserve; for who fetched me so low when I was so high? I did myself. I don't blame YOU, gentlemen -- far from it; I don't blame anybody. I deserve it all. Let the cold world do its worst; one thing I know -- there's a grave somewhere for me. The world may go on just as it's always done, and take everything from me -- loved ones, property, everything; but it can't take that. Some day I'll lie down in it and for- get it all, and my poor broken heart will be at rest." He went on a-wiping.
"Drot your pore broken heart," says the baldhead; "what are you heaving your pore broken heart at US f'r? WE hain't done nothing."
"No, I know you haven't. I ain't blaming you, gentlemen. I brought myself down -- yes, I did it myself. It's right I should suffer -- perfectly right -- I don't make any moan."
"Brought you down from whar? Whar was you brought down from?"
"Ah, you would not believe me; the world never believes -- let it pass -- 'tis no matter. The secret of my birth --"
"The secret of your birth! Do you mean to say --"
"Gentlemen," says the young man, very solemn, "I will reveal it to you, for I feel I may have confi- dence in you. By rights I am a duke!"
Jim's eyes bugged out when he heard that; and I reckon mine did, too. Then the baldhead says: "No! you can't mean it?"
"Yes. My great-grandfather, eldest son of the Duke of Bridgewater, fled to this country about the end of the last century, to breathe the pure air of free- dom; married here, and died, leaving a son, his own father dying about the same time. The second son of the late duke seized the titles and estates -- the infant real duke was ignored. I am the lineal descendant of that infant -- I am the rightful Duke of Bridgewater; and here am I, forlorn, torn from my high estate, hunted of men, despised by the cold world, ragged, worn, heart-broken, and degraded to the companion- ship of felons on a raft!"
Jim pitied him ever so much, and so did I. We tried to comfort him, but he said it warn't much use, he couldn't be much comforted; said if we was a mind to acknowledge him, that would do him more good than most anything else; so we said we would, if he would tell us how. He said we ought to bow when we spoke to him, and say "Your Grace," or "My Lord," or "Your Lordship" -- and he wouldn't mind it if we called him plain "Bridgewater," which, he said, was a title anyway, and not a name; and one of us ought to wait on him at dinner, and do any little thing for him he wanted done.
Well, that was all easy, so we done it. All through dinner Jim stood around and waited on him, and says, "Will yo' Grace have some o' dis or some o' dat?" and so on, and a body could see it was mighty pleasing to him.
But the old man got pretty silent by and by -- didn't have much to say, and didn't look pretty comfortable over all that petting that was going on around that duke. He seemed to have something on his mind. So, along in the afternoon, he says:
"Looky here, Bilgewater," he says, "I'm nation sorry for you, but you ain't the only person that's had troubles like that."
"No you ain't. You ain't the only person that's ben snaked down wrongfully out'n a high place."
"No, you ain't the only person that's had a secret of his birth." And, by jings, HE begins to cry.
"Hold! What do you mean?"
"Bilgewater, kin I trust you?" says the old man, still sort of sobbing.
"To the bitter death!" He took the old man by the hand and squeezed it, and says, "That secret of your being: speak!"
"Bilgewater, I am the late Dauphin!"
You bet you, Jim and me stared this time. Then the duke says:
"You are what?"
"Yes, my friend, it is too true -- your eyes is look- in' at this very moment on the pore disappeared Dauphin, Looy the Seventeen, son of Looy the Six- teen and Marry Antonette."
"You! At your age! No! You mean you're the late Charlemagne; you must be six or seven hun- dred years old, at the very least."
"Trouble has done it, Bilgewater, trouble has done it; trouble has brung these gray hairs and this prema- ture balditude. Yes, gentlemen, you see before you, in blue jeans and misery, the wanderin', exiled, tram- pled-on, and sufferin' rightful King of France."
Well, he cried and took on so that me and Jim didn't know hardly what to do, we was so sorry -- and so glad and proud we'd got him with us, too. So we set in, like we done before with the duke, and tried to comfort HIM. But he said it warn't no use, nothing but to be dead and done with it all could do him any good; though he said it often made him feel easier and better for a while if people treated him according to his rights, and got down on one knee to speak to him, and always called him "Your Majesty," and waited on him first at meals, and didn't set down in his presence till he asked them. So Jim and me set to majestying him, and doing this and that and t'other for him, and standing up till he told us we might set down. This done him heaps of good, and so he got cheerful and comfortable. But the duke kind of soured on him, and didn't look a bit satisfied with the way things was going; still, the king acted real friendly towards him, and said the duke's great-grandfather and all the other Dukes of Bilgewater was a good deal thought of by HIS father, and was allowed to come to the palace considerable; but the duke stayed huffy a good while, till by and by the king says:
"Like as not we got to be together a blamed long time on this h-yer raft, Bilgewater, and so what's the use o' your bein' sour? It 'll only make things on- comfortable. It ain't my fault I warn't born a duke, it ain't your fault you warn't born a king -- so what's the use to worry? Make the best o' things the way you find 'em, says I -- that's my motto. This ain't no bad thing that we've struck here -- plenty grub and an easy life -- come, give us your hand, duke, and le's all be friends."
The duke done it, and Jim and me was pretty glad to see it. It took away all the uncomfortableness and we felt mighty good over it, because it would a been a miserable business to have any unfriendliness on the raft; for what you want, above all things, on a raft, is for everybody to be satisfied, and feel right and kind towards the others.
It didn't take me long to make up my mind that these liars warn't no kings nor dukes at all, but just low-down humbugs and frauds. But I never said nothing, never let on; kept it to myself; it's the best way; then you don't have no quarrels, and don't get into no trouble. If they wanted us to call them kings and dukes, I hadn't no objections, 'long as it would keep peace in the family; and it warn't no use to tell Jim, so I didn't tell him. If I never learnt nothing else out of pap, I learnt that the best way to get along with his kind of people is to let them have their own way.
THEY asked us considerable many questions; wanted to know what we covered up the raft that way for, and laid by in the daytime instead of running -- was Jim a runaway nigger? Says I:
"Goodness sakes! would a runaway nigger run SOUTH?"
No, they allowed he wouldn't. I had to account for things some way, so I says:
"My folks was living in Pike County, in Missouri, where I was born, and they all died off but me and pa and my brother Ike. Pa, he 'lowed he'd break up and go down and live with Uncle Ben, who's got a little one-horse place on the river, forty-four mile below Orleans. Pa was pretty poor, and had some debts; so when he'd squared up there warn't nothing left but sixteen dollars and our nigger, Jim. That warn't enough to take us fourteen hundred mile, deck passage nor no other way. Well, when the river rose pa had a streak of luck one day; he ketched this piece of a raft; so we reckoned we'd go down to Orleans on it. Pa's luck didn't hold out; a steamboat run over the forrard corner of the raft one night, and we all went overboard and dove under the wheel; Jim and me come up all right, but pa was drunk, and Ike was only four years old, so they never come up no more. Well, for the next day or two we had considerable trouble, because people was always coming out in skiffs and trying to take Jim away from me, saying they be- lieved he was a runaway nigger. We don't run day- times no more now; nights they don't bother us."
The duke says:
"Leave me alone to cipher out a way so we can run in the daytime if we want to. I'll think the thing over -- I'll invent a plan that'll fix it. We'll let it alone for to-day, because of course we don't want to go by that town yonder in daylight -- it mightn't be healthy."
Towards night it begun to darken up and look like rain; the heat lightning was squirting around low down in the sky, and the leaves was beginning to shiver -- it was going to be pretty ugly, it was easy to see that. So the duke and the king went to overhauling our wigwam, to see what the beds was like. My bed was a straw tickQbetter than Jim's, which was a corn- shuck tick; there's always cobs around about in a shuck tick, and they poke into you and hurt; and when you roll over the dry shucks sound like you was rolling over in a pile of dead leaves; it makes such a rustling that you wake up. Well, the duke allowed he would take my bed; but the king allowed he wouldn't. He says:
"I should a reckoned the difference in rank would a sejested to you that a corn-shuck bed warn't just fitten for me to sleep on. Your Grace 'll take the shuck bed yourself."
Jim and me was in a sweat again for a minute, being afraid there was going to be some more trouble amongst them; so we was pretty glad when the duke says:
"'Tis my fate to be always ground into the mire under the iron heel of oppression. Misfortune has broken my once haughty spirit; I yield, I submit; 'tis my fate. I am alone in the world -- let me suffer; can bear it."
We got away as soon as it was good and dark. The king told us to stand well out towards the middle of the river, and not show a light till we got a long ways below the town. We come in sight of the little bunch of lights by and by -- that was the town, you know -- and slid by, about a half a mile out, all right. When we was three-quarters of a mile below we hoisted up our signal lantern; and about ten o'clock it come on to rain and blow and thunder and lighten like every- thing; so the king told us to both stay on watch till the weather got better; then him and the duke crawled into the wigwam and turned in for the night. It was my watch below till twelve, but I wouldn't a turned in anyway if I'd had a bed, because a body don't see such a storm as that every day in the week, not by a long sight. My souls, how the wind did scream along! And every second or two there'd come a glare that lit up the white-caps for a half a mile around, and you'd see the islands looking dusty through the rain, and the trees thrashing around in the wind; then comes a H-WHACK! -- bum! bum! bumble-umble-um-bum-bum- bum-bum -- and the thunder would go rumbling and grumbling away, and quit -- and then RIP comes an- other flash and another sockdolager. The waves most washed me off the raft sometimes, but I hadn't any clothes on, and didn't mind. We didn't have no trouble about snags; the lightning was glaring and flittering around so constant that we could see them plenty soon enough to throw her head this way or that and miss them.
I had the middle watch, you know, but I was pretty sleepy by that time, so Jim he said he would stand the first half of it for me; he was always mighty good that way, Jim was. I crawled into the wigwam, but the king and the duke had their legs sprawled around so there warn't no show for me; so I laid outside -- I didn't mind the rain, because it was warm, and the waves warn't running so high now. About two they come up again, though, and Jim was going to call me; but he changed his mind, because he reckoned they warn't high enough yet to do any harm; but he was mistaken about that, for pretty soon all of a sudden along comes a regular ripper and washed me over- board. It most killed Jim a-laughing. He was the easiest nigger to laugh that ever was, anyway.
I took the watch, and Jim he laid down and snored away; and by and by the storm let up for good and all; and the first cabin-light that showed I rousted him out, and we slid the raft into hiding quarters for the day.
The king got out an old ratty deck of cards after breakfast, and him and the duke played seven-up a while, five cents a game. Then they got tired of it, and allowed they would "lay out a campaign," as they called it. The duke went down into his carpet- bag, and fetched up a lot of little printed bills and read them out loud. One bill said, "The celebrated Dr. Armand de Montalban, of Paris," would "lecture on the Science of Phrenology" at such and such a place, on the blank day of blank, at ten cents admis- sion, and "furnish charts of character at twenty-five cents apiece." The duke said that was HIM. In an- other bill he was the "world-renowned Shakespearian tragedian, Garrick the Younger, of Drury Lane, Lon- don." In other bills he had a lot of other names and done other wonderful things, like finding water and gold with a "divining-rod," "dissipating witch spells," and so on. By and by he says:
"But the histrionic muse is the darling. Have you ever trod the boards, Royalty?"
"No," says the king.
"You shall, then, before you're three days older, Fallen Grandeur," says the duke. "The first good town we come to we'll hire a hall and do the sword fight in Richard III. and the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet. How does that strike you?"
"I'm in, up to the hub, for anything that will pay, Bilgewater; but, you see, I don't know nothing about play-actin', and hain't ever seen much of it. I was too small when pap used to have 'em at the palace. Do you reckon you can learn me?"
"All right. I'm jist a-freezn' for something fresh, anyway. Le's commence right away."
So the duke he told him all about who Romeo was and who Juliet was, and said he was used to being Romeo, so the king could be Juliet.
"But if Juliet's such a young gal, duke, my peeled head and my white whiskers is goin' to look oncommon odd on her, maybe."
"No, don't you worry; these country jakes won't ever think of that. Besides, you know, you'll be in costume, and that makes all the difference in the world; Juliet's in a balcony, enjoying the moonlight before she goes to bed, and she's got on her night- gown and her ruffled nightcap. Here are the costumes for the parts."
He got out two or three curtain-calico suits, which he said was meedyevil armor for Richard III. and t'other chap, and a long white cotton nightshirt and a ruffled nightcap to match. The king was satisfied; so the duke got out his book and read the parts over in the most splendid spread-eagle way, prancing around and acting at the same time, to show how it had got to be done; then he give the book to the king and told him to get his part by heart.
There was a little one-horse town about three mile down the bend, and after dinner the duke said he had ciphered out his idea about how to run in daylight without it being dangersome for Jim; so he allowed he would go down to the town and fix that thing. The king allowed he would go, too, and see if he couldn't strike something. We was out of coffee, so Jim said I better go along with them in the canoe and get some.
When we got there there warn't nobody stirring; streets empty, and perfectly dead and still, like Sun- day. We found a sick nigger sunning himself in a back yard, and he said everybody that warn't too young or too sick or too old was gone to camp- meeting, about two mile back in the woods. The king got the directions, and allowed he'd go and work that camp-meeting for all it was worth, and I might go, too.
The duke said what he was after was a printing- office. We found it; a little bit of a concern, up over a carpenter shop -- carpenters and printers all gone to the meeting, and no doors locked. It was a dirty, littered-up place, and had ink marks, and handbills with pictures of horses and runaway niggers on them, all over the walls. The duke shed his coat and said he was all right now. So me and the king lit out for the camp-meeting.
We got there in about a half an hour fairly dripping, for it was a most awful hot day. There was as much as a thousand people there from twenty mile around. The woods was full of teams and wagons, hitched everywheres, feeding out of the wagon-troughs and stomping to keep off the flies. There was sheds made out of poles and roofed over with branches, where they had lemonade and gingerbread to sell, and piles of watermelons and green corn and such-like truck.
The preaching was going on under the same kinds of sheds, only they was bigger and held crowds of people. The benches was made out of outside slabs of logs, with holes bored in the round side to drive sticks into for legs. They didn't have no backs. The preachers had high platforms to stand on at one end of the sheds. The women had on sun-bonnets; and some had linsey-woolsey frocks, some gingham ones, and a few of the young ones had on calico. Some of the young men was barefooted, and some of the children didn't have on any clothes but just a tow- linen shirt. Some of the old women was knitting, and some of the young folks was courting on the sly.
The first shed we come to the preacher was lining out a hymn. He lined out two lines, everybody sung it, and it was kind of grand to hear it, there was so many of them and they done it in such a rousing way; then he lined out two more for them to sing -- and so on. The people woke up more and more, and sung louder and louder; and towards the end some begun to groan, and some begun to shout. Then the preacher begun to preach, and begun in earnest, too; and went weaving first to one side of the platform and then the other, and then a-leaning down over the front of it, with his arms and his body going all the time, and shouting his words out with all his might; and every now and then he would hold up his Bible and spread it open, and kind of pass it around this way and that, shouting, "It's the brazen serpent in the wilderness! Look upon it and live!" And people would shout out, "Glory! -- A-a-MEN!" And so he went on, and the people groaning and crying and saying amen:
"Oh, come to the mourners' bench! come, black with sin! (AMEN!) come, sick and sore! (AMEN!) come, lame and halt and blind! (AMEN!) come, pore and needy, sunk in shame! (A-A-MEN!) come, all that's worn and soiled and suffering! -- come with a broken spirit! come with a contrite heart! come in your rags and sin and dirt! the waters that cleanse is free, the door of heaven stands open -- oh, enter in and be at rest!" (A-A-MEN! GLORY, GLORY HALLELUJAH!)
And so on. You couldn't make out what the preacher said any more, on account of the shouting and crying. Folks got up everywheres in the crowd, and worked their way just by main strength to the mourners' bench, with the tears running down their faces; and when all the mourners had got up there to the front benches in a crowd, they sung and shouted and flung themselves down on the straw, just crazy and wild.
Well, the first I knowed the king got a-going, and you could hear him over everybody; and next he went a-charging up on to the platform, and the preacher he begged him to speak to the people, and he done it. He told them he was a pirate -- been a pirate for thirty years out in the Indian Ocean -- and his crew was thinned out considerable last spring in a fight, and he was home now to take out some fresh men, and thanks to goodness he'd been robbed last night and put ashore off of a steamboat without a cent, and he was glad of it; it was the blessedest thing that ever happened to him, because he was a changed man now, and happy for the first time in his life; and, poor as he was, he was going to start right off and work his way back to the Indian Ocean, and put in the rest of his life trying to turn the pirates into the true path; for he could do it better than anybody else, being acquainted with all pirate crews in that ocean; and though it would take him a long time to get there without money, he would get there anyway, and every time he convinced a pirate he would say to him, "Don't you thank me, don't you give me no credit; it all belongs to them dear people in Pokeville camp- meeting, natural brothers and benefactors of the race, and that dear preacher there, the truest friend a pirate ever had!"
And then he busted into tears, and so did everybody. Then somebody sings out, "Take up a collection for him, take up a collection!" Well, a half a dozen made a jump to do it, but somebody sings out, "Let HIM pass the hat around!" Then everybody said it, the preacher too.
So the king went all through the crowd with his hat swabbing his eyes, and blessing the people and praising them and thanking them for being so good to the poor pirates away off there; and every little while the prettiest kind of girls, with the tears running down their cheeks, would up and ask him would he let them kiss him for to remember him by; and he always done it; and some of them he hugged and kissed as many as five or six times -- and he was invited to stay a week; and everybody wanted him to live in their houses, and said they'd think it was an honor; but he said as this was the last day of the camp-meeting he couldn't do no good, and besides he was in a sweat to get to the Indian Ocean right off and go to work on the pirates.
When we got back to the raft and he come to count up he found he had collected eighty-seven dollars and seventy-five cents. And then he had fetched away a three-gallon jug of whisky, too, that he found under a wagon when he was starting home through the woods. The king said, take it all around, it laid over any day he'd ever put in in the missionarying line. He said it warn't no use talking, heathens don't amount to shucks alongside of pirates to work a camp-meeting with.
The duke was thinking HE'D been doing pretty well till the king come to show up, but after that he didn't think so so much. He had set up and printed off two little jobs for farmers in that printing-office -- horse bills -- and took the money, four dollars. And he had got in ten dollars' worth of advertisements for the paper, which he said he would put in for four dollars if they would pay in advance -- so they done it. The price of the paper was two dollars a year, but he took in three subscriptions for half a dollar apiece on con- dition of them paying him in advance; they were going to pay in cordwood and onions as usual, but he said he had just bought the concern and knocked down the price as low as he could afford it, and was going to run it for cash. He set up a little piece of poetry, which he made, himself, out of his own head -- three verses -- kind of sweet and saddish -- the name of it was, "Yes, crush, cold world, this breaking heart" -- and he left that all set up and ready to print in the paper, and didn't charge nothing for it. Well, he took in nine dollars and a half, and said he'd done a pretty square day's work for it.
Then he showed us another little job he'd printed and hadn't charged for, because it was for us. It had a picture of a runaway nigger with a bundle on a stick over his shoulder, and "$200 reward" under it. The reading was all about Jim, and just described him to a dot. It said he run away from St. Jacques' planta- tion, forty mile below New Orleans, last winter, and likely went north, and whoever would catch him and send him back he could have the reward and expenses.
"Now," says the duke, "after to-night we can run in the daytime if we want to. Whenever we see any- body coming we can tie Jim hand and foot with a rope, and lay him in the wigwam and show this handbill and say we captured him up the river, and were too poor to travel on a steamboat, so we got this little raft on credit from our friends and are going down to get the reward. Handcuffs and chains would look still better on Jim, but it wouldn't go well with the story of us being so poor. Too much like jewelry. Ropes are the correct thing -- we must preserve the unities, as we say on the boards."
We all said the duke was pretty smart, and there couldn't be no trouble about running daytimes. We judged we could make miles enough that night to get out of the reach of the powwow we reckoned the duke's work in the printing office was going to make in that little town; then we could boom right along if we wanted to.
We laid low and kept still, and never shoved out till nearly ten o'clock; then we slid by, pretty wide away from the town, and didn't hoist our lantern till we was clear out of sight of it.
When Jim called me to take the watch at four in the morning, he says:
"Huck, does you reck'n we gwyne to run acrost any mo' kings on dis trip?"
"No," I says, "I reckon not."
"Well," says he, "dat's all right, den. I doan' mine one er two kings, but dat's enough. Dis one's powerful drunk, en de duke ain' much better."
I found Jim had been trying to get him to talk French, so he could hear what it was like; but he said he had been in this country so long, and had so much trouble, he'd forgot it.
IT was after sun-up now, but we went right on and didn't tie up. The king and the duke turned out by and by looking pretty rusty; but after they'd jumped overboard and took a swim it chippered them up a good deal. After breakfast the king he took a seat on the corner of the raft, and pulled off his boots and rolled up his britches, and let his legs dangle in the water, so as to be comfortable, and lit his pipe, and went to getting his Romeo and Juliet by heart. When he had got it pretty good him and the duke begun to practice it together. The duke had to learn him over and over again how to say every speech; and he made him sigh, and put his hand on his heart, and after a while he said he done it pretty well; "only," he says, "you mustn't bellow out ROMEO! that way, like a bull -- you must say it soft and sick and languishy, so -- R-o-o-meo! that is the idea; for Juliet's a dear sweet mere child of a girl, you know, and she doesn't bray like a jackass."
Well, next they got out a couple of long swords that the duke made out of oak laths, and begun to practice the sword fight -- the duke called himself Richard III.; and the way they laid on and pranced around the raft was grand to see. But by and by the king tripped and fell overboard, and after that they took a rest, and had a talk about all kinds of adventures they'd had in other times along the river.
After dinner the duke says:
"Well, Capet, we'll want to make this a first-class show, you know, so I guess we'll add a little more to it. We want a little something to answer encores with, anyway."
"What's onkores, Bilgewater?"
The duke told him, and then says:
"I'll answer by doing the Highland fling or the sailor's hornpipe; and you -- well, let me see -- oh, I've got it -- you can do Hamlet's soliloquy."
"Hamlet's soliloquy, you know; the most celebrated thing in Shakespeare. Ah, it's sublime, sublime! Al- ways fetches the house. I haven't got it in the book -- I've only got one volume -- but I reckon I can piece it out from memory. I'll just walk up and down a minute, and see if I can call it back from recollec- tion's vaults."
So he went to marching up and down, thinking, and frowning horrible every now and then; then he would hoist up his eyebrows; next he would squeeze his hand on his forehead and stagger back and kind of moan; next he would sigh, and next he'd let on to drop a tear. It was beautiful to see him. By and by he got it. He told us to give attention. Then he strikes a most noble attitude, with one leg shoved forwards, and his arms stretched away up, and his head tilted back, looking up at the sky; and then he begins to rip and rave and grit his teeth; and after that, all through his speech, he howled, and spread around, and swelled up his chest, and just knocked the spots out of any acting ever I see before. This is the speech -- I learned it, easy enough, while he was learning it to the king:
To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin That makes calamity of so long life; For who would fardels bear, till Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane, But that the fear of something after death Murders the innocent sleep, Great nature's second course, And makes us rather sling the arrows of outrageous fortune Than fly to others that we know not of. There's the respect must give us pause: Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The law's delay, and the quietus which his pangs might take, In the dead waste and middle of the night, when churchyards yawn In customary suits of solemn black, But that the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns, Breathes forth contagion on the world, And thus the native hue of resolution, like the poor cat i' the adage, Is sicklied o'er with care, And all the clouds that lowered o'er our housetops, With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. But soft you, the fair Ophelia: Ope not thy ponderous and marble jaws, But get thee to a nunnery -- go!
Well, the old man he liked that speech, and he mighty soon got it so he could do it first-rate. It seemed like he was just born for it; and when he had his hand in and was excited, it was perfectly lovely the way he would rip and tear and rair up behind when he was getting it off.
The first chance we got the duke he had some show- bills printed; and after that, for two or three days as we floated along, the raft was a most uncommon lively place, for there warn't nothing but sword fighting and rehearsing -- as the duke called it -- going on all the time. One morning, when we was pretty well down the State of Arkansaw, we come in sight of a little one-horse town in a big bend; so we tied up about three-quarters of a mile above it, in the mouth of a crick which was shut in like a tunnel by the cypress trees, and all of us but Jim took the canoe and went down there to see if there was any chance in that place for our show.
We struck it mighty lucky; there was going to be a circus there that afternoon, and the country people was already beginning to come in, in all kinds of old shackly wagons, and on horses. The circus would leave before night, so our show would have a pretty good chance. The duke he hired the courthouse, and we went around and stuck up our bills. They read like this:
Shaksperean Revival ! ! ! Wonderful Attraction! For One Night Only! The world renowned tragedians, David Garrick the Younger, of Drury Lane Theatre London, and Edmund Kean the elder, of the Royal Haymarket Theatre, Whitechapel, Pudding Lane, Piccadilly, London, and the Royal Continental Theatres, in their sublime Shaksperean Spectacle entitled The Balcony Scene in Romeo and Juliet ! ! ! Romeo...................Mr. Garrick Juliet..................Mr. Kean Assisted by the whole strength of the company! New costumes, new scenes, new appointments! Also: The thrilling, masterly, and blood-curdling Broad-sword conflict In Richard III. ! ! ! Richard III.............Mr. Garrick Richmond................Mr. Kean Also: (by special request) Hamlet's Immortal Soliloquy ! ! By The Illustrious Kean! Done by him 300 consecutive nights in Paris! For One Night Only, On account of imperative European engagements! Admission 25 cents; children and servants, 10 cents.
Then we went loafing around town. The stores and houses was most all old, shackly, dried up frame con- cerns that hadn't ever been painted; they was set up three or four foot above ground on stilts, so as to be out of reach of the water when the river was over- flowed. The houses had little gardens around them, but they didn't seem to raise hardly anything in them but jimpson-weeds, and sunflowers, and ash piles, and old curled-up boots and shoes, and pieces of bottles, and rags, and played-out tinware. The fences was made of different kinds of boards, nailed on at dif- ferent times; and they leaned every which way, and had gates that didn't generly have but one hinge -- a leather one. Some of the fences had been white- washed some time or another, but the duke said it was in Clumbus' time, like enough. There was generly hogs in the garden, and people driving them out.
All the stores was along one street. They had white domestic awnings in front, and the country peo- ple hitched their horses to the awning-posts. There was empty drygoods boxes under the awnings, and loafers roosting on them all day long, whittling them with their Barlow knives; and chawing tobacco, and gaping and yawning and stretching -- a mighty ornery lot. They generly had on yellow straw hats most as wide as an umbrella, but didn't wear no coats nor waistcoats, they called one another Bill, and Buck, and Hank, and Joe, and Andy, and talked lazy and drawly, and used considerable many cuss words. There was as many as one loafer leaning up against every awning-post, and he most always had his hands in his britches-pockets, except when he fetched them out to lend a chaw of tobacco or scratch. What a body was hearing amongst them all the time was:
"Gimme a chaw 'v tobacker, Hank "
"Cain't; I hain't got but one chaw left. Ask Bill."
Maybe Bill he gives him a chaw; maybe he lies and says he ain't got none. Some of them kinds of loafers never has a cent in the world, nor a chaw of tobacco of their own. They get all their chawing by borrowing; they say to a fellow, "I wisht you'd len' me a chaw, Jack, I jist this minute give Ben Thompson the last chaw I had" -- which is a lie pretty much everytime; it don't fool nobody but a stranger; but Jack ain't no stranger, so he says:
"YOU give him a chaw, did you? So did your sister's cat's grandmother. You pay me back the chaws you've awready borry'd off'n me, Lafe Buckner, then I'll loan you one or two ton of it, and won't charge you no back intrust, nuther."
"Well, I DID pay you back some of it wunst."
"Yes, you did -- 'bout six chaws. You borry'd store tobacker and paid back nigger-head."
Store tobacco is flat black plug, but these fellows mostly chaws the natural leaf twisted. When they borrow a chaw they don't generly cut it off with a knife, but set the plug in between their teeth, and gnaw with their teeth and tug at the plug with their hands till they get it in two; then sometimes the one that owns the tobacco looks mournful at it when it's handed back, and says, sarcastic:
"Here, gimme the CHAW, and you take the PLUG."
All the streets and lanes was just mud; they warn't nothing else BUT mud -- mud as black as tar and nigh about a foot deep in some places, and two or three inches deep in ALL the places. The hogs loafed and grunted around everywheres. You'd see a muddy sow and a litter of pigs come lazying along the street and whollop herself right down in the way, where folks had to walk around her, and she'd stretch out and shut her eyes and wave her ears whilst the pigs was milking her, and look as happy as if she was on salary. And pretty soon you'd hear a loafer sing out, "Hi! SO boy! sick him, Tige!" and away the sow would go, squealing most horrible, with a dog or two swinging to each ear, and three or four dozen more a-coming; and then you would see all the loafers get up and watch the thing out of sight, and laugh at the fun and look grateful for the noise. Then they'd settle back again till there was a dog fight. There couldn't anything wake them up all over, and make them happy all over, like a dog fight -- unless it might be putting turpentine on a stray dog and setting fire to him, or tying a tin pan to his tail and see him run himself to death.
On the river front some of the houses was sticking out over the bank, and they was bowed and bent, and about ready to tumble in, The people had moved out of them. The bank was caved away under one corner of some others, and that corner was hanging over. People lived in them yet, but it was dangersome, be- cause sometimes a strip of land as wide as a house caves in at a time. Sometimes a belt of land a quarter of a mile deep will start in and cave along and cave along till it all caves into the river in one summer. Such a town as that has to be always moving back, and back, and back, because the river's always gnawing at it.
The nearer it got to noon that day the thicker and thicker was the wagons and horses in the streets, and more coming all the time. Families fetched their dinners with them from the country, and eat them in the wagons. There was considerable whisky drinking going on, and I seen three fights. By and by some- body sings out:
"Here comes old Boggs! -- in from the country for his little old monthly drunk; here he comes, boys!"
All the loafers looked glad; I reckoned they was used to having fun out of Boggs. One of them says:
"Wonder who he's a-gwyne to chaw up this time. If he'd a-chawed up all the men he's ben a-gwyne to chaw up in the last twenty year he'd have considerable ruputation now."
Another one says, "I wisht old Boggs 'd threaten me, 'cuz then I'd know I warn't gwyne to die for a thousan' year."
Boggs comes a-tearing along on his horse, whooping and yelling like an Injun, and singing out:
"Cler the track, thar. I'm on the waw-path, and the price uv coffins is a-gwyne to raise."
He was drunk, and weaving about in his saddle; he was over fifty year old, and had a very red face. Everybody yelled at him and laughed at him and sassed him, and he sassed back, and said he'd attend to them and lay them out in their regular turns, but he couldn't wait now because he'd come to town to kill old Colonel Sherburn, and his motto was, "Meat first, and spoon vittles to top off on."
He see me, and rode up and says:
"Whar'd you come f'm, boy? You prepared to die?"
Then he rode on. I was scared, but a man says:
"He don't mean nothing; he's always a-carryin' on like that when he's drunk. He's the best natured- est old fool in Arkansaw -- never hurt nobody, drunk nor sober."
Boggs rode up before the biggest store in town, and bent his head down so he could see under the curtain of the awning and yells:
"Come out here, Sherburn! Come out and meet the man you've swindled. You're the houn' I'm after, and I'm a-gwyne to have you, too!"
And so he went on, calling Sherburn everything he could lay his tongue to, and the whole street packed with people listening and laughing and going on. By and by a proud-looking man about fifty-five -- and he was a heap the best dressed man in that town, too -- steps out of the store, and the crowd drops back on each side to let him come. He says to Boggs, mighty ca'm and slow -- he says:
"I'm tired of this, but I'll endure it till one o'clock. Till one o'clock, mind -- no longer. If you open your mouth against me only once after that time you can't travel so far but I will find you."
Then he turns and goes in. The crowd looked mighty sober; nobody stirred, and there warn't no more laughing. Boggs rode off blackguarding Sher- burn as loud as he could yell, all down the street; and pretty soon back he comes and stops before the store, still keeping it up. Some men crowded around him and tried to get him to shut up, but he wouldn't; they told him it would be one o'clock in about fifteen min- utes, and so he MUST go home -- he must go right away. But it didn't do no good. He cussed away with all his might, and throwed his hat down in the mud and rode over it, and pretty soon away he went a-raging down the street again, with his gray hair a- flying. Everybody that could get a chance at him tried their best to coax him off of his horse so they could lock him up and get him sober; but it warn't no use -- up the street he would tear again, and give Sherburn another cussing. By and by somebody says:
"Go for his daughter! -- quick, go for his daughter; sometimes he'll listen to her. If anybody can persuade him, she can."
So somebody started on a run. I walked down street a ways and stopped. In about five or ten min- utes here comes Boggs again, but not on his horse. He was a-reeling across the street towards me, bare- headed, with a friend on both sides of him a-holt of his arms and hurrying him along. He was quiet, and looked uneasy; and he warn't hanging back any, but was doing some of the hurrying himself. Somebody sings out:
I looked over there to see who said it, and it was that Colonel Sherburn. He was standing perfectly still in the street, and had a pistol raised in his right hand -- not aiming it, but holding it out with the barrel tilted up towards the sky. The same second I see a young girl coming on the run, and two men with her. Boggs and the men turned round to see who called him, and when they see the pistol the men jumped to one side, and the pistol-barrel come down slow and steady to a level -- both barrels cocked. Boggs throws up both of his hands and says, "O Lord, don't shoot!" Bang! goes the first shot, and he staggers back, clawing at the air -- bang! goes the second one, and he tumbles backwards on to the ground, heavy and solid, with his arms spread out. That young girl screamed out and comes rushing, and down she throws herself on her father, crying, and saying, "Oh, he's killed him, he's killed him!" The crowd closed up around them, and shouldered and jammed one another, with their necks stretched, trying to see, and people on the inside trying to shove them back and shouting, "Back, back! give him air, give him air!"
Colonel Sherburn he tossed his pistol on to the ground, and turned around on his heels and walked off.
They took Boggs to a little drug store, the crowd pressing around just the same, and the whole town following, and I rushed and got a good place at the window, where I was close to him and could see in. They laid him on the floor and put one large Bible under his head, and opened another one and spread it on his breast; but they tore open his shirt first, and I seen where one of the bullets went in. He made about a dozen long gasps, his breast lifting the Bible up when he drawed in his breath, and letting it down again when he breathed it out -- and after that he laid still; he was dead. Then they pulled his daughter away from him, screaming and crying, and took her off. She was about sixteen, and very sweet and gentle looking, but awful pale and scared.
Well, pretty soon the whole town was there, squirm- ing and scrouging and pushing and shoving to get at the window and have a look, but people that had the places wouldn't give them up, and folks behind them was saying all the time, "Say, now, you've looked enough, you fellows; 'tain't right and 'tain't fair for you to stay thar all the time, and never give nobody a chance; other folks has their rights as well as you."
There was considerable jawing back, so I slid out, thinking maybe there was going to be trouble. The streets was full, and everybody was excited. Every- body that seen the shooting was telling how it hap- pened, and there was a big crowd packed around each one of these fellows, stretching their necks and listen- ing. One long, lanky man, with long hair and a big white fur stovepipe hat on the back of his head, and a crooked-handled cane, marked out the places on the ground where Boggs stood and where Sherburn stood, and the people following him around from one place to t'other and watching everything he done, and bob- bing their heads to show they understood, and stoop- ing a little and resting their hands on their thighs to watch him mark the places on the ground with his cane; and then he stood up straight and stiff where Sherburn had stood, frowning and having his hat-brim down over his eyes, and sung out, "Boggs!" and then fetched his cane down slow to a level, and says "Bang!" staggered backwards, says "Bang!" again, and fell down flat on his back. The people that had seen the thing said he done it perfect; said it was just exactly the way it all happened. Then as much as a dozen people got out their bottles and treated him.
Well, by and by somebody said Sherburn ought to be lynched. In about a minute everybody was saying it; so away they went, mad and yelling, and snatching down every clothes-line they come to to do the hang- ing with.
THEY swarmed up towards Sherburn's house, a- whooping and raging like Injuns, and everything had to clear the way or get run over and tromped to mush, and it was awful to see. Children was heeling it ahead of the mob, screaming and trying to get out of the way; and every window along the road was full of women's heads, and there was nigger boys in every tree, and bucks and wenches looking over every fence; and as soon as the mob would get nearly to them they would break and skaddle back out of reach. Lots of the women and girls was crying and taking on, scared most to death.
They swarmed up in front of Sherburn's palings as thick as they could jam together, and you couldn't hear yourself think for the noise. It was a little twenty-foot yard. Some sung out "Tear down the fence! tear down the fence!" Then there was a racket of ripping and tearing and smashing, and down she goes, and the front wall of the crowd begins to roll in like a wave.
Just then Sherburn steps out on to the roof of his little front porch, with a double-barrel gun in his hand, and takes his stand, perfectly ca'm and deliberate, not saying a word. The racket stopped, and the wave sucked back.
Sherburn never said a word -- just stood there, look- ing down. The stillness was awful creepy and uncom- fortable. Sherburn run his eye slow along the crowd; and wherever it struck the people tried a little to out- gaze him, but they couldn't; they dropped their eyes and looked sneaky. Then pretty soon Sherburn sort of laughed; not the pleasant kind, but the kind that makes you feel like when you are eating bread that's got sand in it.
Then he says, slow and scornful:
"The idea of YOU lynching anybody! It's amusing. The idea of you thinking you had pluck enough to lynch a MAN! Because you're brave enough to tar and feather poor friendless cast-out women that come along here, did that make you think you had grit enough to lay your hands on a MAN? Why, a MAN'S safe in the hands of ten thousand of your kind -- as long as it's daytime and you're not behind him.
"Do I know you? I know you clear through was born and raised in the South, and I've lived in the North; so I know the average all around. The average man's a coward. In the North he lets anybody walk over him that wants to, and goes home and prays for a humble spirit to bear it. In the South one man all by himself, has stopped a stage full of men in the daytime, and robbed the lot. Your newspapers call you a brave people so much that you think you are braver than any other people -- whereas you're just AS brave, and no braver. Why don't your juries hang murderers? Because they're afraid the man's friends will shoot them in the back, in the dark -- and it's just what they WOULD do.
"So they always acquit; and then a MAN goes in the night, with a hundred masked cowards at his back and lynches the rascal. Your mistake is, that you didn't bring a man with you; that's one mistake, and the other is that you didn't come in the dark and fetch your masks. You brought PART of a man -- Buck Harkness, there -- and if you hadn't had him to start you, you'd a taken it out in blowing.
"You didn't want to come. The average man don't like trouble and danger. YOU don't like trouble and danger. But if only HALF a man -- like Buck Harkness, there -- shouts 'Lynch him! lynch him!' you're afraid to back down -- afraid you'll be found out to be what you are -- COWARDS -- and so you raise a yell, and hang yourselves on to that half-a-man's coat-tail, and come raging up here, swearing what big things you're going to do. The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that's what an army is -- a mob; they don't fight with courage that's born in them, but with cour- age that's borrowed from their mass, and from their officers. But a mob without any MAN at the head of it is BENEATH pitifulness. Now the thing for YOU to do is to droop your tails and go home and crawl in a hole. If any real lynching's going to be done it will be done in the dark, Southern fashion; and when they come they'll bring their masks, and fetch a MAN along. Now LEAVE -- and take your half-a-man with you" -- tossing his gun up across his left arm and cocking it when he says this.
The crowd washed back sudden, and then broke all apart, and went tearing off every which way, and Buck Harkness he heeled it after them, looking tolerable cheap. I could a stayed if I wanted to, but I didn't want to.
I went to the circus and loafed around the back side till the watchman went by, and then dived in under the tent. I had my twenty-dollar gold piece and some other money, but I reckoned I better save it, because there ain't no telling how soon you are going to need it, away from home and amongst strangers that way. You can't be too careful. I ain't opposed to spending money on circuses when there ain't no other way, but there ain't no use in WASTING it on them.
It was a real bully circus. It was the splendidest sight that ever was when they all come riding in, two and two, a gentleman and lady, side by side, the men just in their drawers and undershirts, and no shoes nor stirrups, and resting their hands on their thighs easy and comfortable -- there must a been twenty of them -- and every lady with a lovely complexion, and per- fectly beautiful, and looking just like a gang of real sure-enough queens, and dressed in clothes that cost millions of dollars, and just littered with diamonds. It was a powerful fine sight; I never see anything so lovely. And then one by one they got up and stood, and went a-weaving around the ring so gentle and wavy and graceful, the men looking ever so tall and airy and straight, with their heads bobbing and skimming along, away up there under the tent-roof, and every lady's rose-leafy dress flapping soft and silky around her hips, and she looking like the most loveliest parasol.
And then faster and faster they went, all of them dancing, first one foot out in the air and then the other, the horses leaning more and more, and the ringmaster going round and round the center-pole, cracking his whip and shouting "Hi! -- hi!" and the clown crack- ing jokes behind him; and by and by all hands dropped the reins, and every lady put her knuckles on her hips and every gentleman folded his arms, and then how the horses did lean over and hump themselves! And so one after the other they all skipped off into the ring, and made the sweetest bow I ever see, and then scampered out, and everybody clapped their hands and went just about wild.
Well, all through the circus they done the most astonishing things; and all the time that clown carried on so it most killed the people. The ringmaster couldn't ever say a word to him but he was back at him quick as a wink with the funniest things a body ever said; and how he ever COULD think of so many of them, and so sudden and so pat, was what I couldn't noway understand. Why, I couldn't a thought of them in a year. And by and by a drunk man tried to get into the ring -- said he wanted to ride; said he could ride as well as anybody that ever was. They argued and tried to keep him out, but he wouldn't listen, and the whole show come to a standstill. Then the people begun to holler at him and make fun of him, and that made him mad, and he begun to rip and tear; so that stirred up the people, and a lot of men begun to pile down off of the benches and swarm towards the ring, saying, "Knock him down! throw him out!" and one or two women begun to scream. So, then, the ringmaster he made a little speech, and said he hoped there wouldn't be no disturbance, and if the man would promise he wouldn't make no more trouble he would let him ride if he thought he could stay on the horse. So everybody laughed and said all right, and the man got on. The minute he was on, the horse begun to rip and tear and jump and cavort around, with two circus men hanging on to his bridle trying to hold him, and the drunk man hanging on to his neck, and his heels flying in the air every jump, and the whole crowd of people standing up shouting and laughing till tears rolled down. And at last, sure enough, all the circus men could do, the horse broke loose, and away he went like the very nation, round and round the ring, with that sot laying down on him and hanging to his neck, with first one leg hanging most to the ground on one side, and then t'other one on t'other side, and the people just crazy. It warn't funny to me, though; I was all of a tremble to see his danger. But pretty soon he struggled up astraddle and grabbed the bridle, a-reeling this way and that; and the next minute he sprung up and dropped the bridle and stood! and the horse a-going like a house afire too. He just stood up there, a-sailing around as easy and comfortable as if he warn't ever drunk in his life -- and then he begun to pull off his clothes and sling them. He shed them so thick they kind of clogged up the air, and altogether he shed seventeen suits. And, then, there he was, slim and handsome, and dressed the gaudiest and prettiest you ever saw, and he lit into that horse with his whip and made him fairly hum -- and finally skipped off, and made his bow and danced off to the dressing-room, and everybody just a-howling with pleasure and astonishment.
Then the ringmaster he see how he had been fooled, and he WAS the sickest ringmaster you ever see, I reckon. Why, it was one of his own men! He had got up that joke all out of his own head, and never let on to nobody. Well, I felt sheepish enough to be took in so, but I wouldn't a been in that ringmaster's place, not for a thousand dollars. I don't know; there may be bullier circuses than what that one was, but I never struck them yet. Anyways, it was plenty good enough for ME; and wherever I run across it, it can have all of MY custom every time.
Well, that night we had OUR show; but there warn't only about twelve people there -- just enough to pay expenses. And they laughed all the time, and that made the duke mad; and everybody left, anyway, before the show was over, but one boy which was asleep. So the duke said these Arkansaw lunkheads couldn't come up to Shakespeare; what they wanted was low comedy -- and maybe something ruther worse than low comedy, he reckoned. He said he could size their style. So next morning he got some big sheets of wrapping paper and some black paint, and drawed off some handbills, and stuck them up all over the village. The bills said:
AT THE COURT HOUSE! FOR 3 NIGHTS ONLY! The World-Renowned Tragedians DAVID GARRICK THE YOUNGER! AND EDMUND KEAN THE ELDER! Of the London and Continental Theatres, In their Thrilling Tragedy of THE KING'S CAMELEOPARD, OR THE ROYAL NONESUCH ! ! ! Admission 50 cents.
Then at the bottom was the biggest line of all, which said:
LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ADMITTED.
"There," says he, "if that line don't fetch them, I don't know Arkansaw!"
WELL, all day him and the king was hard at it, rigging up a stage and a curtain and a row of candles for footlights; and that night the house was jam full of men in no time. When the place couldn't hold no more, the duke he quit tending door and went around the back way and come on to the stage and stood up before the curtain and made a little speech, and praised up this tragedy, and said it was the most thrillingest one that ever was; and so he went on a- bragging about the tragedy, and about Edmund Kean the Elder, which was to play the main principal part in it; and at last when he'd got everybody's expecta- tions up high enough, he rolled up the curtain, and the next minute the king come a-prancing out on all fours, naked; and he was painted all over, ring- streaked-and-striped, all sorts of colors, as splendid as a rainbow. And -- but never mind the rest of his outfit; it was just wild, but it was awful funny. The people most killed themselves laughing; and when the king got done capering and capered off behind the scenes, they roared and clapped and stormed and haw- hawed till he come back and done it over again, and after that they made him do it another time. Well, it would make a cow laugh to see the shines that old idiot cut.
Then the duke he lets the curtain down, and bows to the people, and says the great tragedy will be per- formed only two nights more, on accounts of pressing London engagements, where the seats is all sold already for it in Drury Lane; and then he makes them another bow, and says if he has succeeded in pleasing them and instructing them, he will be deeply obleeged if they will mention it to their friends and get them to come and see it.
Twenty people sings out:
"What, is it over? Is that ALL?"
The duke says yes. Then there was a fine time. Everybody sings out, "Sold!" and rose up mad, and was a-going for that stage and them tragedians. But a big, fine looking man jumps up on a bench and shouts:
"Hold on! Just a word, gentlemen." They stopped to listen. "We are sold -- mighty badly sold. But we don't want to be the laughing stock of this whole town, I reckon, and never hear the last of this thing as long as we live. NO. What we want is to go out of here quiet, and talk this show up, and sell the REST of the town! Then we'll all be in the same boat. Ain't that sensible?" ("You bet it is! -- the jedge is right!" everybody sings out.) "All right, then -- not a word about any sell. Go along home, and ad- vise everybody to come and see the tragedy."
Next day you couldn't hear nothing around that town but how splendid that show was. House was jammed again that night, and we sold this crowd the same way. When me and the king and the duke got home to the raft we all had a supper; and by and by, about midnight, they made Jim and me back her out and float her down the middle of the river, and fetch her in and hide her about two mile below town.
The third night the house was crammed again -- and they warn't new-comers this time, but people that was at the show the other two nights. I stood by the duke at the door, and I see that every man that went in had his pockets bulging, or something muffled up under his coat -- and I see it warn't no perfumery, neither, not by a long sight. I smelt sickly eggs by the barrel, and rotten cabbages, and such things; and if I know the signs of a dead cat being around, and I bet I do, there was sixty-four of them went in. I shoved in there for a minute, but it was too various for me; I couldn't stand it. Well, when the place couldn't hold no more people the duke he give a fellow a quarter and told him to tend door for him a minute, and then he started around for the stage door, I after him; but the minute we turned the corner and was in the dark he says:
"Walk fast now till you get away from the houses, and then shin for the raft like the dickens was after you!"
I done it, and he done the same. We struck the raft at the same time, and in less than two seconds we was gliding down stream, all dark and still, and edging towards the middle of the river, nobody saying a word. I reckoned the poor king was in for a gaudy time of it with the audience, but nothing of the sort; pretty soon he crawls out from under the wigwam, and says:
"Well, how'd the old thing pan out this time, duke?" He hadn't been up-town at all.
We never showed a light till we was about ten mile below the village. Then we lit up and had a supper, and the king and the duke fairly laughed their bones loose over the way they'd served them people. The duke says:
"Greenhorns, flatheads! I knew the first house would keep mum and let the rest of the town get roped in; and I knew they'd lay for us the third night, and consider it was THEIR turn now. Well, it IS their turn, and I'd give something to know how much they'd take for it. I WOULD just like to know how they're putting in their opportunity. They can turn it into a picnic if they want to -- they brought plenty provisions."
Them rapscallions took in four hundred and sixty- five dollars in that three nights. I never see money hauled in by the wagon-load like that before. By and by, when they was asleep and snoring, Jim says:
"Don't it s'prise you de way dem kings carries on, Huck?"
"No," I says, "it don't."
"Why don't it, Huck?"
"Well, it don't, because it's in the breed. I reckon they're all alike,"
"But, Huck, dese kings o' ourn is reglar rapscal- lions; dat's jist what dey is; dey's reglar rapscallions."
"Well, that's what I'm a-saying; all kings is mostly rapscallions, as fur as I can make out."
"Is dat so?"
"You read about them once -- you'll see. Look at Henry the Eight; this 'n 's a Sunday-school Super- intendent to HIM. And look at Charles Second, and Louis Fourteen, and Louis Fifteen, and James Second, and Edward Second, and Richard Third, and forty more; besides all them Saxon heptarchies that used to rip around so in old times and raise Cain. My, you ought to seen old Henry the Eight when he was in bloom. He WAS a blossom. He used to marry a new wife every day, and chop off her head next morn- ing. And he would do it just as indifferent as if he was ordering up eggs. 'Fetch up Nell Gwynn,' he says. They fetch her up. Next morning, 'Chop off her head!' And they chop it off. 'Fetch up Jane Shore,' he says; and up she comes, Next morning, 'Chop off her head' -- and they chop it off. 'Ring up Fair Rosamun.' Fair Rosamun answers the bell. Next morning, 'Chop off her head.' And he made every one of them tell him a tale every night; and he kept that up till he had hogged a thousand and one tales that way, and then he put them all in a book, and called it Domesday Book -- which was a good name and stated the case. You don't know kings, Jim, but I know them; and this old rip of ourn is one of the cleanest I've struck in history. Well, Henry he takes a notion he wants to get up some trouble with this country. How does he go at it -- give notice? -- give the country a show? No. All of a sudden he heaves all the tea in Boston Harbor overboard, and whacks out a declaration of independence, and dares them to come on. That was HIS style -- he never give anybody a chance. He had suspicions of his father, the Duke of Wellington. Well, what did he do? Ask him to show up? No -- drownded him in a butt of mamsey, like a cat. S'pose people left money laying around where he was -- what did he do? He collared it. S'pose he contracted to do a thing, and you paid him, and didn't set down there and see that he done it -- what did he do? He always done the other thing. S'pose he opened his mouth -- what then? If he didn't shut it up powerful quick he'd lose a lie every time. That's the kind of a bug Henry was; and if we'd a had him along 'stead of our kings he'd a fooled that town a heap worse than ourn done. I don't say that ourn is lambs, because they ain't, when you come right down to the cold facts; but they ain't nothing to THAT old ram, anyway. All I say is, kings is kings, and you got to make allowances. Take them all around, they're a mighty ornery lot. It's the way they're raised."
"But dis one do SMELL so like de nation, Huck."
"Well, they all do, Jim. We can't help the way a king smells; history don't tell no way."
"Now de duke, he's a tolerble likely man in some ways."
"Yes, a duke's different. But not very different. This one's a middling hard lot for a duke. When he's drunk there ain't no near-sighted man could tell him from a king."
"Well, anyways, I doan' hanker for no mo' un um, Huck. Dese is all I kin stan'."
"It's the way I feel, too, Jim. But we've got them on our hands, and we got to remember what they are, and make allowances. Sometimes I wish we could hear of a country that's out of kings."
What was the use to tell Jim these warn't real kings and dukes? It wouldn't a done no good; and, be- sides, it was just as I said: you couldn't tell them from the real kind.
I went to sleep, and Jim didn't call me when it was my turn. He often done that. When I waked up just at daybreak he was sitting there with his head down betwixt his knees, moaning and mourning to himself. I didn't take notice nor let on. I knowed what it was about. He was thinking about his wife and his children, away up yonder, and he was low and homesick; because he hadn't ever been away from home before in his life; and I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for their'n. It don't seem natural, but I reckon it's so. He was often moaning and mourning that way nights, when he judged I was asleep, and saying, "Po' little 'Liza- beth! po' little Johnny! it's mighty hard; I spec' I ain't ever gwyne to see you no mo', no mo'!" He was a mighty good nigger, Jim was.
But this time I somehow got to talking to him about his wife and young ones; and by and by he says:
"What makes me feel so bad dis time 'uz bekase I hear sumpn over yonder on de bank like a whack, er a slam, while ago, en it mine me er de time I treat my little 'Lizabeth so ornery. She warn't on'y 'bout fo' year ole, en she tuck de sk'yarlet fever, en had a powful rough spell; but she got well, en one day she was a-stannin' aroun', en I says to her, I says:
"'Shet de do'.'
"She never done it; jis' stood dah, kiner smilin' up at me. It make me mad; en I says agin, mighty loud, I says:
"'Doan' you hear me? Shet de do'!'
"She jis stood de same way, kiner smilin' up. I was a-bilin'! I says:
"'I lay I MAKE you mine!'
"En wid dat I fetch' her a slap side de head dat sont her a-sprawlin'. Den I went into de yuther room, en 'uz gone 'bout ten minutes; en when I come back dah was dat do' a-stannin' open YIT, en dat chile stannin' mos' right in it, a-lookin' down and mournin', en de tears runnin' down. My, but I WUZ mad! I was a-gwyne for de chile, but jis' den -- it was a do' dat open innerds -- jis' den, 'long come de wind en slam it to, behine de chile, ker-BLAM! -- en my lan', de chile never move'! My breff mos' hop outer me; en I feel so -- so -- I doan' know HOW I feel. I crope out, all a-tremblin', en crope aroun' en open de do' easy en slow, en poke my head in behine de chile, sof' en still, en all uv a sudden I says POW! jis' as loud as I could yell. SHE NEVER BUDGE! Oh, Huck, I bust out a-cryin' en grab her up in my arms, en say, 'Oh, de po' little thing! De Lord God Amighty fogive po' ole Jim, kaze he never gwyne to fogive his- self as long's he live!' Oh, she was plumb deef en dumb, Huck, plumb deef en dumb -- en I'd ben a- treat'n her so!"
NEXT day, towards night, we laid up under a little willow towhead out in the middle, where there was a village on each side of the river, and the duke and the king begun to lay out a plan for working them towns. Jim he spoke to the duke, and said he hoped it wouldn't take but a few hours, because it got mighty heavy and tiresome to him when he had to lay all day in the wigwam tied with the rope. You see, when we left him all alone we had to tie him, because if any- body happened on to him all by himself and not tied it wouldn't look much like he was a runaway nigger, you know. So the duke said it WAS kind of hard to have to lay roped all day, and he'd cipher out some way to get around it.
He was uncommon bright, the duke was, and he soon struck it. He dressed Jim up in King Lear's outfit -- it was a long curtain-calico gown, and a white horse-hair wig and whiskers; and then he took his theater paint and painted Jim's face and hands and ears and neck all over a dead, dull, solid blue, like a man that's been drownded nine days. Blamed if he warn't the horriblest looking outrage I ever see. Then the duke took and wrote out a sign on a shingle so:
Sick Arab -- but harmless when not out of his head.
And he nailed that shingle to a lath, and stood the lath up four or five foot in front of the wigwam. Jim was satisfied. He said it was a sight better than lying tied a couple of years every day, and trembling all over every time there was a sound. The duke told him to make himself free and easy, and if anybody ever come meddling around, he must hop out of the wigwam, and carry on a little, and fetch a howl or two like a wild beast, and he reckoned they would light out and leave him alone. Which was sound enough judg- ment; but you take the average man, and he wouldn't wait for him to howl. Why, he didn't only look like he was dead, he looked considerable more than that.
These rapscallions wanted to try the Nonesuch again, because there was so much money in it, but they judged it wouldn't be safe, because maybe the news might a worked along down by this time. They couldn't hit no project that suited exactly; so at last the duke said he reckoned he'd lay off and work his brains an hour or two and see if he couldn't put up something on the Arkansaw village; and the king he allowed he would drop over to t'other village without any plan, but just trust in Providence to lead him the profitable way -- meaning the devil, I reckon. We had all bought store clothes where we stopped last; and now the king put his'n on, and he told me to put mine on. I done it, of course. The king's duds was all black, and he did look real swell and starchy. I never knowed how clothes could change a body be- fore. Why, before, he looked like the orneriest old rip that ever was; but now, when he'd take off his new white beaver and make a bow and do a smile, he looked that grand and good and pious that you'd say he had walked right out of the ark, and maybe was old Leviticus himself. Jim cleaned up the canoe, and I got my paddle ready. There was a big steamboat lay- ing at the shore away up under the point, about three mile above the town -- been there a couple of hours, taking on freight. Says the king:
"Seein' how I'm dressed, I reckon maybe I better arrive down from St. Louis or Cincinnati, or some other big place. Go for the steamboat, Huckleberry; we'll come down to the village on her."
I didn't have to be ordered twice to go and take a steamboat ride. I fetched the shore a half a mile above the village, and then went scooting along the bluff bank in the easy water. Pretty soon we come to a nice innocent-looking young country jake setting on a log swabbing the sweat off of his face, for it was powerful warm weather; and he had a couple of big carpet-bags by him.
"Run her nose in shore," says the king. I done it. "Wher' you bound for, young man?"
"For the steamboat; going to Orleans."
"Git aboard," says the king. "Hold on a minute, my servant 'll he'p you with them bags. Jump out and he'p the gentleman, Adolphus" -- meaning me, I see.
I done so, and then we all three started on again. The young chap was mighty thankful; said it was tough work toting his baggage such weather. He asked the king where he was going, and the king told him he'd come down the river and landed at the other village this morning, and now he was going up a few mile to see an old friend on a farm up there. The young fellow says:
"When I first see you I says to myself, 'It's Mr. Wilks, sure, and he come mighty near getting here in time.' But then I says again, 'No, I reckon it ain't him, or else he wouldn't be paddling up the river.' You AIN'T him, are you?"
"No, my name's Blodgett -- Elexander Blodgett -- REVEREND Elexander Blodgett, I s'pose I must say, as I'm one o' the Lord's poor servants. But still I'm jist as able to be sorry for Mr. Wilks for not arriving in time, all the same, if he's missed anything by it -- which I hope he hasn't."
"Well, he don't miss any property by it, because he'll get that all right; but he's missed seeing his brother Peter die -- which he mayn't mind, nobody can tell as to that -- but his brother would a give anything in this world to see HIM before he died; never talked about nothing else all these three weeks; hadn't seen him since they was boys together -- and hadn't ever seen his brother William at all -- that's the deef and dumb one -- William ain't more than thirty or thirty-five. Peter and George were the only ones that come out here; George was the married brother; him and his wife both died last year. Harvey and William's the only ones that's left now; and, as I was saying, they haven't got here in time."
"Did anybody send 'em word?"
"Oh, yes; a month or two ago, when Peter was first took; because Peter said then that he sorter felt like he warn't going to get well this time. You see, he was pretty old, and George's g'yirls was too young to be much company for him, except Mary Jane, the red-headed one; and so he was kinder lonesome after George and his wife died, and didn't seem to care much to live. He most desperately wanted to see Harvey -- and William, too, for that matter -- because he was one of them kind that can't bear to make a will. He left a letter behind for Harvey, and said he'd told in it where his money was hid, and how he wanted the rest of the property divided up so George's g'yirls would be all right -- for George didn't leave nothing. And that letter was all they could get him to put a pen to."
"Why do you reckon Harvey don't come? Wher' does he live?"
"Oh, he lives in England -- Sheffield -- preaches there -- hasn't ever been in this country. He hasn't had any too much time -- and besides he mightn't a got the letter at all, you know."
"Too bad, too bad he couldn't a lived to see his brothers, poor soul. You going to Orleans, you say?"
"Yes, but that ain't only a part of it. I'm going in a ship, next Wednesday, for Ryo Janeero, where my uncle lives."
"It's a pretty long journey. But it'll be lovely; wisht I was a-going. Is Mary Jane the oldest? How old is the others?"
"Mary Jane's nineteen, Susan's fifteen, and Joanna's about fourteen -- that's the one that gives herself to good works and has a hare-lip."
"Poor things! to be left alone in the cold world so."
"Well, they could be worse off. Old Peter had friends, and they ain't going to let them come to no harm. There's Hobson, the Babtis' preacher; and Deacon Lot Hovey, and Ben Rucker, and Abner Shackleford, and Levi Bell, the lawyer; and Dr. Rob- inson, and their wives, and the widow Bartley, and -- well, there's a lot of them; but these are the ones that Peter was thickest with, and used to write about some- times, when he wrote home; so Harvey 'll know where to look for friends when he gets here."
Well, the old man went on asking questions till he just fairly emptied that young fellow. Blamed if he didn't inquire about everybody and everything in that blessed town, and all about the Wilkses; and about Peter's business -- which was a tanner; and about George's -- which was a carpenter; and about Har- vey's -- which was a dissentering minister; and so on, and so on. Then he says:
"What did you want to walk all the way up to the steamboat for?"
"Because she's a big Orleans boat, and I was afeard she mightn't stop there. When they're deep they won't stop for a hail. A Cincinnati boat will, but this is a St. Louis one."
"Was Peter Wilks well off?"
"Oh, yes, pretty well off. He had houses and land, and it's reckoned he left three or four thousand in cash hid up som'ers."
"When did you say he died?"
"I didn't say, but it was last night."
"Funeral to-morrow, likely?"
"Yes, 'bout the middle of the day."
"Well, it's all terrible sad; but we've all got to go, one time or another. So what we want to do is to be prepared; then we're all right."
"Yes, sir, it's the best way. Ma used to always say that."
When we struck the boat she was about done load- ing, and pretty soon she got off. The king never said nothing about going aboard, so I lost my ride, after all. When the boat was gone the king made me pad- dle up another mile to a lonesome place, and then he got ashore and says:
"Now hustle back, right off, and fetch the duke up here, and the new carpet-bags. And if he's gone over to t'other side, go over there and git him. And tell him to git himself up regardless. Shove along, now."
I see what HE was up to; but I never said nothing, of course. When I got back with the duke we hid the canoe, and then they set down on a log, and the king told him everything, just like the young fellow had said it -- every last word of it. And all the time he was a-doing it he tried to talk like an Englishman; and he done it pretty well, too, for a slouch. I can't imitate him, and so I ain't a-going to try to; but he really done it pretty good. Then he says:
"How are you on the deef and dumb, Bilgewater?"
The duke said, leave him alone for that; said he had played a deef and dumb person on the histronic boards. So then they waited for a steamboat.
About the middle of the afternoon a couple of little boats come along, but they didn't come from high enough up the river; but at last there was a big one, and they hailed her. She sent out her yawl, and we went aboard, and she was from Cincinnati; and when they found we only wanted to go four or five mile they was booming mad, and gave us a cussing, and said they wouldn't land us. But the king was ca'm. He says:
"If gentlemen kin afford to pay a dollar a mile apiece to be took on and put off in a yawl, a steam- boat kin afford to carry 'em, can't it?"
So they softened down and said it was all right; and when we got to the village they yawled us ashore. About two dozen men flocked down when they see the yawl a-coming, and when the king says:
"Kin any of you gentlemen tell me wher' Mr. Peter Wilks lives?" they give a glance at one another, and nodded their heads, as much as to say, "What d' I tell you?" Then one of them says, kind of soft and gentle:
"I'm sorry. sir, but the best we can do is to tell you where he DID live yesterday evening."
Sudden as winking the ornery old cretur went an to smash, and fell up against the man, and put his chin on his shoulder, and cried down his back, and says:
"Alas, alas, our poor brother -- gone, and we never got to see him; oh, it's too, too hard!"
Then he turns around, blubbering, and makes a lot of idiotic signs to the duke on his hands, and blamed if he didn't drop a carpet-bag and bust out a-crying. If they warn't the beatenest lot, them two frauds, that ever I struck.
Well, the men gathered around and sympathized with them, and said all sorts of kind things to them, and carried their carpet-bags up the hill for them, and let them lean on them and cry, and told the king all about his brother's last moments, and the king he told it all over again on his hands to the duke, and both of them took on about that dead tanner like they'd lost the twelve disciples. Well, if ever I struck anything like it, I'm a nigger. It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race.
THE news was all over town in two minutes, and you could see the people tearing down on the run from every which way, some of them putting on their coats as they come. Pretty soon we was in the middle of a crowd, and the noise of the tramping was like a soldier march. The windows and dooryards was full; and every minute somebody would say, over a fence:
"Is it THEM?"
And somebody trotting along with the gang would answer back and say:
"You bet it is."
When we got to the house the street in front of it was packed, and the three girls was standing in the door. Mary Jane WAS red-headed, but that don't make no difference, she was most awful beautiful, and her face and her eyes was all lit up like glory, she was so glad her uncles was come. The king he spread his arms, and Marsy Jane she jumped for them, and the hare-lip jumped for the duke, and there they HAD it! Everybody most, leastways women, cried for joy to see them meet again at last and have such good times.
Then the king he hunched the duke private -- I see him do it -- and then he looked around and see the coffin, over in the corner on two chairs; so then him and the duke, with a hand across each other's shoul- der, and t'other hand to their eyes, walked slow and solemn over there, everybody dropping back to give them room, and all the talk and noise stopping, people saying "Sh!" and all the men taking their hats off and drooping their heads, so you could a heard a pin fall. And when they got there they bent over and looked in the coffin, and took one sight, and then they bust out a-crying so you could a heard them to Orleans, most; and then they put their arms around each other's necks, and hung their chins over each other's shoul- ders; and then for three minutes, or maybe four, I never see two men leak the way they done. And, mind you, everybody was doing the same; and the place was that damp I never see anything like it. Then one of them got on one side of the coffin, and t'other on t'other side, and they kneeled down and rested their foreheads on the coffin, and let on to pray all to themselves. Well, when it come to that it worked the crowd like you never see anything like it, and everybody broke down and went to sobbing right out loud -- the poor girls, too; and every woman, nearly, went up to the girls, without saying a word, and kissed them, solemn, on the forehead, and then put their hand on their head, and looked up towards the sky, with the tears running down, and then busted out and went off sobbing and swabbing, and give the next woman a show. I never see anything so dis- gusting.
Well, by and by the king he gets up and comes for- ward a little, and works himself up and slobbers out a speech, all full of tears and flapdoodle about its being a sore trial for him and his poor brother to lose the diseased, and to miss seeing diseased alive after the long journey of four thousand mile, but it's a trial that's sweetened and sanctified to us by this dear sym- pathy and these holy tears, and so he thanks them out of his heart and out of his brother's heart, because out of their mouths they can't, words being too weak and cold, and all that kind of rot and slush, till it was just sickening; and then he blubbers out a pious goody- goody Amen, and turns himself loose and goes to cry- ing fit to bust.
And the minute the words were out of his mouth somebody over in the crowd struck up the doxolojer, and everybody joined in with all their might, and it just warmed you up and made you feel as good as church letting out. Music is a good thing; and after all that soul-butter and hogwash I never see it freshen up things so, and sound so honest and bully.
Then the king begins to work his jaw again, and says how him and his nieces would be glad if a few of the main principal friends of the family would take supper here with them this evening, and help set up with the ashes of the diseased; and says if his poor brother laying yonder could speak he knows who he would name, for they was names that was very dear to him, and mentioned often in his letters; and so he will name the same, to wit, as follows, vizz.: -- Rev. Mr. Hobson, and Deacon Lot Hovey, and Mr. Ben Rucker, and Abner Shackleford, and Levi Bell, and Dr. Robin- son, and their wives, and the widow Bartley.
Rev. Hobson and Dr. Robinson was down to the end of the town a-hunting together -- that is, I mean the doctor was shipping a sick man to t'other world, and the preacher was pinting him right. Lawyer Bell was away up to Louisville on business. But the rest was on hand, and so they all come and shook hands with the king and thanked him and talked to him; and then they shook hands with the duke and didn't say nothing, but just kept a-smiling and bobbing their heads like a passel of sapheads whilst he made all sorts of signs with his hands and said "Goo-goo -- goo-goo- goo" all the time, like a baby that can't talk.
So the king he blattered along, and managed to inquire about pretty much everybody and dog in town, by his name, and mentioned all sorts of little things that happened one time or another in the town, or to George's family, or to Peter. And he always let on that Peter wrote him the things; but that was a lie: he got every blessed one of them out of that young flathead that we canoed up to the steamboat.
Then Mary Jane she fetched the letter her father left behind, and the king he read it out loud and cried over it. It give the dwelling-house and three thousand dollars, gold, to the girls; and it give the tanyard (which was doing a good business), along with some other houses and land (worth about seven thousand), and three thousand dollars in gold to Harvey and William, and told where the six thousand cash was hid down cellar. So these two frauds said they'd go and fetch it up, and have everything square and above- board; and told me to come with a candle. We shut the cellar door behind us, and when they found the bag they spilt it out on the floor, and it was a lovely sight, all them yaller-boys. My, the way the king's eyes did shine! He slaps the duke on the shoulder and says:
"Oh, THIS ain't bully nor noth'n! Oh, no, I reckon not! Why, Biljy, it beats the Nonesuch, DON'T it?"
The duke allowed it did. They pawed the yaller- boys, and sifted them through their fingers and let them jingle down on the floor; and the king says:
"It ain't no use talkin'; bein' brothers to a rich dead man and representatives of furrin heirs that's got left is the line for you and me, Bilge. Thish yer comes of trust'n to Providence. It's the best way, in the long run. I've tried 'em all, and ther' ain't no better way."
Most everybody would a been satisfied with the pile, and took it on trust; but no, they must count it. So they counts it, and it comes out four hundred and fifteen dollars short. Says the king:
"Dern him, I wonder what he done with that four hundred and fifteen dollars?"
They worried over that awhile, and ransacked all around for it. Then the duke says:
"Well, he was a pretty sick man, and likely he made a mistake -- I reckon that's the way of it. The best way's to let it go, and keep still about it. We can spare it."
"Oh, shucks, yes, we can SPARE it. I don't k'yer noth'n 'bout that -- it's the COUNT I'm thinkin' about. We want to be awful square and open and above-board here, you know. We want to lug this h-yer money up stairs and count it before everybody -- then ther' ain't noth'n suspicious. But when the dead man says ther's six thous'n dollars, you know, we don't want to --"
"Hold on," says the duke. "Le's make up the deffisit," and he begun to haul out yaller-boys out of his pocket.
"It's a most amaz'n' good idea, duke -- you HAVE got a rattlin' clever head on you," says the king. "Blest if the old Nonesuch ain't a heppin' us out agin," and HE begun to haul out yaller-jackets and stack them up.
It most busted them, but they made up the six thousand clean and clear.
"Say," says the duke, "I got another idea. Le's go up stairs and count this money, and then take and GIVE IT TO THE GIRLS."
"Good land, duke, lemme hug you! It's the most dazzling idea 'at ever a man struck. You have cert'nly got the most astonishin' head I ever see. Oh, this is the boss dodge, ther' ain't no mistake 'bout it. Let 'em fetch along their suspicions now if they want to -- this 'll lay 'em out."
When we got up-stairs everybody gethered around the table, and the king he counted it and stacked it up, three hundred dollars in a pile -- twenty elegant little piles. Everybody looked hungry at it, and licked their chops. Then they raked it into the bag again, and I see the king begin to swell himself up for another speech. He says:
"Friends all, my poor brother that lays yonder has done generous by them that's left behind in the vale of sorrers. He has done generous by these yer poor little lambs that he loved and sheltered, and that's left fatherless and motherless. Yes, and we that knowed him knows that he would a done MORE generous by 'em if he hadn't ben afeard o' woundin' his dear William and me. Now, WOULDN'T he? Ther' ain't no question 'bout it in MY mind. Well, then, what kind o' brothers would it be that 'd stand in his way at sech a time? And what kind o' uncles would it be that 'd rob -- yes, ROB -- sech poor sweet lambs as these 'at he loved so at sech a time? If I know William -- and I THINK I do -- he -- well, I'll jest ask him." He turns around and begins to make a lot of signs to the duke with his hands, and the duke he looks at him stupid and leather- headed a while; then all of a sudden he seems to catch his meaning, and jumps for the king, goo-gooing with all his might for joy, and hugs him about fifteen times before he lets up. Then the king says, "I knowed it; I reckon THAT 'll convince anybody the way HE feels about it. Here, Mary Jane, Susan, Joanner, take the money -- take it ALL. It's the gift of him that lays yonder, cold but joyful."
Mary Jane she went for him, Susan and the hare-lip went for the duke, and then such another hugging and kissing I never see yet. And everybody crowded up with the tears in their eyes, and most shook the hands off of them frauds, saying all the time:
"You DEAR good souls! -- how LOVELY! -- how COULD you!"
Well, then, pretty soon all hands got to talking about the diseased again, and how good he was, and what a loss he was, and all that; and before long a big iron-jawed man worked himself in there from outside, and stood a-listening and looking, and not saying any- thing; and nobody saying anything to him either, because the king was talking and they was all busy listening. The king was saying -- in the middle of something he'd started in on --
"-- they bein' partickler friends o' the diseased. That's why they're invited here this evenin'; but to- morrow we want ALL to come -- everybody; for he respected everybody, he liked everybody, and so it's fitten that his funeral orgies sh'd be public."
And so he went a-mooning on and on, liking to hear himself talk, and every little while he fetched in his funeral orgies again, till the duke he couldn't stand it no more; so he writes on a little scrap of paper, "OBSEQUIES, you old fool," and folds it up, and goes to goo-gooing and reaching it over people's heads to him. The king he reads it and puts it in his pocket, and says:
"Poor William, afflicted as he is, his HEART'S aluz right. Asks me to invite everybody to come to the funeral -- wants me to make 'em all welcome. But he needn't a worried -- it was jest what I was at."
Then he weaves along again, perfectly ca'm, and goes to dropping in his funeral orgies again every now and then, just like he done before. And when he done it the third time he says:
"I say orgies, not because it's the common term, because it ain't -- obsequies bein' the common term -- but because orgies is the right term. Obsequies ain't used in England no more now -- it's gone out. We say orgies now in England. Orgies is better, because it means the thing you're after more exact. It's a word that's made up out'n the Greek ORGO, outside, open, abroad; and the Hebrew JEESUM, to plant, cover up; hence inTER. So, you see, funeral orgies is an open er public funeral."
He was the WORST I ever struck. Well, the iron- jawed man he laughed right in his face. Everybody was shocked. Everybody says, "Why, DOCTOR!" and Abner Shackleford says:
"Why, Robinson, hain't you heard the news? This is Harvey Wilks."
The king he smiled eager, and shoved out his flapper, and says:
"Is it my poor brother's dear good friend and phy- sician? I --"
"Keep your hands off of me!" says the doctor. "YOU talk like an Englishman, DON'T you? It's the worst imitation I ever heard. YOU Peter Wilks's brother! You're a fraud, that's what you are!"
Well, how they all took on! They crowded around the doctor and tried to quiet him down, and tried to explain to him and tell him how Harvey 'd showed in forty ways that he WAS Harvey, and knowed every- body by name, and the names of the very dogs, and begged and BEGGED him not to hurt Harvey's feelings and the poor girl's feelings, and all that. But it warn't no use; he stormed right along, and said any man that pretended to be an Englishman and couldn't imitate the lingo no better than what he did was a fraud and a liar. The poor girls was hanging to the king and cry- ing; and all of a sudden the doctor ups and turns on THEM. He says:
"I was your father's friend, and I'm your friend; and I warn you as a friend, and an honest one that wants to protect you and keep you out of harm and trouble, to turn your backs on that scoundrel and have nothing to do with him, the ignorant tramp, with his idiotic Greek and Hebrew, as he calls it. He is the thinnest kind of an impostor -- has come here with a lot of empty names and facts which he picked up somewheres, and you take them for PROOFS, and are helped to fool yourselves by these foolish friends here, who ought to know better. Mary Jane Wilks, you know me for your friend, and for your unselfish friend, too. Now listen to me; turn this pitiful rascal out -- I BEG you to do it. Will you?"
Mary Jane straightened herself up, and my, but she was handsome! She says:
"HERE is my answer." She hove up the bag of money and put it in the king's hands, and says, "Take this six thousand dollars, and invest for me and my sisters any way you want to, and don't give us no receipt for it."
Then she put her arm around the king on one side, and Susan and the hare-lip done the same on the other. Everybody clapped their hands and stomped on the floor like a perfect storm, whilst the king held up his head and smiled proud. The doctor says:
"All right; I wash MY hands of the matter. But I warn you all that a time 's coming when you're going to feel sick whenever you think of this day." And away he went.
"All right, doctor," says the king, kinder mocking him; "we'll try and get 'em to send for you;" which made them all laugh, and they said it was a prime good hit.
WELL, when they was all gone the king he asks Mary Jane how they was off for spare rooms, and she said she had one spare room, which would do for Uncle William, and she'd give her own room to Uncle Harvey, which was a little bigger, and she would turn into the room with her sisters and sleep on a cot; and up garret was a little cubby, with a pallet in it. The king said the cubby would do for his valley -- meaning me.
So Mary Jane took us up, and she showed them their rooms, which was plain but nice. She said she'd have her frocks and a lot of other traps took out of her room if they was in Uncle Harvey's way, but he said they warn't. The frocks was hung along the wall, and before them was a curtain made out of calico that hung down to the floor. There was an old hair trunk in one corner, and a guitar-box in another, and all sorts of little knickknacks and jimcracks around, like girls brisken up a room with. The king said it was all the more homely and more pleasanter for these fixings, and so don't disturb them. The duke's room was pretty small, but plenty good enough, and so was my cubby.
That night they had a big supper, and all them men and women was there, and I stood behind the king and the duke's chairs and waited on them, and the niggers waited on the rest. Mary Jane she set at the head of the table, with Susan alongside of her, and said how bad the biscuits was, and how mean the preserves was, and how ornery and tough the fried chickens was -- and all that kind of rot, the way women always do for to force out compliments; and the people all knowed everything was tiptop, and said so -- said "How DO you get biscuits to brown so nice?" and "Where, for the land's sake, DID you get these amaz'n pickles?" and all that kind of humbug talky-talk, just the way people always does at a supper, you know.
And when it was all done me and the hare-lip had supper in the kitchen off of the leavings, whilst the others was helping the niggers clean up the things. The hare-lip she got to pumping me about England, and blest if I didn't think the ice was getting mighty thin sometimes. She says:
"Did you ever see the king?"
"Who? William Fourth? Well, I bet I have -- he goes to our church." I knowed he was dead years ago, but I never let on. So when I says he goes to our church, she says:
"What -- regular?"
"Yes -- regular. His pew's right over opposite ourn -- on t'other side the pulpit."
"I thought he lived in London?"
"Well, he does. Where WOULD he live?"
"But I thought YOU lived in Sheffield?"
I see I was up a stump. I had to let on to get choked with a chicken bone, so as to get time to think how to get down again. Then I says:
"I mean he goes to our church regular when he's in Sheffield. That's only in the summer time, when he comes there to take the sea baths."
"Why, how you talk -- Sheffield ain't on the sea."
"Well, who said it was?"
"Why, you did."
"I DIDN'T nuther."
"I never said nothing of the kind."
"Well, what DID you say, then?"
"Said he come to take the sea BATHS -- that's what I said."
"Well, then, how's he going to take the sea baths if it ain't on the sea?"
"Looky here," I says; "did you ever see any Congress-water?"
"Well, did you have to go to Congress to get it?"
"Well, neither does William Fourth have to go to the sea to get a sea bath."
"How does he get it, then?"
"Gets it the way people down here gets Congress- water -- in barrels. There in the palace at Sheffield they've got furnaces, and he wants his water hot. They can't bile that amount of water away off there at the sea. They haven't got no conveniences for it."
"Oh, I see, now. You might a said that in the first place and saved time."
When she said that I see I was out of the woods again, and so I was comfortable and glad. Next, she says:
"Do you go to church, too?"
"Yes -- regular."
"Where do you set?"
"Why, in our pew."
"Why, OURN -- your Uncle Harvey's."
"His'n? What does HE want with a pew?"
"Wants it to set in. What did you RECKON he wanted with it?"
"Why, I thought he'd be in the pulpit."
Rot him, I forgot he was a preacher. I see I was up a stump again, so I played another chicken bone and got another think. Then I says:
"Blame it, do you suppose there ain't but one preacher to a church?"
"Why, what do they want with more?"
"What! -- to preach before a king? I never did see such a girl as you. They don't have no less than seventeen."
"Seventeen! My land! Why, I wouldn't set out such a string as that, not if I NEVER got to glory. It must take 'em a week."
"Shucks, they don't ALL of 'em preach the same day -- only ONE of 'em."
"Well, then, what does the rest of 'em do?"
"Oh, nothing much. Loll around, pass the plate -- and one thing or another. But mainly they don't do nothing."
"Well, then, what are they FOR?"
"Why, they're for STYLE. Don't you know noth- ing?"
"Well, I don't WANT to know no such foolishness as that. How is servants treated in England? Do they treat 'em better 'n we treat our niggers?"
"NO! A servant ain't nobody there. They treat them worse than dogs."
"Don't they give 'em holidays, the way we do, Christmas and New Year's week, and Fourth of July?"
"Oh, just listen! A body could tell YOU hain't ever been to England by that. Why, Hare-l -- why, Joanna, they never see a holiday from year's end to year's end; never go to the circus, nor theater, nor nigger shows, nor nowheres."
"But YOU always went to church."
Well, I was gone up again. I forgot I was the old man's servant. But next minute I whirled in on a kind of an explanation how a valley was different from a common servant and HAD to go to church whether he wanted to or not, and set with the family, on ac- count of its being the law. But I didn't do it pretty good, and when I got done I see she warn't satisfied. She says:
"Honest injun, now, hain't you been telling me a lot of lies?"
"Honest injun," says I.
"None of it at all?"
"None of it at all. Not a lie in it," says I.
"Lay your hand on this book and say it."
I see it warn't nothing but a dictionary, so I laid my hand on it and said it. So then she looked a little better satisfied, and says:
"Well, then, I'll believe some of it; but I hope to gracious if I'll believe the rest."
"What is it you won't believe, Joe?" says Mary Jane, stepping in with Susan behind her. "It ain't right nor kind for you to talk so to him, and him a stranger and so far from his people. How would you like to be treated so?"
"That's always your way, Maim -- always sailing in to help somebody before they're hurt. I hain't done nothing to him. He's told some stretchers, I reckon, and I said I wouldn't swallow it all; and that's every bit and grain I DID say. I reckon he can stand a little thing like that, can't he?"
"I don't care whether 'twas little or whether 'twas big; he's here in our house and a stranger, and it wasn't good of you to say it. If you was in his place it would make you feel ashamed; and so you oughtn't to say a thing to another person that will make THEM feel ashamed."
"Why, Maim, he said --"
"It don't make no difference what he SAID -- that ain't the thing. The thing is for you to treat him KIND, and not be saying things to make him remember he ain't in his own country and amongst his own folks."
I says to myself, THIS is a girl that I'm letting that old reptle rob her of her money!
Then Susan SHE waltzed in; and if you'll believe me, she did give Hare-lip hark from the tomb!
Says I to myself, and this is ANOTHER one that I'm letting him rob her of her money!
Then Mary Jane she took another inning, and went in sweet and lovely again -- which was her way; but when she got done there warn't hardly anything left o' poor Hare-lip. So she hollered.
"All right, then," says the other girls; "you just ask his pardon."
She done it, too; and she done it beautiful. She done it so beautiful it was good to hear; and I wished I could tell her a thousand lies, so she could do it again.
I says to myself, this is ANOTHER one that I'm letting him rob her of her money. And when she got through they all jest laid theirselves out to make me feel at home and know I was amongst friends. I felt so ornery and low down and mean that I says to myself, my mind's made up; I'll hive that money for them or bust.
So then I lit out -- for bed, I said, meaning some time or another. When I got by myself I went to thinking the thing over. I says to myself, shall I go to that doctor, private, and blow on these frauds? No -- that won't do. He might tell who told him; then the king and the duke would make it warm for me. Shall I go, private, and tell Mary Jane? No -- I dasn't do it. Her face would give them a hint, sure; they've got the money, and they'd slide right out and get away with it. If she was to fetch in help I'd get mixed up in the business before it was done with, I judge. No; there ain't no good way but one. I got to steal that money, somehow; and I got to steal it some way that they won't suspicion that I done it. They've got a good thing here, and they ain't a-going to leave till they've played this family and this town for all they're worth, so I'll find a chance time enough. I'll steal it and hide it; and by and by, when I'm away down the river, I'll write a letter and tell Mary Jane where it's hid. But I better hive it to- night if I can, because the doctor maybe hasn't let up as much as he lets on he has; he might scare them out of here yet.
So, thinks I, I'll go and search them rooms. Up- stairs the hall was dark, but I found the duke's room, and started to paw around it with my hands; but I recollected it wouldn't be much like the king to let anybody else take care of that money but his own self; so then I went to his room and begun to paw around there. But I see I couldn't do nothing without a candle, and I dasn't light one, of course. So I judged I'd got to do the other thing -- lay for them and eavesdrop. About that time I hears their footsteps coming, and was going to skip under the bed; I reached for it, but it wasn't where I thought it would be; but I touched the curtain that hid Mary Jane's frocks, so I jumped in behind that and snuggled in amongst the gowns, and stood there perfectly still.
They come in and shut the door; and the first thing the duke done was to get down and look under the bed. Then I was glad I hadn't found the bed when I wanted it. And yet, you know, it's kind of natural to hide under the bed when you are up to anything private. They sets down then, and the king says:
"Well, what is it? And cut it middlin' short, be- cause it's better for us to be down there a-whoopin' up the mournin' than up here givin' 'em a chance to talk us over."
"Well, this is it, Capet. I ain't easy; I ain't com- fortable. That doctor lays on my mind. I wanted to know your plans. I've got a notion, and I think it's a sound one."
"What is it, duke?"
"That we better glide out of this before three in the morning, and clip it down the river with what we've got. Specially, seeing we got it so easy -- GIVEN back to us, flung at our heads, as you may say, when of course we allowed to have to steal it back. I'm for knocking off and lighting out."
That made me feel pretty bad. About an hour or two ago it would a been a little different, but now it made me feel bad and disappointed, The king rips out and says:
"What! And not sell out the rest o' the property? March off like a passel of fools and leave eight or nine thous'n' dollars' worth o' property layin' around jest sufferin' to be scooped in? -- and all good, salable stuff, too."
The duke he grumbled; said the bag of gold was enough, and he didn't want to go no deeper -- didn't want to rob a lot of orphans of EVERYTHING they had.
"Why, how you talk!" says the king. "We sha'n't rob 'em of nothing at all but jest this money. The people that BUYS the property is the suff'rers; because as soon 's it's found out 'at we didn't own it -- which won't be long after we've slid -- the sale won't be valid, and it 'll all go back to the estate. These yer orphans 'll git their house back agin, and that's enough for THEM; they're young and spry, and k'n easy earn a livin'. THEY ain't a-goin to suffer. Why, jest think -- there's thous'n's and thous'n's that ain't nigh so well off. Bless you, THEY ain't got noth'n' to complain of."
Well, the king he talked him blind; so at last he give in, and said all right, but said he believed it was blamed foolishness to stay, and that doctor hanging over them. But the king says:
"Cuss the doctor! What do we k'yer for HIM? Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain't that a big enough majority in any town?"
So they got ready to go down stairs again. The duke says:
"I don't think we put that money in a good place."
That cheered me up. I'd begun to think I warn't going to get a hint of no kind to help me. The king says:
"Because Mary Jane 'll be in mourning from this out; and first you know the nigger that does up the rooms will get an order to box these duds up and put 'em away; and do you reckon a nigger can run across money and not borrow some of it?"
"Your head's level agin, duke," says the king; and he comes a-fumbling under the curtain two or three foot from where I was. I stuck tight to the wall and kept mighty still, though quivery; and I wondered what them fellows would say to me if they catched me; and I tried to think what I'd better do if they did catch me. But the king he got the bag before I could think more than about a half a thought, and he never suspicioned I was around. They took and shoved the bag through a rip in the straw tick that was under the feather-bed, and crammed it in a foot or two amongst the straw and said it was all right now, because a nigger only makes up the feather-bed, and don't turn over the straw tick only about twice a year, and so it warn't in no danger of getting stole now.
But I knowed better. I had it out of there before they was half-way down stairs. I groped along up to my cubby, and hid it there till I could get a chance to do better. I judged I better hide it outside of the house somewheres, because if they missed it they would give the house a good ransacking: I knowed that very well. Then I turned in, with my clothes all on; but I couldn't a gone to sleep if I'd a wanted to, I was in such a sweat to get through with the business. By and by I heard the king and the duke come up; so I rolled off my pallet and laid with my chin at the top of my ladder, and waited to see if anything was going to happen. But nothing did.
So I held on till all the late sounds had quit and the early ones hadn't begun yet; and then I slipped down the ladder.
I CREPT to their doors and listened; they was snor- ing. So I tiptoed along, and got down stairs all right. There warn't a sound anywheres. I peeped through a crack of the dining-room door, and see the men that was watching the corpse all sound asleep on their chairs. The door was open into the parlor, where the corpse was laying, and there was a candle in both rooms. I passed along, and the parlor door was open; but I see there warn't nobody in there but the re- mainders of Peter; so I shoved on by; but the front door was locked, and the key wasn't there. Just then I heard somebody coming down the stairs, back behind me. I run in the parlor and took a swift look around, and the only place I see to hide the bag was in the coffin. The lid was shoved along about a foot, show- ing the dead man's face down in there, with a wet cloth over it, and his shroud on. I tucked the money- bag in under the lid, just down beyond where his hands was crossed, which made me creep, they was so cold, and then I run back across the room and in behind the door.
The person coming was Mary Jane. She went to the coffin, very soft, and kneeled down and looked in; then she put up her handkerchief, and I see she begun to cry, though I couldn't hear her, and her back was to me. I slid out, and as I passed the dining-room I thought I'd make sure them watchers hadn't seen me; so I looked through the crack, and everything was all right. They hadn't stirred.
I slipped up to bed, feeling ruther blue, on accounts of the thing playing out that way after I had took so much trouble and run so much resk about it. Says I, if it could stay where it is, all right; because when we get down the river a hundred mile or two I could write back to Mary Jane, and she could dig him up again and get it; but that ain't the thing that's going to happen; the thing that's going to happen is, the money 'll be found when they come to screw on the lid. Then the king 'll get it again, and it 'll be a long day before he gives anybody another chance to smouch it from him. Of course I WANTED to slide down and get it out of there, but I dasn't try it. Every minute it was getting earlier now, and pretty soon some of them watchers would begin to stir, and I might get catched -- catched with six thousand dollars in my hands that nobody hadn't hired me to take care of. I don't wish to be mixed up in no such business as that, I says to myself.
When I got down stairs in the morning the parlor was shut up, and the watchers was gone. There warn't nobody around but the family and the widow Bartley and our tribe. I watched their faces to see if anything had been happening, but I couldn't tell.
Towards the middle of the day the undertaker come with his man, and they set the coffin in the middle of the room on a couple of chairs, and then set all our chairs in rows, and borrowed more from the neighbors till the hall and the parlor and the dining-room was full. I see the coffin lid was the way it was before, but I dasn't go to look in under it, with folks around.
Then the people begun to flock in, and the beats and the girls took seats in the front row at the head of the coffin, and for a half an hour the people filed around slow, in single rank, and looked down at the dead man's face a minute, and some dropped in a tear, and it was all very still and solemn, only the girls and the beats holding handkerchiefs to their eyes and keep- ing their heads bent, and sobbing a little. There warn't no other sound but the scraping of the feet on the floor and blowing noses -- because people always blows them more at a funeral than they do at other places except church.
When the place was packed full the undertaker he slid around in his black gloves with his softy soother- ing ways, putting on the last touches, and getting people and things all ship-shape and comfortable, and making no more sound than a cat. He never spoke; he moved people around, he squeezed in late ones, he opened up passageways, and done it with nods, and signs with his hands. Then he took his place over against the wall. He was the softest, glidingest, stealthiest man I ever see; and there warn't no more smile to him than there is to a ham.
They had borrowed a melodeum -- a sick one; and when everything was ready a young woman set down and worked it, and it was pretty skreeky and colicky, and everybody joined in and sung, and Peter was the only one that had a good thing, according to my notion. Then the Reverend Hobson opened up, slow and solemn, and begun to talk; and straight off the most outrageous row busted out in the cellar a body ever heard; it was only one dog, but he made a most powerful racket, and he kept it up right along; the parson he had to stand there, over the coffin, and wait -- you couldn't hear yourself think. It was right down awkward, and nobody didn't seem to know what to do. But pretty soon they see that long-legged undertaker make a sign to the preacher as much as to say, "Don't you worry -- just depend on me." Then he stooped down and begun to glide along the wall, just his shoulders showing over the people's heads. So he glided along, and the powwow and racket get- ting more and more outrageous all the time; and at last, when he had gone around two sides of the room, he disappears down cellar. Then in about two seconds we heard a whack, and the dog he finished up with a most amazing howl or two, and then everything was dead still, and the parson begun his solemn talk where he left off. In a minute or two here comes this under- taker's back and shoulders gliding along the wall again; and so he glided and glided around three sides of the room, and then rose up, and shaded his mouth with his hands, and stretched his neck out towards the preacher, over the people's heads, and says, in a kind of a coarse whisper, "HE HAD A RAT!" Then he drooped down and glided along the wall again to his place. You could see it was a great satisfaction to the people, because naturally they wanted to know. A little thing like that don't cost nothing, and it's just the little things that makes a man to be looked up to and liked. There warn't no more popular man in town than what that undertaker was.
Well, the funeral sermon was very good, but pison long and tiresome; and then the king he shoved in and got off some of his usual rubbage, and at last the job was through, and the undertaker begun to sneak up on the coffin with his screw-driver. I was in a sweat then, and watched him pretty keen. But he never meddled at all; just slid the lid along as soft as mush, and screwed it down tight and fast. So there I was! I didn't know whether the money was in there or not. So, says I, s'pose somebody has hogged that bag on the sly? -- now how do I know whether to write to Mary Jane or not? S'pose she dug him up and didn't find nothing, what would she think of me? Blame it, I says, I might get hunted up and jailed; I'd better lay low and keep dark, and not write at all; the thing's awful mixed now; trying to better it, I've worsened it a hundred times, and I wish to goodness I'd just let it alone, dad fetch the whole business!
They buried him, and we come back home, and I went to watching faces again -- I couldn't help it, and I couldn't rest easy. But nothing come of it; the faces didn't tell me nothing.
The king he visited around in the evening, and sweetened everybody up, and made himself ever so friendly; and he give out the idea that his congrega- tion over in England would be in a sweat about him, so he must hurry and settle up the estate right away and leave for home. He was very sorry he was so pushed, and so was everybody; they wished he could stay longer, but they said they could see it couldn't be done. And he said of course him and William would take the girls home with them; and that pleased every- body too, because then the girls would be well fixed and amongst their own relations; and it pleased the girls, too -- tickled them so they clean forgot they ever had a trouble in the world; and told him to sell out as quick as he wanted to, they would be ready. Them poor things was that glad and happy it made my heart ache to see them getting fooled and lied to so, but I didn't see no safe way for me to chip in and change the general tune.
Well, blamed if the king didn't bill the house and the niggers and all the property for auction straight off -- sale two days after the funeral; but anybody could buy private beforehand if they wanted to.
So the next day after the funeral, along about noon- time, the girls' joy got the first jolt. A couple of nigger traders come along, and the king sold them the niggers reasonable, for three-day drafts as they called it, and away they went, the two sons up the river to Memphis, and their mother down the river to Orleans. I thought them poor girls and them niggers would break their hearts for grief; they cried around each other, and took on so it most made me down sick to see it. The girls said they hadn't ever dreamed of seeing the family separated or sold away from the town. I can't ever get it out of my memory, the sight of them poor miserable girls and niggers hanging around each other's necks and crying; and I reckon I couldn't a stood it all, but would a had to bust out and tell on our gang if I hadn't knowed the sale warn't no account and the niggers would be back home in a week or two.
The thing made a big stir in the town, too, and a good many come out flatfooted and said it was scandal- ous to separate the mother and the children that way. It injured the frauds some; but the old fool he bulled right along, spite of all the duke could say or do, and I tell you the duke was powerful uneasy.
Next day was auction day. About broad day in the morning the king and the duke come up in the garret and woke me up, and I see by their look that there was trouble. The king says:
"Was you in my room night before last?"
"No, your majesty" -- which was the way I always called him when nobody but our gang warn't around.
"Was you in there yisterday er last night?"
"No, your majesty."
"Honor bright, now -- no lies."
"Honor bright, your majesty, I'm telling you the truth. I hain't been a-near your room since Miss Mary Jane took you and the duke and showed it to you."
The duke says:
"Have you seen anybody else go in there?"
"No, your grace, not as I remember, I believe."
"Stop and think."
I studied awhile and see my chance; then I says:
"Well, I see the niggers go in there several times."
Both of them gave a little jump, and looked like they hadn't ever expected it, and then like they HAD. Then the duke says:
"What, all of them?"
"No -- leastways, not all at once -- that is, I don't think I ever see them all come OUT at once but just one time."
"Hello! When was that?"
"It was the day we had the funeral. In the morn- ing. It warn't early, because I overslept. I was just starting down the ladder, and I see them."
"Well, go on, GO on! What did they do? How'd they act?"
"They didn't do nothing. And they didn't act anyway much, as fur as I see. They tiptoed away; so I seen, easy enough, that they'd shoved in there to do up your majesty's room, or something, s'posing you was up; and found you WARN'T up, and so they was hoping to slide out of the way of trouble without waking you up, if they hadn't already waked you up."
"Great guns, THIS is a go!" says the king; and both of them looked pretty sick and tolerable silly. They stood there a-thinking and scratching their heads a minute, and the duke he bust into a kind of a little raspy chuckle, and says:
"It does beat all how neat the niggers played their hand. They let on to be SORRY they was going out of this region! And I believed they WAS sorry, and so did you, and so did everybody. Don't ever tell ME any more that a nigger ain't got any histrionic talent. Why, the way they played that thing it would fool ANYBODY. In my opinion, there's a fortune in 'em. If I had capital and a theater, I wouldn't want a better lay-out than that -- and here we've gone and sold 'em for a song. Yes, and ain't privileged to sing the song yet. Say, where IS that song -- that draft?"
"In the bank for to be collected. Where WOULD it be?"
"Well, THAT'S all right then, thank goodness."
Says I, kind of timid-like:
"Is something gone wrong?"
The king whirls on me and rips out:
"None o' your business! You keep your head shet, and mind y'r own affairs -- if you got any. Long as you're in this town don't you forgit THAT -- you hear?" Then he says to the duke, "We got to jest swaller it and say noth'n': mum's the word for US."
As they was starting down the ladder the duke he chuckles again, and says:
"Quick sales AND small profits! It's a good busi- ness -- yes."
The king snarls around on him and says:
"I was trying to do for the best in sellin' 'em out so quick. If the profits has turned out to be none, lackin' considable, and none to carry, is it my fault any more'n it's yourn?"
"Well, THEY'D be in this house yet and we WOULDN'T if I could a got my advice listened to."
The king sassed back as much as was safe for him, and then swapped around and lit into ME again. He give me down the banks for not coming and TELLING him I see the niggers come out of his room acting that way -- said any fool would a KNOWED something was up. And then waltzed in and cussed HIMSELF awhile, and said it all come of him not laying late and taking his natural rest that morning, and he'd be blamed if he'd ever do it again. So they went off a-jawing; and I felt dreadful glad I'd worked it all off on to the niggers, and yet hadn't done the niggers no harm by it.
BY and by it was getting-up time. So I come down the ladder and started for down-stairs; but as I come to the girls' room the door was open, and I see Mary Jane setting by her old hair trunk, which was open and she'd been packing things in it -- getting ready to go to England. But she had stopped now with a folded gown in her lap, and had her face in her hands, crying. I felt awful bad to see it; of course anybody would. I went in there and says:
"Miss Mary Jane, you can't a-bear to see people in trouble, and I can't -- most always. Tell me about it."
So she done it. And it was the niggers -- I just expected it. She said the beautiful trip to England was most about spoiled for her; she didn't know HOW she was ever going to be happy there, knowing the mother and the children warn't ever going to see each other no more -- and then busted out bitterer than ever, and flung up her hands, and says:
"Oh, dear, dear, to think they ain't EVER going to see each other any more!"
"But they WILL -- and inside of two weeks -- and I KNOW it!" says I.
Laws, it was out before I could think! And before I could budge she throws her arms around my neck and told me to say it AGAIN, say it AGAIN, say it AGAIN!
I see I had spoke too sudden and said too much, and was in a close place. I asked her to let me think a minute; and she set there, very impatient and ex- cited and handsome, but looking kind of happy and eased-up, like a person that's had a tooth pulled out. So I went to studying it out. I says to myself, I reckon a body that ups and tells the truth when he is in a tight place is taking considerable many resks, though I ain't had no experience, and can't say for certain; but it looks so to me, anyway; and yet here's a case where I'm blest if it don't look to me like the truth is better and actuly SAFER than a lie. I must lay it by in my mind, and think it over some time or other, it's so kind of strange and unregular. I never see nothing like it. Well, I says to myself at last, I'm a-going to chance it; I'll up and tell the truth this time, though it does seem most like setting down on a kag of powder and touching it off just to see where you'll go to. Then I says:
"Miss Mary Jane, is there any place out of town a little ways where you could go and stay three or four days?"
"Yes; Mr. Lothrop's. Why?"
"Never mind why yet. If I'll tell you how I know the niggers will see each other again inside of two weeks -- here in this house -- and PROVE how I know it -- will you go to Mr. Lothrop's and stay four days?"
"Four days!" she says; "I'll stay a year!"
"All right," I says, "I don't want nothing more out of YOU than just your word -- I druther have it than another man's kiss-the-Bible." She smiled and red- dened up very sweet, and I says, "If you don't mind it, I'll shut the door -- and bolt it."
Then I come back and set down again, and says:
"Don't you holler. Just set still and take it like a man. I got to tell the truth, and you want to brace up, Miss Mary, because it's a bad kind, and going to be hard to take, but there ain't no help for it. These uncles of yourn ain't no uncles at all; they're a couple of frauds -- regular dead-beats. There, now we're over the worst of it, you can stand the rest middling easy."
It jolted her up like everything, of course; but I was over the shoal water now, so I went right along, her eyes a-blazing higher and higher all the time, and told her every blame thing, from where we first struck that young fool going up to the steamboat, clear through to where she flung herself on to the king's breast at the front door and he kissed her sixteen or seventeen times -- and then up she jumps, with her face afire like sunset, and says:
"The brute! Come, don't waste a minute -- not a SECOND -- we'll have them tarred and feathered, and flung in the river!"
"Cert'nly. But do you mean BEFORE you go to Mr. Lothrop's, or --"
"Oh," she says, "what am I THINKING about!" she says, and set right down again. "Don't mind what I said -- please don't -- you WON'T, now, WILL you?" Laying her silky hand on mine in that kind of a way that I said I would die first. "I never thought, I was so stirred up," she says; "now go on, and I won't do so any more. You tell me what to do, and whatever you say I'll do it."
"Well," I says, "it's a rough gang, them two frauds, and I'm fixed so I got to travel with them a while longer, whether I want to or not -- I druther not tell you why; and if you was to blow on them this town would get me out of their claws, and I'd be all right; but there'd be another person that you don't know about who'd be in big trouble. Well, we got to save HIM, hain't we? Of course. Well, then, we won't blow on them."
Saying them words put a good idea in my head. I see how maybe I could get me and Jim rid of the frauds; get them jailed here, and then leave. But I didn't want to run the raft in the daytime without any- body aboard to answer questions but me; so I didn't want the plan to begin working till pretty late to-night. I says:
"Miss Mary Jane, I'll tell you what we'll do, and you won't have to stay at Mr. Lothrop's so long, nuther. How fur is it?"
"A little short of four miles -- right out in the country, back here."
"Well, that 'll answer. Now you go along out there, and lay low till nine or half-past to-night, and then get them to fetch you home again -- tell them you've thought of something. If you get here before eleven put a candle in this window, and if I don't turn up wait TILL eleven, and THEN if I don't turn up it means I'm gone, and out of the way, and safe. Then you come out and spread the news around, and get these beats jailed."
"Good," she says, "I'll do it."
"And if it just happens so that I don't get away, but get took up along with them, you must up and say I told you the whole thing beforehand, and you must stand by me all you can."
"Stand by you! indeed I will. They sha'n't touch a hair of your head!" she says, and I see her nostrils spread and her eyes snap when she said it, too.
"If I get away I sha'n't be here," I says, "to prove these rapscallions ain't your uncles, and I couldn't do it if I WAS here. I could swear they was beats and bummers, that's all, though that's worth something. Well, there's others can do that better than what I can, and they're people that ain't going to be doubted as quick as I'd be. I'll tell you how to find them. Gimme a pencil and a piece of paper. There -- 'Royal Nonesuch, Bricksville.' Put it away, and don't lose it. When the court wants to find out some- thing about these two, let them send up to Bricksville and say they've got the men that played the Royal Nonesuch, and ask for some witnesses -- why, you'll have that entire town down here before you can hardly wink, Miss Mary. And they'll come a-biling, too."
I judged we had got everything fixed about right now. So I says:
"Just let the auction go right along, and don't worry. Nobody don't have to pay for the things they buy till a whole day after the auction on accounts of the short notice, and they ain't going out of this till they get that money; and the way we've fixed it the sale ain't going to count, and they ain't going to get no money. It's just like the way it was with the niggers -- it warn't no sale, and the niggers will be back before long. Why, they can't collect the money for the NIGGERS yet -- they're in the worst kind of a fix, Miss Mary."
"Well," she says, "I'll run down to breakfast now, and then I'll start straight for Mr. Lothrop's."
"'Deed, THAT ain't the ticket, Miss Mary Jane," I says, "by no manner of means; go BEFORE breakfast."
"What did you reckon I wanted you to go at all for, Miss Mary?"
"Well, I never thought -- and come to think, I don't know. What was it?"
"Why, it's because you ain't one of these leather- face people. I don't want no better book than what your face is. A body can set down and read it off like coarse print. Do you reckon you can go and face your uncles when they come to kiss you good- morning, and never --"
"There, there, don't! Yes, I'll go before break- fast -- I'll be glad to. And leave my sisters with them?"
"Yes; never mind about them. They've got to stand it yet a while. They might suspicion something if all of you was to go. I don't want you to see them, nor your sisters, nor nobody in this town; if a neigh- bor was to ask how is your uncles this morning your face would tell something. No, you go right along, Miss Mary Jane, and I'll fix it with all of them. I'll tell Miss Susan to give your love to your uncles and say you've went away for a few hours for to get a little rest and change, or to see a friend, and you'll be back to-night or early in the morning."
"Gone to see a friend is all right, but I won't have my love given to them."
"Well, then, it sha'n't be." It was well enough to tell HER so -- no harm in it. It was only a little thing to do, and no trouble; and it's the little things that smooths people's roads the most, down here below; it would make Mary Jane comfortable, and it wouldn't cost nothing. Then I says: "There's one more thing -- that bag of money."
"Well, they've got that; and it makes me feel pretty silly to think HOW they got it."
"No, you're out, there. They hain't got it."
"Why, who's got it?"
"I wish I knowed, but I don't. I HAD it, because I stole it from them; and I stole it to give to you; and I know where I hid it, but I'm afraid it ain't there no more. I'm awful sorry, Miss Mary Jane, I'm just as sorry as I can be; but I done the best I could; I did honest. I come nigh getting caught, and I had to shove it into the first place I come to, and run -- and it warn't a good place."
"Oh, stop blaming yourself -- it's too bad to do it, and I won't allow it -- you couldn't help it; it wasn't your fault. Where did you hide it?"
I didn't want to set her to thinking about her troubles again; and I couldn't seem to get my mouth to tell her what would make her see that corpse laying in the coffin with that bag of money on his stomach. So for a minute I didn't say nothing; then I says:
"I'd ruther not TELL you where I put it, Miss Mary Jane, if you don't mind letting me off; but I'll write it for you on a piece of paper, and you can read it along the road to Mr. Lothrop's, if you want to. Do you reckon that 'll do?"
So I wrote: "I put it in the coffin. It was in there when you was crying there, away in the night. I was behind the door, and I was mighty sorry for you, Miss Mary Jane."
It made my eyes water a little to remember her cry- ing there all by herself in the night, and them devils laying there right under her own roof, shaming her and robbing her; and when I folded it up and give it to her I see the water come into her eyes, too; and she shook me by the hand, hard, and says:
"GOOD-bye. I'm going to do everything just as you've told me; and if I don't ever see you again, I sha'n't ever forget you. and I'll think of you a many and a many a time, and I'll PRAY for you, too!" -- and she was gone.
Pray for me! I reckoned if she knowed me she'd take a job that was more nearer her size. But I bet she done it, just the same -- she was just that kind. She had the grit to pray for Judus if she took the notion -- there warn't no back-down to her, I judge. You may say what you want to, but in my opinion she had more sand in her than any girl I ever see; in my opinion she was just full of sand. It sounds like flattery, but it ain't no flattery. And when it comes to beauty -- and goodness, too -- she lays over them all. I hain't ever seen her since that time that I see her go out of that door; no, I hain't ever seen her since, but I reckon I've thought of her a many and a many a million times, and of her saying she would pray for me; and if ever I'd a thought it would do any good for me to pray for HER, blamed if I wouldn't a done it or bust.
Well, Mary Jane she lit out the back way, I reckon; because nobody see her go. When I struck Susan and the hare-lip, I says:
"What's the name of them people over on t'other side of the river that you all goes to see sometimes?"
"There's several; but it's the Proctors, mainly."
"That's the name," I says; "I most forgot it. Well, Miss Mary Jane she told me to tell you she's gone over there in a dreadful hurry -- one of them's sick."
"I don't know; leastways, I kinder forget; but I thinks it's --"
"Sakes alive, I hope it ain't HANNER?"
"I'm sorry to say it," I says, "but Hanner's the very one."
"My goodness, and she so well only last week! Is she took bad?"
"It ain't no name for it. They set up with her all night, Miss Mary Jane said, and they don't think she'll last many hours."
"Only think of that, now! What's the matter with her?"
I couldn't think of anything reasonable, right off that way, so I says:
"Mumps your granny! They don't set up with people that's got the mumps."
"They don't, don't they? You better bet they do with THESE mumps. These mumps is different. It's a new kind, Miss Mary Jane said."
"How's it a new kind?"
"Because it's mixed up with other things."
"What other things?"
"Well, measles, and whooping-cough, and erysiplas, and consumption, and yaller janders, and brain-fever, and I don't know what all."
"My land! And they call it the MUMPS?"
"That's what Miss Mary Jane said."
"Well, what in the nation do they call it the MUMPS for?"
"Why, because it IS the mumps. That's what it starts with."
"Well, ther' ain't no sense in it. A body might stump his toe, and take pison, and fall down the well, and break his neck, and bust his brains out, and some- body come along and ask what killed him, and some numskull up and say, 'Why, he stumped his TOE.' Would ther' be any sense in that? NO. And ther' ain't no sense in THIS, nuther. Is it ketching?"
"Is it KETCHING? Why, how you talk. Is a HARROW catching -- in the dark? If you don't hitch on to one tooth, you're bound to on another, ain't you? And you can't get away with that tooth without fetching the whole harrow along, can you? Well, these kind of mumps is a kind of a harrow, as you may say -- and it ain't no slouch of a harrow, nuther, you come to get it hitched on good."
"Well, it's awful, I think," says the hare-lip. "I'll go to Uncle Harvey and --"
"Oh, yes," I says, "I WOULD. Of COURSE I would. I wouldn't lose no time."
"Well, why wouldn't you?"
"Just look at it a minute, and maybe you can see. Hain't your uncles obleegd to get along home to Eng- land as fast as they can? And do you reckon they'd be mean enough to go off and leave you to go all that journey by yourselves? YOU know they'll wait for you. So fur, so good. Your uncle Harvey's a preacher, ain't he? Very well, then; is a PREACHER going to deceive a steamboat clerk? is he going to deceive a SHIP CLERK? -- so as to get them to let Miss Mary Jane go aboard? Now YOU know he ain't. What WILL he do, then? Why, he'll say, 'It's a great pity, but my church matters has got to get along the best way they can; for my niece has been exposed to the dreadful pluribus-unum mumps, and so it's my bounden duty to set down here and wait the three months it takes to show on her if she's got it.' But never mind, if you think it's best to tell your uncle Harvey --"
"Shucks, and stay fooling around here when we could all be having good times in England whilst we was waiting to find out whether Mary Jane's got it or not? Why, you talk like a muggins."
"Well, anyway, maybe you'd better tell some of the neighbors."
"Listen at that, now. You do beat all for natural stupidness. Can't you SEE that THEY'D go and tell? Ther' ain't no way but just to not tell anybody at ALL."
"Well, maybe you're right -- yes, I judge you ARE right."
"But I reckon we ought to tell Uncle Harvey she's gone out a while, anyway, so he won't be uneasy about her?"
"Yes, Miss Mary Jane she wanted you to do that. She says, 'Tell them to give Uncle Harvey and William my love and a kiss, and say I've run over the river to see Mr.' -- Mr. -- what IS the name of that rich family your uncle Peter used to think so much of? -- I mean the one that --"
"Why, you must mean the Apthorps, ain't it?"
"Of course; bother them kind of names, a body can't ever seem to remember them, half the time, somehow. Yes, she said, say she has run over for to ask the Apthorps to be sure and come to the auction and buy this house, because she allowed her uncle Peter would ruther they had it than anybody else; and she's going to stick to them till they say they'll come, and then, if she ain't too tired, she's coming home; and if she is, she'll be home in the morning anyway. She said, don't say nothing about the Proc- tors, but only about the Apthorps -- which 'll be per- fectly true, because she is going there to speak about their buying the house; I know it, because she told me so herself."
"All right," they said, and cleared out to lay for their uncles, and give them the love and the kisses, and tell them the message.
Everything was all right now. The girls wouldn't say nothing because they wanted to go to England; and the king and the duke would ruther Mary Jane was off working for the auction than around in reach of Doctor Robinson. I felt very good; I judged I had done it pretty neat -- I reckoned Tom Sawyer couldn't a done it no neater himself. Of course he would a throwed more style into it, but I can't do that very handy, not being brung up to it.
Well, they held the auction in the public square, along towards the end of the afternoon, and it strung along, and strung along, and the old man he was on hand and looking his level pisonest, up there longside of the auctioneer, and chipping in a little Scripture now and then, or a little goody-goody saying of some kind, and the duke he was around goo-gooing for sym- pathy all he knowed how, and just spreading himself generly.
But by and by the thing dragged through, and everything was sold -- everything but a little old trifling lot in the graveyard. So they'd got to work that off -- I never see such a girafft as the king was for want- ing to swallow EVERYTHING. Well, whilst they was at it a steamboat landed, and in about two minutes up comes a crowd a-whooping and yelling and laughing and carrying on, and singing out:
"HERE'S your opposition line! here's your two sets o' heirs to old Peter Wilks -- and you pays your money and you takes your choice!"
THEY was fetching a very nice-looking old gentle- man along, and a nice-looking younger one, with his right arm in a sling. And, my souls, how the people yelled and laughed, and kept it up. But I didn't see no joke about it, and I judged it would strain the duke and the king some to see any. I reckoned they'd turn pale. But no, nary a pale did THEY turn. The duke he never let on he suspicioned what was up, but just went a goo-gooing around, happy and satisfied, like a jug that's googling out buttermilk; and as for the king, he just gazed and gazed down sorrowful on them new-comers like it give him the stomach-ache in his very heart to think there could be such frauds and rascals in the world. Oh, he done it admirable. Lots of the principal people gethered around the king, to let him see they was on his side. That old gentleman that had just come looked all puz- zled to death. Pretty soon he begun to speak, and I see straight off he pronounced LIKE an Englishman -- not the king's way, though the king's WAS pretty good for an imitation. I can't give the old gent's words, nor I can't imitate him; but he turned around to the crowd, and says, about like this:
"This is a surprise to me which I wasn't looking for; and I'll acknowledge, candid and frank, I ain't very well fixed to meet it and answer it; for my brother and me has had misfortunes; he's broke his arm, and our baggage got put off at a town above here last night in the night by a mistake. I am Peter Wilks' brother Harvey, and this is his brother William, which can't hear nor speak -- and can't even make signs to amount to much, now't he's only got one hand to work them with. We are who we say we are; and in a day or two, when I get the baggage, I can prove it. But up till then I won't say nothing more, but go to the hotel and wait."
So him and the new dummy started off; and the king he laughs, and blethers out:
"Broke his arm -- VERY likely, AIN'T it? -- and very convenient, too, for a fraud that's got to make signs, and ain't learnt how. Lost their baggage! That's MIGHTY good! -- and mighty ingenious -- under the CIRCUMSTANCES!
So he laughed again; and so did everybody else, except three or four, or maybe half a dozen. One of these was that doctor; another one was a sharp- looking gentleman, with a carpet-bag of the old- fashioned kind made out of carpet-stuff, that had just come off of the steamboat and was talking to him in a low voice, and glancing towards the king now and then and nodding their heads -- it was Levi Bell, the lawyer that was gone up to Louisville; and another one was a big rough husky that come along and listened to all the old gentleman said, and was listening to the king now. And when the king got done this husky up and says:
"Say, looky here; if you are Harvey Wilks, when'd you come to this town?"
"The day before the funeral, friend," says the king.
"But what time o' day?"
"In the evenin' -- 'bout an hour er two before sun- down."
"HOW'D you come?"
"I come down on the Susan Powell from Cincin- nati."
"Well, then, how'd you come to be up at the Pint in the MORNIN' -- in a canoe?"
"I warn't up at the Pint in the mornin'."
"It's a lie."
Several of them jumped for him and begged him not to talk that way to an old man and a preacher.
"Preacher be hanged, he's a fraud and a liar. He was up at the Pint that mornin'. I live up there, don't I? Well, I was up there, and he was up there. I see him there. He come in a canoe, along with Tim Collins and a boy."
The doctor he up and says:
"Would you know the boy again if you was to see him, Hines?"
"I reckon I would, but I don't know. Why, yonder he is, now. I know him perfectly easy."
It was me he pointed at. The doctor says:
"Neighbors, I don't know whether the new couple is frauds or not; but if THESE two ain't frauds, I am an idiot, that's all. I think it's our duty to see that they don't get away from here till we've looked into this thing. Come along, Hines; come along, the rest of you. We'll take these fellows to the tavern and affront them with t'other couple, and I reckon we'll find out SOMETHING before we get through."
It was nuts for the crowd, though maybe not for the king's friends; so we all started. It was about sundown. The doctor he led me along by the hand, and was plenty kind enough, but he never let go my hand.
We all got in a big room in the hotel, and lit up some candles, and fetched in the new couple. First, the doctor says:
"I don't wish to be too hard on these two men, but I think they're frauds, and they may have complices that we don't know nothing about. If they have, won't the complices get away with that bag of gold Peter Wilks left? It ain't unlikely. If these men ain't frauds, they won't object to sending for that money and letting us keep it till they prove they're all right -- ain't that so?"
Everybody agreed to that. So I judged they had our gang in a pretty tight place right at the outstart. But the king he only looked sorrowful, and says:
"Gentlemen, I wish the money was there, for I ain't got no disposition to throw anything in the way of a fair, open, out-and-out investigation o' this misable business; but, alas, the money ain't there; you k'n send and see, if you want to."
"Where is it, then?"
"Well, when my niece give it to me to keep for her I took and hid it inside o' the straw tick o' my bed, not wishin' to bank it for the few days we'd be here, and considerin' the bed a safe place, we not bein' used to niggers, and suppos'n' 'em honest, like servants in England. The niggers stole it the very next mornin' after I had went down stairs; and when I sold 'em I hadn't missed the money yit, so they got clean away with it. My servant here k'n tell you 'bout it, gentle- men."
The doctor and several said "Shucks!" and I see nobody didn't altogether believe him. One man asked me if I see the niggers steal it. I said no, but I see them sneaking out of the room and hustling away, and I never thought nothing, only I reckoned they was afraid they had waked up my master and was trying to get away before he made trouble with them. That was all they asked me. Then the doctor whirls on me and says:
"Are YOU English, too?"
I says yes; and him and some others laughed, and said, "Stuff!"
Well, then they sailed in on the general investiga- tion, and there we had it, up and down, hour in, hour out, and nobody never said a word about supper, nor ever seemed to think about it -- and so they kept it up, and kept it up; and it WAS the worst mixed-up thing you ever see. They made the king tell his yarn, and they made the old gentleman tell his'n; and any- body but a lot of prejudiced chuckleheads would a SEEN that the old gentleman was spinning truth and t'other one lies. And by and by they had me up to tell what I knowed. The king he give me a left-handed look out of the corner of his eye, and so I knowed enough to talk on the right side. I begun to tell about Sheffield, and how we lived there, and all about the English Wilkses, and so on; but I didn't get pretty fur till the doctor begun to laugh; and Levi Bell, the lawyer, says:
"Set down, my boy; I wouldn't strain myself if I was you. I reckon you ain't used to lying, it don't seem to come handy; what you want is practice. You do it pretty awkward."
I didn't care nothing for the compliment, but I was glad to be let off, anyway.
The doctor he started to say something, and turns and says:
"If you'd been in town at first, Levi Bell -- " The king broke in and reached out his hand, and says:
"Why, is this my poor dead brother's old friend that he's wrote so often about?"
The lawyer and him shook hands, and the lawyer smiled and looked pleased, and they talked right along awhile, and then got to one side and talked low; and at last the lawyer speaks up and says:
"That 'll fix it. I'll take the order and send it, along with your brother's, and then they'll know it's all right."
So they got some paper and a pen, and the king he set down and twisted his head to one side, and chawed his tongue, and scrawled off something; and then they give the pen to the duke -- and then for the first time the duke looked sick. But he took the pen and wrote. So then the lawyer turns to the new old gentleman and says:
"You and your brother please write a line or two and sign your names."
The old gentleman wrote, but nobody couldn't read it. The lawyer looked powerful astonished, and says:
"Well, it beats ME -- and snaked a lot of old letters out of his pocket, and examined them, and then ex- amined the old man's writing, and then THEM again; and then says: "These old letters is from Harvey Wilks; and here's THESE two handwritings, and any- body can see they didn't write them" (the king and the duke looked sold and foolish, I tell you, to see how the lawyer had took them in), "and here's THIS old gentleman's hand writing, and anybody can tell, easy enough, HE didn't write them -- fact is, the scratches he makes ain't properly WRITING at all. Now, here's some letters from --"
The new old gentleman says:
"If you please, let me explain. Nobody can read my hand but my brother there -- so he copies for me. It's HIS hand you've got there, not mine."
"WELL!" says the lawyer, "this IS a state of things. I've got some of William's letters, too; so if you'll get him to write a line or so we can com --"
"He CAN'T write with his left hand," says the old gentleman. "If he could use his right hand, you would see that he wrote his own letters and mine too. Look at both, please -- they're by the same hand."
The lawyer done it, and says:
"I believe it's so -- and if it ain't so, there's a heap stronger resemblance than I'd noticed before, anyway. Well, well, well! I thought we was right on the track of a slution, but it's gone to grass, partly. But any- way, one thing is proved -- THESE two ain't either of 'em Wilkses" -- and he wagged his head towards the king and the duke.
Well, what do you think? That muleheaded old fool wouldn't give in THEN! Indeed he wouldn't. Said it warn't no fair test. Said his brother William was the cussedest joker in the world, and hadn't tried to write -- HE see William was going to play one of his jokes the minute he put the pen to paper. And so he warmed up and went warbling right along till he was actuly beginning to believe what he was saying HIM- SELF; but pretty soon the new gentleman broke in, and says:
"I've thought of something. Is there anybody here that helped to lay out my br -- helped to lay out the late Peter Wilks for burying?"
"Yes," says somebody, "me and Ab Turner done it. We're both here."
Then the old man turns towards the king, and says:
"Peraps this gentleman can tell me what was tattooed on his breast?"
Blamed if the king didn't have to brace up mighty quick, or he'd a squshed down like a bluff bank that the river has cut under, it took him so sudden; and, mind you, it was a thing that was calculated to make most ANYBODY sqush to get fetched such a solid one as that without any notice, because how was HE going to know what was tattooed on the man? He whitened a little; he couldn't help it; and it was mighty still in there, and everybody bending a little forwards and gazing at him. Says I to myself, NOW he'll throw up the sponge -- there ain't no more use. Well, did he? A body can't hardly believe it, but he didn't. I reckon he thought he'd keep the thing up till he tired them people out, so they'd thin out, and him and the duke could break loose and get away. Anyway, he set there, and pretty soon he begun to smile, and says:
"Mf! It's a VERY tough question, AIN'T it! YES, sir, I k'n tell you what's tattooed on his breast. It's jest a small, thin, blue arrow -- that's what it is; and if you don't look clost, you can't see it. NOW what do you say -- hey?"
Well, I never see anything like that old blister for clean out-and-out cheek.
The new old gentleman turns brisk towards Ab Turner and his pard, and his eye lights up like he judged he'd got the king THIS time, and says:
"There -- you've heard what he said! Was there any such mark on Peter Wilks' breast?"
Both of them spoke up and says:
"We didn't see no such mark."
"Good!" says the old gentleman. "Now, what you DID see on his breast was a small dim P, and a B (which is an initial he dropped when he was young), and a W, with dashes between them, so: P -- B -- W" -- and he marked them that way on a piece of paper. "Come, ain't that what you saw?"
Both of them spoke up again, and says:
"No, we DIDN'T. We never seen any marks at all."
Well, everybody WAS in a state of mind now, and they sings out:
"The whole BILIN' of 'm 's frauds! Le's duck 'em! le's drown 'em! le's ride 'em on a rail!" and everybody was whooping at once, and there was a rat- tling powwow. But the lawyer he jumps on the table and yells, and says:
"Gentlemen -- gentleMEN! Hear me just a word -- just a SINGLE word -- if you PLEASE! There's one way yet -- let's go and dig up the corpse and look."
That took them.
"Hooray!" they all shouted, and was starting right off; but the lawyer and the doctor sung out:
"Hold on, hold on! Collar all these four men and the boy, and fetch THEM along, too!"
"We'll do it!" they all shouted; "and if we don't find them marks we'll lynch the whole gang!"
I WAS scared, now, I tell you. But there warn't no getting away, you know. They gripped us all, and marched us right along, straight for the graveyard, which was a mile and a half down the river, and the whole town at our heels, for we made noise enough, and it was only nine in the evening.
As we went by our house I wished I hadn't sent Mary Jane out of town; because now if I could tip her the wink she'd light out and save me, and blow on our dead-beats.
Well, we swarmed along down the river road, just carrying on like wildcats; and to make it more scary the sky was darking up, and the lightning beginning to wink and flitter, and the wind to shiver amongst the leaves. This was the most awful trouble and most dangersome I ever was in; and I was kinder stunned; everything was going so different from what I had allowed for; stead of being fixed so I could take my own time if I wanted to, and see all the fun, and have Mary Jane at my back to save me and set me free when the close-fit come, here was nothing in the world betwixt me and sudden death but just them tattoo-marks. If they didn't find them --
I couldn't bear to think about it; and yet, some- how, I couldn't think about nothing else. It got darker and darker, and it was a beautiful time to give the crowd the slip; but that big husky had me by the wrist -- Hines -- and a body might as well try to give Goliar the slip. He dragged me right along, he was so excited, and I had to run to keep up.
When they got there they swarmed into the grave- yard and washed over it like an overflow. And when they got to the grave they found they had about a hundred times as many shovels as they wanted, but nobody hadn't thought to fetch a lantern. But they sailed into digging anyway by the flicker of the light- ning, and sent a man to the nearest house, a half a mile off, to borrow one.
So they dug and dug like everything; and it got awful dark, and the rain started, and the wind swished and swushed along, and the lightning come brisker and brisker, and the thunder boomed; but them people never took no notice of it, they was so full of this business; and one minute you could see everything and every face in that big crowd, and the shovelfuls of dirt sailing up out of the grave, and the next second the dark wiped it all out, and you couldn't see nothing at all.
At last they got out the coffin and begun to unscrew the lid, and then such another crowding and shoulder- ing and shoving as there was, to scrouge in and get a sight, you never see; and in the dark, that way, it was awful. Hines he hurt my wrist dreadful pulling and tugging so, and I reckon he clean forgot I was in the world, he was so excited and panting.
All of a sudden the lightning let go a perfect sluice of white glare, and somebody sings out:
"By the living jingo, here's the bag of gold on his breast!"
Hines let out a whoop, like everybody else, and dropped my wrist and give a big surge to bust his way in and get a look, and the way I lit out and shinned for the road in the dark there ain't nobody can tell.
I had the road all to myself, and I fairly flew -- leastways, I had it all to myself except the solid dark, and the now-and-then glares, and the buzzing of the rain, and the thrashing of the wind, and the splitting of the thunder; and sure as you are born I did clip it along!
When I struck the town I see there warn't nobody out in the storm, so I never hunted for no back streets, but humped it straight through the main one; and when I begun to get towards our house I aimed my eye and set it. No light there; the house all dark -- which made me feel sorry and disappointed, I didn't know why. But at last, just as I was sailing by, FLASH comes the light in Mary Jane's window! and my heart swelled up sudden, like to bust; and the same second the house and all was behind me in the dark, and wasn't ever going to be before me no more in this world. She WAS the best girl I ever see, and had the most sand.
The minute I was far enough above the town to see I could make the towhead, I begun to look sharp for a boat to borrow, and the first time the lightning showed me one that wasn't chained I snatched it and shoved. It was a canoe, and warn't fastened with nothing but a rope. The towhead was a rattling big distance off, away out there in the middle of the river, but I didn't lose no time; and when I struck the raft at last I was so fagged I would a just laid down to blow and gasp if I could afforded it. But I didn't. As I sprung aboard I sung out:
"Out with you, Jim, and set her loose! Glory be to goodness, we're shut of them!"
Jim lit out, and was a-coming for me with both arms spread, he was so full of joy; but when I glimpsed him in the lightning my heart shot up in my mouth and I went overboard backwards; for I forgot he was old King Lear and a drownded A-rab all in one, and it most scared the livers and lights out of me. But Jim fished me out, and was going to hug me and bless me, and so on, he was so glad I was back and we was shut of the king and the duke, but I says:
"Not now; have it for breakfast, have it for break- fast! Cut loose and let her slide!"
So in two seconds away we went a-sliding down the river, and it DID seem so good to be free again and all by ourselves on the big river, and nobody to bother us. I had to skip around a bit, and jump up and crack my heels a few times -- I couldn't help it; but about the third crack I noticed a sound that I knowed mighty well, and held my breath and listened and waited; and sure enough, when the next flash busted out over the water, here they come! -- and just a- laying to their oars and making their skiff hum! It was the king and the duke.
So I wilted right down on to the planks then, and give up; and it was all I could do to keep from crying.
WHEN they got aboard the king went for me, and shook me by the collar, and says:
"Tryin' to give us the slip, was ye, you pup! Tired of our company, hey?"
"No, your majesty, we warn't -- PLEASE don't, your majesty!"
"Quick, then, and tell us what WAS your idea, or I'll shake the insides out o' you!"
"Honest, I'll tell you everything just as it hap- pened, your majesty. The man that had a-holt of me was very good to me, and kept saying he had a boy about as big as me that died last year, and he was sorry to see a boy in such a dangerous fix; and when they was all took by surprise by finding the gold, and made a rush for the coffin, he lets go of me and whis- pers, 'Heel it now, or they'll hang ye, sure!' and I lit out. It didn't seem no good for ME to stay -- I couldn't do nothing, and I didn't want to be hung if I could get away. So I never stopped running till I found the canoe; and when I got here I told Jim to hurry, or they'd catch me and hang me yet, and said I was afeard you and the duke wasn't alive now, and I was awful sorry, and so was Jim, and was awful glad when we see you coming; you may ask Jim if I didn't."
Jim said it was so; and the king told him to shut up, and said, "Oh, yes, it's MIGHTY likely!" and shook me up again, and said he reckoned he'd drownd me. But the duke says:
"Leggo the boy, you old idiot! Would YOU a done any different? Did you inquire around for HIM when you got loose? I don't remember it."
So the king let go of me, and begun to cuss that town and everybody in it. But the duke says:
"You better a blame' sight give YOURSELF a good cussing, for you're the one that's entitled to it most. You hain't done a thing from the start that had any sense in it, except coming out so cool and cheeky with that imaginary blue-arrow mark. That WAS bright -- it was right down bully; and it was the thing that saved us. For if it hadn't been for that they'd a jailed us till them Englishmen's baggage come -- and then -- the penitentiary, you bet! But that trick took 'em to the graveyard, and the gold done us a still bigger kindness; for if the excited fools hadn't let go all holts and made that rush to get a look we'd a slept in our cravats to-night -- cravats warranted to WEAR, too -- longer than WE'D need 'em."
They was still a minute -- thinking; then the king says, kind of absent-minded like:
"Mf! And we reckoned the NIGGERS stole it!"
That made me squirm!
"Yes," says the duke, kinder slow and deliberate and sarcastic, "WE did."
After about a half a minute the king drawls out:
"Leastways, I did."
The duke says, the same way:
"On the contrary, I did."
The king kind of ruffles up, and says:
"Looky here, Bilgewater, what'r you referrin' to?"
The duke says, pretty brisk:
"When it comes to that, maybe you'll let me ask, what was YOU referring to?"
"Shucks!" says the king, very sarcastic; "but I don't know -- maybe you was asleep, and didn't know what you was about."
The duke bristles up now, and says:
"Oh, let UP on this cussed nonsense; do you take me for a blame' fool? Don't you reckon I know who hid that money in that coffin?"
"YES, sir! I know you DO know, because you done it yourself!"
"It's a lie!" -- and the duke went for him. The king sings out:
"Take y'r hands off! -- leggo my throat! -- I take it all back!"
The duke says:
"Well, you just own up, first, that you DID hide that money there, intending to give me the slip one of these days, and come back and dig it up, and have it all to yourself."
"Wait jest a minute, duke -- answer me this one question, honest and fair; if you didn't put the money there, say it, and I'll b'lieve you, and take back every- thing I said."
"You old scoundrel, I didn't, and you know I didn't. There, now!"
"Well, then, I b'lieve you. But answer me only jest this one more -- now DON'T git mad; didn't you have it in your mind to hook the money and hide it?"
The duke never said nothing for a little bit; then he says:
"Well, I don't care if I DID, I didn't DO it, anyway. But you not only had it in mind to do it, but you DONE it."
"I wisht I never die if I done it, duke, and that's honest. I won't say I warn't goin' to do it, because I WAS; but you -- I mean somebody -- got in ahead o' me."
"It's a lie! You done it, and you got to SAY you done it, or --"
The king began to gurgle, and then he gasps out:
"'Nough! -- I OWN UP!"
I was very glad to hear him say that; it made me feel much more easier than what I was feeling before. So the duke took his hands off and says:
"If you ever deny it again I'll drown you. It's WELL for you to set there and blubber like a baby -- it's fitten for you, after the way you've acted. I never see such an old ostrich for wanting to gobble every- thing -- and I a-trusting you all the time, like you was my own father. You ought to been ashamed of your- self to stand by and hear it saddled on to a lot of poor niggers, and you never say a word for 'em. It makes me feel ridiculous to think I was soft enough to BELIEVE that rubbage. Cuss you, I can see now why you was so anxious to make up the deffisit -- you wanted to get what money I'd got out of the Nonesuch and one thing or another, and scoop it ALL!"
The king says, timid, and still a-snuffling:
"Why, duke, it was you that said make up the deffisit; it warn't me."
"Dry up! I don't want to hear no more out of you!" says the duke. "And NOW you see what you GOT by it. They've got all their own money back, and all of OURN but a shekel or two BESIDES. G'long to bed, and don't you deffersit ME no more deffersits, long 's YOU live!"
So the king sneaked into the wigwam and took to his bottle for comfort, and before long the duke tackled HIS bottle; and so in about a half an hour they was as thick as thieves again, and the tighter they got the lovinger they got, and went off a-snoring in each other's arms. They both got powerful mellow, but I noticed the king didn't get mellow enough to forget to remember to not deny about hiding the money-bag again. That made me feel easy and satisfied. Of course when they got to snoring we had a long gabble, and I told Jim everything.
WE dasn't stop again at any town for days and days; kept right along down the river. We was down south in the warm weather now, and a mighty long ways from home. We begun to come to trees with Spanish moss on them, hanging down from the limbs like long, gray beards. It was the first I ever see it growing, and it made the woods look solemn and dismal. So now the frauds reckoned they was out of danger, and they begun to work the villages again.
First they done a lecture on temperance; but they didn't make enough for them both to get drunk on. Then in another village they started a dancing-school; but they didn't know no more how to dance than a kangaroo does; so the first prance they made the general public jumped in and pranced them out of town. Another time they tried to go at yellocution; but they didn't yellocute long till the audience got up and give them a solid good cussing, and made them skip out. They tackled missionarying, and mesmeriz- ing, and doctoring, and telling fortunes, and a little of everything; but they couldn't seem to have no luck. So at last they got just about dead broke, and laid around the raft as she floated along, thinking and thinking, and never saying nothing, by the half a day at a time, and dreadful blue and desperate.
And at last they took a change and begun to lay their heads together in the wigwam and talk low and confidential two or three hours at a time. Jim and me got uneasy. We didn't like the look of it. We judged they was studying up some kind of worse deviltry than ever. We turned it over and over, and at last we made up our minds they was going to break into somebody's house or store, or was going into the counterfeit- money business, or something. So then we was pretty scared, and made up an agreement that we wouldn't have nothing in the world to do with such actions, and if we ever got the least show we would give them the cold shake and clear out and leave them behind. Well, early one morning we hid the raft in a good, safe place about two mile below a little bit of a shabby village named Pikesville, and the king he went ashore and told us all to stay hid whilst he went up to town and smelt around to see if anybody had got any wind of the Royal Nonesuch there yet. ("House to rob, you MEAN," says I to myself; "and when you get through robbing it you'll come back here and wonder what has become of me and Jim and the raft -- and you'll have to take it out in wondering.") And he said if he warn't back by midday the duke and me would know it was all right, and we was to come along.
So we stayed where we was. The duke he fretted and sweated around, and was in a mighty sour way. He scolded us for everything, and we couldn't seem to do nothing right; he found fault with every little thing. Something was a-brewing, sure. I was good and glad when midday come and no king; we could have a change, anyway -- and maybe a chance for THE chance on top of it. So me and the duke went up to the village, and hunted around there for the king, and by and by we found him in the back room of a little low doggery, very tight, and a lot of loafers bullyrag- ging him for sport, and he a-cussing and a-threatening with all his might, and so tight he couldn't walk, and couldn't do nothing to them. The duke he begun to abuse him for an old fool, and the king begun to sass back, and the minute they was fairly at it I lit out and shook the reefs out of my hind legs, and spun down the river road like a deer, for I see our chance; and I made up my mind that it would be a long day before they ever see me and Jim again. I got down there all out of breath but loaded up with joy, and sung out:
"Set her loose, Jim! we're all right now!"
But there warn't no answer, and nobody come out of the wigwam. Jim was gone! I set up a shout -- and then another -- and then another one; and run this way and that in the woods, whooping and screech- ing; but it warn't no use -- old Jim was gone. Then I set down and cried; I couldn't help it. But I couldn't set still long. Pretty soon I went out on the road, trying to think what I better do, and I run across a boy walking, and asked him if he'd seen a strange nigger dressed so and so, and he says:
"Whereabouts?" says I.
"Down to Silas Phelps' place, two mile below here. He's a runaway nigger, and they've got him. Was you looking for him?"
"You bet I ain't! I run across him in the woods about an hour or two ago, and he said if I hollered he'd cut my livers out -- and told me to lay down and stay where I was; and I done it. Been there ever since; afeard to come out."
"Well," he says, "you needn't be afeard no more, becuz they've got him. He run off f'm down South, som'ers."
"It's a good job they got him."
"Well, I RECKON! There's two hunderd dollars re- ward on him. It's like picking up money out'n the road."
"Yes, it is -- and I could a had it if I'd been big enough; I see him FIRST. Who nailed him?"
"It was an old fellow -- a stranger -- and he sold out his chance in him for forty dollars, becuz he's got to go up the river and can't wait. Think o' that, now! You bet I'D wait, if it was seven year."
"That's me, every time," says I. "But maybe his chance ain't worth no more than that, if he'll sell it so cheap. Maybe there's something ain't straight about it."
"But it IS, though -- straight as a string. I see the handbill myself. It tells all about him, to a dot -- paints him like a picture, and tells the plantation he's frum, below NewrLEANS. No-sirree-BOB, they ain't no trouble 'bout THAT speculation, you bet you. Say, gimme a chaw tobacker, won't ye?"
I didn't have none, so he left. I went to the raft, and set down in the wigwam to think. But I couldn't come to nothing. I thought till I wore my head sore, but I couldn't see no way out of the trouble. After all this long journey, and after all we'd done for them scoundrels, here it was all come to nothing, everything all busted up and ruined, because they could have the heart to serve Jim such a trick as that, and make him a slave again all his life, and amongst strangers, too, for forty dirty dollars.
Once I said to myself it would be a thousand times better for Jim to be a slave at home where his family was, as long as he'd GOT to be a slave, and so I'd better write a letter to Tom Sawyer and tell him to tell Miss Watson where he was. But I soon give up that notion for two things: she'd be mad and disgusted at his rascality and ungratefulness for leaving her, and so she'd sell him straight down the river again; and if she didn't, everybody naturally despises an ungrateful nigger, and they'd make Jim feel it all the time, and so he'd feel ornery and disgraced. And then think of ME! It would get all around that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom; and if I was ever to see anybody from that town again I'd be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame. That's just the way: a person does a low-down thing, and then he don't want to take no consequences of it. Thinks as long as he can hide, it ain't no disgrace. That was my fix exactly. The more I studied about this the more my conscience went to grinding me, and the more wicked and low-down and ornery I got to feel- ing. And at last, when it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven,whilst I was stealing a poor old woman's nigger that hadn't ever done me no harm, and now was showing me there's One that's always on the lookout, and ain't a- going to allow no such miserable doings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks I was so scared. Well, I tried the best I could to kinder soften it up somehow for myself by saying I was brung up wicked, and so I warn't so much to blame; but something inside of me kept saying, "There was the Sunday-school, you could a gone to it; and if you'd a done it they'd a learnt you there that people that acts as I'd been acting about that nigger goes to everlasting fire."
It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn't try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn't come. Why wouldn't they? It warn't no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from ME, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn't come. It was because my heart warn't right; it was because I warn't square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting ON to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth SAY I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that nigger's owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can't pray a lie -- I found that out.
So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn't know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I'll go and write the letter -- and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:
Miss Watson, your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send.
I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn't do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking -- thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, some- times storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me, so I could go on sleep- ing; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the ONLY one he's got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.
It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to de- cide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:
"All right, then, I'll GO to hell" -- and tore it up.
It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head, and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn't. And for a starter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; be- cause as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.
Then I set to thinking over how to get at it, and turned over some considerable many ways in my mind; and at last fixed up a plan that suited me. So then I took the bearings of a woody island that was down the river a piece, and as soon as it was fairly dark I crept out with my raft and went for it, and hid it there, and then turned in. I slept the night through, and got up before it was light, and had my breakfast, and put on my store clothes, and tied up some others and one thing or another in a bundle, and took the canoe and cleared for shore. I landed below where I judged was Phelps's place, and hid my bundle in the woods, and then filled up the canoe with water, and loaded rocks into her and sunk her where I could find her again when I wanted her, about a quarter of a mile below a little steam sawmill that was on the bank.
Then I struck up the road, and when I passed the mill I see a sign on it, "Phelps's Sawmill," and when I come to the farm-houses, two or three hundred yards further along, I kept my eyes peeled, but didn't see nobody around, though it was good daylight now. But I didn't mind, because I didn't want to see nobody just yet -- I only wanted to get the lay of the land. According to my plan, I was going to turn up there from the village, not from below. So I just took a look, and shoved along, straight for town. Well, the very first man I see when I got there was the duke. He was sticking up a bill for the Royal Nonesuch -- three-night performance -- like that other time. They had the cheek, them frauds! I was right on him be- fore I could shirk. He looked astonished, and says:
"Hel-LO! Where'd YOU come from?" Then he says, kind of glad and eager, "Where's the raft? -- got her in a good place?"
"Why, that's just what I was going to ask your grace."
Then he didn't look so joyful, and says:
"What was your idea for asking ME?" he says.
"Well," I says, "when I see the king in that dog- gery yesterday I says to myself, we can't get him home for hours, till he's soberer; so I went a-loafing around town to put in the time and wait. A man up and offered me ten cents to help him pull a skiff over the river and back to fetch a sheep, and so I went along; but when we was dragging him to the boat, and the man left me a-holt of the rope and went behind him to shove him along, he was too strong for me and jerked loose and run, and we after him. We didn't have no dog, and so we had to chase him all over the country till we tired him out. We never got him till dark; then we fetched him over, and I started down for the raft. When I got there and see it was gone, I says to myself, 'They've got into trouble and had to leave; and they've took my nigger, which is the only nigger I've got in the world, and now I'm in a strange country, and ain't got no property no more, nor noth- ing, and no way to make my living;' so I set down and cried. I slept in the woods all night. But what DID become of the raft, then? -- and Jim -- poor Jim!"
"Blamed if I know -- that is, what's become of the raft. That old fool had made a trade and got forty dollars, and when we found him in the doggery the loafers had matched half-dollars with him and got every cent but what he'd spent for whisky; and when I got him home late last night and found the raft gone, we said, 'That little rascal has stole our raft and shook us, and run off down the river.'"
"I wouldn't shake my NIGGER, would I? -- the only nigger I had in the world, and the only property."
"We never thought of that. Fact is, I reckon we'd come to consider him OUR nigger; yes, we did consider him so -- goodness knows we had trouble enough for him. So when we see the raft was gone and we flat broke, there warn't anything for it but to try the Royal Nonesuch another shake. And I've pegged along ever since, dry as a powder-horn. Where's that ten cents? Give it here."
I had considerable money, so I give him ten cents, but begged him to spend it for something to eat, and give me some, because it was all the money I had, and I hadn't had nothing to eat since yesterday. He never said nothing. The next minute he whirls on me and says:
"Do you reckon that nigger would blow on us? We'd skin him if he done that!"
"How can he blow? Hain't he run off?"
"No! That old fool sold him, and never divided with me, and the money's gone."
"SOLD him?" I says, and begun to cry; "why, he was MY nigger, and that was my money. Where is he? -- I want my nigger."
"Well, you can't GET your nigger, that's all -- so dry up your blubbering. Looky here -- do you think YOU'D venture to blow on us? Blamed if I think I'd trust you. Why, if you WAS to blow on us --"
He stopped, but I never see the duke look so ugly out of his eyes before. I went on a-whimpering, and says:
"I don't want to blow on nobody; and I ain't got no time to blow, nohow. I got to turn out and find my nigger."
He looked kinder bothered, and stood there with his bills fluttering on his arm, thinking, and wrinkling up his forehead. At last he says:
"I'll tell you something. We got to be here three days. If you'll promise you won't blow, and won't let the nigger blow, I'll tell you where to find him."
So I promised, and he says:
"A farmer by the name of Silas Ph----" and then he stopped. You see, he started to tell me the truth; but when he stopped that way, and begun to study and think again, I reckoned he was changing his mind. And so he was. He wouldn't trust me; he wanted to make sure of having me out of the way the whole three days. So pretty soon he says:
"The man that bought him is named Abram Foster -- Abram G. Foster -- and he lives forty mile back here in the country, on the road to Lafayette."
"All right," I says, "I can walk it in three days. And I'll start this very afternoon."
"No you wont, you'll start NOW; and don't you lose any time about it, neither, nor do any gabbling by the way. Just keep a tight tongue in your head and move right along, and then you won't get into trouble with US, d'ye hear?"
That was the order I wanted, and that was the one I played for. I wanted to be left free to work my plans.
"So clear out," he says; "and you can tell Mr. Foster whatever you want to. Maybe you can get him to believe that Jim IS your nigger -- some idiots don't require documents -- leastways I've heard there's such down South here. And when you tell him the handbill and the reward's bogus, maybe he'll believe you when you explain to him what the idea was for getting 'em out. Go 'long now, and tell him anything you want to; but mind you don't work your jaw any BETWEEN here and there."
So I left, and struck for the back country. I didn't look around, but I kinder felt like he was watching me. But I knowed I could tire him out at that. I went straight out in the country as much as a mile before I stopped; then I doubled back through the woods towards Phelps'. I reckoned I better start in on my plan straight off without fooling around, because I wanted to stop Jim's mouth till these fellows could get away. I didn't want no trouble with their kind. I'd seen all I wanted to of them, and wanted to get entirely shut of them.
WHEN I got there it was all still and Sunday-like, and hot and sunshiny; the hands was gone to the fields; and there was them kind of faint dronings of bugs and flies in the air that makes it seem so lone- some and like everybody's dead and gone; and if a breeze fans along and quivers the leaves it makes you feel mournful, because you feel like it's spirits whisper- ing -- spirits that's been dead ever so many years -- and you always think they're talking about YOU. As a general thing it makes a body wish HE was dead, too, and done with it all.
Phelps' was one of these little one-horse cotton plan- tations, and they all look alike. A rail fence round a two-acre yard; a stile made out of logs sawed off and up-ended in steps, like barrels of a different length, to climb over the fence with, and for the women to stand on when they are going to jump on to a horse; some sickly grass-patches in the big yard, but mostly it was bare and smooth, like an old hat with the nap rubbed off; big double log-house for the white folks -- hewed logs, with the chinks stopped up with mud or mortar, and these mud-stripes been whitewashed some time or another; round-log kitchen, with a big broad, open but roofed passage joining it to the house; log smoke- house back of the kitchen; three little log nigger-cabins in a row t'other side the smoke-house; one little hut all by itself away down against the back fence, and some outbuildings down a piece the other side; ash- hopper and big kettle to bile soap in by the little hut; bench by the kitchen door, with bucket of water and a gourd; hound asleep there in the sun; more hounds asleep round about; about three shade trees away off in a corner; some currant bushes and gooseberry bushes in one place by the fence; outside of the fence a garden and a watermelon patch; then the cotton fields begins, and after the fields the woods.
I went around and clumb over the back stile by the ash-hopper, and started for the kitchen. When I got a little ways I heard the dim hum of a spinning-wheel wailing along up and sinking along down again; and then I knowed for certain I wished I was dead -- for that IS the lonesomest sound in the whole world.
I went right along, not fixing up any particular plan, but just trusting to Providence to put the right words in my mouth when the time come; for I'd noticed that Providence always did put the right words in my mouth if I left it alone.
When I got half-way, first one hound and then another got up and went for me, and of course I stopped and faced them, and kept still. And such another powwow as they made! In a quarter of a minute I was a kind of a hub of a wheel, as you may say -- spokes made out of dogs -- circle of fifteen of them packed together around me, with their necks and noses stretched up towards me, a-barking and howling; and more a-coming; you could see them sail- ing over fences and around corners from everywheres.
A nigger woman come tearing out of the kitchen with a rolling-pin in her hand, singing out, "Begone YOU Tige! you Spot! begone sah!" and she fetched first one and then another of them a clip and sent them howling, and then the rest followed; and the next second half of them come back, wagging their tails around me, and making friends with me. There ain't no harm in a hound, nohow.
And behind the woman comes a little nigger girl and two little nigger boys without anything on but tow-linen shirts, and they hung on to their mother's gown, and peeped out from behind her at me, bashful, the way they always do. And here comes the white woman running from the house, about forty-five or fifty year old, bareheaded, and her spinning-stick in her hand; and behind her comes her little white children, acting the same way the little niggers was going. She was smiling all over so she could hardly stand -- and says:
"It's YOU, at last! -- AIN'T it?"
I out with a "Yes'm" before I thought.
She grabbed me and hugged me tight; and then gripped me by both hands and shook and shook; and the tears come in her eyes, and run down over; and she couldn't seem to hug and shake enough, and kept saying, "You don't look as much like your mother as I reckoned you would; but law sakes, I don't care for that, I'm so glad to see you! Dear, dear, it does seem like I could eat you up! Children, it's your cousin Tom! -- tell him howdy."
But they ducked their heads, and put their fingers in their mouths, and hid behind her. So she run on:
"Lize, hurry up and get him a hot breakfast right away -- or did you get your breakfast on the boat?"
I said I had got it on the boat. So then she started for the house, leading me by the hand, and the children tagging after. When we got there she set me down in a split-bottomed chair, and set herself down on a little low stool in front of me, holding both of my hands, and says:
"Now I can have a GOOD look at you; and, laws-a- me, I've been hungry for it a many and a many a time, all these long years, and it's come at last! We been expecting you a couple of days and more. What kep' you? -- boat get aground?"
"Yes'm -- she --"
"Don't say yes'm -- say Aunt Sally. Where'd she get aground?"
I didn't rightly know what to say, because I didn't know whether the boat would be coming up the river or down. But I go a good deal on instinct; and my instinct said she would be coming up -- from down towards Orleans. That didn't help me much, though; for I didn't know the names of bars down that way. I see I'd got to invent a bar, or forget the name of the one we got aground on -- or -- Now I struck an idea, and fetched it out:
"It warn't the grounding -- that didn't keep us back but a little. We blowed out a cylinder-head."
"Good gracious! anybody hurt?"
"No'm. Killed a nigger."
"Well, it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt. Two years ago last Christmas your uncle Silas was coming up from Newrleans on the old Lally Rook, and she blowed out a cylinder-head and crippled a man. And I think he died afterwards. He was a Baptist. Your uncle Silas knowed a family in Baton Rouge that knowed his people very well. Yes, I remember now, he DID die. Mortification set in, and they had to amputate him. But it didn't save him. Yes, it was mortification -- that was it. He turned blue all over, and died in the hope of a glorious resurrection. They say he was a sight to look at. Your uncle's been up to the town every day to fetch you. And he's gone again, not more'n an hour ago; he'll be back any minute now. You must a met him on the road, didn't you? -- oldish man, with a --"
"No, I didn't see nobody, Aunt Sally. The boat landed just at daylight, and I left my baggage on the wharf-boat and went looking around the town and out a piece in the country, to put in the time and not get here too soon; and so I come down the back way."
"Who'd you give the baggage to?"
"Why, child, it 'll be stole!"
"Not where I hid it I reckon it won't," I says.
"How'd you get your breakfast so early on the boat?"
It was kinder thin ice, but I says:
"The captain see me standing around, and told me I better have something to eat before I went ashore; so he took me in the texas to the officers' lunch, and give me all I wanted."
I was getting so uneasy I couldn't listen good. I had my mind on the children all the time; I wanted to get them out to one side and pump them a little, and find out who I was. But I couldn't get no show, Mrs. Phelps kept it up and run on so. Pretty soon she made the cold chills streak all down my back, because she says:
"But here we're a-running on this way, and you hain't told me a word about Sis, nor any of them. Now I'll rest my works a little, and you start up yourn; just tell me EVERYTHING -- tell me all about 'm all every one of 'm; and how they are, and what they're doing, and what they told you to tell me; and every last thing you can think of."
Well, I see I was up a stump -- and up it good. Providence had stood by me this fur all right, but I was hard and tight aground now. I see it warn't a bit of use to try to go ahead -- I'd got to throw up my hand. So I says to myself, here's another place where I got to resk the truth. I opened my mouth to begin; but she grabbed me and hustled me in behind the bed, and says:
"Here he comes! Stick your head down lower -- there, that'll do; you can't be seen now. Don't you let on you're here. I'll play a joke on him. Children, don't you say a word."
I see I was in a fix now. But it warn't no use to worry; there warn't nothing to do but just hold still, and try and be ready to stand from under when the lightning struck.
I had just one little glimpse of the old gentleman when he come in; then the bed hid him. Mrs. Phelps she jumps for him, and says:
"Has he come?"
"No," says her husband.
"Good-NESS gracious!" she says, "what in the warld can have become of him?"
"I can't imagine," says the old gentleman; "and I must say it makes me dreadful uneasy."
"Uneasy!" she says; "I'm ready to go distracted! He MUST a come; and you've missed him along the road. I KNOW it's so -- something tells me so."
"Why, Sally, I COULDN'T miss him along the road -- YOU know that."
"But oh, dear, dear, what WILL Sis say! He must a come! You must a missed him. He --"
"Oh, don't distress me any more'n I'm already dis- tressed. I don't know what in the world to make of it. I'm at my wit's end, and I don't mind acknowledging 't I'm right down scared. But there's no hope that he's come; for he COULDN'T come and me miss him. Sally, it's terrible -- just terrible -- something's hap- pened to the boat, sure!"
"Why, Silas! Look yonder! -- up the road! -- ain't that somebody coming?"
He sprung to the window at the head of the bed, and that give Mrs. Phelps the chance she wanted. She stooped down quick at the foot of the bed and give me a pull, and out I come; and when he turned back from the window there she stood, a-beaming and a-smil- ing like a house afire, and I standing pretty meek and sweaty alongside. The old gentleman stared, and says:
"Why, who's that?"
"Who do you reckon 't is?"
"I hain't no idea. Who IS it?"
"It's TOM SAWYER!"
By jings, I most slumped through the floor! But there warn't no time to swap knives; the old man grabbed me by the hand and shook, and kept on shak- ing; and all the time how the woman did dance around and laugh and cry; and then how they both did fire off questions about Sid, and Mary, and the rest of the tribe.
But if they was joyful, it warn't nothing to what I was; for it was like being born again, I was so glad to find out who I was. Well, they froze to me for two hours; and at last, when my chin was so tired it couldn't hardly go any more, I had told them more about my family -- I mean the Sawyer family -- than ever happened to any six Sawyer families. And I ex- plained all about how we blowed out a cylinder-head at the mouth of White River, and it took us three days to fix it. Which was all right, and worked first-rate; be- cause THEY didn't know but what it would take three days to fix it. If I'd a called it a bolthead it would a done just as well.
Now I was feeling pretty comfortable all down one side, and pretty uncomfortable all up the other. Be- ing Tom Sawyer was easy and comfortable, and it stayed easy and comfortable till by and by I hear a steamboat coughing along down the river. Then I says to myself, s'pose Tom Sawyer comes down on that boat? And s'pose he steps in here any minute, and sings out my name before I can throw him a wink to keep quiet?
Well, I couldn't HAVE it that way; it wouldn't do at all. I must go up the road and waylay him. So I told the folks I reckoned I would go up to the town and fetch down my baggage. The old gentleman was for going along with me, but I said no, I could drive the horse myself, and I druther he wouldn't take no trouble about me.